Bereft Souls (Ezre)

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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Drezda Ecks
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2018 12:10 pm
Topics: 18
Race: Galdor
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Writer: Maximus
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Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:38 am

Bethas 13, 2719 | Lunch Break
Brunnhold Library
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"Lost and adrift,
Seeking a tether,
A spirit must oust another,
A life for a life
As one cannot serve two.
A shattering, a rending
Two becomes one
And harmony is restored."

Ksjta Tzacks,
Excerpt from Harmony


---

The diplomat was in a serious state of befuddlement. Her thoughts were trying to pull her in separate directions simultaneously, as she attempted to open her mind to strange possibilities but also did her utmost to close those doors again. It was uncomfortable push and pull, the tug-of-war not likely to come to a simple resolution as the Hoxian wallowed in self-doubt, scepticism and fear. What lunacy was she pursuing? Was this boy going to scoff at her for possibly believing that a living person could actually be dead inside? In truth, the Hexxos acolyte was probably one of the few people in Anaxas who wouldn't have such a response. Perhaps he was the only one.

It didn't feel like insanity though. Drezda didn't feel insane. Not exactly.

As a Perceptive, you had to have a good understanding of people and how they worked but you also had to be capable of picking up on things, even when they were based on gut feelings alone. The young woman had been known to trust her gut, not that she liked to admit it. It was more comfortable for her to think of what she did as a science, something that could be measured empirically. It allowed her a greater sense of superiority; if the writing was on the wall where anyone could read it, wasn't she cleverer for actually paying attention? Believing that others were lazy and unfocused made her feel better. But in this instance, the sort of empirical evidence she was used to hadn't been adding up and her gut had practically been screaming at her about Anatole.

Why had it taken her so long to listen? Why had she waited before entertaining strange notions? Odd though the idea was, the notion that the Incumbent's change was wrapped up in the paranormal had felt more reasonable than any mundane and logical reason she'd tried to pin on it.

And then Ezre stated the name as confidently as if he'd reached into her head and plucked it out. The diplomat couldn't help but gasp, the certainty of his declaration shocking her so utterly that the rhakor splintered down the middle, mouth twitching open as horror and fear flitted across her feature. Hastily, it was reapplied, a difficult swallow that made her throat move almost painfully the only sign of her feelings. That and her eyes. Windows to the soul, she couldn't quell the fires within, the delicate flitting of her pupils as she tried to find something solid to latch onto with her gaze as the world teetered precariously beneath her.

"You know him," she managed, tone curiously flat as if the talk of death had leeched all life from her voice. She hadn't betrayed Anatole's confidence. She could have been talking about anyone - professional acquaintances weren't just Incumbents and the like after all - and so it wasn't as if she'd fed the name to Ezre; the boy knew.

It was certainly shocking but it was also something of a relief to hear him say the name, the weight of the secret eased from her shoulders as she found that the burden was somewhat shared. The fact that he knew the man also suggested that he knew much about him so there were plenty of secrets here, secrets that could flow between them; the diplomat might finally have some light shed on the situation.

Her rigid posture relaxed, shoulders drooping a little as the tension left them. Drezda watched him expectantly, dark eyes moving quickly, furtively to check on their surroundings but it didn't appear that anyone was listening; there was no one close enough from what she could tell. But it would be difficult for anyone to eavesdrop given how quietly they were speaking, the necessary proximity sure to bring a field within a range that would allow them to spot it. Unless a passive... No, no scrap would be listening. But then she had considered asking them to spy in Brunnhold for her before so who was to say that someone else hadn't thought the same?

The diplomat kept her eye out for passives until the young man began speaking in Deftung and all fear of potential eavesdroppers departed. The young woman leaned close, head cocked as she strained to catch every word, synapses firing wildly as she tried to process and translate his words. Her understanding of Deftung was better than what she could speak but listening to it was tricky when it came from a speaker who was familiar with the tongue. It was all too easy for a fluent speaker to talk fluidly, syllables running together eagerly so that one word blended into another and common words were dropped altogether; native speakers didn't tend to use the formal, textbook version of a language.

