[Closed] Offerings to the Living

In which Ezre and Tom spend a less eventful afternoon over at least one cup of chan after an almost too eventful midday.

Anaxas' oldest and most prestigious University of Sorcery, the de facto cultural capital of the kingdom and a city in its own right.
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Ezre Vks
Posts: 92
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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Fri Sep 06, 2019 4:19 pm

Dormitory C
Late Afternoon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
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Exhausted had never felt like more of an understatement, and Ezre was certain he'd never been more grateful to see the red stone fortress-thick walls of Brunnhold loom into his vision before in his short time living in the Kingdom of Anaxas. Everything ached, and while he'd made the walk to Ghost Town and back again several times since transferring from Frecksat, he'd never made the journey like this, never made the journey after having his young body become a vessel for a ghost to restlessly inhabit, even for the shortest of times.

Were the Collies at the gates at all a little suspicious of two disheveled, cold-burned inhabitants, galdori or not? Did one of them eye them with more than simple curiosity while the other made remarks about the frigid weather? Indeed. The dark-haired boy grit his teeth at the comment about how perhaps the Incumbent was getting too on in years to be out in the cold, but thank the Circle neither of the pair just as frozen as the unlikely travelers were asked about where they'd been or why they'd been there. It was a small favor.

Right now, the Hoxian was grateful for every small favor that followed: Clara easily tucked into the public stables, the breath of wind-sheltered warmth in a cab through the Stacks, the temptation to doze taken, and the nearness of his upper form Dormitory C to the cobblestone road where the cab deposited the two bodies without any ceremony.

Ezre was persistent, practically tugging Tom inside by a coat sleeve, promising a warm place to rest and something warmer still to drink, waggling numb, sore fingers at the dormitory monitor who was, himself, quietly curled around a cup of steaming fresh coffee, settled by the large common room of the lowest floor's crackling fireplace like a content banderwolf. If he quirked a bushy white-haired brow at the man the young student had with him, it was Bethas after all and Incumbent Vauquelin wasn't a name to be taken lightly. It was a class assignment. It was schoolwork. It was a mandatory dorm tour, a walk down memory lane. Anything to let them slip past without having to expend too much effort, the dark-haired boy so very close to simply melting once in from the cold, melting from a tiredness that gnawed all the way to the marrow of his bones.

He dragged his way up three flights of stairs, apologizing quietly, all but dragging his satchel, too. Everything felt so heavy. A late afternoon on the weekend and his upper form dormitory hall was silent, the rooms empty save for that one boy who had probably not even woken up yet from the night before. Everywhere had to have one of those, right?

Galdori students didn't need to lock their doors, though locks were present. Ezre didn't need to fumble for keys because he had nothing worth stealing: no one wanted his careful curation of animal skulls, no one wanted his Hoxian tea set, and no one wanted his obscure collection of unusual Scrying devices. He just pressed a forehead and shoulder against the painted wood and let his inked fingers wrap around the handle, revealing a room that was neat and tidy, as well kept as one would expect of such a meticulous boy.

The upper form dorms were built like suites: four separate bedrooms with their own entrances shared a bath and a small common area with a sitting room and a hearth with enough of a kitchenette to make tea and wash dishes—not that Ezre's suitemates could ever clean up after themselves if their lives depended on it, Anaxi through and through. They knew a passive would do such things if they did not, and the sheer laziness of it was frankly horrifying to the Kzecka-born student who even knew how to wash his own clothes.

He drifted through his bedroom, tossing down his satchel and shrugging off his coat as if it weighed a million pounds. He stepped out of his boots, curling still-tingling toes into the thick wool rug that dominated the floor of his room. He ran hands over his face, through his hair, bringing himself back into focus, wavering on his feet for an extra moment or two before he crossed the room and reached for a tray on top of his bookshelf. The clatter of metal and porcelain rang out in the quiet and Ezre hooked his delicate chin toward the other door in his room,

"Please make yourself comfortable on the sofa. Do you want a blanket? I will wake up the hearth and set the kettle on. I can only pray to any of the Circle who will listen that someone has cleaned the flue. Do you know how to care for a hearth, Tom? Gods, this Kingdom—" He rolled his dark eyes, laughing awkwardly in order to push through the tiredness that clawed through him, the Hexxos acolyte obviously eager to still be a good servant, to still continue to serve the raen he considered his guest.

He kept himself from rambling too much, moving with the shambling grace of pure muscle memory, leading them both into the small common lounge with three other doors leading to bedrooms and one door obviously leading to the toilet and bath, scrawled with a crude sign demarcating it as "The Head," courtesy of one of his gregariously gross-humored suite mates.

There was a sofa and a leather chair. Another bookshelf. A coffee table laden with someone's homework, a deck of cards, and a full ashtray—totally against the rules, but since when had his godsbedamned suite mates cared? Not once, apparently. Not once in their spoiled lives. Two empty bottles of Neverbetter made it obvious that not everyone in the ninth form was as mature or meticulous as Ezre Vks. Then again, the Hoxian shoved half of the junk right onto the floor without any pretense or concern for the safety of a single page of notes to set his tray down heavily, sighing with thinly veiled frustration,

"I apologize for the inhospitable nature of my fellow galdori students. I doubt they would do anything differently had they known an Incumbent would be visiting. You understand that I spend too much time in the Crypts below the Church of the Moon for many reasons." He smirked, pausing for a moment to lean against the chair and let the ache of his body sink in further, arms crossing over his narrow, chest. With a deep breath, he shoved himself up again and began to make his way toward the hearth,

"I promised chan. My dorm mates probably will not crawl home until well after midnight, so you can rest. I can share my notes."
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Tom Cooke
Posts: 297
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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Sat Sep 07, 2019 6:20 pm

Dormitory C Brunnhold
Late Afternoon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
Getting in out of the cold was like a gift from the Circle. Not even the raised brow of that old kov by the fire, damn him, could curb the feeling; he felt like he was going to melt into his stained coat, felt like he was going to melt all the way to the floor. The feeling that’d tingled its way back into his thin, shaky fingers was almost painful, and still he kept them balled in his pockets. He’d kept them there the whole way from the cab, swaddled in wool, except for during that climb, when he’d been too busy cursing and clinging to the railing to give a fig about any of it.

