[Closed] Myths and Legends; A Brunnholdian Tale

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Lilanee Kuleda
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 6:40 am
Topics: 6
Location: Brunnhold
Race: Galdor
: Let's go on an adventure!!!
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Writer: Raksha
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Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:49 am

65th Roalis, 2719
COURTYARD | MID MORNING
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H​​e was coming back today.
​​
​​Lilanee shoved the stray thought out of her head, adjusting her glasses and curling her arm around her knees as she settled on the soft blanket that was laid out on the rich green grass of the University Courtyard. Today marked the day on her calendar that stupid Ezre stupid Vks was back in Brunnhold.
​​
​​Well maybe not stupid, but she was still upset.
​​
​​It had been so nice, after St Grumbles. They’d been totally fine come morning, still friends, but also something else. Something really…nice. Whilst their studying and ongoing conversations had continued, there’d also been stolen kisses in broom cupboards and ‘private tutorage’ sessions in the crypts—all away from the public eye. Every time she was with him, Lilanee’s heart fluttered in her chest and her smile came easily from rambling lips, and everything was pretty much perfect. The Hessean made the mistake of letting chemical attraction and hormonal rushes get the best of her however, letting wild daydreams run amok in her teenage mind, so much so that when Ezre reminded her on his birthday that he would be visiting Hox she had felt something new. Something that she didn’t like. A keen sense of loss, of missing him already when he wasn’t even gone yet. At first she was angry at herself, it was just a little visit to his home country, something she’d already been told about and should have been expecting.
​​
​​Technically she had been expecting it, but she’d sort of assumed Ezre would ask her to come with him.
​​
​​Except that he didn’t.
​​
​​The red head didn’t mean to, really she didn’t, but as the days crept closer to Roalis she’d gotten crankier and crankier. She probably should have just said ‘I’d love to come with you,’ but it felt intrusive. Ezre was already such a private person, to invite herself on his trip home to see his mother was probably rude. Plus maybe he didn’t want her to tag along. Maybe it was too much of a step towards….something else that neither of them really had any idea about. It had all come to an explosive head around the fifth of Roalis, Lilanee giving a lengthy talk on the distractions of personal relationships and the effects of biological urges, which had slowly de-evolved into irrational comments about opening up because Hoxians were so private that even though they had that discussion on St Grumbles whilst almost naked in her bed, the boy still didn’t really tell her things. He still kept her distanced from his true self and frankly it stung and oh Gods then she had cried and then she was angry about crying because honestly tears were just the worst most unproductive bodily function.
​​
​​So, in short, Lilanee argued passionately at him, cried, then left.
​​
​​They’d not seen each other again before he’d left for his home, Lilanee too assured that her logic made more sense than the guilty ache in her chest. She wanted to see him off, but that strange night of the seventh had disrupted everything. She could still feel wet cold grass under bare feet as she’d run out of her dorm, woken by the screams that carried on the air. All of the students had, dressed in gowns or nightclothes, carrying lanterns or casting orbs for light. Everyone had made their way to the gardens, but Headmistress had stopped them all, telling everyone to return to bed. Lilanee could see Marissa and Janse, and their friend, and everything looked wrong, but no one knew what had happened. As she’d gone to return to bed, the red head had looked for him, there in the throng of rudely awoken students.
​​
​​She didn’t see him though. And why would she? After that fight, there was just no way he would want to speak with her ever again ever.
​​
​​The interruption of sleep had left the girl awake until the very early hours, eventually drifting off before sunrise, but mid morning of the eighth a knock at her dormitory door had her flying from her sheets in a moment of unrestrained panic. She’d missed the airship departures, she’d missed her chance to say all the stupid stupid things she’d not said before. Flinging it open, she half expected—half hoped—it was Ezre. The disappointment in her field was tangible as she stared into the face of a passive. It wasn’t Ezre, it was a letter, and a scrystone.
​​
​​He wanted her to take notes, regarding the incident the night before. There were rumors already among his peers that there were ghosts involved. Not an apology. Not a ‘we can talk via this’. No, a note to take notes. Frankly, the Hessean wanted to be excited about the whole idea that there was a ghostly incident publicly known on school grounds….but at that moment in time, she was just angry and upset.
​​
​​And she cried again. Stupid stupid boys and emotions and hormones and tears. STUPID.
​​
​​Finally however, her natural curiosity overpowered her unnatural heartache, and Lilanee made her way into the wilds of her peers to gather intel on the event. There’d been a dare apparently, to enter the East Gardens, and Tamika—the girl who had been screaming in Marissa’s arms—had been the one to do it. From there the story became fuzzy. Some of the students said that Tamkia had been attacked by a groundskeeper, but none of them fit the description provided. Others said she’d seen an apparition in the maze, one so terrifying she’d been unable to move. This rumor seemed to be more persistent then the other one, so much so that Lilanee has wanted to talk to Tamika directly but she was kept under strict supervision in the medical wing. Neither Janse or Marissa had known what had happened, so the red head was forced to take a different route. But first, she needed help.
​​
​​Her letter to Madeline was brief but clear; Lilanee would like to meet her in the courtyard on the 65th, and to wear her best pressed uniform and an open mind. Undeterred by the fact she’d met the girl all of once, the Hessean was confident she would come.
​​
​​Who didn’t want to follow up on strange letters sent by almost strangers?
​​
​​Of course, she’d also tried to get in touch with Ezre, even though he didn’t deserve her updates. Regardless she had very professionally told him all she knew at the moment, and suggested he meet her when he returned on the courtyard lawn. She had an idea, but it required more than just talking to students. It required investigation and a winning smile.
​​
​​Lilanee didn’t really have the second requirement at this stage but she DID have a detectives nose. And it was keen to find out exactly what happened in that garden.
​​
​​So, here she waited. For Madeline, and for Ezre, soaking up the mid morning sun surrounded by her books.
​​
​​He was coming back today, and she was not going to cry.
​​
word count: 1243

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Madeleine Gosselin
Posts: 82
Joined: Sun May 26, 2019 3:54 pm
Topics: 9
Race: Galdor
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Wed Aug 28, 2019 12:18 pm

Mid-morning, 65th Roalis, 2719
The Courtyard
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Madeleine stared at herself in the mirror. Her hair looked fine. Didn’t it? The middle Gosselin reached up to the long Bastian braid, then snatched her hand away. Touching it, Madeleine reminded herself, wouldn’t help; it would make it worse. She twisted her head to the side, and squinted at the back of it. It was hard to see very well but - she thought it looked good. Or neat, anyway.

A Bastian braid, Madeleine hoped, would solve all her problems. Rather than starting at the bottom of her head, Bastian braids started at the top! Madeleine had found one of Angelique’s magazines discussing them and - she didn’t think her sister was even reading it anymore, really, so Madeleine had accidentally let it fall into her suitcase and then closed it very quickly so no one could see. She had spent an hour studying the diagrams and trying the braid on her hair over and over, but she thought she had the idea now. One had to start with only some of their hair, and then lift it up and separate it into three parts, and then braid them while bringing in new bits over and over. Madeleine could picture it in her head, like a physics problem, but actually doing it had been trickier.

But this morning, with her best pressed uniform all laid out and her hair washed and dried and slept on, Madeleine had brushed all the tangles out and tried the braid. Well, she had tried it looking in the mirror, at first, but that hadn’t worked out very well because actually seeing had made it even harder. So then instead she had gone and sat on her bed and stared at the door - so she wasn’t even tempted to look sideways at the mirror - and braided.

And - and now -

Madeleine had no idea what Lilanee Kuleda, the mysterious student who was a bit of a bully and very talkative, wanted from her. She never expected to get notes from anyone, but especially not ninth forms who had once sarcastically mocked her hair. Actually, Madeleine realized, there were only really two ninth formers who fit that description. But, one was Lilanee and Madeleine hadn’t expected a note from either. Anyway, Angelique wasn’t even on campus yet; she and Sebastian were still in Vienda. Vespasian, of course, was doing some sort of extra summer study. Of course.

Really, Madeleine shouldn’t have considered going to meet Lilanee. She had loads of studying to do - loads - before her confisalto intensive started next week. She had come back early during the term break just to do extra studying (it had nothing to do with not wanting to spend her birthday at home - nothing at all). Not for class, of course, and not even for the intensive. No, this studying was much more important than that! Madeleine glanced sideways at the stack of physical theory grimoires on her desk, then turned back to the mirror, and squinted at herself.

No, the middle Gosselin promised herself, Lilanee wouldn’t find anything mean to say about her hair today. And if she did, Madeleine absolutely would not cry. Again.

