Offerings to the Dead

A phasmonia dedicated to the dead near Brunnhold.
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Tom Cooke
Posts: 293
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:15 pm
Topics: 32
Location: Vienda, but also hell
Race: Raen
: "disturbingly unheimlich individual"
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Writer: Graf
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Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:53 pm

BRUNNHOLD PHASMONIA
at noon on the 9th of bethas, 2719.
The sun was just coming up, but he reckoned it would be another chilly day, all told – especially out here, with the trees getting denser, the shivering spindly limbs (just starting to bud) closing in overhead. The wind was sailing down from the peaks to the west, ruffling his hair and the moa’s feathers. He’d turned his thick wool collar up against it, but it still stung at his cheeks and made him shiver; he’d have had his hands in his pockets if he hadn’t felt the need to hang onto the reins with a white-knuckled grip.

Turned out that if a man wanted to visit a ghost town by himself, that was his prerogative. This was all personal enough, he reckoned, and if enough money changed hands, then whose business was it where he went? Still, the place was nearly two miles out from the red city proper. He’d been guaranteed that this gawky, bizarre beast – they’d called her Clary, like that was supposed to reassure him – was docile as a lamb, that the breeder, some mincing Thibault, would’ve trusted her with his own children.

Thibault had picked her out because none of the rest of them had wanted to go near Tom, much less let him on. I’ve never seen anything like it, he’d said. I’m terribly sorry, sir.

Clary was pretty, Tom reckoned, all rich brown and burnt umber. Something fair like a spice market, like kofi har – something like that. Didn’t look too smart compared to the others, though. Maybe that’s why she’d let a monster like him ride her. He couldn’t help but feel like he was slipping on thin ice; animals didn’t like him anymore, he kept telling himself, and kept gripping the reins tighter. She kept walking, navigating the rocky path with expert feet, head bobbing and harness jingling quietly, and he tried not to worry.

As soon as the first crisp rays of sunlight treacled over the horizon, he saw it: a little cluster of clay buildings, huddled together as if to ward off the chill. He had to admit it was peaceful out here, no matter his jangling nerves, no matter the frustration and alienation and fear of the last two weeks. The only sound was the wind, the bending and snapping of boughs, birds breaking from branches and alighting on others – wings whirling, faceless beaks cracking out hoarse calls somewhere distant. He was just starting to relax when the smell of thick dust and ancient stone reached him; he breathed deeply of it, and felt a lump rise up in his throat.

“Hey, now –” He tugged the reins. Clary stopped gracefully, head bobbing for a moment as if confused. Biting his lip and lifting an eyebrow, he gave her neck-feathers a gentle pat; she made a little humming noise in her throat. “We’re here, eh? ’nother step closer to answerin’ our question, love?”

But his throat felt dry as a bone, dry as the dust. Dry as the dead.

This was the question: What the fuck happened to Tom Cooke?

A hypothesis wasn’t a guess, he reckoned; “hypothesis” wasn’t a word he’d known six months ago – there were a lot of words he hadn’t known six months ago – but he knew it didn’t mean “guess”. “Educated guess” was closer, maybe. So if you had a question and you wanted to make a hypothesis, you had to get yourself educated, and then your guess was a hypothesis. When you had a hypothesis, you could start experimenting. But without a hypothesis, without research, you couldn’t do any of that. You were just stuck with a question without an answer.

Tom thought about this as he dismounted, thought about the past week – at Brunnhold, at this bang moony place so far out of reach for the real Cooke, the one that’d lived in Old Rose. But so damned crucial for this Cooke.

Gods damn him – not that they hadn’t already – if he had to sit through another soiree, exchange pleasantries with another brown-nosing researcher looking for funding, pick up another stopclocking cheese fork – gods damn him if he had to do any of this and not get any closer to what he needed. He was ready to prostrate himself and beg, gnash his teeth and curse, make it work: damn you damn you damn you, help me understand this! Teach me how to die! Make things normal again!

But the mona was a shut door, and an angry one at that. How can the gods hate me? Didn’t they make me this way? The Madame couldn’t make heads or tails of it, thinking it was a Perceptive backlash, and she was starting to get impatient; it was his fifth day here, and yet they’d made no headway. And that Hoxian lad. Gods – Tom had spotted him staring out of the corner of his eye, waiting, as if he wanted to say something but didn’t know if he should yet. Waiting. Soft-spoken, pleasant as you like. There was something there, and Tom didn’t like it.

He tried to get his mind off of it as he tied Clary’s reins to a worn old post, but as he looked out at the phasmonia, he didn’t feel any better. He’d never seen one before, or he’d never thought he had. (Something about it felt familiar; he didn’t want to know why.) In the crisp morning sun, the houses cast clear, eggshell shadows over the winding dirt path; their circular doors reminded him of moaning little mouths, sad and hungry.

As he started down the path, he was conscious of the sound of his boots scuffing in the dust. It was loud in the sudden silence; it was as if he’d passed beneath a blanket of wool, or – as if he’d stepped into a tomb. His breath steamed on the air and he frowned deeply, shoving his hands deep into his pockets. He found himself holding his breath at intervals, waiting – as if he expected something, some ghost to waft out of one of the houses like smoke – some answer from a quiet voice in the dark. He wandered up to one of the little houses, bending to peer through the door. A spot of sunlight illuminated the inside; as he blocked the light, his shadow stood inside, warped by the angle. Small.

He drew back.

“I don’t want to go in there.” His voice shook; he hadn’t meant to say it. Hadn’t meant to think it. Gotten his wires crossed, or something. He shook his head, squeezed his eyes shut tightly, and tried to banish the image. “I don’t want to live there,” he whispered, “ever, ever.”
Last edited by Tom Cooke on Sun Jun 09, 2019 4:25 pm, edited 2 times in total. word count: 1197

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Ezre Vks
Posts: 91
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 11:02 am
Topics: 6
Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
Race: Galdor
: better with the dead
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Writer: Muse
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Mon Mar 11, 2019 2:47 pm

Ghost Town
Noon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
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A little inspirationShow
Ezre had left campus in the murky darkness hours before dawn, slipping from the sleeping dorms and slumbering campus like some restless spirit. Bundled against the frigid temperatures though not over-dressed like his thin-blooded Anaxi peers, the temple-born foreigner made his way on foot from Brunnhold's red home walls, through the Stacks and to one of the main guardhouses that led out into the wild, open country surrounding Anaxas' famed university. It was still dark and the Hoxian was old enough to be out past curfew, or before curfew depending on how you kept the houses of the Vitan day, but the boy was still forced to justify his needing to leave during the so-called dangerous hours of pre-dawn.

