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Mesteno
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 11:53 am    Post subject: Fault Lines Reply with quote

[OOC: Reader warnings for mature subject matter. Adapted from live play with Lexius' writer.]

October 27th, 2015


Days had passed.

It had taken days not only to recover, but also to begin sorting, dividing and securing all the items they'd confiscated from Jetrell's former home. Lexius had been busy transferring and interpreting what seemed like years’ worth of the demi-god’s research in the lab, and it would take weeks, at least, to make some sense of it all. Not too long ago, the Elf might have happily buried himself in that research without a thought for anything else.

Nowadays, other thoughts existed and crept in at the most unexpected moments.

He resisted contacting Mesteno too quickly after their last tumultuous encounter. He'd spent a solid twenty four hours half buried in a sand dune meditating to recoup his depleted resources after the battle with Jetrell, but even there his thoughts had been haunted by the ghosts and spectres of whip-thin man who's flavour he could still taste on his lips days later, no matter how much spiced coffee he drank.

It was more than that, however, that finally drove Lexius from his cave to seek out the Sadist.

There was a wealth of new knowledge to be contemplated and dissected, and Lexius found that, for the first time in a long time, he didn't want to do that alone. Not when there was such a sharp, eager mind a quick teleport away. It took him several hours to identify that nagging, persistent emotion for what it was. He missed Mesteno's voice, his ideas, his unique input...his presence, however dark and dangerous it might be.

Lexius appeared without warning on his front porch, the satchel at his side and the beads waggling with amusement at his thigh. They might have won a bet amongst themselves on just how long the Elf would be able to hold out. Or they might be amused with the simple fact Lexius hadn't taken the time to check if Mesteno was even there before he'd teleported.

There was no sign of him outside. The conspicuous smudge of a crushed cigarette stub on the decking drew the Elf’s eyes, an anomaly to turn over in his head. The necromancer didn’t smoke, and disapproved of the habit unashamedly.

There was music playing, Holst's 'Jupiter' in its majestic third minute, assisted acoustically by the morgue's solid surfaces. The door to that grim chamber yawned open, the cold spilling out into the kitchen.

Lexius descended the flight of stairs to the morgue cat-footed, passing through the starkly sterile environment and ever closer to the source of the music.

The small adjoining laboratory was where he found the necromancer, the staff he'd pilfered propped obtrusively in one corner. He was studying the soul jar carved from Terrell’s womb for details etched into the (well-scrubbed!) glass, and amidst the hum from the body lockers and the music, seemed quite unaware of his company.

The Elf paused again in the doorway to take his fill of the sight before he interrupted it.

Mesteno was perched on a stool with his back to the morgue, knees in a broad splay and elbows on the edge of the worktop as he gently manipulated the jar under high magnification. Caution had him handling it with sturdy looking gauntlet gloves, just in case there was any spontaneous shattering. He did not want his blood getting all over someone else's soul receptacle for obvious reasons. He'd bound his hair back in a half-tail, drawing it from his temples to keep it from his face without having to wrestle the whole lot into something tidier. It left the small, bone carved Alfar trophy he wore in his hair visible, vividly white against all the red.

He wore only ratty jeans and a simple black wife beater that did little to hide the ladder of rings along his spine, nor the butchery of runic work cut deliberately into the span of his shoulders, rudely interrupted by the exit wounds where the shotgun had torn his clavicle apart years ago.

Protective spells intended to keep any souls from straying from within the sphere he worked in were palpable, yet there was no outward indication of where they were.

Temptingly, there was also a neat little stack of scroll tubes on the worktop too, as of yet unopened.

It'd been some time since Lexius had seen that much of Mesteno's skin exposed, and while he might have felt the rings that laddered up the curve of the Sadist’s spine once or twice, he'd never truly had a chance to examine even this much of them, masked by the fall of hair and the thin cloth. He studied what he could of those and the scarring that spider webbed across the man's skin. He scrutinized Mesteno's posture as he bent over the jar he was analysing so carefully. He soaked in every single nuance of the picture presented, as if the Sadist might, perhaps, test him later on what he had seen.

But he had not entirely forgotten he’d come with a purpose, no matter how long he chose to look. The stack of scrolls tucked in one corner of the work bench reminded him conveniently.

"Mesteno." He murmured the man's name, carrying it with a thought closer to the man's ear rather than attempt to physically breach any barrier he might have set up or raise his voice over the sound of the music.

Engrossed as he'd been, Mesteno was startled from his study, and there was a musical, glassy clink as the soul jar clipped the lens above it. There was no sudden eruption of pieces though, the contact too light to cause any damage, and the alarm which pulled taut muscles into sharply delineated relief eased out of him on a sigh carrying a low, breathy obscenity.

He set the jar down before he turned about on the stool, a pair of safety goggles perched on the bridge of his nose which he pushed carelessly up his brow and into his hair. Lexius identified, he slid off the stool, barefoot as usual and tugging the gloves from his arms.

"Well you look a damn sight better'n you did before," he remarked, though his gaze did no more than sweep his face briefly.

Looking caused trouble.

He’d not forgotten the exquisite embarrassment of being left on his own front porch after their kiss, and neither of them had spoken a word about it since, even in the hours they’d been left alone to pillage Jetrell’s manor.

"I am well." Lexius informed him. It was his stock reply, of course, even when he was at his worst, because he was well. He was alive and breathing and in control of his mind, in command of his limbs, in possession of that spark of energy that allowed him life. Once, that had not been the case. Everything was 'well' when balanced against years spent with body, mind and the shattered remainder of his soul dissected from each other and stored in separate crystals.

"Come to exchange notes?” Mesteno asked. “Or y'know, hand over any interesting books you might have picked up." There had been one particular tome that ought to have been his from the start, a necromantic volume that Lexius had taken, perhaps purely because he knew he would want it.

Lexius studied the front view as he had the back, lips twitching faintly toward a smile for some reason or another that Mesteno would not see for the way his gaze slipped so easily away.

"Hand over?" He made that sound like a crime. "Negotiate, perhaps." His strangely colored gaze flicked toward the scrolls then across the room to where the staff innocuously lingered before his gaze settled back on the Sadist.

"You can't blame me for hoping," Mesteno replied unrepentantly, dropping the gloves on the worktop beside the notes he'd been making.

"May I come in?" Lexius asked politely.

Mesteno stepped aside, and made the sort of gracious, sweeping gesture universally accepted for a 'come in'. "You took enough out of that lab to keep you busy with study for months, Lexius," he reminded him, amused. "not t'mention your new specimens. What did I pick up amongst my meagre rewards you wanted so badly you're already here to 'negotiate' for it?"

Meagre was not really an appropriate word for it, but of course he was negotiating already, manipulating lazily by making it sound as if he thought he'd come out of it the worse of the pair.

Playing the gentleman, he nudged the stool the Elf's way with one foot, and contented himself with reclining against the worktop, arms folded and a lick of amusement playing about his mouth offsetting the stern, serious set of his brows. Bad acting as always. He couldn't play it serious, because he was quite frankly, too pleased to see him.

The beads chortled even before the Elf stepped into motion. No telling, though, which one of the two amused them more.

Rather than allow the distance between them to linger (as he should, Lexius knew), the Elf moved directly Mesteno's way and actually settled his ass lightly to the edge of the stool the man had nudged out, the heel of one of his boots hooked back along a lower rung to keep it from sliding away.

"I can blame you for whatever I like." He noted absently as he settled, gaze finally drifting to the soul jar. He saw it, of course, was scrutinizing the details, but the majority of his attention was with the necromancer and something inside him unknit just a fraction.

"Why Lexius, that was almost juvenile," Mesteno remarked. But he liked it. The small fact that things seemed comfortable between them was as pleasing as his presence.

The Elf paused, and it was a rather lengthy one, a silence in which he just breathed.

"You know that everything I learn I will share with you." He finally spoke up, looking back to the Sadist as his hand went to the satchel at his side. It was a truth, and yet a bargaining tactic of his own. Mesteno could not say he was hoarding the information away even if he'd taken things! "You know all my secrets." He added that without a trace of dismay over the fact, though it would not work in his favor when it came to the trading!

From the satchel he produced a roll of leather. Several samples in vials and dishes secured within the cushioned compartments inside. He didn't quite hand it over yet, though. They were bargaining. And Mesteno had information he wanted. "The remains of a cigarette are on your porch." A prompt, without a doubt.
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Mesteno
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 11, 2017 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

"I had an unexpected visitor a couple of days ago,” Mesteno admitted. “An old... friend or adversary, take your pick." They'd been as much one as the other. There was no sense that Mesteno was trying to conceal anything, but he offered no more than that yet, unsure how much was required of him. "I'll share my notes likewise, once I'm done,” he went on, “as I'm sure you'll return the star charts you larcenied right from under my nose." It wasn't even a word, but it was a deliberate choice.

There went Lexius’ lips again, tugging vaguely toward a smile at the corners which were marked by the sand coated drift of his hair. He was thick with the stuff today, but most of it remained clinging to his clothing, his skin. His amusement faded away a moment later. He always needed details.

"Was the meeting friendly...or adversarial?" he asked as he slid the roll onto the counter beside the soul jar. The items would keep. His own notes were rolled right up with the samples, most of which included various parts of the lizard creatures they'd encountered and the demi-god's remains. He had another, smaller wooden case which he produced next. In that were his findings and several specimens from Jetrell’s laboratory and the pathogen he'd been working on there. "Should I find the star chart, I'd certainly be willing to trade it for another." Not admitting outright to the theft.

Mesteno’s eyes slipped aside, from the roll to the hand leaving it there. He knew the texture of that skin well now, the roughness more like sand itself than callous. The play of too-prominent tendons tempted him sorely, made him inclined to reach across and find some excuse to brush some of the sand away. But no, he was being good. His arms remained wreathed.

"It began mildly adversarial. I'm not sure he was in his right mind to be perfectly honest. I gave him a warning to make sure he understood if he attacked me it'd go badly for him and after that behaved himself. As much as y'can hope for with someone like that."

Plainly Mesteno was whole though, the only injuries those he'd weathered from their little excursion to slay Jetrell. "My star chart had personal annotations," he drawled. "It'll be worthless without the associated terrestrial maps for the rifts and the scheduling tables. But I might be persuaded to allow copies... I suppose it depends on our negotiations."

Lexius left the items where he'd set them and settled his hands to his thighs. The beads still swayed lazily, hanging down beside the stool and staying silent as if not to draw attention to themselves since the pair were discussing the charts. Lexius resumed his study of Mesteno as he spoke.

"Define ‘someone like that’." Lexius knew The Sadist was holding out, which only meant whatever he was keeping back would not meet with the Elf's approval. "It sounds as if you might need to recover it to accurately predict and place your rifts." One missing chart could throw the whole thing off! "Which makes it rather valuable. I should think you would offer a due reward, such as copies, for the one who finds it." No more negotiations needed. He would help find this misplaced chart and receive copies! It sounded fair to the beads, at least. They gave a little snickering clatter against the leg of the stool.

"Consider Aiden's antics," Mesteno suggested. "Though you don't--," need to worry about that, he might have offered by way of reassurance. His guest had not been quite so direct despite his suggestiveness, but the necromancer wasn't about to rake over cold coals in search of a little heat. In the end the sentence remained unfinished though. Lexius had outright explained to him that he couldn't see a way beyond their differences, had confessed to having a friend with benefits he was able to find pleasure with. For all he knew, the Elf had gone to entertain this stranger when they'd parted ways, knowing he was safe from hands with cruel inclinations there. "Let's just say he doesn't have any lust spell *** to fire at me the way Aiden did."

He left it at that, and eyed the wooden case briefly, before shaking his head over the star charts. "I could just play Russian roulette with the rifts and end up in some Draeden's uterus because someone pilfered them," he countered.

Lexius frowned faintly. Mesteno would do that, too, he suspected! The sure, certain knowledge of it brought an abrupt laugh to the Elf's lips.

"You are incorrigible." He accused, payment for the juvenile comment and far more true! "I would leave you there were that to happen." His blue-violet eyes certainly gleamed a bit more brightly with the threat. "And, I avoid uteri of all types. There were rings in the coffer. And a book that may be of some small interest to you." The Elf went on blandly. It seemed he had set aside the issue of Mesteno's mysterious visitor.

Lexius’ laughter had sent the necromancer’s dark brows winging upward, because even now there was a certain rarity to them that he couldn't help but treasure. It won Lexius a smile of the unguarded variety, the bright, hard lines of his teeth very straight despite the way one corner of his mouth tended to hitch a little higher, everything vicious-sharp and deviant.

"S'quite the compliment." Incorrigible! "And yet I'm disappointed. All this vagrancy and you wouldn't want to see what it was like on the other side of something like that? Some explorer."

The curve of lips, the flash of teeth, the glittering in those predatory eyes, the entirety of the expression Mesteno wore in those few moments absolutely personified everything the Sadist was to the Elf; beautiful and dangerous, intelligent and brutal. Breath-taking. Lexius shifted his gaze away, but it could not be unseen.

The necromancer leaned towards him, past him innocently to tug the leather roll with the samples nearer so that he could get a look at them. He wasn't falling for that bland tone. "Rings? I'm guessing they weren't the purely decorative sort or y'wouldn't make mention of them... right? Or do you secretly deck y'self in gold and jewels when there's no one 'round to see you?" He eyed him as if trying to imagine it! "Tell me about this book."

Lexius managed to avoid releasing a growl of frustration he could feel bubbling in his throat. Everything tightened in him when the Sadist leaned his way. Everything stilled. What had they been discussing? Certainly not the scent of the man which he could get far more easily if he just leaned a little himself. He did so almost unconsciously. Almost. He did so in defiance of the larger part of him that demanded he not.

Metal and leather, hints of saddle soap, old blood and the damp of autumn earth from hours spent outdoors. Apple, strangely, and beneath it all something dark. The same way he tasted dark, without ever actually being able to put a finger on how it might be put to words.

Lexius’ gaze lidded as he took it all in, and clamped down on the internal urge to lean away. His gaze locked once again on the side of Mesteno's face, traced the path from jaw to ear, ear to throat and downward. So different, those smells, made more so by the underlying sense of darkness that brought to mind the things over which Mesteno had command. Shadows and death and pain. He found no more appeal in the latter than he did with women, but the first two intrigued. He knew he could not pick and choose in this case.

"What do you wish to know?" He might have been asking in response to the Sadist's final demand or he could be asking something else altogether.

"I want to know whether the book is what I think it is, and whether it's in the common tongue. Or Latin. Something I can read, basically. If it is, what'll you take for it?" Down to business then.

Lexius’ voice had dipped lower in tone and had collected a few grains of sand somewhere along the way for the subtle roughness that now infested it. "The book is what you think and readable. There was also a crook and a staff. There is much to them, though I have yet to determine what."

As for what he would take? Lexius bit his tongue on that answer and set about pouring himself a cup of water from that skin he carried into a small wooden cup.

"What do you wish to give?" He finally asked, on the heels of a slow drink that had cleared much of the grit from his voice.

The change in Lexius’ voice distracted Mesteno. It was his turn to observe as the Elf went about pouringr. Whatever he was searching for was hidden by the hair he felt a wretched impulse to resituate behind an elven ear. Maybe he'd just imagined the change though. He had to bite his tongue when the first thing to spring to mind was something lascivious but he did lean over again, this time to claim, even if only temporarily, the wooden case he'd brought out.

"Well there's the cloak, the staff, the scrolls over there and the soul jar. So far as I can see, the jar has nothing of value to it other than an opportunity to examine the containment method, which is something I can do already - just not without being alive to direct it see, so I'm curious to know how he set it to activate for his own. Plus it was in a uterus." Serious expression! Lexius did not like uteri. "I suppose I could spare a few scrolls." He was starting with a low offer, and knew the Elf wouldn’t take it.

Lexius gave a low snort of faux contempt. "The personal tome of an incredibly powerful necromancer and you offer a handful of scrolls?" He eyed them sidelong, briefly. Mesteno hadn't even touched them yet, had he? No, they'd be spread out and around if the man had gone through the stack. "Scrolls you cannot even assure me contain any valuable information at all." He added that educated guess as his gaze swung back to the Sadist.

It was all rote, really. He'd spent a large part of his existence haggling. He often did it more for the sake of the skill itself rather than any need to get a good deal. It was one of the few things he honestly enjoyed. And he did want to know what was in the scrolls. He needed to know what was in those scrolls. The disturbing thing was, though, despite the persistent nagging in his head otherwise, it wasn't all he really wanted. It wasn't all he wanted Mesteno to offer him. He forgot his drink to level a rather intent, almost challenging look at the man.

"Oh c'mon,” Mesteno shot back, “you know as well as I do he wouldn't have locked 'em up in that treasure room if they hadn't been worth something. In your own words, ‘he's a powerful necromancer’. Anything he kept is gonna be worth the study." But he knew full well that Lexius liked to haggle. Their first exchanges had been essentially business deals.

"I am no thief to need to cape. I am no mage to need the staff,” The Elf went on. “I am no swordsman to need the sword." He'd noticed the sword even if Mesteno had left it off the list! "And I would not touch the soul jar if you paid me." That might be a small exaggeration. "Make me a better offer, Mesteno."

Mesteno was left to blink owlishly at the Elf in a way that almost made him bark another laugh. Lexius mastered the urge lest his position deteriorate

"You're deliberately tormenting me," Mesteno accused him, jabbing a finger towards his chest, though not with any threat it might actually touch him.

Lexius flicked the fingers of his free hand, negligently dismissing Mesteno's first words. It served to also brush off the accusation in that pointing finger as well at the man's tone. The gesture was easy. Biting back a vague smile was more difficult.

"I don't have anything else from that place to offer,” Mesteno insisted. “You already got my agreement to come lie on your table, you've got my star charts - I'll give you copies of the accompanying documents" grousing there! "So unless you need a job doing, the promise of a future favour or hooking up with something illicit I can get you through the black market..."

