[Clocks Eve - Closed] Them Bones, Them Bones

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The Stacks | Ghost Town | Muffey

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Lilanee Kuleda
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 6:40 am
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Location: Brunnhold
Race: Galdor
: Let's go on an adventure!!!
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Sun May 26, 2019 6:22 pm

1st Intas, 2719
THE CRYPTS | LATE EVENING, BEFORE MIDNIGHT
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Clocks Eve, the night of religious worship followed by loose revelry and regretful decisions. Lilanee understood the holiday, and the significance thanks to her father, but she didn’t partake in the festivities. Why would she, the Hessean Mouthpiece, want to participate in a wickedly improper trip to the Stacks? Or be asked to dance at the Redtie Ball?

No, she wouldn’t want that.

Instead, the red head took her time to devote prayer to the Pantheon, paying particular attention to Alioe given it was the Goddess’ blessed night, and to Ophur her own Hessean mother’s God. Making the proper offerings and saying the proper words, Lilanee moved directly from the Church Of The Moon down into the Crypts beneath. At least with most of the school either home for the holiday or out enjoying the event she could settle down and write out her agenda for this season’s Archeological Appreciation Society agenda.

Down here, at least she had company that enjoyed her nattering.

“And that’s why, Magister Merritt, we are still unsure as to whether the passive is truly actually a galdori without magic or an entirely different species of galdori. The left metacarpal has a slight ridge, right here—“ The student lifted the bone she had been holding in one hand, turning it slightly and running her thumb over an almost indistinguishable spot on it, blue eyes narrowing slightly. Her other hand held a quill, tapping the feathered end lightly against an open journal as her brain dechiphered anatomical things her father had instilled in her.

“—that isn’t present in modern day Anaxi galdori. Is this just an evolutionary trait that has disappeared over the years, or is it something more? Unfortunately there is little care to research the concept further here, but I understand that Gior might be more welcoming. Could one actually get into the clocking country.” She continued, talking to the long dead man who was contained just down the hallway, away from the desk strewn with tomes and artifacts. Looking down at her paperwork, Lilanee adjusted a pair of thin wireframe glasses on her nose with her thumb, before writing a scribble of notes down.

“Did you know that there’s a theory that objects can be imbuged with magic? Like a…oh I don’t know…a pot that heals when you drink from it. Personally I think that’s utterly ridiculous, as we know that retained magic requires an Everspell, and the mona are biologically tied to us. There’s no leylines in a pot. But the theory itself is fascinating. In the 2600’s there was an excavation in lower Hesse, that apparently revealed four bodies buried with onyx spears. Apparently they were Gioran, so why were they in Hesse? I don’t know why, Magister, but they refused to release any of the artifacts or bones to the public. Imagine that! I would love to get my hands on those treasures. I bet it would be such a fascinating topic for the club to discuss that.” Her writing stopped, excited spark in her eyes fading as she lowered the bone and looked around the dimly lit and very empty crypt, her own voice echoing off the stone walls where no reply to her musings would ever come from.

“If anyone ever came.” The freckled girl said softly, before snorting and waving her quill with a laugh.

”Oh well! It’s not like I can’t add it to the agenda anyway! Good idea Lilanee! Why thanks Lilanee!” Wryly amusing herself with one sided banter, the student stood from the table and approached the shelf of dusty books that lived in this particular section of the vast catacombs.

“Now Magister, I wonder if you and your friends have any references to that specific dig. Surely Brunnhold holds a record somewhere in this place and I don’t have anywhere to be.” Spinning dramatically to face the direction she knew Magister Merritt’s tomb to be in, Lilanee thrust a finger in the air and adjusted her spectacles, the rich umber of her winter skirt swinging around her legs. She had chosen to wear a skirt this eve, being somewhat a special night, with good walking shoes and a comfortable long-sleeved white blouse tucked into the high waist. Her black cloak was draped around her, the chill of the crypt even worse as the snowy weather threatened a heavy storm above Anaxas.

“Put on a pot of coffee sir, this will be a long night!” She called with a serious tone, before turning back to the bookshelf.

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Ezre Vks
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Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 11:02 am
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Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
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: better with the dead
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Thu May 30, 2019 9:48 am

The Crypts
The 1st of Intas, 2719
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The old year was dead and Ezre Vcks did not feel any sense of responsibility in preparing it for burial through celebration and revelry. The new year had arrived for the young Hoxian in quiet solitude instead of rowdy carousing, for the boy had made his way down into the Crypts just shortly after the religious ceremony in the hallowed Church of the Moon had come to a close. He'd stayed for all of it, dressed in more formal but still very traditional clothing: a flowing wool coat, layered shirts that tied instead of buttons, and loose pants that tucked into rather soft, very not Anaxi-style boots. He'd taken the time to braid his hair and wear it up in a much more antiquated style than most of his people were used to, and he'd brought offerings of incense for the entire Circle of gods even if his prayers were directed far more to Bash while the Everine sang in their haunting chorus.

Most students and faculty were quick to flee the beautiful architecture of the Church and make their way off campus toward the Stacks to spend the rest of the evening ringing in the new year with drink and song of their own, but Ezre lingered in the pews in contemplative meditation until silence had settled heavily in the candlelight.

Finally, he made his way through the cloistered halls and down the now-familiar stairwell, down under Brunnhold as if entering a tomb of his own, rather confident he'd be alone in the Crypts tonight of all nights. Tattooed fingers traced over cold, moist stone, trailing over engravings and decorations, palms brushing over sculpture and the occasional decorated skull. He hummed old tunes and traveled without lantern or candle, muttering a meager plea for magical light that was faint and white to guide his path by.

Tonight he had a plan.

Meandering further into the Crypts than most students were advised to go was most likely a dangerous idea, but one that Ezre had decided he was equipped for and capable of handling. He'd cobbled together his own form of lock picks, he'd practiced his wards and brought three small hyperoscillators wrapped carefully in his satchel along with several marks and his secretive grimoire full of more notes than actual spells.

Padding in near-silence through narrow halls, the atmosphere under the Church was cold and stuffy, undisturbed and so very still. He moved with stealthy confidence, light on his feet and totally under the assumption that he was alone with the interred and their potentially restless spirits. Perhaps he could have invited someone else along, but—oh.

There was a voice that echoed off the stone walls and carried on the chill, stale air. He blinked, pausing to listen, dark eyes narrowing because he immediately knew who was speaking: Lilanee Kuleda.

What was the Hessean doing down here? Did she not celebrate Clock's Eve?

Interesting.

The Hoxian sighed, pausing to listen. Who was she talking to? A Magister? Down here? Had she been speaking to ghosts this whole time and not told him? Surely not.