"It is part of my studies in spirituality to bring food to the hungry dead. I'm on my way to the phasmonia in order to make my offerings for class participation credit." He revealed the various wrapped packages in his pack, some of which was, indeed food, and the rest of which were mysterious items most likely unrecognizable to those who weren't Scryers like himself. From inside of his hooded wool cloak, tattooed fingers produced a hand-written note from Professor Ymirez, Mortuary Sciences.

The guard, a Collie in her high-collared Seventen uniform, looked sleepy and cold. She barely squinted at the note before waving the boy on with a shrug, far too interested in returning to huddle by the little potbellied stove in the guardhouse with her other regretfully awake on final shift colleagues to be bothered by a boy and his fascination with the dead,

"That's a long trip by foot, you know." She was writing down his name as if she worried she would be looking for him later, come the afternoon.

"It's all part of the process." Ezre shrugged, returning his pack to his shoulders and tugging back up his hood.

"Go on then. Look out for bander wolves."

"Zjai.Yes. Thank you." He hummed before heading on his way down the well-maintained road that led away from the red-walled fortress and into the wilderness between Brunnhold and the Phasmonia. It was a four hour walk, which meant he had timed his departure to arrive just before sunrise, giving him enough time to set up his equipment, break his fast with the food in his pack (the officer clearly didn't know what the Hoxian knew about phasmonia), and begin his two hundred and fifty third attempt at modifying Clairvoyant magic to communicate with the restless spirits of the dead.

Once far enough away from Campus, under the stars in the sky above that was just beginning to lighten at the sharp edges of the horizon, announcing the coming dawn, Ezre was free to break into song. Old, harsh-syllabled vocals that rang out in the frigid Bethas air, breath a cloud that drifted upward like smoke from incense and dissipated into the darkness like just another ghost the temple-born student was so comfortable surrounding himself with.

Four hours of walking was a small journey compared to the endless Cycle, and the temple-born galdor used the long trek as a form of meditation, communing with the mona, honoring the gods with song, and stripping away the trappings of academic life to arrive at the small phasmonia in a much more spiritual state of mind.

The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon, rosy fingers of dawn tucking the stars away to bed. The Anaxi people were, in general, frightened of phasmonia, and Ghost Town was no exception. Faded decorations and long-forgotten offerings of food were all that adorned the unkept miniature city, everything built at what felt like child's height with excruciating attention to detail left to be worn away by the elements. Paint was fading. Flowerbeds were overgrown. Gates and small planters overturned by drunk students dared to spend a night among the hungry ghosts or—worse—simply amused by their own opportunity to destroy.

If there was a groundskeeper or two, probably Everine, they'd let the place go, either because they didn't have the budget (which was doubtful) or because the young acolytes chosen for the job were no less afraid of their own inevitable return to the Cycle to give respect to the place they believed their souls could come and visit.

Was it the truth? Were there spirits and ghosts here at all?

Ezre was not at all obliged to share what he knew with those who would most likely not believe him, the secrets of his Hexxos upbringing his to carry in silence.

He'd taken a moment to tidy up a small clearing with normal-sized benches, meant to be a place for a family to take an afternoon repose. Clearly there had been a time when coming to a phasmonia had not been something to fear. Choosing to sit on one of the benches instead of the icy, snow-crusted ground, the Hoxian unpacked his meal as well as a blanket, cozily settling himself in one more layer before he poured himself some steaming hot tea and unwrapped a small bundle of bread, meat, cheese, and dried fruit from some of his favorite places in the Stacks.

It was while he fell quiet, reaching out to the Circle by each of their names in prayers of thanks, that Ezre heard the sound of something far heavier than an incorporeal soul or even a single person approaching. A muffled voice, the coo of a moa, and dark eyes peered past scaled down architecture and full-sized shrubbery left farrow and wild to catch sight of a well-dressed galdor—

Oh.

What a curious sight it was to see that particular man—a politician, he'd been told—an Anaxi Incumbent—here alone in the first light of morning. He'd caught a few glimpses of him this week during all of the political lectures and forced interactions between students and their government officials. He'd felt the brush of his frazzled field. He had his suspicions, he did, but had no real reason to approach the man who already appeared uncomfortable among his officiating peers.

It had not been his place then, and yet, here they were now.

Without making any noise right away, comfortable in his blanketed nest with a small metal cup warming his tattooed hands and steaming thickly, the dark-haired boy simply watched as the man skittishly poked around the spiritual homes that were still shrouded in so much shadow, ice clinging greedily to everything and hoarfrost curling from the frozen ground like desperate hands reaching from the grave.

Finally, Ezre cleared his throat, just out of range for his Clairvoyant-laden field to be at all noticeable,

"Don't worry—" His voice carried in the cold, the lilt in his Deftung accent bordering on the edge of sarcastic humor, "—I wouldn't call those who linger here living."

Dark eyes studied the man's reaction, the boy far more curious than his almost emotionless, calm exterior could ever reveal here in public view. Raising his cup, he made his offering to the dead with an unexpectedly bright smile,

"Would you like some tea, Incumbent?"

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Tom Cooke
Posts: 293
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:15 pm
Topics: 32
Location: Vienda, but also hell
Race: Raen
: "disturbingly unheimlich individual"
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Writer: Graf
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Mon Mar 11, 2019 5:21 pm

BRUNNHOLD PHASMONIA
at noon on the 9th of bethas, 2719.
Tom screeched.

It wasn’t a shout, and in the cracked, dry cold, it didn’t quite have the dignity of a howl or a caterwaul; it wasn’t even close to a bellow or a roar, though he’d have liked it to be. It was falsetto in pitch and bird-like in quality. It ended on a frayed, faltering note, tumbling unsurely into the muffled quiet like a question. A couple of startled little birds took off from the shrubberies. He hadn’t known that was a sound he could make, and it startled him just about as much as the kid had.

