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Mesteno
Old Wyrm
Old Wyrm


Joined: 09 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Taken from live play with Koyan and Ransom, posted with permission.]

[Continued...]

Koyan had cut a look aside as Sabine arrived, then back to Mesteno. Smoking in long draws, he studied the Sadist pensively. The words abraded already open wounds, leaving him feeling weirdly exposed and raw. Silence stretched for long minutes while he thought about it, about his own response, about how their dynamic had changed.

"Yeah, Mesteno. I may be **** pissed off, but I admit not all of that is at you. Twelve or thirteen years or whatever it's been is a long time to build a friendship, and I'd hate for it to be burned to the ground over this. Too much ***'s already been burned to the ground." Finally, he leaned against the edge of the counter, tilting his considerable weight into the wood.

Mesteno had been so intent on the Turk during those last few minutes that he'd barely registered there was someone else in the inn with them. For a heartbeat only, his attention ticked across to Sabine, but he thought her harmless enough judging by the immediate return of focus to Koyan. Surprised that Koyan had chosen not to shun him after all, yet cautious in his relief, he did not immediately relax as if he assumed forgiveness. "I would have the air cleared between us completely," he warned. He was well aware that keeping one secret had nearly sabotaged their friendship, but he seemed to be willingly offering another.

"I expected to hear that," Koyan said, unsurprised at Mesteno's warning. Smoke curled toward the ceiling. He tried not to think about Gwyn in the aftermath of all this, or Sebastian. Or every other person he'd lost last year. It was difficult not to since everything was currently in the open. His thumb stroked the empty spot where a ring once sat on his finger. Gwyn, with her feisty disposition, the one person in the world who could put him in his place with a look.

The necromancer hesitated, but then leaned near enough without imposing on his space that he could speak without being overheard.

Bringing himself out of his reverie, Koyan tilted his head when Mesteno leaned over. The hard twitch of his body proved that was the last thing he expected to hear. Reeling back, he sought Mesteno's eyes, frowning.

"What? What the hell? Did you?" He felt like he'd been struck in the gut with a sledgehammer.

"I wasn't given an option. To retrieve one, the other had to be freed first," Mesteno muttered, having confessed the small matter of Aiden’s return to Rhy’Din. He'd been recruited unwillingly to the cause, and knew he'd potentially increased the likelihood that Koyan would go against all his advice about avoiding the new Grecian temples.

Ransom had been listening quietly to the sounds emanating from inside the Inn; if he couldn't hear the shapes of actual words, the timbre of voices was likely enough. At last he pushed his way inside and shut the door quietly behind him. His unnatural blue eyes picked out faces automatically, and since Koyan, the man of the hour, seemed otherwise occupied, Ransom made his way toward another part of the bar.

"This is unfucking believable." Koyan stated, though spying Ransom, he lifting his chin in greeting.

Ransom returned it with an inclination of his head and the barest curve at the corner of his mouth.

"Yes. Free.” Mesteno confirmed. “His memory seems to've suffered a little." He’d asked Aiden whether he'd any recollection of the desert man and found the reply... unsatisfactory. He took another swallow from the bottle, and strained his ears, expecting to hear thunder, or maybe the raucous noise of more eagles outside.

Koyan looked back to Mesteno. Could his day get any better? Or worse? Eagles could attack again, or more lightning could strike. Shutting down his inner devil, he lifted a hand to rub at his eyelids. "That's for the better. The memory. Jesus." He had to just take a minute to absorb the hell that had become his life.

Ransom’s gaze flicked across Mesteno, absorbing details in a heartbeat of stillness. He began to unbutton his coat, while a flustered Sabine distracted his attention from the two men.

"That's all of it. I'm keeping nothing else to myself." Of relevance to Koyan, Mesteno meant. Doubtless he'd countless other secrets he'd never confided to anyone, but the Turk hadn't asked for those. "That's why we were attacked the other day, for releasing them. That's why I'm still being hunted, and probably will remain so. The titan is just an added irritation to the pantheon."

Quiet now, as if the encounter had drained away all his usual attitude, he watched Koyan as if still expecting some terrible fallout, the discontent coupled with the autumn-borne sleeplessness nudging him toward further bad decisions. He didn't know Ransom, but Koyan's acknowledgment of him had seen reciprocation of that brief study, one which ended unremarked upon.

Koyan studied Mesteno thoughtfully, his surprise waning to an unpleasant frown. "Now I've got to apologize for ever involving you with the titan to begin with. Who knew it would have repercussions ten years later? And honestly, I don't have a damn clue how to help you fix it."

Bringing the cigarette up, he chin-gestured to Ransom when Mesteno glanced that way. "Ransom, this is Mesteno. Mesteno, Ransom." He rubbed a hand down his face, mind spinning with implications and repercussions.

Ransom was easing out of a black, knee-length coat of fine wool, a change from his usual leather. Beneath, he had on a close-fitting henley the color of a day-old bruise and a pair of worn-in jeans. The clothes were obviously chosen to accentuate more than conceal. He left his scarf bundled around his neck, and helped himself to a glass and the bottle of Maker's Mark. He glanced over toward Koyan and Mesteno, belatedly registering the sound of his own name. "Mesteno," he replied. "Charmed." Oh so mild. He poured the bourbon.

"Salve," Mesteno returned the greeting to Ransom, though he looked puzzled over the name. Maybe he'd misheard. Even after all these years his common wasn't one hundred percent accurate.

He turned back to Koyan and offered a mirthless smile for the apology he’d been given. "I called you a pussy, you had your reputation to defend." Call up the giant or have an incorrigible, twenty year old Mesteno accusing him of cowardice for the rest of his days. "You can't fix it," he added for Koyan's benefit, "but avoid the Temple district like I asked. You've enough to worry about... though I note they still haven't caught up to you." He meant the Assamites, this time.

Koyan actually laughed. Raspy, guttural. "And we were just stupid enough to do it." Youth! Notably, he did not make any promises not to visit the Temple district. He smoked, exhaled, then addressed the Assamites. "I found out why they didn't find me when I was wandering around totally drunk in the city. It appears that there was an uprising in Madrid, and they all went back to fight it. Don't think it's the end of it all, but that's why I'm still here and breathing."

Ransom took a long swallow of bourbon, then poured himself another few fingers' worth before he placed the bottle back on the shelf and returned to the patron’s side of the bar. Of course he was eavesdropping. He didn't bother to hide it, either.

"You were old enough to know better," Mesteno averred, and though the smile had evaporated, his tone had warmed a little, lost that raw edge it'd possessed whilst they argued. He took note of the lack of promise, but that came as no surprise. What did was Koyan remaining willing to keep him informed of what'd happened in Madrid. "Well that sounds like it might have benefitted you. If they're down on numbers, your chances improve. Please tell me you're not gonna play martyr again and walk around hoping they'll confront you..."

The Turk’s attention shifted to Ransom, lingered, and then landed back on Mesteno. There was something sitting on the end of his tongue again, something more serious than walking around town looking for confrontation. "No, I'm not." The laughter and any hint of amusement was gone.

Koyan's lack of concern for the eavesdropper's attention was enough to reassure Mesteno that Ransom was somehow involved, so he didn't lower his voice to exclude him. "A relief," he admitted, but there was hesitation before he spoke again. Where once he'd have badgered for details relentlessly and unrepentantly, he no longer took Koyan's willingness to talk for granted. "You have a plan?" The details, or lack of them, would guide him.

Koyan met Ransom's gaze again, though if there was a message to be passed over, it was difficult to tell what it was. Finishing the second smoke, Koyan reached over to snuff that one in an ashtray. "I do, but I don't want you to panic," he said to Mesteno. He'd worded it just that way for a reason.

The necromancer wasn't oblivious to the choice either. He slid a look sidelong, though it was along the bar in the Turk's direction, rather than eye to eye. "Understood." He conceded, and poor actor he was, couldn't quite conceal the disappointment.

Ransom lowered himself onto a stool and set his glass aside before reaching for his coat. From a pocket, he drew out a package of cigarettes and a polished lighter. One was tapped out to perch between his long fingers before the pack was put away again, and he lit up. The lighter closed with a quiet snap, and again he glanced to Koyan and Mesteno, meeting the former's gaze.

Koyan had taken note of Mesteno’s disappointment. "Why the look? I thought you didn't want to be any part of that."

"I may let you mock my concern for you," Mesteno informed him as he nudged the half-empty bottle of Marnier away along the bar by a few inches, "and you may have my promise not to involve certain individuals in the future, but that doesn't mean I'd prefer to be oblivious. Or idle, if I can help."

"I'm not mocking you. Promise." The desert man needed another cigarette or booze. "I prefer to let someone do it who can and who won't be as affected as you might be." Koyan's brows arched Ransom's way; he didn't speak aloud, however, letting the look stand for itself. Perhaps they needed to revisit an earlier discussion.

Ransom raised his glass in a vague toast to the look Koyan gave him. Certain things were starting to make more sense now.

Mesteno followed Koyan's look towards Ransom. "Who you choose to trust with such things is your business, but sometimes it’s not a bad thing to have someone who cares at your back." He wasn't chiding him in any way for leaving him out, nor did he seem sullen over Ransom's inclusion. He was however easing away from the bar, pushing with the heel of a palm. "Try not to get yourself killed," he told him, heading not for the door but for the stairs leading up.

"See you." Koyan couldn't respond to most of that without avoiding the truth, so he avoided it altogether. Koyan marked Mesteno's path to the stairs, then stared down at his boots for long minutes. His shoulders rose and fell with a deep breath. Then he pushed off from the counter to step between the break and behind. Booze was in order after all.

Ransom tracked Mesteno's departure from the bar. After a few moments, his gaze returned to Koyan. He traded off between the bourbon and the cigarette.

Moments later and the necromancer had disappeared into one of the rooms, though he was doubtless not within them long.

[End.]
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Mesteno
Old Wyrm
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 11:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Adapted from live play with Lexius.]

December 5th, 2015

"Mesteno." A murmur, soft and low.

Lexius was haunting the doorway to Mesteno’s laboratory, poised on the threshold.

Had he a moment of indulgence to do so, he might have stood there for some time, simply contenting himself with watching as the man peered into the eyepiece of the microscope. After all, he’d been absent again, secluding himself to the desert sands and avoiding all contact save for brief exchanges at the Red Dragon.

Mesteno had known he was approaching though, simply aware of a change in the morgue’s stillness, and he’d turned about on his stool before his name had really even left the Elf’s mouth. The necromancer was about as ragged and ill-tempered as he could get, and the darkness about his eyes made the brilliant, wolf's gold of them seem fever bright in their intensity.

He did not ask why Lexius had stayed away, though it was not for lack of caring. His very nature decreed the question go unspoken. "Well there are no holes in you... I take it Sin behaved himself." One corner of his mouth twitched towards a smile.

"He asked of you first." Came the smooth, serene reply. Maybe too much serenity, there.

"He probably wanted to know whether I had any intention of hunting him down," Mesteno suggested simply. The Ravnos was a survivor, and didn't need a surly necromancer hounding him when he had superiors to answer to already.

Lexius had decided to try something new (a habit Mesteno kept driving him to). He came prowling into the lab without an invitation. No tendril of thought preceded him. Instead, physical touch came first. There was no haste in the way Lexius reached out to sink his fingers into the messy braid he wore his hair in, the way he leaned in to have his taste of the man's mouth.

Mesteno offered no obstacle. He could appreciate the novelty of Lexius instigating, and for now abandoned his work to hook an arm up about his shoulders, closing his fist around a handful of fabric and hair and fast forgetting the kindred for a long, indulgent moment.

Finally, Lexius pulled away several inches, breathing a little more swiftly and hand still buried in the man's hair. His smile was full and slid easily across his mouth. He was not yet willing to go back to the subject of the vampire. That Sin had asked about Mesteno first had irritated him. As if he had some right. In truth he expected Sinjin probably had far more rights than he did, which only made Lexius a little bit more annoyed.

"A worthwhile experiment." His gaze flicked down to the front of the hoodie Mesteno wore. "You have paw prints on your shirt."

"An experiment?" Mesteno’s tone suggested mock-disapproval (ill mastered as always). "I'm curious t'know what your hypothesis was.” He glanced down at the stained front of the garment without any concern for the mess. After a moment, his fingers released their possessive grasp, arm falling slack from Lexius' shoulders. Instead his hand resettled at his waist, a safe zone.

"So the two of you conversed like civilised men? You didn't chide him for putting holes in me?" It appeared Mesteno had no intention of letting him forget the subject.

The incident he referred to had been more than a month ago by then, a moment of blundering violence that had left Mesteno with a bloodied neck and the Elf harbouring the first unsettling suggestions of jealousy. He’d been of a mind to rip the vampire's fangs right out of his head at that point, though now he was mostly past that urge.

"I'd spoken with him not long after the incident happened,” Lexius admitted, “and did not chide him then. We have always managed to be civilized. He mentioned something of secrets, asked after you. I told him you were stubborn, reckless and ill-tempered. That seemed to ease his mind."

"You make me sound like a keeper," Mesteno remarked wryly. He couldn't argue the points!

"He managed to bait me, however." Now the Elf's smile was gone, the frown entirely self-directed! "There was not much else of note beyond the fact he thinks himself human. And his interaction with your brother. He's quite fond of the youth." Lexius thought it too bad, really, that Sal was Mesteno's brother. Lexius couldn't really use him against Sin given that fact.

For Mesteno, it was nice to know some things never changed, and for Sin and his here again, gone again lifestyle, perhaps it was a comfort. Mesteno hadn't realised that Sin and Lexius had much of an association, but then he hadn't expected there to have been one with Gem, either. Civilised indeed... they could play at it, but he wasn't sure either of them fit the bill precisely.

"Sin has always been far removed from what you might expect of kindred. I don't know whether it's just because he's young so far as undead are concerned, or whether it's his mentality, but in many ways he still seems human. He's deadly, and he's not exactly the most grounded creature, but in his affections he's..." He sought for a word, and his smile skewed crooked, fond. "He doesn't do well alone, and my brother has been a refuge to him for a long time." No, killing or tormenting Sin would not settle well with Mesteno either! Too much history. "How'd he manage to bait you?"

Lexius sensed Mesteno’s amusement in that question, and bared his teeth. He got another tug to his hair, even if the Elf knew that was no sort of punishment at all. It might be he just wanted to hear the growl again.

"I did not know why he was asking me about you beyond having glimpsed us speaking. I'm fairly certain were I to chide him about putting holes in you, he would actively seek to do so at every opportunity because he will then know it bothers me." The explanation had eased his frown, putting something more wry in his expression as he continued. "He noticed from the first the distance I keep between myself and others and constantly pushes the boundary seeking a reaction. I should have continued to refuse to give one even when he came in too close, but I was...out of sorts." So Sin had gotten his reaction and won the round! “He does seem more human around your brother." Lexius gaze shifted from Mesteno's face to watch his hand as he withdrew his fingers from the man's braid only to sink then into the mass in a different location. "He accused me of despising humanity." He murmured.

"Well perhaps if he knew your history of human... companions, he'd reconsider that," Mesteno remarked, reaching to claim Lexius’ wrist and prevent any further tugging at his hair. "On the whole there's plenty of reasons to dislike us as a race though, so I wouldn't blame you if he were right. He likes to play games," he admitted, his tone warmed by his amusement. "Some of which're *** ridiculous. But anyway... why were you out of sorts?"

The Elf’s hand stilled. A single, slanted brow twitched upward, but he allowed the man to do what he wished without resisting. "My dislike isn’t limited to humans." He was an equal opportunity bastard. "The less he knows about me the better. I do still wonder what he meant about secrets."

Lexius finally reached out with a thread of thought, snaking it into Mesteno's mind precisely to establish a link. The Sadist's amusement might have driven him to seek more information from whatever he could glean along that tie. He certainly had himself together well enough to give nothing beyond a certain sort of easing once the connection was made. Better. The unwinding of the tension might be what prompted his next words.

"Once I am recovered, I would seek to make this mental link more permanent. Do you oppose that?" He finally asked! Better to know now, though, if Mesteno was opposed.

With the tie rooted, and an immediate, impulsive nudge from Mesteno's end welcoming it, Mesteno finally let go of Lexius' hand. He was frowning though, at the mention of permanence. "What would it involve? Could it *** my head up?" A rare moment of personal concern. He'd suffered too much damage over the years not to want to know of any risks.

Lexius brushed his palm over the Sadist's shoulder and down the outside of his arm before the touch vanished completely. He didn't step back, but he did fold his hands behind his back as he studied the man and pondered his reactions.

"It would be much like it is now, but always there and somewhat stronger. Distance thins the connection, but does not break it. I will be able to mute it at will, but I believe you could learn to do so, as well. That you know the moment I establish the link and can produce a mental nudge in response, however slight, shows the promise of that possibility." He paused, brow furrowing faintly, before addressing the second question. "I will not physically or mentally damage you." he wasn't quite sure what Mesteno constituted as '*** up'! "It can be dissolved without permanent damage, though it is best I be the one who does it rather than another or you will risk a backlash."

"The thought of it being more permanent doesn't scare me. I like having it there," Mesteno admitted candidly, adopting a slouch, weight on one elbow. "And if you say there won't be any mental damage as a result, I trust you." Why did it sound like there was a 'but' coming, though? "Will it mean you go deeper in than before? I know that if you really wanted to you could go roaming through it all anyway, and I don't for a minute think you'd deliberately go poking about up there just because you could. But there's some things I'd rather confess to in my own time. Some secrets I can't share, and I wouldn't risk them being stumbled across, either because I happened to dream them while we were linked," the way Aoife had seen things, "or because I didn't shut my thoughts down as effectively as I should.

"Any time I am in your mind, the potential for betraying your secrets exists." Lexius wasn't using that as a reassurance. "I have the ability to establish the connection as deeply or as shallowly as I wish. I would not tie it into your subconscious, but when you sleep any dreams do become the active part of your mind and I may well be able to view them." All of what he said certainly argued against the idea. And Lexius knew it. He hid any disappointment very well, indeed.

Mesteno nodded his understanding, but his own disappointment was less easily hidden. The mental tie had often proven a comfort, and yet somewhere in the back of his head he'd always known it had increased the risk of accidentally betraying someone, or many someones in fact, who'd confided things to him.

"Safer that we continue using it as we are now then," he suggested, his smile a trifle weak. "But I do intend to learn. Don't think I don't." Adamant. His determination was a vicious thing.

"Perhaps when you feel you have enough mental control of such things." The Elf allowed. "The meditation and the work we do with controlling your energy should help to establish how much control you will be able to enact and wield upon yourself." Thus Lexius shelved the idea for a later date.

He eyed Mesteno critically for a moment. "Did you tell your brother about us?"
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 11:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

"I spoke to no one about us," Mesteno admitted, though words were past tense of course. He hadn't gone gushing to anyone about such personal business, and nor would he. But there had been Koyan, too shrewd for his own good, and he was momentarily disheartened at the recollection. "One person guessed," he allowed.

"Who was it that guessed and what did they say?" Lexius didn't often go to the inn these days, but he might well run into whomever it was and didn't fancy being at a disadvantage dealing with them!

The necromancer sighed, and stared past the Elf's sleek form to stare disheartened into the lab. He was making a concerted effort not to let it slip across the tie just how hard he'd been hit by the confrontation, because he suspected nothing good would come of Lexius knowing.

"It was Koyan," he confessed. He should probably have told the Elf earlier, in case he ran into the Turk and had a similar experience.

Since the tie was still there, Mesteno caught the certain grimness his admission induced. Lexius wasn't exactly surprised the Desert Man had guessed, only that there had since been some discussion on the matter. The expression on Mesteno's face, the sigh, spoke enough about how it had effected the Sadist. He really did need to work on his acting skills! He didn't look away from the evidence his predication had proven true, but kept a close watch on Mesteno's face.

"What did he say?" No emotion whatsoever in the Elf's tone. The beads made up for it by wrapping themselves furtively around Mesteno's calf, though they were still attached to Lexius belt.

Their movement inevitably drew Mesteno’s attention back from the nowhere-in-particular they'd strayed to in the morgue proper. He wasn't sure why, knowing that they'd their own agenda, he found it a comfort. Perhaps because Lexius' voice had taken on that bland, impossible to read tone. Mesteno hadn't heard that in a while.

"He asked me how long," he began. He didn't think it worthwhile mentioning how Koyan had been glaring daggers at him from the moment he'd set foot in the inn. "He thought I should have told him straight away to avoid... potentially awkward situations. He thought it was disrespectful." That alone had been bad enough. That he was sure their friendship had been irrevocably damaged by the secrecy he didn't intend to mention. He had no outward evidence of such a thing, only a hunch. "He thought it was unfair of me to keep something like that when he's told me so much in the past, and he was angry that I'd called you to help. He told me never to again."