And even though she had so many important things to do, Madeleine was going to go. She shouldn’t have. But - Lilanee had asked her to come! She had actually wanted Madeleine to come somewhere, and - it wasn’t very often that that happened. It wasn’t the best letter Madeleine had received, of course. That honor went to the one framed on the wall over her mirror (it hadn’t come with a frame but Madeleine had made a special trip to Kingsway Market just for a frame for it and she had put it up straight away when she got back).

And what if she didn’t go but Lilanee really needed her? Needed Madeleine, specifically. The ninth form could have asked anyone - Madeleine was sure she must have loads of friends, she was so pretty - but she had asked Madeleine. She could have asked Ezre Vks - Madeleine and also the whole rest of the school had seen them holding hands at St. Grumbles - but she hadn’t. She had asked Madeleine Gosselin.

Madeleine stood up, and checked the back of her skirt for wrinkles - they always seemed to come out of nowhere, but she didn’t have any yet. She glanced at the clock, glanced at herself one last time in the mirror. You can do this, she promised herself. Your hair looks great and if Lilanee makes fun of you, you won’t cry. Madeleine nodded solemnly at herself, took a deep breath, and marched out of her room.

A moment later Madeleine came flying back in, snatched up her almost-forgotten satchel, and tried again. Her notebook thumped steadily against her side as she hurried from her room and down the stairs.

Madeleine made her way to the courtyard, squinting in the bright summer sun. She covered her forehead with her hand and checked for Lilanee. She didn’t see the other girl standing anywhere. Madeleine’s hands tightened on the strap of her satchel.

Was it all a joke? A prank? Madeleine’s shoulders slumped, and she blinked rapidly. No, she told herself, Lilanee had probably just forgotten. Madeline was sure she - she hadn’t - the middle Gosselin edged her way through the courtyard, checking again. Lilanee could be there, she told herself, heart sinking like a stone through her chest. She felt weighed down, as if gravity had her pinned to the ground; her shoulders curled forward, and she dropped her gaze to the grassy lawn. Of course Lilanee wasn’t here; no one would ever really want to meet her for anything, no one would -

Oh! Madeleine spotted the older girl sitting on a blanket and her shoulders lifted again, her back straightening. She hurried over to the other girl, stopped at the edge of the blanket, and swallowed hard. She had to say the right thing - just the right thing - and then Lilanee would think she was clever and she wouldn’t make fun of her hair.

“Good morning!” Madeleine blurted out. She stood, half-frozen at the edge of the blanket, clutching the straps of her satchel in a death grip, wearing her best pressed uniform, her neat, well-ordered Bastian braid twitching in a gentle breeze. She stared slightly wide-eyed at Lilanee, anxious waves of yellow-shifted nerves flickering out through her field and dissipating to nothing.

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Last edited by Madeleine Gosselin on Thu Aug 29, 2019 3:32 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1122
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Ezre Vks
Posts: 119
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 11:02 am
Topics: 8
Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
Race: Galdor
: better with the dead
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Thu Aug 29, 2019 1:53 pm

The Courtyard
Midday on the 65th of Roalis, 2719
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Ezre was late. Sound asleep, luggage still packed, packages still wrapped, and the clothes he'd arrived in the darkness of this morning some odd hour after the tenth house ago still mostly on his person. The dark-haired boy had made it into his dorm room with every intention of sneaking out of it and climbing eagerly up some particular terrace, presents and words and so much more ready to share ... only to totally pass out sorting through books he'd brought back with him on the floor of his room instead.

Still sprawled there, windows open to the oppressive, low-elevation Anaxi Roalis summer heat, the Hoxian slowly woke to the bells of the Church of the Moon marking midday. For a brief moment, caught somewhere in that mysterious fog that clouded between conscious and unconscious states, still floating somewhere between existences, he could have almost been fooled into believing he'd remained in Kzecka just a few more precious, difficult days He'd not stayed long enough and yet he'd been there too long. There were so many bells in the city of temples tucked snugly high up into the black rock Spondola cliff sides, but somewhere in the back of his flight-lagged, groggy, physically exhausted mind, he knew their sounds were different, ringing through the frigidly crisp high altitude air—air so cold and pure that even the Rho Tsvat’kyett himself agreed it was a blessing from the gods upon the humble people of Hox.

Ezre hadn't been home in nearly three years.

The thin air made him tired. The chill caught him off-guard. The familiar faces had welcomed the young man with open arms, but his heart had arrived heavy and burdened. He'd left Brunnhold foolishly. He'd unbalanced everything. He'd lost his tenuous control of his growing, changing teenaged emotions and left nothing but hurt and misunderstanding in his wake.

He'd had almost thirteen long days to fester over his mistakes while all of northeastern Anaxas, the Quiet Sea, and the northernmost sandstone of Mugroba passed below him and his private cabin, the loud rumbling of engines not at all able to drown out the memory of Lilanee's angry voice, of Lilanee's confused tears. It had all been too much to explain! Boundaries blurred with the excitement of merged fields and mingled bodies, and the Hexxos acolyte had somehow lost the distinction between his true, private self and his careful, public self in her company. As freeing as that glorious emotional connection had been, initially, it had also, in hindsight, become just as frightening. Had he ever really connected with anyone outside of his family? Outside of his small, trusted circle in his homeland? What was he truly able to share with the Hessean? What was he meant to keep secret when he wanted to give someone else—an outsider—so much?

That lack of clarity and immature indecision had led to his returning home alone—he could have asked. He should have asked.

What did he really have worth hiding?

Home.

Ezre had arrived with so many questions and yet when he found himself walking the quiet, carefully paved streets of Kzecka still dusted with snow in the shadows of temples, he found he had no reason to ask them right away. Instead, he lightened himself of all that weighed him down by talking, by sharing everything he'd carried for years as a foreigner far from all that had once brought him comfort.

His umah had listened. His uhat had spoken.

He'd meandered libraries. He'd sifted through ancient texts. He'd focused his body and centered his mind, even though it had been far harder to sleep alone than he knew how to admit and even though he struggled to let go of thoughts that were not at all as helpful as he'd considered them to be. He'd let his heart breathe and realized that, much like he'd told Tom Cooke all those months ago outside of Ghost Town: nothing truly had value until you were willing to let it go.

Ezre saw clearly what—and who—was important in the life he'd begun to form for himself with his own inked hands.

The dark-haired boy had not only found his footing again in those weeks, but also accepted his place as Guide among the Hexxos. No longer an acolyte, he knew his calling but admitted to the small council of his order that his desire was to continue to travel, that his longing to understand the Cycle and their place in it required a wider knowledge than all the books in Kzecka's beautiful, ancient libraries. He wanted to be that Witness, and his request to continue his exploration and research outside of the precious isolation of his home was granted with prayers and blessings he'd not entirely expected.

He'd returned to Anaxas lighter in spirit, marked in ceremonial officialness with more hand-tooled ink beneath his skin, and heavier in luggage than when he'd left. The Hoxian had written so many letters—every evening!—to Lilanee and yet chose to keep them all but one, tucking them away in a box along with the much more heartfelt present he'd had one of his uncles skillfully craft before leaving. He'd sent the last one to tell her when he'd be home. He'd also sent one to his raen acquaintance, eager to share with him all the research he'd gathered on his behalf.

And here he was, finally back, half asleep, and so late for everything.

The last bell seemed to finally filter through his groggy senses and Ezre was up with a gasp, stretching and yawning on the floor before squinting at the clock in his small room, realizing the time.

The time!

Scrambling up, he scattered papers and knocked over his suitcase, pulling himself together with a slow exhale: he gathered into his school satchel the cloth-wrapped stack of scrolls and books and letters for Tom, he set aside the smaller, no less precious package for Lilanee, and he fumbled for new clothing in his suitcase, not at all yet ready to don the restrictive and limited Brunnhold uniform in the last few weeks of the university's summer break. Loose linen layers of brilliant saffron, burnt orange, and simple undyed creme, a wide belt of dark, volcanic ash grey replaced the dull browns of his wrinkled, traveled-in comfortable clothes.

The Hexxos Guide caught glimpses of himself in the mirror: fresh hand-tooled linework from his bottom lip and all the way down to his hands and toes with a variation in thickness would surely attract more misunderstanding and attention now, but its significance in his commitments to care for not only the dead but also the living far outweighed the opinions of over-opinionated Anaxi mhoren. The matters of the afterlife and the mysteries of a broken Cycle were his inheritance and more firmly part of his willingly accepted identity. Staring at his changed face while pulling back dark hair finally cropped to just below his shoulders into an informal topknot, shaved sides comfortable in the oppressive Anaxas heat, he let his gaze wander the way his new tattoos disappeared into the neckline and folds of his clothes, the lingering alpine scents of Kzecka temple life, incense, his umah's cooking spices filling his senses.