He found himself slumped against the little round house. His heart was hammering fit to burst against his chest. “By the Lady,” he snarled. If his mouth had been dry before, it was parched now; he felt like his throat was stuck together. “You’ll be givin’ me a heart attack–”

Tom thumped his chest with a gloved fist, hacking a couple of times. Wasn’t as bad as it’d been a second ago, though there was a time when nobody – much less some scrawny Brunnhold schoolboy – could’ve snuck up on Cooke. It was all this living soft, he reckoned; he was losing his edge. Not that Vauquelin had ever had much of an edge to begin with, and a whole lot of things were different now.

Then again, these weren’t the normal circumstances. This was a clocking ghost town, and this kid –

This fucking kid! Taking deep breaths, he pushed himself up away from the house, wiping a little spittle from his mouth. This strange child. He squinted across the shadowed tangle of dead grass and poorly-kept path, over to the nest of blanket and food and tea. Steam curled up into the frosty air, fragile white clouds against the shifting dark greenery – the lad was smiling through that steam, smiling winningly, like this was the normalest thing you could imagine. Offering tea to somebody in the middle of a ghost town after you’d nearly startled the ghost out of them.

Tom’s eyes narrowed. He was distracted for a splitsecond by what looked like inkwork on the lad’s fingers. Little rings between the joints. Subtle, but visible. Admittedly, he hadn’t met a lot of Hoxians, but he didn’t know galdori to have tattoos. Something about gated passives. Wicks, sure – his hama’d had dozens – and folks from Mugroba, maybe, but a golly schoolboy?

Hell, he didn’t know. He straightened up, taking a shaky step away from the house and smoothing his coat – now dusted with chips of old paint and clay powder. He knew he’d let his accent slip, and he hoped he wouldn’t pay for it. “You’ll forgive me, young man, but I’m afraid I wasn’t expecting company this morning,” he enunciated sharply, lifting an eyebrow.

Nevertheless, he dipped in a deep bow. He still felt a little light-headed, and he winced when he rose.

“I would join you, but I – ah – I was just –” What were the social rules for a situation like this? This couldn’t be proper golly etiquette. And just what the fuck were you doing here, Tom? That you can tell this kid? This is already moony enough. Just go with it. Whatever. He looked at the lad a moment longer through narrowed eyes, then sighed.

“—never mind. The least you owe me after that is something warm.” He crunched through the frost over toward the benches, taking a hesitant seat nearby – but not next to – the boy. He was quiet for a moment, studying the Hoxian’s face.

There was something going on here.

“As for living or not living,” he replied, even quieter, “we build homes for them – even if we don’t take care of them anymore. We expect them to wander around. We even call them ‘hungry’. Isn’t that a bit like a living thing?” A wry twist of a smile.
Last edited by Tom Cooke on Tue Mar 12, 2019 3:23 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 715
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Ezre Vks
Posts: 91
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 11:02 am
Topics: 6
Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
Race: Galdor
: better with the dead
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Writer: Muse
Contact:

Tue Mar 12, 2019 9:19 am

Ghost Town
Noon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
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The boy chose not to react to the man's surprise with exaggerated apologies, sitting up and exhaling a slow breath through delicate lips. Ezre offered a return bow, having set his metal cup on the bench beside his blanket, tattooed hands folded together in front of him in a gesture of further respect, "It wasn't my intention to frighten you, but I don't think anyone really expects to run into the living when visiting the dead."

There was something in those dark pools of the Hoxian's eyes, but it wasn't suspicion. It wasn't judgment. It wasn't fear. It wasn't disrespect. It was knowing. It was comfortable. It was understanding, unspoken and unasked.

Ezre watched the older man approach, close enough now to feel the instability of the other galdor's field, close enough to let the sensation of unbalance wash over his magical senses with a student's sort of interest, with an experienced air of investigation. He was far too polite to caprise an adult of social standing far higher than himself without perceiving permission, but that didn't mean he didn't consider everything he possibly could about the weight of their fields' proximities. Familiar, but different. It was a jagged thing, unfocused, and the mona moved around the man restlessly.

"Are you hungry, too? I have some food—just a light travel breakfast, really, but enough to share."

Turning and searching for his bag in order to dig for another cup—a dutiful friend of the living always had enough to share—unable to help but let the hint of a smirk creep into his youthful features at the Incumbent's hesitance to get closer, at his comment about how Anaxi culture chose to build their phasmonia, and at the boy's own choice of words as if they were his own humorous secrets.

It was common across many Kingdoms, miniature cities for the dead, for their hungry, restless spirits to come to live instead of seeking out and troubling—or worse, consuming—the living. There were no pleasantries about possession, not even for the ghost. There were, in some ways, even less for the raen, their sentient and strangely much more intact souls requiring the complete destruction of another in order to anchor themselves to flesh and move about the world.

Ghosts were simply lost, broken things unable to move beyond their most binding emotions. Raen were—well, they were something else entirely.

"It is not a hunger for physical nourishment that drives the dead, but an overwhelming desire for warmth, for what once was. A body like they knew, like our souls are made to want again and again. It is easy to take living for granted when you are still alive, and it's easier still to be afraid of an end when you forget it's just another beginning. Ideally, according to how the Cycle works, no one should have to care for the dead. But not all things are ideal, are they, Incumbent?"

By the Stillness of Bash, Ezre was aware he probably was being both too obtuse and too direct at the same time. The Hoxian poured another cup of tea, reluctantly crawling from his blanket to stand and offer it to the other galdor, willingly stepping close enough to present the small metal cup to the older man with both inked hands, allowing himself to finally explore the field that erratically seemed to press against him, dark eyelashes fluttering for a moment and breath hitching with a sharp sting of so much cold air.