Lexius was enjoying himself, more so than usual if only because it was Mesteno on the other end of the negotiation. He didn't show a speck of interest for any of the offers the man threw his way. "None of those things will serve." He assured with some measure of gravity, but then found himself snared in his own trap. He should have taken the offer of future favors!

His gaze suddenly narrowed in something akin to determination. "Offer me something...more personal." That subtle grit was back in his voice as his gaze skated its way down and back up the man's body.

It was the word 'personal' that immediately narrowed Mesteno’s eyes in suspicion. No, he wasn't mistaking the look, and that change in his voice he'd convinced himself hadn't been there earlier - even he wasn't that oblivious. But this wasn't invitation, he knew. There would be conditions. Don't mind the broad swollen pupils, the way he was having trouble not looking by this point.

"Lexius you are shameless," he told him quietly, and not with disapproval.

Something personal, in return for a book. The nature of such an exchange could be all too easily likened to whoring, not something he’d ever considered he might be subjected to again. Not something he wanted to ever be linked to his relationship with Lexius.

"Let me make something perfectly clear here. Whatever... personal offers I make to you, are likely to be benefitting me as much as you. If you just happen to offer me the book afterwards, I'm considering it a gift." About that he was adamant. "Tell me what you like, Lexius. And how you like it. So I don't have to go offering anything you deem inappropriate. Are we talking about me playing gentleman and taking you out somewhere here, or something more… base?"
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2017 4:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

It was dangerous, playing this particular game. The time would come when he was on the other end of it, the Elf was certain. It'd been no easy thing turning the conversation this way. And of course it had set off an automatic clamouring inside his head, the muscles tightened across his frame. Lexius closed his eyes for a moment and to attempt to systematically shut down all those negative reactions.

Mesteno's words filtered in and he looked his way with lids kept narrowed over his blue-violet gaze. He finally let something of a smile curl at his mouth again, head canted just a touch to one side.

A gift, was it? Did Mesteno really believe he would get as much from the exchange, wrapped in his conditions, as he would without them? It seemed a preposterous notion, but the Elf didn't challenge it. Instead, he answered the question.

"Something more base."

His fingers had been itching to touch since before he'd walked into the room, the distant echo of a want that was smothered under the rest of his reactions but refused to die. "I do not like pain for its own sake, Mesteno, but I have always enjoyed the struggle and I do not mind leaving or wearing bruises or even broken skin. But such violence, at this time, may well lead to an inappropriate reaction on my part." He didn't, couldn't, risk doing something so terrible it would put even a sliver of fear in the man. It was a thing that preyed on his mind even now, when he could ponder it dispassionately. "I need your patience and your willingness to allow me to...savor. I cannot start the way we did before. It is too much."

Pessimism owned a corner of Mesteno’s mind, and assured him in stoic, persuasive tones that entertaining any of the 'base' ideas parading across his sexually deviant mind was foolish.

The Elf would vanish again.

He was setting himself up for the very disappointment Lexius had promised him only days before.

But it couldn't erase the stirrings of desire, hearing the Elf speak the way he did. He picked up on words like struggle, bruises, broken skin, and wondered whether those bestial urges he had would be content with small beginnings. It was quite possible that he'd been spoiled by the extremes Evander had welcomed, and by Samiel's willingness before him to explore boundaries most would have considered sinister. Lexius was far older than both though, and the necromancer wasn't about to question his tastes. He considered it all quietly, wondered whether it was even emotionally responsible to engage in things carnal at this point.

Desire won out. It'd already done things to the sharp features of his face, the levelled eyes gone hungry, salacious, a mouth well made for vulgar things.

"All right, Lexius." How intimate he sounded, sotto voce - the music had stopped, reached its end. Appropriate. "Consider my offer to be anything, tame or perverse. I won't try to break you. Just don't run from me once we get started. That's all I ask."

Lexius wondered at that, that he could stir desire in the man even without the promise of violence as accompaniment. He didn't expect it would last much beyond this one time. Lifting his cup as the Sadist laid out his own condition, he drank away the last of the water then set it carefully aside to the counter beside him next to the box and the roll of leather.

"Very well." He agreed quietly as he unstrung the so-silent beads from his belt and pooled them around the cup. Rather than initiate anything just yet, though, the Elf asked another question.

"Do you require that, Mesteno, to find your pleasure? The breaking of another." His gaze was still mostly obscured by the way he'd narrowed his eyelids, but there was a sharpness to his regard now. "Were you to have full freedom, what is it that you like and how?"

No doubt the necromancer was a wanton wretch, his impulses easily inspired by the right words, formed by the right mouth. Perhaps there was a scrap of incubus blood in him, to be so hungry for it, and yet he'd turned down the advances of his visitor and Aiden both, the former of whom would all too likely have submitted uncomplaining to his perversions. Instead it was the Elf who seemed to hold sway over his desires, conditions or not. Lust was a curious thing.

Lexius' questions were difficult things to answer. He felt, somehow, that a few wrong words might put a stop to things before they began, and yet it wasn't in his nature to be dishonest.

"It's not a necessity," he murmured, and though he itched to initiate in some way, this was the Elf's show now. Anything, he'd promised, and so he'd have to lead. "In fact I'd go so far as to say a lover who stubbornly refuses to break and weathers everything I dole out, invites it..."

Was even better? Talking about it made him restless. His hands were tight around the edges of the worktop to either side of his hips, fingers white knuckled.

"Struggle is welcome. I like to fight for it. Earn it. Punish once I have it, especially if there's still struggle. But I would never desire a lover to endure it just to please me if they hated it. There's some pleasure in that, too, making the release harder than a man’s ever known even when he's hurting. I like that, the confusion, to see them when they're gathering their wits afterward and aren't quite sure how it happened, how they still got off on it."

He was watching the Elf so closely as he spoke that it was plain he was expectant - whether he thought the serenity would fail for revulsion, or desire was uncertain though.

"Don't worry, Lexius. I won't be disappointed if I don't get to split you open like overripe fruit." He smiled. Just a faint twitch of one.

----------------------------------------------

In the messy aftermath, it hadn’t taken Mesteno long to start pulling his clothes back into order. They were face to face again finally, and old apprehensions, the aversion to having too much skin on display had already begun to set in.

Lexius didn’t attempt to stop him. Instead he was fastening laces, belt. The ache behind his eyes kept his typically smooth brow furrowed. Indulging this way had cost him, though he’d expected it. The flaw that had come with his rebirth had never ceased to plague him.

Each watched the other, not out of wariness, but to get a better look now that they weren’t so indecently occupied.

"I would like to see you fully naked." Lexius blurted. That really hadn't been what he'd intended to say. He cut it off before he got more explicit. The edge in that rough tone spoke enough about the reality of the desire. It wasn't something he'd just said to reassure.

"You've seen more of my skin than I have of yours," Mesteno reminded him.

Perhaps back when he’d been lying naked on the table, horrified by the sudden absence of his clothes, Lexius had only been examining him in a clinical fashion, but it didn't change the fact he'd had nothing but a bit of muslin to avoid indecency.

The remains of his shirt were hanging uselessly, the fabric torn. He shrugged loose of them. Perhaps a small concession to the Elf’s clumsily confessed desire.

The patchwork of burns and bullet holes, surgical scarring and metal Lexius had willingly pricked his fingers on. Ugly and expansive. He let him look. Let him see the faults in his hide, pulled taut over the whip lean physique, but said nothing. Aside from, "Maybe if you negotiate well next time, you'll see all of it."

The Elf wanted to investigate it more closely. He wanted to touch every one of those scars and holes where Mesteno's flesh was shiny and jagged, hollowed and ridged. He wanted to bite that tattooed bird right across its inky chest and drag his teeth across its wings. Lexius jerked his gaze back to Mesteno's face and took a carefully measured breath.

"So I have." Lexius admitted at a murmur. He did not offer to strip and tie up the score even if it had looked, for just a moment, as if Mesteno wanted to reach out and touch him. That dark, animal need that was now curled up, mostly sated, behind the shattered bars of its cage stirred in approval of the notion.

Other parts of him, disagreed.

No walls were erected, but he kept the distance between them. "Do I need to negotiate?"

This hadn't been about the book. Mesteno had made that clear. At least, the Elf thought so. Now he thought perhaps he'd been wrong. The idea was... disconcerting. It drew a frown to his lips and had him looking away.

Mesteno picked up on the miscommunication fast enough, and he padded closer as Lexius stooped to collect an abandoned vial of oil from the floor.

When he straightened up, Lexius found a scant few inches between them and a slim, tawny hand lifting to slide against his cheek, heel of palm tucked along his jawline. He barely kept himself from leaning into it no matter the repercussions.

"Next time,” the necromancer told him, “I mean t'have you. I know you don't want me to, you find the idea... off-putting." The same way Mesteno did about nudity, though only because of personal misgivings. "Think about it though. And maybe I'll man the *** up and let you get me all the way out of my clothes." His tone was warm, intimate but thereafter he slipped past him to head back out of the morgue, his stride stubbornly denying that there had been anything questionable afoot. "You can borrow whatever you want," he called back over his shoulder, with a nod toward the pile of scrolls.

He'd never intended to keep them all, anyway. If he discovered there were three of each, he intended to make sure copies were evenly distributed between the Elf, Pharlen and himself.

Lexius watched the Sadist as he spoke, somewhat still, listening as the man laid out his intention in that particular tone. What a dichotomy of feelings that stirred up! His jaw tightened beneath, but his gaze latched on his mouth. He didn't get a chance to do anything (foolish or not!), though, because Mesteno stepped away, stepped past him, and headed for the stairs. That might have been a muttered curse given in Drow. There was no telling what expression might now be on the Elf's face, but his gaze bored into the metal and the flesh of his spine until he was completely gone. Lexius didn't say a word.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

October 30th, 2015

Have you been hiding from me, Lexius?


Another absence of days. This time it was Mesteno who’d broken the silence, crouching in the subterranean tunnels that ran warped beneath the Temple of Summanus. In the cup of his palm, the illumination from one of Lexius’ crystals flared, catching the underside of his jaw, the southern slopes of his cheekbones – nightmare lighting that did nothing to soften the severity of his features.

He was alone. He appreciated the silence, even if all the conversing he meant to do would be from one mind to another, with that small crystal relay as their go-between.

No. Came Lexius’ answer, and he might have left it at that, though he chose not to. I needed the sands for a time. Honest, if not always forthright.

I knew you'd go, Mesteno confided, without any self-satisfaction. It was a simple statement, one which excused rather than sounding resigned. It hurt you, what we did. He was speaking of that dissonance Lexius felt. Unavoidable. I wanted to know that you were all right, that's all. Do you need more time?

Time will not heal this. The Elf confessed.

Time had had its chance and he was done wallowing in its ineffective embrace and false hopes.

Lexius' reply was difficult for the necromancer process. If time wouldn't heal it, would the dissonance always be there? Would it continue to punish the Elf for walking a path not encoded into his rebirth? It was not pleasant to think on, and Mesteno sat staring down at the luminous shard of crystal without replying for a time.

The imperfect resurrection that had plagued Lexius like faulty coding in a computer program wasn’t something they could simply re-write. According to its parameters, the Elf desired Koyan. No one else would do. Trying to deny it would cripple the system and cause unknown damage. It was still nothing short of miraculous that he’d had the strength of will to touch, to kiss, to make that base demand.

In the end, the Elf brought Mesteno to the desert, snatching him from the bowels of the Temple and to the quiet of his home. It wasn’t until they were settled some time later, drinking spiced coffee amidst scattered cushions and talking about anything and everything else that made demands of their time, that their words cycled back to the barrier to their intimacy.

Lexius was watching Mesteno too closely. Sat near as they were, physical contact was an inevitability, and he’d dropped a hand to cover one of the other man’s ankles no matter that it made his eyes tighten at the corner.

Mesteno recognised it, and came to the immediate conclusion there was more of that dissonance at work.

"When we were... ***." For lack of pleasanter words - he couldn't have just said 'having sex'. "And you were in my head. It seemed like there was a lot of uncomfortable, maybe even painful stuff goin' on up here." He indicated with a finger against his own temple. "Will that always happen?"

Mesteno’s boot and pant leg kept the physical contact from being direct and Lexius wasn't trying to move either to let his fingers brush across skin no matter the urge that prompted him to do just that. If he could resist the craving to taste Mesteno’s mouth again (one far, far stronger!), then he knew he could master the temptation to touch any more than he was currently. He kept the hold light, but rested the full weight of his hand where it was and didn't move it.

Lexius drank from his coffee as he formulated his reply.

"I believe it will." He admitted. Too honest, perhaps. Mesteno deserved that, at least. "Until I find the source and... correct it. You were not wrong, in some of the things you said. I can feel, independent of what is dictated. But given what I truly feel does not match, there is a certain dissonance in it." He paused a moment, levelling a long, long look at the man. "I do not regret what we did. Not for a moment." He wanted that to be clear.

Mesteno appreciated honesty, but that didn't mean he hadn't hoped for a different answer. To think that it would be there if they shared a repeat performance, or made a habit of it, made him resent the fact he'd no power to change it.

"Give it time. You may think otherwise before long," he chuckled, though he was only half joking. He suspected most of the men he'd taken to bed would rather erase their experiences for one reason or another. "Given how long you've lived with it, and never come across any way to fix it, I know it's not gonna change anytime soon. I won't be offended if you'd rather I didn't make any advances. I felt it. It was... unpleasant."

His foot was retreating from against Lexius' calf despite that squeeze at his ankle.

Lexius tightened his fingers again, this time with purpose. The way the Elf narrowed his had more to do with his resolve than any pain it might induce. He was cursing the fact Mesteno had felt any of that internal battle, but given the multiple ways he'd been twisting his Will that evening, it couldn't be helped that some of it would have leaked through.

"I've become far too complacent in some things. Things that I find I no longer wish to tolerate within myself." Mesteno had provided the proper motivation, but the Elf knew he needed to fix his problem no matter how things played out between them. It was a weakness, a place of imbalance that persisted and prevented him from having full command of himself. It was a type of unwelcome bondage he could not allow to continue. "And as I said before, I believe it is you who will be the one that thinks otherwise. But until then, allow me this."

He pulled Mesteno's leg back into place.

"If there's anything you need me to do to help you, anything I can do, tell me,” Mesteno insisted. “I know it may sound self-serving, but I didn't realise until I felt it just what it costs you to touch someone. So anything, even if it’s just a second pair of eyes lookin' over texts for an answer to the problem in case you missed somethin'."

Lexius' continued assertions that he thought Mesteno would end up disappointed in him, only left him smiling. It wasn't wry this time, nor wicked-deviant. Just a keen flash of white behind the steam and the lip of the mug.

"How about we agree to quit assumin' the other is gonna find reasons to regret things? I'm pessimistic by nature, but I'd rather not be 'bout this. We'll just enjoy it while it's happenin' and deal with things as they come."

Lexius let his touch drift down (mostly unconscious) to drag along the spot where he knew that flesh had been carved. He seemed to know precisely where it lay and traced out the pattern of it. He gave a nod of agreement for Mesteno's offer of aid and hummed a thoughtful note of sound low in his chest.

Leaning in against the table, he drew his other hand along Mesteno's thigh toward his knee and hooked it up to slide his own leg beneath as he turned his gaze to examine some shadowed spot on the cave wall behind them. He finally asked what he should have from the beginning.

"And what if Evander should come back, cleansed of his obsession and wishing to have you again?"

Perhaps it was unfair, that question, given how recently the pair had parted and the circumstances of the split. Perhaps it suggested more intent from the Elf than expunging some curse of his own with Mesteno's help. That twist of possession was still inside him, but Lexius wasn't certain he could blame it all on that instinct. Not when he missed the man's presence during his days of absence. Not when just establishing a mental connection brought him such ease. Not when it came to giving something he had given no other.

Mesteno had been expecting continued assurance that physical relations of the kind he desired were unwanted, not the subject of Evander, something so wildly tangential that he was left sat wide-eyed and dumbfounded.

Instead of the composed mind of moments before, Lexius' mental connection to him was met with a clamour, a storm of thoughts and feelings unpleasant to weather.

He was angry. He was indignant. He was stung and he was raw.

Some of that was undoubtedly aimed at Evander, but a portion was attributed solely to what Lexius had asked him. All of it stormed under a silence, a stillness like the unrippled surface of a millpond. After what felt like a small forever, Mesteno managed to compose his thoughts enough to send something deliberately along that mental link. A memory, if the Elf chose to watch, no more than a few seconds long.

A sedate approach to a familiar porch, with familiar dogs demanding attention. A familiar line of miniature sculptures on a railing, and then, right in the middle of the porch decking, a bottle of Stolichnaya.

Underneath it a note. Blatant hesitation before it was collected, and then cautious fingers unfolding it to reveal a few simple words. If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all of my life. An annotation attributed the words to Oscar Wilde, though the first half of the sentence had been crossed out.

The memory ended there, and Mesteno sat back, leaning his weight into the elbow he had propped on the table, the fingers of his other hand impatiently sweeping the hair back from his brow.

"I wasn't particularly coherent when I explained what happened with Evander." He told the Elf slowly. "He hasn't gone anywhere, Lexius. He would come back if I asked him to. She - the woman, has always been there, always a sore point, she'll never be exorcised. I did a ***... fantastic job of ignoring her for years." He spoke almost as if she were still alive, rather than slain, but given the weight of the impression she'd left, it was difficult not to feel that way. "There would be mentions, comparisons, him defending her actions and denying things I'd outright proof of. And I tolerated it all, because they'd been together longer than I've been alive. He'd do something, and accuse me before I'd even reacted, of being about to react the way she'd always done to implicate him as guilty. Game playing. Manipulation. I'll give him his due, he suffered for that bitch, she conditioned him to be that way, but still there was... he wouldn't hear me speak her name. He'd lash out. And then when I asked for the map from you, he was immediately furious, insinuating I'd lingering feelings for Samiel."