And there he stopped, and he didn't look up to see whether the Elf's expression had changed, because he suspected all he would see was that terrible serenity. No, he paid attention to the tie instead. For as long as it was going to linger.

Lexius was silent for a long, long while in the wake of Mesteno's explanation. There were, without a doubt, tumultuous things going on inside the Elf, echoing faintly down the tie without offering any clarity of the specifics for how closely Lexius was now guarding himself. It was telling that he did not break the tie altogether as Mesteno's suspected he might. Outwardly, he remained utterly still, as good as stone, as he processed not only what the Sadist told him, but his reaction to it. All of those inward responses required close scrutiny given Lexius couldn't trust the veracity of most of them.

Lexius caught himself in the middle of that inner war and everything suddenly seemed to still. To indulge too long in the miasma of his own feelings wasn't doing Mesteno any good at all. Lexius released a slow breath through flared nostrils and broke his stillness to reach slowly with one hand and brush a thumb across the Sadist's brow. There were words he should be saying here that had nothing at all to do with himself, and he knew it. Lexius finally dredged a few up from a place that he was certain was real, thus investing them with quiet sincerity.

"I am sorry." Perhaps Mesteno would be surprised by an apology rather than an 'I told you so' from the Elf, but Lexius couldn't quite bring himself to remind the Sadist of the price he was currently paying. He was quite sure Mesteno had left key details out of the telling! What Lexius could glean from the emotions he could sense along the link and could see in the man's posture, the refusal to meet his gaze, was enough to tell him all about those omissions. He'd known Koyan quite well, after all, and there was plenty about the Desert Man that hadn't changed at all. Even if he'd predicted this outcome and been proven correct, it made it no easier to witness the results.

"He should not have wounded you." Lexius added with a bit more steel beneath the words. He hadn't actually meant to say them, but he certainly didn't regret it. They were driven, he thought, by something far more real than anything else. That same something that made him broil when a vampire put its fangs in Mesteno's skin.

Lexius' concern for him was genuinely touching, but Mesteno wished he'd given him no cause for it in the first place. His eyes closed briefly for the pass of thumb across brow, but he shook his head defiantly for the apology, denying its necessity outright.

"Don't be sorry for me. You've done nothing wrong. In fact you *** warned me long before this ever happened that there might be repercussions. I should've listened to you. I should've known you knew better." Time did not heal all wounds it seemed.

Lifting his eyes from where the beads had wound about him, he reached up and closed his fingers lightly over the Elf's shoulder. "You listen to me, though. Even knowing it might make for awkwardness between he 'n I, I still wouldn't change where we are now. Nothing would change except that I'd have warned him to keep this from happening. He was right, he's earned the knowledge with the amount of trust he's put in me over the years. It was thoughtless of me, and less than he deserved. I'm wounded through fault of my own."

He didn't want Lexius getting the wrong idea about how things had ended, either. He sensed the tumult, and didn't desire for it to spark into anything confrontational if Lexius and Koyan ran into each other again. "It wasn't so bad when we parted ways," he told him, frowning faintly as if he didn't think it safe yet to be too optimistic about things. "I managed to talk him down, make him aware it wasn't due to lack of respect, but bad judgment on my part. I told him what I told you - that I didn't think all this time later it would matter to him. He stated outright he didn't want our friendship burned up like everything else he lost. I just need to tread carefully, give him whatever space he needs."

Lexius dropped his hand again when the Sadist shook his head and made no move to withdraw from the clasp to his shoulder. He was satisfied to see Mesteno's eyes again and hear the heat warming his voice rather than having to watch something close to desolation. That he had caused the issue (been the root of it, at least!) did not sit well at all, but a little more of his serenity bled away with Mesteno's seeming certainty of what was developing between them. He only ground his jaw briefly, little sparks of anger escaping the veil he'd put on his twisting emotions. They weren't caused by anything the Sadist had done.

"He was not right." Lexius bit those words out, because the discord wasn't even happy that he thought them much less spoke them aloud! That might be why he didn't pursue the subject more than that, but let it lay as it was, He gave Mesteno a single nod of understanding, his finger toying idly with one of the strings dangling from the hoodie the man wore. More breathing, slow and controlled.

"Very well. I shall not make the matter more difficult." Lexius was perfectly capable of making sure he wasn't ever around when the pair were together. He did, however, narrow his gaze on the Sadist somewhat fiercely as he spoke his next words. "You will call me if you need aid, Mesteno." It didn't sound like he was willing to debate that! "You will not allow his presence to be a barrier to that." The Sadist had heartened him with his assurance he would not have done things differently between them despite the problems it created. Lexius was keeping the man to that even on into the future.

Mesteno decided it wise not to argue whether or not Koyan was right though. He felt he owed the man. Felt that after having pried the better part of the Turk's history from him, he'd fed him only the barest scraps of his own. The balance had been well and truly off, and he'd always assumed, foolishly, that it would safely remain that way.

"If I need aid, I won't hesitate," he reassured. Of course Mesteno rarely thought he needed aid, as had been proven by the incident with Hephaestus' creations in the Temple District. "But when I say that I mean personally. I can't, won't call you for his benefit. I promised." He suspected Lexius wouldn't want to come out to save a fried Turk again anyway. Not after it had been such a trial when he'd last begged his aid.

Seeing that his breathing seemed to be deliberate in its slowness, he smoothed a hand down his chest, and finally south to his hip. It was an idle touch, one which came of familiarity and simple pleasure in being able to, rather than designed to try and around any ardour. Perhaps mirroring the way the Elf fiddled with the string of his hoodie.

"Let's go upstairs and out of the cold. I figure you've decided to test me, right? You can grab some coffee to keep you alert while I prove myself. But you gotta tell me why you were out of sorts while the water's heating." And so the topic was left behind, and all the focus neatly swung around and onto the Elf.

This time, Lexius bit his tongue before some inappropriate words escaped. Pathetic, really, that he had to resort to such a tactic to police himself. More of those hot sparks flared up as another log was thrown into the fire of his simmering rage. It was bad when his emotions were at odds, when what was real fought against what was encoded into him. It was far worse when those things aligned, but the Elf was doing a fine job of keeping the blaze well in hand. He'd defintiely moved beyond out of sorts!

The Elf jerked a nod for Mesteno's assurance. It was already difficult enough to get the man to seek his assistance. Lexius didn't need one more thing barring the way. No matter what the Sadist said, Lexius knew the man would hesitate now. The damage had already been done. A promise had even been given about it. He'd probably die before he called Lexius into any situation at all involving Koyan for fear of breaking that vow or just further damaging the relationship.

Lexius stepped away, and damn near snarled at the beads which pulled him up short since they were still wound around Mesteno's leg. They did untwist themselves, but lazily. Lexius waited until Mesteno secured whatever he was working on then shut down the lab. He didn't speak, in fact, until they were in the kitchen and he was busy making his coffee. By then, he'd got a better hold on himself.

"Sinjin’s cryptic remark about secrets and inquiry after you put me out of sorts. You also did not seem to take the news about Taneth well." That right there was the real reason. That and his own decision to not follow Mesteno home rather than lingering at the inn.

Things were going about as badly as Mesteno had suspected they might. It wasn't just that he could sense how wrong and ill balanced everything was now, it was there in obvious ways, from the jerked nod, not nearly smooth enough for Lexius, to the aborted snarl. Up in the kitchen, Mesteno’s cat Kalari joined them and proved welcome distraction from what he sensed simmering and unspoken.

"I didn't handle the Taneth situation well," he confirmed, accepting blame. That whole foul mess was his fault - his and Cris', though the nephilim had been a rare sight of late. "I'd just thought that of all people, Pharlen would see what I did. The girl can act the part of Taneth, but isn't truly her. I felt the rest of her beneath the ground, and it shrank away when she sank a knife in to scare it off. It's a *** farce." He wanted things fixed. The problem was, he wanted them fixed months ago, hadn't the patience to see if, in time, the Gardener would set aside her fear and welcome back her splintered parts. What she'd said had convinced him she never would, and seeing how her safe little world had changed, tangled and warped, he felt even surer something needed to be done.

Lexius turned and pinned Mesteno with a hot look once the coffee was set to brewing. If he'd just stared at the pot that way it might have been enough to get the thing working without the need for flame! He could feel Mesteno heaping load after load of self-blame onto his shoulders and, for a second there, he looked like he might have a sharp word or two to say about it. Lexius recognized, though, that his ire with other matters was bleeding into their current topic of conversation, so he managed to tone his response down a bit before it left his lips.

"You cannot control all the variables of such a situation. You did as much as you were capable of doing. The blame is not yours that the outcome did not meet expectations. As Pharlen does have some small mastery over time and is suggesting that very thing may well resolve the matter, it seems prudent to allow that to play out. There are precious few, Mesteno, who have died and returned to be the same as they were before." And well did he know it! Never mind if he was being a bit hypocritical. That wasn't the point!
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 11:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

Mesteno was faced with the unwelcome reality of the fact that he'd have to wait about ineffectually, and potentially watch Taneth further deteriorate. What if there had been some small window in time where he could've helped? What if opportunity had been missed? Too many possibilities. He wished he didn't resent her for having asked him to help in the first place, without fully explaining the risks.

"Gem was the same," he mumbled petulantly about those who'd died and returned. Bjorn had been different though. Taneth certainly was.

Lexius gave Mesteno a narrow look as he stepped closer to deliver a mug of coffee into the man's hand. He was trying to decide if the Sadist was trying to pick a fight with his petulance or if he was just being himself. The Elf decided it was the latter, though he was fairly sure Mesteno wouldn't have been opposed to a good physical altercation to work out some of his frustrations and banish a few ‘what if’s. He was probably fairly used to a partner being able to give him that kind of release, one that fit in so well with his natural tendencies. Lexius knew he couldn't give the man that kind of outlet, though. Especially not now.

The entire concept of it all put the furrowed lines back into Lexius' brow. He did ponder a session with the sticks to help settle Mesteno's mind, but there was a part of him that thought it would be an extra challenge to see if the Sadist could achieve his meditative state still while his emotions and thoughts were in this much turmoil.

In truth, Mesteno was ashamed of how autumn was pulling him thin, making him act unduly. He recalled having growled sullenly at Lexius at the inn, and now stood frowning while the cat swatted at the hoodie strings Lexius had been absently playing with only minutes before, arms folded and jaw set. At least he understood why Lexius hadn't visited him that evening. He'd as good as chased him off.

"I was out of sorts because I chose not to come spend time with you while I knew you were in that mood." Lexius admitted. Instead, he'd chatted it up with a damn vampire. His tone mellowed a bit. "More often than not, I wish to spend time with you rather than alone." He murmured that admission.

"If I happen to be... 'ill-tempered' in the future and you desire my company," Mesteno was fairly sure that was the word he'd used, "rest assured I wouldn't remain that way long if you came along to distract me. You do a great deal t'put my mind at ease. You're good at reminding me when I'm being an idiot." A little late to tell him that now, but for future reference. And then.... "I've missed you." Perfectly simple.

Those all too simple words doused a lot of the heat coming out of the Elf's churning mind and rather than keep his distance, he stepped right into Mesteno's space, all but caging him against the counter.

Lexius nudged aside poor Kalari by shifting his coffee mug under her face. The scent of the spice seemed to have positively offended her, and she skulked away with a quick-blinking, narrow eyed glare. It left the Elf room to bend his head and turned his face into Mesteno's neck just there where the hood of the hoodie was bunching in folds over his shoulder. He didn't quite touch skin, but breathed in the scent of the man with his body mere inches away. There was a lot of calm to be found in that simple act and Lexius took it and sent it skating along the tie, directly in opposition to his idea of keep the Sadist somewhat riled!

"And I, you." Quiet enough to be a secret, those words. Mesteno knew them all. What was one more?

Placing his mug aside next to its twin, Mesteno slipped his arms around the Elf, palms settling over his shoulder blades before skimming down to latch loosely to either side of his waist. Harmless, and not intended to inflame, he was simply fulfilling a need to touch him, offering very positive reinforcement for every time Lexius chose to make an approach with physicality in mind.

"Autumn's almost done." He sounded as if it were something momentous, something he couldn't have arrive soon enough even if he would spent it shivering. "I promise I'll be less of a *** come the new season. For now just know it's not my intention to be difficult deliberately. And that I appreciate you waiting it out instead of throwin' y'hands up and decidin' I'm not worth the effort."

His brow touched down briefly on Lexius' shoulder, the nearness of that sun darkened face beside his neck, and the calm he felt bleeding through the tie, all contributing to easing his mind. He'd need that if he was to have any hope of living up to his boasts and managing the meditation without needing a second shot at it. He was even reconsidering not drinking the coffee, knowing it would make his mind more alert, but the smell of the spice was too tempting, and he wouldn't waste something so valuable.

The Elf's muscles tightened and twitched and the discord did ripple somewhere distant in the tie (it was always there to some degree!), but none of it seemed to outweigh the peace Lexius found for himself in the touches Mesteno doled out so willingly and easily. He was training the Elf well!

Lexius kept one hand around his coffee mug on the counter, but he brushed the palm of the other along the Sadist's side as he breathed a quiet laugh against the man's neck. "Your words could be my own." He murmured with no little bit of knowing and a trace of amusement. That Mesteno chose to persevere through his own issues was a small miracle, especially for the fact continued contact with him risked further damaging a long term friendship. The anger still boiled inside the Elf, but the sparks of it shooting off inside him had calmed. It allowed Lexius to ask his next question more calmly.

"I wonder, though," he pulled his head back enough to glimpse Mesteno's face, "if you would be happier with someone to give you a fight."

Mesteno searched Lexius' face intently in the aftermath of that comment, leaving his coffee too cool, hands retreating to lace loosely as he propped an elbow against the counter.

"I'm going to take a shot in the dark here and guess you think I intend to make you mad sometimes so we got an excuse to throw punches at each other." And perhaps he wasn't entirely accurate, but he didn't think he was all that far off the mark, either. "Let me elucidate," he went on, without offering much of an opportunity to intervene with a response. "I don't think any problem ever got fixed between two people doin' what we're doin' by throwing fists or tryin' t'beat one another senseless. In fact if you took a swing at me for that kinda reason, I'd be reconsidering things between us." Mesteno's notion of a healthy relationship might not meet all the usual social standards, but in this he was remarkably level headed!

"Do I like to fight for fun though? Yes. Sparring matches, wrestling, for bragging rights. To decide who gets to have it their way when there's a potential for sex. Any and all of the above. But I won't engage in a fight with intent to do real harm with a lover. I save that for people I dislike, for the pits, for the alleyway *** who come at you in packs. Does all this make sense, or worry you further?"

Resting his palm around the sharp blade of a hip, Lexius rubbed the front of the bone with his thumb as he listened and studied Mesteno's face. It wasn't exactly what he had meant, but it was close and the answer the Sadist provided was illuminating. The Elf's nod was easy, almost absent. It was a good topic to further distract him from other things.

"I did not mean precisely that, but something close. Your explanation both clarifies and confirms." He had decided it was more Mesteno's nature rather than any real intent and what the Sadist had just said certainly confirmed that. "But you do favor the physical and it does help to clear your mind at times."

"I won't be offended if you're not interested in combat of a physical nature. You're under no obligation to play rough with me, Lexius - the sticks'd work just fine if I felt like letting off some steam." And they'd never had an issue with those, save for the occasion he'd been fighting to win his own set of sticks. Maybe the audience had played a part in it too; to lose without landing a single hit would've been utterly humiliating. The breaking bones though, had not been his intent, even if the predatory side of him had been immediately piqued by the sound of crumpling bone.

Lexius canted his head, lips curling in a half smile. "I considered leaving your mind in turmoil to present a greater challenge to calming it."

Mesteno laughed, a low-level rumble of a sound, and he angled a knee in to knock the Elf's in half-hearted reprimand. "You can try that another time. Though it's good to know you're so scared of me winning that you felt like you had to swing the odds unfairly in your favour." His brows arched challengingly, and the angle his chin tilted towards was mock-arrogant. Yes, he'd implied that Lexius was scared of losing.

Lexius snorted and scowled at the accusation, long fingers closing in a hard pinch against the man's side.

It resulted in another laugh from Mesteno, though this one was a bark of a sound, and came with an instinctive withdrawal. Lexius' pinch at his side had uncovered another weakness. Evidently he was ticklish. He shot him a half-amused warning scowl, and tucked his elbows close to his sides as if he feared a follow up. The arrogant posturing hadn't lasted long!

"You say those words, then raise your chin as if begging me to knock it down." Lexius was teasing! He did know how to do that on occasion, though he often missed the mark on it. It was the beads (they were still there, if mostly inactive) that slapped back at Mesteno's knee even as the Elf slid a little to the side and took up his neglected mug of coffee. His, at least, was still steaming.

"Not so. Only wanted to play pompous," Mesteno corrected, reaching for his coffee now that he'd decided the worst of the steam was gone. He watched the Elf over the lip of his mug as he did so, with eyes still flashing deviance. Maybe he was calculating payback.

"I had thought of the sticks." Lexius admitted, raising the drink to his lips. He might well be learning the Sadist just a little bit. He indulged in a long taste of the spiced brew, which seemed to further ease whatever other tensions still coiling inside him. No more sparks at all flickered along the tie. His anger was now at a low simmer somewhere way in the background, something he would pull out later and examine quite closely.

"Are you ready then?" He'd no intention of doing the test here. He'd be taking Mesteno to the mountain once he finished his own coffee and putting him on the table. What better way, really, to truly test the man? Of course, he didn't volunteer that information just yet.

Mesteno nodded on a swallow, oblivious to the plans for a relocation. "One hour. Hold an image of myself in my mind." Declaring the challenge so that Lexius couldn't go making any last minute amendments to it. "You're going to be sat there bored." Not for the first time, he sounded too damn sure of himself, despite the fact that on this occasion, it was something he knew himself to be inherently lacking in talent for. "Got the stones, ready when you are," he added, with a pat at his pocket and another gulp of spiced coffee.

Lexius narrowed his slated eyes into fine slits, but the smile still lingered on his mouth, half obscured by the steam and the mug. "Do you have any appointments tomorrow?" This could well take all night and there was just no telling what condition either one of them might be in afterward. "Will your friends be well left alone overnight?" He meant the dogs, of course, something Mesteno might get by the way his gaze flicked down to the paw prints on the front of his hoodie.

"I will not be bored." He assured as he raised his gaze back to the Sadist's, the blue in them glinting more brightly than the violet for a moment.

Fingers splayed and soaking up the heat from his mug, Mesteno arched a dark brow. Lexius' questions seemed to imply something more than an hour might be required. "Only work come the evening," a whole twenty-four hours away, so he wasn't concerned. "And the dogs are with my friend Iberus. I think it's safer they be with him for the present. Just in case Aiden's people somehow track me down to here in numbers enough to get past the wards." Or just burn everything from the sky with thunderbolts. Of course those weren't Aiden's people, but they were Greek, and that was what he'd intended to suggest. The cat was a law unto herself, and seemed to escape everything with greater talent than he or the dogs ever might. Trying to move her would've caused unnecessary chaos.

"You're making it sound like this is going to be more than expected. You planning on trying to distract me or something? Gonna sit there being rowdy?" Lexius, rowdy. Laughable!

Lexius flashed his teeth at Mesteno before he spoke, a slim glimpse of white past the steam rising from his mug. "I may well test the depth of your sensitivity." Yes, the Sadist really should have hidden that particular weakness a little longer!

"Should've known," Mesteno muttered, the untidy (particularly since Lexius had sunk his fingers in it) length of his braid snaking as he shook his head. "But it's fine, I take it as a compliment that you've such confidence in my abilities that you want t'cheat." He returned the flash of teeth, though his had an effortless sensuality despite all its sharpness, right along with that serving of killer-crazy that served to keep people at bay. Usually.

"It is not cheating to test you fully." Lexius advised Mesteno gravely. His own humor still lingered, which was proof enough to himself that he, too, was ready for the rest of the evening.

Tipping the mug, the Elf drained the last of his coffee from it while the beads snickered out their amusement at his side. He set the empty into the sink nearby, his expression more serene now. "I would like to bring you back to the caves once we are finished." And that was the truth, as well. Just not all of it.