Oes, it’d been a nasty business – and his breath still ached in his lungs, and his hip still throbbed with every tottering step. Ezre was slumped against his door, tattooed fingers curling round the knob, looking just as much a ghost as the one they’d met a few hours ago.

And finally, now, standing in the quiet hall as if in a surreal dream, Tom had some time, some presence of mind. Just enough to ask himself where the hell they were.

Ezre’d mentioned something about a – Tom couldn’t remember. He took out his kerchief again, blew his nose, crumpled it and stuffed it back in his pocket. His nose had been running since the moment they’d walked into the warmth of the –

Dormitory. That was it. A dormitory for students, like some kind of… like a prison dormitory? Tom couldn’t get his head straight.

It was funny, ’cause he’d expected them to stop in the Stacks. He’d thought that was where Ezre lived, in some flat, maybe with a couple other students. Maybe a chip. Tom didn’t know. Ne, this he remembered – like a guest house for the student gollies. It made sense. Just about every little golly in Anaxas went to Brunnhold; you had to fit them all somewhere.

The door clicked, swinging open a pina mant with Ezre’s tired weight. No keys, he noticed. No keys, no lock. That didn’t make any sense. How’d you keep your shit from getting stolen? The back of his neck prickled.

Took Tom a minute to follow. Suddenly awkward – suddenly present, too-present, but too dazed to do a thing about it – he shoved his hands deeper in his pockets, sniffed again. And again. Godsdamn. He cast one last dubious glance up and down the hall, then followed Ezre in.

He looked round. This, at least, wasn’t unlike what he’d expected. Like a nice little one-room flat, bed made, shelves in order. “Benny,” he rasped, and then promptly hacked into his sleeve, snuffling.

He was too bleary-eyed to focus on much of anything, but his gaze lingered on a row of what looked like the cleaned-up skulls of some pina animals. Couldn’t think about that for too long. Ezre had taken a tray and some tea-things from a shelf, and now he was moving into the next room. Tom found himself following, drifting like a leaf in his wake.

The mess was a contrast to Ezre’s well-tended little space, but Tom barely noticed, at first. Soon as the invitation’d left the lad’s mouth, he was hobbling over to the sofa. He wrestled off his coat, wrestled off his jacket, too, draping them over the arm. Then he sank into the cushions, shutting his eyes for a moment, and he could only nod clumsily when Ezre offered a blanket.

It was a few more moments ’til Ezre’s words sunk in proper, and Tom forced himself to open his eyes. “Uh,” he slurred, blinking at the clocking mess of the coffee table. The two empty bottles of Neverbetter, the tray choked with cigarette butts and ashes. At the question, his eyes wandered toward the hearth, and his brow furrowed. Ezre was laughing, so he laughed, too, awkward. Hesitant. He almost didn’t understand. “’Course I do. I don’t – what do you…”

His eyes wandered again, over toward the door to the latrine. Helpfully-marked. He rubbed his eyes, stared at it for a moment. Finally, the sight wrung a genuine laugh out of him; he shook with it for a moment, and he was so tired that it hurt. He looked back at Ezre, sweeping all the scattered books and notes and rubbish off the coffee table, the benny tea-set rattling as he put it down.

“Good thing it’s not the incumbent visiting, after all, eh?” Shifting, he seemed to sag deeper into the sofa. He rested his head back, drifting a little. “I’ve seen plenty worse. Made worse messes myself,” he offered, staring up at the ceiling. A threadbare laugh slipped out of him. “It’s just not, uh… It’s not what I’m used to seeing from gollies. Don’t get how all this works. Bit like a place I lived, maybe, only we shared a room with a Bastian family, and…”

Tom’s words were meandering; he wasn’t keeping track of them. He trailed off, moving away from that dark, cramped space in his head, with its black mold and its swift-whispered Rivertongue. “We didn’t have a hearth,” he concluded vaguely.

Forcing himself to sit up, he looked at Ezre straight-on, turning to watch him as he moved toward the hearth. “I got to admit, this is fuckin’ weird,” he laughed. “You sure a couple of guttered eighteen-year-olds ain’t goin’ to walk in on you havin’ tea with some old golly politician? Spending too much time in the Crypts is one thing.”
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Ezre Vks
Posts: 92
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:

Sun Sep 08, 2019 9:30 pm

Dormitory C
Late Afternoon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
The raen oozed into the sofa like that palm-full of ectoplasm Ezre had managed to save in a cup, tucked away in his satchel. He reminded himself not to forget about that—no one needed that surprise in any of his classes. His dark eyes caught the nod and the boy exhaled through teeth that ached in his jaw from his brail, from possession, and from so much time out in weather that felt more like home than Anaxas ever had. Tom closed his eyes and he couldn’t blame him, the young galdor concerned he’d perhaps done more harm in his magical experiment than he should have, a twinge of regretful worry seething in the back of his no less tired mind. He turned his attention on starting a fire, smirking at the cold embers as the once human spoke of his previous life in a slurred, half-awake sort of drone.