Deviating from his careful plan, Ezre turned down a different hall and followed the growing volume of the talkative young galdor's voice. Gods, the girl really could carry on a conversation, but he couldn't hear anyone talking back. The Clairvoyant mortician forced himself to focus, attempting to reach out with his magical senses as he approached the crypt she'd set herself up in, dark eyes catching sight of the engraved name and title that sat on a beautifully decorated placard just outside the old metal gate,

"I have heard that some ghosts can indeed be enticed to refrain from possessing the living through the offering of food, but coffee has not been part of those very brief experiments." Ezre's soft spoken voice announced his presence without any fanfare or formal introduction, aware that such a sudden interruption would spook most people but completely unconcerned (or perhaps somewhat amused by the affects). He did smile, however, his delicate features upturned in an expression of greeting and familiarity even as he bobbed his head in a bow and stepped into the small study that the Magister had requested his crypt be modeled after,

"Hello again, Lilanee. Why aren't you out with everyone else?" It was a self-deprecating question that needed no particular answer considering the same could be asked of himself, aware that both of them did not make friends well in Brunnhold and aware that their ideal social situations were perhaps not the average. He glanced around almost expectantly, eager to see if there was, indeed, something or someone the Hessean was talking to.

There was not. He hid his disappointment behind a neutral expression, as was expected of his people.

"I thought tonight would be a good night to do some very unsanctioned and ill-advised exploring deep in the Crypts while all of Brunnhold was getting guttered. All of Brunnhold but us, it seems."
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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 Jun 05, 2019 9:16 am

1st Intas, 2719
THE CRYPTS | LATE EVENING, BEFORE MIDNIGHT
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L​​ilanee drew close to the tomes on the shelves, running delicate fingers over aged dusty spines and tilting her head to read the titles. She pulled a book from it’s place, gently turning the cover so she could ever so carefully move to the first page, beginning to turn away from the bookshelf when the sound of someone replying to her voice caught her offguard, and with a rush of adrenaline through her veins Lilanee screamed loudly and dropped the book, her hands pressed to her chest and eyes wide.

“Ezre clocking hell...” The ninth form muttered, heart thrumming wildly against sternum and ribs.
​​
​​ “By the Golden Aura of Ophur, you scared me to death! She exclaimed, catching her breath with a few quiet curses and shifting to collect the book, inspecting it carefully for damage before clutching it to her chest and adjusting her glasses with a curt nod.
​​
​​ “Well I’ve not really got coffee, it’s just a—oh. Oh! You were making a joke!” The Hessean chuckled, beaming at the Hoxian as she returned to her table of papers and such to place the book down and look the other student over. Ezre Vks, unlikely duel partner and all around the utter opposite of herself. He was quiet where she seemed unable to stop talking. He was emotionless and stoic where she wore it all in her field and on her face. It was rare to see him smile, at all, yet she’d now seen it twice.
​​
​​It suited him.
​​
​​ “Why am I here? Well, I’m not much of a fan of all this silliness. I mean, a ninth form going to the red tie alone is depressing, and the groups going to the Stacks are prone to stupidity. Combine that with alcohol and peer influence and it’s just asking for shenanigans. I don’t really see the point.” Shrugging, she gestured to the room widely.
​​
​​ “With most of the campus on Holiday or off doing Clocks Eve things, I figured it would be an optimal time to sit down and do some extra studies for my History exams. Plus, there’s some brilliant works here that might lend to my Archaeological Club agenda, not to mention some theoretical papers on the anthropological changes of galdori through time and across countries. I have to write my own paper before graduation next year, so I’m thinking I want to do it on that topic. It’s very fascinating! Did you know that ancient galdori formed tribes, much like Gior and Hesse, but on a far more primal level. Or, at least, that’s one theory. My father was researching a dig in the west of Anaxas that apparently might have more proof, but we…he…” The redhead stopped, pausing for a moment and adjusting her glasses with a brief flash of a weak smile.
​​
​​ “He’s taking longer than usual to report in, but it could be due to a variety of things.” Lilanee finished feebly, blue eyes lighting up at the other students proposal for his own escape from the festivities.
​​
​​ “Exploring? Ill advised? You refer to the rumours about the Crypts then, Mister Vks?” The Hessean hummed a soft chuckle and crossed her arms, secretly priding herself in pronouncing the hard constanants in his name with some decent success.
​​
​​ “I’ve been here dozens of times, and not one have I encountered an actual ghost. I mean, I am all for exploration, but there is no danger here. It’s all…figments of the imagination.” Looking discreetly around the crypt, the red haired student shifted her hands slightly to rub her arms as though fighting against the chill.

“How uh...how far in are you planning on exploring? I’m quite keen to look at some of the older tombs, but the rules are very specific that we can’t go alone, so I’ve never ventured further in then about here.” Pushing her glasses up her nose again, Lilanee looked at him.

“If you’d like some company...” She left it hanging, tilting her head slightly in question.

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Ezre Vks
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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 Jun 10, 2019 7:20 am

The Crypts
The 1st of Intas, 2719

Lilanee screamed in surprise when he spoke up from the darkness that clung to the Crypts, Ezre aware that his presence had been so very unexpected. He couldn't help but smile in response, revealing his very obvious amusement at catching the other ninth form student so off guard as if he’d been playing a clever prank me all night instead of dancing and drinking on Clock’s Eve. He even bit his lip, teeth against the delicate lower curve, refraining from making any number of follow-up comments to her exclamation of a near-death experience at his ambush: at least she would die in the right place here under the Church of the Moon? at least she'd be in his capable hands as a mortician? at least she'd seen the new year?

Really, he could have gone on, but his cheeky expression said everything if the young Hessean had any idea how to read the Hoxian at all. She admitted her reasons for not being out drinking and carousing with their peers and they were, surprisingly enough, nearly the same as his own. He'd received a single invitation, a rather eager offer to go out and celebrate the new year from another student on his hall, but aware of the implications of an evening spent drinking with strangers in a social group he didn't usually spend time with, Ezre had gently refused.

"The weather has been most unfavorable this winter, and I've heard Western Anaxas has its own complications. I hope you hear from your father soon." Ezre felt the need to offer when the conversation felt rather serious, continuing about his own plans and watching Lilanee's freckled face warm considerably when he admitted to skipping out on all of the festivities just to do some ill-advised explorations,

"Rumors? Well—" His dark eyes glanced about the room for a short moment when the young woman spoke of never encountering a ghost, "—are you saying you do not believe in restless spirits, Lilanee? Just because you have not met one personally doesn't mean they don't exist."

There was a hint of something in his tone, an eagerness that could almost be described as unspoken emotion. Ezre was sworn not to tell Hexxos secrets to those who could not comprehend or connect with them, and yet sometimes he simply longed for someone here so far from home to share the dark, mysterious depths of his heart with. This young Hessean, with her vast capacity for carrying on in sound, was probably not the best of choices, and yet her analytical mind turned things over in ways that the Hoxian could admire should he had been capable of admitting such things to anyone. She just bore the need to think through things out loud, apparently.

He'd heard the same rules she had about which sections of the Crypts further beneath the Church and Brunnhold proper for that matter were off-limits to not only students but faculty and staff traveling alone. It was to one of those sections that he planned on traveling, though maps on the off-limits depths of the Crypts were few and far between and very difficult to get his tattooed fingers on. He'd actually convinced Miss Opkins, library scryer, that he was researching lost lineages and suddenly he'd found himself in a dark and quiet corner of dusty flat files full of maps that surely would have crumbled if exposed to sunlight.

He'd made sketches, not wanting to touch anything, and Rosie had made small talk about the differences between the mountains of Gior and Hox.