Tucking his spectacles in the fold of his innermost shirt layer and a familiar, shiny restored pocket watch into his wide, heavy cloth belt, he felt the strangely comforting tingle of anticipation trickle through his nerve endings and dance along the base of his skull. He smiled while packing his things and shouldering his bag, not rushing despite how tardy he knew he was, despite knowing he had to meet not only the young woman he'd missed for weeks but also the raen he'd made promises to ... which was perhaps an odd combination of individuals to bring together had Ezre been better at looking backwards instead of forwards most of the time.

They should meet, however. It would give him the opportunity he needed to explain—to show all of himself in trust.

He'd barely returned to this Kingdom, and had he been someone else, he might have worried about hurting Lilanee further. But he did not, his Clairvoyant-laden field brilliantly bright and sharp, light like the comfortable grace with which he wore his rhakor. He would finally see her again today and he was so full of words—even apologetic ones—that she surely would hear them. Enough tears had been shed, and he hoped forgiveness could be won with his sincere form of enthusiasm. Nearly sixty days was a long time to be apart, but he hoped the perspective he'd gained from a much-needed trip home would be enough to overcome the confusion and suffering he was aware he'd left behind. His family had promised to make space for Kuleda-vumien over Winter Break, and his umah had written the invitation herself. The generous, expressive note tucked among his saved letters.

He was quick and sure-footed down the steps from his dorm (they were no ancient hand-carved temple stairs, after all), squinting once he was out into the Roalis humidity and low altitude heat that all but threatened to steal his breath. Floating on hazy, distracted thoughts as he tried desperately to filter his short but intense experience home into presentable material for conversation. Ezre made his way to the Courtyard, having left a note in the Liaison Wing of Long Hall with instructions for the Incumbent on where to meet him, very much desiring to make his amends with Lilanee before making proper introductions.

Ezre could have found Tom first, but at the same time, he told himself he had rightly recognized his priorities. He knew it would be a strange meeting if he didn't have a moment of explanation first—

Oh.

There was an unexpected sense of disappointment that interrupted his almost meditative internal reassurances, however, in the realization that Lilanee Kuleda was not alone awaiting his arrival, awaiting their necessary reunion.

Zjai, he was late.

Zjai, he'd not specified his requirements for their awaited reunion ... But.

A ripple of confusion fluttered through his field before he was even in range of caprision, the Hexxos Guide aware of the shock of his appearance, recognizing Madeleine Gosselin of all students he knew there in the grass near the Hessean he'd missed, near the Hessean he'd certainly longed to reconnect with outside the purview of others for just a few precious minutes ... and now couldn't. Not quite in the way he'd imagined for days, anyway. Not in the way he'd rehearsed on the long flight home. Not in the way he'd prepared. There was a genuine flutter of frustration, of immediate, uncomfortable fear and anger that may have burned in the depths of his mind—much more critical of himself and what he immediately assumed were his own shortcomings instead of placing any blame on the young redhead and her equally bright-haired companion—but these shallow, self-depreciations never made their presence known on the well-practiced calm of his face.

It would be fine. His assumptions were immature.

There was no reason for these unnecessary emotions. There was most likely a logical explanation for the interloper because it wasn't as though Lilanee would invite someone to simply stand witness to a more-than-platonic greeting after how they'd parted.

Right?

Unless—

Was she still angry? Had he underestimated the strength of their friendship? Had she invited someone else to soften the blow of unanticipated rejection? Was time spent apart not as productive for her as it had been for himself?

Surely, she had not grown so bitter in his absence, though he had to admit he had yet to grasp at a full understanding of her thought process. He'd certainly hoped he had more time for such studies and the sharp pang of concern that he had muddled too much for her tolerance levels of his company finally caused his otherwise calm facial expression to falter for a moment or two.

Recovering, he pushed away the self-doubt and allowed instead the hope he'd carried all the way from Kzecka to warm in his smile. He waved, polite and cheerful, and then he nodded at Maddie in an acceptably amicable and friendly manner. His manner of speaking seemed to emphasize consonants far more strongly than before he left, his return to his home reviving the thickness of Deftung in his accent, "Hello again, Miss Gosselin. I expected to see you more often in Yaris, considering my cultural requirements have somehow found me drafted into confisalto as if it were the Karmine in Hox, but it is a surprise to see you again today. Excuse me a moment—"

The Hexxos Guide had more important things to say but did not want to utterly ignore the younger student. Gingerly, he stepped over a few scattered books to slide a rather heavy satchel off his shoulder and onto the blanket before all but pouring himself into Lilanee's personal space with a true warmth, the Clairvoyant's field brimming with anticipation and excitement as if overcompensating for the simple expression he wore on his delicate-featured face—a face now adorned with a thin but obvious line of dark ink that began at his lower lip, traced over the fine bone structure of his chin, and traveled down his neck into the bright folds of his very traditional clothing,

"—I am sorry."

Ezre Vks began without any hesitation, heartfelt and thought out and utterly sincere. His tone was not deadpan, but the emotion in the tenor of his voice was contained and measured. To anyone who did not know the dark-haired boy, that would have meant very little, but to those who understood his sense of discipline, it would be clear that he was very full of feelings and intentions, "First: for my tardiness—I underestimated travel-lag—and then second, for, well, for everything else before I left. I recognize that I made mistakes and poor choices, Lilanee, but I do hope that time has assuaged the sharp edges. If not, then I hope I can dull the hurts now that I have returned. I—"

His dark eyes shifted to the younger student for a moment before meeting the Hessean's blue gaze, arms moving in expectation that she would stand and greet him in return, that he could put aside his more than simply cultural distaste for public displays of affection in order to offer what he considered a necessary apologetic and caring response in the form of a much-awaited (on his part, at least) embrace. A hug felt needed, even if it required an audience.

Ezre did not care in this moment who in all of Vita would bother to watch him hug Lilanee Kuleda—unless, of course, she told him no.
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word count: 2582
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Lilanee Kuleda
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 6:40 am
Topics: 6
Location: Brunnhold
Race: Galdor
: Let's go on an adventure!!!
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Writer: Raksha
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Sun Sep 01, 2019 8:42 pm

65th Roalis, 2719
COURTYARD | MID MORNING
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L​​ost in her own unrelenting replays of her last discussion with Ezre, and imagined conversations that were yet to come, Lilanee almost entirely missed Madeline approaching. It was the flicker of color that touched her aura, the gentle sunflower yellow that signified nervousness or anxiety, that dragged the Hessean from her stare into the nothingness of the distance. She blinked, adjusting her glasses and looking up at the sixth form with a brief second of confusion, before jumping up from her place on the blanket.

“Madeline! Good morning! Oh, don’t you look brilliant. I absolutely love what you’ve done with your hair! I love braids, but for the life of me I cannot do them. Too many curls, all my hair goes all floofy and clings to my fingers and it just looks a right mess. You’re lucky, you have such tamable locks. Anyway, thankyou for coming, I know that it must have been rather unexpected, but I am fairly certain you are a like minded intellectual who would be eager to learn the truth of what lies within our University walls.” She smiled brightly, adjusting the straps of her own satchel slung on her back with her thumbs, and smoothing over the grey knit jumper she’d thrown over her school uniform. Her unruly locks were pinned haphazardly up in a simple academic’s bun, curls escaping around her forehead and the nape of her neck.

“Plus like, you’re the only other friend I have.” The ninth form said a little sheepishly, a touch of color rising to her freckled cheeks and field shifting a mild violet. Pausing her external thoughts for a moment, she took a deep breath and pushed her glasses up her nose.

“Mister Vks is supposed to be here as well, he’s been in Hox but he’s back today apparently. I’m not sure…perhaps he’s not planning to come. I…that's fine. Whatever. It’s not like we need him, I mean we could probably just do this ourselves. Oh, that being said, I should probably tell you what this is. So—” The teenager felt his field before she saw his face, that familiar well disciplined, emotionally calm brush of Clairvoyancy that was particularly unique to he alone. Her blue eyes stayed on Madeline for a moment, and if the younger student was watching her she would see Lilanee breath in deeply before exhaling slowly to place a polite smile on her face. Lifting her chin, the red haired Hessean turned to face the Hoxian, immediately noticing he had changed. His hair was trimmed, the sides cropped and judging by the topknot some had been removed from the length. His clothing was from home, flashes of almost garish bright colors hiding under the dark calming hues of his outer layers. A physical representation of the complexities of Hoxian emotions. Outside, so drab and unfeeling, but underneath there were so many bright beautiful hues.