"You do not get how what works—you mean—a dormitory? Almost all galdori send their children to school from ten until twenty. They have to sleep somewhere, though upper form dorms are different than the ones for lower form—uh—younger students. I would live off-campus, but the Library and Crypts beneath the Church of the Moon are closer here. My suite mates do not make it an easy choice, however." The Hoxian chuckled, scraping ashes left behind by his spoiled, irresponsible fellow students, grateful his back was turned so that Tom could not see the sour look that fell across his usually deadpan, delicate features before he began to build a fresh stack of kindling and pile on a few good logs. Too strung out for even sparking a flame with a simple spell, aware that such a use of magic was frivolous anyway, he struck a match instead, watching it burn near his now-sore, inked fingers for a long, slow inhale before leaning close and setting the old paper and dry twigs alight.

Ezre laughed suddenly, caught off guard by the reality of his disparity between what was left of a human soul wearing a middle-aged galdori politician’s body and his own very far from human experiences as an eighteen year old galdori student while the not-Incumbent spoke further, while he revealed truths the boy had not considered until this moment. He watched the kindling lick the logs, blowing softly against the new flames, setting wood ablaze, mulling over all that he’d only known from hearsay and rumor instead of experience and observation, afraid that the reality of the raen’s new life was most likely just as uncomfortable as he would have been in some human village in the taiga forests back home in Hox.

"It is too early for any of them to return guttered. Geoffre, perhaps, but I am quite certain he is too busy attempting to pass his Quantitative classes this semester to wander campus drunk during the day, even on a weekend." Murmured the boy, rearranging his set up in the hearth with a metal poker until satisfied, aware that he was detailing lives that Tom didn’t need to be burdened with any more than the Hoxian enjoyed being stuck with them. He set the kettle on; it was full, naturally, because he was the only one in his suite of dorm rooms who bothered to ever use it.

He wasn’t sure any of the teenaged boys he shared the upper form floor with even knew how to make their own cup of tea unless it was a dire emergency.

Ezre was probably the only boy who might have ever considered a tea emergency being an actual problem that someone could have. He liked tea.

He sighed, "Brunnhold campus housing is very different from housing in Freckstat, but, well, there are very few things that are similar between Hox and Anaxas. I admit to being very ignorant to the human condition here in this kingdom, for in my homeland, humanity does not share so intimately in galdori society. Though Gior is by far the most segregated."

The dark-haired boy stood and stretched, disappearing for a few moments while he fetched the other man a blanket, pausing to slip out of another two layers of wool and cotton now that he was inside, the lightweight shirt he left himself in not entirely concealing the dark tattoos inked into his tawny skin. He at least remembered to fish his spectacles from the pocket of the middle layer he’d shrugged off, tiredly fumbling them onto his face before taking a brief glance at himself in the mirror above his dresser with a roll of his dark eyes. He took his disheveled hair down and raked fingers through it, tying it loosely back again and letting its length fall between his shoulders, tossing two books onto the top of his blankets before he made his way back into the common room to unceremoniously dump one hand-made quilt from his grandmother over the back of the sofa for Tom to use.

"If galdori student dormitories are disturbing, I can only imagine the horrifying learning curve and ridiculous shock of Anaxi politics." Was the Hexxos acolyte teasing the raen so boldly? The smile that crept into his face was almost coy, once again revealing that Ezre Vks was still just a boy, after all.

Gently setting both books on the man’s chest, he added quietly, studying Tom’s aquiline features and attempting to imagine for a selfish moment what he’d been like before—he’d once been enamored by his umah’s stories of previous bodies, too.

"Are you—what have you told those once close to Incumbent Vauquelin? He had family. His daughter—" The Hexxos bit his lip, censoring himself because he realized acutely that he was being intrusive, forward, and overly curious,

"—ara—I am sorry."

Setting the other blanket in the chair and forgetting about his spectacles, he shuffled to sit on the floor next to his small tea set with an audible groan. Everything ached, but he reached for the small tin of chan, quieting himself by measuring a deep mauve powder into two ceramic cups, settling onto his knees and ignoring the painful objection of his joints,

"One of those books is from home—it is a collection of meditations written by a monic theorist who retired in Kzecka. The other is one of my first Clairvoyant grimoires. Perhaps there is something worth learning in there about fresh beginnings."
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Tom Cooke
Posts: 297
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:

Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:05 pm

Dormitory C Brunnhold
Late Afternoon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
It was a while before Tom said anything. He was trying to keep his eyes open and his mind focused; he was walking through Ezre’s words in his head, letting them paint his hazy, half-finished ideas into a clearer picture. It made sense, he reckoned, all this shit about Brunnhold gollies living on campus with other students in their form. He’d known that just about every Anaxi golly went to Brunnhold – from ten to twenty, like Ezre said; a whole chunk of life, maybe one of the most important ones – but he’d never thought through the logistics.

And how could he have? He didn’t know who Geoffre was, but he laughed again, trying to picture whatever golly lad it was whose penchant for Neverbetter stood shame-faced on the floor near the coffee table – surrounded, of course, by messy notes and ashes. Tom didn’t know what he’d’ve done with a book at that age, much less the prospect of Quantitative exams. There’d been noses to bloody and common sense to ignore.

Ezre was right. It was a different world. “I heard that from a Hoxian diplomat,” he said idly, head lolling over. “She said she’d never met a human before she came to Anaxas. Said you don’t have servants, there – not like here, with humans and passives doing your laundry, cooking, all that shit.” He could see the lad out of the corner of his eye, shape and movement; he heard the strike of a match, the brief breath of a little fire. Then he smelled kindling alight.

He settled back as Ezre left the room. Made the mistake of shutting his eyes for a half-second.

The soft thump of something over the back of the couch woke him up, snorting a little. Felt like he’d drifted, but it couldn’t’ve been for long. He half-twisted, reached up, fumbled with still-cold hands.