She had heard her mother speak rapidly in Deftung but it was usually for religious purposes and thus, it was rigid and structured but it had always been so fast that Drezda hadn't been able to keep up with it. Sometimes, she'd found the woman speaking to herself in it, especially when she was composing and it was nigh on incomprehensible. Ezre was easier to understand, possibly making a conscious effort to choose words she'd have a better chance of understanding and his pace might be slower than usual because he was carefully considering what he was saying. Even so, she didn't understand entirely but she got the gist.

Anatole was a raen or rather the thing inside him was a raen. And ghosts didn't destroy, which suggested that raen... did. In which case, the soul inside Anatole wasn't the man she'd known. Presumably the real Anatole was dead and the thing walking around in his skin was someone entirely different.

Bash give her strength! The person she knew as Anatole could honestly be anyone. Anything. There were so many peculiarities around the man - if he was actually a he - that he might not be a galdor at all. The lower races weren't exactly a different species so their souls... A twitch went through her, the beginnings of a shudder quickly suppressed.

"I understand. He is not in there anymore. The body is... a host? The old soul has... gone," she responded haltingly in Deftung. It had been too long since she'd spoken the old tongue. "Has the soul continued or is it... destroy... destroyed and become a ghost?"

The diplomat swallowed, considering the implications of her statement and wondering why she was even seeking answers. The real Anatole Vauquelin was gone, what did it matter what had happened to him? For all intents and purposes he was dead... and good riddance! She was more concerned with who the Incumbent was now although she didn't think that Ezre would share those details if he knew them. She didn't think that he should either; it wasn't his place.

Her gaze had become distant as she peered at the table but at his admittance, dark eyes fastened on his face. The child of a raen.

"The child- So they can- The body is really theirs then? A raen does not stop normal function then. Clearly," she commented in Deftung, indicating Ezre with a wave of her hand. But she wondered if he was right about her mother or if the woman had been trying to tell her things in more subtle ways. If it was forbidden knowledge then she couldn't tell her directly but indirectly... Ksjta had always claimed that her poetry had the potential to be educational.

"Threads must return to the fold, lost connections woven in anew," the Hoxian quoted in a whisper, recalling pretty little lines from a poem that her mother had translated, the Estuan words familiar because they'd been recited so often in her presence that they'd been engraved in her mind. They sounded less wishy washy and mystical now though. Maybe she'd have to look through the book of poetry that she had at home, the one that-

"Tick it!" she hissed out, mouth twisting apologetically when she realised she'd said it aloud.

"Apologies, Vks-vumash," she whispered in Deftung, bowing her head subtly as spots of colour entered her cheeks.

The book of poetry that she had at home wasn't there anymore because she'd given it to Vauquelin, whoever he really was. The man who hadn't appreciated poetry until recently. The signs had been there, hadn't they? And he'd been touched by whatever he'd read, stunned even and so perhaps he'd seen meaning in something that she hadn't. Maybe Ksjta's poetry was full of meaning for someone who had died.

"He knows, doesn't he? The... the raen. He knows what he is, doesn't he?" the woman remarked tightly, the tension back in her shoulders again. He'd fucking known and he'd sent her on this pointless search for information... why? For his own amusement? To distract her? Circle have mercy, she'd almost considered him a friend and yet she didn't even know who he was. He was all she had left, what she thought she'd had left now that Khy had gone back to Bastia.

Her hands slid out of sight under the table, clasped tightly together as emotion surged through her and she had to suppress the sudden horrifying urge to burst into tears. She shook her head, trying to shove down her feelings, to make her field rigid to stop the pulsing distress from thrumming all around the Hexxos acolyte.

The boy was friends with Ana- the raen, whoever he was and she had thought the same but... she guessed that Ezre had known who the man was from the start; there had been honesty there where it hadn't existed for her.