Because he wasn't entirely sure if the older galdor before him was exactly what he thought he was, the temple-born son of a raen hesitated almost imperceptibly when passing the cup, angling his hand in such a way that the man would be forced to brush fingers over his own. It was idle curiosity now—always experimenting, always attempting to understand the unseen—but it was also meant to delay his stepping away, wanting an extra moment or two in this vicinity to the man's field,

"Ziedek.A formal greeting, a very polite way of saying hello. I'm Ezre Vks, and I would have introduced myself earlier had I thought it appropriate. I'm not into politics, so—" The dark-haired boy shrugged, offering another hint of an amused expression, returning to his seat as if he wanted to make sure he kept a respectable distance for the other man's comfort. Sipping his tea, he considered his choice of words for a few rapid heartbeats, attempting to calm his mind from jumping to conclusions and insulting a stranger but also filled with a nostalgia for the quiet temples and hushed library of Kzecka that he couldn't entirely be rid himself of,

"—I'm glad I waited. This is a better meeting than some crowded social gathering between you and I. Tsk. I should explain." Staring into his cup, watching the steam curl and writhe in the freezing air, the Hoxian wanted to make sure he didn't frighten the man in front of him any more than he already had by just being here—it wasn't as though he knew the Incumbent would make his way to Ghost Town, too. Were the dead really drawn here now that the living were not?

"I'm a student of mortuary sciences, but I'm also a scryer. I'm here to conduct some studies, specifically on clairvoyant attempts to communicate with lost souls. Ghosts." As if that was all example necessary for his dislike of rubbing elbows with strange politicians or getting guttered at some party, as if that at all explained why he was glad he waited to introduce himself to Tom as if he'd wanted to all along, he let his words hang in the space between them for a few extra heartbeats. There was some wry tone to his voice that was hard to place because of just how quiet and evenly it was presented, but it was as though he was holding back more humor as well as something more important he wanted to say.

For all he knew, Ezre was already communicating with the dead without magic right now.

He missed home.

"What brings you here? Did you come to make an offering, vumasha respectful address, like "sir"? "

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Last edited by Ezre Vks on Wed Apr 10, 2019 2:55 pm, edited 3 times in total. word count: 1111
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Tom Cooke
Posts: 293
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:15 pm
Topics: 32
Location: Vienda, but also hell
Race: Raen
: "disturbingly unheimlich individual"
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Post Templates: Notes & Tracker
Writer: Graf
Contact:

Tue Mar 12, 2019 5:14 pm

BRUNNHOLD PHASMONIA
at noon on the 9th of bethas, 2719.
As he sat, he studied the much younger galdor, paid attention to his field. His grasp on the different types of mona was shaky at best, but this was a sort of field he was familiar with; it wasn’t unlike Monica’s or even the Madame’s, though he would’ve been hard-pressed to tell you why. It made a soft, enigmatic impression on him; it reminded him of the incense his hama used to burn in the apartment, or of an intimate conversation only half-overheard. He knew to call it clairvoyant now, and he liked it well enough – trusted it, at any rate, better than the kind of physical battering-rams certain other galdori carried about with them, like being able to throw an honest punch wasn’t good enough in that department.

He trusted the young man’s face, too, though he couldn’t have said why. It made him want to let down his guard, and that made him think he ought to do anything but. He was looking at Tom like he knew something, like he had the upper-hand – maybe not the upper-hand, but Tom couldn’t think of a better way of phrasing it – he didn’t seem like he had it out for him, but what else could it be? The look in those dark brown eyes was almost warm; he looked comfortable, curious – comfortable with his curiosity.

Tom thought about all this as he watched the lad pour out another cup of tea. Steam rolled up into the still air, unfurling and writhing and disappearing like ghosts. Like ghosts, he thought. Who else would go out to a ghost town–? Unthinkable. No. You don’t risk everything on a fucking hunch, Cooke. I don’t care what this kid knows or doesn’t know. I don’t give a single tick. Didn’t life teach you anything? You’re getting soft. You don’t let your gods-damned guard down.

He swallowed dryly, leaning forward. “No, no,” he replied, “tea will be fine for me. I ate before I set out. Though you are quite generous, young master.” He forced a thin smile, oddly patronizing – a smile of the kind politicians reserve for bright students at political fairs. Again, he’d resigned himself to settling into his Incumbent’s persona. Over the past two months, it had grown steadily easier; back in Achtus, it had been like pulling teeth, observing and regurgitating unfamiliar sounds and words and speech patterns with an equally unfamiliar mouth, but by Ophus he’d drifted into a rhythm, and by the end of Intas he’d become almost comfortable with it. He’d find himself forgetting he ever talked – or acted – any other way.

His smile flinched when the lad spoke again. But not all things are ideal, are they, Incumbent? For a second, his mouth wobbled and his eyebrows drew together – like a child that had been slapped.

As the boy divested himself of his blanket, Tom tried to resolve that pleasant, weak, chroveshit smile, and it came back faltering, with a bitter twist around the edges like he’d bitten into a lemon thinking it was something else. He was visibly uncomfortable with the boy’s body language, no matter how polite: his field, doetoed and confused enough as it was, seemed to buzz agitatedly, and he did his damnedest not to brush hands as he took the cup. He failed nevertheless.

“Dz—zie—d-dek,” fumbled Tom, inclining his head. He raised his steaming cup. “Mr. Ezre – Vicks? Vecks. Yes, I believe Madame Exedus pointed you out to me. She remarked that you were a very promising student. A terrible shame you have no plans to go into politics, or—”

He broke off lamely, looking down at his cup. In the shadows that thronged the phasmonia, the tea was like a dark, misty mirror; he met Anatole’s dark, concerned gaze, realized he wasn’t smiling anymore. Not even trying. He glanced back up at Ezre, attempting to make sense of what the young galdor was saying. Put it together in his head, along with that hard-to-read, wry tone. Why’d he want to meet me in private? Why all this? What’s this scrying and lost souls and – schoolkid’s nonsense flight of fancy – have to do with me? He knew, of course. How could he not know?

The steam from the tea was putting life back into his frozen face, and his fingers weren’t numb anymore, curled as they were around the warm clay. He met Ezre’s gaze briefly, sucking his teeth and wincing, and then he looked past the boy, trying to piece together an answer to the question he’d asked – and the ones he hadn’t. So much for survival, he thought. So much for what was on the line.

“No. I didn’t come here to make any offerings to the dead.” He sighed, took a deep breath in, and then raised the cup to his lips and took a long draught. In the chill, it was already cool enough to drink, but warm enough that he felt it all the way down his throat; it seemed to kindle a fire that’d been dying in his chest. Somehow, below freezing didn’t feel so cold anymore, and he was grateful for that. “You’ve done a pretty good job of that, yourself.” A sad little laugh.