Loath to waste his share of the brew, Mesteno tilted his mug to finish it off with a few impolite swallows. "Your overseers are in a fine mood today," he remarked for the snickering beads; sometimes they quietened when people paid them attention. He expected them to be contrary just to keep him guessing. "What've you got planned in the caves? Finally gonna finish showing me around?"

"My only plan for the caves is to have you with me until you must go." Lexius said that as he stepped in close again. Just as in the lab, he did something unexpected. The same something, in fact!

Lexius leaned to take Mesteno's mouth in a hard kiss, and teleported them, mid lip-lock, from the cabin the mountain.

[End]
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Adapted from liveplay with Lexius.]

December 5th, 2015

A body lay naked upon a sandstone table.

It was imperfect and ill-used, the arch of ribs too proud, hollowing out to a whippet-taut stomach, with long limbs doing nothing to dispel the suggestion of a racing beast’s conformation. Not enough fat to smooth out the divide of muscle and tendon, thew that had been carved into angles, moulded to precise, sleek lines. It was not a weak body, would never be soft or held without some payment taken in bruises, and even an untrained eye could determine something deadly about its conception, but its owner observed it, vulnerable and empty, with dispassion.

Lexius had taken the pouch of stones Mesteno had kept with him, and placed them at strategic points of his body; nestled in the hair above his head, forehead, throat, heart, solar plexus, and even nudged into palms. Each had been pedantically positioned until Mesteno had felt them, sure as keys being turned in locks. Nothing audible, and yet it had echoed through him palpably, an undeniable attuning.

Disembodied, a projection of his mind’s eye thanks to the meditation, Mesteno let his focus slide from his scar-ruined form on the table, to what had been mapped out above it. Translucent, linked lights, a constellation winking within a vibrant web of energy. Alien to it, a clotted darkness strained amidst the flow, spidering filaments retracting to a singular kernel of light-swallowing negative that fought to remain unseen. Its exposure was fascinating, as if a parasite, or some aggressive cancer had been rooted out. Inoperable. Resentful of their attention.

He could feel it, a cool pressure behind his own mind, crouched and waited for a moment to usurp him.

Lexius was stood beside his mentally projected form, undisturbed by what he’d discovered and the malevolence seething endlessly from it. He was busily weaving mental tendrils into the map, strong strands of dusky light moving serpentine to fuse with each prickling constellation point. Every now and then, he glimpsed light amongst the inky core he was observing, like the sheen of wet sand under moonlight, the silvered pale of the sun struggling between cracks in a cloudy sky. Despite the corruption, he deduced there was enough of Mesteno there to balance its influence.

It was not the only anomaly the Elf had observed. Scattered amongst the confluence of dark and light, sparks of muted tan had ingrained themselves, his own presence seeded there as a result of the necromancer’s appetites. He should have known better than to allow Mesteno at his throat.

The darkness was his primary focus however. It should have been flowing, not shoring itself up away from the rest of the energy. That was obvious to the psion, and something he meant to have corrected. "You must will it to flow through with everything else, Mesteno." Lexius’ voice wasn't particularly urgent, but there was a gravitas to it. "I will not be harmed. You will not be harmed."

"How can I do that when I'm here?" Mesteno asked, bewildered by the Elf's command. Here. Nothing more than a mental projection, incapable of directly influencing anything. "Why won't it do what it's supposed to do? Why does the table I’m lying on always feel like something to be avoid..." The word was one he didn't finish. No, he didn't personally care about the table, but it did. Something sinister lurking in his flesh.

And so he tried, under instruction, to rectify the stagnation, concentrating with such focused determination that he failed to react in time when the sentience lurking in the very darkness he meant to manipulate thrust itself into his headspace, wrenching from him the control of his mental projection.

Lexius stood with the unknown entity.

Mesteno, relegated to a backseat passenger, found himself curious. Curious about the Elf as if he'd never really paid him all that much attention. Of course that was the entity, his soul, watching the Elf through eyes which had been golden in the projection he'd conjured, and were now nothing but glossy black laced with those fine, tan specks - a sandstorm in the night.

"It was you tried to choke us." Statement, not question. Mesteno's voice, but not his words.

While Lexius had known for quite some time Mesteno's soul possessed its own sentience, he certainly hadn't expected it to finally attempt discourse. The power behind the beads had recognised the being, whatever it was, from day one. Something ancient and dark and trapped in earthly flesh. It had been standoffish and distant and uninterested more often than not, and Lexius hadn't thought even the table would be enough to prompt it into such direct action.

Sometimes, even the Elf could be wrong.

His first reaction was a gut clenching concern for Mesteno's mental wellbeing. Hot on the heels of that came his second reaction - finally. Opportunity at last, to learn of its intentions.

Lexius remained silent for a span of time, monitoring the way it had merged into Mesteno’s mind and ensuring it wasn't burning up physical or psychic pathways as it went. No matter how much information he might be able to acquire in having a talk it, he meant to squash it right back into Mesteno's body if it was damaging him.

"Yes." No use denying it. The metaphysical scrap had been too recent to forget. "You present a certain danger my guardian will not allow to be recklessly directed my way. I've no intention of banishing you or confining you further than you are."

"Be sure to keep to that intention," came the sonorous reply. "Confinement risks the flesh, unless you would have us starve."

It spoke the truth of course. To confine it would keep Mesteno from feeding, his body too changed by now to manage to sustain itself as an unchanged mortal might. There were subtle shifts in the shape of the imagined body Mesteno projected, and they'd begun to develop as soon as that darkness was spun from the transparent image on the table. A new thickness to the limbs, inches added to the height. The soul, accustomed to being trapped in the usual channels was enjoying the opportunity to be larger without suffering the amorphous edges. A mindscape was a wonderful thing to wander in.

Mesteno experienced it all, and not as if a bystander, but experiencing a strange communion he could not bring himself to entirely dislike. There was no frightening dysphoria. It felt natural. If only he'd not been a heartbeat behind every time it chose to speak, he might have had some say in things.

"Neither will either of us allow you to reign where you now reside." Lexius warned calmly.

"Too early to reign. Too soon. Don't pry too deeply, Elf, a premature birthing benefits no one." The prying tendrils, the table. The inspection threatened to reveal things better left buried until conditions were more favourable. "We will behave. Your guardian…" was there some quiver of resentment in his voice? Mesteno certainly thought he sensed it, on more than a simple revulsion level. More like fear. "Would be wise to overlook us. You are safe so long as they wish it."

As much as Lexius would have liked to continue the conversation at length, to allow the thing continued dominance over Mesteno wasn't acceptable.

"You will not be overlooked." He told it serenely even as he began to exert a certain mental pressure on the place where it had taken Mesteno over. "You will, in fact, be monitored very closely. And you will begin behaving now." It was, in no way, a request. "You will learn to coexist at his behest and then we will evaluate what there is to see and know and do." It was a part of Mesteno, the very base of his existence, and they depended on each other quite closely. But Lexius could now also see how separate it was, as well. Coexistence seemed the most equitable route, with the Sadist leading the charge.

It smiled. Mesteno's smile, yet not. In adopted the same shape, had the same limits, and would have been identical if it were not a mouth full of carnivorous teeth. It preferred them. And perhaps they lurked, a phantom in the background of the necromancer's usual smile, lending it that bear-trap viciousness that couldn't always be explained when he had such simple, flat, human teeth.

It seemed to find something amusing.

"We do nothing," it reminded. Mesteno could feel it stubbornly resisting Lexius’ efforts to repress it. Outwardly it possessed a poker face far more convincing than he'd have been able to manufacture. "Your meddling will draw the wrong kind of attention. Like greedy dwarves who mine too deep and stumble across what they cannot understand. Cease your prying, Elf. Do not bring us here again. His mind is not ready, his body not yet tempered to our satisfaction."

It was fading now. The darkness was lifting from the eyes, the usual gold gleam visible as if behind an opaque curtain, and becoming brighter with each passing moment. The transparent form on the table was becoming filled with it again, and those distortions of the necromancer's natural dimensions seemed to be shrinking back toward the familiar. Mesteno did his best to nudge his way forwards, as if shouldering someone aside, and it gave way, bowing out with nothing left to offer.

The Elf wasn't oblivious or incautious to the warning, but all of it went unaddressed until the last of its outward control slipped away through the breach. Lexius took the time to lay a sealing web of thought along the point of entry, a gossamer barrier that he could monitor for any future activity should the soul decide to surge upward again.

It wasn't right, that flow of energy within the body they studied. It was right for Mesteno, who was, in his meditative state examining his hands, and turning a 'the hell just happened?' look Lexius' way, but it was certainly nothing like a normal man's. And there were places, two, where none of the dark energy flowed at all. Low in his skull, where the spinal cord began, and in his core, just south of his navel.

"You are well." More assurance than question. He was studying the constellation map by then, but the Elf had not let down his mental guard and was running another sweep through the Sadist's brain to assure all the patterns were in order.

Divinity now connected all those points of light, flowing through the Sadist's energy without actually staining him. It lit up more in the complex twisting of stands inside the man that the stain of his dark soul would no longer mask. Besides those two blocked areas (and the Elf instinctively recognised them for what they were) there were a wealth of other aspects about Mesteno's physical and metaphysical condition to be learned.

The metabolism of the body worked only at the bare minimum, perhaps considered an unnecessary function now that he didn't rely on it for sustenance. Hormones associated with it were not entirely absent, but seemed to be outright ignored by most of their target organs. His muscles were denser, despite their lack of bulk, far more powerful than they looked. His bones were a wreck. Finding one that did not bear some evidence of trauma was more difficult than identifying those once damaged. Just a few of the physiological changes - the metaphysical seemed to be slowly shaping things to suit itself, perhaps even beginning to influence his behaviour a little more with each passing year. Given time to develop, the two would coexist, become one entity, but it certainly lay far over the horizon.

Mesteno was alarmed enough that he wanted out of the meditation. He felt unsafe, knowing that it had surfaced there where he'd thought nothing could harm him. He'd played witness to everything it said, about drawing attention, and how he wasn't ready, and it seemed to coincide with things his unwelcome stalkers had been overheard muttering about in the dream Aoife had drawn to the surface, years ago.

His body was not tempered? What else would it have to weather before it was considered 'ready'? And more importantly, how could that be avoided? The conjured form he'd brought into being for himself stood still and unblinking, as if his lack of attention to it left it in puppet-like stasis. The features were beginning to lose focus, as if the resolution were all wrong through a lens.

"This is you." Lexius began to explain simply. "The brightly glowing stars are where body, soul and energy connect. Your metaphysical pulse points." Said points picked out by the stones. "The dominant, darkly coloured strand is your energy itself. Its colour and the way it is woven speak to your abilities, the thickness to its strength." What he addressed next where the tan flecks, like sand dust suspended in mid-air. "These points here are what you possess of me." He didn't go into any detail about that, but moved right on to a barely perceptible filament of red-gold light. A ghost trail more than anything else, resisting being picked out for how very faint the signature was. "This, I believe, is the titan's taint."

"It can't be drawn out, the taint?" Mesteno asked after a lengthy quiet. He was still more shaken than he would admit, but he was refocusing, wholly aware of how advantageous it would be to have the titan's mark eradicated so that he could no longer be tracked. "It doesn't look like it's connected to anything."

"Perhaps it can be. Perhaps not. At this point, it is enough that it has been identified and catalogued." There could be no solid answers at this early stage. "I cannot accurately represent how it is all tied together. It would be far too much of a tangle to interpret." The Elf dropped his attention to the body and those two dead patches he hadn't touched. His image seemed to squint as he fine-tuned his perception to those places. "These here, I think, are what we were warned to overlook."
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

"If they're inactive, and they're currently no threat, and they risk drawing the wrong sort of attention... Lexius you know the scar I was given was to hide the breaking of the seal the Russians found. Perhaps we shouldn't go prodding at these. I don't know whether the protection will be effective." Mesteno had too many questions. Maybe it would simply give that sentience more control.

Lexius finished his examination, and moved on to look for evidence of the broken seal. "I will not prod." An assurance. "I agree we should not tamper with them given your past experiences and the warning we just received, but those are no reason to not examine them. Given what your soul has said, they will be broken one day." When Mesteno was ready, whatever that entailed.

"I trust you to be delicate then," Mesteno agreed, permitting the examination rather than outright refusing him opportunity. "Maybe there's a way to thwart it, and stay as I am. Why is it that parts of you can exist in there?" he asked, gesturing towards the sandstorm grains. "Everything else I've ever consumed fades. Never lasts longer than a few days before it fails."

Lexius offered him a smile. "Because I am older." He was actually quite pleased to see those specks of himself littered about.

The broken seal was not difficult to find. The Russians had done something far cruder than prodding - they'd ripped it open with some metaphysical C4 and left the tattered remains there without a care for the evidence left behind. It was located a few inches south of the hollow of his throat, beneath the violently torn clavicle. The energy flowed through this breach no differently than it did anywhere else, but it was a dead end, a place it had once been tethered, forced into slumber.

All too strange. The seal was a thing of ancient magic, somehow encoded into his genetics. The other seals were a product of the same processes, though that the Russians hadn't done anything to them suggested they were either content with sabotaging only one, or that their demolition expert hadn't been able to identify them and pry them open.

There was some vague amusement as the Elf concluded his scrutiny and straightened. "No." He murmured, answering Mesteno's futile hope with blunt honesty! "You will not remain as you are. Whatever is happening to you will continue to happen so long as you possess that soul. But we may be able to temper it. I'm quite sure however it wants you to develop can be improved upon in your favour. We'll be working on that, you and I, starting with your mental skills."

"If those seals remain untouched, it can't make the changes it wants,” Mesteno argued obdurately. “Last time it took a specialist to break one. I don't intend to let anyone else open the others." He was refusing outright to accept the Fate lined up for him, even if Lexius seemed adamant it would happen whether he liked it or not. "The mental skills might just help me to keep things in stasis if I can learn them soon enough." He was willing even if he did hate meditation.

With the Elf’s assurance that the need for further meditation that day was over, all efforts to maintain it ceased. Mesteno willed himself out of it with commendable speed, and woke back in his flesh, sprawled supine on the warmed, sandstone table, with the stones slithering off him to bounce irreverently about on the granite floor of Lexius’ cave.

The Elf was leaning over him, palm still smoothed across his brow. That string of beads was snaking lazily around the displaced stones across the man's stomach and chest. "Do not rush." Lexius advised, stroking his hand back from the Sadist's brow to the crown of his head.

Mesteno’s breathing was rapid, as if he'd been running one of his arduous circuits about Rhy'Din's city limits. Mental exercises were far more taxing than anything his well-trained body might face, so perhaps it was little wonder. In time, with enough of the Elf's tutelage in such exercises, he might wake in less of a sweat. And with less of a scowl.

"My head feels fit to come apart," he complained, his brow wrinkling under the light touch of Lexius hand. Yet he did not mean it to insinuate that he had a migraine. On the contrary, it felt opened up in ways it hadn't before. Unsure whether it was good or bad, only that currently he was uncomfortable with it, with the divine influence and the autumn buzz leaving him particularly charged, he desired to be off the table without delay.

He reached up with an arm so he could loop it around Lexius' shoulders and levered himself up. More stones went rolling, some landing between his legs, and the one in his hair tumbling through the tangles to click off the table. "Let me rush this once, I need to feel my limbs 'n know I still have them," he murmured, doing his best to slither off the table in a distinctly uncoordinated manner. Feeling his own flesh again was a comfort, and in his haste, his usual self-consciousness over his nudity was forgotten.

"It will ease." Too much humour in the Elf’s tone. He caught the beads when Mesteno stood then slid the hand they were tangled around down a sleek, scarred flank. The other provided support at the back of his neck. The dissonance gave a vague mutter, but it was buried distantly and responding sluggishly. "You did rather well, especially for what happened. I did not think it would want to talk."

Mesteno kept that arm hooked about Lexius' shoulders, one hand pressed lightly to his chest with fingers bent ever so slightly to hook nails into the scaled fabric of his shirt. There was no dignity in it, and an utter lack of attempt to entice. It was a few moments more before he opened his eyes again, and stared at Lexius until he was sure of himself. Sure it was the Elf and not another conjured mental image.

"Believe the term is to be 'thrown in at the deep end'," he suggested, loosening the arm he had about his shoulders, steadier now. "Deep end of a *** mire, in this case." Wryly.

Lexius lifted his head to meet the man's look and rumbled some kind of quiet sound that might have been a chuckle. It infested his words as he answered. "It was not nearly so bad. It was, in fact, a good thing to have direct communication with that part of you. We've learned what it can and will do and, in a vague way, what it has planned for the future."

"It knows things I don't. How can it have knowledge? How can it know something I haven't discovered myself? Surely all its experiences are limited to what it's seen and heard through me." Mesteno made a logical argument, and the obvious answers were far from pleasant. "If I knew how, I'd speak with it again without risking it coming to the fore. Without risking the breaching of any seals. I need to learn how to do that." He suspected if it was going to be possible, it would be as a result of their lessons, but just like the damned physics subject, he didn't think it would be anything he would master easily. Not like the study of weaponry, or necromancy. He also suspected poor Lexius might lose patience with him as a student.

"It is you, but it is itself, as well. And it has a sense of age to it,” Lexius explained, and continued with a certain sombre gravity in his voice. "I think you might well have been made for it. And now it is making you unto its purpose." Guesses, of course, but ones he now had more knowledge in making them.

After a time, Mesteno eased back, and the rear of his thighs came up against the edge of the table again, with the predictable discomfort of contact. He hadn't realised they were still so close. "I'd better get dressed."

"As you will." The Elf knew he would find a certain comfort in dressing, so didn't discourage it. He pulled his touch again, the beads the last to leave the Sadist’s skin as they unwound from his leg. "Dress and we will return to the desert." He kept an eye on him, but moved to start collecting the scattered stones to place back into the pouch.

Mesteno found his way back into his clothes clumsily without proving a spectacle, but his thoughts ticked on, troubled. He only paused to grasp his ruined braid and pull it from beneath the neckline of his hoody.

"So what am I then? Is my personality just some... inconvenient side effect? Is my mind just a necessary conductor for the flesh so that what's in me can evolve at its own rate and make its debut when I'm 'tempered'? Age you say. Is that why the woman called me a 'Relic'?"

It was troubling to think he was harbouring something, but it made sense, given things he'd heard spoken before. Rather than let Lexius answer his increasingly pessimistic questions though, he shook his head, and waved a hand as if to dismiss all his own questions. He didn't want to spend all night wondering over the answers. Better to get it all written down when he'd recovered, then re-read it until he could make some sense of the mess.

"Never mind, the answers can wait. At least we have some knowledge of the taint now, and know that perhaps what's in my head can be reasoned with rationally to help us in the plan your guardian suggests."

"How rational it will be is debateable." Lexius stepped toward him, handing over the pouch and guiding him toward the doorway that would take them out of the cave and back into the hall leading toward the vast cavern the red dragon had once used for its hoard.

"It didn't feel like some rabid animal," Mesteno murmured. "Not the way it gets when it's starving, or it can feel I'm furious and intend someone harm." But more than that he couldn't say. He only knew it hadn't felt wrong, and that if that were the case, he might be subjected to whatever changes it intended without even realising he was undergoing them. "It was interested in its own survival though, and to that end I think it can be reasoned with, so long as it thinks there will be worthwhile reward."

Lexius reached again to coil his hand over a shoulder and give him some warning. "Close your eyes. I will teleport us to the desert."

Both hands fastened over Lexius' hips, Mesteno obliged and offered the subtlest of nods. Within moments, the cool air of the mountain cavern was replaced by the skin-prickling dryness of the desert, and the Elf Lexius kept Mesteno still and steady until they were ready to move again, through the lab and library, and toward the front room. It was there he responded to Mesteno's comments.

"I do not disagree with you. If it can make a meal of whatever is flawed in me, it may well be enough incentive for it to cooperate." He glanced back to give the Sadist a sharp grin. "Though I am quite sure it would prefer to make a meal of me in whole." He didn't seem offended or particularly worried about the possibility of it happening that way. Whatever he'd learned that night seemed to have settled him somewhat in his decision regarding the cleansing.

"What I am concerned for now is your ability to control it should it want to come to the forefront again. We will need to work on your training up your mid and Will to prevent it taking over without your permission the way it did this night. I believe you have quite enough talent to do that. You will never be a psion, but the uniqueness of your energy will allow to learn to protect yourself." He sounded confident.

"It never wanted to come out before," Mesteno pointed out, as if he was beginning to think the risks of a recurrence were small. "I always thought it operated on a more basic level. Like an animal, y'know? Not reasonable like a person." It had often been the driving force in his more reckless moments, the impulse, rather than the logic and sound thought. "Maybe I'm only at risk of it trying to take over if I spend too long meditating and prodding at it."