Pulling from his satchel one of his notebooks, he moved to the desk she'd been working at and opened it to his simple pen renditions of the maps he'd copied. Tattooed fingers pointed down one of the main hallways that were acceptable and then traced in the direction he desired to go,

"If you come with me, then neither of us will be going alone, it's true. Rules will be ... mostly upheld in that regard. I've been told by Madame Exudus that my warding work is admirable, and with your disbelief, we should be totally fine investigating whether or not Magister Nyxt had a personal library in his centuries-old tomb or not."

Simple enough as far as Ezre was concerned, but he was, in his opinion, far more aware of the dangers he was risking. He would have willingly risked them alone and the realization that Lilanee was another warm body there in the so-called dangerous parts of the Crypts to tempt the hungry unknown with made him uncomfortable because in his own way he respected her as a peer after that day on the Lawn.

"I don't want to take away from your planning session, however." His smile broadened into a teasing one, very obviously expressing his invitation through not so subtle sarcasm. They were in private, after all, and feelings were acceptable when alone with those trustworthy enough to witness them.
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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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Tue Jun 18, 2019 3:18 pm

1st Intas, 2719
THE CRYPTS | LATE EVENING, BEFORE MIDNIGHT
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Lilanee’s blue gaze flickered between the Hoxian and the table, embarrassed to admit that the way the other student bit his lower lip was quiet a pleasant look on him. Her freckles hopefully hid the touch of color that came to her cheeks and she inspected the dropped book with greater determination than necessary, before continuing on in her ramblings about her reasons for being here.

“Yes, yes of course. The weather has been awfully foul close to the boarders of Gior, so there's every chance Western Anaxas is just as bad, maybe even worse!” She agreed heartily, nodding with another brief smile, choosing to build upon that reasoning than to admit anything untoward might have happened to the man.

Her brief smile turned into a pout of pondering as Ezre questioned her on the manner of spirits, pushing her glasses up her nose and crossing her arms to let one finger tap her lip thoughtfully, before making a decision on her reply.

“Mister Vks, I believe in what science can proove, and thus far there is no hard evidence that ghosts are real. I mean, it’s plausible that something of our fields is echoed maybe in the sentient mona around us and causing a projection of the past? There’s plenty of stories, and we know that after death we move onto the afterlife but all that said no one has true factual data to show that is even true. I’m not saying it isn’t, I’m not saying it is. I’m just saying that we can’t let our minds be made up by the ‘he said, she said’ of others.” Reaching down to unnecessarily straighten one of the books on the tabletop, the Hessean glanced at the other student with curiosity.

“Do you believe in ghosts, Ezre?” Lilanee asked directly, with little subtly or pretense, blue eyes wide and lips still caught in a half smile. She watched with interest as the dark haired Hoxian moved to draw rolled up parchment from his satchel, brow drawing with a tilt of her head as she watched them unroll, blue gaze following fingers instead of sketches.

“Extrodinary!” The freckled Hessean breathed, grasping one of Ezre’s hands and unfurling his slender fingers to examine the tattoos laid down under the skin. She turned it slowly, letting her own fingertip trace over the inked markings.

“Your markings are too specific for simple art work, are they tribal? Ceremonial? Is it just phalanges or do you have them elsewhere? Are all Hoxian’s adorned like so, or is this a personal interest.” Shoving her questions together like a hastily made word-sandwich, Lilanee took his other hand as well, holding them side by side to compare the tattoos closely, letting her thumbs press a little harder along the inner edge of his middle fingers with a thoughtful frown.

“Pronounced flexor tendon on the second finger. Only minor. Both hands. I would love to compare your hands against another Hoxian. Ooh! Or perhaps against the bones of galdori remains.” Realizing just how utterly insane she sounded, the student released his hands quickly and cleared her throat, examining the map as well as his marked pathway.

“Logic stands that you are correct regarding our companionship adhering to rule one. Saying my disbelief is a contributing factor in keeping away spirits—should they exist—is preposterous.” The red head said with a snort of laughter, smirking at the suggestion, before her face brightened at the rewards should they go ahead. The possibility of a centuries old text being hidden under the crypt was a high one, given that the Everine hadn’t entirely revealed everything there was to know about the catacomb like structure under the Church of the Moon. The excitement mingled with the final dregs of doubt simmered in her field, Lilanee laughing again at his comments and the unexpected warmth in his face.

“I didn’t realize you were so much of a joker, Mister Vks.” The teenager said with a small press of her white teeth against the dusky coral of her lower lip, holding back the stream of words begging to spew forth with delighted gusto. Lilanee was the daughter of an explorer, and where else better to explore the past than in the Crypts without chaperone or time limits.

And with a level headed companion no less.

“Alright, an expedition into the Crypts it is. I hardly think we need any rations for this particular foray, which is good because I didn’t bring anything.” The student was moving to pack her satchel, talking as she moved.

“I’ll take the light, if you take your maps.” Adjusting the strap over her shoulder and picking up the lantern burning gently on the table, Lilanee beamed.

“Ophur’s Lusterous Gleam, this is terribly rebellious. You know we could be gated for this if we get caught.” The threat was a hollow one at best, the Hessean not remotely concerned about being confined to campus grounds. It wasn’t like she left the place anyway.
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Ezre Vks
Posts: 119
Joined: Tue Mar 05, 2019 11:02 am
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Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
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: better with the dead
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Fri Jun 21, 2019 10:48 pm

The Crypts
The 1st of Intas, 2719
The Hoxian didn't miss the flicker of worry in her tone, the Clairvoyant perceptive enough to catch her words more than socially adept enough to comprehend the curiosity in her facial expression. If she was blushing, he couldn't understand why, but his dark eyes followed her hand as her fingers adjusted her glasses, leaving him to linger for a thoughtful moment while she tapped her lip. It was a strange mixture of interests that mingled in his thoughts, her freckled features not quite Anaxi and yet so different from the familiarity of his own people, but all of his distracted curiosities were quickly forgotten in the wake of Lilanee's very vehement denial that ghosts and spirits existed.

Ezre smirked. It was, beyond a shadow of a doubt in the dull glow of their meager lights under the campus proper, utterly mischievous. Almost wicked in the weight of knowing it carried in the delicate upturn of his lips. He looked away, however, swallowing before unrolling the parchment he'd brought and beginning to point to things, his answer given with a quiet firmness,

"Zjai. I mean. Yes. I very much do believe in ghosts—oh—I—"

The boy didn't flinch or shy away, but his eyes widened and his shoulders stiffened when the other student snatched for one of his hands, her attention on the tattoos that had been inked there on the eve of his tenth birthday during Spar Rhavat. He didn't resist her uncurling his fingers, splaying his hand against hers to reveal the concentric circles and thin lines, lines that traced over the back of his hand and disappeared up his wrist and under the hem of his linen sleeve,

"I am Hexxos." He breathed, unable to speak above a whisper for some reason while her featherlight touch ran over his skin. His Deftung accent was suddenly much stronger, consonants hard and drawn out in a way only a Hoxian tongue could move. It was his turn to blush, for while others here at Brunnhold had expressed their keen interest in his markings, no one had been so quick to actually touch them. His heart felt pressed against his sternum and he was very aware of the sound of his pulse. It took him a moment to process her questions, blinking slowly, his field mingling with hers in their proximity with almost unintentional openness, "They are ceremonial, outlining the theoretical path of galdor ley lines and—I—uh—zjai. I have them elsewhere. My feet—and—um—"

Her touch became more purposeful and he took a quick breath, exhaling through his nose while Lilanee became distracted with anatomical differences between Hoxian galdori and ... gods only knew what else.