"I... won't harm your friend but... I don't know that I can protect him," Drezda admitted, eyes shut, head bowed while her hands white-knuckled under the table. "Any knowledge you give me, if you choose to trust me with it, I will not use it against him. You have my solemn vow, Vks-vumash," she added gravely in Deftung.
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Last edited by Drezda Ecks on Wed Oct 09, 2019 11:53 am, edited 2 times in total. word count: 1812

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Ezre Vks
Posts: 102
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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Mon Oct 07, 2019 2:44 pm

The Library
During Lunch Hour of the 13th of Bethas, 2719
The ninth form sat as calmly as was expected of his heritage, expressionless except for the dark pools of his eyes which were brimming with anticipation. Curiously, Ezre studied the other Hoxian opposite of himself for that spark of recognition, for the kindling of understanding to illuminate her features so that the fire could be shared between them.

He did not have to wait long.

"We met but a handful of days ago, zjai. In Ghost Town, no less." Had he been in the company of anyone else other than a kinswoman, he might have chuckled. Or laughed. Instead, he smiled (and shamelessly, too), only for his gaze to dart downward to his inked fingers, laced together, adding quieter still, "But also I may have recognized the touch of the Incumbent's field during one of the many mandatory events students such as myself are required to attend while politicians visit Brunnhold's campus. It was not until he was there, lost among the empty phasmonia, that I knew for sure."

Looking up again, he thought he could read the relief in her features, the need for confirmation in the ebb of Drezda Ecks' field. Her body relaxed and he held her gaze with all the unexpected authority of the Hexxos Order he'd been raised to be a part of. When he spoke in what he considered his native tongue, he was careful to go slowly, aware that the other Hoxian had already admitted to not ever being fluent in Deftung. He chose not to speak with the expected lingering on consonants known to be the dialect in cold, isolated Kzecka but instead with the much more academic, clearly-pronounced short form of modern, abbreviated Deftung. It felt awkward for him, but it was obvious it was helpful to the woman.

"The soul was destroyed." Ezre made no apologies for the truth, delicate jaw clenching for only a moment in the admission. It was not with sorrow—he did not know Anatole Vauquelin, he had never known the Incumbent; he only knew Tom Cooke—so much as it was with practical honesty, "The soul in the body you knew is not a ghost. It is raen. A ghost is just a fragment, a piece of someone's existence, a monic memory living out something specific over and over again. A raen is an entire existence, a soul that somehow slipped from the Cycle's embrace. They are similar and yet not the same."

He shrugged, pressing on with the explanation though he knew it was perhaps quite a bit to process, returning to Estuan when he was no longer using proper names for individual's whose lives did not need to be ruined by this knowledge. Aware that he was sharing fatal facts about Tom with someone who was in a political position to destroy him should she decide to do so, metaphorically or professionally or physically, the Hexxos chose to trust the Diplomat across from him because of the ripples of distress and the brush of understanding in her field, because of her connection to his Order through her mother, and because she'd not acted with incredulity so much as with interest.

He'd been taught to be discerning. He'd been taught to weigh his words. He'd been raised to seek the receptivity in others before sharing with them the things he knew to be true.

He had yet to share this particular truth with Lilanee Kuleda, but not because he did not believe she would be receptive.

He simply had no idea how to bring it up.

"A ghost possesses—they borrow a living body by forcing what remains of themselves upon a host. Because they are incomplete, broken, they cannot necessarily hold onto a body nor are they enough of a force to destroy their host's soul. This causes an expected level of physical conflict as well as monic disturbance, but often a ghost can settle into a non-magical host for extended periods of time. To those who knew the possessed, however, the change is usually obvious, especially because the fragmented soul usually seeks to repeat whatever memory they have clung to—over and over again—in their borrowed body. A ghost can be removed through Warding and the host can be restored to normal function. I know this because I have experienced it—"

Ezre left that there, looking up through dark lashes before glancing up again to continue,

"—a raen, however, does not possess. They take over, pouring themselves into a host and snuffing out the soul within like one would pinch out the flames of a candle. The body is fully theirs, subject to normal functions and normal aging, no longer remembering the life they have taken—only the life they once lived. The mona objects to this form of existence and begrudges the second life. This is why To—Incumbent Vauquelin's field feels so porven. It is reparable, over time, but it is difficult. The mona have a long memory, after all."