The idea of it wanting to devour Lexius whole made him uncomfortable though, and that nagging doubt that something might go wrong rose to haunt him. How often had his attempts to aid people gone awry, after all?
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 9:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

Strange, pale globes that hung here and there throughout the cave system lit up and dimmed with their passage, chasing back the shadow but providing only minimal illumination. Lexius paused in the front room to divest himself of the satchel and the beads, scattering sand and dust across the plush pillows that surrounded the table where he'd set them. His gaze was on Mesteno while his fingers worked.

"It is primeval." He wouldn't have come to that conclusion even two minutes ago, but his mind was working through everything that had happened and everything he had sensed even as they discussed it. "And it may be the risk does lay in your reaching for it. But I would have you prepared either way. It had decided plans for you, Mesteno. You must be the master of your own participation in those plans. No matter how you came to be or for what purpose, you are still you." He unwound the muslin from his neck and shoulders and left is in a clump on the table before gesturing Mesteno to accompany him as he walked toward the far side of the main room where the Sadist hadn't yet been invited to explore.

"As old as that, huh?" Mesteno was quietly marvelling, and though he might have been dubious if someone had told him such before he lay on that table again, he wouldn't argue it now. He'd known it too intimately. "I'll let you prepare me then," he agreed, and there was a sliver of pleasure in hearing Lexius reassure him of his own identity. The Elf thought he stood a chance against something primeval. Him. Some paltry mortal mind of three decades. It did his ego some good to know there was faith in him despite the poor odds.

"Tell me again about the progression of your physical state,” Lexius prompted. “You said you had illnesses before the Russian broke something open in you. And afterward, that changed." There was another archway, like a door, on the far side of the room. Narrow and half concealed by an outthrust of rock, the Elf was headed for it.

"My liver failed when I was eighteen," he told Lexius with blunt honesty as he followed. There was no obvious compunction, for the reason was obvious enough given his drinking habits. "It was while I was working for the Syndicate, and an enemy body had a compatible organ. The usual anti-rejection medication - I'd still be taking it if not for the broken seal. My thyroid was working overtime, too. Made it hard to gain any weight. Afterwards, that seemed to level out. Out went more medication. Anaemia... *** what else?" It was quite the list, and he was sure he'd forgotten other items, though perhaps less important.

The hallway Lexius led Mesteno down was as narrow as the entrance and more a natural formation than something the Elf had fashioned. It snaked back and forth like a jagged tear in the thick, sandstone wall and Lexius had done nothing to smooth the walls where they had come apart. There were no lights on that short, zigzagging corridor, and Lexius reached behind him to snag Mesteno's belt in a fist as he might need guidance when he knew the man would not.

"So then, the major physical effect of the seal breaking was a stabilization of various physical deficiencies. And over the years, the systematic slowing of your bodily processes?" He made it a question, of course, though it seemed obvious.

"Yes. I suppose that's all part of the tempering it was talking about," Mesteno admitted wryly. He couldn't deny those changes had been a benefit, because they had been. They'd added years onto the miserable estimate he'd been given by his doctor friend, Vadriel, and now he suspected it was less a case of longevity and more a matter of how well he was able to avoid getting killed by Rhy'Din's denizens. "My stamina is much improved, it's difficult to tire me, and I suppose I'm quicker than I once was." One only needed to see him run to know that was the truth, though he couldn't yet compete with preternatural creatures like garou or vampire with their enviable, blink and you'll miss it speed.

Mesteno heard the water before he saw it. Smelled it in the air, a trace of dampness. The corridor opened out into a small cavern where a broad basin of stone made a pool of water big enough to wallow in. The Elf had done some shaping in this room, smoothing the ledge around the pool and funnelling the rocks to guide the water from where it streamed out of a crack in the back wall.

"Tell me the water's naturally warm," he murmured, trying to gauge how deep the pool was from where he lingered just within the entrance.

"Define naturally." The Elf quipped, pulling strongly at that hold he had on the man's hoodie to draw him deeper into the room.

It wasn't a very large space, but big enough for the pool and a notch further along that doubtlessly served as a toilet. Most of the work that had been done here was beneath the sandstone, out of view, directing water from some deeper source into the space to fit the Elf's needs.

Mesteno crouched at the edge of the pool to pinch up some powdery grit, less than would cover the pad of his finger, only to sprinkle it onto the water. It was fine enough to float rather than sink, and he observed as the current pulled it along. "Any soap or dirt gets drained right out," he murmured appreciatively. "Good system."

"It will be warm enough to suit you in a few minutes." Lexius assured as he began to disrobe. He was eyeing Mesteno critically. "You are being reshaped to house it more completely. It would behove us to know what the end goal is. There are two more seals in you that have yet to be broken."

Mesteno lifted his eyes to observe as the Elf’s clothes came off, interest entirely unchaste. In fact the more clothes came off, the filthier his attention became, as if his intent were writ in his stare far more eloquently than it would ever be spoken from his over-generous mouth.

"I have an idea where to start getting answers about the end goal," he murmured from where he crouched. "The seals obviously need to remain whole until some allotted time, but if ten years pass before every seal comes apart, I'll be an old man before it considers me ready. I'll be dead by some angry gunman or hungry vampire before then."

The tie registered a ripple of discontent to war with the discord. Lexius ground his jaw and set aside whatever thoughts might have distracted him, attention flicking back to catch the Sadist leering at him a moment before he pulled the shirt off over his head. He waited to speak until he was tugging it off his arms and giving it a rough fold before dropping it to the stone.

"You are staring." This time, there was no snap of frustration or demand that Mesteno cease in his tone. In fact, The Elf seemed to find Mesteno's gaze more than acceptable given the way the heat came rippling along the link. Lexius loosened the belt at his waist more slowly, though he wasn't quite making a show of it even if the way he diverted from belt to boots was bound to annoy the Sadist and his hungry gaze. "You should undress."

Unsure what had caused that discontent, but guessing it was related to the years spent in self-imposed segregation from all he'd known, Mesteno watched Lexius with an edge of curiosity to his leer. It almost felt wrong to be desirous of him when he was troubled, and there was a subtle sense of him wrangling his want in order to be attentive to what he was learning.

"Don't mind me, I'm listening despite the view," he reassured, as if the decision to leave the belt until last had only reinforced his decision to stay on topic.

His own clothes, lacking any fastenings as they were, would be simple to strip off, and he wasn't surprised that it was being suggested he do so. The table had wrung the sweat from him, and even if Lexius did often arrive to see him dusty and sandy, he suspected he was fastidious about other things! So he reached for the neckline of his hoodie to drag it forward, up and over his spine, hair a leonine mess.

"Do you truly believe you are still aging naturally?" Lexius had his doubts. It'd be something he would investigate, for sure, now that they had more information! "Whatever it plans, it needs you alive and relatively hale. It is as invested in your continued existence as my guardian is in mine. Tell me your idea." Rather than finish removing his trousers, he stepped to grab a sheet of muslin off one of the stone shelved. That he spread on the floor by the edge of the pool.

"Honestly? I don't know. I just figured I was aging normally. I kind of look my age, 'cept maybe a little weathered." His own fault, for paying so little attention to his reflection in the mirror. It wouldn't have taken much to tidy him up. Certainly he could have passed for late twenties, though no younger. "Now you get to tell me I look like a spring chicken... how old do you think I look?" Amused!

Lexius still bore bruising at his neck from their last bit of play, though the length of his dark hair managed to obscure the discoloration of his bronzed skin. The skin was smooth and unbroken, attesting to the fact he'd healed just that much of it. "I am going to take more of your blood for testing." He murmured, gaze roaming over the scarred skin Mesteno bared for him as if he was looking for just the right spot to draw that blood from the man! He didn't offer any compliments, but he did chuckle faintly for a moment. "But you are probably far too young for an old Elf." It didn't sound like a complaint! Just an observation.

The idea that he was too young for an old Elf made Mesteno’s brow wrinkle, a frown which lingered even once Lexius had stepped near to tangle fingers in the untamed riot of blood and gold hair. Mesteno wasn't unaccustomed to being the younger man in a relationship, though he'd never really spent too long dwelling on whether his maturity might become an obstacle. Instead of seeking reassurance on the matter, he offered a sharp shouldered shrug. "So long as you don't have to start popping blue pills to keep up, I can't see it being a problem."

Lexius didn't understand the specific reference, but the context was enough. What concerned him more was the way Mesteno shrugged, the sense of something...off in the tie. His teasing had missed that time and he could tell.

"I need to find the *** that put the mark on my leg, and put them to question. They have the answers." Mesteno muttered gravely.

It only served to further banish Lexius’ amusement. "A bold plan." He replied gravely. "How do you plan to accomplish it?" The heat was still there, warming the link, but Lexius still wasn't removing the trousers. Beside them, a few faint wisps of steam did began to curl from the surface of the pool.

"I need to cover old ground, do as you suggested, too, and see if they have links to the temple. I'd prefer to do the hunting, rather'n throw myself out there and make some noise in the hopes they'll pay attention. It's likely to draw notice from places I don't want it." The Grecian pantheon, to be blunt, though Mesteno was sure Lexius didn't need it spelling out for him. "Leave it to me, anyway. There's a lot of *** to wade through, and you've enough to worry about already."

That, for the Elf, was unacceptable. His attention focused on Mesteno's face as he let go the strands of hair he'd been fingering. "You will need to help me with something. You understand, do you not, that I have come to care a great deal about what happens to you? And I believe I understand your inclination to deal with your troubles alone. You can see how these two things will often be at odds, yes?"

"Mea purgando," Mesteno murmured, not chastised precisely, because the bastard was smiling. Serious business, and he was smiling! He even reached across with one hand, his fingers closing over the muscle at the juncture of shoulder and throat. "It’s how I'm used to doing things. I've always handled things on my own, and I'm a damn hypocrite because I insist on helping other people with their ***. T'make it worse, you've already helped me with so much this year." The smile wasn't mocking. It was, if anything, hinting towards embarrassed compunction.

Lexius found Mesteno’s smile were more distracting than his hair. The touch had his muscles tensing for a moment as the discord gave a reminder of its presence, but that didn't stop the Elf from stepping a little closer rather than pulling away. His frown still lingered and his strangely coloured gaze grew more focused and intent. An apology hadn't been his goal, and he shook his head a bit when the Sadist offered one.

Mesteno's fingers kneaded over the muscle he'd clasped, nothing vicious, certainly affectionate, before he let go. "I'll do my best to stop. Can't promise to be perfect but I'll try..." Honesty again. He suspected he'd slip up somewhere. "So, you care about me a great deal, huh?" Now the smile was a little less innocent.

"Do you think you have helped me any less?" Lexius caught Mesteno's descending hand at the wrist, thumb pressing into the pulse point there rather firmly. "I did not wish an apology. I understand why you do it. I am not so very different once I have decided I care about a thing or a person." His frown was easing, slipping toward the wry. Lexius recognized his own hypocrisy in the matter! "I only want you to understand why I will press into your affairs no matter that you tell me not to. That I do so, not because I have no faith in your ability, but because I am invested in your wellbeing."

The Elf did not give up his hold of Mesteno's wrist, but he didn't tighten the grip any further. "What I will need your help with is knowing when I go too far." He didn't try to make any promises about not doing so, or even that he would stop if told he had breached some boundary and maybe trampled all over Mesteno's pride. But the knowing would help.

"You've only ever been complimentary about my abilities, Lexius. Realistic, too, but that doesn't mean I haven't felt proud about your faith in me, either. So I know already that when you press into my affairs it isn't because you think me incapable. If you weren't invested in my wellbeing, I'd be pretty damn disappointed." Mesteno did not seek to use the hand stalled by Lexius' grip, but he still had the other loose, and he touched that one to the curve of cheekbone and jaw, light but intimate. He wasn't heavy handed about everything!

"I'm not sure what would constitute going too far," he admitted, "but acting on my behalf in anything dangerous, keeping such things from me-- just try not to?" His hand slipped back, to brush hair behind Lexius' ear. For once he resisted the compulsion to torment the sensitive peak of it, since they spoke of serious matters. "I would do the same for you. And now of course you have to tell me what would be 'too far' on my end. It's only fair."

Lexius bent his head a bit toward the new touch, lids shuttering low enough over his gaze to mask the colours of it even if he didn't quite look away. The intimacy in that contact riled the dissonance fiercely, but Lexius was prepared and ruthlessly kicked it down so he might savour it better. He enjoyed the rough and the battle, but it was those softer touches that really wormed in somewhere deep beneath the flaws and encouraged the rebellious parts to keep right on growing. "You've no reason at all to be disappointed." He assured quietly.

A moment later and he was eyeing Mesteno sidelong though still narrowed lids. "Why is it you think fairness means anything to me?" And, so saying, he used his grip to push the Sadist abruptly into the pool of water, sweats and all.

[End]
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Last edited by Mesteno on Sun Mar 18, 2018 8:43 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Mesteno
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Adapted from live play with Lexius.]

January 2nd, 2016

Side by side, with an overgrown bear of a mutt flanking them as escort, Lexius and Mesteno put the Red Dragon behind them and moved deeper into the city.

Mid-winter, and the cold had taken to gnawing at the necromancer’s bones, but it wasn’t the throbbing discomfort that had fouled his mood. Nor was it the cause for Lexius’ prolonged silence. Weeks of smooth sailing, of study and planning and progress, had met a bump in the road by the name of Sinjin Fai.

They were well away from the inn when Lexius spoke at last, having chosen not to cheat in returning them directly to Mesteno’s home. "Is he going to ask your permission?" His serenity was disturbed by a sliver of something else, but only in his tone. The tie between their minds remained frustratingly tranquil.

Mesteno's breath was cool enough it barely seemed to scrim the air. "Ask permission to have you?" he asked, his eyebrows shooting up sharply. "Why would he do that? He's no notion of what we're up to. I imagine if he wants you, he'll come to you himself."

And he’d come to the conclusion that the kindred did. It was not the first time he’d suspected it, but their most recent encounter had only affirmed, and the unease it left him with was an ugly thing.

Lexius was silent again for the span of several minutes. The city passed by, unremarked upon. "What did he want from you?" He finally asked, being specific this time. He'd spent some time weighing if it was any of his business before asking again. Apparently, he'd decided it either was or he didn't care if he overstepped some line between the pair.

Despite the mental cloak along the tie, the remoteness of his outward demeanour, the Elf not only matched Mesteno's pace, but kept very little distance between them. Shoulders brushed from time to time and the beads were taking a lot of joy in slapping lightly at Mesteno's leg. That trace of disgust hadn't come again, but it was a close thing and not altogether the fault of the flaw.

Mesteno was as content with the slapping of the beads as he was of the Elf's company, of those small, unobtrusive moments of contact that came of simply walking side by side. Less content with that lengthy silence, which made him wonder what Lexius' intent was. The disgust he knew was genuine, but he'd said nothing of any desire not to be hounded by the vampire, and he'd seen him loiter once already for chance to square up. The fact that Lexius was collecting bits of him to study left him questioning all the more.

Or put bluntly, he was a little jealous. Koyan made him apprehensive, but Sinjin evoked jealousy.

"Honestly I have no idea. He said he wanted my ear, so potentially it's something to do with my brother or things of an undead nature. He'll call me, anyway, or shoot me a text message." He hadn't invited him over. He simply hadn't liked the idea of Sin bumping into the Elf there.

Lexius was studying him sidelong, breaking the passiveness of his expression with a faint furrowing of his smooth brow beneath the dusty hang of his hair.

"Perhaps you will let me know after you speak with him." Bad enough that Sinjin had given them a distinctly shrewd look before he'd left. Lexius wasn't sure he could keep his liaison with the Sadist a secret from the vampire for too much longer and that would turn into something he was certain would be used to try and get a reaction out of him.

"If it's anything he doesn't swear me to secrecy over. I'll always share with you as much as I can without *** up my integrity." Mesteno placed a great deal of importance in that. Scruples again, so inconvenient. "If it's anything to do with his personal troubles, he already knows I won't help him. I told him when he came back a year ago that I couldn't anymore. Definitely more likely to do with Sal."

"What did Jason say?" Lexius asked, changing the subject.

His not-so-young-anymore protégé had cornered Mesteno the night prior, along with Lan, who’d been unable to keep his intrigue over the change in their relationship from showing. Neither had seen the Elf in days thanks to his repeated trips to the sands to recover, and so the necromancer had been their port of call for updates. Something he’d found Lexius was none too pleased about.

For the moment, Mesteno let Sin lapse to background thoughts and glanced across at his company. "He said that he and Lan hadn't heard from you, and asked me to get you to contact them when I next spoke with you." A task he'd already obliged them in. "He also said that there were developments in the Temple District. Word has it that the Temple of Janus is going to be opening its doors soon in celebration of more than just the New Year. What's the betting we get swept up in their *** somehow?"

Lexius evidenced no displeasure or revulsion as he identified and dissected Mesteno’s jealousy. Instead, it seemed to surprise and confound him just a little bit. The flickers of feeling were fleeting, but some of his serenity bled away in the wake of it all and the Elf unwound enough to pull a hand from behind his back to slide his palm up the length of Mesteno's spine. Light, that touch, and further muffled by layers of clothing, but it lingered high up between the Sadist's shoulder blades and caused the beads to chortle madly.

"I will speak with them soon." But he didn't seem inclined to do so right then. "I suppose it is news worth of being mentioned sooner rather than later." And he didn't disagree with Mesteno's prediction. "Given that," among other things he left unsaid, "we should see to our trip sooner to the Well."

"It'd be wise," Mesteno agreed. "We're considering questioning the sacerdos if we can discover who it is, and maybe infiltrating the temple if it can be arranged. Been a while since I've engaged in any tactical espionage." And probably best he didn't, since the Temple would doubtless be being watched.

A subtle pressure from the Elf's hand turned the Sadist with him off the street they were walking onto a crossing road. They'd bypassed the market district and were skirting the perimeter of it headed east. The area was mostly commercial and given the time of day (with the last bits of sunlight fading out of the sky) many of the businesses were either closing down or shifting personnel is preparation for the evening shifts. As usual, most passer-by’s tended to ignore them, as if the pair didn't really exist, moving around them automatically. There were others Lexius' little mind trick couldn't so easily fool, but none of them seemed too interested in the pair, either.

Guided easily by the pressure at his back, Mesteno finally succumbed to a temptation of his own, and reached around the psion's waist to latch his fingers loosely across his far hip. He was curious to see how long he'd put up with it.

"Lan has never known me to be with anyone." He confided after a time. "It is, I suppose, to be expected he would allow the novelty of it to outstrip his sense. He is still very young and learned socialization at the hands of wolves." Lexius didn't bother to explain that enigmatic statement! "Jason, on the other hand, has known them all. But he also knows, in part, why I have not indulged since he brought me back."

Sometime during their talk, they'd crossed over into Jason’s territory. There were no markers, no obvious visible changes to denote the transition, but Lexius allowed himself to relax another notch even when he turned them again and the surroundings slowly transitioned toward a more industrial feel. In true RhyDin style, technology blended with magic here, old and new merged together sometimes seamlessly and sometimes jarring.

"Don't be angry with Jason,” Mesteno persuaded. “He did everything he could to stop Lan badgering with questions barring actually gagging him. He seemed to be considering it when they took off," he added with an ephemeral, half-born smile. It faded fast, as if yet too shy to become something whole. Mesteno's mind was so busy with thought that amusement had faded fast. "I understand why you haven't told them," he told the Elf as their path segued smoothly from one district to the next, "the privacy to pursue things in your own time, and to make sure it's sustainable before anyone goes getting... excited about the whole business." He wasn't sure his choice of wording was the best, but he could come up with nothing else, unprepared. "But just so you know, I don't mind if people know, so if for any reason you've kept it to yourself for my sake, don't concern yourself with that anymore."

"It is that," he agreed with the reason Mesteno stated, "and the wish that we not be hounded about it." And Lan would hound them! "Do not say I did not warn you." He said that with a quick, sidelong look and a twist of lips that suggested a smirk. That faded quickly enough when he thought of Sin. "Sinjin will use it against me." He added that with more grimness. Mesteno surely knew it, but he thought it worth mentioning anyway. And it led into his next question concerning that matter. "Why are you jealous?" He didn't sound disapproving, but honestly curious as to the reason. He couldn't see one, himself.

Lexius turned them again, this time down a street that ended in a massive warehouse flanked by a parking lot on one side and a stable on the other. There were stores that provided a buffer between the lots and the street that had turned off of, but the main attraction seemed to be the warehouse itself even though there was no marquee to proclaim what it was about.