He ran his thumbs around the rim of the cup, looking at it idly in his lap.

“Being honest, I don’t really know anything about ghosts,” he said after a moment, “but I came here to answer a question. Maybe you can help me, lad. Listen – when somebody dies, they’re supposed to be a part of the Cycle, right? They get reborn. They forget everything they knew, and they’re a new person. And then that person grows up and dies and – and it all starts over again. Real nice and all. Except, uh, it’s not ideal, like you said, and there are ghosts, an’ I reckon we both know that.

“But it seems like there’s something between a ghost and a living person, or a ghost that’s a little too living to be a ghost. And they’re out there like a drowning person in the ocean – they’ll drag down anything or anyone near them. They kill just by – just by bein’ there. So they’ve got to find a raft, and that means a living body. So they snuff out some poor fool’s life and move into his body themselves, and then –”


He broke off. Sack it, but he couldn’t seem to control his voice; it was low and trembling and all over the place, falling to pieces.

“You ever heard of anything like that, lad?” he asked, meeting Ezre’s eyes with a hurt, hungry look in his own. He swore, glanced away. “You better go. This isn’t a good place. Hell, aren’t you afraid of ghosts?”
Last edited by Tom Cooke on Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:29 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1229
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Ezre Vks
Posts: 91
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 11:02 am
Topics: 6
Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
Race: Galdor
: better with the dead
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Writer: Muse
Contact:

Tue Mar 19, 2019 4:04 pm

Ghost Town
Noon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
Ezre was aware his surname was not something easily pronounced by those who hadn't been raised with the emphasis on consonants that Deftung required and so he didn't bother to correct the older man, instead arching a slim, dark eyebrow at the mention of his professor, "Oh. Madame Exedus mentioned me by name? I was unaware of her generous assumptions."

The Hoxian handled surprise in the same way he seemed to handle everything else: with an uncanny calm. He couldn't help but watch how the man's thoughts seemed to play out on his face—Anaxi had no cultural reason nor practical expectations that required them to master their rhakor, after all—and yet when the so-called Incumbent mentioned offerings to the dead, there was an obvious flicker of a smile that warmed the boy's features in a way that would have anywhere else surely been considered creepy if it hadn't been so coincidental.

He even bobbed his head in the slightest of bows in near-humble acknowledgement, not even bothering to comment on how such an admission confirmed his suspicions.Then, the man kept talking, and, as he was so apt to do, Ezre listened, eyes like living shadows taking in not only the speaker but also the backdrop of ice-crusted scenery, of the old Brunnhold phasmonia, of the wintery landscape.

He sifted through the other man's words, perhaps more perceptive and sensitive to the clues held within than other students his age, perhaps well-tuned to opinions on the Cycle, perhaps already so full of ghost stories, and, perhaps even more so, already aware of deeper secrets about those who seemed suddenly excluded from the turning from one life to the next that this man was desperately hoping to hear more about.

Because he was one.

Wasn't he?

Ezre only knew of those from Kzecka who knew what he knew, the small religious Hexxos order carefully guarding their secrets about those who existed outside of the Cycle, about the raen as they called them. Everyone knew about ghosts, but did anyone at all outside of the temple city tucked away in the Spondola Mountains far to the furthest north know anything at all about the raen?

"I have heard of such things, zjaiyes."

The Hoxian began with a simple agreement, choosing not to delve too deeply into theoretical discussions about the restless dead, unlife outside of the Cycle, and cultural beliefs about ghosts, huddled as he was around his tea, tattooed fingers suddenly listless over the hot metal cup, "I'm not afraid of ghosts, no. I don't think I ever have been. I have a healthy respect for their dangers, yes, but I was raised around the dead by the living in the city of Kzecka. Known for its religious texts and temples, my home has become a gathering place over the centuries for those who exist in between, for those who are as you describe."

He offered a more lingering smile, pausing not for effect but to make sure his quiet words were heard. Making no motion to get up or move, hardly tensing at all because he had no reason to scramble away and flee, Ezre instead sought to affirm the man before him with such comfortable nonchalance that they may as well have known each other for years. Decades. Centuries, really.

"You are one of them. As is my mother. We call your kind raen."

It was a shared secret, one he would have never told unless he was confident that the risk was worthwhile. He'd felt the man's utterly chaotic field, caprised the way the mona begrudgingly clung to the galdor's body as if held in their places only by memory instead of will. He'd heard the tremble in the older man's voice. And here, he'd met him in a ghost town. There was little doubt in Ezre's rather selectively-trained and deeply focused mind that the galdor before him was only the Incumbent's shell and, from the sound of things, the confused, guilt-burdened soul inside was hungry for affirmation and desperate for knowledge.

Nothing more than an Acolyte within the Hexxos sect, having chosen travel in order to expand his knowledge before returning home to Hox, the boy's own understanding was admittedly limited but clearly far deeper than the majority of Vita. He made no verbal motion to apologize for those truths that the older man before him made evidenced as disturbing realities—the necessity of destroying the host body's soul in order for the raen to claim it as their own, unlike the very different possession of a simple ghost. He'd been raised to see it as an honorable sacrifice, one made willingly to allow someone who'd been chosen in their unlife to continue to exist and pass on their knowledge. Surely, raen had a purpose, he'd been raised to believe, even though he was aware that such ideas could very well be little more than comforting myths.

"You're newly fallen outside of the Cycle, are you not?"
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Last edited by Ezre Vks on Wed Apr 10, 2019 2:55 pm, edited 2 times in total. word count: 902
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Tom Cooke
Posts: 293
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:15 pm
Topics: 32
Location: Vienda, but also hell
Race: Raen
: "disturbingly unheimlich individual"
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
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Writer: Graf
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Wed Mar 20, 2019 7:20 pm

BRUNNHOLD PHASMONIA
at noon on the 9th of bethas, 2719.
As Ezre spoke, Tom listened, quiet as the dead; his face got paler and slacker with every word. Every so often a grimace of confusion would spasm across his face, twitching, gone in an instant. He didn’t seem to process what he was hearing, or seemed unable to parse it: once or twice, he craned his neck as if he thought he was mishearing Ezre. The lad was speaking clearly, though, clear and slow, pausing to let the quiet stream of words between them sink in and turn to stone.