He let slip a short, ugly laugh. There was no humour in it.

"In every future prophesised for them, she was there, an intended, no matter the outcome good or bad. They were linked intrinsically, they were meant to be... and I won't be anyone's solace. I won't be a substitute. I will never be to him what she was."

He was utterly convinced of that, and it was telling in the way his hand trembled furiously before it clamped to the edge of the table. He'd barely finished speaking when he was struck by the ridiculousness of what he'd done in getting involved with the Elf. That small reassurance he'd requested of him that he wouldn't accept Koyan back should the man come asking, telling him that all would be well - he was repeating mistakes.

The need for Koyan was there in every fault line in Lexius' reincarnation, and there was no way Lexius knew of to fix it. He'd stepped back into precisely the same role he'd been with Evander - or so he seemed to assume in that moment.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued…]

Lexius bore the storm he'd created in Mesteno's thoughts without a flinch, and he focused solely on the quiet, still surface the man presented in the wake of the question. He reflected back patient serenity, calm acceptance of the parts of those emotions that belonged to him, but there was a certain tension tightening the line of his shoulders and sharpening the harsh angles of his face.

His eyes had lidded somewhat when Mesteno projected the memory of the note, the only outward sign of how he processed it in the renewed grind of his jaw, the quick jump of a tendon beneath his teeth. He needed another root, but he didn't reach for one.

In truth, Mesteno had said nothing Lexius hadn't already worked out on his own. He knew Evander was still local. He knew Mesteno's issue was the man's obsession. He could feel Mesteno's certainty it would never fade. But he'd lived too long in RhyDin, too long period, to be so sure of that himself. The note only added to the problem. What the Sadist had said there at the end was a position he could see himself filling, as well. The solace, the substitute, the filler....the thing to be conquered. He felt that same thing mirrored back as Mesteno wound down and reacted without thinking at all.

Lexius rapped his knuckles hard enough against the stone table that it would likely leave a bruise and tightened his grip on Mesteno's knee a little painfully (given their tendency to be creaky!) as if it physically jerk them both from that vicious reflection they were suddenly sharing.

It sufficed to command Mesteno’s attention beautifully. The clamour of doubts subsided sullenly even if a bubble of pessimism remained that refused to be squashed.

"Enough." The Elf’s voice was crisp, cutting, a slice through the tumult of the moment. Too harsh. He took a breath and eased his grip, dulled his tone. "I understand." A calmer assurance. "Now understand me. You wish from me a thing I have given no other. Something I have had others covet merely so they could know or say that they had had me. Something I find, to my own surprise, that I might finally be inclined to give."

Even setting aside from the flaw that made everything more difficult, letting Mesteno have him in that fashion would have been difficult. Adding in the layers of complexity from the Sadist's situation only made it that much more tangled.

"Do you understand, Mesteno, you have more of me right now than any has ever held? And despite the flaws and the incompatibilities and the absolute insanity of every part of the situation, I...want to give more. I have spent weeks doubting that conviction, doubting the very fact I can have feeling independent of what seems to be embedded into me. It is...daunting to find that not only can I, but that they can run this way given everything that has come before."

He snapped his jaw shut. He wasn't making enough coherent sense. He needed to think more before he spoke.

Mesteno was temporarily struck mute, uncertain what to say. He'd accepted Lexius' desire only to have things one way in bed, even understood his reasoning, but he'd foolishly supposed that perhaps there might have been a slip, an exception in his past where he'd made allowances. Perhaps for one of those men he kept portraits of in the hallway.

It was the confession that he had more of him just then than anyone had before that drew the necromancer’s hand to the one on his knee, and pressed it there despite the bruises he would sure he'd have the next time he looked.

"I understand." Quietly. Intently. "I know what it must cost you to even consider it. So be sure. Be absolutely sure. My wants shouldn't factor into it. This shouldn't be about making a sacrifice on my behalf. So if you want to, I'd welcome it. I'd do everything I could to make sure it wasn't something you regretted."

Even, one might assume, staying his teeth and ignoring those brute urges he had to break anything which surrendered to his vicious hands.

"And know there's no rush,” Mesteno went on. “Whatever you give me, whenever you're inclined to, will be enough."

Lexius had decided the situation was insane.

There were definite incompatibilities, and they were both quite flawed in their own ways. It was ridiculous, had been from the very beginning, to pursue anything more than a distant friendship, to indulge whatever foolish feelings either of them felt. Lexius had always been terrible at managing his own emotions and it seemed he'd grown no better at it. Ignoring them, suppressing them, was the smarter path. That was something he'd become quite skilled it. Yet when Mesteno reached to cover his hand (and the dissonance vibrated sharply behind his eyes) the Elf did not pull away as he knew he aught. Instead, the Elf gave a low, harsh chuckle.

"Your want is inextricably linked." A somewhat wry admission, that. "As with so many of the things I have already given, I would consider it for no other." He was studying Mesteno's face all over again. Even that thread he’d wrapped into the man's mind squirmed.

What was it about this particular man that had drawn him out of decades of self-enforced solitude and deliberate remoteness? He knew the reason he had begun, the logic behind why he'd first started talking to the Sadist in the first place, but that in no way touched upon his need to continue.

"I will be certain." He finally murmured, more collected despite the fact he could not find an answer written in Mesteno's skin or tucked away in a secret fold of his mind (not that he'd pierced that deeply!). "Your patience is..." unanticipated, amazing, incomprehensible, "...appreciated." He chose the mild word, of course.

The Elf did love his understatements.

[End]
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 9:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Heavily adapted from live play with Lexius.]


November 6th, 2015

Lexius had been unconscious for nearly two full days.

The November cold swept through the cabin, riffling the fur of the throws heaped across his supine frame and painting exposed timbers white with rime.

Mesteno had done what he could, nailing tarp up over the jagged edges of his window frames and sweeping the debris of the shattered panes away from the path of unsuspecting canine paws. In the kitchen, the cracked liquor bottles had emptied themselves in sticky lakes over counter and floor, and an abandoned, stainless steel bowl full of murky, blood-tinged water sat forgotten in the sink beside blotchy gauze and tweezers tacky from probing.

He was accustomed to insignificant pains. He appreciated their echoes as he moved, the small reminders (reassurances?) that what had happened wasn’t some bizarre thing dreamt up.

While the Elf lay oblivious, a few inches off the floor on the sagging mattress, the necromancer had cleaned him, sometimes simply sat with him in silence, but most often searched for signs that the alarming thinness might be subsiding. Better to watch paint dry, for all the change he saw. He examined the sandalwood string of beads, more often found swaying from Lexius’ belt, and now wrapped with undeniable purpose around one limb, snug enough to leave an impression behind when at last they slid loose.

Mesteno found their presence a strange comfort. They’d a tendency to simply be present wherever he settled, be it draped over a book or swinging loosely over his porch railing as he gathered up the sorry remains of the cheap, plastic garden chairs that had stood out there, vine choked for years.

He suspected whatever entity kept watch of them through those beads, it knew something of his thoughts. Whenever they strayed into self-castigation, their sandy rattle served to distract. He was not unaware that this sound was in his head, and not actually physically created.

He considered the entire mess his fault of course.

Lexius had warned him that things might not end well, and yet he’d felt compelled to try.

“I have begun looking into the matter of resolving the problem.” The Elf had admitted to him as they sat speaking of his error-riddled rebirth. “At this point, the only viable option I have found would be to try again with a new body and more carefully prepared crystals set to cleanse any taint."

It was not an idea Mesteno had been enamoured with.

"That's a terrible idea," he’d told him bluntly. "Far too risky, and even if you did manage to resurrect yourself in new flesh, there's still a high potential that you'd come out with new flaws on top of some of your old ones. You’ll just have to think of another way." His tone had been nothing short of adamant. "Maybe Pharlen might know of some method to do it without you having to die all over again. Besides, don't you think you've changed flesh often enough by now?"

Lexius' smile had flickered to life at the rigid denial, a little wryness tainting the expression. The mention of Pharlen, though, had killed any amusement right off. It was he who’d shaken his head then.

"I've identified what I did wrong previously and would not repeat the mistake. But I am not inclined as I once was to take the other risks associated with trying that route." Not too terribly long before, it hadn't mattered to him if he died. Not too terribly long ago, he'd even entertained ideas about it that Mesteno would not have found comforting. Knowing that, he hadn't bothered to mention them. Instead, he spoke of the Time Lord.

"While I have known Pharlen since the beginning of time," and it had been only a mild exaggeration, "and would trust her with much, her particular brand of chaos is not something I would ever easily risk." Not now. Not with this. Suddenly, how he came out of the whole endeavour had become very important indeed.

Having seen Pharlen’s handiwork up close, Mesteno hadn’t been able to deny the potential for grisly error, and had agreed to let Lexius pursue other routes. Dangerous, but pleasing to know that he was determined to try and resolve the dissonance. Physical intimacy had enough complications as it was, without there being encoded inhibiting factors to overcome too.

But Lexius had managed, to a point, and it had made the necromancer bold.

His hand had slid a few inches along Lexius thigh as he’d asked, "I wanna put my hands on you, get you out of your clothes. You feelin' brave enough to let me?"

"That may end badly." Lexius had advised in a low, intent tone. But he hadn't said no.

And now this.

Mesteno had been too incautious. He hadn’t paid heed to things in his eagerness. The distraction of blood, the struggle beneath him, and the sure knowledge of the pleasure he caused that seemed fit to engulf the disharmony entirely. He’d been too busy with his hands and his teeth to consider that Lexius had been indulging in the root – drugging himself against the worst of the jarring dissonance. In no fit state, really, to warn him when too much was really too much.

The mental tie between their minds had collapsed.

The dogs had begun baying as the cabin’s walls began to groan.

The violent, psionic eruption of energy had only come in the aftermath, with both of them already spent. It had been force enough to send the necromancer flying, threads of his hair still caught between the Elf's fingers, and lying dazed where he’d struck the wooden trunk at the opposite side of the room, he’d watched as Lexius’ abilities had gone haywire, summoning the ghosts of past events, twisting the Elf’s body into shapes unnatural. The mattress had torn under a hand gone clawed, and the ceiling had begun to drip with something thick and translucent, spilling across the floor, the bed, Lexius himself as he lay curled on his side, victim of the havoc in his head.

Mesteno had been struggling upright, heart thundering in his chest as his eyes chased the chaos of the present and the nightmares of the past he’d hoped to forget. His first impulse had been to help, and yet a single word had cut past the Elf’s bestial snarls that he could understand.

Leave.

It was entirely predictable of his contrariness that he’d decided instead that he would try and drag Lexius from the cabin with him, where outside they might be safer, but he hadn’t counted on another variable complicating matters. His own passenger, furious at the threat, roiling under his skin in its eagerness to be unleashed. He couldn’t risk coming a step closer, not if he wished for both of them to survive the mess.

Mesteno called the darkness to him a moment before every window in the cabin had come apart, exploding outward to litter the yard. The liquor bottles had shattered, even the cabinet doors down in the morgue had been reduced to glittering splinters.

The shadows had spat the necromancer out, stark naked at the treeline, just in time to see the last shards settling, flung hard as thrown knives. He’d heard the startled yelps of one the dogs – too clearly pained to be anything else – and then with an edge of hysteria in his voice, commanded them to him as he bolted headlong in the direction from which the sound had come.

He’d been half-way there, the dark shapes of the dogs visible rounding the corner of the cabin when his legs had suddenly buckled, landing him on his knees on a lawn as much glass as grass. The invasion had been vicious enough to make him want to claw the grey matter out from under his skull, to uproot every stray thought that it preyed upon, and that had been the end of any self-control.

Lexius’ assault had been matched by something every inch as deadly, the primordial hunger Mesteno harboured shaking loose its restraints to reach out metaphysically and attempt to swallow the fragmented soul imperfectly reborn in the Elf’s flesh. It liked the taste of him. It had been too long starved.

Mesteno could do nothing to stop it. His hands spasmed where they clutched at his temples, and a thin stream of blood trickled from one nostril as he strained against the attack. His body was too human. Too frail.

Later he wouldn’t recall the demand he’d made of Lexius’ guardian, the entity that watched over him through those simple, sandalwood beads. It had complied though, to protect its favoured son, prising apart the jaws of the necromancer’s energy, unwinding the serpents of Lexius’ mental assault, and putting an end to their war.

It had been an effort to pick himself up again afterwards, to gain compliance from a body fatigued and punctured, a cut on his scalp from the scrape of his own nails, his upper lip sticky with blood. There had been no pause to pick the glass from the soles of his feet as he limped back through the cabin, and with nothing short of terror at what he might find, opened the door to the bedroom where he’d left the Elf. He did not think it had been his mind playing tricks, though perhaps something illusory, when his last glimpse of Lexius had seemed like something warped and scaled.

Lexius lay quiet, still, surrounded by ripped bedding on the torn mattress. All that remained of the chaos was a strange, silvery dust where the ectoplasm had dried to nothing, Mesteno’s few belongings overturned.

The beads were where he’d expected to find them, wrapped snug about their thin, naked Elf.

It wasn’t quite what he’d hoped for when he’d asked Lexius to spend the night.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2017 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued. Thanks to Gem for letting us use a faux-Gem in this scene!]


Mesteno was out on his porch, and Lexius still dead to the world when it happened.

Perhaps it was just the weariness stealing over him after too long spent awake playing sentinel, but when Lexius’ sandalwood beads appeared, brushing between his fingers, the contact brought with it a compelling lethargy. Not even autumn’s enervating, incessant buzz could keep the will behind those innocuous spheres from claiming him.

The dream they ushered him into took place seamlessly within the world he’d moments before drifted off in. Still out on his frostbitten porch, only now with a visitor.

Gem was as beautiful and buxom as ever, with the exact same smile and shade of hidden worry in her amethyst colored eyes. Her hair might have shone a little too silver, her skin might have gleamed with some inner moonlight glow, but her voice sounded just like her voice, if whispered gently on the wind rather than coming directly from her lips.

"Mesteno?"

His head snapped up sharply. No amount of lucid dreaming had prepared him to recognise the faults in this one.

"Cara mea," he managed to murmur to the question she made of his name. "Be careful, mind your feet." He rose clumsily to meet her and make sure her approach stayed safe. Days later and he still kept finding glass from the broken windows.

"You're the one that should be minding." Gem chided Mesteno gently, but knowingly, as she lithely stepped onto the porch to come stand near him. She stretched out one hand and touched his chest, head canting back and up to meet his gaze directly with her own. Her eyes were pure jewels of color. She was, in that moment, far more stunning than even any Elf had a right to be. "You have a secret." She whispered. As if Mesteno only had one! Perhaps in this case, it was only one that mattered.

Smiling impishly, she stepped back and away from him and held out her hand before he could question her declaration. "Let me show you."

"You know the worst of mine," he reminded her, "and you've a hundred years on me to have piled up more."

He wasn't denying it of course, only pointing out that it was mildly hypocritical, even if he knew by that impish smile that she wasn't really chiding him. He did reach for the hand she offered him, but it was his intent to bring her to a stop there on the porch, rather than let her lead him from it. He didn't want Lexius to wake alone and think that he'd left him there. It might imply blame, and he wasn't sure he'd the skill to reassure him otherwise.

"Nunc non est tempus, mi amice," he told her, the Latin slipping out unchecked. He corrected though, grimacing for the error. He tried again. "Now is not a good time. I need to stay here - you can't tell me?"

Why Gem should look somewhat pleased that Mesteno balked rather than obliging her was a mystery, but she did. Perhaps it was just the sunny disposition she chose to show the world, a ray of brightness that swallowed all the darkness inside it. Her smile curled all the more deeply as her tiny fingers closed tightly around his own.

"Oh, chev," she murmured, sly and knowing, "you have no idea." As if she somehow knew more than the 'most' Mesteno had cited.

He frowned, finally accepting that there was something amiss, something more than just an addled mind. His hand went limp in her small one as he tried to get a fix on what it was.

She gave it tiny tug, so small it wouldn't even strain his fingers much less sway him from where he stood, as her glittering, amethyst eyes grew large with something akin to wonder.

"You have to see...” to see...see. Her words echoed for no discernible reason.

"Gem, something's wrong--," he began, barely even registering the strangeness of her words, and then all too fast he was falling forwards, thought he must be collapsing, and his heart seemed to lurch up into his throat.

Gem's eyes seemed to be expanding alarmingly. Or maybe he was growing smaller? Her tug pulled him on and, within moments, he'd fallen into the swollen pupils of her eyes and was left floating alone in a void of absolute blackness.

Mesteno had no form. He was consciousness itself without substance, awareness without body. He wanted to reach out, to find something solid, but he seemed to lack the limbs to do it. It was as if he were a dream voyeur, had the same strange lack of physical limits he'd experienced when attempting astral projection, only he was fully aware it wasn't him that'd compelled himself from his body.

"Gem?" He thought her name, rather than saying it, for he was lacking lips and tongue, but even the thought was a tentative whisper.

The blackness that surrounded him was absolute, unsettling and complete. This was not the Umbral plane he travelled, solid ground under his feet.

Instead he was one with the darkness. He was the darkness. Until he wasn't.

There, just ahead, a million miles away, something like light flickered briefly before the eyes he did not have, and he felt an echo of it flickering wildly inside of himself somewhere...before it exploded (he exploded) into countless pieces.

Had the Elf been awake and with him, he might have offered some mild commiseration. Perhaps even a quiet reassurance. Mesteno was suddenly walking a road that Lexius had been no more prepared to tread when he'd found it.

This time, though, that path had gone looking for someone, rather than waiting to be discovered as it had been by the Elf.