"It's too late to hide it from them. If I'm to be hounded, it's already happening. You should have covered your throat." That last he added drolly, as if he were passing on all the blame, though the tie suggested he found the fact that he hadn't humorous rather than something to chastise him for.

The matter of Sin was entirely different. He still had a very real fondness for him, and as yet unsure how deep the animosity, or perhaps just curiosity, ran between the pair, he couldn't decide whether to simply stand back and watch the fallout, or to intervene, to demand boundaries of them both. Really though he didn't think either of them had enough control, currently, to be able to abide by rules. Sin made a game of everything, and the Elf had old grievances with blood drinkers and chaos. Keeping order seemed hopeless.

"Like it or not, Sin isn't just another vampire you can discount as vile and then forget. Instead of walking away from him, you allow him to engage you in conversation. I think he interests you. You keep his blood. You keep his...whatever that stuff was he burst into today. You want to study him. Given time he'll show you what it is that keeps my brother so attached, what made me love him as a friend and a brother and permitted me to allow a link born of blood between us. You'll see what I saw, and wanted to protect, when I confronted his elder in a hive of kindred. You'll see past the jester's grin and all the glamour and want to know him, and then maybe the disgust won't be disgust anymore. A great many people find him attractive despite his nature."

And he wouldn't blame him, but he'd definitely be jealous. And he wouldn't expect to win if it Lexius found himself torn between choices.

Lexius’ confusion gave way to thoughtfulness which slowly bled into something far more troubled. The history he'd revealed to the Sadist would certainly explain how the man could come to such an opinion on how things might proceed between himself and the vampire, and hearing Mesteno say it out loud and follow that line of logic put him in mind of when it had happened before.

The difference of the details was incidental, even if one of them (Sin being a vampire) was a major one. It didn't matter. The possibility Mesteno described had played itself out in the not too distant past and others had paid the price for his indiscretions. Mesteno had every right to be cautious and even jealous and now Lexius understood all too well the reason behind it. He was, in fact, cursing himself for not seeing it before that very moment.

The grim remoteness he'd been wrapped in earlier returned and the serenity once again became a wall between them along the link, though the Elf didn't disconnect them as he should have. He still had trouble giving that up. Too selfish.

"This way." It was no answer to anything Mesteno had said, just a guidance past the main entrance of the warehouse and across the parking lot on one side to what appeared to be a security gate. No time for talk then, for there were guards on the other side in a narrow, sheltered alley once the Elf got them through the barrier. They seemed to know Lexius on sight and didn't challenge his passing, though they kept an eye on both men and spoke quietly into unseen microphones to pass on the word of their presence. An employee entrance, without a doubt, but a well-guarded one. Lexius led Mesteno to a side door that took them into the warehouse.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

After such a rambling confession about his jealousy, and having closely monitored their tie throughout for whatever emotion's it might spark, Mesteno really hadn't expected Lexius to become remote. The serenity chasing its heels was something he'd always associated with the Elf being particularly displeased (and often about to perform one of his vanishing acts) and for a moment, his end of the link was laden with regret for his jealousy. Quite possibly it was too much. He'd come across as overly possessive, or distrustful, and whilst he couldn't regret having been honest, he could wish he hadn't been possessive in the first place. Plainly it was a case of too much, too soon, his attachment...oppressive.

He chose to say no more on the issue, and schooled his own features towards impassive, deliberately turning his thoughts to other matters to avoid any lingering malaise being detected mentally. Thankfully he was given adequate distraction in the form of their whereabouts, and his eyes narrowed suspiciously as they approached the security gate on the other side of the parking lot.

Lexius' body was taut with the inner tension that bled outward, and his movements became exceedingly precise. The beads had stopped their snickering altogether.

The door the Elf led Mesteno through opened into a warren of hallways and doors. The muted, base thump of music came from somewhere deeper in the warehouse, proclaiming the place, at least superficially, for what it was. A club of some sort, though the strains of music were slow and exotic with a decided sense of eroticism to the beat. The sound of voices was closer, coming from the dressing rooms where the employees gathered to change costumes, practice their routines or lounge on a break. Mesteno glimpsed a flock of women and men fluttering from a room down a hall toward what was certainly a stage somewhere. There would only be that brief glimpse of it all, though, before the Elf paused by a blank wall of brick, one hand splayed across the rough surface of it, and urged the Sadist in front of himself.

"We are going to walk through his wall." He advised, no matter how solid it looked or felt. He nudged Mesteno forward with his free hand in case there was any resistance.

"Another of those, huh?" Lexius had taken him through one before, and into that garden where he'd confessed so much of his history. Passing through wasn't an issue. Persuading Bear to do likewise was another matter. It couldn't be explained! So Mesteno stalled the Elf's nudging for just long enough to cover the animal's eyes and guide him forward without sight being an obstacle.

On the other side was a stairway of stone leading down, and just as soon as Mesteno and Bear broke clear of the brick, the sounds of the club ceased. One of those strange little orbs the Elf favoured floated neat the ceiling, giving off a faint illumination and creating a wealth of shadows. Lexius followed the Sadist through and the wall was just a wall again once he took his hand from the brick. That kind of localized psionic work wasn't too taxing.

"Another day," he began as he stepped around man and dog to lead the way down the steps, "and I will show you around the club if you wish." Jason would hear that he'd been through, which should ease his mind some small bit that Lexius was still alive and about.

The stairway led to a simple underground passage that had been carefully carved out and maintained. Solid doors broke the rock at regular intervals. "Keep Bear beside you." He cautioned, still leading the way. From time to time he touched a wall as he went.

Whilst the necromancer had no need of a light to find his way down the steps, the dog certainly did, so Mesteno was glad of the floating orb providing light enough to keep the animal from stumbling face first into an injury.

"So long as you don't ask me to perform. I'm not sure I'd come out with my dignity intact in one of those costumes," he joked lamely. He still recalled Drew showing up at Bess' place with his nails painted, his skin glittery and his pearly wings decorated with twinkling little jewels. The glitz had been one of many points of contention for the necromancer, who'd resisted entirely any efforts to similarly beautify himself.

Doing as Lexius suggested, Mesteno kept a hand lightly about Bear's scruff, urging him closer than even the usual heel the dog was accustomed to staying at. His lambent eyes searched the walls for any hint as to what might lie beyond them as they went, as if he'd prefer to work it out on his own than have to ask, but in the end curiosity won out. "What're we doing here? Are we beneath the club now or somewhere else entirely?"

Lexius slanted a look back to Mesteno and measured him with a swift look. "You would be exotic and more than a little appealing to some of the customers, even with the snarl you would doubtlessly be wearing." That was surely a compliment. Facing forward again, he took them down a short offshoot of the main passage. "We are beneath the club. Jason uses these areas for storage. This is a place you may come if you are in need." The Elf added as they stepped from the passage to a circular room that looked suspiciously like the one in Lexius' desert cavern. Here, though, the walls were scrawled with marks that looked similar to the tattoos that decorated the Elf's skin.

Mesteno stopped as the passageway opened out into the circular space, Bear moving not even a nose past him as his master considered the particulars. "Not via the shadows though," he murmured thoughtfully as he observed the myriad marks. There were simply too many symbols to fix it in his head, and he'd some notion that Lexius would have wards erected to prevent entry there via such means, just as it was impossible to the desert cavern.

"It is well guarded." Lexius admitted. "After our trip, I should be able to attune this place to you, which would allow you to travel here by shadow. The marks you are studying are for that purpose. Particular atunements." But doing so would require more power and stability than he currently possessed.

Stepping into the centre of the room, Lexius levelled a long, silent look on the Sadist. His expression was completely indecipherable, especially with the occlusion along the link, but the study held more than a little enigmatic intensity even when the Elf raised a hand and gestured Mesteno closer.

"Come stand here." He invited. He half expected to be turned down and the tautness of his frame suggested he was braced for that rejection.

Distracted from his study by the request, Mesteno fixed his attention back on Lexius instead. The tautness was obvious, but there really was nothing to fear. Lexius had brought him there with obvious intent, a goal, and so any personal reservations he might have as a result of their earlier conversation (or lack of it from one direction) were set aside for the sake of achieving whatever task he deemed important.

"S'gonna happen?" he asked, signalling Bear to remain where he was, out of the way, while he neared.

For once, Lexius had no true ulterior motives beyond using the circle to carry them back to the one beneath Mesteno's cabin. Long distance teleportation required a great deal of powers, especially when taking passengers, and the Elf wasn't inclined to ask Mesteno to take them via shadows or make the man walk the entire distance. So it was they'd come there, though he had used the opportunity to reveal the place to the Sadist and make him aware of its existence as a bolthole. Right then, with the other goals accomplished, the Elf's only agenda was to have Mesteno closer. He was pleased enough with Mesteno's compliance that the remote serenity of the link finally eased a fraction.

He sank his fingers into the man's colourful hair and pulled him closer yet, the necromancer’s boots scuffing the floor and an edge of bemusement creeping into his expression. The Elf’s second hand came up to join the first, trapping the Sadist's head in a dual grip of fists. The hold wasn't vicious, but it was strong and a little too tight.

He measured Mesteno's reaction with a keen look and spoke quietly. "I do not want to disappoint you."

The dark wing of a brow angled chevron-sharp in surprise, as much for the strength in that grip as for the fact that nothing of a practical nature seemed to be happening. It was in his nature to rebel, being restrained like that, and he'd instinctively begun to lean back as if to test the determination of Lexius' grip when he spoke. And then the necromancer stopped.

There was a long pause, and for once his expression was unreadable. His reaction was entirely internal. It seemed those few words were sharply evocative one moment, sparking the clarion call of alarm bells, and then all at once they went silent, as something not so very unlike Lexius' remoteness settled. It smothered all like deep snowfall might, wiping out any familiar terrain and leaving cool logic behind. In the end he drew some sharp conclusions from the things the Elf didn't say.

"I hear you." There was no accusation in his tone, nothing dangerous. Accepting and nothing but.

It seemed as if Lexius had not lost that detachment, only given it over to Mesteno through the touch and the words. The Elf's brow furrowed anew with thin, barely-there lines that matched the grimace that fleeted across his lips. Apparently, he'd said entirely the wrong thing.

Rather than let him go, Lexius pulled him closer yet. Had Mesteno tested the grip moments before, the Elf might have been prone to letting him escape. Suddenly, that was no longer an option. His knuckles pressed hard through the man's hair against the side of his neck and his thumbs stretched out to brace against sharp cheekbones. That hold wasn't solely external, either. Against all sense, the single thread between their minds became three that coiled out with biting sharpness to anchor and further secure his place in Mesteno's mind. As if he had a right.

The discord was pinging, of course, a wild vibration of discontent that clashed with a tangle of other emotion buried behind the facade of his serenity. Lexius worked on keeping it shielded, but his tone was roughened by the internal struggle when he spoke. "I've no intent or interest in any other." he said it first if only to make it clear, even if it would be lost under what came next. "Not in the way you suggest. But it has happened before as you stated. While I have no wish to repeat the mistakes I have made before, I cannot promise that I won’t. But be assured, it will never be with a vampire."

A fierce declaration for all its quietness. He relaxed his grip a few seconds later, fully expecting Mesteno to seek some distance now.

Pulling Mesteno closer had been no easy task; that scrap of distance between them might have been miles. He conceded it with that peculiar grace of a man convinced he'd lost and intending on carrying himself with a sense of dignity despite it. The tendril anchoring itself further was a sensation fit to put a crack in the tundra of his mental calm, and he lifted a hand by reflex to grasp one of the Elf's wrists, as if it were responsible for the feeling and might be wrested away if it became too much.

Lexius was bold for such a move, and though there was some initial rebellion, the way a horse first introduced to the bit might startle at the cold steel across its tongue, Mesteno didn't demand he cease. He was confused.

To his credit, he listened without interrupting, willing to have his earlier theory on those omissions disproven. Again there was a stretch of quiet as he weighed and measured. He was so recently heart sore that he'd been careful not to get carried away, to make demands or have any real expectations. He'd demanded no faithfulness from Lexius, even simply informed him that he should tell him if his interests shifted rather than carry on anything clandestine so that things between them could come to a respectful stop. Yet more than once he'd heard 'I will disappoint you' or 'I do not wish to' and despite the honesty it felt like he were almost be counselled to expect the worst. Being realistic was difficult. It was painful.

"Well I'll only have myself to blame if the time comes that someone does happen along." He murmured, some inward focused severity hardening the already sharp lines of his face as if part of him disapproved of his own risk-taking. "I knew the pattern before we ever did anything."

Carefully, Lexius unwound his fingers from Mesteno's hair. Untangling the splintered threads of his thoughts, however, was proving more difficult. They slipped and slid from his mental grasp like eels, leaving behind the burn of their evasive friction.

"You should cease now. Look elsewhere. There are far better choices." Maybe this time Mesteno would listen to the wisdom of the suggestion. The sense he was giving off argued more logic than emotion now leading the man's thoughts. The Elf decided to let him ponder his course unhindered. "I will send you back to the cabin." So it was Lexius stepped back and away, gesturing to Bear as if the dog might understand his silent command to go snug up the Sadist.

A perfect pair of pessimists. Mesteno watched him as he unwound his fingers, searching who-knew what for. Something to disprove that logic, to shake loose the jealousy, but it'd hit too hard and fast for him to banish it and consider that perhaps the pattern might break. Without any urging from Lexius to give things a chance, with no urgency to even try (laughable really, given how well he knew the psion's nature by now) he let loose his wrist and let go a sharp breath through his nose, eyes darting sidelong towards Bear.

The dog seemed to understand the gesture, and rose from his languid sprawl to pad across the room towards them. Mesteno's murmur drew the animal the rest of the way to heel, and for the sake of connection, he fixed a hand about the mutt's shaggily furred scruff.

He dipped a nod. "All right, whenever you're ready."

The Elf's eyes tightened at the corners, narrowing lids into slits over his colourful eyes. Then tension in his jaw ramped right up to match. Those mental thread were still twisting, but all that carried across that link was a muted cacophony of the discord tangling with whatever else lived inside the Elf now since he'd come to know the Sadist.

Lexius eased back further, hands fisted at his side, and inclined his head without quite looking away from Mesteno. He didn't say a word as he bent his Will upon the teleportation circle. Between one blink the next, the necromancer and Bear were transported to the morgue below the cabin, sans Elf accompaniment.

Somewhere in the middle of that blinked trip, the link snapped sharply apart, leaving Mesteno alone with his own thoughts.

[End]
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2018 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Adapted from live play.]

January 8th, 2016

Wolf-song and tripped wards; Sanctuary had been invaded.

The trespassers joined their voices in solemn chorus, abandoning stealth for careless incursion. The pack was a dozen strong, overgrown and broadly spread along the property line for nearly a quarter mile. Across the snow smothered stubble of cropped kweneskat grasses, they approached the treeline of the woodland wrapping the necromancer’s rundown bolthole. Never so far from one another as to lose sight, and with all the confidence that might be expected of such a great advantage in numbers.

Wolves. They knocked with their teeth.

Mesteno went out to meet them, barefoot and stripped to the waist, morgue chic in gory war-paint. He’d paused only to collect his scimitar, leaving the man he’d been systematically reducing to pink, anonymous meat in his underground morgue to wallow in miserable reprieve. Whomever the pack belonged to, he hadn’t invited them, and while it might have been wiser to lock himself behind steel lined doors or even take flight, he was itching for violence, and had been ever since he’d parted ways with Lexius.

The trees made a path for him, filled the air with the low and alien groaning of displaced earth and abruptly mobile timber. Moss-strewn branches laboriously twisted into arches, and he prowled through the canopied promenade, an eyeful of hideous scars and barbaric intent.

Two of the wolves had been ensnared, not cautious enough to avoid the barbed roots surfacing to entwine them. More were engaged in a ferocious game of tag with one of Sanctuary’s guardians. The intrusion had not triggered any of the pack with the nightmare curses he’d seeded into the grounds though, which implied to the viciously inclined necromancer that they hadn’t come with intent to harm. At least not yet.

Somewhere near the centre of that spread of wanton wildness stood a perfectly normal looking man, dressed in tattered jeans and an untucked, checked flannel shirt in red and black. He stood six and a half feet tall, built rangy, eyes dark blue and short black hair shot through with grey. His grin was unmistakably wild, a match for the wolves, and he lifted one hand to wave at the savage emerging from the sentient trees.

"Mon ami!" Jack called, as if his visit was expected and they were old friends "Y'got quite d'place here."

Mesteno’s scimitar was free of its sheath, ready to swing, a line of pale runes gleaming along the notched steel, and the hard edges of his teeth beginning to show in a ready snarl. It failed, lapsed into surprise, bewilderment, then undisguised anger when he recognised Jack.

Mon ami. There had been a time they'd been anything but. There had also been a time Jack had stitched him up patiently, tending wounds the necromancer hadn’t deserved any pity for.

"Good t'see you're not head-*** and pissin' on Sin’s hearse anymore," he replied, eyeing him suspiciously.

Jack rolled broad shoulders in a shrug. "Me, I got plenty other t'ings t'be pissin' on dese days." Unbeknownst to Mesteno, Sin’s name was the very reason Jack had turned up on his doorstep, and why the Cajun was laughing under his breath. He eyed Mesteno over. Breathed him in, nostrils flaring. "Y'got some time f'me? Or are y'too busy entertainin'?"

Mesteno turned to glance across the cropped acres fronting the woods, watching the pack with the overgrown displacer beast in hot pursuit, and decided not to bother calling the animal off while things were still more or less under control.

"I was finished," he told their Alpha, feeling the blood growing tacky and tight across exposed skin. He wished he'd thought to throw on a shirt before he came out, but then he hadn’t been expecting to leave witnesses.

Moving away a short distance, he parked his backside on the jutting, buttress-like root of a looming tree. It was notably free of thorns, this spot, and the branches low enough with their webbing of moss to play prop to his ring-laden spine. He had no intention of inviting the big bad wolf further in until he knew why he’d come.

"What can I do for you, Jack?"

The Cajun didn’t seem offended by the lack of hospitality. Instead, he offered a wry sort of smile and stepped nimbly to find himself an amenable root on which to perch. Settled with one boot propped to the wood, he wound his arms around a bent knee. He watched Mesteno steadily, but there was no challenge in his gaze.

"M'boy's worried an' ain’t sure what t'do, so he asked if I'd come'n help. Ain’t sure what kinda help I can be, me, but seein' as I owe a debt'r two, figured it wouldn't be no skin off m'nose to have a chat." He flicked a look toward his trapped wolves. "Maybe y'can coax dem trees inta lettin' dem go, too, oui?"

The necromancer tipped his head in mute inquiry, though the cogs of his mind whirred reliably, already trying to fathom an answer to that little mystery of just who ‘m’boy’ might be where Jack was concerned. He could think of one youngster right off the bat, and given the association both shared with Lexius...

Lan. The youngster had sought him out again only a few nights prior at a town council meeting, begging him to persist with Lexius, rather than assume the worst based on a poor track record. Mesteno had wanted to hurt him purely because he was the Elf’s creature, though inebriation might have played a significant role, too.

"What is this?” he asked irritably, “Mediation? Counselling?" He slanted a look away towards the trapped wolves, and whatever it was he did, something unseen, it had the roots unravelling with a great groaning and cracking cacophony, freeing the captives to limp off to the inevitable mockery of the rest of their pack.

"S'just a chat," Jack laughed, watching the captive wolves scurry from sight.

Mesteno turned back to him, sliding his scimitar away into its curving scabbard to rest it in a cradling web of vine. "You can be damn sure there'd be a pissed off Elf, if he knew you were out here right now. He's made his thoughts clear. You can't mean t'tell me I should ignore him when he warns me off."

It had been a very explicit warning, too. You should cease now. Look elsewhere. There are far better choices.

Everything he said was valid, and it made the Cajun shake his head, as if he knew any discussion was probably futile. He was going to have it anyway.

"Y'got some points." He admitted, shifting a bit on his root, blatantly more comfortable with the scimitar sheathed. A subtle readiness in his frame finally eased. Given their prior relationship and the lengthy stretch of his absence, there'd been no certain outcome to this meeting, but Jack was glad it hadn't dissolved into violence. Glad and a little surprised, truth be told. Not that he said that out loud. He contemplated the comments and shook his head again, not in denial of the logic, only as an indication it wasn't where he wanted to start.