When he said raen, Tom’s lip twitched. He mouthed the word after Ezre had fallen silent. Then, at length, he said, “Chroveshit.”

He ran a hand through his hair and then knotted his fingers in it, squeezing his eyes shut and taking a deep breath. He sat, tea in one hand and head in the other, frowning as if he was fighting off a nasty headache. Then he took his hand from his head and held it up, as if to say, Stop. It hovered there in the air, white-knuckled with the chill, trembling a little.

“I’m – fuck, sorry. You got to be patient with me, lad. All this is new to me. I’m not – I wasn’t – a galdor. I’m just a human. I’m barely thirty, and I spent all of my life… I’m just, uh, I’ve never –” He let out a spluttering, frayed laugh, then met Ezre’s eye. The lad’s smile still surprised him; he’d let it linger on his face, showed it to him like he wanted to be encouraging, comforting. Coming from a Hoxian, as far as Tom knew, that meant something. He might as well return the favor by not being a kenser’s erse. “I didn’t even know any of this was real until it happened to me; I still don’t know what to believe. I just reckoned you were another lad with a – morbid thing about ghosts and ghouls. Plenty of those. Looking to scare yourself. I didn’t know you actually… gods, lad. Your own ma? And – a whole damn city…”

At this point, he’d slipped back into the broad accent that was natural for him. Trailing off, he took a long drink of now-lukewarm tea and then fidgeted with the cup in his lap. Circle fuck it, but he needed something stronger. He cleared his throat.

“Aye, lad. I’ve not been out of the Cycle for long. I don’t know how to talk about this; I’ve been going for so long, just gritting my teeth and – well.” After a pause, he tapped out a rhythm against his knee, frowning and mouthing out numbers: one, two… “Well, by my reckoning, I’ve not been dead a year. Maybe – at most, five months. I don’t remember when I kicked the bucket. I just know it was the middle of Yaris when I, ah…”

What the fuck do you call it? He racked his brain, eying the lad across from him dubiously. He didn’t feel like saying he scragged the toffin; it wasn’t like he’d snuck up on him in an alleyway and put a knife in him. All in all, it was embarrassing. He’d never talked to anyone out loud about how damned bizarre it’d felt. To shove someone out of their body and then wake up in it. He couldn’t think of a way to put it that didn’t sound either moony or fucked up beyond repair, though he reckoned Ezre had more experience with it than he did.

“…moved in. Here.” He gestured weakly at himself, then cleared his throat.

Despite his reserved, awkward tone, Tom was opening up. Slowly but surely, he’d been fidgeting over in his seat, inching closer to the lad by centimeters; he’d crossed his legs restlessly and leaned forward. His cup of tea was mostly empty now, and he held it with both hands, fiddling with it, tapping his fingertips silently against the clay. The expression on his face wasn’t exactly a smile, but he was engaged: there was a spark of excitement in Anatole’s grey eyes, and the quirk of one eyebrow was bemused.

“Wait, wait. You said your ma… She raised you? The raen did?”

He tried to imagine that. He had Cerise, of course, but Cerise wasn’t his; she’d always be a dead man’s daughter. He tried to imagine himself with children, but as – this man who wasn’t him? Was that even possible? Could he conceive? A puzzle full of gaps, a tapestry riddled with holes. He was in the middle of a lineage that wasn’t his, rooted to Vauquelin’s father and Vauquelin’s children by the blood in his veins. If he ever had children, they’d be Vauquelin’s. But that was his blood, now, wasn’t it? Cooke was dead. Clark wasn’t even his brother anymore – not by birth, not by flesh and blood. If he’d had children while he was alive, would they still be his? Would they recognize him? Would his brother? He wasn’t Cooke anymore, was he?

Was he? (Who exactly was he?)

His voice was quiet. “The raen raised you – from birth? What was that… What was that like? Does that mean – that doesn’t mean you’re one of us, does it?” His eyes swept over Ezre, narrowing, suddenly suspicious. “Or – no. Your ma was… your ma found you again? After she –” He bit his lip. “Sorry. Again. This must be a hard subject. I’ll – I won’t ask, if you don’t want to talk about it. I’ve got so many questions, and I’m not even sure how to ask them. This… Kzecka place, and raen. I don’t know anything. I barely know who I am on a good day.”

He finished off his cup of tea, frowning.
word count: 1050
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Ezre Vks
Posts: 91
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 11:02 am
Topics: 6
Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
Race: Galdor
: better with the dead
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Writer: Muse
Contact:

Thu Mar 21, 2019 1:54 pm

Ghost Town
Noon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
The boy was not entirely prepared for the other man's response, perhaps far too esoteric for his own good, and the gut reaction of a shocked man trapped in a body that was not the one he remembered last inhabiting was fair but grating. Ezre winced, revealing for a moment that he was, truly, barely a young man despite his far-fetched wisdom and isolated, focused upbringing. His rhakor slipped, self-composure difficult to grasp in both excitement and shock, and the Hoxian inhaled sharply, dark-eyes widening.

Sharing secrets like this was new to him, too.

"I am also sorry." He returned generously, voice wavering despite the smile he willed with all of his might to remain on his delicate features, "No one knows. Not really. Most of it is rumor. Hearsay. Ghost stories. Lost in moldy books in the Crypts or on some caravan in the Mugrobi desert. Buried in tombs. What my people know is limited and—and we are very rarely able to share."