Mesteno, who'd once been nothing but awareness, was now everything at all at once. He was trillions of worlds being born in an instant. He was the light from countless stars and all the darkness that stretched between them. He was the matter of every planet, every moon, every comet and asteroid. He was the infinite energy of life itself and the endless finality of death. He was the thing from which all other things had sprung. He was existence. He was time. He was all.

He was going to crack, adrift in that endlessness. And then, quite suddenly, before the immensity of it could collapse his mind, he was nothing more than the mind of a man once more.

"Do you see?" Asked a voice (a million voices) from all around him.

The words offered a much-needed anchor, and despite the insanity of the multitude from which it seemed to come, he recognised them. He’d heard them before in a battle he’d been little more than a hapless bystander to.

There ahead of him, pouring forth from the beginning, he watched the universe and all within it being born, expanding, growing and changing as life begat life and coiled toward death only to be born anew. Each iteration was a little different, a little changed, a little...less, yet somehow more.

Too much, too much! he insisted, unsure why his mind might suddenly be exposed to it all unless the sheer unending enormity was supposed to send him bat-*** crazy.

If only he'd had eyes to close against it, he would have. He was have happily traded places with the unconscious Elf if it had brought him restive oblivion, but there was no escape, and so he faced it with all his usual bright curiosity torn and twisted into dread. He felt too large, his limits amorphous and intangible, and had never realised until then what a comfort it was being confined and small.

No man should see this, he replied, and had he been possessed of teeth, it would no doubt have been grated out between them. But that resentment was a good thing. He was feeling something other than fear, and so he latched to that, too. Why did you bring me here? he asked.

There. No tremor to his thoughts. Stubborn. He was gathering himself, petulant even now.

Not so many generations from the start, stretched between and coiled around the filaments of light (of life, of power) was a peculiar darkness that thrummed a note of perfect harmony to match the Sadist's soul. He recognised it intimately. He had no chance to strain towards it before it was gone again, and the missed opportunity left him feeling bereft. His essence went skating along those strands of energy that stretched far and wide through his universe.

Somewhere amidst the streaming strands of light he coursed along as if he were on a wild amusement ride, Gem's body resolved into being to float before him. She was made from stardust and power and wore the same impish smile on her lips as she reached out and patted the cheek Mesteno did not possess.

"You're right." She agreed, infinitely amused. "It really was made for a woman's eyes." Laughter broke the vision of her apart, but the sound of it lingered on in a wooden rattle somewhere inside his straining mind.

He understood now, that Gem had been plucked from his mind for the very purpose of calming him, luring him into the damned ride he was a helpless passenger to. It was just like some limitless power, that Divinity who’d claimed Lexius, to play with a man's head like that.

Knowing that it wasn't her, he offered no response to her amusement, and certainly not to her commentary about it being made for a woman to see. He was far too stubborn to offer a retort to a statement like that.

Mesteno travelled the light for a small eternity, touching down briefly on word after world, place after place, as he went. Here twin suns burned in an emerald sky where the light sank into the murky grey water of a swamp. There the light impacted the jagged peak of a mountain covered in strange blue moss that writhed and wiggled beneath a singular sun. Onward, to another place where the highway of energy Mesteno rode inexplicably reached into the miles deep bottom of a canyon. It gleamed on the floor of an ocean full of purple water and thrashing sea life. It shimmered in the centre of a long dead city gone to eons of ruin. It pulsed from the depths of an Amazonian-like forest. It glinted in the frozen ice of a racing comet. It winked like a shard of metal buried in the face of a meteor. It was on every world, in every place, and Mesteno seemed to visit them all.

With his earlier fear shed, with his pride so prickled, he observed it all with intent. He might not like it, this being dragged about, ragdoll-esque, but he'd be damned if he was going to waste the opportunity to see things that so few must. He'd rallied, and so had his curiosity, and in places there were things he saw things he suspected he'd seen before, but they were gone too quickly, and there was so much more he wanted to pause and see in more detail, his mind uncomprehending, or awed.

Finally, somewhere amidst hopelessly tangled skeins of power, Mesteno was set down on his last world, put back in his body in a most inhospitable environment.

Sand surrounded him, creeping onto his skin as if it was alive while a brutal (but familiar) sun beat down from the sky overhead.

Now he felt heavy, weighed down, and it took him a moment to realise he had his body back, even if it was just the lie of a body in his head. He shuddered, a vicious thing that rattled along his spine, and he slipped down to his knees, bunching himself as if to take root there with his fingers buried in the very sand which seemed to creep into his skin.

Familiar. Good.

He remembered what it was to breathe, to feel the heat on his skin, and everything he'd experienced out there, in that vast melting pot of creation, began to seem so surreal he wondered if he hadn't imagined being there.

He’d barely had a minute to collect himself before a russet colored jackal stood before him, tongue lolling from an open mouth as if it were laughing at him.

"No rest for the wicked." The jackal's jaws hadn't moved, but it was clear that the animal spoke the words.

Mesteno had tracked the jackal's approach with a suspicious squint, but aware now that this manifestation of his body was just a mental creation, he wasn't concerned about any harm it might do him. Nor was he surprised to hear that voice coming from its unmoving jaws. Better to hear it from an animal, than from the faux-Gem.

"You have a low opinion of me," he groused.

It came lunging at him, teeth flashing, to drive him up out of the sands and get him moving despite the oppressive heat.

"Pay attention!" The jackal advised in a familiar voice as it bounded away after the initial attack, trotting easily along the edge of a sloping dune. It left no paw prints behind and moved at a brisk pace.

Around him, the sea of red-gold sand dunes went on forever, with no clear visual markers with which to mark his location. He could be anywhere. But on the horizon, far ahead of their current location, there was a smudge of darkness that suggested mountains, maybe cliffs, the fanciful might mistake for the wings of some giant beast erupting out of the ground. The jackal was headed toward them unerringly when its body went over the peak of a dune and vanished.

What else was he to do but pursue? He wasn't going to sit there in the sand for the rest of his life, and he had this notion that might very well happen if he didn't play along.

"I liked you better when you were beads," he told the voice-in-a-jackal.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2017 7:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

Mesteno had no trouble keeping up.

It felt good to stretch his legs and remind himself of normal human travel, of weight and a speed which did not fling him helplessly from world to comet to stars. The heat didn't matter. He was accustomed to it thanks to both Sam and Lexius, and the salt flats that had surrounded the place of his birth.

"What's that ahead?" he asked, noting the smudge on the horizon, even his sharp eyes failing to make out its true form just yet.

He received no answer until he was striding up to the side of the dune when the jackal had disappeared. If the Sadist took the time to look, he'd be standing on the edge of that dune. It sloped away into a deep bowl of open space. No oasis down there. Not even a rock. Just a clear patch of bare ground, dull brown, with a jagged tear its centre that left him frowning in consternation. There was no logical reason that the sands hadn't covered this patch of ground, pouring into the hole and obscuring the spot from discovery. But there it was, nonetheless, perhaps just a fabrication of the dream.

There came a familiar voice spoke from behind him.

"You're not wicked?" Asked Ivanya, a pale giant who had no business being in the desert heat. He was the last person Mesteno would have expected the entity to pluck from his mind, and yet there he was, smiling his wolf's smile barely a step behind. "I am."

Mesteno barely had time to start forming a retort when the vision reached out, and shoved him unceremoniously over the edge and down the slope. The air left his chest in a grunt, balance absconding with words as he slid, the sand hissing after him. No matter how hard he tried to brace himself, there was no purchase. To his credit, he did not yell out, but his teeth were clenched viciously as the tear in the ground yawned wide to devour him whole.

It was not a sheer drop. Instead a tunnel delivered him into the cool of a subterranean world, the descent deep and his inevitable landing jarring. His knees throbbed from the impact, and he stood bent over with his hands curled over them and his teeth bared in a grimace.

"What're you trying to prove?" he snarled into the darkness.

It was not a true darkness though. A weak light was emanating from somewhere ahead, illuminating the cavern he’d been delivered to. As for the tunnel behind him, a resigned backward glance proved it had vanished as he suspected. Now he was trapped.

At the cavern’s centre, and roughly circular stood a well, made of sandstone bricks. The rim of it was waist high and the bricks were wide enough across the top to allow Lan to stand on them without falling.

The youth looked magnificent with his steel grey hair and wide smile that somehow suggested too many teeth behind his curved lips. Dressed in the desert style with the head wrapping pushed back and the veil dangling down across his chest, he balanced on the edge of the well with his hands on his hips and his multi-coloured eyes swirling ceaselessly as he watched Mesteno.

"Are you strong enough?" The youth asked him challengingly.

The young man’s presence didn't fit the pattern. Mesteno had met the youth once, hardly enough to consider him significant. Even Lexius had only spoken of him when prodded to. The necromancer couldn't imagine why he'd be there, since he wasn't someone he was closely acquainted with as the others had been.

"How can I answer that if you don't tell me what it is I need to be strong enough to accomplish?" he asked, moving closer. He felt a strange impulse to push the youth into the well. Everything in this non-reality was pushing him about after all!

The light was coming from below where Lan stood, below and behind him, from within the well. Whatever was within that circle of sandstone brick, it glowed with a gentle light, rippled with a deceptively mild motion, burned with the power of creation itself. It was the place where that conduit Mesteno had ridden touched upon this particular world.

Mesteno recognised his surroundings all at once.

This was where he’d been sent when he’d touched the Obelisk out in the Grey Wastes, trying to saved Aiden and Ares. He'd thought to stay and let the Wastes consume him, that terrible apathy that had engulfed him surpassed by the horror of all that he'd been shown in its vicious visions. It only served to darken his expression when he realised. He knew it had been the beads talking to him, but had never really registered what the well represented, nor spoken of this particular part to Lexius, who might at least have been able to explain it.

Above Mesteno, Lan spread his arms wide and laughed, his body transforming abruptly from a lean and solid youth into the massive shape of a steel coloured dragon hunching over the top of the well, its wings fanned out to each side to brush against the cavern walls. Only the eyes remained the same, every colour in existence churning within their depths. The creatures craned its frilled neck about and stretched it snout toward Mesteno's chest.

"Are you strong enough to devour the dragon?" A million voices whispered the question as the dragon breathed its hot breath against Mesteno's face.

The necromancer backed, unwilling to be under the dragon’s belly or its wings, and taking himself neatly within reach of the snout which stretched towards his chest. The heat of its breath reddened his skin, and his hair fluttered fitfully around his face, but there was no retreat. Instead he looked back towards the well it crouched on, as if he'd decided that was the voices' origin.

"It wouldn't be the first time," he murmured. This was not Lexius' dragon. He knew it had been a red, an almost-ancient evil. The steel hued, overgrown lizard dwarfing him now was not what the Elf harboured. "But how am I to do it without taking what's yours?"

They'd called Lexius that, laid their claim as surely as a dog lifting its leg against a tree.

"They're too enmeshed, too complex. I couldn't forgive myself if I harmed him instead of helping him."

Was it steel coloured? The Sadist's thoughts seemed to have changed that. In a wave of motion, the scales from its nostrils on back shifted in hue from grey to red. Only its eyes remained the same, though Mesteno could only see the one canted his way for the proximity of the beast's head. In the whirling colour of that single, massive eye, a vision played out in still frame flashes for the Sadist to watch.

The endless stretch of sand dunes. The winged mountains. The gaping hole in the earth. Mesteno and the Elf together before the well, the beads strung between them. The endlessly swirling waters of light and dark energy within the well itself that shifted and shuddered to take on that particular yin yang shape which was then ripped asunder.

The dragon touched the tip of its nose against Mesteno's chest, its massive head filling the entirety of his vision, and with the contact came the burn. Mesteno's flesh charred and smoked even as the creature spoke.

"Keep quiet, little dragon, and eat well." And then the great beast opened its maw and closed its jaws over him with a snap, spitting him back out of the dream and into wakefulness with an ache in his chest and the scent of burned skin in his nostrils.

Mesteno's trip to dreamland had taken no more than an hour, though it felt as if he'd lost a few years during the journey.

He returned with a souvenir burned into his chest, not so different than the tattoos that decorated Lexius' skin, though this was etched into skin by the heat of a divine touch rather than done in ink. The symbol was distinctive with its wavy line cutting through the centre of the circle, one side darker than the other. Despite the smell of charred flesh, it was strangely painless and quickly fading into one more scar amidst the collection, a spot that would be smooth and just a little bit warm compared to the rest of his body.

The beads slithered away as he woke, out of his lap to disappear from the porch.

Lexius remained unconscious and unmoving through it all, still wrapped beneath the salvaged furs on the necromancer’s wrecked mattress. He remained that way for several more hours, with the beads taking up a new wrap around his arm as the sun sank away into darkness and Rhy’Din’s twin moons made their climb through the night sky. About the time their silvery, pale light was beating at the barrier Mesteno had erected across the open window frame of the bedroom, Lexius finally stirred.

The transition to wakefulness was abrupt. One moment he was laying there motionless, the next his eyes slit open and his breathing stuttered, stilled, then drew long and deep. He blinked once, muscles tightening when he realized he was not in the desert and that he was decidedly naked. His memory was foggy, mind struggling to catch up with body, but he didn't lash out immediately. Instead, still tense, he assessed both himself and the situation in silence as bit and pieces of what happened came filtering back into his awareness slowly.

The Elf was not alone. Perhaps three feet from where he lay, the pale shape of Kalari was tucked into a pair of abandoned jeans left carelessly crumpled on the floor. Her eyes seemed strangely lambent, despite the fact that light in the bedroom was minimal. The November winds were rippling the edges of the stretched span of tarp, creeping in around the gaps, and it was cool enough that a warm chest full of breath might cloud the air. Other than these small oddities, and the mess that the mattress and throws had become, the bedroom looked unharmed. All that had been toppled or strewn was set to rights, and the trunk which had been teleported from its usual spot beside the closet had made a return.

Lexius’ gaze caught on Kalari's pale form nestled into the jeans and held there as he processed the conditions of his external world and his internal landscape.

"Vith." Softly muttered, that curse. Enough memory had returned to prompt it. Or maybe it was a response to his awareness of the beads which were tightening around his arm beneath the furs.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2017 9:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

The Elf didn't linger over pushing himself out of the bed, but he did pause long enough to reach and stroke a thumb over his watch-cat's furred head. She permitted it with her usual wintery appraisal, restrained a swiping paw, and watched as he pulled on the pants Mesteno had folded beside the mattress for when he woke. The room only swayed a little bit, but Lexius’ stomach certainly had a thing or two to say about his extended nap, as did his physical form. He ignored it all, setting his jaw and heading for the bedroom door with carefully controlled steps and the trousers only barely clinging to his hips. He needed to see Mesteno, because he didn't quite trust himself yet to reach out with a mental thread to find the man.

After his unexpected trip, Mesteno had come around feeling all the more exhausted, his head full of things he might have thought for a fever dream if not for the lingering smell of burnt flesh and the brand he'd found, discreetly placed amongst the scars on his chest.

He was furious, but it had been ephemeral. There was not enough energy in him to sustain that kind of rage, and he'd made his way into the leaf strewn living room, deciding to put quill to paper simply to record what memories he could while they were still vivid, spider scrawl penmanship beside bold bullet points; things seen, things spoken, what had been suggested...

That part troubled him more than anything.

So it was when Lexius woke, Mesteno was not there to offer reassurances. He was sat on the bare floorboards not far from the hearth in his living room, where he'd actually taken the time to start a fire.

Instead of the argent moonlight, there was a ruddy gleam to the sparse contents of the room, and shadows danced like sooty devils as the breeze swept in and made the flames lick wildly upwards, brittle leaves cast about like fragile pinwheels. After the windows had shattered, Mesteno had relocated his notes, and the books he kept in there room down to the morgue where they'd be safe from the elements, and it made the space seem more barren than ever. The warmth was a small pleasure though; he could almost imagine it was just camping, with the view out into the woods.

Out in the living room, a tiny little pygmy owl winged silently into place in the empty frame of a window, chirping quietly as he landed.

Despite the muted roar of the flames, the owl's chirp was enough to bring Mesteno's eyes up off his work to observe the little herald with a somnolent blink. The owls didn't generally come anywhere near him unless Lexius was around, so his head canted toward the hallway behind him expectantly, the quill abandoned to smudge ink on a half-written page.

He'd spent so long waiting, and now that there was a chance Lexius might be awake, he found himself anxiety bitten. The worst of a multitude of scenarios he'd conjured up over the past forty-eight hours came squabbling for attention at the forefront of his thoughts; What if he decided he didn't want anything to do with him anymore because of the risk? What if he'd been mentally damaged by the war they'd waged?

What if?

Lexius senses were particularly sharp in those moments, as if the physical and mental ordeal had left them scraped to raw acuteness rather than smothering them to dullness. He could smell Mesteno on his skin despite the careful washing the man had given him while he lay unconscious, could scent the wood burning in the other room. He could hear the crackle of the fire (such an out of place noise in his limited experience with the man) and the softer scratching of the quill, the quiet call of the owl. He could taste autumn on the brisk air and, beneath that, the Sadist's flavour and something like ash. He could feel the grains of the wood beneath his bare feet and against his palm as he touched the hallway wall to keep himself steady. What he couldn't sense was Mesteno's mind and that was already making him just a little bit crazy.

Mesteno might have laughed if he realized how precisely his own thoughts were being mirrored by a typically more rational elven mind. But, really, what was so irrational about the Sadist deciding all of this was far, far too much trouble to go through? And if he hadn't been damaged yet, why would he want to chance becoming so at some point in the future? Mesteno had yet to show any true fear of him, but this incident was bound to breed a certain level of caution, if nothing else. As it should. Lexius was not looking forward to bearing witness to it.

He paused at the exit of the hall, one hand still on the wall there, when he spotted the Sadist situated before that fire he’d smelled. Plainly he’d dressed to combat the chill in lamb’s wool, leather and jeans, hair loose to provide an extra layer over shoulders, neck and back. The fire picked out the threads of colour in it violently, left it burnished whilst gave a ruddy faience to his reflective eyes where the light edged around the sharp cheekbone and angular jaw on one side.