His ears rang and he did not have the voice to tell her the boldest line from the back of his hands ran up his arms to meet at the base of his neck, traveling down a series of linked circles between his shoulder blades to split again, two lines traveling along his sides and below his hips, along the outside of his thighs, and behind his calves to wrap his ankles in a handful of rings before converging with the other tattoos on his feet. Boys in his dorm had seen a few glimpses passing in the hall after washing, sure, and a few of the bold ones had asked a few questions in a normal and expected fashion, and even considered him weird or amazing.

But a girl?

No. He'd never shown anyone in an expression of intimacy or in a moment of scientific curiosity.

This was new. Ezre stuttered, not pulling his hand away, frozen in place and quite unsure whether this was a good feeling or an uncomfortable one. Both, perhaps. Definitely both.

"—and ... well ... and other—uh—places—I—yes. My—my—body. Also."

She released him and he shifted a little, unsteady on his feet while she cleared her throat as if somehow he’d been given a case of the whirlies in the wake of a spell when there’d been no Monite spoken, quite sure no one had ever touched him with such interest before. It was confusing. He reminded himself that Hessean culture was very physical, their expressions tactile, and their casual, interpersonal relationships very opposite from his distant homeland.

It was with much relief that the girl returned her attention to the map he'd managed to smuggle out of the Library and the Hoxian relaxed, drawing his field back to himself as though it was an unruly flock of birds. His hands hung uselessly for a moment before they moved to fidgeting with the fold-over hem of his collarless shirt. Lilanee rolled with his awkward humor in a way that drew an actual laugh from him, soft and delicate, almost effeminate because it was subdued,

"Your lack of belief is a contributing factor, actually, for hungry ghosts desire to entice their victims into their stories. If there is no interest for you, their sway over you is considerably dampened. It is far more difficult to possess or consume the energies of an unwilling victim." Ezre riposted her with utter seriousness, though almost in spite of his very academic-toned spiel, he was still smiling, "Just because I carry myself with enviable rhakor, vumein, doesn't mean I don't have a sense of humor. It most certainly is not Anaxi, however."

He was teasing her, alone in the Crypts and more himself than he'd ever even pretend to be at a formal dance or a red tie on Clock's Eve. It was more awkward now, her touch something he'd been unprepared for, and he was grateful for the opportunity to take a step back and fold the map back away into a notebook and tuck it away into his own satchel, having memorized much of it already.

"Then we'd best not get lost lest we starve and we'd definitely better not get caught for the sake of our academic freedoms." Ezre offered when the other student spoke of rations and discipline, smiling again with that impish sort of expression and pointing out his cultural observations about Brunnhold life and holidays, "Everyone is getting guttered anyway, so tonight is our chance at escaping formal accusations from hungover faculty."

With that, he tilted his head toward the hall of masoleums that Lilanee had settled herself in, stepping to lead the way by the light of her lantern. Ezre skimmed the names on the placards as his soft-soled feet led them deeper into the Crypts with a stealthy quietude, save for the rustling of clothing. He'd pause every once and a while, peering in crypts and studying writings, running tattooed fingers over sculpture and making comments about the ages. They could take their time, peering into open mausoleums and attempting to decipher faded name plates. He didn't rush them and he didn't resist small talk, though it was obvious making conversation out of nothing was not at all one of his skills.

The air as they traveled slightly downward, deeper beneath the Church of the Moon became colder, staler, and cobwebs became far more frequent. Eventually, their walk led them into a circular chamber with carved statues and benches, the darkness thick and the silence almost a sound of its own against their eardrums.

Ezre stopped to tug out his map again, This is where I was unsure of my directions. I think there's a stairway. I have a suspicion there is another level below this. Or several. Over two thousands years is a long time to be burying bodies, after all, especially given Anaxi methods of body preparation over the past several centuries."

The Hoxian stepped closer to make sure he was well within the glow of her lantern, their fields mingling again simply out of comfortable proximity and now thoughtless curiosity, not idle caprision so much as friendly exploration. He held the book and his sketched map between them both balanced on one palm, tattooed index finger tracing their path thus far, "I have cross-referenced three maps to even confirm this statuary room existed, but only one mentioned a stairwell and the others appeared to imply it had been closed and covered."

He hadn't realized the chill that had settled so far under ground until he saw the cloud of his breath in the ruddy glow of firelight.

"We can simply continue down this hallway, I suppose."
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Lilanee Kuleda
Posts: 56
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Topics: 6
Location: Brunnhold
Race: Galdor
: Let's go on an adventure!!!
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Fri Jun 28, 2019 7:33 pm

1st Intas, 2719
THE CRYPTS | LATE EVENING, BEFORE MIDNIGHT
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“Hexxos.” Lilanee breathed, testing the unfamiliar word against her tongue, filing it away with her vast array of unnecessary information to explore at a later time. The accent of the other student was stronger with that word, and there was no way her Anaxi-learned vocals could match it, still she listened as carefully as she looked. His field warmed to hers, tentatively mingling to share just a touch of his current state of being, Lilanee’s an open book from the get-go.

“Zjai?” The girl muttered, barely paying attention to the discomfort she was causing the other student, far too interested in the many things that started to form in her head. She had so many questions!

“Other places? Where else could you have them besidesohhhh….” Her blush was darker than the red curls on her head, hands drawing back rapidly as she made a fuss of collecting things to follow the Hoxian into the crypts, field full of awkward embarrassment. Her brain was working overtime, making up images of exactly where the tattoos could be given their placement and the way they disappeared under his sleeves.

Nope. Nope nope, that is improper Lilanee. Think of something else. Pottery. Ancient pottery. Glazing techniques. The early appearance of modern galdori and the unusually similar tribal wick bones from—

“Wait, are you saying if ghosts exist, which I understand you believe…that I’m not interesting enough for them?” Lilanee said abruptly, grinning ridiculously at the subtle dig, delighted at Ezre’s wit. Adjusting her glasses, the Hessean moved closer so they could commence their explorations together.

“Well, lucky I’m not Anaxi then.” She said with an arched brow and a bump of her shoulder against his, before holding up the lantern to start walking into the unknown.

“You know, Ezre, I’m glad you chose to come down here tonight. To be honest, whilst I enjoy the quiet and the study time, it can be very lonely sometimes. As much as there is nothing to fear from the dead, they don’t make very good conversationalists. And they definitely don’t make jokes.” Her blue eyes swept over the mausoleum as they walked, the stone halls made strangely eerier in the lantern light. As Ezre took note of names and placards and such, Lilanee followed with a genuine eagerness, letting her own unmarked hands run over scrolls and texts should they find any. She gently thumbed through those that were still able to be read, bespectacled eyes roaming over the looping script of the Magisters who had been buried with their notes. Occasionally she held her hands to her mouth, breathing on them to warm them up. The lantern provided some warmth, but it was a poor excuse for heat. Of course, they could summon up something using their Elementary spellwork, but somehow the Hessean felt like that was cheating. It wasn’t a noble use in any sense of the term.