Tom found himself wrestling with a heavy quilt. He couldn’t help but smile; even tired as he was, he could tell from the stitch that it hadn’t been made in a factory. As he arranged it over himself, Ezre was moving around, and there was something else in his arms. The lad’s hair was tied back more loosely, too, and he had a pair of spectacles on him Tom hadn’t seen before. He was struck, again, by how tired the galdor was.

Gentle-like, peering at his face with something like a question in his dark eyes, Ezre deposited the books on his chest. Tom didn’t move immediately; he folded his hands over them, eyes fluttering shut again. But then, as he returned to the tea things, Ezre spoke again, and it took Tom’s attention.

So he made an effort to sit up. He drew his aching legs up onto the sofa, folding them underneath the quilt, and pulled himself straight as he could. His own glasses were in an inner pocket of his waistcoat, and he fumbled them out, setting them on his nose. As he did so, as he opened the first book and ran a hand over the title page, frowning, he thought through what the lad had said.

“Don’t apologize,” he said first – strained, maybe, but soft. “Cerise’d be in your form; maybe you know her. But, uh, being honest, I haven’t seen much of her. I don’t think she was close with her da. It’s different, maybe, when you send them off so young. When it’s mostly maids and servants raising them.” He looked up at Ezre over the rims of his spectacles. “As for everybody else, and politics,” and the word was a grumble, “it’s… not easy, oes, but people see what they want to. The story is, I’m recovering from backlash.” A faint smile.

He sighed, shifting in his seat. The familiar, earthy smell of chan was in the air, and it reminded Tom of so many things he couldn’t bring himself to think about. He went on, almost reluctant, “If you want to know, if it doesn’t make you – uncomfortable.”

He set the elementary grimoire on top, opening it up, this time, and flipping through. It was a delicate operation, as usual, but he handled the book with as much care as he was capable of.

“I grew up in the Rose, so it’s even more different than… if I was a natt in Brunnhold, or Vienda, say. It’s freer there; they let humans and wicks be, mostly. By the law, you have to have a writ to learn your letters, but nobody’ll get you on that. Even still –” His brow furrowed; he paused, staring down at a page, mouthing the word prodigium. He shook his head. “Even still, there’s no school, hey? You stick close with your family, if you have one. You go to the factories, you get an apprenticeship. If you’re ambitious, well…”

A minute shrug.

A brief glance up at Ezre, then back down at the page. “It’s different. This world. I’m used to making my own tea, at least. Maybe we have more in common than you’d think.”

Lines of monite came into focus, but they wavered, blurry and smeared even through Anatole’s glasses. Tom rubbed his eyes, squinting harder. So many words he didn’t know, even in Estuan. Even in a beginning student’s grimoire.

It was precious, all the same, and Tom knew it. He shut the book, running a hand fondly over the cover, curling his fingers round the top. He looked up at Ezre again, thoughtful. “Thank you, lad,” he said drowsily. “Not just for lending me books. I know good hospitality when I see it.”
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Ezre Vks
Posts: 92
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 Sep 10, 2019 9:10 pm

Dormitory C
Late Afternoon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
"Ido know how to wash my own clothes. I miss cooking for myself, but then, Anaxi food is not the same as Hoxian. It is alright." The boy murmured demurely into the fire that he awakened from dead wood, aware that he had opinions, aware that he was stubbornly unwilling to adapt to this Kingdom's way of life. He wasn't about to detail that he still did wash his own clothes, that the passives in the laundries knew him by name. He wasn't about to detail that he'd longed to bring cooking implements from home but that his father had told him that some things simply had to be let go of, that patience simply had to be fostered in his eager young self one day.

Pick your battles, Ezre Vks.

Choose wisely which bells to ring from the temple towers at sunrise, more precisely. That was how the Hoxian proverb went, anyway.

And so he did.

The ninth form student left the room and returned again to a crackling fire, satisfied. He startled the poor other man, barely containing a giggle at the sleepy snort. It was just as expected from an exhausted older galdor, was it not? Those thoughts lingered and curiosity niggled at him. He couldn't let it go, couldn't leave it unsaid. The raen made effort to sit up, fumbling with the books and the quilt, Ezre no less slow and probably no less full of the strange, dull aches not at all just related to the cold.

"I know of her, but we are not friends. My friends are few here. I am aware that I do not fit into expectations comfortably." He added quietly, this particular form of chan a dried powder, bitter and strong and foamy when whisked into a proper brew. He considered the words about family and a curious pang of understanding trailed against the back of his ribs. It was true, in some ways, that the sending off of galdori children to university for their most formative years created a distance, created a different kind of relationship, with that child's parents and with their elders. The educational system, the society of youth it created, was quite remarkably insular, and yet Ezre felt very close to his family, closer perhaps because of the distance instead of in spite of it.

When a student at Frecksat, he went home often.

Now? Now he felt the kingdoms between himself and his quiet, worship-filled home.

"I do not understand Anaxi culture all of the time. Some of it seems rather conflicted." Ezre admitted, turning at the whistling of the kettle to reach for it with a thick pad of cloth and pour a very carefully measured amount of liquid into each mug. Setting the kettle to one side of the hearth, he reached for a small wooden whisk and set about whipping a froth into each of the cups while mixing the powder with the hot water.

He smirked, though, snorting a chuckle, dark eyes lifting upward with the most boyish expressions of rebellion the otherwise usually expressionless young Hoxian could muster,

"I do not believe you can make me that kind of uncomfortable. There are things of this world I do not know and have not experienced, that I may never know and may never experience, but I am not afraid of the truth. Most of the time. Your human truths are so very different from my own." He handled the bodies of the dead. He spoke to ghosts. What part of human existence could truly frighten him or upset him? He was so very far removed from it all, it was true, but that didn't mean he didn't want to know—

Old Rose Harbor, though?