His chin was up tilted so he could get a better view of the newly woken Elf, but there was no sign of alarm upon seeing him, and no hostility that suggested he wanted him gone sooner, rather than later. Lexius' grip tightened on the wall as he finally met Mesteno's gaze directly.

"You are well?" His voice was rough with disuse and dryness, but the tone was as intent as his gaze. It didn't seem he would relax until he had the answer.

Mesteno’s first impulse had been to reach up towards him, perhaps stretch far enough to catch him by the wrist and draw him down to sit, but good sense intercepted action before it could begin. Touching him now that he was awake felt like something he should wait for an invitation for, the extent of his instability still uncertain. The absence of the mental link was proving a true inconvenience.

"I'm well," he replied, chin dipping a faint nod. "Better for seein' you up and about again. I wasn't sure how long to leave you passed out before goin' t'get help."

Lexius' eyes narrowed into fine slits, as if he didn't quite believe the man completely. Mesteno would say he was well even if he was actively bleeding! He gripped the wall just a little bit more strongly to stave off the urge to reach out and pull off the man's clothing so he could have a look for himself! Never mind the renewed, more insistent temptation to wind thought to thought and inspect the Sadist's mind with his own. To simply feel that connection, if nothing else

"You need a drink," Mesteno told him, the dryness of throat all too obvious. "Sit, I'll get you some water, or get the water heatin' for your coffee if you want it." He was already snapping the notebook he'd been writing in closed, leaving the quill sandwiched amongst its pages to play bookmark.

"No." The denial was swift and, perhaps, a little bit harsh. Lexius heard it and took a breath to smooth out his next words. Mesteno did not deserve more harshness, especially when it seemed he wasn't harbouring any ill will for what had happened.

Pessimism danced a 'told you so' throughout Mesteno’s unmonitored thoughts, and though he attempted to school his features into serenity, it wasn't happening. Worse yet, Lexius had turned his gaze away, and he mistook it for displeasure.

He set the notebook down, and rose with as much dignity as he could muster under the circumstances. "That's fine. I left all your things together," he managed evenly.

"I need to return to the desert." Lexius spoke a bit more smoothly now, gaze shifting back to Mesteno and the fire.

All that hair, the gleam of his eyes. Too many damn clothes. And his mind, which might as well be a million miles away. It was better he go back. He could remain here, but it would slow his recovery. He'd been unconscious as long as he had been because he was here, not there. And despite Mesteno's equanimity, he was probably ready for the Elf to be gone. Yet...

"Come with me?" He hadn't meant to ask, to presume upon the Sadist even more, but the words just up and marched themselves right on out of his mouth without his permission. He didn't try to take them back, but that subtle bit of relaxation was gone as he braced himself for the refusal.

The subtle displeasure thinning the necromancer’s mouth seemed to soften, the severity of tight drawn brows smoothing. Now he was plain confused, and the tension he saw in Lexius' stance did nothing to enlighten him. They were back to the awkwardness of mixed signals, and he wasn't sure if joining him then was the wisest choice to make.

Mesteno had never made such bold claims as to consider himself wise though, and he nodded, agreeing despite all the good reasons not to. None of them stacked up well against 'don't care, want to go'.

"Sure, s'probably warmer than here. Let me bank the fire so I at least got something to put the new windows in." Rather than leaving the fire untended and return to a burnt out shell of a cabin, he meant!

Lexius wanted to relax again, give in to the near giddying sense of relief that coiled somewhere across the back of his brain. Mesteno had, against all good sense, agreed! But there was clear displeasure in the Sadist's expression, even if it was fading. Confusion begat confusion. It kept the Elf pinned in place, fingers still tightly curled around the edge of the wall as if the wood might ease the itch in his palms and fingertips.

He knew he should not be carefully gathering his aching Will and stretching the more-than-sore muscles of his mind. He absolutely should not be thinking about reaching mentally for the Sadist right then and damn the consequences. That's what had gotten them in trouble in the first place, his own ability to ignore the consequences. Another look flicked over the room reminded him of that and dashed cold water onto the idea of doing anything mental. But he could talk, at least. Speak deliberately.

"Mesteno." He said it like he was tasting every syllable of the man's name, with a certain grave undertone that infested the sincerity of what he said next. "I wish to touch you," in so many ways! "But I am not certain it is welcome. Or advisable. I apologize... for what happened." There. He did relax a little then. It was said out loud and plain. Lexius straightened from his lean against the wall. "I will get my things."

Mesteno had moved to crouch by the fire, moving the remaining logs further apart and using the ash to smother the flames, adopting the shadows in place of any fireside tools, their added chill and manifest solidity helping to further extinguish heat and light. The room cooled rapidly after that, and the warm, rosy ambience was replaced by the same, milky light by which they'd got themselves into trouble two nights before. He wasn't so fixated on his task that he didn't hear the Elf though. In fact that grave tone with which he spoke his name gripped him as if by the nape, assured he turned his eyes back to him as the embers faded. He was convinced he was going to hear something he wouldn't like.

The necromancer wasn't prone to owlish blinking, but for Lexius' confession he wasn't lacking in obvious reaction. His chin sank low, and he lifted a hand to plaster wide-splayed fingers across brow and eyes. He shook his head, the ends of his hair swaying heavily.

"I thought--," a solitary shake of shoulders, coupled with a sound that probably passed for relief and soft laughter together. "Your touch is welcome, Lexius. Can't comment on advisable, but that won't stop me being glad of it. Now quit makin' me think the worst. You got me all tied up in knots." And he wasn't going to explain what he meant by that!

"As you say." The Elf replied. There was a breath of amusement in those words, more self-directed then aimed outward, then Lexius moved down the hall back the way he'd come.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

When Lexius returned at last, clothes donned and belongings in hand, Mesteno gave him a fleeting once over, unable to keep from noting the loose hang of his clothes. He said nothing, but tipped his head towards the kitchen so that they could head below.

"In case you were wondering, you were out for two days," he told him as he opened the panel to punch in the code with his index finger. "If I'd thought you were actually getting decent sleep, I'd have been jealous." He stood aside to let Lexius head down the steps first, though not without a light touch to his arm as he passed, one that could almost be called shy in other circumstances.

"You've not slept at all." The Elf remarked, proving he was paying attention, but he just might have stopped listening when the man braved the cautious touch. It put pause to his passage, his gaze shifting from the contact to Mesteno's face, and actually brought the curl of a smile to his lips. His skin had twitched, the disharmony had pinged, but those negative reactions were sluggish and slow and easily shuttled aside in favour of the pleasure the action wrought. "You will tonight." He promised.

"Was there more damage than the windows and the bed?" Lexius asked as he descended the chill stone steps toward morgue and lab in succession, sure footed but careful in his motions. He was already making plans to replace everything.

Mesteno trailed him towards the teleportation circle. It appeared things down there were neatly ordered still, and despite there being glass equipment - lenses, microscope slides, jars and vials, the thick, natural rock between the cabin's foundations and the sterile world they now walked through had kept his equipment safe.

"Most things were just tumbled over, not broken," he assured, deciding there and then that it was not the right time to mention that Koji hadn't come through it without some new scars. Iberus hadn't called him to report any issues in recovery, but he knew the sedation risks for older animals were higher. "Let me see... Oh, my liquor collection burst." Though he knew full well that most people would probably consider that a blessing, considering his drinking habits. Katt wouldn't be pleased that the four bottles she'd given him along with the throws hadn't even been tasted before they were destroyed, but that would have to go unmentioned, too! "Nothing else though," he confirmed.

Lexius stepped onto the circle and moved to the back of it, fully expecting Mesteno to step within the bounds right along with him. A good excuse to crowd in close behind the man as he worked the circle for them both. An arm slid around his waist to keep him steady through the transport. "How unfortunate." There was a certain humoured dryness to his tone about the liquor that had nothing at all to do with his need for a drink!

Mesteno needed no encouragement to step in with him, even if he was keenly aware of their nearness. "Are you... are you feeling okay? In the head I mean." He didn't want to doubt the composure, but he'd been awake and aware when those threads had come attacking, and wanted to be sure his countermeasures, even if not deliberately inflicted, hadn't caused him any serious or lasting harm.

"I feel...sluggish. But everything is contained as it should be and I am sure more clarity will return once I eat. Take us." The Elf encouraged.

"Hold on tight," Mesteno suggested, letting the Elf secure himself however he thought best, before applying his Will with an effort which made him realise how truly jumbled his mind had become since the events. They made it safe to the other side though, emerging in the alcove ready to receive them.

Lexius coiled the arm around the man's waist and stepped in boldly, snugly, against Mesteno's back. He’d spent a good portion of the journey bracing himself for that much contact, though none of their skin touched anywhere. It wasn't precisely wasted effort, but the dissonance responded lethargically once again rather than snapping a sharp denial. So Lexius risked a little more and pressed his face to all that loose, glorious hair, breathing in deep. He didn't say anything at all until they'd completed the teleport.

"I have you." He murmured first into Mesteno's hair as the man reached out, groping at the wall for balance. Lexius’ arm tightening all the more. He wasn't unaware that the trip had been a bit more difficult than it should have been, but he remained steady despite any weakness that lingered from two days laying prone in a bed. It would be good to sit, to eat, to have some coffee. It was better in those moments to take advantage of the hold he had on the Sadist and to drink in just how it felt while he could.

Pride dictated Mesteno not take advantage of the situation and pretend to be more disoriented than he was just to prolong the feel of Lexius pressed against him. For that minute he was grasped though, he let the tension uncoil from his muscles, and he soaked up the heat somehow permeating the jacket he wore with undisguised relief. The necromancer was not a man with a fondness for being touched by many, but those individuals he took to his bed, those he desired it from, were free to be as tactile with him as they wished. He drew his hand from the wall he'd meant to trust with his balance, and folded it instead over the back of Lexius' forearm, squeezing tight enough to imply he'd best not let go too soon.

"I should have carried you through when you were asleep," Mesteno admitted darkly as his vision steadied. "I thought about it a couple'a times, but I wasn't sure what'd happen with you out like a bear come winter. I'll remember if somethin' like it ever happens again."

"I recover more quickly here." Lexius agreed, though he did add a caveat! "But you must feel steady enough to work the portal." The cavern was warmer than Mesteno's house had been, without a doubt, and the dry air tightening his skin seemed to give the Elf a fresh burst of energy that allowed him to lead the way from the circle with a brief tug to Mesteno's arm that encouraged him to follow.

"I think I could have at a push," Mesteno admitted. "But hindsight's a fine thing. I probably wouldn't have known what to do with you when I got y'here anyway."

If there was a bed in the caves somewhere, he'd not seen it. Whilst he knew Lexius had no need of one, he'd admitted the caves had been a permanence he'd added to his life at someone else's behest, so perhaps one had been installed for them, once upon a time. "I'd probably have tried making coffee to see if the smell would wake you up."

"Tried to make coffee?" Lexius shot the man a severe look back over his shoulder, chastising the Sadist with a single glance for daring to even tease about the idea of wasting his precious coffee in that manner! Yes, Lexius was definitely looking better, more vigorous, even thought they'd arrived only minutes before. It had as much to do with the way Mesteno had responded to his hold as it did with the geography. "You stay away from my coffee." He sounded so serious, but there just might have been a tick to the corner of his lips to betray him.

Lexius left his things on the first table in the lab, gaze sweeping over the room to check whatever experiments he'd left running, though he kept right on walking through toward the library. "I will see about replacing your windows. And the bed." Mesteno was on his own with the liquor, though! "What of the dogs?" He looked back, realizing Mesteno hadn't mentioned them or spoken of their care in his absence. But really, he would only be gone a night.

"I don't need you to replace anything, Lexius," he snorted as if the very notion were something he found amusing. "What happened was not your fault. I got carried away, *** happened. Besides, I got more money'n I can spend, so it's a non-issue." And as for the dogs... "They're with a friend." No lie! Just an omission.

As they passed from the library to the hallway, Mesteno noted that Lexius had taken down two of the paintings. The one of himself was still in place (if he hadn't rearranged them!) and still covered on the wall. The Elf paused at the end of that hall rather abruptly, turning to face Mesteno with one hand to the rough, sandstone wall. It was less about maintaining his balance than about feeling the desert through the rock.

Mesteno reached out, the touch of lean fingers feather-light against the Elf's chest, instinct to brace himself in case his feet didn't brake swiftly enough.

"What happened was, indeed, my fault." Lexius’ level look certainly did hold any subtle teasing right then! Frustration tightened his eyes, drew his lips toward a frown. He could have addressed this sooner if he'd been linked into the man's thoughts and had detected that lash of self-recrimination. Who was he kidding, that was only part of the reason. A good part, to be sure, to know the man's mind, to maybe share himself along the link. Really, though, he just wanted to feel the Sadist there. It was a somewhat new twist on his desire for another, like so many things with this man were.

"Y'ever heard that old expression, 'It takes two to tango'?" Mesteno asked, willing to allow a share of the blame, even if he wouldn't permit him to lay claim to it all. "Don't frown," he added quietly, the hand at his chest lifting so he could touch the pad of his thumb lightly to the downturned mouth. "There's nothin' done that's not fixable."

Mesteno caught Lexius by surprise in many ways. The reach to touch that lingered instead of pulling back, the reply that offered a compromise of blame rather than a stubborn insistence on hoarding it all for himself, the quieter, reassuring tone and words that coaxed and promised all at the same time. The Elf tensed automatically when the Sadist reached to touch skin to skin, however lightly, in the brush of thumb to lips, but still the dissonance barely stirred. It was still there, a fitful flicker of discord roiling sluggishly deep inside his brain, but it felt distant and weak as if it, too, had been taxed by the battle that had taken place between them.

Lexius breathed out a slow breath across the Sadist's fingers and allowed himself to relax, though his gaze searched Mesteno's face intently for several seconds of silence. One hand still pressed flat to the sandstone wall, he let his fingers dig into the rock there to draw the strength of the desert more swiftly into himself even as he ghosted a touch along that jacket Mesteno still wore.

"You risk much." He finally murmured. But the frown had disappeared, at least. "I cannot say I am displeased with that decision, even if I should be." He tugged at the collar of Mesteno's jacket then, loathe to lose that little bit of connection where the man was touching him, hesitant to return himself just yet despite how little negative reaction it was currently inciting and still fighting the urge to reach out mentally and establish a link. "Remove this," he gave the jacket another tug, "sit and tell me what happened." He knew what had happened on his end, but he wanted to hear Mesteno's version. In the meantime, he would eat and reassess his state.

"I'll decide what's worth taking risks for," was the necromancer's smooth response.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 8:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

Night reigned in the sandstone canyons beyond the cave's entrance, casting the striated stone into silver and grey bands beneath the touch of Rhy’Din’s twin moons. The gaping entrance of the cavern overlooked that stunning view with nothing but the twin pillars of rock masquerading as a doorway to hamper the sight. Despite all that open air and the vague drift of a dry, dry breeze from without, the cave still maintained a comfortable temperature.

The cave was redolent with the rich scent of the spices Lexius used in his food and his coffee, both of which he was making the most of. He’d joined Mesteno at the table, where the man had seated himself on the rug, rather than upon the cushions, the Elf’s beads crawling stealthily over his arm.

The necromancer had recounted (to the best of his ability) what had happened, filling in Lexius’ patchy memories, though he struggled when it came to the metaphysical battle that’d ensued. "I thought it was all over, went to get the dogs away from the glass, but there was this feeling like-- like something was trying to get into my head."

His mouth adopted a similar frown to his brow, and he shook his head in auto-admonition. "No, it was you, or parts of you, that thing that makes you feel bad when we're in physical contact, the flaws or maybe what's left of the red dragon. Maybe all of it. It was trying to choke me, metaphysically speakin', and you know how that had to end up. My life's threatened and I have precisely zero control over what's in me, so it was trying to swallow you, like it was reaching along some kind of bridge. Or maybe just the mental tie?"

He was hypothesising as he went, but had recalled then that the tie had severed the moment Lexius came. "I don't know what, but there was some kind of link," he insisted, as if he thought Lexius might not be willing to hear of it. "Anyway, your friends here intervened," he gave the dangling beads a little shake before letting them pool back on the table. "Spoke in my head again to remind me you were theirs, and whatever was going on just stopped. When I came in to check on you, y'were out like a light and all the crazy *** going on in the bedroom had stopped."

Lexius had watched the Sadist through the telling, gaze flicking to the way he toyed with the lax string of beads before returning to study his eyes, his face, as he explained what he'd experienced. He nudged the coffee mug he'd filled for the man a little closer to him with a carefully precise push of thought even as he refilled his own and digested both the food and the information. He curled one hand around his mug and dropped the other carefully, deliberately, to cup his palm over Mesteno's knee before he spoke.

"I should not be alive." It was not a promising beginning. He said it so matter-of-factly, too, as if commenting on an inalienable truth. Thankfully, Lexius went on to explain himself. "What I did when I died, is within a psion's power to do. But there is a limit to the amount of time one's soul and mind can be housed in such a way before everything begins to deteriorate. I existed in that state well beyond the limit. That, in addition to the crystals being...improperly prepared," improperly was putting it mildly! “and the taint of the dragon I tried to remove through the process..." Lexius trailed off, shook his head and eyes the beads again. "It all should have negated any possibility of a rebirth."

Yet, there he was, live and in the flesh!

His gaze lifted back to the Sadist's, sombre and weary. "I suppose they," he paused, changed the wording, "...it, was not done with me and they knew of no other way to put me back together but with the flaws I now hold." He still had secrets despite how many he'd revealed to the Sadist, Lexius murmured another he'd been musing over for some time. "When I first met you again in RhyDin, learned what it is your soul does, I pondered for some time if they'd brought me to you to allow it to cease, to take back the mistake of allowing me to exist again." It sounded like he might be pondering that idea again. It had, for a time, held no little bit of appeal.