They would just have to survive with what they had on hand. Like a true explorer!

“What are those words you’ve said? Are they Hoxian? They are very beautiful. I don't speak much Hessean, even though my mother is forever trying to get me to. I don't know, holding onto heritage or something like that.” She asked softly as they paused in one of the shrine-like tombs, not looking at the other teen as she sifted through loose papers stiff with age, placing them gently back where she found them as they pressed on deeper into the Crypts. They stopped in a rounded room, full of carved seats and statues, holding the lantern higher as Ezre took out the map and stepped closer. She leaned inwards, wanting to see as well as provide light as the dark haired boy mused over their next destination.

“Yes, they certainly haven’t done any favors for their remains. In Hesse, our deceased are emptied of their organs and the decomposable tissue is removed and turned into ash in the crematorium. The bones are dipped in gold and dressed in the finest clothing the family of the dead can find. We mix the ashes of their tissue with powdered West Drake venom glands and this is drunk in a very official ceremony by family and friends whilst the bones of the dead are entombed in a cairn. It’s fascinating to watch, and the preservation of Hessean bones is quite extraordinary even centuries later. Did you know that there are open graveyards in Anaxas? A human thing, quite terrible really. They leave their dead unburied in these places they consider holy, and allow the animals and nature to decompose them. It’s a stunning idea from a Vitan stand point, but from an archaeological point of view my heart cries.” Finally taking a breath, Lilanee followed his finger with her eyes, not at all perturbed by the companionable way their fields had mingled, sharing their excitement at their adventure under the church. She shivered, breath pluming at the crisp chill in the air and huddled further into her coat.

“Well,” The red head began, looking up and around at their location, before glancing at the map again.

“If your map is correct, which I am sure it is, then we should find this stairway. I don’t see one imminently, however logic stands if we follow the hall we should in theory stumble on the stairs? Should they not be blocked. Which begs the question—why block them? I wonder if there’s concerns of contamination or damage to the remains…though no one really comes this far.” Stopping her exterior thoughts before they became a full blown ramble, the Hessean looked up at Ezre with a smile.

“Let’s press on, should you be able to handle the cold.” She joked, knowing full well the Hoxian was far, far more able to withstand the chill than herself.

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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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Sun Jun 30, 2019 11:47 pm

The Crypts
The 1st of Intas, 2719
Ezre watched Lilanee attempt the harsh syllables of his fading language, dark eyes wide while she curiously continued to explore the inked lines under the skin of his hand. She was not embarrassed until he was, however, completely caught up in her rambling distraction until his awkward admission about just how extensive his tattoos were, hidden beneath his clothes, suddenly dawned on her. The flush of color that spread over her face was contagious and the Hoxian felt the same warmth gnaw its way from the back of his neck and across his delicate cheeks. He huffed as the Hessean pulled away to pack her things, visibly flustered, and he made effort to exhale a nervousness that he didn't entirely understand any reason for feeling.

"I—they—well. Zj—yes. But no. That is not entirely what I meant." The dark-haired boy followed her navigation of his subtle sense of humor with well-disguised interest, and while it had not necessarily been his intention to say that she was not interesting—because, in all honesty, once one got past the barrage of words she wore like some noisy mockery of his own calm rhakor, she was—but somehow his words had made a joke. She grinned at him and Ezre chuckled a very quiet noise that disappeared into his comment about Anaxi humor.

Lilanee's shoulder bumped his and he was not at all used to such physical displays of camaraderie, but he didn't lean away. They began to make their way out of the small mausoleum the other student had been using as a study and back into the narrow halls of the Crypts. She spoke of the dead and this time the boy laughed: it was more than a chuckle or a sigh. It was a real laugh,

"You have not met the right kind of dead." He smirked, aware that this time it was his turn for his smile to border on the ridiculous, some unashamed bit of mystery in the kind of amusement that filled his face in the light of their shared lantern, "Nor have you seen some of the bodies that make their way into the morgue—they all have something to say for themselves, even if it is without words. Not all of it is lighthearted, however—"

Ezre bit his lip then, teeth against the gentle lower curve as if he held words back, as if he had some other observation, but instead, he looked away and walked in relative quiet. It was tempting to talk about the dead who walked among the living or, more tempting still, to talk about the dead who wore a living body like clothing as a raen. If the Hessean didn't believe in ghosts, however, or any kind of restless spirits at all, the dark-haired Hexxos boy wasn't sure he could ever broach the subject of the truths he knew in confidence with her. Not in the way he longed to do with someone—anyone this far from home.

And so he thought on such things carefully to himself instead, remembering all his mother had to say and all the times she'd made him laugh as a child.

They left the familiar and well-traveled quarter of the Crypts, unable to help themselves when it came to peeking into interesting places as they passed and pausing every once and a while to examine what had been considered so important that it be interred with certain galdori forever here beneath the Church of the Moon. While he was quite comfortable in the chilled darkness, despite the still, stale air, he took note of Lilanee's signs of being affected by the cold. She had all of the mona at her disposal but instead chose to endure for the moment, whether it was in solidarity with his own hardy self or silly stubbornness or simply a sense of adventure, he wasn't sure.

"Not Hoxian, but Deftung. It is the ancient and dying language of Hox. Most of my people who come from larger cities like Frecks or Montack speak Estuan more freely, if not exclusively, but my small town of Kzecka maintains the memory of Deftung in order to preserve the ability to read all of the religious texts contained within the great library. Deftung is hard like volcanic rock, rough on the tongue, but it is, in my opinion, most beautiful when sung properly." There was the tiniest hint of nostalgia in his tone, dark eyelashes fluttering heavily at the memories of temples full of song,

"I admit to being biased: heritage is important. Who I am is very much entwined in where I have come from: my ancestors' stories are also mine. I did not know that Hessean galdori still spoke the Kingdom's native tongue at all. If there are those who speak it, it seems worth remembering."

Pausing in the circular chamber they found themselves in, Ezre opened his map again. If he leaned at all into the lantern light that Lilanee held aloft, it was certainly to see better and not to brush close to her person or share warmth. He was fine. Surely, so also was she. The other student began to speak of preparation of bodies, revealing her anthropological, cultural, and historical knowledge of burial practices. He said nothing at first, choosing not to interrupt her and reveal that he already knew these things from his path of study as well as his own personal interests, though he found himself losing focus staring at his map and simply listening to the Hessean's very long but thorough discussion of her home culture's funerary rites,

"I am aware."

Ezre finally answered in his typical quiet, even tone of voice, but his expression was not entirely deadpan. It might have been a little coy or it could have been the flicker of flame from the lantern. His eyebrows drew upward slowly at her mention of drinking ashes in ceremony, that fact new to him, but everything else quite standard knowledge gleaned from his chosen course of studies, "The ossuary boxes for gilded bones in Hesse are individually designed, are they not? Each one tailored just right to fit the length of the deceased's femur, being the longest bone in the body, of course. It's a very heartfelt and involved process, as the people of Hesse experience things very deeply. I did not, however, know that Hessean funerary rites included the drinking of ashes, but this term's studies will most likely be covering those rituals after Roalis—"

There was a pause, the dark-haired boy once again thoughtful. He ran inked fingers over a name plate that included engraved life scenes of the long-dead galdor's magical accomplishments, eyes narrowing before he glanced back at Lilanee, and as if it was the most important question in their entire discussion, he asked curiously with only a slight lilt to his tone of voice, "—is the West Drake venom a hallucinogenic?"