He had heard so many things.

He returned his visual attention to mixing their chan carefully, but he listened none the less, a broad grin slowly creasing its way into his downturned face at the mention of similarities,

"Part of me wants to say that is how things should be—common ground. Part of me has been raised to recoil at the consideration. The Cycle, however, does not discriminate. Neither does death. Naulas leads everyone to the same end, regardless of status or race. Some are just more grizzly than others in the making of that end." Shifting on his knees and setting the whisk aside, the boy groaned a little when he lifted one cup of chan toward Tom with both hands, joints objecting to all the movement. Once the raen accepted his still-steaming offering, Ezre reached for his own and moved toward the chair, collapsing into it in a most visually amusing display of slow motion so as to not spill a drop of his bright purple, light and foamy tea.

It was not as strong as some more formal ceremonial chan. It was not such a hallucinogenic that would send one into religious visions or grand meditations. It blurred the edges between here and there. It brought relaxation and comfort. It took the edge off, surely, but it was not meant to expand one's mind. Not in the amounts he'd mixed, anyway.

This was not that kind of moment, nor was this meant to be that sort of journey in conversation.

With one hand (the other preciously protecting his hot drink), he managed to nestle himself into the other blanket, to curl up into the leather chair and take a few tentative sips of the chan with a long, drawn-out sigh.

Finally melting, finally letting everything just sink in.

He stared into his chan for a long time. Then past it, into the fire. Across from him sat a raen. A raen who was not his mother! His body ached because it had been possessed, which was a remarkably new and rather disconcerting side effect. And while he was regretfully aware he may have also ended that ghost's existence, he wasn't sure if that was for the best or if he should be sorry. Texts were incredibly unclear about what happened to a displaced soul once it was, well, ejected from its anomalous existence in the material plane of Vita.

"As a Hexxos, it is my duty to care for both the living as well as the dead." Ezre smiled, peeking over the rim of his chan in a total mockery of his usual seriousness, all of his layers of rhakor slowly evaporating here in this moment like the steam that curled so furiously from the bright purple foam surface of the chan he held in both of his tattooed hands,

"I suppose important political figures are included in one of those two categories, but maybe that is debatable. I have heard conflicting reports, and unfortunately, you are a poor example of confirmation. The harbor of this Kingdom is known to be a place with criminals. You are careful about telling me whether or not you once were, perhaps, one of those kinds of people. And now? Are you still? Or will you make something new out of what you are?"

The dark-haired boy asked without any hint of fear, aware that he was alone with the man across from him, sharing more than just tea, weak and tired.
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Tom Cooke
Posts: 297
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
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Thu Sep 12, 2019 1:32 pm

Dormitory C Brunnhold
Late Afternoon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
Ezre, accusing Anaxi culture of being conflicted – Tom couldn’t help but snort with laughter. “That’s one word for it,” he replied quietly. “Chroveshit moony’s another.”

The kettle was keening, and the lad took it away from the hearth. Holding his books in his lap and listening, Tom watched him pour hot water into one cup and then the other. Steam billowed up, catching the light of the coals; he watched it drift through the air, dispersing in the low light. Followed each plume with his tired eyes until he couldn’t anymore.

The whisk rattled quietly in the mugs, and the smell of chan thickened in the air. Purple froth lapped at the sides of the cup. Again, at the sight of it, Tom pushed down a wave of memories. He had to shut his eyes. When he opened them, the lad was looking up at him, something mischievous in his expression. Despite all his masterful rhakor, Tom thought it looked like the face of any rebellious eighteen-year-old, and he mustered up a wry smile of his own.

Not afraid of the truth. Coming from any other golly’s mouth, it might’ve sounded silly – but by now, Tom believed him. How could he not? He’d seen the Hexxos acolyte let a ghost possess him; he’d seen him brail in the middle of a ward to cast the laoso thing out. He’d seen him put one foot after the other, tentative but firm, bold, on a skin of splintering ice, just for a godsdamn pocket watch. He also remembered the way Ezre’d gripped his hand tight – but if the lad was afraid of much, he wasn’t the sort of kov to let it stop him from facing it.

Common ground, oes. He saw the grin spread across the lad’s face as he spoke. That was one human truth, Tom thought, that wasn’t too different from Ezre’s, though they’d been taught their truths in different ways. Naulas came in a lot of forms, and He could come for you at any time.

The lad set the whisk aside and reached him the cup with a groan. Tom was just as creaky, just as strained, when he leaned forward to take it: it was a moment that felt like forever, just trying to get his shaky hands round the thing so he wouldn’t drop it.

When he sat back, he held it in his lap, listening to Ezre go on. He stared down at it, a circle of luminous purple in a nest of quilt. It was too warm to drink, ’course; he cupped his hands over the rim first, feeling it against his palms, radiant-warm. Tendrils of strangely thick steam crept up between his fingers, billowing, brushing his face.

His eyes fluttered shut again. Gods, but there were no words for how tired he was. He sat in the warm dark, listening to Ezre’s soft, even tones, breathing in the heady incense-smell of chan.

They were both quiet for awhile; they both drifted. Tom found himself swimming through a thicket of half-faded faces, favorite places reduced to imprints: beams of rotted wood, stained black with smoke; burbling laughter, coughing; the sound of familiar fingers – well-known fingers, long and graceful – dancing over strings, tracing frets. He almost forgot where he was.

Ezre spoke again, and Tom opened his eyes. He couldn’t help another laugh; it trickled out of him, weary but warm, rumbling-deep and genuine. “I’m not convinced politicians are alive or dead,” he replied. “Just between me and you, I thought maybe – the whole Vyrdag’s made up of raen. All raen pretending to be politicians. You could never prove it.”