Mesteno reached and settled his free hand lightly, briefly over the Elf's to let him know the touch was welcome, before it joined its twin around the mug. The coffee had cooled enough while he spoke to allow a tentative swallow. A moment later and he shook his head, a denial that the beads would have ushered him to an end.

"You're wrong," he sounded almost belligerent. "Or were wrong, to think that. They're way too possessive, way too invested in keeping you alive for such a thing. They probably have some masterplan for you that neither of us can even guess at, but I do know that they want you fixed."

And he was going to have to explain that, wasn't he? He couldn't just claim it was a gut feeling, couldn't lie about something so important.

"Today, a few hours before you woke up, I was sat out on the porch and it felt like I was startin' to fall asleep. The beads were with me," he used his mug to nudge them, "all fussy and clinging, when f'most of the time they've been clinging to you like an anxious nanny. Anyway, long story short, they were in my head, talking through the faces of people I know, telling me I had to see things. And they took me so long and so *** far and filled my head with so much I thought my brain was gonna burst."

Lexius’ gaze had drifted to the beads again. His expression had shifted to a full on scowl, both for their lack of behaviour and Mesteno's mention of his brain bursting.

Gaze snapping back to the Sadist, Lexius finally reached out mentally to establish the tie. A thread of thought snaked out, swift and sure, to tangle itself into Mesteno's mind and burrow its way on in as if finally coming home. The sense of the Elf's worry came with it, interwoven with strings of relief and a sort of thundering satisfaction at finally establishing that missing connection. Finally!

"What did you see?" Lexius asked, intent and already examining for himself that everything was as it should be, that all the patterns he'd become so familiar with, that all the parts he had touched and adjusted himself were still there and undamaged.

Mesteno had become astute at recognising the tie when it established by now, and he lifted his eyes from the beads as he felt it slip into place. He offered a sense of welcome, of something like the bump of heads wolves might offer in greeting, that lean and rub, affectionate.

It was mildly surprising to the Elf, and once again Lexius felt the urge to make that connection more permanent. But no. He banished the thought as quickly as it came. As flawed as he was, it risked too much. That didn't stop the thread from engaging itself a little more snugly where it had taken hold.

"I saw too much," Mesteno told him quietly. "It was like I was bodiless, just pulled about from place to place. One moment I was everything, connected to it all, to time, to light and death, a part of every scrap out there, the next I was hurtling through it, watching planets grow and stars being born, visiting worlds that look nothing like this one. It was all a rush, not nearly long enough to study it all, but I started writing some of it down before the memories could fade," he admitted. "If you want to see when I'm done, I don't mind."

But of course there was more. "It brought me to the desert in the end. To a tear in the ground and to The Well. Same place I had to crawl through when I was at the Obelisk and you had to call me out of whatever head-*** it inflicted on me." He suspected, but could not be sure, that Lexius knew of what he spoke, but he called it forth into the forefront of his mind anyway, and let him see Lan there, morphing into the steel grey dragon. The details of it were hazy, as if he were recalling a dream rather than something actually seen with conscious eyes, but it was the best he could manage, and he let it drop as the tattered edges became hazier.

He lifted the mug to his mouth again, and this time gulped the liquid as if the heat and spice were helping to settle some unspoken anxiety. "It asked me if I was strong enough to devour the dragon. And the dragon Lan became, it started turning red, then it ate me. Well it charred me first, then it ate me."

Lexius’ eyelids had dropped heavily over his colourful eyes as he concentrated the bulk of his vision on what he could 'see' along that tie. The surprise came again, veined through with streaks of concern. There were changes in the patterns of Mesteno's mind despite the lack of damage. Maybe the lack of damage was a surprise, as well, given what the Sadist was describing that he'd seen. It was too much. Lexius remembered it well. And no mind could experience it without being changed, expanded, broadened and awakened in ways that could prove unpredictable. The Elf spent a long time cataloguing the differences, unconsciously rubbing a hand along the top of Mesteno's leg as he did so.

By the end of the tale it, was Lexius who was in adamant denial mode.

"There will be no devouring." He stated flatly. He'd welcomed the idea not so long ago. But not anymore. Not just yet.

"Relax," Mesteno told him, as if that flat tone had indicated he thought he might be about to try devouring things at any given moment. "If I'd been inclined t'do it, I would've while you were unconscious. I didn't do anythin' inappropriate, up here," he tapped his own temple, "or anywhere else."

Still, he wasn't going to leave the subject alone without adding a little. "To be honest, I don't think I could selectively remove those flaws from you anyway. I don't have enough control over that kind of feeding to do more than take a little or a lot, or target a specific person. Trying to pry apart what was right and wrong in you to leave the rest unharmed?" He shook his head as if he thought it impossible. Maybe given time, practice, guidance from someone else with similar feeding habits he might have stood a chance, but not now. "The only other way I could think it would work would be for me not to be selective, but for them," and the way he said it implied the voices playing mouthpiece for the divinity, "to drag the parts they did want back out of me, as if I were... a filter?" He wrinkled his nose as if he weren't sure on the metaphor.

He'd talked a lot by this point, and left little out, so he was watching Lexius expectantly, hoping he'd offer a little more back than that laconic, dark reply.

There was something in what the man had just said, in the idea of acting as a filter that had Lexius contemplating it. The problem was, what would the Sadist lose in the process? He was rather sure there'd been no mention of that part of the process at all! Never mind the fact he hadn't been 'assembled' so well the first time. He had to wonder what made them – it - think it could do any better now. Lexius knew for a fact his existence was carefully guarded and the knowledge of it sometimes chaffed, but not nearly so much as now when they were trying to drag Mesteno into it, as well.

"You will lose something." He finally predicted. "That it has been in you as much as it has thus far has already changed you. To invite it in willingly..." He let this trail, held up his hand for Mesteno to see. A hand that had once belonged to an albino, a drow, an entirely different being altogether. "It will change you." He wasn't precisely grim about it, but his tone was certainly heavy.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

"Maybe so," Mesteno agreed. "I mean, aside from what they might do to me, freeing you up from me, you're a little like a lump of bog iron." he remarked, before realising that making such a comparison was probably going to require some explanation to keep it from offending. He cleared his throat and surged on before Lexius could protest. "The iron is impure, so you melt it down to get the pure stuff out at the bottom, separated from the slag. If I were to play filter, those parts in you that are undesirable and left behind, feed me. I don't know in this instance whether the force of that malignant dragon lingering in you would be toxic, or whether it would serve as an enhancement."

He paused, considering adding a little further explanation, and seemed to decide it was worthwhile.

"There was a dragon, the ice breathing kind, with a mind to kill me'n Evander once. We got the better of it, and once I felt its soul sever from the flesh, I consumed it. You can't imagine the rush..." His eyes seemed a little brighter, even recalling it. "That changed me, made me stronger. I flew that corpse for three days straight with us on its back over some damn mountains, with not a touch of rot setting in. I'd never have been able to puppet something so huge, so intricate, for so long before it. We don't know that devouring your leftovers wouldn't be a good thing."

There was of course a question for the Elf, though. "What did it do to me already that I don't know about?"

Lexius took a drink from his neglected coffee as Mesteno spoke, one slanted brow arcing Spock-like for the somewhat hurried way the Sadist offered an explanation for his analogy. His fingers were still tapping some unknown rhythm upon denim and there was still a lingering sense of stubbornness in the tie that linked mind to mind, but he was listening closely to what the man had to say, as well.

"A mind has a certain...pattern to it. The pattern is created and arranged by many factors; how developed the brain is, the flow of energy within the owner, time and experience and natural gifts. The pattern will alter and shift in small ways to reflect growth and change, but most do not develop beyond a certain point that is, interestingly, usually determined by a being's race." Lexius could wax on about that kind of thing all night. He'd done a lot of researching!

"Your pattern is different than it was before. Broader. You have the potential to develop in way you might not have been able to before. They, it, opened you up, after a fashion."

There was a sense that he was attempting to examine his own mind to find those changes Lexius spoke of, but he was no accomplished psion, and could no more identify changes in the pattern than he could create a link of his own volition. His attempt came to a fruitless, resigned end, but he didn't seem horrified at the idea of the changes, mainly because he wasn't aware of them, and thus supposed that they wouldn't have any great effect unless he tried to accomplish anything with it deliberately.

Thoughtful, he tipped one cheekbone into the upraised curve of a palm, elbow still on the table's edge, and watched Lexius closely. "They changed you to an extreme, physically. Their interest in me is purely as an aid to furthering whatever plans they have that involve you, so there's really no need for them to try and change me to any extent. Once it's done, they'd have no further use for me." It was all hypothetical though, because as far as he could tell, Lexius had no interest in even entertaining the idea given the risks involved, and he certainly wouldn't ally with the beads - the divinity that was, to do anything against his will.

"We can find some other way," he offered at length with a one-shouldered shrug. "You've lived with it this long, so it's obviously not going to be an issue that we have to solve imminently. If it seems like it's going to be an issue that arises due to too much physical contact, or because I can't keep my teeth to myself, we'll just have to set some ground rules. No more resorting to those roots y'chew instead of telling me to give you chance to gather y'self together, that kind of thing." Like a safe word without the BDSM, though he didn't offer the comparison. Of course he'd never dreamed for a minute that he might agree to any kind of physical relationship where he wasn't free to act as he wished, but then he was making all sorts of exceptions for the Elf.

"Do you ever try and initiate conversation with them, instead of waiting for them to talk to you?" he asked curiously, slanting a look across the room to see if he could spy them lurking.

"Often." Lexius admitted. "But I have learned over the decades they will speak only when they wish to speak, and when they do, it is never a straightforward conversation. They usually offer images when I meditate." Visions that could just as easily be creations of his own expansive mind, yet he knew were not. "I would not be so quick to think their interest in you is only confined to how it effects me." It may have been that way to begin with, but Lexius was less certain of that now. At the very least, whatever plans there might be concerning Lexius might now include Mesteno, willing or not!

"I will read your notes once you are finished writing them." He'd probably also take a trip through Mesteno's memories on the matter. But not that night. Watching Mesteno settle himself a little more comfortably against the table was starting to distract the Elf. He reached again, slowly, to capture some of the man's loose, colourful hair and thread it between his long fingers. Again surprise flickered when Mesteno spoke of making compromises in their physical relationship. The Elf' brow furrowed anew. "I very much enjoyed your teeth." He murmured quietly. But as far as the roots, he was in total agreement there. His gaze dropped to study the shimmer and slide of the Sadist's hair across his knuckles, but Mesteno might get a sense of his thoughts from the slow bloom of heat that spread along the link. "And I wish to enjoy them again without the threat of losing control. This thing that has started, it will grow worse. It is not something I wish or can afford to ignore as I do not wish to step backwards from where we are now."

The reply left Mesteno introspective, curious to attempt dialogue with them in case they chose to humour him. "A couple of times I've heard them speak to me, you've been mentally tied to me," he remarked. "Either they're good at shielding themselves from other invasive presences or what you establish buffers other links of communication and denies you the ability to hear them." Because Lexius had always been surprised to hear that they'd spoken to him, never admitting to already having been aware. Maybe both factors played a part in it!

Speculation ceased when he caught the faint movement at the ends of his hair, and his focus slipped down to where fingers were threading amongst the tangled, vivid strands. They were safe, exploring down there rather than close to his scalp, so there was none of the induced, bedroom-eyed trouble looming as a result. He did nothing to deter him from it, but he was watching him closely, as if curious to see what he might do left to his own devices.

"Don't think of it as backwards steps," he suggested voice quiet, smooth as a polished river stone, "think of it as adaptation. A temporary solution until we can find a way to remedy what you can't ignore." He liked the feel of that slow blooming heat. It was something he basked in, at least mentally, like a sleek and stretching feline.

Left to his own devices, Lexius twined a bit more of that hair through his fingers and drew it across and through them once again, his gaze seemingly glued to the sheen and shimmer of it in the meagre light. He was remembering his arm wrapped to the elbow in the masses of it, fingers dug in close to the Sadist's scalp. It was one of the last clear memories he had before the bite and the events that had followed it. That heat might have spiked just a little bit. And so, too, did the discord ping a little less sluggishly. Lexius ground his jaw briefly before he spoke, risking no more than what he was doing.

"The former sounds more likely. I would be able to detect another connection, at the very least." He looked up to Mesteno's face, though the glinting color of his eyes was more masked by the low drop of lids than not. "A ripple in the pattern." He explained, attention only partially on that particular subject. He'd be thinking about it, about the idea that had been posed, quite enough in the days to come, he was sure. He didn't need to devote a lot of attention to it right that moment. There were other, more cirtical matters to discuss!

"How long before you become bored, being so limited?" Lexius estimated it was a fair question given their discussion a few weeks before on the matter of likes and dislikes. He wasn't purposefully trying to poison whatever it was that was growing between them, but he was trying to be realistic about it. Given his poor track record in this area, he thought it might be better to ask bluntly than try to figure it out on his own!

Lexius' question caught seemed to have taken Mesteno by surprise, if the sudden angle one brow took was any indication. Becoming bored wasn't something he'd considered, but he couldn't blame him for asking it. "I've never parted ways with someone because I became bored with our sex lives," he told him honestly, "it's always been due to other incompatibilities, things we couldn't fix."

Still, he wouldn't go claiming it was impossible for him to grow bored. He simply had no accurate way of answering him. "I'm a patient man, Lexius, at least when I think someone's worth the effort for more than the physical aspects. If I thought y'were sittin' on your laurels and not intending to look into finding a way to fix what's troubling you, then I'd be giving it a long, hard think about whether we were settin' ourselves up for trouble. But you are, and I can see you want for that dissonance to be gone, so have a little faith in my interest in you."

Quite what would stir another outburst was something they spoke of at length, and while the return to the desert strengthened Lexius, exhaustion stole inevitably over the necromancer before the dawn arrived, the Elf’s fingers still toying with his hair, thumb stroking across his brow.

"I promised you rest and have been denying you,” Lexius remarked quietly. “Will you let me help you sleep?" He'd been bent on doing it earlier and that hadn't changed.

Mesteno’s eyes closed briefly, and the sigh issuing softly from his mouth was one of contentment. He should have looked innocent then, in the way that sleeper's do. All the sharpness of his eyes was hidden, the muscles so often arranging his features into grim lines relaxed, but in truth that same savagery lingered; there was no dulling the blade of it. He couldn't help reaching towards Lexius with one hand, touching with the very tips of his fingers where he'd left the marks at his throat as if he found the imperfections he'd left in that dusky skin fascinating.

His response to the offer was a nod, a low grunt. "Only don't let me sleep too long. I've business to be about over the next few days and can't afford to laze around." A pause. "Do something for me?" The fingers he'd used to touch the marks drew away, and he shifted onto his side, head propped on a curled arm and with his eyes particularly intent. "Would you lie next to me?”

It was something he'd missed, that closeness before slumber, being able to reach his arm around a pliant and welcoming body. He wasn't even sure whether Lexius would normally permit such a thing.

Lexius shifted to stretch himself out on the rug and the pillow, facing the man rather than turning his back. He didn't seem inclined to give up the rubbing of Mesteno's temple and he was even, after a moment spent internally gauging, twining their legs together carefully, precisely, and urging the Sadist in close to his neck.

"You're very accommodating," Mesteno murmured, though there was a thread of surprise travelling through that mental link when he realised Lexius intended to face him instead of turn to face away. It was undoubtedly a rather intimate position, one which became all the more so when their legs entangled. "I'll do my best not to drool on your cushions," he told him, with another stray twitch of a smile.

He might have added other things - don't let the hurrums get in my clothes (or the beads!), don't worry if I look like I'm dead - but he'd a sneaking suspicion Lexius didn't need such warnings. So instead he obeyed the urging which brought him closer to the Elf's neck. And impulsively, because the temptation proved far too great, he touched his mouth to the skin there, warm and just a little damp.

It wasn't a thank you. It was entirely selfish.

He stretched an arm over the narrowest point of Lexius' waist, just north of his hip, and was less tentative about pulling him in so that they were as close as they could get without being able to lie comfortably. He kept his eyes open deliberately, even if only a hooded sliver of them showed, because he wanted to see - even if his view was limited to the Elf's throat and shoulder. Maybe he was just imagining it, but that close he fancied he could almost catch the scent of his blood beneath the skin, see the flutter of a pulse.

For the Elf, it proved a test against that core part of him that writhed in protest at just that sort of contact. It was as much to prove to himself he was in control of that rebellious aspect of his mind as it was to prove the same to Mesteno. It was as much to remember that feeling of closeness that he had purposefully denied himself for far too long. It was almost too much, especially the touch of lips to his neck.

Lexius breathed through it, allowing the automatic tension the actions had induced to bleed out of him as they both stilled to silence. He knew he wouldn't have been able to stand it had it been any other, had it happened any other way. He rested his chin lightly to Mesteno's bent head and didn't send him off into slumber too soon. He rather thought the Sadist might just enjoy a bit of savouring himself. That mental thread wound itself a little deeper, settling in before the Elf put it to work.

Lexius gave no warning when he did finally twist his will across Mesteno's consciousness, nudging the man right into sleep. He might even have lingered in that hold for much longer than the Sadist would have predicted.

[End]
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[OOC: Adapted from live play with Lexius.]

November 18th, 2015


It had been more than a week since Lexius had returned to the desert for his recovery, and Mesteno had been absent for a portion of it, off-world entirely to visit the city of Madrid. The Spanish capital was a far cry from Rhy’Din’s nexus tangled streets, but it concealed more threats than the uninitiated might suppose, and the Turk had warned him it might bring trouble. Not that it had dissuaded him from going.