Ezre could be nothing but honest. There was no reason to lie or skirt around things with a raen, especially one who was clearly so new. Had his mother felt this way once, all those decades ago in other bodies? She'd shared so few stories, promising him her journals when he was ready. Whatever that meant. He'd felt ready before he left for Freckstat. He'd felt ready before he'd left for Brunnhold. He felt ready now. Shifting uncomfortably, the lithe boy shed his layer of blanket, exhaling a slow cloud of breath through his teeth, attempting to get a hold on his impatience, on his immaturity, on his surprise and on his enthusiasm,

"As far as I am aware, Hexxos are the only sect that has any documentation on raen, though perhaps other Kingdoms or other religious orders have simply lost touch with their understanding over the centuries." He offered that bit of personal information, resting his palms on his knees as if the sunshine could at all warm his tattooed hands,

"Yaris? Oh. You are—you've just—everything must feel so strange for you. Sir." Ezre was suddenly aware he didn't know the man's name, only told he was an Incumbent and admittedly not committing the older galdor body's surname to memory. He hadn't really considered he'd actually have an opportunity to sit here with him in a phasmonia of all places. Them. He paused, studying the other man's face carefully as if he was weighing his response, as if he had something more to say about being so fresh of a wild, freed soul, unbound from the turning of the Cycle and gnawed at by the entropic forces of time. Instead, he could only blink at the question asked of him, suddenly made shy at the mention of his mother.

He may have even blushed had his face not already been so chapped from the cold. Dark eyes strayed downward and away from grey hues,

"Wait. Me? No, sir, I am very much still alive." Ezre couldn't help but laugh, his smile far more relaxed and genuine now, hardly forced or skittish on his delicate face, "My mother's body has been a host for a raen since she was twenty, though the soul within her is supposedly at least a century old. My mother was willing—she—it was an offering. It's a sacred arrangement, the sacrifice of one soul to allow the body to become a vessel for a raen. I am the biological child of her body and my father's, though I am the only child to have survived the womb from their marriage and union. It is difficult for a body hosting a raen to conceive—the monic interference—it's—ah. It's difficult to explain and some things are not meant to be shared with outsiders, even your kind. At least right now."

It was not a hard stop and it was obvious that the boy wasn't even offended by the confused barrage of questions and thoughts, letting Tom's words wash over him and choosing which lines of conversation to follow with such studious selection. Fingers inked with their simple lines reached for the raen's empty cup,

"I don't know my mother's real name. Not yet. But the displaced soul that has lived in the Vks clan of Kzecka has worked hard to find peace with their current existence and with the mona in the hopes of providing understanding to people and guidance for others like herself. I was raised among religious people, you could say, but I was loved and cared for and taught not to fear death, nor to worry whether life continues on the Cycle or outside of it."

Ezre shrugged, far more expressive and open in what he considered to be an unexpectedly familiar encounter with a stranger. With a strange being. He talked more with his hands, his face warmed with emotion, and his tone of voice was carried through the cold air with curiosity. As much as he wanted to provide affirmation and assistance to the stranger, it was far more difficult than he expected to keep a grip on his composure when given an opportunity to speak of home, to share secrets, and to explore the life of another raen.

"What is your name? You seem to remember so much of your beginning."

Whether it was ignorance or innocence in his youth, he was now far too involved to even consider that the origins of the man before him could have been dubious in nature, wrapped as he was in the middle-aged body of a galdor, the Hoxian was far too curious to be as cautious as this situation probably warranted.

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Last edited by Ezre Vks on Wed Apr 10, 2019 2:55 pm, edited 2 times in total. word count: 1015
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Tom Cooke
Posts: 293
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:15 pm
Topics: 32
Location: Vienda, but also hell
Race: Raen
: "disturbingly unheimlich individual"
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Post Templates: Notes & Tracker
Writer: Graf
Contact:

Fri Mar 22, 2019 3:30 pm

BRUNNHOLD PHASMONIA
at noon on the 9th of bethas, 2719.
He’d seen Ezre’s brief flicker of a wince, and it’d surprised him; it also made him remember who he was talking to. He’d only met a handful of Hoxians – mostly in Vienda, mostly diplomats, and mostly Drezda Ecks – and he still wasn’t quite sure what accounted for their body language being so different from Anaxi. He knew they had a word for it, but he didn’t know what that word was, or at any rate he couldn’t remember. Regardless, he knew it was a fair big slip for a Hoxian to wince like that. Made him think about how this Vks lad was, after all, just a kid. A galdor kid, to boot.

And Tom was a human, and he was talking like one. Maybe I ain’t his typical raen, he thought for the first time, and made a mental note to – do what? It was just too damned tempting to slip back into his old self. For the past few months, it was like he’d been wearing shoes that were too small, and now, finally, he’d found his beloved old boots. He couldn’t help it.

When the lad reached for the cup, he held onto it for a moment, hesitant. Then he passed it on, staring down at his empty hands in his lap. “I just haven’t, uh… there’s not a lot of people who know who I really am. But it’s a hell of a relief. Means a lot you’re asking, I mean. And telling. This might not seem like a lot of knowledge to you, but it’s a light in the dark for me. It’s a lot more than nothing. Musty old books, religious orders, dze, and I know a little something about keeping your organization’s secrets. No complaints from me there. It’s better than— When I first woke up like this, I thought I’d had a bad trip. Strange don’t quite cut it. Nightmare, maybe. Even just knowing this thing has a name. Even that.”

He glanced up and met Ezre’s eyes, a sincere intensity in his own. He’d noticed the lad’s body language, noticed his uncharacteristic animation, the expressions warming up his face, the look in his eyes. Felt like that deserved a little more openness on his own part.

“My real name is Thomas Cooke.” This was the second time he’d heard that name in this voice, and it shook him; a nerve jumped in his cheek, and his left eye fluttered, that little tic he hadn’t suffered in at least a month. To make up for it, he smiled as warmly as he could. “You can call me Tom. No ‘sir’ – not here, anyway. Just Tom, hey?”

The smile felt foreign, new; it wasn’t a smile this face was used to. He had no idea how it looked, and he didn’t care. Then, he laughed. Not a derisive snort, not a cracked splutter, not even his facsimile of Anatole’s humming giggle. His own warm, throaty laughter.

He shrugged. “All I can figure is, I remember so much ’cause I’m so young. And maybe I’m fair good at being a ghost. I don’t know. I know that being outside of a body is misery, plain and simple. You lose shit fast. ’Scuse the language, by the by; I am what I am. Mostly.” He raised a red eyebrow, then cleared his throat and reached into his coat. After rifling around a bit, he pulled out a little leatherbound book. “I write in this. About me. Who I was, all the sh— stuff I did. What’s happening to me now, too, and whatever I can find out about it. So even if I forget...”

Running his hands over the leather cover, something almost tender came into his expression.