He’d got more tattoos too. She couldn’t see them of course, not all of them. Just the one that drew her gaze so frustratingly to the curve of his lower lip and disappeared under his clothing. Lilanee knew they weren’t artistic decoration, they were important symbols of his position in his culture. Which meant that something about his position had possibly changed. In ancient tribal cultures they often marked status increase and such with additional jewellery, clothing or inkings. Something had changed for Ez, and his well contained aura felt lighter for it.

Tucking her thumbs under the straps of her bag, adamant she would be the pinnacle of professionalism between them, Lilanee held her field close to her as she watched the boy exchange pleasantries with Madeline first. He hadn’t realised the two knew each other, given the younger girl was a sixth form he had little reason to associate with her. Yet, much like their introduction before St Grumble, perhaps he had the girl had prior history. Pushing her straps off, Lilanee turned to place her bag down, opening the flap and rummaging for her notebook. That was why she’d asked them both to come ultimately. He had asked her to take notes after all.

As the Hoxian shifted his bag, coming down beside the Hessean, she could sense the change in his field. It ran with emotions so counteractive to his face, so clocking confusing in their strength. Her periwinkle gaze lifted slowly to meet his own dark one, and damn it all to the Circle if she didn’t feel her heart beat race against her chest and her eyes didn’t sting slightly. She had said so many awful things, and she regretted them but she also meant them. Try as she might, the blueshift in her aura bled through like drops of ink in a bowl of water, staining her with nearly a season of guilt and hurt.

“—I am sorry.”

Lilanee’s eyes widened slowly, flicking to the younger girl beside them, before moving back to Ezre. Was he aware they were in public? If he’d wanted to have this conversation, why hadn’t he seen her earlier? Why hadn’t he written or scryed or…ugh why were boys so frustrating?! The red head swallowed hard, her brow drawing slightly and jaw set, the shift in her field leaning towards red as anger simmered within. She didn’t need this polite ceremony for his benefit, and besides, this was a professional gathering for important investigation.

Her eyes moved back to her backpack, blinking rapidly to clear her vision so she could clocking well find her stupid clocking notebook God’s damn it!

”I…uh…not at all. The chemical urges of the galdori biological system are strong, and unfortunately a difficult distraction when it comes to the more…important things in our lives. I recognize that there was a…momentary lapse in our judgement and we fell victim to those distractions. It was clear that you came to your senses faster than I, and refocused on what was important to you,” Finally she could see, finally she had a grasp on her notes. Standing as Ezre did, she shoved the book into his hand, mistaking in the peripheral of her vision that his open arms were to receive her notes, not herself.

“..and what was no—oh!” Looking at his face, holding the book between them, Lilanee blinked and let her vision take in what was actually occurring.

Oh.

Ohhh.

That wasn’t a book taking hand. That was a hug taking hand. Ezre Vks wanted to hug her. In public. And here she was waffling on about justifying all those feelings that she wanted to feel but was trying really really hard not to.

Whether it was too late or not, Lilanee threw her arms around the Hoxian and squeezed her eyes shut as she held him so tightly she was sure it was going to crack a rib, facing away from Madeline as she tucked herself against his shoulder with a small ragged sound.

“I’m sorry too but I didn’t realize you would be I thought you were still angry at me and I said so many mean horrible awful things and I was…I thought you wanted to…I didn’t think you’d like me anymore. Either as a friend or…as anything.” Drawing back, her face starting to mottle slightly from the tears that threatened again, the Hessean took another deep breath and let her hands drop.

“We should talk. Later. Alone.” The young woman said quietly, before adjusting her glasses and looking at Madeline.

“Sorry, that was…right. Okay, moving along. Why I got you both here in the first place. I know Ezre knows, but I assume Madeline you’ve heard about the incident on the seventh regarding Tamika Strutenbroke?” Regardless if she had or hadn’t, Lilanee would detail what she knew at length.

“So, according to the students that live in the same wing as Marissa, who was her friend and who was part of the event, Tamika entered the East Garden maze. She was gone from view for at least half a house, and according to heresay, was not able to be heard or could not hear her friends calling for her. At approximately the third hour, the dormitories closest to the gardens were awoken by screaming so awful I was sure someone had been murdered. Tamika was uttering words that made no sense, and Headmistress sent everyone immediately back to their rooms. Since then, no one has been allowed to enter the gardens, but there is a word on everyone's lips.” Raising a finger, and her eyebrows, Lilanee paused for a moment.

“Ghosts.” Waving her finger, she continued.

“I know it sounds preposterous, but the rumors are that Tamika had an encounter of the ethereal kind, one that has broken the firmity of her mind and scared her into muteness. Every time I have tried to investigate further with the faculty, I have been rebuked and shut down. I have no doubt that they are trying to cover something up and frankly as students at this school we should be privy to what is going on. What dangers could be present in our university. If there are ghosts in the East Garden, why would they attack a student? What do they want? Are they trapped seeing a way to the antelife? Are they trying to protect us from something, are they trying to tell us something? There has to be more to this, and it’s our galdori duty to investigate it.” Her field buzzed with excitement, clearly passionate about the story that she was telling and the truth behind it. After everything Ezre had shared before he left, Lilanee needed to know more. Needed to understand more.

“There is a passive gardener, I’m sure you’ve seen him. Old, old man, well beyond his years on Vita, but they don’t have anywhere to put him so they leave him to his gardening. I bet he knows something about that clocking garden. I propose we go speak to him, and see what he has to share. That is where Madeline, I think you are best suited.” She nodded to the younger girl with a smile.

“He’s not very fond of the older students, given numerous poor taste pranks that have occurred at his expense over the years. I don’t feel that myself or Ezre will get anywhere with him, but a sixth form? A very lovely kind sixth form who wouldn’t hurt a fly? I think he would talk to you. If, that is, you’d like to talk to him. I understand this is a lot. A lot. And frankly a few seasons ago I would never had considered this, but I believe what I can see as a scientist and I have seen things I cannot explain.” Her eyes flicked back to Ezre with a small nod.

“And I most definitely believe.”
​​
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Tom Cooke
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: dear shadow, alive and well
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Mon Sep 02, 2019 7:28 pm

The Courtyard Brunnhold
Mid-Morning on the 65th of Roalis, 2719
Old books, poetry, Hoxian religious folk – when’d all this rubbish become his life?

Tom didn’t know. He didn’t know what kind of humor he’d been in the past few weeks, either; he’d never felt like this. Tsuter, he thought, some kind of – he didn’t know. Fever, or some shit. He must’ve been moony, at least, ’cause the second he’d seen Ezre’s letter lying on his desk, it’d drawn him to Brunnhold like some kind of magnetic force. Some kind of power beyond his perception.

It’d been at least the forty-fifth before he’d got back from the Rose. He’d got Cecily to write back quick as he could, but it was still more than a handful of days late. He hoped it’d found its way to the mountains, but, like as not, Ezre was already halfway back to Anaxas before it’d got halfway there. It was no matter: the lad had spoken of texts and notes, and Tom wanted to talk to him face-to-face, anyway, man-to-man; he couldn’t say a tenth of what he wanted to with a pen.

He was due a trip to Brunnhold, anyway.

A week in Vienda, then off on the fifty-eighth. This time, he only lost his yats once, and spent only half a day glued to an armchair in his hotel room. Soon as he came up for air, he went looking for Ezre Vks, only to find that the lad wasn’t yet returned from his homeland. He’d left a note for the Hexxos, to let him know he’d got there before him, but otherwise, he’d known there wasn’t much he could do. So he’d kept his head down and waited, too distracted to spend much time enjoying the warm breezes and silky blue skies of late Roalis.

Being honest, he’d passed most of those five days in the Great Library. Was an opportunity, he reckoned, like any other. Ezre’d be back any day now, and Tom didn’t mind waiting; loath as he was to admit it, he was grateful for the excuse to have some peace and quiet away from Vienda. He hadn’t been ready for it, the meetings and the servants and the parties, the caprision of all those fields.

Funny, that. Peace and quiet. Tucked away in a remote corner of the library, nestled into a dusty old carrell with books stacked up all around him, he could feel them the most: those inscrutable, elusive clairvoyant particles that’d started to weave their way through the slant of his field. Lingering like an imprint. He’d never known his porven – they were strangers all, aggravated strangers – but he knew these, few as they were. He’d spoken to them once, and a few had stuck around for the long haul.

Just sitting with them was new. Odd company, but – not unwelcome, he thought. He didn’t know. Made him feel self-conscious, anyway; made him feel weird, even if most folk didn’t notice. Felt like he wanted to talk to them, sometimes, mutter away in plain Estuan, but then they’d really put him away. Best thing he could do was keep scratching the nib of that pen in his journals, keep reading. In too deep to give up now.