It'd been a success, this single day's visit, but he'd yet to contact Koyan about the matter of his findings due to the minor issue of his battered old phone having died in the psionic blast. The screen, like every other scrap of glass was quite shattered and it had been his intention, this night he left the temple where he worked, to reluctantly source a replacement.

Silent as a scrap of insidiously drifting smoke, he made his way along the familiar streets with reckless inattentiveness. It was not overblown confidence which kept him from his usual watchful habits, merely a distracted mind, and one he'd berate himself for before the night was done.

It was bound to happen given Mesteno often took the same route to where he parked his van. That he didn't stick to a particular schedule had temporarily hampered the efforts of those interested in his comings and goings, but the right time and the right place finally happened as the stars aligned for the Gods rather than the mortals. The city had too many eyes and a more than a few of them were concentrated in the district Mesteno went to work. Lips passed on what eyes had seen. The Titan-tainted man had finally been identified and placed.

Dressed in the usual monochrome palette the temple preferred, the sleek, cliché blacks bearing traces of grave dust, his breath rose in coiling clouds, and he kept his shoulders hunched beneath the thick wool greatcoat, a double breasted, brass-buttoned affair which offered the lie of civility to off-set the untended mane of his hair. He wasn't very far from the temple at all when the attack came, completely out of the blue and from the air.

They'd looked like nothing more than gargoyles perched atop the ancient structures in that section of the city, but they proved to be far swifter and less stony than the image of the creatures they'd been cast into. Two bronze beasts, man-shaped and be-winged. He heard them before he saw them, the descending effigies closing in quick enough he'd no opportunity to consider tactics. They descended with clawed hands reaching to try and snag him off the street, and he, irritatingly swift as ever, threw himself low against the rain-slick cobblestones as they snatched at him. Brass claws scraped across the front of his coat, but failed to seize him.

It bought him a few precious seconds as his boots slithered for purchase to see him upright, as furious as he was startled, and he swatted at one of his attackers with a wave of shadow as they swept over him in a rush of heated air and metal wings, screeching metallic protest for his escape. It was caught across one wing and sent sprawling onto the cobblestone street not too far from a group of passer's by who screamed all too humanly as the brass creation rolled their way. What few other people that were on the street scattered, though some only far enough to lurk and watch the events unfold. RhyDin was a constant train wreck waiting to be observed.

The gargoyle he'd downed scrambled back to its feet, broad wings flapping and gleaming in the meagre light of the street lamps. A good seven feet tall, it loosely resembled a disfigured man standing upright, until it fell to all fours and came charging Mesteno’s way, eyes gleaming the bright red of the forge where it had been created and wings propelling it as it leaped the last dozen feet.

The first brass gargoyle was still in the air, circling around for another try at a swoop and capture.

It was the ruddy, forge-fire gleam which brought his mind rattling to an immediate conclusion: Creature's wrought from the furnace of Zeus' master craftsman, those very same constructs which Aiden had been sent to find weapons to defeat.

He offered no warnings to the other locals who'd tucked themselves aside to watch his little street brawl, but charged straight towards them instead - or rather to the alley they'd clustered in because he wanted that gloom.

One foot in with the thing on his heels and he vanished, the air suddenly frigid and any breath expelled sinking in a crystalline twinkling frost vapour.

The cunningly crafted, brass gargoyle did not expect it, and it landed hard in the mouth of the alley, colliding with an observer that'd been too afraid to move.

Of course he hadn't gone all that far. Too risky to try and get all the way home from the Temple District through the shadows, and he wouldn't chance having them find him at the inn, one of his few refuges. Instead, he'd eyed up a balcony hastily, on the opposite side of the street to which he'd vanished. With a clear mental image and such a short distance to travel, he stepped out almost instantaneously, teeth clenched about the urge to rattle.

He wasn't sure yet whether the damn things had detected him via more than sight, whether it was the titan taint they'd used to pursue him, but for the moment he simply dropped to a cat-like crouch on the balcony, a delicate, aged piece of masonry thrust out from the side of some female only temple. It had likely only been intended for decoration, not for holding an adult man's weight, but it held for now, and gave him a good view of the street so that he could get a better look at the constructs.

Overhead, what had once been a clear night was quickly becoming overcast with dark, hulking clouds. Those clouds gathered too quickly, grew too thick, to be anything natural. The first ominous growl of thunder rumbled in the heavens. Now that his mind wasn't fixed on things of a more mundane nature (like where the hell did one get new phones) he was shrewd enough to take note. Thunder clouds. He suspected the odds he'd be dodging lightning bolts within the next few minutes were high.

Mesteno had a fine view of the gargoyle’s back, where wedge shaped protrusions marching down its spine were glowing with the same sort of gleam in its eyes. It snatched a terrified bystander up in its clawed hands and seemed about to lift off again, before it realized what it held was not its true prey, and tossed the shrieking man down the alley.

The other beast, still airborne, had already honed on Mesteno's new location and was swooping down from beneath the pregnant belly of the clouds to try and snatch him off the balcony. Mesteno barely reacted in time.

"What do you think you're doing on the property of Fair Ferluna? This Temple is off limits to--!"

The scantily clad priestess of whoever ‘Ferluna’ happened to be gave a scandalised gasp as Mesteno shoved past her and into the perfumed parlour she'd just opened to him without full knowledge of what went on outside. Going out there to investigate the silhouette she'd assumed belonged to some pervert spying on her and her sisters resulted in a rogue male bolting hell for leather through their irritating, sheer draperies and tripping all over their tacky, tasselled cushions as they scrambled their half-naked selves out of his path.

The priestess had barely a breath to realise the gargoyle was in pursuit before she shrieked at thrice the volume the thrown man wailed, and darted aside in her satin slippers to avoid a direct collision. If the gargoyles wanted him, they were going to have to chase him through belly-dancer boudoirs that smelled as if someone'd set fire to a hippy.

The gargoyle crashed into the balcony mere seconds later, and lunged its way through the open doorway and past the caterwauling woman, batting her aside with its brassy wings as it passed. Blood stained the flimsy drapes as the creature shoved its way further inside and across the room without a care for who it trampled along the way. Gauzy curtains fouled up its half folded wings and bits of brightly coloured fabrics caught in the sharper edges of its body as it chased Mesteno through the room with another metallic shriek. Lucky for everyone involved it hadn't been sent to kill Mesteno, but capture him, so no flames came streaking from its mouth toward the Sadist's back.

Outside, the second Gargoyle was battering at the main temple doors, shattering the locks and splintering the wood to get inside, chasing the signature feel of the Sadist that had somehow been forged into their metal brains from below. It splashed through wading pools and crashed through fanciful topiary as it went, giving out a brassy cry of its own as if coordinating the chase with its partner above.

The call from below had the Gargoyle chasing Mesteno finally letting free a jet of fire, but the gout of flame would shoot off to the Sadist's left to drive and drive him to the right down a curved stairway.

He almost slipped up in some glistening pool full of sweetly rising mist and scattered flowers, but managed to grasp the shin of a gracefully splayed statue's leg before he pitched face first into the water. He'd a gun he might have employed, if the damn gargoyles chasing him weren't metal, and the temple was too full of fanciful candelabra and lamps for him to draw enough shadows to him to successfully step from sight again. But where would he have gone anyway? He'd tried desperately to recall the particulars of the street where he'd parked his van, but unable to conjure up any useful details, he knew he'd only end up lost on those frigid walkways in the Shadowlands and end up a block of ice.

So he ran, and did his best to barge through places that might hinder his pursuer more than he. Unfortunately the damn thing seemed determined enough to simply destroy anything in its damn path, and there was enough noise and caterwauling from below that he suspected he was going to be ambushed if he attempted to descend any steps and make it back to the street.

"Sanctus futue!" He spat, instinctively lurching away from flames, although perhaps not so far as the gargoyle intended for him to go. He saw a window, turned his shoulder to plough straight through it in a cacophony of shattering glass (windows had a poor survival rate around him lately) and right out onto another of those ridiculous little balconies, this time overlooking a different street.

Two floors up seemed like a bad idea, given his knees, but even had he the time to reason with himself, momentum would never have stopped him in time. He went barrelling straight off it, and as all men did, succumbed to gravity.

He crash landed onto a wagon parked near the rear service entrance of the temple. The small door had been left open and the workers had already abandoned the scene given the commotion. There was no one there to witness him go bouncing off a fresh load of pillows and then slamming into some clay pots of scented oils... which shattered promptly upon impact, dousing him in myriad clashing floral scents.

Up above, the curtains clinging to the window he’d leapt from had gone up in flames as if they'd been doused in gasoline. The fire spread quickly, given all the combustible materials scattered about, and even began to burn along the creature itself as what cloth was caught in its body ignited too. It spread its wings again, the effort was hampered by the cloth wound through the metal, but that was quickly burning away. Somewhere inside the temple, the other creature was sending up fresh shrieks of terror and outrage as it tried to find a way into and through the kitchen and down the narrow service hall to the back. It bought Mesteno a few precious seconds, even as thunder growled through the sky again.

Scrambling backwards, out of the crushed clay and the splintered wagon frame, he lurched unsteadily away from the temple and out of sight down an adjoining alley, not wasting anytime in glancing back to see if the creature were in pursuit. There was darkness here, enough darkness he could use it.

He shadow stepped again, just as the gargoyle launched itself after him from the balcony, and lightning finally crackled down out of the cloud heavy sky to slam into the ground directly on his heels.

He emerged in the Marketplace, and not just in the now mainly empty space where the merchants set up their stalls for the day, but outside Lexius' favourite little cafe, right at that table he always had the owners keep clear for him, and stumbling all over their cushions with his stinking self. The static electricity travelled with him, so that he emerged amidst a shower of sparks and rippling energy.

It garnered him more than a little attention

The place wasn't as busy at night as it was during the heat of midday, but there were plenty enough people gathered under the awning (many of which had been leaning to catch a glimpse of the strange, exceedingly localized storm erupting over the Temple District) that his electric appearance among them caused quite the stir. People gasped in surprise then immediately regretted it for the stink Mesteno was clouding the air with.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2017 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

Electricity darted jaggedly about Mesteno’s feet, nipping at him with little shocks that made his muscles spasm as he attempted to escape the flashes. The oil had turned to an icy fringe on his coat and in his hair, the intense cold of the umbra filling his lungs with air so frigid he felt as if he’d been breathing needles. Shuddering, he turned his eyes not towards the alarmed guests, but toward the familiar skyline of the Old Temple District, where a succession of furious lightning strikes were raining upon one particular locale.

It wasn’t difficult to determine that he’d narrowly escaped the wrath of Aiden’s father.

Syra, the café’s owner, was bellowing with an impressive set of female lungs. "Keep calm!" The woman ordered in her strangely accented voice, appearing in the entryway to peer at the oil-drenched Sadist and her scrambling customers without.

The staff was staring, opened mouthed, but Syra clapped her hands sharply at them as she bustled out. "Help the guests." She told them as she bravely headed Mesteno's way, her dark eyes flashing a fire of their own as she took him in. What could have dissolved into chaos was saved by her swift appearance and assured and sensible commands. That her nose bunched up in a disgusted wrinkle couldn't be helped.

"Come then. Before you draw the flies." She shooed Mesteno toward the entranceway.

Disoriented enough to permit Syra to herd him, he escaped from the concerned patrons and went indoors with his flowery miasma, his heart a little quicker than it ought to be and his eyes still fever-bright. Thankfully he hadn't gone far when he realised the potential trouble he was calling down on the hostess and her staff, and his petulant, surly mouth twisted into a grimace.

"Do you have a rear exit? I should keep moving in case I draw trouble here. I'm real *** sorry, this was bad planning." Or no planning. He'd simply needed a fixed position in the marketplace, and the cafe was a nice, stationary establishment which didn't vary in position like so many of the stalls did.

No one else seemed to have recognized Mesteno, but Syra did. She had an eye for detail and a sharp memory and she recalled the Sadist from his occasional visits with the Elf, no matter how long ago that might have been. She wasn't shooing Mesteno toward a rear exit, but rather was pointing him toward a discreetly hidden door just beyond the bar. They got more than one look as they passed, but the staff had recovered enough (especially in Syra's presence!) to do their jobs and Mesteno was fortunate in the fact people would remember more what he smelled like than what he looked like.

"You go down. The wards will hide you." She said it matter-of-factly, but not overly loud. And then she was commanding again. "Talk less, walk more, young man!" She got a sly look about her almond eyes as she opened that door swiftly with a silver key from around her neck. Oh, the events of his evening would surely boost her business!

"I need t'get home, not get shut up in a basement even if it is warded, lady. I'm not sure any amount of protective *** is gonna keep you safe with what I got chasing me." He'd put on the brakes outside the doorway she'd unlocked. His suspicious nature was balking at the idea of letting some woman he only knew via association shut him up anywhere.

Syra paused, looking mildly confused. Mesteno's hadn't come here to hide? Apparently, that wasn't such a foreign concept to her. Being turned down, though, was. All slyness vanished as she eyed the Sadist thoughtfully, debating not how much danger might come knocking in Mesteno's wake, but just how remiss she would be to let this particular man, who was obviously in need, go without providing aid!

"You go then." She decided, putting herself in the doorway. Apparently, she was going down there even if Mesteno wasn't! "You have a message to pass?"

"A message?" he asked her, and this time it was him confused until he realised she likely had some system set up to contact either Lexius, or perhaps his business associate Jason. "If you mean to Lexius, I've my own ways, though the offer's one I'm grateful for." He didn't turn to go immediately though, just in case he'd guessed wrong all over again.

Syra nodded easily enough, still a little confused but taking on some amusement, as well. Her eyes were beginning to water, and she did not hesitate to point toward the swinging doors beyond them that led into the kitchen. "Through there. Off with you then. You stink!" She said it laughingly.

He didn't argue with her criticism, and slipped off through the kitchens smelling like a French whorehouse, into the alley which ran alongside the establishment with a murmur of apology to whatever staff he might have disturbed with his passage.

He didn't loiter out there once he was back in the cool, night air, loping through the narrow, labyrinthine alleys until he was far enough from the cafe that he could dump his coat, transferring everything from the pockets into those at his hips. It got rid of the worst of the oil smell, since the coat had taken the brunt of the dousing, but some still remained, clinging to him obstinately as the distance grew wider between him and the Temple District. He was confident enough by then that he'd lost them that he dug out the little crystal Lexius had given him.

Palming the shard lightly, he willed his mind into some semblance of order and staved off shivers as he did so.

Lexius? Gentle, the queried name.

The storm over the Temple District continued to churn, though the lightning seemed to content itself dancing in the clouds now. They illuminated strange shapes within the roiling mass that Mesteno watched warily as he waited for the reply.

I have you. The Elf's reply was crisp and clear and the only warning Mesteno got before threads of thought came whipping (almost wildly!) from across the distance to snatch Mesteno right off the street in a very abrupt teleport. Mesteno appeared at the cabin, on the porch, where the Elf had been waiting for him. Lexius caught his arms in a strong hold the very second the teleport completed, though he coughed immediately at the scents that assaulted him.

Without Lexius there to grasp his arms, Mesteno would probably have pitched forwards onto his hands and knees. Too many teleports, too much cold, too little time.

Lexius wasn't the only one who disapproved of his fragrance. Kalari, Mesteno’s cat, sneezed thrice, then shot off and into the trees looking as if she'd taken personal insult. Koji the Doberman, back from his stay with Iberus and with a few notable bald spots where neat rows of intradermal sutures had tended his lacerations, made a sound half-growl half-yawn, and stuffed his long, greying nose beneath the blanket Mesteno had left out for him.

Steadied by Lexius' grip, Mesteno braced one hand on the Elf's shoulder and cautiously locked his knees as the world spun about crazily. Some ten seconds gone, and he was supporting himself again without any questionable wobbles. "I know - I reek," he muttered before complaints could be made.

That teleport was rougher than usual for more than one reason, though the Elf didn't regret the expenditure of power or the backlash of mental pain it cost him. Lips parting, his found breathing through his mouth was only marginally better, but he couldn't afford to disperse the aromas with his Will just yet, no more than he could use it to sink a tendril into Mesteno's head. A visual inspection would have to do, so the Sadist received one as he found his balance. Lexius kept a strong hold on him no matter the smell or the renewed steadiness.

"Jason informs me," he didn't belabour the obvious, but went after the heart of the matter, "there was some sort of disturbance in the Temple District tonight." He kept one hand curled around Mesteno’s bicep, but dropped the other to turn and try and draw the man into the house. A shower was in order. "You do reek." He added blandly.

Mesteno knew immediately that Syra had been talking about messaging Jason now. Understanding flickered across his sharp featured face, helping to shed a little of the agitation.

"Some flyin' metal *** came after me," he confirmed, not offering any protest about being drawn inside. "I think they must've been the smith's creations. They looked like somethin' mythical hammered out into metal, glowy eyes 'n ***." He gestured vaguely towards his face with his free hand. "'Bout the same time they showed up the storm clouds started gatherin' right over the Temple District. Real subtle right?" Such a withering note to his soft-spoken tone. "But I managed to give 'em the slip. *** must have been tracking me out of work. I wasn't more a block away from it when *** started."

Nowhere in Mesteno's home was a particularly long walk. It wasn't as if he required much space for his few belongings, so they made it to the unremarkable (save for looking almost as sterile as his morgue) bathroom just as his story came to an end.

That Lexius was displeased was a forgone conclusion, but the emotion centred more on the events of the evening rather than the Sadist's reaction to them. He knew that Mesteno was neither naturally inclined to ask for assistance nor was there an easy way for the man to contact him mid-battle. He wasn’t about to chastise Mesteno on either matter, even if it made his jaw grind briefly as he listened to the details of the encounter.

"That is troubling." He understated it, of course, sounding more thoughtful than annoyed. "As yet, it does not seem they tracked you to the cafe. You stepped through the shadows there, yes?" He'd received a rather full report, it seemed! Eventually, he'd have to explain what he and Jason had going on in the city, but right then he was more interested in the details of the evening. "It does not explain why you reek, however." He was endeavouring to keep an even temper as he closed the door to the bathroom and finally let Mesteno go.