It was mung, but that didn’t matter. He felt like some kind of layer had been stripped away; he couldn’t bring himself to worry, not anymore. He held his mug in place as he pushed himself up in his seat – when’d he slipped down again? Ah, bother.

“Oes,” he sighed. “I was a tough. You know what that means? I was big, I was mean, I made sure kov paid up. Nobody paid me to think for ’em, but if you needed muscle and no questions asked, I was your man.” Tom took off his spectacles, setting them to the side. “The answer to your question – your questions – I don’t fuckin’ know. I don’t know who I am. It’s hard enough to know that when you’re not dead, ye chen? And then you throw dying into the mix, and – hell, just look at me.”

Slow and careful, he brought the mug to his lips and took a small sip. It was still hot, almost too hot to taste, but he felt another wash of familiarity, melancholy. Velvety-thick, but still a weaker concentration; the kind of cup of chan you’d drink after an achingly long day. And godsdamn, they’d had a long day.

He rubbed his eyes, then looked at Ezre. “What about you, Ezre? What’re you going to make out of yourself?” A flicker of a smile, but his expression softened. My friends are few here, he remembered Ezre saying. He wondered if Ezre missed his family and Kzecka as much as Tom missed his old life – his hama, the Rose. Himself. “Won’t be long ’til you graduate. You going back to Kzecka?”
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Ezre Vks
Posts: 92
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 11:02 am
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Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
Race: Galdor
: better with the dead
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Thu Sep 12, 2019 4:47 pm

Dormitory C
Late Afternoon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
Even Ezre had to laugh—a real laugh, expressive and full—at Tom's admission that he questioned the mortal composition of the entire Vyrdag. The thought that every lofty member from Gior to Hox, Hesse, Bastia, Anaxas and Mugroba between, could perhaps simply be raen wearing familiar faces was both the most ridiculous proposal as well as the most terrifying. He was forced to hold his chan away from his face, chuckle lingering in his tired body, before he settled again in the creaky leather chair, wrapped in his blanket while the fire crackled and the frigid Bethas weather outside dipped colder still as the sun made it's way toward the horizon,

"I could prove it. But the average, unknowing galdor? Never." The Hexxos acolyte added cheekily, unable to help himself, before waxing humorous and waning more direct. It was as if such joking only served to free him from his well-guarded exterior just enough—just enough for him to ask the more difficult, more personal questions that swam beneath the previous, hand-crafted politeness he'd pretended at with the not-Incumbent across the coffee table from himself.

While Ezre didn't speak a word of Tek, he'd heard pieces of it here and there. He could understand it by context, by the way Tom articulated, watching a middle-aged galdor describe his previous existence as big, mean, and violent felt so out of place that had he been a different person, had he not been the temple-raised boy he was, he would have laughed all over again. It was, honestly, just as ridiculous: the disparity between a slowly aging Anaxi galdor and what he imagined as a broad-shouldered human wringing coins from the bodies of those who resisted him.

The Hoxian blinked, attempting in his minds eye to bring the two images together and failing. He sipped at his chan instead, aware that, if nothing else, the intoxicating tea would certainly soften the edges where his imagination proved itself unwilling.

"Me?" For the second time, the raen put him on the spot. Was it an affectation peculiar to the Anaxi people? To non-Hoxians in general? Ezre was caught off-guard, inhaling fragrant steam sharply, delicate lips poised near the rim of his chan, not used to being questioned so directly by anyone about his innermost decisions.

Well, anyone but Lilanee.

"I would plead that my both my youth and my race allow me the privilege of not yet being able to see clearly what I will become, but as Hexxos, I will eventually find my way back to Kzecka, zjai. It is my hope to continue my studies post-graduation, possibly in Mugroba, though I fear I am not made for the heat of the desert. I—"

His dark eyelashes fluttered, cautiously letting more of his guard down here in the presence of Tom Cooke living a life he had not planned on in the body of Anatole Vauquelin. A slow sip of chan was taken because Ezre felt the need for a softening of sharp words, a blurring of the hard edges of his thoughts,

"The people of my Kingdom, as a whole, are isolationists. As individuals, as a political entity, as, well, as an entire culture. Sometimes, that is for the best, I think. Other times, it is a problem. The religious order I belong to really is not that much different, ultimately, and yet I feel as though we have clung to the historical texts and our previous experiences for too long. Change has happened, is happening, and I want to be fresh eyes. I want to be a new voice, Cooke-vumash. I do not yet know what that looks like, but perhaps I will not ever be able to see it clearly in this life. If ever."

He pressed his tongue to the roof of his mouth, holding it still, letting his words settle like a blanket, feeling the thrum of his pulse with the subtle hints of excitement that sharing his dreams with someone else brought into his heart.

"There are other things I would like to do with my life, mundane and simple, less ambitious, of course, but that is the larger view. Other things that do not involve ghosts or possession, Clairvoyant conversation or mortuary sciences, wards and history." Ezre might have blushed, sinking behind his cup, dark eyes darting away from the other man, the man who had already lived at least part of a life that he had not, the man inhabiting a new life he'd not been prepared for. He might have giggled, just the whisper of a noise, only to bury his own boyish thoughts in a longer sip of chan,

"This life you have found yourself in aside—did you have a family? Before. For all of your tough talk, you do not strike me as someone who did not hide a heart beneath that muscle. If you were, well, you have already changed quite a bit since your death."
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Tom Cooke
Posts: 297
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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Fri Sep 13, 2019 2:37 pm

Dormitory C Brunnhold
Late Afternoon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
At Ezre’s assertion that he could prove it, Tom snorted again, passing a hand over his brow.