Third or fourth day in was the first sign of something fair strange. He’d noticed something before that, oes, but he couldn’t’ve put his finger on what: something about the way everyone at the Liaison Office acted, something about all the times he’d been warned not to wander round the campus at night like some moony mung. And then, sitting in his dark corner, catching scraps of whispers drifting between the shelves – some students, he reckoned, who’d stuck around during the summer.

Something-something Tamika; something-something about a maze. Something about somebody who’d gone moony.

There was something going on, he thought, and the walk back to the Stacks that evening seemed too long and too dark. It was always too dark, these days. The night breeze still carried a chill, and – for the first time since he’d left the Rose – his belt felt too light, empty, devoid of the comforting weight of hama’s knife. He felt too soft for whatever danger prickled at the back of his neck. He tried to tell himself it was just bochi rubbish, but he kept thinking of a word he’d learned only recently, in a footnote in one of those grimoires: superfluous. No knife, no fists, no scars. Superfluous.

It was a bitter kind of fear. Underneath it lay all his memories of ambushes in deserted back streets, salt-smelling memories.

On the sixty-fifth, Tom got an early start. The night before had been a hell; he’d woken throughout the night, always with his sheets round him like the coils of a snake or the tendrils of a hungry spirit. He was at the library in the morning, and it was at the library that the intern found him with the note. He read it in silence and sat with it a few moments, reminding himself to breathe. He should’ve been happy to hear from Ezre, but foreboding had settled itself at the bottom of his stomach like a sack of rocks.

Still, as he left the library to loom behind him, he felt his spirits lift. The sky was bright, but soft, with a few scattered clouds; the sun lit the lawn up verdant. The wind was high today, ruffling his hair and tugging at his hems, making what few students and professors he passed clutch their hats close to their heads.

He got to thinking about how he’d catch up with the lad, how it’d be benny just to see a friendly face. Quick enough, the memory of sprawling out and sharing chan in Ezre’s dormitory took the place of that dreadful memory of the phasmonia.

Tom felt his spirits lift, oes, ’til he took a step off the path and onto the lawn. When he raised his head, it wasn’t Ezre he saw at a distance; it was three students – and a godsdamn picnic blanket! – clustered in the middle of the courtyard. He froze, trying to make sense of the scene. Had he got the wrong courtyard? That had to be it. Hell, maybe it was…

The wind picked up, carrying snatches of a soft voice: Ezre Vks’. Tom stared at the back of his head, incredulous. He didn’t recognize those strange clothes, with their oranges and greens and earth-tones; he didn’t recognize the cut of his dark hair, either. He sure as fucking hell didn’t recognize the two chips standing right across from the Hoxian. But that voice, that infuriating-calm voice, was unmistakable.

Maybe it was just happenstance; maybe he’d met the two little chips in passing. He started to relax. That sounded reasonable. Maybe –

The taller chip was hugging Ezre tight enough to break one of his ribs. “Burden o’ your shittin’ studies,” he whispered under his breath.

Swallowing sour spittle, he debated weaving back onto the path, shooting straight back for the Stacks and his hotel room. Every bit of his raen’s self-preservation told him to. Surely, he kept thinking, surely he ain’t been mung enough to–? Being honest, he wasn’t sure what Ezre was mung enough to do.

Well, Tom must’ve been feeling mung, too. He started walking again, closing the distance between himself and the trio. It was the other lass’ eye he met first, the young-looking one with the nanabo braid on top of her head, shedding wisps right and left; he held it a moment, quirked a red eyebrow, then looked back at Ezre and his sweetheart.

She was talking. As he got closer, he caught more and more of what she was saying. The sense of foreboding came back in full force; she went on, and on, and on, and he started putting the pieces together one by one. What was this about some old passive? Oh, nanabo, was all this shit – only, what’d it have to do with Tom Cooke? And – ...are they trapped seeking a way to the antelife? – she believed? – what had Ezre told her? Everything?

“...Ghosts?” Tom cleared his throat loudly.

A few paces behind Ezre, just close enough for their fields to brush, he stopped short. “What is all this? Vks-vumash,” he intoned. He glanced again between the two chips, giving a brusque half-bow. “Perhaps you would like to explain yourself.”

He said it just, he imagined, like some old golly catching a bunch of students about to do something mung. Only he couldn’t keep an edge of hurt out of his voice; he wasn’t sure he wanted to. He looked at Ezre expectantly, his lips a thin, pale line. A nerve in his cheek jumped, and his eyelid fluttered; he pressed his fingertips to it, scowling.
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Last edited by Tom Cooke on Sat Sep 07, 2019 6:40 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1570
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Madeleine Gosselin
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Mon Sep 02, 2019 7:58 pm

Mid-morning, 65th Roalis, 2719
The Courtyard
Madeleine stared down at Lilanee for a long moment. Lilanee looked up at her and – there was a moment when Madeleine’s heart sank straight down to her shoes. Lilanee had forgotten, Madeleine thought. It was only a coindence that she was here; she hadn’t really wanted Madeleine. No one -

Then the other girl was jumping to her feet, and beaming, and chattering, and Madeleine’s eyes went a little wide. She felt a surge of pride somewhere in her chest at Lilanee’s compliment to her hair – she knew the Bastian braid would fix everything, she just knew it! – but then Lilanee was off, into topics that Madeleine didn’t understand. One word stood out like a siren – friend – and Madeleine stared wide-eyed at the ninth form.

Was it a joke? Madeleine felt a little curl of hurt somewhere in her chest, and she thought of turning and running away, of disappearing before Lilanee could take it back, could burst out laughing and explain that she had only been kidding, that she didn’t really think of Madeleine as a friend.

Madeleine felt the brush of a familiar field against her own, calm and indectal against the mingled fear and anxiety and just the faintest edge of happiness that had crept in somewhere unbeknownst to her. She knew better, she really did, but she couldn’t help feeling just a little hopeful. But it was like Lilanee had summoned him, and Madeleine turned to look at Ezre, eyes wide. He nodded to her, and Madeleine tried to say something – she really tried, even if she wasn’t quite sure what to say –

But then he was excusing himself already, and Madeleine let out a noise that was somewhere between a sigh and a whimper, and clenched her hands tighter on the strap of her bag. Her eyes were wide, and they flicked slowly from Ezre to Lilanee and back again. The little galdor took a careful step backwards, swallowing hard. She did not think she should be here for this; the urge to run was even stronger than it had been before, but Madeleine was scared of that too. Lilanee had wanted her here; she had, and she had called Madeleine a friend, and Madeleine was even more scared to leave that behind.

Ezre was apologizing for – something? Madeleine didn’t understand. Lilanee was talking too, about – urges? Madeleine blushed at that; were urges something you were allowed to discuss in public? Madeleine didn’t think so; she didn’t think so at all. Urges seemed very, very inappropriate, and one probably shouldn’t discuss them at all, let alone in public! And wasn’t Lilanee going to say something about whatever was on Ezre’s face? Hadn’t anybody told him that there was – something – all over his chin?

Madeleine’s eyes bulged when Lilanee actually hugged Ezre – in public! In the middle of the courtyard, not just in front of Madeleine but in front of loads of people. Madeleine let out an anxious little squeaking sound, easing further away from the couple, embarrassment and something that felt oddly like shame warring in the air around her, colors cycling rapidly through her field. She was still staring, wide-eyed, when LIlanee looked up at her.

Then – before Madeleine had even had time to process what she had seen, then – Lilanee was off again, talking faster than Madeleine had ever heard anyone else talk, as if none of it had even happened. Madeleine swallowed, hard, not understanding in the slightest. She had heard about Tamika – she’d heard – ghosts? Yes, people were talking about them, Madeleine thought, but it was only silliness. Ghosts weren’t real; they were stories you told little children when they were small and scared of the dark. Madeleine glanced around, because Lilanee was talking like they were, and Madeleine was terrified, absolutely terrified, that someone might hear –

And someone had!

Madeleine met the eyes of an older galdor, frowning at them, very old and serious looking. He was frowning at her, specifically, and Madeleine felt a wash of shame, of embarrassment, because just being present – just listening to Lilanee – would he think she believed in all this too? He raised an eyebrow at her, and Madeleine hunkered down, ducked her shoulders and dropped her gaze.

Before she could retreat anymore, Lilanee said her name, and Madeleine jerked her gaze back to the ninth form, eyes wide. Lilanee wanted her to do something? Madeleine was sure she had heard the other girl, but she couldn’t make sense of the words; there was too much going on, and Madeleine felt confused, and utterly lost. Yellow and blue shifted and spiraled through her field, an odd kaleidoscope tinged with the occasional bit of green for the nausea in her stomach, and Madeleine was so upset it was almost hard to breathe.

What did Lilanee believe? Madeleine couldn’t keep track of it anymore.