"Ain’t gonna lie," he finally went on, "when I heard y'two had taken up t'gether, I was some bit surprised." Floored. "Him, he ain’t really had a student since Wings and didn't seem much inclined to take one f'anyt'ing, d'boy not included." Though Lan was something of a special circumstance. "Den t'hear it was y'self?" Jack rolled out another, eloquent sort of shrug. What could he say? "From d'way Lan tells it, y'all've gotten real close, oui?" To his credit, Jack didn't express any incredulity or disgust at the idea. He didn't seem about to ask Mesteno why, even if he was studying him closely. Maybe he was looking for a sticker than listen Mesteno's appealing qualities. "Closer'n he's been t'anybody in a damn long time."

Mesteno wasn't sure why he was entertaining the discussion, beyond the fact that they'd some history, and insight into Lexius was still something he'd snap up with appetite despite the sting it caused to think of him. He rationalised instead, that if he didn’t hear the old wolf out, he might well have to suffer more visits from Lan.

"Don't think you're the only one who was surprised by the news," he admitted wryly - and then, perhaps because he was accustomed to being looked at the way Jack was looking at him then, as if he'd the word 'why?' stencilled across his forehead, he added, "He has a 'type'. I guess I ticked enough of the boxes. Throw in some mutual peril and allow to percolate over enough time..." He trailed off, shrugged. Mesteno was forever batting out of his league. "Of course I can't rule out my roguish charm," he added, to finely season it all with sarcasm and a show of teeth that never even approached the smile it was intended to be.

Jack had heard plenty about Mesteno from Drew, having been the kid's bodyguard during a portion of the time they'd been together. Coupled with his own brief experiences with the Sadist and it was no wonder he looked doubtful. But that had been years ago and the Cajun knew how much he had changed in that time and he could all but taste the differences in Mesteno.

"Y'do got a certain dark charm." He was more serious in the opinion than Mesteno had been and still wore a smile as he considered it all.

The necromancer leaned back further into the shadows cast by the forest, where instead of being cooler, the temperature seemed distinctly more clement. "It didn't feel like he was settling. We were connected up here," a finger tapped to his own tawny temple, "enough f'me to know it wasn't just some half-assed interest. He's no masochist, he wouldn't have suffered all that unrest in his head for nothing. And we were close, yes," he allowed finally. "He was trying hard, making it work against all the odds. But the thing is, it wasn't that vast struggle he has to deal with all the damn time that made him tell me I'd be better off without him. It was just that he couldn't see himself avoiding temptation. Even made it sound likely. Why would I sit around waiting for that to come, letting myself get tangled in him a little more every day if all that's ahead of me is disappointment?"
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2018 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

Lifting his hand, Jack scraped his palm across the thick stubble lining his jaw while he processed what the Sadist had said and balanced it against what he knew. "Y'know how we came to know each other, me'n him?" It was a rhetorical question, because Jack went right on to explain. "Me, I got involved wit' Tristan. Y'know who Tristan is?" Even now, years later, there was a certain sorrow in the Cajun when he spoke the name. It ran deep enough that the pack out there playing with the displacer beast all seemed to pause and swing their attention the Alpha's way.

"Tristan as in King Tristan. Really ***' tall and good with a paint brush. I know who he is from what Lexius told me of him, but never met the guy." Mesteno was trying to imagine Jack with someone like that. Someone with all the responsibilities of a Kingdom. Someone who probably had responsibilities to provide a kingdom with an heir. Perhaps Jack didn't mind sharing. "Tristan who was Lexius' lover once and who got hurt probably the same kinda way as I'm liable to. Correct me if I'm wrong on any of that."

He was uncertain to the cause of the sorrow though. He didn't pry, but waited patiently for Jack to explain it to him.

Jack nodded confirmation, the vestiges of that old grief still etched in the lines than fanned out around his eyes. "Dat'd be d'one. But dey didn't end dat way." He assured. He offered no explanations of the details and skipped right to the end, because that was the important part. "Anyway, his passin' was d'reason I ended up doin' m'level best t'kill m'self. Lex, he stepped in before I finished. He's been lookin' m'way ever since. S'probably d'most loyal person I ever met." Jack let that hang there, in the air between them, for several moments before he went on.

"I remember you bein' in a real mess..." Mesteno confessed, wondering if it was why he’d given himself over to the wolves. "S'hard to deal with. I'm sorry y'had to go through it. But I'm glad you had Lexius there in the aftermath."

And so now it made sense why Jack would have a high opinion of him. Of course he'd want the Elf happy again. Mesteno readied himself to hear Jack try and catalogue all his selling points, to find himself agreeing with them but unable to reconcile despite it... and then the Cajun went and took a completely unexpected angle on his efforts.

"Me, I didn't know Lexius before d'whole dragon t'ing. Before he died and was brought back." Jack waved his hand about as if to imply all the mumbo jumbo that went along with the concept of being resurrected. "But I known him since and for a good long while. He ain’t shared every detail of his past, but I know 'nough to see dat a lotta what he remembers bein' ain’t who or how he is anymore. Convincin' him o' dat..." Jack trailed and offered another wry smile, hand dropping.

"Y'can yammer on 'bout type, but m'thinkin' ya don't fit into no mold he's ever been interested in. Dat he is anyway? Well, dat just proves m'point." And Jack kind of looked smug about that. "So d'question is, ya willin' to let him drown ya in d'*** he lives with in his head or are y’willin' t'help break him outta it." He paused a moment, studying Mesteno for a new reason now. "May not work." He admitted. "But den, ain’t dat d'risk of any relationship y'try?"

Mesteno's frown grew all the deeper, rather than smoothing out, but it was only a result of his thoughts becoming more contentious.

"He has changed a lot. Even he claims he's not the same Elf." Lexius had implicitly stated that neither he nor Koyan were who they'd once been, had seemed ready to accept that what he still felt for the Turk had to be all a result of the flaws in his resurrection. "S'just whether that change extends to the wandering eye part of him. ***, I don't even know if it’s so much a wandering eye or whether he just gets bored of people easy and needs the excitement of something new." Needs. Needed? Impossible to know until it happened.

Jack had succeeded in driving doubt into his flawless logic. Mainly because there was an equal measure of the stuff in his argument. To judge by expression he might just have asked Mesteno some unfathomable physics equation, not just asked him if he thought a relationship was worth the effort.

"You know, you got a better sales pitch than Lan."

Jack's amusement lingered, but he wasn't laughing at the man in the slightest. Jack might be surprised by who is was that'd finally slipped past the Elf's adamantite shell, but he wasn't about to discourage the one person who'd finally accomplished it to give up now.

"Mais oui." Jack agreed, grinning. "But I got a few years on dat boy, me. Mighta actually learned somet'in' from em." He waved one hand, sobering enough to address the changes in the Elf once again.

"What he's doin' now, hidin'? M'thinkin' s'cause he feels a lot for ya. So much he don't want t'risk hurtin' ya. Dat's some noble ***, but it's still ***. Y'should remind him what he said himself, dat he's different." The Cajun glanced across the field to where the pack was finally settling down, having left off their tormenting of the cat. He studied the grouping of wolves for a moment, the smile creeping back onto his lips slowly before he looked back to the Sadist and continued.

"I aint suggesting y'go runnin' after him." That was for practicality and pride, both. Finding the Elf when he didn't want to be found was impossible. But Mesteno needn't grovel, either. "Butcha let him know however y'can dat y'ready f'him t'get his head outta his ass and come back t'ya." Jack squinted some. "If y'are ready." He added.

"He's probably out in the desert somewhere,” Mesteno admitted. “It helps him to be in the sands, keeps him strong." And who didn't want to feel strong whilst suffering emotional upheaval? Of course he wasn't hiding – it was merely self-preservation. Hiding was far too shameful a notion.

"I'll think on it," was as far as he was willing to concede. Gut-feeling was urging him towards one course of action, but he needed silence, needed to examine thought and feeling before committing to a course of action, and he couldn't trust himself to do that if he felt anyone else, namely Jack at present, might hold some influence over his choice. "I just need to..." Work up the courage? Christ, what if Lexius had already decided it didn't matter what Mesteno wanted? "Just time."

Jack's smile spread again, crinkling the skin around his eyes heavily with the depth of his amusement and approval at hearing Mesteno defend Lexius' hiding place. Interfering in Lexius' life didn't come without risk, but having heard the necromancer speak, he was more certain weathering that storm when it came would be worth it. "M'sure y'right." He murmured, even if Jack would still call it hiding.

His boot thumped to the ground a moment later, and the Cajun pushed up to a stand. He heard his cue to leave clearly. "Y'do dat, mon ami. He ain’t no party. But don'tcha forget what I said 'bout loyalty, either." He offered a hand out to the Sadist, broad and callused, and flashed his teeth in another knowing grin. "I'll keep m'boy outta y'hair till it's all decided." He promised. "S'good t'see ya again."

A better mannered man than he might have risen when Jack did, but Mesteno doubted he cared about such courtesies as that; the wolf had never been the sort to require formality.

His eyes had already adopted that far-seeing quality that suggested his thoughts had intruded too heavily on the waking world for him to be particularly attentive any longer, but ingrained habit had him reaching towards the extended hand, past it for the old forearm to forearm clasp, the webbing of vine and slender, twisted branch cradling his back creaking softly with the movements. He'd been about to offer the usual Latin farewell, when something Jack said pierced the introspection and brought his eyes sharply back into focus. It was the second time he'd used that phrase, 'm'boy', and though the first time he'd shrugged it off as an endearment, the way a man might refer to a friend or student, he found himself struggling not to suspect something else.

"Is Lan your son, Jack?"

Straightening, the wolf chuffed out a low laugh for the directness. He didn't mind at all.

"As good as." It sounded like confirmation even if it denied the connection of blood. Jack winked. "Don'tcha be holdin' dat against him any. Y'ask Lex how dat happened, oui? And why Lan ain’t callin' him daddy." And with that cryptic suggestion, Jack turned away to head for the wolves. The pack was on its paws, ready, and moved swiftly around the Cajun to accompany him.

Jack inferring some sort of fatherhood and yet at the same time implying Lexius was in no small way bewildering. Mesteno grunted a confused sounding agreement that he'd ask, (eventually), but they’d a great deal more to talk about before they got around to the grinning youth.

Ignoring the rest of the pack, he watched Jack for some time before they slipped off the property. Of all the people he'd thought might poke their noses in, it hadn't been the Cajun. Of all the people that won the idea of Lexius and Mesteno a fighting chance...

Fate was a funny thing.

[End]
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Mesteno
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[An adaptation from live play with Lexius.]

January 9th, 2016

Mid-afternoon of the following day, and the crystal Lexius had given to Mesteno early in their acquaintance flared to life. It had been some time since Lexius had needed to use it to communicate, as frequently as they were linked mind to mind, but Mesteno had been sat with it curled in his palm expectantly anyway.

Contact had been rudely brief.

Come. The Elf’s voice instructed, and perhaps he would have said more, but the mental touch, just this side of wild, was too much for the crystal. It cracked, coming apart in shards that bit into Mesteno's palm. Not a good omen and it only grew worse once he’d made the trip from his morgue, to Lexius’ laboratory. It was Lan who met him there, and the youth looked unusually grave.

"He wants me to fly you. I think he doesn't trust his teleportation on another, especially you."

And a short time later they’d been airborne. The young dragon angled himself toward the sinking sun and flew a straight and steady course. The trip took a solid two hours with nothing below them but endless dunes only occasionally dotted with tiny oasis. Mesteno could've done with a set of goggles for the flight, and had to make do with ducking down as best he could behind Lan’s neck ridges to keep his face protected from the worst of the wind, squinting his eyes to near slits. Thankfully twilight sharpened his eyesight, and when he glimpsed mountains looming to the East identical to those he’d witnessed in his vision, he knew they were on the final leg of the journey. He grasped tight to the sides of the dragon’s neck with his knees so he could rise up, the better to see beyond his outstretched neck.

At long last, Lan began to bank and circle. There was nothing obviously different about the dunes below. No palm tree to mark a spot, no gaping hole in the ground, no flicker of firelight to give an Elf away. But Lexius was there, standing in the lee of a towering wall of sand as he watched them descend. He blended right into the backdrop in his drab clothing and sand dusted skin and hair, but once they were seconds away from alighting, Mesteno caught the glint of his colourful eyes.

The dragon landed gracefully, with minimal impact, stirring up clouds of sands that were just as quick to fall away once he neatly folded his wings. Mesteno wasted no time in loosening the ropes he'd secured himself with, and slid down onto the sand, hair wildly tangled, cheeks wind chaffed and a borrowed, bronze, lizard-skin coat fastened high about his throat.

Lan craned his head around to eye the Sadist and dared a whisper to the man. "You have to both come back." It was a solemn demand.

Mesteno’s glower smoothed out, ebbed completely with a sigh. "I'm gonna do my best. We both will." But more than that he couldn't offer, and he strode on towards Lexius without risking a look back.

Lexius waited until the dragon was gone, his gaze fixed first on the pair of them, then on Mesteno alone as he came closer. The serenity was thick about him, a nearly tangible second-skin of calm he wore close and tight. His eyes were too bright, still, speaking of the wildness of the power held in check behind them, but so far the Elf seemed to have any surges of it well in hand.

"Do you like the desert, Mesteno?" Hardly a traditional greeting, and the beads thought so, too, for they snickered out quiet notes of sound directly in the wake of Lexius' question. To his credit, the Elf didn't scowl at them. He seemed far more interested in hearing the answer, only somewhat distracted with the task of wrangling errant threads of thought.

Mesteno kept a safe distance between them. A good six feet seemed reasonable enough, though he didn't doubt that the dissonance would rather it be six miles. He studied the Elf carefully. Now more than ever, Lexius seemed a construct of the sands. It infested his clothing and hair and clung to the skin of his hands and neck as tenaciously as any leech. Only his face was clear of stray grains, perhaps too angled and sharp to allow more than dust any purchase. Still a little too thin, a touch worn and, of course, that damnable tranquillity persisted.

"It's a little like the sea," Mesteno told him, once he'd pondered his question sufficiently. "Vast and jaw-dropping. You see them and realise how small you are, how puny. Both are treacherous for the things they hide, and both are beautiful for the same reasons." He slipped a look lower at the snickering beads, and his mouth twitched in faint amusement. "I've a great respect for the desert. I'm not sure whether I like it yet though."

It had taken things from him. It might do so again.

Lexius did nothing to bridge the gap between them, though his hands did curl inward at his sides, making loose fists from long fingers. Mesteno's answer seemed to trouble him. "As you say." He murmured.

Mesteno saw as much as sensed that his words had troubled Lexius, and regretted he couldn't have offered something more reassuring. The dissonance was going to love it. Koyan was a creature of the desert after all - how much more appropriate he'd been.

The beads wriggled where they hung from the Elf's belt, reaching out to slap at Mesteno as Lexius turned to look out toward the sea of dunes. They fell short due to the distance between them. "Come. We've some distance to travel yet. I did not wish Lan's presence to disturb the area." The dragon had a wealth of magic in him and Lexius didn't want to risk that interfering with what they were about. Looking back to the Sadist, the Elf produced a skin of water from the satchel at his side and offered it over.

"Telling me off before we even get started?" Mesteno asked the beads. He did not obstruct their slap, but reached instead for the water skin for a long pull of the contents before offering it back. "The kid's worried. He's informed me we 'have' to come back."

The beads arced out again, this time connecting with Mesteno’s hip. "Do not encourage them." Lexius chided absently, watching as Mesteno drank. He raised a hand, indicating he should keep the skin and turned to parallel the dune until it began to slope toward at a more reasonable angle. Only then did he begin to climb, speaking over his shoulder as he went.

"He wishes me to save him from Jason, who has promised to bind him in dragon form and pluck all his scales from his body." Apparently, the news was out about Lan's meddling. Lexius confirmed it a second later. "How is Jack?"

In pursuit of Lexius, and setting foot where he'd already proven safe with his own tread, the necromancer laughed wryly. "He seemed more cheerful than I remember him. But it's been years. He said good things about you," he felt the need to add as they walked. The meddling had been to good effect.

The tightness around the Elf's eyes, in the set of his shoulders, was deepening, but he hadn't allowed whatever games the discord was playing inside his head to reach beyond the brightness of his eyes. Out there in the deep desert, it was easier to maintain some measure restraint on his eroding control. The movement helped, and Lexius moved across the dune with no difficulty at all and set a pace sure to warm even Mesteno's body rather quickly with exertion.

The sky was crisply clear overhead, without a cloud anywhere in sight for miles. Stars burned by the millions, twinkling testaments of the countless worlds to which RhyDin was connected. The dryness of the air prickled the skin and carried a sharp chill to it that was a little more biting once they reached the top of the dune. Lexius headed straight on, winding from dune to dune, still headed east, and leaving room for Mesteno to keep abreast of him.

"He only says as much when I am not present." There was no grimness or ire in his tone, just the smooth calm. "The responsibilities of the Pack have grounded him well." He offered Mesteno a ghostly, sidelong smile.

"Well I'm sure you're as careful to keep your praise of him f'when he's not around, too,†Mesteno remarked. “Wouldn't do to go giving him an ego, right?"

Lexius made a rather obvious attempt to change the subject. "I can sense the area we need to be, but I believe only you will be able to see the effects of its presence. When it existed before, each person who wished to access the home of the well were required to go through certain rituals. Most of it was ceremony alone, but the end effect allowed the petitioner to be attuned."

"He said more'n good things.†Mesteno was unwilling to let the subjects he and Jack had discussed drop. “Something you 'n I forgot about. Carried weight with me," he admitted, skirting a lumpy patch in the sand that might've just been buried rocks but might as easily have been lurking snakes. "He reminded me that y'not the same Lexius who was resurrected from those stones. Y'not what the dissonance would have you believe you are. If you can be so different to the old you, who's to say you can't be different in other aspects of your life?" He wasn't going to spell it out for him. Lexius was smart enough he didn't need it spoon feeding to him.

Lexius' smile vanished, and though he didn’t scowl, he grimaced. The expression was as fleeting. "Your point is clear." He assured, no inflection in his tone. "And I had considered the idea." He admitted. But it was difficult, as evidenced right then by the way he winced. Apparently, the discord didn't approve.

I wish you'd pointed it out to me, Mesteno almost said, wide-eyed in the aftermath of that little revelation. He was left wondering why Lexius had allowed paranoia to leave him despairing, instead of offering that scrap of an idea to him for something to cling to.

Dry air, already static laden, crackled with a whole new kind of charge. The Elf had fallen silent and redoubled his efforts to maintaining his mastery of self. Calm sands, still pools, clear skies. He bit his tongue lest he find himself arguing the same point all over again. After a time, things did calm enough for him to speak. By then, he'd come up with a different way to attack it.

"You've no reason to be jealous of Sin. And you may question me on anyone you wish in the future." One eye flinched a little when he spoke of the future, but the Elf set his jaw against not only the lash it earned him, but for the idea itself. He would not give it up again.

Mesteno let the distance between them widen a fraction for safety's sake, suspecting even if he'd no tie to betray it, that Lexius' was under phenomenal strain simply to be anywhere near him.

"Saying things like that, you'll start me thinkin' you're an optimist," he warned, making light of what had set his jaw to clenching, rather than offering anything hopeful to churn at the flaws. He turned at last to the mention of the well and how he'd be alone in seeing its effects. "You have any hints for me? Anything I should do since I haven't got the same rigmarole to go through?"

This time, it was the Elf that refused the bait of a new topic.

"Why does that surprise you?" He inquired, brushing aside the question with a brief wave of one hand. They'd get to that. There was time. Their pace was steady and ground eating and they would reach their destination sooner rather than later, but Lexius was willing to halt their forward progress altogether to understand a little better how Mesteno's mind worked.

Mesteno slanted a look his way, and a wry smile flashed fleetingly across his mouth. Tempting though it was to sidestep the question, he couldn't keep him in the dark when he seemed so earnest about discovering the twisted turns of his mind.

"When we were under the club, you seemed dead set on reminding me there was every chance you'd be repeating history, and that I'd be better off looking elsewhere. It felt like you were writing us off, that you were absolutely convinced of making the same mistakes again despite not wanting to." And he didn't need to give voice to how that'd made him feel. Not merely a blow to the ego - those he could cope with - but being relegated to the same heap as the exes before they'd even reached that point? Crippling. "Now here you're telling me you'd already considered that the intrinsic changes you've undergone since your resurrection might extend to your capacity to stay interested, stay faithful."

His shoulders hitched a shrug, a small, uncharacteristically vulnerable gesture as if he were worried Lexius would choose to undo Jack's lifeline with some cold logic he'd not considered.