There was a lull, and he brought the cup back up to his lips, breathing deep of the fumes. He took a long draught, and in his tiredness, he savored that moment like he’d savor the first proper sip of a good whisky. He cupped the mug underneath his chin, feeling the heat cradle his face.

He could feel Ezre’s eyes on him. Or the closest thing to him as you could look at, things being what they were. Maybe it was him, now; maybe it wasn’t. He was being honest when he’d told Ezre he didn’t know. He wondered how much of his explanation Ezre’d understood, and within that, how much of it had really sunk in. He was aware, sitting there – holding a steaming cup of tea, swaddled in a handmade quilt, lap full of books, shivering and small and still in his finery – how ridiculous it must’ve sounded.

Oes, well. If Ezre had seen him when he was alive, what would he’ve seen? A big, mung plowfoot, covered in scars? Even now, his words were rough; he was tired, and he was slurring them out however he could, Estuan-Tek, his accent broad with the Rose. But it was funny how the incumbent’s voice, the incumbent’s face, made people listen.

That wasn’t fair, and Tom knew it. Say Tom’d been alive: what would he’ve seen, looking at Ezre? So more like, funny what happened when you gave people different from you a chance.

When Ezre spoke, he opened his eyes. Watched, listened. He had to push himself up in his seat again, holding his cup of chan carefully, but as the lad went on, it was getting easier and easier to focus. Mugroba, he thought. He remembered something Constable Delacore had said, about where you went if you wanted to study clairvoyance. Thula’mat, where…

Ezre took a sip of chan, but then he went on. Tom leaned forward a little, unabashedly interested, cupping his hands over his mug. He couldn’t help a faint widening of his eyes.

Then a smile. There was humor there, ’course, but then, there always was. There was something sincere about his expression – a little wondering. “A new voice,” he repeated. “Go places, hey? Try new foods, meet new people, meet the local ghosts?” He raised one eyebrow, playful. “I don’t know much about any of it, but… but hell, maybe the fact you’re saying you might never see it clearly – maybe that means you’re on the right track.”

He caught Ezre’s blush; even quieter, he caught the little snicker, the way he sank into his blankets behind his mug. The way his dark eyes darted away. Tom’s raised eyebrow lifted up even higher, and his lip twitched.

But then, like he was a godsdamn expert at the art of distraction, Ezre shot another question at him – this one even more precise in its aim, like a point to the heart. It knocked Tom’s curious mind off-course, and he found himself frowning suddenly, staring down at the circle of purple foam in his lap.

“I, uh,” he muttered. “That’s a…”

Family. Hide a heart beneath that muscle. A heart. Hama. Tom shut his eyes a moment, swallowing a painful lump in his throat. He felt a spike of anger, and it told him to close up like a vault. Say he had changed; say he’d been mean, mean as a snake, and that was all there was to it. But then, he thought, after all they’d been through, Ezre deserved more than that.

He took a slow, careful sip of chan, and waited ’til the place behind his eyes stopped burning. “’Course I did. I grew up with a ma and a brother, and I took care of ’em. Then, when I got older, I had – I was never a family man, if that’s what you’re asking. But I had a… I had someone I loved,” he finished, vaguely. “Someone I – still do.”

Must’ve been how tired he was, must’ve been the chan. He took another solemn sip. The admission, still do, sank like a stone in his stomach, with all its implications. He didn’t know how the raen in Kzecka handled that; he didn’t know if he wanted to know.

“Why?” he asked suddenly. “You got an interest in matters of the heart?” His voice had a sharp edge, but he was smiling again, if faintly.
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Ezre Vks
Posts: 92
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 11:02 am
Topics: 6
Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
Race: Galdor
: better with the dead
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Writer: Muse
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Mon Sep 16, 2019 2:53 pm

Dormitory C
Late Afternoon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
"I wish to confirm that the strange happenings we have recorded in Kzecka's libraries have occurred across all Kingdoms. I want to see if their growing frequency has meaning. But I would not be opposed to other new experiences, dru." Ezre smiled at Tom's affirmation, relaxing further into the blankets and his chair, relaxing further into the chan in his inked hands. He wasn't sure what he would ever see the truths of Vita as clearly as he'd like, if anything, but he did hope he could shed some light for others to walk by in his lifetime.

He couldn't help his thoughts straying any more than he could help the blush that followed in their wake, for it felt strange to admit that not all of his interests were academic and lofty, that not all of his dreams for the future were spiritual or austere. In fact, some were hardly complicated in their earthiness. The Hoxian's dark eyes caught the raen's shift in expression, caught the recognition, and anticipated the other man's right to tease him for further elaboration on such desires, and so he did what any intelligent young student would do to defer such questions—he asked something completely different.

But not so different that Tom didn't stutter, that his demeanor didn't shift, that his emotions didn't play out so clearly in his quieter tone and on his borrowed face. Ezre watched, savoring the bitterness that lingered on his tongue while he sipped from his mug and savoring the reactions from his unlikely companion for the afternoon. The boy was most likely too observant for his own good, a well-trained Clairvoyant and competent Hexxos acolyte.

He smiled and it was a soft, encouraging expression on his delicate features. There was no judgment on his face when Tom admitted to growing up in a family, though it was obvious that his situation was far more difficult than Ezre was capable of imagining as a sheltered young galdor. There was a flicker of recognition, of what could only be called curious empathy, when Tom also admitted to leaving behind in his old life someone he loved.

Oh.

Only he didn't.

Those feelings, those desires for connection, imprinted so deeply upon a soul instead of just basely pressed into mere flesh, carried on from Tom's life into the limbo he existed in now. The dark-haired boy sighed—exhaling through the curl of steam that still fluttered from over his mug, letting such an honest admission settle like silt on the bottom of the Arova river.