Strangely enough, the dark-haired boy shrugged at how humanity treated their bodies here in Anaxas, "As much as it is a shame for future generations of study, however bodies are buried, their souls still return to the Cycle. Ultimately, that is the more important part of death."

At least, in his mind.

To anyone else? Well, that could definitely be subjective.

The pair made their way further through the Crypts in a friendly silence, the temperature dropping and the air still and stale. The quiet was almost its own sound above the thrum of their living bodies, thick and near-tangible. They stood in an open chamber and the glow of the lantern illuminated the features of carved statues and decorative stone foliage as if the circular crossroads was meant to be some petrified imitation of a garden, complete with benches. The dome-like ceiling above them was inlaid with gold and there appeared to be the sun on one side and the moons, Benea and Osa, on the other as if the faded trompe l'oeil skyscape was meant to be stuck between dawn and dusk. This wasn't the first time Ezre had seen so much fine craftsmanship beneath the Church of the Moon.

He tugged out his map and felt Lilanee shiver next to him. While it was indeed chilly, the temple-born Hoxian still considered the atmosphere quite mild. If he stepped closer at all, it certainly wasn't to share his warmth with the other student so much as to shed a bit more of her light on his carefully sketched lines. Of course. Mostly.

"It depends on if the stairs are blocked by mere physical means or more securely by warding spells. The architecture here seems so carefully constructed, I doubt it's for physical safety and I don't think there've been any reports of contamination by flora or fauna that I know of. Much of the building process, if I recall, included anti-fungal measures in order to keep the bodies preserved—I—oh—"

The Hessean made some comment about the cold when he took a breath and he chuckled, a soft, musical sound that disappeared in a cloud of his breath. He was smiling, and it was a very warm expression on his usually emotionless face. Comfortable to reveal his sense of humor when alone with Lilanee both because they were alone and because he knew her, he shook his head gently, "—did you want my coat? This is still quite mild for me, though I fear that spending too much time in Anaxas will ruin me for winter back home again."

Ezre was tucking his map away and his tattooed fingers moved to curl into the high collar of his outermost layer, "Perhaps you should have been better prepared for your Archaeological Society planning this evening." He teased her back, simple but obvious by the almost impish light in his dark eyes.

He might have even giggled, looking away and leading them down the hall. The walls were smooth stone instead of graves or mausoleums, strangely ordinary perhaps because the passageway did lead to a stairwell. An archway stood between the pair and the way downward, which was a wide enough entrance complete with handrail. The archway, however, was covered in Monite—not carved but painted—and on the floor near the stairs was a painted circle with several lines and concentric circles inside. In the center had once been a candle, but it had burned out years ago. The paint was chipped and fading, as if at one time the way downwards had once been in more frequent use.

Ezre stepped to the edge of the plot circle as if to examine it, the Clairvoyant student quite interested in Warding spells and their various uses in communication—whether to enhance it or to stop it altogether. Kneeling down, he ran the pad of his index finger over the dark circle, rubbing it between his fingers to feel the long-dried grit of it. It was oily in nature, even now, as if to keep it from entirely fading away with time,

"These are strange."

He offered the observation without any external sign of concern and left it hanging there in the unmoving air without explanation for several moments as he finished his examinations, stepping into the circle toward the candle. It was mostly just a lump of neglected wax, and the dark-haired boy couldn't help but wonder if the Everine used to keep it burning but had simply decided it was no longer necessary to do so. Or, worse, forgotten, "The wards are not placed to prevent anyone from entering. They are to keep anyone from leaving the lower floor."

His emphasis on the word anyone clearly held more meaning to the Hexxos than it possibly would have for Lilanee, Ezre aware of states of existence that the Hessean refused to believe scientifically possible. He whispered softly a few words of Monite, cupping his inked hands around the candle and coaxing it back to life, his Static education limited by his previously-admitted lack of interest. It was sufficient to reshape some of the sagged candle, wax malleable and soft, as well as light it dimly, the wick dry and old. He felt the shift in the mona around them both as if he'd set a trigger and his hair stood on end, skin tingling from the sudden build in magical energies that he'd reawakened.

Stepping out of the circle and glancing up one more time at the writing on the archway, he added as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, "By anyone, I meant restless spirits. We are free to carry on below as living beings if you'd like, but I take these wards as a warning to be on our guard about what roams the next level down." Ezre was smirking, dark eyes on the young woman's face as if fully expecting her doubt.
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Lilanee Kuleda
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: Let's go on an adventure!!!
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Thu Jul 11, 2019 5:59 pm