The dark-haired boy's smile softened at her whispered poetry. Perhaps he even nodded, watching her face with a steady sort of empathy.

"He knows now because I have shared the truth. Of course, he has known who he was before death and he knows now whose body he has found himself in. I—I can speak on the process, but only through the experiences of my mother. New raen are disoriented, confused, and hungry in a spiritual sense much like ghosts. They may not completely be aware of the instinctual need to anchor themselves. I do not know the Incumbent's entire story, but he is not ignorant of what he is."

The Hexxos tensed as Drezda tensed, his expression drawing into a tighter vision of concentration. There was a bit of worry that filtered through the light, airy sensation of his Clairvoyant-laden field. He blinked, reading her body language and sifting through her own aura as it shifted,

"I do not expect you to be responsible for his protection. He clearly must fend for himself—as we all must—but I have not shared this with you to arm you against him. I probably should not have shared so much, Ecks-vumein, but burdens are lighter when shared." Ezre wove Hoxian proverbs into his words like a true temple-born native of Kzecka, nodding with resignation,

"His existence is an anomaly, tenuous enough because of who he was and what he has become, and we are cruel to those things which we do not fully understand. Now, at least, you understand. What you do with this knowledge is out of my hands, and I must decide to be willing to carry the burden of regret if I have made a mistake."
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Drezda Ecks
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2018 12:10 pm
Topics: 18
Race: Galdor
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Plot Notes: [url=http:/fullurl/]Plot Notes[/url]
Writer: Maximus
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Wed Oct 09, 2019 12:27 pm

Bethas 13, 2719 | Lunch Break
Brunnhold Library
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"Soaring high is easier than a grounding in truth,
But there is power in knowledge,
Acquired more dearly than ambition's fruits.
Yet tread softly for oft wisdom hurts more than a fall from on high.
Crashing to the earth may shatter,
But recovery is not impossible.
Delving beneath the surface,
The fires of truth burn away all."
.
Ksjta Ecks,
Hubris
, translated by the poet from Web of Souls

---

The effort of translating into Estuan as she listened while paying attention to the Deftung words that continued to flow were something of a headache for the diplomat. It was a pain that was creeping under her forehead, a tension that possibly had something to do with the way her brows creased as she concentrated. If he would switch back to Estuan then it would make her life so much easier but she could understand while he was still prattling on in the mountain language. If there were eavesdroppers then these were the kinds of secrets that would be valuable to them and dangerous for them to learn.

But Circle save her, Ezre was passing so much information to her, so many new words and stranger concepts that it really was a nightmare for her.

Much of what he said provided confirmation for the things that she had asked, the things that she had tried to fill out based on the gaps that resided between what he had said - the things that went unsaid and lurked in the shadows. Admittedly some things she could not have guessed at and some she hadn't even been in the vicinity of correctness. But that was why she sat with this young man, listening to his soft speech which provided so much education for her, so much knowledge that she'd never had access to before.

Drezda's expression was largely blank, the level of concentration hardly allowing her to express much of anything beyond the odd twitch. Her mouth was locked in a constant frown, brows stormy. There was no snort at the irony of meeting the raen in the domain of the dead. There was no real response to the confirmation that Anatole Vauquelin had ceased to exist in this life or any other life, the merest nod of understanding, shallow and curt. He was dead... so what? The perfect end for that disgusting lecherous ersehole!

Ghosts were mere echoes, fragments of what had once been and that wasn't what the Incumbent had become. He was a raen. A raen was a being, capable of taking a life to sustain its own just as other beings did. Didn't they kill animals for food? Didn't that killing keep them alive? It seemed similar but she'd never thought of an animal as possessing reason, awareness, high intelligence. To be fair, she wasn't sure that humans possessed that but they were still ranked higher than the beasts. Killing beasts wasn't as unsettling as killing reasoning beings as a raen did.