Lexius processed the answer with quiet gravity, his brow furrowing deeply. The smile, the shrug, what the Sadist hadn't said, hidden somewhere in what he had. While the Elf was glad the man chose to answer rather than avoid the question and was just a bit surprised by what he said, he was also wondering about the unspoken words. Usually, he was very good a figuring that out. With Mesteno, not so much.

"At that moment," he confessed, "I was sure of it. Not with Sin, of course, but someone else down the line." It didn't sound as if he was arguing against it. "At that moment, it seemed best to give you the freedom to find someone more suited and less...risky." His hands had curled into fists again, keeping him from grabbing at the Sadist. "Later, I considered the alternatives and how this flaw may have twisted my perceptions." He growled a little and shook his head, sparks snapping to life in the air around his hands. Calm sands! "I have been bound to the vision of one particular future and subject to the follies of my past for so long, it is difficult for me to see anything else."
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

The Elf's reply had begun so poorly that Mesteno almost told him to shut up before he decided to turn back and start hollering for Lan, futile though the act would likely be. But he listened because Lexius had done him the same courtesy, and was relieved for the way the insight left off.

"You were trying to be realistic, and trying to protect me. I should be grateful for that," he admitted, correcting his balance as sand went sliding beneath one boot and tilted him precariously. He managed it smoothly enough, and was soon back to his usual leggy stride. "But Jack also pointed out I run the same risk with anyone. S'quite possible if I were involved with someone else, they're be tempted by something younger, someone with fewer faults or complications. Everyone runs that risk trying to find someone, and given how rare anything works out long term around here, I decided I might as well enjoy bein' with you for as long as you can cope with me."

He almost shut up then, but decided to offer something of his own, perhaps because Lexius was due the honesty, having been brave revealing his own past.

"I'm not what you'd call a heartbreaker, me," at least not in the handsome way most would refer to such a person! "but I'll come clean with you. I left a lot of people. Not ready f'commitment at eighteen. Michael 'cause he mistrusted the intentions of just about everyone I called friend. Drew 'cause he spent what little time we had together lecturin' me about the necromancy 'n he got attached way too quick..." Perhaps Lexius would have his own reservations after such a list. "Tanziel I left a couple of times, once for tryin' to change me into someone I wasn't, and once because I realised we had no connection after four damn years. He was...dull. Samiel's the only one I had no choice over, 'n you already know about Evander. That's not even touchin' the casual *** I had goin' on between relationships and bailed on because 'friends with benefits' wasn't working."

The dunes rose and fell, dry waves fixed into position until the wind decided to churn them into a new location. No other tracks marred the sometimes smooth and sometimes rippled lay of all that sand. Rhy’Din’s twin moons were finally on the rise, adding their own silvery light to the more distant stars and creating more defined shadows that dogged their steps as they went along. For once, the Elf did have a black silhouette hounding him.

"I'm very dull." Lexius assured. It was part truth, part tease. Rather than worry him anew, the Sadist's forthrightness seemed to calm him a little more. The discord, of course, wasn't nearly so soothed. More sparks popped and flashed, but Lexius ground his jaw and went on. "You sounded like him for a moment there." He was clinging to the tease, though his voice made it more harsh than intended. He meant the Cajun, of course, picking on the way Mesteno had worded the opening.

The teasing was welcome so far as Mesteno was concerned, even if the harsh tone did make it plain it was a struggle. The look he tilted at him for that was appreciative, supportive, and more than fond. He badly wanted to reach out with an arm, hook it about him even if only for a few strides, but necessity kept him out of arm's reach, and walking more beside his shadow than the Elf himself.

"You're not dull in the slightest, Mr. changed colour-scheme, got noticed by divinity, dated a prince, melded with a dragon, died 'n came back to eat Mind Flayers for breakfast." Hard to claim to be boring with all that laid out before him.

That list earned Mesteno a rough laugh, and had Lexius shaking his head. Amusement, real amusement, always seemed to confound the dissonance, so for a few seconds the snapping bite of it ebbed and all those outward signs melted away into nothing. "One of those is your fault." He reasoned, canting his head a bit to one side. "Maybe two. I'm normally very dull." He sure wasn't trying to talk the Sadist into leaving him, but if he could get the look the man was giving him to linger, then all the better.

Mesteno’s smile stretched broad, with all the kick of getting hit by a truck. Now and then, perhaps he could look a little handsome. It was always fleeting though.

"You can't blame me for not being albino anymore, and being noticed by a divinity, that was all on you, too. I sure as Hell didn't make you date a prince, or meld with a dragon, and you dragged me out to see the Mind Flayer, not the other way 'round, remember?"

Finally, Lexius seemed willing to let the topic die, and none too soon. Somehow, they'd talked away several miles worth of sand dunes and, though the sea of them looked no different. "As for clues that we are approaching our destination, I have none beyond you will know it when you see it. I believe you are already attuned. Everyone that returned," Lexius didn't bother to mention there were precious few who had, "had a different story on how it began."

Mesteno scanned the horizon ahead of them with eyes becoming distinctly more reflective the darker it became. It was true he could see no bold changes in the landscape, but he still searched for the obvious anyway, since those sprawling vistas were often prone to deceiving the eye.

It wasn't long before he took note of a prickling, and palmed at his nape as if he thought he might be under assault by some kind of sand fly out for a blood meal. When it continued despite a resounding smack, he lagged, and came to a stop, willing to consider the potential it might be something altogether different. "Something feels... hnn." Descriptive, that grunt. Mesteno took a few hesitant steps after the Elf again.

Behind Lexius, just past his left shoulder, something glittered farther along the cresting dunes. It was a brief spark of illumination, as if a star had fallen and been swallowed by the sands.

"I think we may be coming close to the thing I'll 'know when I see it'," Mesteno declared, squinting off across the dunes as if hoping to see a second spark just to confirm it. In any case, that was the direction he set off, moving at a semi-lope.

Apparently oblivious to what the Sadist had seen, Lexius turned to follow, stretching his stride to match the man's pace without questioning. He did, however, offer a bit of advice. "Do not go too quickly. What is, may not match what you see." Given how tightly he had to police his mind, the Elf couldn't afford to send tendrils out ahead of them to feel the way, either.

The top of the dunes zigged and zagged in a lazy pattern, one mound of sand leading to the next along a meandering path. Keeping a straight line was difficult, at best, and there was nothing but the silvering strands of moonlight to mark the peaks. The shadows were packed thickly in the valleys between the dunes like still pools of oil that even the Sadist's normally keen gaze couldn't quite penetrate. There was no visible boundary or tangible barrier to be sensed, it was simply as if he’d been robbed of the ability to see inside those patches of blackness.

That prickling sensation that had started at Mesteno's neck soon spread, crawling across his scalp as if there were watchers above him and flooding down the length of his be-ringed spine and out into his limbs.

Behind him, the Elf gave a low hum and a few softly spoken words. "We are close."

"Funny kind of mirage this'd be," was his quiet response to Lexius' warning. He wasn't going to stumble across some wavering desert oasis after all. Having taken heed of the advice, he slowed from a lope to a hard march, his breath finally quickening to offer evidence of his effort. Whilst Lexius was far more adept at picking safe routes that wouldn't leave them sliding down the dunes, Mesteno seemed to get lucky with where he set his feet, despite the intensifying prickling that made him want to scratch like a mange infested fox. Before long he was keeping his eyes steadfastly on the sand where he set his feet, and letting the strength of the prickling guide him rather than risk staring at shadow or light.

"I'm going to fall in that God damn hole, aren't I?" he asked - the one he'd slid down in the dream! Such a pessimist.

Lexius stretched his stride again even a Mesteno cut his, coming in close behind the man. Close enough to reach out and touch. It was too close, too tempting, but somehow he limited his grasp to just the collar of the jacket. He used that grip to urge the Sadist to halt.

"You might." He admitted quietly, with a vein of humour running through his tone. "Take a moment and breathe." Quiet, calm advice. He gave Mesteno all of ten seconds to settle down some before he spoke again. "You are wearing my jacket."

"Don't want me showing up over-eager and making a bad impression?" Mesteno asked, only half joking.

"Like a cub tromping in from the storm with mud on its paws." Lexius was even then imagining Mesteno as a baby werewolf cub wet with rain and mud. Pardon his low, rough chuckle.

"How's it look on me?" Mesteno asked of the borrowed jacket.

His hair ticked at the back of the Elf’s hand where he gripped the collar, crawled across his arm, and was bold enough to plaster against his chest. It was, as always, nearly as distracting at the Sadist's smile. Lexius heard himself rumbling an appreciative sound before he could check it.

"Like it was cut for you." He admitted, a little darkly. They were of a height and rather close in build. The Sadist might have a little more room than he for the lankiness of his frame, but it was a decent fit. "I'm surprised you didn't go through all the pockets yet." He said it as he forced himself to step back, away. "I expect it back in good condition." He concluded finally, before instructing, "Continue."

"That you expect it back at all is humorous," Mesteno countered, as he followed the uncomfortable prickling lure. It was like a game of hot and cold, the sensations guiding him rather than any childish voices to set a blindfolded kid on the right path.

The Elf went silent then to allow Mesteno to concentrate on the sensation that now seemed to flood every centimetre of his skin.

Beneath the lizard skin coat, he felt as if he were covered in crawling ants that wouldn't be brushed off, but he opened himself to the sensations rather than allowing them to divert him, and strode all the more boldly towards where it felt strongest. Remarkable experience for him, given that normally he couldn't sense energy of any sort that wasn't connected to the dark arts. It appeared that the divinity was an exception to the rules, too strong for even his numb senses to be oblivious to. By the time they reached the place where everything changed he felt as if it might drive him a little mad, and then--

It happened in a blink, without any warning whatsoever, the way such things transpired in dreams. One moment the Sadist was treading across a line of sand with no end in sight to the snaking pattern and the next his boot was hovering over empty air and the terrain had changed all about him. Instead of the endless dry sea of swelling waves, they had come upon a stationary vortex where the dunes were chained in a spiral patterns around the edge of a broad, wide, shadow filled bowl.

He was mid-stride and tilting forward. Nothing to catch his weight. He inhaled sharply, his only concession to surprise at the transformation, before he was subject to the whims of gravity.

He fell like a stone, impacting the shadows first... and kept right on going. The darkness closed around him like a fist, as if he'd stepped into the Shadowlands without the punishing cold. The darkness churned and roiled and twisted like a living thing, surging about his body to lap against him hungrily. It was almost as if, instead of the shadows, he'd fallen into the dark sentience of his soul.

Initial panic, and the sensation that he was plummeting were a heady concoction, but save for a sharply worded exclamation remained silent. This was what he'd come looking for, this place, and so he closed his eyes and did nothing but breathe, arms spread wide as he fell.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

Is this you?

It was a familiar voice, though not entirely comforting. It blended every voice he'd ever heard together into one. It came from everywhere and seemed to startle the cradle of darkness he’d fallen into as much as the necromancer himself.

Yet it was not unexpected. He let his mind calm before he replied, eyes still closed and body sedate. "It..." Was it him? The darkness that had swallowed him. Yes, it felt intimately familiar. "I suppose it must be."

There was the sense of something like amusement, but it was for too vast and complex a thing to truly comprehend or define with such a simple word.

You are learning. Fondly, as if from a doting parent.

"Not so quickly as I'd like," Mesteno confessed. He seemed undaunted by holding a conversation with the voice, but offered it no challenge. Whilst the divinity could easily destroy him, he knew they were of a mind to achieve the same thing, tentative allies.

The voice spoke again, more sternly. Is this all of you?

The darkness itself seemed to take offense to that question. There was a dissatisfied awareness over the interrogation, with the challenge to its authority and supremacy. It roiled, clotting together like curdled blood, and Mesteno's thoughts surged with an invasive violence, a rage not his own.

Three spots flared into brilliant life amidst the darkness along the Sadist's body. Two of them matched the seals Lexius had identified whilst studying him on the table, glowing in strange patterns, and the third matched the brand he'd been given in the fever dream after the psionic eruption. A familiar sign hovered above the other two, at times the familiar yin-yang symbol Mesteno had seen picked out by the beads more than once, at others times a different pattern altogether.

"I can't say for sure. I've never seen what was sealed up behind them." His confession came strained as he fought to brush aside the intrusive thoughts, and he raised a finger to point towards the illuminated seals. "There might be worse than this."

Mesteno's soul continued to thrash outside of him, resisting... something. He knew intuitively that it wanted to eat its way back inside where it belonged. He attempted to examine its response clinically, trying to find a connection to its behaviour and what he sensed of it when it was contained within. It occurred to him that it was enormous, that he could not see past it, and that his frail, human form was ill-made to contain such a thing. No wonder it'd said he needed tempering. No wonder there were seals, to compress and restrict.

It resented the inspection, that much he knew, but instead of letting the violence of its nature flood him and dictate his responses, he took hold of it the way he did when he was keeping it from outright devouring something (or one), wrestling with it for control. Instead of trying to draw it back into him where it wished to be, sheltered and sullen, he pressed it outward, unfurled like a sail so that all its ugly corners were exposed, save for those small places where it was anchored in him, and whatever remained sealed.

The being behind the voice observed his struggle with keen scrutiny, on every level, then kicked up a wind to billow out and broaden what the Sadist had finally forced into submitting to his will, stretching it tighter yet. One by one, the seals winked brighter.

We could open these. It sounded almost thoughtful. The observation then, was more of a question, a test.

The suggestion received an abrupt, and very firm response. "No. That would be a bad idea. I've little enough control as it is, as you can see. Open those and any chance we have of helping Lexius is ***."

The darkness remained malignant, a creature that habitually lurked beneath a rock forced out into the sun for some cruel child to poke at with a stick. It was almost as sullen as his waking mind when he got into a foul mood. How different were they? One lurked and fed and killed, the other lived, and experienced, and loved at times, yet still followed those same impulses, violent and hedonistic. Perhaps it was best to view them as twins, one locked away and given no chance to develop beyond what its primordial origins, the other managing some semblance of a life, but only able to describe to its twin the things it felt and saw. Things it would never understand. Things it didn't want to.

Again came that sense of amusement.

How interesting. The voice murmured, though it was a mystery if it meant Mesteno's answer or whatever it saw in the inspection of that churlish blackness. The ever changing symbol that represented that divinity suddenly broke apart, sundering into three identical images of itself that drifted down, down, down. Are you willing? The voice asked then without giving any specifics at all.

"What'll they do to me?"

The triad of symbols paused, one hovering above each seal and the third over the place where one had once existed. They still changed shapes and patterns, never truly settling on one thing. Not yet. That voice was still amused.

What do you wish? It asked instead of answered.

For a moment Mesteno clenched his teeth together, bit back a frustrated growl. "I want to help Lexius," and then a little over-bold, "you know this."

The voice had asked these questions countless times across the eons and received a variety of answers in turn. There was no telling what it might choose to do or what those symbols truly meant, no real indication what motivated it to do anything at all. There in the darkness stretched taut and sullen around Mesteno, time had no meaning at all and the vastness behind the thing that enquired after Mesteno's motivations was muted and subdued. Patient. Eternal. Inquisitive.

They will help you help him. The voice assured, quite grave now.

Mesteno knew of course that he would emerge irrevocably changed, and that knowledge did not come without fear. He did not think it would cast him out physically changed as Lexius had been, but internally? Not everyone who'd gone in had come out. The Elf had told him that. For a brief, sharp moment the stood on an unseen, mental precipice, preparing himself for a potential end...

"Very well. I'm willing." The symbols would do whatever they would. Cowardice never did live long in his heart.

The voice did not speak again.

Once Mesteno matched will to intent, gave it voice, there came a single moment of breathlessness where the universe itself seemed to pause. Even the quivering in that stretched part of the man's soul went still. Then came something like a whisper, unintelligible and brief. The sound was white noise, music, the rush of wind across the sands, the roar of a fire, and the lapping ripples in a pond. It stroked its way across through the unfurled darkness and through, lighting up parts of him that hadn't seemed to exist before that moment.

As the same time, the lights came crashing down. They glowed white hot and blinding, a branding iron fresh from the coals, merging the symbol Mesteno had once worn on his chest across the two active seals and the empty space of the third. There was, after all, power in the number three.

It seemed to last an eternity, the binding, and in that span of centuries, Mesteno came to know what pain truly was. Whatever he might have called it before was paltry in comparison, a gnat's bite compared to frenzied ravaging of a shark.

He howled, a wretched, plaintive sound, inhuman and swelling, throbbing louder until the pain stole his voice and left his throat dry and open and convulsing. It went on inexorably, excruciating, nothing like the catharsis he knew and associated with pain.

In the end, broken, he suffered unmoving as it pulled him open. He felt things inside burned away; everything false, and everything that had been pinning his battered body together melted down, every scrap of metal penetrating the housing of his flesh torn loose. Little pieces were sliced away, things beyond the physical that he’d never given notice to, and purged flesh and bone moulded itself back around the seals like armour. The light from the sigils spread out along nerves and flashed through every synapse of Mesteno's mind as he was made whole again.

And yet his scars remained; his need for them had been recognised as intrinsic, their significance had value.

At some point his mind had escaped, as minds under great trauma are want to when they've no other option. He'd stepped through some door, out of the way of encroaching madness, compartmentalising for the sake of survival. Throughout it all his energy remained silent, shrunken, a still thing intent on not drawing notice.

Exhausted in ways he'd never known he was capable of being exhausted, nothing could have woken him until he was entirely ready; ready did not come quickly. Ready needed to be long enough that his mind could recover, and his mind was no mighty psion's tool. A miracle then that he recovered at all, and perhaps he'd have to owe that to what lived inside him, rather than pride himself on stubborn survivability. It needed him, and so it armoured his Id as the flesh they shared had sheltered it, until at last he woke in the well.

He was neck deep in swirling water. Or was it sand? For a moment, flames danced about him, hot yet unburning. Then a swirling wind swept them away leaving behind a rippling pond of light.

Who and what he was were a blank in those first few moments. He was ignorant to everything he'd ever done, seen or experienced. Even his own identity remained a mystery. His eyes chased the rippling colours with vapid, animal fascination.

There was something wrapped around his neck. Heavy links of a silvery chain that reached out into the centre of the pool where they tangled with a simple looking string of sandalwood beads. Lexius sat across from him, knees folded and eyes closed.

Now. Said the voice, calm and sure. And when it spoke the image of the Elf cracked open like an egg, revealing the tattered, bloodied insides of a splintered crystal crazed with cracks and misshapen shards. Light filtered fitfully throughout, flicking lighter here, darker there, sparking with power and ripe with a scent only Mesteno's hungry soul might detect.

Mesteno’s fingers skimmed along the chain without comprehension, until at last they touched upon the sandalwood beads. How innocuous they looked. And yet they triggered the rebirth of his memories, a violently staggering experience which almost saw him struggle out of the well as if he could physically outrun them. Thankfully the memories brought with them the personality those experiences had forged, and he remained leaning hard against the side of the well, panting and wild eyed, adjusting to his whereabouts.

He'd only then, in that moment, spotted Lexius. The Elf looked peaceful, composed sat there, and his first instinct was to wade across and nudge him from the meditative state he seemed to be in. The splintering came too quickly for such things, and the abstract horror of witnessing him come apart kept him on the far side of the well. Just an image.

Not real. Just an image. This was what he told himself, to intercept the panic before it could rise.

Opportunity had come. The very reason they'd travelled out there loomed impossibly over him, and yet his soul knew what to do even without him bidding it to.

He felt it beginning to bleed out, skimming across chains and beads towards that flickering core, gorily wrapped. The power was irresistible, unguarded, and yet so recently fed, his soul did not approach with intent to gorge voraciously. Instead it wrapped itself about the power the way a languid lover might, locking snug about it in the cool, drowning-deep that lived in the taste of his blood, his mouth. At last, Mesteno engaged rather than sitting a spectator to the feeding, and he fixed all his focus on the task, monitoring as it drew on the splintered crystal, draining light, bleeding the power away. He felt it enter him, a rush he could grow dangerously addicted to.

The interwoven strings of beads and chain remained a steady bridge, connecting him to the crystalized image of the Elf and providing a path for the Sadist's soul to travel. Stretched long across that highway, every part of the hungry sentience that moved in and began to feast was touched by the beads. They seemed to infest the blackness of the soul with the energy of the pool, feeding the myriad of mixed colours into the darkness, seeding it with stars.