1st Intas, 2719
THE CRYPTS | LATE EVENING, BEFORE MIDNIGHT
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The sound of Ezre’s laugh was completely unexpected and foreign that the Hessean couldn’t help but raise her eyebrows in surprise, a delighted grin crossing her face as she looked at him. It was a rather nice sound, genuine and rare, and the red head found it contagious. At his comments about the morgue, the student nodded in agreement, though perhaps she had misunderstood his meaning.
​​
​​ “All bodies have a tale to tell, regardless of whether they can speak or not. A faded bruise on an arm, or a hairline crack in a rib…the ridges of progressive growth in the limbs or the stitching of plates in a skull…all of it tells a story. How old the deceased was, how they lived, what they ate, what their wealth situation was like. Were they active, were they happy? Did they die naturally or by the hand of another? All these stories are sitting there, just waiting for the right person to find them.” Lilanee said matter of factly, smiling in her excitement as they moved on, tucking away a loose auburn curl and glancing sideways briefly to catch the tuck of the Hoxian’s lower lip in between his teeth before he looked away. Her fingers curled against the lantern handle a little tighter and she forced herself to focus on the path ahead of them, freckles disappearing under the warmth that came to her cheeks even if she shivered against the chill.
​​
​​ “Deftung.” The other student repeated quietly, as though she had to add the unfamiliar words to her vocabulary, lifting the light to give them a better view and drawing her brow together slightly at the boy’s almost poetic words yet morose tone.
​​
​​ “You sound like you’re missing it, Mister Vks.” Lilanee said quietly, not able to miss a city or country, but knowing the feeling of missing a loved one. Her father was her hero, and everytime he was gone longer than he should be the same sense of slow building dread sat in her stomach, a feeling of loss. Of course, he had always come home. Except this time—not yet anyway.
​​
​​ “There’s not a strong reliance on our old languages anymore, though the human miners still use Heshath. It’s considered a commoners tongue, so as the galdori of the country developed their civility and refined their superiority, they also dropped Heshath. There are some of the more travelled galdori that continue its use, my mother included. I suppose it is a good idea to keep the old ways living through generational learning, though I don’t favor its use I do understand the historical significance.” As they paused, huddled close together in the lantern light, Lilanee raised an eyebrow and looked up at the Hoxian when he took her burial natter entirely in stride. More than that, Ezre spoke more on the burials of Hesseans and the way their ossurary boxes were made.
​​
​​More than that he knew that the femur was the longest bone in the body.
​​
​​It was difficult to stop her heart from racing in her chest as her eyes brightened in disbelief and surprise, a small smile caught on her lips and blue gaze looking over the dark haired students face. When Ezre turned his eyes back to her, asking the about Western Drake venom and its side effects, the red head breathed a half laugh.
​​
​​ “Oh clocks yes. A terribly strong one.” The girl said with conviction, not at all unaware of the effects that would occur should the family consume the powder. Toxic, and definitely dangerous if prepared wrong, the venom caused visions and wild adrenaline rushes that could last for hours at a time.
​​
​​Her delight tempered slightly at the boy’s next comments, looking around at their location as not to meet his gaze.
​​
​​ “I like to think the most important part of death is what future generations can learn. The preservation of how we became who we are, and the mistakes we must avoid if we wish to live longer.” Keeping her thoughts on things like the Cycle to herself, Lilanee followed Ezre as they moved on through the crypts. Huddling further into her jacket, the teenager tucked her nose and chin under the closed collar, looking around from the depths of the fabric at the beauty around them.
​​
​​ “By the Ten, that is incredible.” The Hessean chattered in a slightly muffled tone, looking around at the garden-like room whilst Ezre talked about things she didn’t understand.
​​
​​ “Warding spells? I don’t know these spells, are they like a Clairvoyant branch? Stairs can’t be blocked without it being physical. Anything else would be a barrier or something, but that would need to be an Everspell if it was going to last.” As they stood together, making a decision on the way forward, the teenager quipped her joke about the cold, boldly enjoying the unexpected banter between them.
​​
​​ “I—coat?” Blue eyes snapped back to him, taking in the warm smile with an unbidden flutter in her field. Blinking, the Hessean cleared her throat and adjusted her glasses, laughing off the ridiculous over reactions of her nervous system.
​​
​​ “Your coat. I mean it would be the logical thing to accept it. I’m admittedly feeling the chill whilst you are obviously genetically dispositioned to withstand it. Plus it would be important you keep your tolerance to the cold, yes? So by that reasoning, I should say yes.” Lilanee stumbled through her very logical explination and acceptance of his coat, should he legitimately be offering it, mouth opening in a silent ‘O’ and a wry smile as the Hoxian cheekily dropped the fact he’d heard probably more of her solo conversation than she realised.
​​
​​He giggled, and her stomach did somersaults.
​​
​​Covering her physical awkwardness with a scoff, the red head slapped his arm gently.
​​
​​ “Ezre Vks you are incorrigible. I’ll have you know I was most suitably prepared for an evening by candle light and surrounded by books and dead magister. In no way could I have predicted your timely arrival, and whilst I understand the chill of our subterranean geography, there was no time to trounce back to my dormatory for an extra layer of clothing.” She said with her own giggle, shaking her head at the obsurdity of it all. Here she was, on Clocks Eve, in the bowels of the Church with Ezre Vks, exploring the depths for knowledge and maybe a bit of adventure. Never in a million eons would she have imagined this.
​​
​​They reached the doorway, giving Lilanee a chill that was in no way related to the cold when she saw the monite inscriptions. Following her feet forwards, the Hessean let her fingertips graze the archway, before looking back and down at Ezre’s examination of the plot on the floor.
​​
​​These are strange.
​​
​​The other student nodded, her brow drawn in a frown as she held their light up for a better view. Looking back at the archway, she curled her nose.
​​
​​ “Leaving? Well that’s just susperstious nonsense. The bone density and lack of working whole tendons and muscles would physically make it impossible anyone located down there to leave. Dead is dead, it doesn’t come back and take a stroll up to the Courtyard.” Her mildly nervous rambling was cut short by a sharp gasp as the Hoxian lit the candle, feeling the bizarre shift of mona within their proximity. Her freckled skin tingled as goosebumps danced down her neck and across her arms, field instinctively drawing closer.
​​
​​ “By the Ten.” She breathed, not entirely sure if she was comfortable with the hum of energy that permeated the smooth walled room. But Ezre was so calm, and collected, and she didn’t want to seem like a coward. He stood, talking about the wards and their reason for being, and Lilanee couldn’t help but smirk with idiotic bravado.
​​
​​ “Listen here Hoxian, I told you, I believe what I can see. And I won’t be put off by a couple of clever spells and a bit of weird monite. Our ancestors were eccentric. The Everine are fanatic. This is just delerium in artistic representation.” Moving to stand in the archway, one foot just inside the threshold, the Hessean raised a teasing eyebrow.
​​
​​ “You’re not scared are you Ez?” The galdor teenager asked, full of mischievous amusement and unspoken challenge.

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Ezre Vks
Posts: 119
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Location: Brunnhold, Anaxas
Race: Galdor
: better with the dead
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Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:02 pm

The Crypts
The 1st of Intas, 2719
"Ido miss home, yes. Frecksat was at least familiar, but Anaxas is very different from my homeland. I have tried very hard to navigate the culture, but more often than not I am not sure I am at all successful." Ezre's admission was quiet and honest in the dim lantern light, not looking at Lilanee nor glancing at the walls, dark eyes staring into the shadows ahead as if he knew better where he was going than what he was saying.

He blinked slowly and welcomed the change of subject, nodding at her commentary about Heshath and galdori disuse. Estuan was definitely the favored tongue among galdorkind across the Six Kingdoms and for obvious reasons—it was easily spoken, quickly written, and had a long historical significance stretching as far back as the War of the Book. Whether it had become the common language out of pity for Roannah or out of necessity, however, was certainly left up to Ezre's personal speculation.

The dark-haired boy grinned at her confirmation of Western Drake venom's hallucinogenic qualities, making mental note to follow up on such curiosities later.

"My father would perhaps not entirely agree with such a sentiment, but I understand it." The Hexxos acolyte offered quietly at Lilanne's opinion on the importance of death and the preservation of history, Tuhir Vks a very traditional scholar and one who Ezre was convinced knew the contents of every book, scroll, and tome in every nook and shelf and cranny in all of Kzecka perhaps even better than his long-lived raen of a mother, "He often accuses me of too much optimism, for I do believe it is actually possible to learn from our mistakes instead of simply end up doomed to continue to repeat them."

He watched her huddle closer in her coat, but was quickly distracted by the room they found themselves standing in. The decorations were indeed exquisite, and yet he set aside his admiration of all of the work put into the Crypts hidden so far from common view when the other student asked her questions,

"Warding is a small, experimental branch of Clairvoyant Conversation, zjai. To simplify, it is mostly employed for the blocking of communication, but there are far more complex applications when one is willing to sift through historical grimoires and very esoteric studies. Wards are one of the few magical applications that do not necessarily require an Everspell because of the memory of the mona—most wards require a trigger and therefore are not always active. It is, well, it is a long discourse for another time. Needless to say, I think—I think you are considering things from a secular perspective when you say all barriers must be physical, Kuleda-vumien. You are surely aware of what is able to be accomplished by a Wall spell or something similar."