Knowing what they were also didn't help to set her mind at ease. In fact, it was far more unsettling to realise that the natural way of things had been thrown off, the occasional soul popping out of the well-worn groove that every other soul in the Cycle had travelled along like a wheel that had popped free of the framework provided by its spokes. It sounded so simple and yet so gods be damned wrong. Surely, it wasn't a 'whoops' moment on the part of the Circle, there must be some reason to it and yet it seemed senseless and cruel. If it was a punishment then why would they be given the chance to destroy others, many of whom - Anatole not having counted - would be innocents? It was also horrifying to think that something so strange and alien could reside in something so familiar, behind features that you might have known all your life, hiding in a voice you could recognise in your sleep.

Had Ezre's father known his wife before she became someone else? Could he have possibly dealt with a woman so unfamiliarly familiar? Could love somehow persist with an unheimlich stranger? She couldn't imagine it but she wouldn't ask. Obviously it wouldn't seem strange to the boy - his mother as she was now was all he'd ever known.

The boy slipped back into Estuan and the diplomat's brow smoothed as her intense concentration melted away. It meant that she could understand every single word that he spoke and it was odd to discover that the Deftung explanation had been less chilling, not because she lacked full fluency but rather the Hoxian tongue had that cold practicality to it; it didn't leave room for horror. Deftung had developed in a cold and harsh environment and so reality could be presented naked and unvarnished, no room for romanticising - or imagination. However, the Estuan words made her skin crawl, the prickle of her discomfort so intense that she half expected to see it move.

Regardless of what language he spoke in, Ezre was quite matter-of-fact and so the casual mention of being possessed took a moment to properly penetrate her consciousness. A breath hissed in between her teeth, black eyes widening as she leaned a little away, hands clasping the table's edge as if to prevent a fall.

"You were-" she began, voice creeping up the scale of pitch, higher than the inflection of a question would require. However, he didn't seem interested in lingering on the matter, incredibly casual about it as if he had merely made a comment on the state of the weather. She swallowed her shock and horror, trying to understand what sort of hell this child had emerged from that this all seemed mundane. She'd always thought her mother strangely morbid but this! What the actual fuck were the Hexxos?

"Anchor themselves as in... destroy and take possession?" the Hoxian questioned flatly, her body in a more neutral position although the rigidness had returned. Her gaze narrowed slightly as she regarded Ezre, teeth pressing lightly into her bottom lip.

"I won't ill-use this information but it is one thing to suspect... something and quite another to have the truth laid bare. I know that the truth is not meant to be easy to bear but it is... a lot to absorb and accept. For me, it is... new," Drezda murmured.

"When burdens are shared..." she echoed in Deftung, the syllables cold and hard with a tinge of bitterness as her features darkened, head shaken minutely. "Sharing sometimes makes your burden far heavier, mho. Trust me," she finished in Estuan, the bitterness more pronounced, the words unusually clipped.

Her gaze fixed on the grain of the table, lips pressed into a hard line as she considered. The child knew much and yet there was something almost naive there, in spite of what he must have seen, and she couldn't stand that. Her field tightened, the emotion reined in so that when she looked up again, she was as hard and icy as the highest peaks of their native kingdom.

"Don't trust in understanding, Vks-vumash. If you think that you grasp something, truly grasp it then you can make mistakes. If something changes... it is all too easy to miss. Don't think that you understand the realm of the death so well that you don't... take care. I don't know about our... friend but I am sure that his kind aren't all like your mother. I'm sure they're just as capable of trickery and malice as anyone else. Don't assume that he's your friend. Never assume that anyone is your friend until they prove it."

Where had that come from? What place of bitter distrust and disappointment had that sprung from? Did she want the youth to become as embittered as she? As alone?

"And don't spend all your time in the library either. In your studies. You have a chance to make friends, to have them and... keep them. Don't waste that," she added in a hush, her demeanour softening ever so slightly as she felt herself on the edge of breaking, heart squeezing painfully within her.

Khymarah! Circle have mercy on me..."

"Remember to spend time with the living. You'll move on in the Cycle soon enough."
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