The middle Gosselin cringed when the older man spoke, glancing back at him. He must be a professor, Madeleine thought, miserably; he was a professor, and they were going to all get in so much trouble – so much trouble! Madeleine felt something like heat behind her eyes, again, and she was trembling, gripping the strap of her bag. At least he hadn’t asked her to explain; at least nobody had asked her to explain, because she couldn’t – she couldn’t explain anything –

Madeleine jerked at the waist in an awkward half-bow. She straightened up, swallowed, a little hard, and edged sideways. There was, she thought, fiercely, one thing she could do. Ezre would have to explain and maybe – if he knew the professor – then it would be all right, it’d be all right and he’d just – they’d just –

But still, Madeleine was almost sure, nobody had said anything about the fact that Ezre had food or – something – right on his face. Nobody at all! And Madeleine could at least do that.

“Mr. Vks,” Madeleine whispered, the sort of whisper that always managed to be louder than one would have been from just speaking quietly – a carrying sort of whisper. She tugged a little handkerchief from her bag. “You have – you have something – ” Madeleine touched her fingers to her chin, then thrust the handkerchief urgently out at Ezre, wide-eyed.

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Ezre Vks
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Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
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: better with the dead
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Wed Sep 04, 2019 10:06 am

The Courtyard
Midday on the 65th of Roalis, 2719
The dark-haired boy had thought himself fully prepared for this moment, but Madeleine's presence in what he'd hoped to be a more exclusive and necessarily emotional reunion in the Courtyard caught him terribly off-guard. The younger student was staring at him and yet Lilanee wouldn't look at him right away; the Hessean he'd anticipated for days, weeks, nearly half a season to see again fumbling with her bag instead of realizing how much of himself he'd put into his quiet apology, arms open here for anyone to see him, meticulously crafted rhakor broken for the sake of compromise. She spoke boldly of their physical curiosities in front of a witness he had not invited and color immediately rose to his delicate cheeks, breath catching when she spoke of what was important, dark eyes darting to the book she shoved toward his chest.

"Zjai, I needed to clear my mind, but also, more importantly, I needed to make room in my heart. Do you not see that I did refocus on what—and who—is important to me, Kuleda-vumien?" Ezre Vks worded his response so very carefully, the emphasis obviously meant for her and her alone. Inked fingers of one hand curled around the notes she'd collected resentfully in his absence with gentleness, but his face was no longer an emotionless mask. There was some hurt there, the now-marked curve of his lower lip firming into a tense line of confusion, eyebrows drawing inward as he attempted to grasp on what else was right and good for him to say in this moment he had not at all made plans for.

Uncomfortable under the shocked gaze of the sixth form standing next to him, but true to herself, Lilanee suddenly made the connection between his chosen phrases and his body language, her arms finally reaching to embrace him tightly. He inhaled sharply, though it was less out of surprise at her actions or pain at the force of her welcome squeezing and more out of selfish need, the tickle of curls against his face and the familiar scent of the young woman he'd missed more necessary than he was capable of admitting out loud in this moment as a much-needed comfort. His free hand wrapped around her without concern for the inappropriateness of how his tattooed fingers curled with more than just casual affection into her jumper, hardly offering a chaste or acceptable hug so much as a very real and warm one.

For the Hoxian to make this gesture at all, here instead of somewhere quiet and private, was an honest and public display of meaning without any further words necessary. Lilanee would know the depths of meaning such a personal gift of his own perceived weaknesses held, and he couldn't help but smile as she rambled her worries against the skin of his neck,

"I had no reason to remain angry at you. If our relationship cannot weather the tumultuous storms of our interesting but unavoidable individual differences, then it is certainly not one built on any friendship as strong as the blessed stones of Bash." He murmured softly, unashamed to define their not-just-platonic relationship out loud before even uninvited spectators because here he was already making an idiot of himself in front of the middle Gosselin child.

Ezre took a step back when she released him, smiling briefly at her invitation to further talk about more personal things later without an audience. Surely, she meant sharing some tea or chan and sitting on the floor of one of their rooms and having actual conversation, though her mention of much more baser interests did linger somewhere in the back of his teenaged mind for longer than necessary. Nodding, he finally glanced down at the book in his hands and began to fish for the spectacles tucked into the layers of his lightweight linen traditional clothing with lithe fingers, balancing them on his nose and almost immediately shifting into the present as if nothing questionable or worth pausing over had at all occurred, his well-practiced self-discipline allowing him to simply step back into emotional equilibrium while the Hessean began to fill the awkward space between the three of them with all the necessary information all at once—nearly—

Oh.

The Hexxos Guide felt the brush of Tom Cooke's field, back turned, hearing his borrowed galdor voice and immediately looking up. He felt the undertones of hurt in his tone almost as strongly as he felt the familiar lightness of Clairvoyant mona in the raen's disorganized aura, his own reaching out with a tangible curiosity, unable to help himself in the caprision of the Incumbent.

Oh!

His dark eyes flashed to Madeleine again, even as his lips were parting and his whole self was turning, nearly ready to also hug the displaced soul he knew was borrowing a galdor's body, but, well, the look on her face reminded him that he was here in plain sight of strangers, trapped here in the mundane, caught between the now strangely embarrassed and slightly terrified gaze of an outsider and the expectant stare of both the young woman he cared about and the other man he considered a friend.

The sixth form whispered and Ezre paused in his movements, smile faltering. He raised a hand to silently refuse her quickly offered handkerchief, a hand she would see had been further decorated with dark ink than the last time she'd tried so very hard not to talk about the tattoos upon his person, and rubbed an indicative thumb from lower lip to chin, tracing with an obvious gesture the fresh, dark line that marred his face, that traveled down the center of his neck, and disappeared into the bright layers of his clothing, "This? It is a mark of status in the religious organization I am a servant of in my homeland Kingdom of Hox. It is, I am sorry to say, quite permanent now that I am a Vjer'a of Hexxos—a Guide to both the Living and the Dead."

There was no judgment in his voice, but he then continued his motion toward the raen, mind racing as he tried desperately to reconfigure his expectations for this meeting, as he tried desperately to grasp at the correct and proper things to say in order to not melt young minds or frighten experienced older ones. But first, he had to introduce Tom Cooke—no—he had to introduce:

"Vauquelin-vumash, ziedek. It is—uh—so good to see you again. Is that Clairvoyance in your field, Incumbent?"

Ezre's expression softened further and he bowed, a flicker of various unspoken feelings filling in the undertones of his otherwise quiet voice, even voice while he brought his palms together in a very formal form of greeting. There was an appreciative hint of mischief in the dark pools of his eyes, "T-to—" He barely caught himself in the syllables of familiarity, heart racing against his sternum, struggling beneath the surface, "-hm. It was at the suggestion of my umah to that I once again reached out to you, Incumbent, as I know you two share a—well—uh—a rather obscure connection. Something about an appreciation of—how do you say it in Estuan?—unusual accounts of Cycle anomalies. Also, being outside of the small Brunnhold bubble of Magisters with their educational loyalties and political distractions, the weight of your authority on this matter carries a much less academically debatable sort of opportunity. You taking the time to assist in such controversial matters is most appreciated."

Oh, he felt the thrill of risk taking tickle its way up his spine, the heat of which tingled down his nerves all the way to tips of his fingers.

"Where are my manners? Forgive me." The dark-haired boy chuckled, burying the fluttery sensation that also refused to settle in his stomach, his attempts at being both obvious and careful with his wording hopefully not going entirely unnoticed, "Miss Madeleine Gosselin, a sixth form here at Brunnhold and student of exceptional dance talent and poise. I believe you are also a student of both Static and Physical Conversation? Am I correct? This is one of your Kingdom's very own Incumbents, Mister Anatole Vauquelin. To—Vauquelin-vumash, this is Miss Lilanee Kuleda, aspiring archaeologist and anthropologist as well as my—uh—as well as, er, one of my peers in ninth form."

Oh, sweet Naulas' gentle steps, how awkward was all of this?

The young Hoxian was sweating in the Anaxi Roalis heat, visibly conflicted, and very much doing his best to maintain some sense of balance in the tenuous situation he now found himself in, knees still weak from the Hessean's hug and flustered from how complicated this situation had become when he'd imagined it much more simple just less than an hour ago,

"Finally, zjai, ghosts." He stood there, blinking, finding his center again at that simple word, settling into his area of curious but otherwise up until now rather unspoken form of expertise,

"I would prefer not to debate the obviousness of their existence, for accepting that they are not mere stories will make this whole exploration much easier. We can find another time to have deeper spiritual discussions about the nature of the Cycle and the Antelife and how ghosts have possibly slipped outside of it. It has come to my attention that the phenomenon of restless spirits has been on the rise here, and my personal experiences over the past several months confirms this."