He nodded, not shying away from the next question, compelled to make sure the raen's offering of such honesty was not wasted or refused, "From an academic perspective, I am interested in seeing whether or not emotional connections have anything to do with Cycle anomalies like you find yourself in—" He was still smiling, obviously tongue and cheek about his initial response, obviously attempting even now to somewhat deflect from his own innermost feelings. He chuckled, shaking his head, shoulders sagging beneath the blanket, yielding more of himself to the stranger across from him in a quieter tone,

"—but also, I do have feelings. They are just not on public display. I find I have a growing attachment to a friend, and I am not opposed to where the path might lead." Ezre was staring into his chan again, grinning now, sheepish in his revelation because it was composed of words he had not spoken out loud before to anyone, let alone to someone he hardly knew, to someone he trusted merely based on what they were instead of who they might have been.

Tom had told the truth thus far, it seemed. Tom could have told him anything he liked, for even though the Hexxos acolyte had correctly discovered him as a raen, he had all the freedom in Vita to lie. Only the boy had the feeling he didn't, he hadn't, and he still wasn't. He had the feeling that the recognition had allowed for the trust to be mutual, regardless of how unlikely and unexpected it all was.

"I do not know how to bring up this, uh, revelation between us. I am afraid of ruining a friendship I value. I have a suspicion that such interests are not one-sided, which is encouraging, and yet I do not want to be led by immature or at least superfluous desires alone. Not that there is not a place for—well—for those things. I would not mind—" The Hoxian murmured more to his mug than to the raen, trialing off with a smirk and shifting a little against the chair with a hiss of discomfort before settling again. Looking up at the older galdori face that was just as tired as he was, he added, not as much as a means of deflection anymore so much as in genuine interest,

"Did you—have you sought out your loved ones? From the sound of your past life as a human, I would suspect your current appearance and status would be ill-received. Dangerous, maybe, in misunderstanding. I can imagine the fear there, but also, I can imagine the burden you must bear in the form of such lingering emotions. My umah has spoken of such things once or twice, but I must admit I was not as receptive of such heartfelt memories as a child as perhaps I would be now."
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Tom Cooke
Posts: 297
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 Sep 17, 2019 10:58 pm

Dormitory C Brunnhold
Late Afternoon on the 9th of Bethas, 2719
There it was, again. That sheepish grin, hazy through plumes of steam – hazy, but there. Color in his cheeks. Tom might’ve known what he was going to say before he said it. The weight of his own admission, with all its ugly implications, settled heavy at the bottom of his gut, but Ezre’s joke took some of the pressure off. Some kind of exchange was happening, he sensed – turnabout’s fair play, he thought again – and as Ezre went on, a wry, crooked smile broke out across his face.

A growing attachment to a friend. A lass, Tom thought. Must’ve been. The thought brought him up out of himself the rest of the way, a welcome distraction. It took an effort to picture that: like Ezre’d said, after all, he wasn’t the sort of kov to wear his emotions plain, or to share them with just anybody.

Must’ve made it hard, he thought then, tilting his head. Scratching at his jaw. It was hard enough, oes, for your usual mung teenager to deal with all this chroveshit. A friendship on the cusp of something else, and everything that implied. A road leading into the dark. Tom remembered –

He took another long draught of chan, breathing in the fumes, shutting his eyes and laying his head back.

It hadn’t been just like that, with Ish, ’course. The thought of that first winter made something deep in his chest ache. The smell of him, the feel of his dark curls tangled in his fingers. The surge of excitement he’d felt, in those first months, whenever he got near. He’d had plenty of lovers by then, but there’d been something else about hama from the start. That something-else had scared him. It’d felt like he was at the edge of a precipice, and to get what his soul wanted – his soul, not just his body – he had to fall off the edge.

It hadn’t been a friendship, at first; that was the difference. When Ezre admitted that there might, maybe, be a place for those things, Tom couldn’t help but let out a bemused snort.

Still: immature, superfluous desires? Tom was already shaking his head. It didn’t seem fair, but he couldn’t say why. He reckoned the lad was wiser than him; Ezre was smarter, for sure, with all those books from Kzecka in his head. With all his rhakor and his from an academic perspective, he ran rings round Tom. But, he thought – there was something wrong about the way Ezre’d said that.

He was thinking how to say it when the lad spoke again.

Did you – have you sought out your loved ones?

It struck him like an arrow. His eyes were open, suddenly, and he was watching Ezre’s face in the dimness. His lips moved, then twisted down in a grimace. He stared down at his chan, then. When Ezre said your current appearance, anger spasmed across his face, an embarrassed flush at its heels. He shut his eyes, clamping his jaw shut.

“No,” he snapped through his teeth. “I wouldn’t – floodin’ – what would you do?”

It was only when what Ezre’d said of his umah sunk in that his expression softened. It had been a respectful question, in its way. His left eye twitched, and he massaged his temple with his fingertips, holding his mug in his lap. “Sorry. It’s a sore spot.” Still rough. “I don’t – I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t know how your umah’s dealt with it, over and over again. To answer your question, no. I don’t think it’d be a good idea to do that. I wouldn’t want them to – see me like this, anyway.”

Tom was silent for a few moments after that. He tried to remember what he’d been thinking about before, and he managed to catch the thread. The question lingered like a bruise, but the chan softened it; the nest of hand-made quilt reminded him that he was grateful, and that he’d trusted. Some of the troubled lines at his brow smoothed.

“Ezre,” he started again, sounding more than a little apologetic. “I don’t see how there’s anything superfluous about it. Immature, boemo, I don’t know, but you got a right to be, don’t you? How do you ever know what you want to be led by, if you don’t get led astray sometimes?”
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