In the looming darkness, Ezre's face more shadows and ruddy lantern glow, his knowing grin was almost a wicked expression.

And then it was gone, lost in some flustered, sheepish huff as Lilanee made a lengthy treatise over the logic of accepting his coat. There was a hot sensation kindled from her words that settled strangely against his sternum and heated the entire cavity of his chest. For a moment, he was sure more of his breath was visible in the stale, chilled air, but perhaps he was just overthinking things.

"Here, then. I cannot argue with your deductions." The dark-haired boy set his satchel and notebook down, slipping easily out of the dark wool, tattooed fingers holding it aloft toward her and stepping forward to set it gently on her shoulders and allow her to slip her arms into the sleeves still warm from his body heat. Clean and well kept, there would be the faint hints of herbal incense and the subtle earthy scents of chan that clung to the coat simply because of his habits and his small dorm room. He picked back up his things, hiding a smile, feeling that same heat from before pool at the base of his skull and tickle down his spine.

Lilanee hit him playfully, reminding him of her more physical nature, and his smile didn't falter. Instead, it was very clear by the tone of his voice that he was taunting her, even if his expression was in no way as mischievous as he sounded, "Then my acclimatization and preparation benefit us both. You are most welcome."

He chuckled, light and lilting, before turning toward the doorway to examine the most unusual plot on the stone tiles in front of the stairs.

"I was not implying that decayed corpses would be exiting of their own volition. It is far easier to stop a body than it is to stop an incorporeal spiritual entity." Ezre spoke softly, keeping his hands cupped around the candle for a few moments longer than necessary. He closed his eyes, studying the shift of mona and feeling the triggered runoff wash over him. Finally standing, he adjusted the satchel over his shoulder and replied, "Ideally, you are correct. Once a body dies and the soul returns to the Cycle, dead is dead until Rebirth. However, anomalies do occur—"

Ezre searched her face, realizing that he was intimidated by her firm disbelief, suddenly discovering that her persistence was a barrier to his ability to be open and honest. It was, he told himself, for the best that he kept his secrets, that he did not delve too far into the depths of his supernatural knowledge, and yet it stung a little once he realized that he'd been quite enthusiastic about the opportunity to share his heart with someone otherwise so likeminded. There was a divide between them on the issue of the paranormal and while it should not have been a big deal, the raen-born boy felt this particular difference between them very deeply, far more personally than he should have.

His breath hitched, body straightening and delicate features fading back to a much calmer, more deadpan expression as his smile disappeared. His dark eyes swept downward to the candle and then toward the dark archway of the stairs before settling back on Lilanee's freckled, taunting face,

"—and I assure you those anomalies care not whether you have seen them or whether you believe in them. I have. I do. And no, I am not afraid." The Hoxian's voice didn't waver, though he felt the thrum of his pulse quicken at his declaration. There were reasons to be afraid and he knew some of them, though it was all that he didn't know that should have been a source of more fear. Ezre felt the challenge and rose to it in full stoic glory, however, the analytical persistence of his Hessean friend just enough spark to set ablaze his more reserved sense of adventurousness, and so he, too, summoned bravado from the dark depths of his Hexxos-raised soul.

Cold lips pressed together in a thin line, and the dark-haired boy met Lilanee's gaze with a strange sense of earnestness. It was not his nature to be forceful, nor was it at all his calling to press his beliefs onto others if they were unwilling to hear them. He enjoyed the young woman's company too much to cause any real disturbance between them, and so he nodded his head and said with a very heartfelt softness,

"We have agreed to disagree."

As if to make sure she knew there were no hard feelings about such a realization, the flicker of a more mischievous smile briefly passed over his delicate features before he turned and began to descend the stairs into the darkness below, "This way, then, Kuleda-vumien."

The stairs were a straightforward affair, wide enough for them to walk together with a sturdy handrail. They were well-preserved and even though it was obvious that no one had been this way in several years if not decades, there were no signs of disrepair. Down they went for at least an entire story, the air becoming noticeably colder and more stale as they descended to the next level.

Heading downward, the steps gave way to what could only be called an antechamber, the room perhaps used as some kind of gathering place for Everine when preparing to inter a new body. There were alcoves along the wall, one of which still had books of prayers and song on the shelf, and there in the middle of the room was a circular mosaic on the floor. Much like the room upstairs, the theme of this room was a beautiful garden made of carved stone, and depicted beautiful galdori dancing in a green landscape full of Anaxi plants and favorite wildlife. It was an idyllic scene, and bordering it all were ten sections each devoted to a stylized symbolic representation of each of the ten deities of the Circle. Alioe's section was larger and almost appeared like the point of a compass, pointing back up the stairs while Naulanon's was opposite hers, also in the point of a compass, and it pointed further down the hall.

Ezre examined the mosaic and followed the tiled pathway that led into darkness with his gaze before he turned and poked around in the alcoves, unable to help himself from reaching for the prayer book and thumbing through it gently before moving onto a book of song,

"So much painstaking architecture down here implies that previous generations of Anaxi galdori spent more time here with their ancestors than they do now. This must have been much like the foyers in the Church of the Moon that lead down to various parts of the upper level of the Crypts—a gathering place before heading toward graves." He stepped back into Lilanee's lantern, closer than necessary to share warmth as well as light, and pulled back out his notebook to a new page with another map,

"It was exceedingly difficult to find much information on these additional floors. It felt almost as if all documentation on the lower levels had been purposefully removed from the Library shelves out of student reference. Here," Tattooed fingers pointed to the rough circle he'd drawn in pen, the straight hallway leading away, "This hallway will eventually branch into several subsections. My goal was to see if there are interesting libraries on this floor, but honestly, I am now just curious as to why they closed this section at all."

As he spoke, the lantern flickered. It would have seemed logical that his breath disturbed the air in its warm cloud, but there was definitely a breeze for a moment. It tickled their hair and caressed their skin before the air was completely still again. Ezre's eyes fluttered in thought, but he withheld whatever passed through his mind lest he risk the judgment of his Hessean companion, unsure of how she would react should he make mention of potential hazards. Instead, he turned and began to walk carefully around the mosaic toward the archway that marked the beginning of the hallway he had indicated, noting that the arches were painted on with the same monite as above,

"I expected a—"

There, in front of them, halfway down the hall was an iron gate, chained and locked.

"—gate. Here is your more material barrier, Kuleda-vumien. It appears as though the Everine covered all of their options for keeping things secure from ascending to the upper levels. And, conversely, from descending I suppose."

The Hexxos acolyte smirked, clearly taunting her, gathering his field until it was taut and seemed to buzz with its own invisible source of heat, an excitement filling him that his research had paid off. Moving closer to examine the lock, it was rusty and covered in a thin layer of frosted moisture. He lifted it in his hand to curl inked fingers around it and attempted a good tug, but nothing happened. The rattling of the chains and the groan of the metal gates rang out very loudly in the crisp, empty air, reverberating off stonework they couldn't see on the other side.

"Physical Conversation is your focus, is it not? Would you prefer to attempt to open the lock or should I do so with these?" Ezre produced a small bundle of handmade lockpicks, revealing just how much time he'd spent preparing for this expedition.
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