If he looked pointedly at Tom at all, it was only briefly. He turned a much more gentle gaze on Madeleine, his Deftung accent heavier and harsher after his brief visit home, "This is a lot to take in, I understand. Kuleda-vumein seems to believe your bright personality may be helpful as a service to your esteemed educational facility's safety."

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Lilanee Kuleda
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: Let's go on an adventure!!!
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Sat Sep 07, 2019 7:41 am

65th Roalis, 2719
COURTYARD | MID MORNING
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L​​ilanee blinked, feeling the brush of a field that felt unlike any other she’d caprised before, turning to look at the male voice that spoke up from behind them. Her blue eyes widened, and her heart banged wildly against her chest.

“I-Incumbent Vauquelin!” The Hessean gasped, absolutely flabbergasted at the appearance of the political figurehead. What the clocking hell was an Incumbent doing talking to them? And why?? Was their ghostly discussion that taboo that it attracted government officials rather than professors?

Oh Gods had the Headmistress found out and the Incumbent had been sent to silence them?

No, that was stupid.

Wasn’t it?

The red head bowed deeply, collecting her glasses as they nearly slipped off her nose, standing quickly with the flush of someone caught red handed. Had it suddenly become really hot? Like way hot? Like hotter than Roalis needed to be hot? Moving to remove her jumper to reveal her most prim and pressed school uniform, Lilanee heard Madeline’s bizarre comment to Ezre muffled under the grey wool.

“It’s a tattoo Maddie.” She offered from beneath the jumper, emerging to see Ezre tracing it with his thumb. Once again, the blue eyed girl had to stop her contemplation. She knew what the old Ez looked like underneath all his layers, now there were new things to find and those thoughts needed to be very much put on hold for the time being. No one else here was interested in the journey of ink on skin.

I am a Vjer'a of Hexxos—a Guide to both the Living and the Dead.

Oh, that was an awfully big deal. The Hessean wanted to know more, to discuss more. How? What had happened in Hox? What made him a Vjer’a? What did it mean?

Would he leave again?

Folding her jumper, Lilanee looked between the Hoxian and the politician.

“Wait, you know the Incumbent? How the clock—” Shoving her jumper in her satchel, Lilanee clamped her mouth shut against the inside thoughts that wanted to escape in a flood of outside thoughts, straightening with a huff. Regardless of how Ezre knew the man, his reasoning was sound. With the Incumbent by their side there was no way the faculty would interfere with their investigation. He might even be the oil that soothes the squeaky wheel should they encounter issues. Yes, this was a good idea.

this is Miss Lilanee Kuleda, aspiring archaeologist and anthropologist as well as my—uh—as well as, er, one of my peers in ninth form.

Peers. Okay.

Thrusting her hand out, Lilanee beamed at the older red head.

“So very pleased to meet you sir. I don’t follow politics as such, but I would have to be living under a rock not to know the Incumbent when I see him. I wasn’t aware Ezre had friends in such high places, have you known each other long? I can’t imagine that you’d be a friend Ez wouldn’t tell me about but then again who tells everyone they know someone famous? That would be just the worst right? Imagine people asking Ezre for favours through you! Anyway, I am indeed one of his peers. In ninth form. Did you attend Brunnhold, what am I saying of course you did. It’s you and it’s Brunnhold.” Taking a breath, she let go of his hand and stepped back, picking up her satchel and placing it on her shoulders again as Ezre continued to discuss the immediate matter at hand.

Ghosts.

She looked at Ezre, as though their conversation was the most natural thing in the world.

“So you’re interested in ghosts too? And the Cycle? Could this be something to do with the Cycle? Tocks, I mean, we don’t even know what this is yet, but if it’s ghosts well…Ophelia should know. And if she can’t investigate it then we should. We should pursue the knowledge in the wisdom that we could save lives. It’s all in my notebook if you need to read it, the rumors and the incident itself. No one entirely knows the full story, but I made a list of possible leads, but the gardener is our first mark.” Returning her gaze to the older man, Lilanee’s hand crept to her face, pressing against her lip absently with one finger to capture it between her teeth with a furrowed brow.

“I’m not sure how he’s going to react to your presence however.” Reaching for the blanket with a brief sound of thought, she waited for the others to step off before collecting it and folding it tightly, tucking it in her hands.

“Old Man Yost, that’s what the student’s call him, though I suspect Mister Yost is fine. He’s very old, and according to the passive records he’s one of the longest serving passives in Brunnhold. If anyone would know more about the East Garden, it will be him.” Looking first at Ezre, Madeline and then the Incumbent, Lilanee paused, giving the bizarre group, time to process her words. The Hessean adjusted her glasses again, looking at Madeline.

“Will you join us?” She asked finally, giving the younger girl a chance to decide if she was in or out. If she was in, Lilanee would begin to lead them across the courtyard and away from the main commons, towards where the nursery and garden sheds were set up. It was away from the school buildings, along the north wall, a wooden cabin that stored the tools the passive’s used to keep the grounds neat and tidy. Attached to the back of the building was a long lattice wood walled nursery, housing seedlings and soil and such, its roof overgrown with beautiful creeping Poorman’s Violet vines. As they walked, the Hessean avoided shooting Ezre any side glances, keeping her eyes on the ground. There were so many things yet to say, so many things yet to discuss and yet, they would need to wait.

For now, she needed to focus on the adventure.

Reaching the doorway she knocked politely, before turning the handle and pushing it open.

“Knock knock, is there anyone in?” She called out with a smile, peeking her head inside. As the door opened, they would be greeted with a range of tools and gardening equipment. An elderly man sat in the back corner of the dimly lit cabin, gently tending to seedlings all lined up on a bench. He turned as the sunlight entered, lifting his head to look down his hawk-like nose though rectangular spectacles. The man was old, very old. His tanned skin was creased and slightly sagged, but it had a leathery look to it of sunshine and hard work. His hair was almost white, tinged with a little hint of gold, was combed carefully back, still retaining a wave from his youth. His hands showed signs of years of hard work, but the nails were surprisingly clean and well manicured. He wore powder blue work overalls over a cream shirt.

“What did you want? Yost isn’t here for your jokes Miss. Yost is too old for your jokes." He sighed, struggling to stand from his seat as his rheumy eyes finally focused on the group, adjusting his glasses and bowing his head respectfully even if his tone was weary. Lilanee glanced at Madison, poking her gently with her elbow and raising her eyebrows at the old passive.

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Tom Cooke
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: dear shadow, alive and well
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Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:59 pm

The Courtyard Brunnhold
Mid-Morning on the 65th of Roalis, 2719
The lad started to turn. When Ezre caprised his field, a look of irritation – the tiniest spasm of muscles, the twinge of one eye, the curl of a lip – flickered across his face. A hint of cold, ugly anger. He did his damnedest to suppress it; he crammed it back down, cleared his head, tried to think of the kind of mask Ava’d taught him to wear. With the panic that was bubbling up in him, it wasn’t much use. For a handful of seconds, he felt like a trapped animal. First Drezda, now this.

Whatever this was. He kept his jaw locked shut, his glance fluttering back to the younger chip. He registered she’d said something about Ezre’s face; he saw a handkerchief in her hand. Brow knit in confusion, his eyes moved back to Ezre.

Ink. He’d got ink. Tom blinked. He remembered – oes, he couldn’t forget. Seen through a waft of steam, billowing up from chan: thin, dark lines encircling the joints of his fingers. He’d never asked. Now, there was a line just like those, tracing the space from his bottom lip all the way down his throat like a road on a map.

Ezre was explaining, now, explaining in that infuriating-calm voice, that he was something called a Vjer’a, some kind of death-guide. Tom’s lips were pressed too thin, numb and bone-white. Did a Vjer’a endanger raen, then? Share the secrets of the dead? Maybe it was different, if it was your flooding Brunnhold sweetheart, hey? Maybe you were allowed to…

Ne, ne. At Ezre’s polite Vauquelin-vumash, Tom blinked, and he swallowed it. Pushed the anger down again. Ezre mentioned his umah, and he nodded, a little lost. On the one hand, wo chet, but there was so much he wanted to ask him: about Kzecka, about his ma, about conclusions he’d come to. About these books he’d promised. On the other, he couldn’t for the life of him figure how to play this. Incumbent Vauquelin suddenly, it seemed, had some fair fucking esoteric interests, and Tom found himself scrambling to make all the puzzle pieces fit.

Then there was a hand in his space. And words – so many floodin’ words. Godsdamn, but Lilanee Kuleda could talk.