Lexius’ form began to crumble, the cracked and deteriorating crystalline structure of it disintegrating into smaller pieces that eventually became nothing more than grains of sand showering down through the darkness like cosmic dust.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 29, 2018 1:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

A great deal of time later, smoke curling from dust-paled clothes, Mesteno had been abandoned, limbs sprawling haphazard at the foot of a dune. Beneath the tangle of his hair, the weight of a dull metal chain looped across his throat, carved stone tucked in the notch of his collarbone. He could feel the grit of sand under his fingertips, dry on his lips, clinging in small, prickling grains that imprinted their presence against his cheek. He swallowed thickly, eyes still closed, and felt blindly towards his neck where the unfamiliar weight lay. The links were broad and flat, utilitarian-ugly under his questing touch, strange enough to cut through his exhaustion.

He sat up sharply, eyes watering, flutter-blinking against the sand grit in his lashes. The reality of his return impacted with all the force of an HGV, and he searched the dunes for signs of Lexius with his heart rattling at a staccato drum beat.

It was still night, though the sky was clear of Rhy’Din’s twin moons, suggesting some time had passed. The air was dry, still and eerily quiet.

A first scan showed no obvious sign of the Elf, but a second sweep allowed him to pick out an irregularity in the very bottom of the bowl of sand in which he'd been left. Three darkly stained wooden beads were sketching a little arc in the air a scant inch above the surface.

He put his limbs to the test, and was surprised to find that despite the desert chill, none of the usual aches he'd grown so accustomed to were there to reprimand him for his haste. Instead he moved effortlessly, liquid and organic even with the unreliable footing. He descended further into the bowl, dripping sand, his hair a wild red halo about head and shoulders, and when he reached Lexius, he slid in an uncontrolled skid, coming to rest at his side wherein he thrust his fingers deep enough to find something to grab, and pulled.

Lexius was face-up, naked but for the beads, and Mesteno tipped him to his side to aid any sand from draining out of his nose and mouth. Not that it worked as he’d intended. It seemed to be visibly sinking into him, worming into the darkness of his hair and burrowing into his scalp. Mesteno’s hands roamed him like a swarm at throat and wrist, and he stooped low, cheek turned to feel for breath. The bronzed colour of Lexius’ flesh (clean of the usual multitude of tattoos) seemed deepened, and his black hair lightened with streaks of the embedded grains. He didn't seem to be breathing.

"Lexius?" Low and vehement, louder than a whisper but not yet a shout. Just enough to stimulate the ears. No panic though - Mesteno knew when a soul was flown, and Lexius' had not yet absconded.

The beads gave a chiding rattle.

“Shut up, I'm trying!" he snapped, a breath before they struck out at him, clamping around the chain swinging wildly from his neck. Mesteno let go of the Elf with one hand to try and fend them off, but with the connection came a shock, the tingle of electricity jolting through his body just as surely at the Elf's.

It was enough to kick-start Lexius into taking a sudden, deep breath. The thump-thump of his heartbeat came next, strong and steady as if it had only paused for a moment to collect itself. His eyes remained closed, no sign of awareness, but he was alive and breathing on his own. The beads went lax and slipped free of Mesteno's chain, pooling listlessly on the sand.

Whilst the results of the shock hadn’t escaped Mesteno’s attention, he still shot the lifeless strand a foul look. "Did you little *** just use me to jump start him?" Not that it mattered. What mattered was the breathing.

The beads lolled back and forth on the sand, as if trying to make some kind of sound in response to Mesteno's question. Their snug hold on the Elf's throat had eased enough for Lexius to swallow. His Adam’s apple had never been pronounced, but given the lean sparseness of his frame (not an ounce of extra water on him!), the motion was easy enough to detect.

The Elf's skin still had a tactile grittiness to it, all the more so for the recent absorption of the sand, and he was still just a little too warm when compared to a normal human. His dark hair was shorter (newly grown) revealing fully the compact, pointed ears tucked tightly against the side of his head. One of those tips was silver rather than bronze, as if the cuff he'd always worn was now fused permanently into his skin.

"Lexius. Lexius wake up, there's a dragon!" A white lie intended to shock him to consciousness.

The Elf did stir for Mesteno's fib (or maybe it was a coincidence) his body giving a subtle jerk before his eyes flicked from closed to open without a blink. It didn't seem to matter than fine grains of sand dropped into his eyes, and those that clung to dark lashes seemed to melt away on their own. All of that was incidental, though, because those were not the Elf's usual eyes. Gone was the sharded mix of red violet and oasis blue. Instead, the irises of Lexius' eyes was a uniform amethyst colour, far darker than Gem's brilliant tone, as if the purple had been stained with clouds of smoke.

The eyes shifted to lock onto Mesteno's face and stare intently.

Mesteno was initially startled by the change. That strange hybrid mix had become so familiar that it might have been like looking into a strangers' eyes if they weren't so very Lexius in all other aspects. While the Elf stared at him, he stared right back, finally noting the other subtle changes to his appearance, from hair to ears, but invariably returning to his eyes again.

Does he remember me?

Slowly, so as not to startle him, he let go of the wrist he'd been checking for signs of pulse, and instead passed the backs of his knuckles lightly across the wing of one of the Elf's cheekbones. Light, but plainly affectionate, the sort of touch intent on sparking memory, recognition.

"Do you know my name?" he asked him, his voice the lowest of murmurs.

Lexius nostrils flared on a more sharply drawn breath when Mesteno's touched his face. The bones in his cheek seemed sharp enough to cut! Lexius did not pull away, but his eyelashes flickered. Or was it his eyes that did that, the gleam in light in their shuttering like a camera lens? It took him a few more breaths to answer, in which he swallowed and his jaw worked.

"Mesteno." Recognition. But his voice held no warmth. He'd spoken rather flatly, in fact. Almost monotone, despite the roughness of his voice. Unused vocal chords getting stretched for the first time. The Elf cleared his throat and tried again, in no great hurry to move yet. "Thou art well?" The Elf's voice, without a doubt, but even he scowled at the wording when he heard it. At least it proved there were some emotions in him.

The distinctly flat quality to Lexius' voice persuaded Mesteno to withdraw his hand. Either the memories weren't there yet, or they were gone for good, and though the potential felt like a knife's twist, nauseating, he wasn't about to make him tolerate something he clearly wasn't ready for. He made the movement smooth, his palm folding over his own kneecap where he knelt beside him as if it weren't a retreat, just a comfortable place to rest it. Ignore the fact that his nails were biting through the dusty denim hard enough to leave crescent indentations on the tawny skin beneath.

The Elf’s archaic turn of phrase suggested some mental regression, a theory Mesteno was glad distract himself with. It meant the frown he wore, and the concern, could easily be due to the things he was trying to figure out rather than it being associated with anything more... personal.

"Well that's a good start. Y'moving and talking," encouragement. It seemed appropriate all at once to offer him his jacket back after all. "D'you think you can sit up?" he asked as he unfastened it.

That scowl the Elf was wearing lingered on for a few breaths longer, his gaze remaining fixed on the Sadist as the man pulled back. Mesteno hadn't answered the question and that bothered him more than his pattern of speech. Still, Lexius made no mention of either thing and finally smoothed the expression away. Only then did he test his limbs, flexing fingers, shifting legs, his gaze turning down and away from the man to watch himself begin to move. He didn't seem too concerned with the fact that he was naked, but his brow did furrow with faint lines as more knowledge and memories blinked awake inside his head. He planted one hand to the sand and pushed up off his side.

"I remember this." He said suddenly, precisely. Grimly. He'd woken up like this once before with the same sort of sluggish newness to every part of him. The Elf closed his eyes, breathing in deeply. Back then, he'd been glad to be alive and breathing. Back then, it had hit him not too long after he had pushed himself up. That need to see Koyan had attacked him even before hunger or thirst.

Lexius went statue still, the breath held deep in his lungs as he waited... and waited.

"You remember what?" came the inevitable question as Mesteno slipped his arms from the jacket and thrust it across at Lexius. That the Elf ignored the jacket, and ignored his question too didn't much help his growing concern that things had gone awry again. "Lexius." Not a question, just another attempt to snare his attention. He even gave the jacket a brief shake, intending to draw his eye, but the minutes ticked on painfully, and the lizard skin crumpled in the ever tightening grasp of his fingers. He was convinced everything had been lost. He let the jacket sag into the sand and groaned quietly, shaking his head, low slung between his shoulders, the labradorite swinging at the end of its new chain.

Yet finally, the Elf released his breath with a rushed, harsh laugh. When he looked at Mesteno again, he wore a sharp, hard smile. "It is a good start." He agreed. And then he reached right out to grab the man's shirt (only partly from loss of balance) and ask him that question again. "Are you well?"

Mesteno’s head remained low, but his eyes flicked upward sharply behind a forward fallen tangle of sand-streaked, blood red hair.

"Wait-- you mean it worked?" He was cautious, that much was plain enough from tone alone. He'd probably have ignored his question again if not for the fact that the soft, brushed cotton of his shirt had been grasped for emphasis. "Yeah. Yeah I'm fine." His hand lifted to catch around the wrist of the hand come grabbing at him. "But did it work?"

Lexius was, even then, far too cautious to commit to such a blanket affirmation, especially given he could see and feel other changes in himself. In Mesteno. More information, sensations and memories flooded in, woke up, assaulting the Elf in a thickening flow. The grit of the sand beneath him contrasted sharply with the softness of the Sadist's shirt, the light tickling touch of hair across his forearm as distracting as the firmer grip of fingers about his wrist. Lexius' gaze dropped from Mesteno face and he exhaled another breath he'd been holding once he heard the answer, relief swelling more fully amidst other emotions dancing just a little wildly beneath the surface of his skin.

The Elf closed his eyes again against the glut of visual stimuli and pressed his knuckles hard into the Sadist's chest to brace himself upright as he breathed in the scent of the dunes and the darker, much more subtle musk of Mesteno's distinctive scent, his lips parted enough to take the taste of it all across his tongue. "It is different this time." He finally allowed. "I do not... sense that urge." But he was sure enough now to know what might be lacking had surely been replaced. He wasn't given much more time to ponder it though, because his stomach clenched and his throat convulsed.

"Water." He demanded suddenly, harshly.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 9:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

Mesteno didn't hesitate to uncork and hand over the flask when Lexius demanded it, too busy commenting on the physical changes he’d noted to care about a strange crooning sound, above and beyond their position, but not too terribly far away.

"Wait." Lexius commanded, and the sound cut off dutifully. "How do you feel?" Intent, the question, asking more than just his general welfare, his gaze intent.

"There was a lot of pulling things apart and putting them back together," the necromancer confided, as if he suspected Lexius knew precisely what he meant. No need to detail that the process had been far from painless, that it had not been quick, and that enduring it was something he was not eager to repeat.

His attempts to explain the experience did not do it justice. It had been entirely too surreal, and without the Elf’s vast knowledge of such workings, he felt like a child attempting to describe a complex chemical reaction.

There had been moments, after he’d watched him crumble into something with a parity to cosmic dust, that he’d sensed two very separate presences; that of the Elf and the scaled monster he’d been bold enough to challenge so many years ago. He’d witnessed the very moment the merge had taken place, glimpsed the fire born between its teeth, watched it all like a voyeur beside an anonymous Elf, albino pale as Lexius had once been. And then it had all been wrung from him, neatly ordered, each personality cleanly divided, with Lexius finally free of the corruption and the faultiness erased.

"I'll write it all down at some point 'n you can read it." He decided once he’d explained it to the best of his ability, for he was undeniably more eloquent when he put quill to paper, and it would give him time to make more observations, to theorise. "Any dissonance? Any at all?" he asked finally.

Lexius rested his hands upon his knees, and darkened eyes slid closed again. He was silent for several moments, surveying inside once more. Things were settling. "No." He slit his gaze to stare at the Sadist once again. "But we will test it more fully later."

"Yeah, not exactly the right spot to be poking the bear," Mesteno agreed, casting a glance around the bowl they'd tumbled into.

"Will you go reassure Lan we are well? I have clothing." Lexius reached for the strap of his satchel to pull it free of the dune.

"He's probably gonna be so overjoyed to see you he gets dragon drool all over you," Mesteno remarked, rising (with none of the old clunks and cracks - a novelty) to do as the Elf asked of him. "Definitely put the clothes on before he sees you unless you wanna take a bath when you get back."

The Elf had paused, brow furrowing. "My thanks, Mesteno." He offered that gravely. Sincerely.

Mesteno answered it with nothing more than a gentle touch of fingers to his shoulder as he moved past him to find the anxious young dragon. He knew the Elf was grateful. He didn't need telling.

Lexius sat statue still as Mesteno passed, his skin twitching anew for the fleeting touch to his shoulder. He waited until he was over the dune, and only then did he give himself a more thorough investigation, palms sliding over skin and the muscle it sheathed, feeling out the bones beneath, brushing through shortened hair and across the metal-infused tip of one ear.

Up above, Lan was quivering in place and barely waited for Mesteno to get any closer before a deluge of questions, and an accompanying nudge of his snout had the necromancer cracking a broad smile, and palming his nose aside lazily.

"It's been three days!" Lan informed him.

"Three days? It felt like longer," Mesteno admitted with a grimace. "I'm sorry we worried you. It's over now, yes. And I think it was successful, but we're gonna have to do some tests to make sure, so don't be too impatient with him when he can't provide you with all the answers, okay?"

Lan unfurled one wing to fold it around Mesteno and his own head, sheltering them both in a deeper darkness. "It glows." He whispered loudly, suddenly intent on the chain hanging askew around the human’s throat.

The chain wasn't glowing, as it happened. At least, not to the normal eye. The dragon didn't exactly have normal vision, though.

Pulling his head back, he gave the Sadist another toothy grin. "Like the beads!" He lowered his voice then, speaking with a certain reverence. "It touched you."

"It does no--," Mesteno began to protest, fingers automatically reaching for the length of metal to draw it out from his chest and into view. His smile faded entirely, replaced by a look distinctly troubled. He wasn’t pleased about being touched by divinity, nor potentially wearing an equivalent to Lexius' beads though. "***," he murmured darkly.

Sweeping his wing back suddenly, Lan surged up onto his haunches as if to free his front claws and grasp him. Thankfully, it was at that moment Lexius pullrf himself up over the side of the dune, fully clothed. "Stop torturing Mesteno," the Elf chided.

It aborted Lan's reach. The dragon tucked his front claws inward and tried to look innocent. "I wasn't!"

Mesteno let the chain thump back against his collar bone. He couldn't help wondering whether Lexius had known about it and not mentioned it for some reason. "The kid's just happy to see people." He took Lan's side simply for the sake of being contrary. "You should give him a hug."

Lexius treated Mesteno to a long, level look, his dark eyes clouded with shadow. Lan, caught between a snicker and a gasp, chose to bury his snout in the sand. "Is that you saying you wish to walk back?" He moved with slow seriousness, closing in on the pair. Lan snorted sand into the air then went quiet again. The Elf was holding his abandoned jacket in one fist, the satchel in the other as he stalked Mesteno down.

Lan's behaviour was so child-like that Mesteno couldn't keep from rolling his eyes heaven-ward, and he turned his back on the dragon's theatrics to watch Lexius approach instead. While the Elf might have had intimidation in mind, Mesteno was too busy observing his movements. He wanted to be sure he functioned, wasn't so weak he'd fall from Lan's back.

"That is me saying you should be grateful he cares," he responded matter-of-factly, though once he'd finished his inspection, he did lift his eyes, newly lit with amusement and relief. "You function. He won't have to carry you back in his talons like some princess from a castle."

More sand spurted into the air around the dragon's snout, a directly response to the Sadist's comment.

The Elf paused, standing steady on his feet, and canted his head a little to one side as if to better process Mesteno's words, his meaning, the emotion behind them. Fully revealed as it was, his face looked sharper, the angles more cutting and alien. There was no obscuring the hard line of his jaw or the occasional quiver of tendons along his neck and no hiding the fact he was decidedly elven. The colour of his eyes might be different, more uniform, and he might not have displayed a lick of mental power yet, but there was still some strange energy in the coiling shadows deep inside that amethyst hue.

When Lexius moved again, it was much more quickly. Testing himself, perhaps. Three steps and he was in the Sadist's space. He shoved his jacket (and fist) into Mesteno's chest hard enough to push him back into the steely shoulder of the dragon. Lan went very still and the Elf closed in, leaning into the Sadist with a sharp smile that hinted at the teeth behind it. "He knows I am grateful. And I am functioning quite well." He assured with quiet, well controlled ferocity.

"That fact hadn't escaped me," Mesteno admitted, sounding rather grave... But it was only an act, for a moment later he had the Elf by the throat, not viciously, but plainly intent on keeping him right there for the kiss he smeared clumsily against his mouth.

Lexius was unsurprised. He pressed in all the more closely to pin him against smooth scales without a care for the way the dragon twisted its neck about to stare at them with astonishment, then fascination. It wasn't that Lan had never seen humanoids kiss before. He'd just never seen Lexius kiss anybody. Maybe he'd never imagined the Elf knew how.

Lexius knew how, without a doubt.

He didn't hesitate, didn't toe the water in search of some hidden riptide of discord that might drag him under. Instead, Lexius plunged headfirst right into the water and answered the kiss hungrily, his satchel thumping into the ground by Mesteno's boots. Long fingers went twisting into Mesteno's hair, pulling his head back much just as possessively as he was held by throat. Sloppy was a fine beginning, but the Elf refined it into something more intent and devouring. All without a flinch or a twist or a hiss to betray he was paying for it somewhere inside his head.

Mesteno didn’t cut Lexius' efforts short once they'd begun, pliant in the kiss’ infancy, before responding with a consumptive desire that was nothing short of viciously demanding, a dark sensuality emphasised by the keen edges of teeth that seemed to have been remade subtly sharper. Somewhere in his gutter-slumped mind, he was fully aware of the fact that Lexius wasn't pulling away from him, didn't seem to be struggling in the least, and perhaps that was why he didn't hold back, why he committed to it without reserve.

Lexius was already plastering himself into place, the jacket and his hand moved aside so he could mould them together from chest to knees. The way his hand clamped into place at the Sadist's hip ensured they wouldn't soon part anywhere along that line. It was far, far too much. Another overload of sensation when the last flooding release of it had just settled down. Lexius didn't seem to care.

Lan reminded them they had an audience by snapping his jaws together, pointedly clearing his throat. "Hello!" He called, concerned by how protracted the moment had become.

The necromancer was caught short of an ass-grab, and his eyes snapped open, tongue in a curling retreat behind the shield of his teeth. Tempting though it was to slant a vicious look aside at the young dragon, he refrained. The interruption had been a necessary one.

"You want me to bite him, since you're here to watch?" he asked, an unsubtle reminder of the evening Lan had been so bold as to ask about the marks he’d left upon Lexius’ neck not so very long ago.

The swamp of sensation had left Lexius a little light headed, and so he didn't immediately push away, instead dipping his head down a bit beside Mesteno's. That question even turned his growl into something of a laugh.
The beads slung through the Elf's belt slapped at Mesteno's knee at the same time Lan said, "No!" and Lexius barked another brief laugh into the Sadist's ear.

"Probably wise." He murmured as he let go. He supposed he'd proven his functionality enough for now, though that didn't stop him from swiping his thumb across Mesteno's lips as he pulled his hand back, licking the pad of it himself as he stepped away, widening the distance between them. No, there were no signs at all of any sort of dissonance and the Elf was a little giddy from the lack. "Will you take us back, Lan?" He asked the dragon formally, though he never quite took his gaze off Mesteno.

The dragon heaved a gusty sigh and nodded his horned head. Before long, the trio were airborne, flight sans joyous acrobatics at the necromancer’s insistence. It was getting back into the sand pit back at the caves that proved something of a challenge, but Lan put his tail and exceptional hovering ability to use to lower them far enough for a drop that didn't threaten to break any bones.

With Lan gone, it was inevitable really that Mesteno reach for Lexius again, claiming his hand in one of his own, not to drag him close and pick up where they'd been interrupted, but simply out of a need to touch. The novelty of being able to without repercussions wouldn't wear off anytime soon.

"Right now. Nothing?" He was selfishly re-establishing that it really had worked. That there were no sparks of rejection to be mindful of.

The Elf had been rubbing one pointed ear, gaze canted up toward the sky where the dragon no long hovered. The contact appeared to startle him, fingers twitching once before he tightened them around Mesteno's. Novelty, indeed, for more than just the obvious reason. He monitored himself for several seconds before he answered, sorting through the tangle of feelings prompted by the simple intimacy of the contact.

"No. Not nothing." He finally replied, a ghostly smile touching his lips. He didn't let the man's worry get too far before he clarified. "But no discord.â€

And that was quite enough for Mesteno.

[End]
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