“She’s important to you, isn’t she? Your ma, I mean. Important to all of you, this raen that lives in your family. Important enough to make – well, hell. That’s a fair sacrifice, lad.” He whistled softly. At least a century old. Gods, I can’t imagine living that long. The things you’d know, the things you’d’ve seen. Aye, you must’ve had a hell of a different upbringing. I bet you couldn’t keep a damn thing from her.”

He hadn’t expected the lad’s open, honest response; the idea that his mother was a raen (or rather, that his mother’s body had been taken by a raen, and that the raen had used it to conceive) was still sinking in, and he reckoned it’d take awhile to process. Just long enough to lie awake thinking about it, but that was the way of things.

Another laugh. He drew his legs up onto the bench underneath him with a wince, wrapping his coat tighter around him. “What’s she like? As a person, I mean. What are the raen in Kzecka like? And how d’you get an entire family to just – agree to do something like that? Would you make that sacrifice for one of us?” He shivered. “Shit, that’s a bit of a personal question, sorry. Damn, but it’s clocking cold out here, ain’t it? You ought to be wrapped up better, lad. You’ll catch somethin’.”
word count: 949
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Ezre Vks
Posts: 91
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 11:02 am
Topics: 6
Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
Race: Galdor
: better with the dead
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Writer: Muse
Contact:

Wed Apr 10, 2019 2:35 pm

Ghost Town
Noon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
"You probably shouldn't tell people what you are. There are very few who will understand and even less who will be unafraid in the face of the truth." Ezre was quick with his calm warning, dark eyes studying the man's face carefully. As far as he knew, no one in Anaxas would have ever admitted to an encounter with a ghost or a spirit, let alone awareness about the existence of raen. Did he blink at the mention of a bad trip as if it took him a moment to understand the context? Did he smirk with subtle awareness at the use of Tek? Yes. Both. A little. Just flickers of expression that revealed he was still a teenaged boy for all of his seemingly well-aged wisdom.

Had it not been so cold, he probably would have blushed at such frank talk from a stranger, but the Hoxian's face was already red from the frigid temperatures mixed with the warm steam of the tea in his tattooed hands,

"You're not the only raen, Tom, though I don't know whether to tell you that should be a comfort or a concern. You are, however, the first raen I've met in Anaxas, and, well, it's not as though I haven't been looking." There! For an honest moment, Ezre allowed a glimpse of what could only be described as a mischievous sort of grin, impish and very real. His dark eyes warmed when the man who had probably not been born a galdor—something any other golly boy his age should have been terrified of—returned the smile on the face of the body he'd claimed as his own.

How confusing it must have been for Tom to find himself a disembodied soul yanked from the Cycle, torn inexplicably from their place in the ebb and flow. How disorienting to have no body, no real understanding of where he was or what he was doing. The boy had been told of the hunger. The need. The boy was aware that for Tom to be seated before him in the red-headed older man's flesh, he had wrestled with the Incumbent's soul. He had traded places, sending the man's original inhabitant crashing into the Cycle he, himself, had been denied passage into.

Any normal youth should have found that terrifying. Even more so when the raen went on to hint that his first life had not necessarily been one of peace.

Ezre was not normal, however.

He shrugged, "I can't say I know enough about different raen to compare your experiences. Perhaps the Hexxos libraries have various origin accounts of your kind to compile into an academic treatise on memory and ability, but I can say being supposedly so young means you have had less time to decay. Some raen wander for too long without a body and the experience is, as you say, misery. Insanity, I have been told. But your body will continue to age, so—"

His eyes flicked down to the book as Tom ran his fingers with such care over the leather, understanding the connection enough that his smile lingered. It was wistful and he grew quiet, nodding,

"Those who know of her existence eventually come to understand the sacrifice. I'm told the woman who willingly gave her body was a kind woman, studious but known for her sense of humor. I like to think we would have things in common, that I honor her memory as much as I honor the choice she made for the raen to have a vessel."

Ezre shrugged at the talk of age, clearly far too young for the concept to entirely register within him despite his experiences. He was barely an adult, really, and while he was capable of putting on the appearances of a mature, well-grounded creature, he had his youthful moments of childishness just like everyone else. They were just rare and far better controlled than others. Maybe. A little.

"She is warm and open, for a Hoxian that is. It's true that I got away with very little mischief as a child, but not because she was merciless. My parents—they—she wanted other children, but I'm the only one who survived the womb despite her time spent attempting to repair her relationship with the mona. So, perhaps I was a little spoiled and doted on." He laughed shyly, a very muted but musical noise, the boy looking away for a few moments as if embarrassed by the obvious show of emotion. He considered Tom's very direct, very obviously deeper questions carefully, not speaking for several moments,

"There are only a few raen in Kzecka, and not all of them have lived the quiet life we are used to. Somehow, they have found their way to us and we have given them a place of peace. The responsibility of offering our bodies is one shared by all Hexxos—if I am ever asked, I won't say no, even if I like the life I have been given, I'm still a part of the Cycle. Death is just another part of living and I'm not afraid of it."

It was a strange question with perhaps a stranger answer, but Ezre spoke his heartfelt response with the same deadpan calmness he'd spoken about nearly everything else. Sure, there were things in his life he'd like to experience first—a few of them personal and probably selfish, far more carnal than the Hoxian would ever admit to out loud—but at the same time, he'd be given other chances in other lives.

"I don't mind personal questions. You are a fortunate exception, being a raen. As for the weather—have you been to Hox? This is what we would call a comfortable temperature in comparison." He rolled his dark eyes just like any other student seemed able to do, dismissing the warning as if he was suddenly a typical teenaged boy—which, somewhere inside, he still really was,

"Turn about is fair play, Thomas Cooke. You weren't a galdor before, were you?" Ezre should have been afraid of the answer he suspected, the company of lower races not something any galdor had been properly raised to be comfortable in the presence of. That said, his level of comfort with the Cycle and awareness of how death was quite the fair equalizer when it came to matters of who owned what and why had somewhat assuaged his fear of humans and wicks and even passives.

If they truly shared souls, then what did that mean for the centuries-long division between the races?

"The mona doesn't obey you not because of who you once were but because of what you've become. Just in case you haven't figured that out yet."

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