Saved him from having to think too hard about anything. He cleared his throat, put his shoulders back, fitted that thin, bland smile to his face. “Miss Kuleda, Miss Gosselin,” he murmured, “a pleasure, of course.” He bowed to Ezre’s hama, first, then the lass with the braid, both deep, proper golly bows; then he took Kuleda’s hand and gave it a firm (if brief) shake.

“My apologies for the misunderstanding. I’m certain that this is a surprise for all of us.” He clasped his hands behind his back. Thought fast, underneath that mask. “I’ll be tagging along with the three of you, as Mr. Vks has said. My interest in the – Cycle – is not well-documented, but it… remains – in any case, you mustn’t trouble yourselves; I’m only here to observe.” Thin, neat smile. Like clockwork.

And Kuleda was off again, going on about that gardener, so he just stood and listened. If there were ghosts in the east garden, after all, this old scrap’d know, and he was starting to get interested.

As they waited for her answer, Tom’s gaze lingered on the Gosselin girl. This whole time, she’d looked fair confused; he reckoned he could sympathize. Flooding crushed, too, after that mess with the kerchief. Embarrassing. Nanabo, but she acted funny, stuck or something, all intense and hopelessly mung at once. Tom wondered if there was something wrong with her. He felt halfway-bad for playing the pissed-off authority figure.

He met her eye, and he tried to smile warm-like. Encouraging, or something. Came out a little strained. Still, least he wasn’t the only one out of his element. Tom hoped Ezre didn’t plan on getting a fourteen-year-old possessed today.

Then, they were off, a bizarre flock drifting across the courtyard, following the north wall. Tom trailed along. He didn’t say much; he didn’t reckon he ought to, and he was too confused to ask any questions.

Still, he couldn’t help it: halfway there, he jostled Ezre, nudging his arm with a bony elbow. He apologized neatly in that chilly, Uptown accent, then coughed, then cleared his throat. Somewhere in all those dignified old golly noises, he husked something that sounded like, “Peer,” but that was probably just Ezre’s imagination.

It was pretty, he had to admit, this place. Before too long, they were moving through the shade, surrounded by seedlings and crawling vines: he recognized Poorman’s Violet with a smile, remembering how hama’d taught vines like these to creep up the garden fence. Surrounded by all this – the earthy smells, the rustling leaves, the trickling light of late Roalis – he started to relax.

So when Lilanee poked her head through the door, he hung back, watching curiously as the old passive looked up from his work. He felt a pang: something about the kov’s tired sigh, his rheumy eyes. How he’d looked at those seedlings, almost tender-like. But he stepped aside to let Gosselin go ahead, trying to stand far enough back that the old kov wouldn’t pay him much heed.
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Madeleine Gosselin
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Sun Sep 08, 2019 8:09 pm

Mid-morning, 65th Roalis, 2719
The Courtyard
Ezre didn’t want the handkerchief, but – Madeleine didn’t understand why, at first, he had held up his hand not to take it – not until Lilanee spoke. She started to pull it back, trembling, but – Ezre was already explaining. Madeleine’s whole face dropped, and she stared down at the ground, nodding quietly. She wanted to explain – she wanted to apologize – but her whispered "Sorry," seemed to be lost beneath Ezre's voice as he turned towards the professor –

But he wasn’t a professor. He was an incumbent. It was even worse than Madeleine had imagined, somehow. She felt something tight in her chest, as if somebody had reached into it and squeezed. Did he know her parents? Did – would – no, Madeleine thought, feeling a faint prickle of relief. They wouldn’t have talked about her; that was all right. She was sure they wouldn’t have.

Madeleine’s shoulders were roughly at her tears, and she was pretty sure she wasn’t going to actually cry, even if there was a startling amount of heat behind her eyes, and a terrible tight feeling still constricting her lungs. Despair fluttered blue and soft in the air around her.

The middle Gosselin jerked her gaze up at Ezre when he introduced her. She stared at him for a moment, then nodded, slowly, and turned her gaze back to Incumbent Vauquelin. She didn’t think she had told Ezre she danced; for a moment, she thought of checking behind herself, in case he was thinking about some other confisalto dancer. Madeleine couldn’t think of anything she felt less like than poised. She couldn’t meet Incumbent Vauquelin’s eye; she couldn’t. Lilanee was talking, and Madeleine cringed, feeling the sting of the other girl’s worlds; she felt as if Lilaneee had seen inside her, and knew – knew! – that Madeleine hadn’t known he was an incumbent. What an idiot she was, Madeleine thought, miserably.

But then Incumbent Vauquelin was turning to her and bowing, and Madeleine bowed back, deeply, and straightened up, swallowing hard. “Very good to meet you, Incumbent Vauquelin,” Madeleine whispered, misery throbbing in her voice.

And then Lilanee was off again. The Incumbent – was interested in ghosts? And Ezre was talking too, chatting – Madeleine was pretty sure hugging on the lawn wasn’t a thing that peers did but after her earlier embarrassment she couldn’t bring herself to say anything – but her mouth dropped open as Ezre continued. Not only did he and Lilanee both seem to agree that ghosts were real – Ezre called it obvious – the Incumbent even chimed in, and he seemed to know what they were talking about.

Madeleine choked back her objections with a faint whimper, hands digging into the satchel of her bag. She stared at Ezre as he re-explained what it was they wanted her to do – that they wanted her to help? And Lilanee looked right at her, explained that they needed information from Mister Yost – a passive? Was she allowed to talk to a passive? But nobody was saying – actually they were saying –

And Lilanee asked if Madeleine would join them.

Madeleine glanced down at the grass at her feet. She must have moved off the blanket at some point, but she – she couldn’t remember –

She didn’t want to join them. She didn’t want to join them at all. It felt like they were all having a joke at her expense; Madeleine felt like if she said yes, the three of them would burst into laughter, and someone – maybe Incumbent Vauquelin, he had the right smile for it – would painstakingly explain what an idiot she was. There were tears burning in Madeleine’s eyes again. She knew she had messed up – it hadn’t even occurred to Madeleine that one could have a tattoo on their face – but Lilanee had called her a friend, and – of course, Madeleine thought miserably, that was part of the joke.

But if it wasn’t a joke… if someone really thought she, Madeleine Gosselin, could actually help them…

Madeleine, trembling, took a deep breath, and gathered up all the courage she had. It wasn’t enough; it felt like her mouth was sewn shut. She couldn’t seem to open it. But she fixed her gaze on Lilanee, and, slowly, she nodded.

The world didn’t end. Madeleine had more than half expected that it would, and she cringed the moment she finished her nod, hunching her shoulders up, waiting for the blow that she was sure would come at any moment – but nobody said anything. The incumbent was smiling at her, a thin scary smile, and Madeleine stared at him, her lips trembling faintly, waiting for the moment when he would laugh – she could imagine it, in her mind, a laugh like her father’s – but he didn’t.

No one did.

And then Lilanee was off, walking quickly towards the courtyard, and Madeleine was aware that she was breathing hard, as if she had been dancing, and that her hands hurt from how hard she had gripped her bag. She took a shallow, choked breath, fixed her gaze firmly on the ground at her feet, and followed Lilanee, quickly, before anyone could change their mind and ask her to stay behind.

Madeleine found herself right behind Lilanee at the door. It hadn’t quite sank in that she needed to actually do anything until she felt Lilanee’s elbow in her ribs, and then Madeleine jerked and stepped forward, staring wide-eyed at the gardener. She was shaking, shaking kind of hard, and then her mouth seemed to open, all of its own volition.

“I don’t like jokes,” Madeleine blurted out. She glanced back over her shoulder at Lilanee, still half-convinced that at any moment they would all start laughing her. The feelings poured out in a rush of words, and she looked back at the passive she was almost positive she shouldn’t be speaking to. “I mean – I wouldn’t play a joke like that. I wouldn’t. I don’t – I don’t like them, they’re cruel, and I – ”

Madeleine’s shoulders drew in a little more, and she stared down at the ground again. She wasn’t, the sixth form thought miserably, doing a very good job. Lilanee would be very disappointed, if they weren’t all too busy laughing at her. She was such an idiot, Madeleine thought, miserably. She couldn’t do anything right.

“I mean – ” Madeleine whispered the words, and faltered again. She glanced up at the passive, and swallowed. “I mean, Mister Yost, I – I didn’t come as a joke, I promise.” There was something raw and ragged in her voice, an edge of desperation, as if by saying it she might make it true; dark blue bled into all the air around her, and Lilanee, if no one else, would hardly be able to avoid feeling how unhappy she was. Madeleine was trembling a little again, dark red hairs quivering on her head. “W-would – would you tell me – tell us – about the East Garden? Please, Mister Yost? About – what happened to Miss Strutenbroke?”

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