Mesteno was muttering, startled. His own reflection stared back at him, whole instead of splintered and unrecognisable from the bathroom mirror. Lexius had been busy fixing all the glass. His expression shifted to mildly self-conscious when he realised with that closed door that the Elf meant to stay in the bathroom while he rid himself of the stink.

"The shadows, yeah.” He put his thoughts back on track to answer. “Syra's place was the only fixed location close enough I could bring t'mind with clarity. Not sure I did much to help her takings today," he admitted, stooping to unfasten the buckles of his boots so he could kick them off beside one wall. "The gargoyle constructs were chasin' me for a while before I went there. Might have caused a small rampage through some belly-dancers' temple while I was trying to shake 'em-- oh and then I jumped out of a window and there was a wagon at the bottom full of smelly girl stuff." And there was the desired explanation.

He padded barefoot across the cold tiles to reach in and turn the shower on, letting the temperature reach the kind of needling heat he suspected might be required to rid himself of the oil. It didn't take long to start steaming up the inside of the Perspex cubicle - Lexius wasn't going to get much of a view while he cleaned up! "You know I'm still not sure why the Hell they'd want to catch me. I don't think they meant to kill me, 'cause there were times when I think they could've. Bait? Surely a mortal doesn't hold enough value to be used as a bargaining chip! And it's not like Aiden's dad or his lackeys could know about how you negotiated with 'em for protection, so they wouldn't use me as leverage for that."

Off came the sweater next, destined to be thrown in the incinerator down in the morgue because he wasn't wasting the time washing something that reeked so badly. Landing on top of the clay jars had left him with a few blue-black bruises on his right shoulder and chest, but otherwise he'd come through remarkable unscathed.

Closing the door might not have been the wisest course of action given the smell, but Lexius didn't change his mind and open it again. He stood, hands folded before him (thankfully without the beads dangling from his wait!) and watched Mesteno strip and move about as he explained the rest of the evening. He didn't seem concerned at all that Mesteno might have ruined the cafe's business.

"Whatever she loses today," he murmured, gaze tracking across scarred skin and taking note of every little bruise and scrape! "she will make up for in the weeks to come. It is RhyDin. People will flock there if only in hopes of some similar event occurring." He pondered the man, the events, in silence for awhile longer before he continued. "Still, it is rather public and should they have been able to follow you there, it would have been a different situation." He, too, wanted to know what they sought from Mesteno, though the mere idea the man could have been more seriously damaged, let alone killed, had that possessive streak in him twisting harshly. Lexius ground his jaw again and actually took to concentrating on that horrid scent to remain somewhat calm.

"Typical RhyDinites," Mesteno murmured, sounding almost fond of their reckless, suicidal habits. Who could blame them for wanting to be at the heart of the entertainment? It was a local spectator sport! "Still, I'll apologise when I see her next. I'm sure I left a stink up her nose at the very least."

"There are several places in the city you may go if need be,” Lexius told him. “I will make you familiar with them. As for why they wish to take you, I suspect it has to do with the Titan." And the taint. He might have been trying to look into Mesteno's body rather than at the outer shell. "I had hoped to wait until the equinox to investigate that matter further, but we may need to visit the mountain sooner." Lexius finally extended a thread of thought to nestle into place inside Mesteno's mind. "I am going to search through your recent memories to see the events." He was already doing it, but at least he told the Sadist what he was about.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued…]

Offering no protest to the mental invasion, and trusting him entirely not to delve deeper than the most recent memories, Mesteno thumbed open the fastenings of his jeans and slid them down off his hips, glad of the steam beginning to rid the room of its usual chill. "Bolt holes, huh? They'd be useful enough.”

Once Lexius had been able to look at this sight with pure dispassion, but it wasn't so any longer. Even as he 'watched' the memories he'd accessed from Mesteno's mind, even as he catalogued the fresh stains of bruising across the man's skin, even as a part of his brain processed possibilities and reasons and formulated plans and responses, Lexius was not oblivious to the particular allure he held even when he was trying to be alluring in the slightest.

Stepping out of the jeans pooled at his ankles, Mesteno tugged the door to the shower cubicle open. "The taint is just a marker though, right? It doesn't actually have any value to them because it doesn't do anything."

Ignoring the sting of the water against new aches and turning about until his skin was slick and his hair clamped heavy to the sleek, hard lines of his wiry frame. He was nothing more than a darkly tanned blur beyond the steamed barrier, vigorously attempting to cleanse the oil off his skin with a bar of soap that turned patches of his hide white with suds.

I will show you all of it. Every little bolt hole and secret Lexius had access to in the city were his for the taking! And I am uncertain as to what value the taint may have to them. There is something to it, though. Or to you, specifically, that they find of value enough to want to capture you alive. There was just no way to be certain of their reasons or motivations, but Lexius would be pondering it at length.

"I will bring you clothes." He didn't touch the discarded sweater and jeans, but twisted his will again to send them elsewhere. Then he was turning to slip from the bathroom and go invade Mesteno's closet.

I was being careless, Mesteno confessed darkly as he his skin reddened in places for the vicious friction. I'll have to start carrying more than a gun and a knife. Neither of them would've been effective against those things.

Grenades, perhaps.
Lexius suggested as he investigated the contents of the other man’s wardrobe, brushing a hand across clothing carelessly piled and toeing aside the length of chain snaking over boots in the bottom. Now that they know the area of the District you haunt, they will wait for you to reappear there. He knew Mesteno wouldn't simply abandon his work the way he’d given up visits to the city himself. What is your plan? He asked as he carried the clothing back and eased into the heavily clouded bathroom as quietly as he'd left it.

I wonder whether Aiden had any luck finding something in the tech sector. If not I'll go hunt around there myself. Mesteno was just rinsing the shampoo from his hair when he heard the muffled sound of the bathroom door again. I'd like to find out what they want me for. I suspect the only way to get answers is to go play nice with our protectors, or I'll be avoiding the Temple for as long as this takes to clear up. Using a glamour won't help, they'll still sense the taint even if I look different, and I don't think there's a back way into the temple. Besides, they'll probably be watching from a birds eye view. Won't matter how I try and get in. S'*** inconvenient.

The water ceased abruptly as he fumbled the button off, and wet fingers plastered up against the door before it bumped open far enough for him to reach out for a towel off the rack. He did them both the favour of getting it twisted securely around his hips before he exposed himself.

Lexius set the folded clothes on the counter by the sink then leaned back against it, fingers curling in a loose grip to either side of his hips. There was the ghost of a smile on his lips for some reason or another, but his blue-violet eyes were serious and steady. The idea of either of them interacting with the rebellious Powers was no more appealing than dealing with those on the hostile side.

A fine, slithering snake of anger escaped the Elf's control as he continued to contemplate the matter, recognizing once again how close Mesteno had come to being snatched up and taken. Realizing that, in his current state, he couldn't be as much help to the man as he could be (as he would need to be!) was downright galling. His hold on the edge of the counter dug hard into his palms as his fingers tightened, a new kind of frustration left bubbling in the wake of the anger.

"Will you return to the mountain with me?" He asked it out loud, his gaze tracking over Mesteno openly and boldly. It was a small favour, that towel.

There was a second towel on the rack Mesteno snagged up to start rough drying his hair with. "You don't want to wait until winter, huh?" he asked somewhat wryly. There was no showmanship in the way he dried himself off, though it didn’t take long for him to catch the way those hybrid eyes were roaming so boldly, and he reacted before he'd even chance to count the numerous ways in which things might go wrong. He tossed the towel aside so that it draped sloppily over the side of the bath tub, and with the other still wrapping his hips, he stepped in close to where he leaned against the counter, leaning to set his hands to either side of the Elf's. No touching, but the proximity was a dangerous thing.

Lexius' gaze stopped its wandering to snap back up to Mesteno's eyes. The Elf went still. Still of body, still of mind, as if thoughts and lungs both had seized up and halted.

"If you think it'll be worthwhile, fine,” Mesteno agreed. “Maybe you'll even discover a way to hide the taint, or diminish it so they have to be closer to locate it in the first place. Listen to me though, if I think that anger is for what I think it is," because of course he'd felt it! "rest assured I will be careful. I will do my damnedest not to be where they'll think to look for me. There's nothin' else either of us can do, and the fault is entirely mine for ***' around with things I shouldn't have in the first place."

There was a heartbeat where he hesitated, as if his common sense had finally caught up with his reflex actions and warned him off anything physical, but he went and did it anyway, smudging a kiss against Lexius’ mouth before he could offer any answer, lips only faintly parted. There was a strange fierceness to it though, as if he were meant more to impress upon him the depth of his determination, rather than seduce.

The disharmony in Lexius quivered in outrage, but he returned it regardless for the few seconds Mesteno lingered, and he growled displeasure for its premature ending.

"How do I smell?” Mesteno asked. “Tolerable? You know it'll be faster if you dry me off."

Lexius kept his hands latched to the counter lest he give in to the urge to paw the Sadist like some *** beast. Mesteno wore marks he hadn't put there and, though he'd been trying to ignore that fact and his resulting response, his anger was driven by that little fact as much as everything else. It was a new sensation, not one the Elf was used to feeling in quite this way and he wasn't quite sure how to properly deal with it.

Lexius licked his lips of the meagre taste Mesteno had left him and breathed in again only to release a low, brief laugh. That question certainly invited him to do more than just hang onto the counter for dear life. He leaned a little closer to sniff at the side of the man's neck, endeavouring to remain critical about it. He mostly succeeded. "Tolerable." he agreed. "But if I put my hands on you, there will be no more talking." And they needed to talk. The Elf drew back. "I believe it would be worthwhile. We will deal with whatever we find. But I will need you to prepare. The stones I was carving are for you. You should keep them with you."

Agreeing with the caution, Mesteno turned his back when he loosened the towel about his hips, his hair clinging to his back like bloody rivulets. Drying off was never going to be a graceful business. "I'll carry the stones with me if you say to - is it going to attune them to me or something? What're they for?" The thought of that table and the ominous feeling it had dredged up as he approached it was returning far too freshly, and it bled away any trace of good humour, self-consciousness or desire that might have been lingering about his face.

"Yes, it will attune them to you,” Lexius confirmed. “Energy flows in certain predictable ways in most races. From what I have seen, yours is no different in the basic patterns. The stones will anchor it, help me pinpoint the places where your energy and body and soul are tied together. They will help me see what there is to be seen. They will make you aware of these tie points and patterns, as well.”

"Gotta admit," Mesteno told him as he dried his toes, "I'm a little worried about what you mind find in there. What if it's something really *** up? What if it's something you don't like?" Something that made him wash his hands of him and decide that all those months of learning to trust him had been a waste.

Mesteno’s concerns were fair (if negatively inclined) questions, Lexius supposed. The Elf pondered his answer before he spoke, gaze steady.
"Then we will decide how best to deal with such things." He paused again, just a moment, lightening his tone a touch. "You'll not be rid of me so easily." That Mesteno was still willing to pursue this thing between them wasn't something he was going to squander away on whatever difficult truths he might discover. And of course, there were already things he didn't like that he was dealing with. Speaking of which...

"How did your trip to Madrid go?"

Feet dry, Mesteno rose from the edge of the tub, and moved across to the counter where he'd noted the change of clothes waiting for him, jeans pulled on, comfortably loose as all his clothes tended to be; they required no snake-hipped wriggling to get into.

"It went well, actually," he admitted. "Some good news for Koyan." He snagged the sweater next, shaking it out to find the hem so he could pull it on overhead. He turned a hip against the counter to eye the Elf. "You're uncomfortable with me doing things like this?" He didn't sound angry, but he was making it plain he knew of the fact he didn't like it.

The serenity about the Elf slowly thickened, and he turned his gaze to the shower stall, schooling his features into brutal neutrality while, within him, the dissonance sang a bitter sweet tune.

How best to answer the question was difficult.

"I am...concerned for your safety." Not a lie. "His situation is dire." Mesteno probably knew far more about it than he, but the Elf had seen enough to be certain of the knowledge. "I would not try to impede you, Mesteno." He looked back to the Sadist as he said the last, grave but firm. He wouldn't try to step into the middle of the Sadist's friendship with Koyan and what the man felt he needed to do because of it.

It was a truth Mesteno was appreciative of, since he’d entirely no intention of revoking his aid, nor his friendship. He’d too much to relay to the Turk about his findings in Madrid, things that wouldn’t wait.

The usual reassurances, the promises that he could handle whatever came his way, were not something he’d been able to give with his old certainty over the past few months, and he wasted no breath on such lies for the Elf, who would be able to sense otherwise anyway. Quite how badly things would turn in the days to follow, he couldn’t know, but their own troubles proved more pressing, and it was Lexius’, not the reckless necromancer who faced the greater challenge.

[End]
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2018 5:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[OOC: Thanks to the writers of Lexius, Koyan, Rhys and Sira for this scene! Adapted from live play with Rhys' assistance and posted with permission.]

November 22nd, 2015


Few found the cold weather as abhorrent as Mesteno, and if the frigid bite of that November afternoon's winds were anything to judge by, it was going to be a bad one.

He was running the treacherous, cobblestone streets at a steady, long-legged lope in sweats darkened with perspiration and plastered with mud to the knee. Heat curled off his skin like the steam from a Thoroughbred’s hide post-race, and he’d tied the untidy, leonine mess of his hair back from his sharp featured face. Slowing as he reached the yard, he smeared a drop of sweat from the end of his nose on the back of a sleeve. For one perilous moment, his shoe went skidding through a mud patch that almost landed him on his backside. He walked it off like it never happened, offering a lazy salute to Sira and her dog, Bryn, when he spied them on the porch.

Across the street, tucked into the mouth of an alley, the brick wall propped up a heavily leaning Turk. It was possible he hadn't sobered up from a couple nights ago when he played chicken with traffic. Bringing up a silver flask, he’d watched the runner go by, dark eyes bloodshot and lidded. His gaze landed on the woman, the dog, a newcomer passing them all by. Then back to the runner. Koyan had another drink, one hand tucked into the front pocket of his jeans.

Mesteno was cooling down slowly, loath to have his muscles seize up as well as his butchered old knees and in one such idle looking loop around the yard, he spied the loitering figure in the alley.

Spotted, Koyan lifted his flask lazily by way of hello.

There was a moment of indecision while Mesteno considered leaving the man to his self-imposed solitude—and perhaps that would have been kinder—but the necromancer’s eyes were keen, the gloom no obstacle to his sight. Even from a distance, what he saw concerned him. He left the yard behind and made his way over.

“Full marks f’lookin’ like a creeper,” he offered as he neared.

“Maybe because I am one. Run now, while your modesty is still intact.” Koyan’s accent was thicker than usual, the words slightly slurred.

“We both know I’m shameless, and hardly your type,” Mesteno countered, trying to lighten the mood a little despite the fact that he was already sniffing to try and catch the scent of whatever was in the Turk’s flask.

“I don’t have a type.” The Turk managed a very vague grin at one side of his mouth. It was whiskey he drank. And something else much more potent. Magical. The carvings on the outside of the flask were arcane, unusual.

Mesteno’s mouth skewed into an expression more apprehensive. “Things getting worse?”

Koyan, the man who loathed shrugging with a passion—shrugged. “Couldn’t say. The hunters are poor as **** at finding their prey though,” he asserted with disdain.

The necromancer tucked himself against the wall, stationing himself where any incoming breezes would hit Koyan first. Meatshield, wind block—he had no shame. “They really are, because you’re out here halfway to inebriated and they still haven’t jumped you.” There was a mild note of chastisement there, but it was so slight, and gone so quickly, it could as easily have been something imagined.

“Exactly,” Koyan said with emphasis. “For two damn days now. I couldn’t make it any easier.” Didn’t it just figure that the more accessible he made himself, the more he missed his target? Irony at its finest.

“Have you told Eden?” Mesteno asked, choosing to change the subject. He’d delivered the news from Madrid days before, good news he’d thought, of a survivor, though Koyan had plainly felt guilty for having assumed a death too early.

“Told Eden what?” Oh boy.

“About Zharzha—you didn’t tell her, did you?” It occurred to Mesteno that Koyan might be hoping he’d get himself caught in order to make some plea-bargain, have her released and others removed from their list of targets. The speculation sharpened his eyes even more viciously.

Koyan lifted the flask for a long drink. The corner of one eye twitched. “She was gone for a couple of days, and I’ve been...busy.” Being drunk and putting himself in the open. Turning another look on Mesteno, he grunted. “What?”

“Once they’ve picked you up off the street, what’s the plan?” Came the blunt query. The necromancer was wholly expecting him not to have one.

“Eviscerate every last one of the bastards.” Because, clearly, his balance was stellar and so was his aim. “Then find out where the Wyrm is.”

“Just you, on your own, intoxicated.” A statement rather than question this time. Mesteno wondered absently whether Eli was tucked away somewhere close by, watching over him.

Koyan’s gaze had shifted, landing on a familiar figure crossing the lawn.

Having parked some distance away, Rhys was headed for the inn on foot at a good clip, clad in a black peacoat that fluttered faintly in the chill breeze, the jeans and boots beneath well-worn but decent. He was shaking his sleeve back to check his watch.

The Turk glanced at Mesteno again. “I didn’t expect it to take two days,” he admitted.

“You’re going about it all wrong if you’re trying to force their hand,” Mesteno informed him, sliding a look out across the lawn to see where his eyes had fastened. He tensed against a shiver, and inwardly cursed himself for loitering in an alley, foolishly still when he should have been cooling down slowly.

“There’s no other way to go about it,” Koyan argued. “What’s better than taking an easy target?” He lifted the flask for another drink and straightened from the wall. He tilted over, catching his balance with a sharp step. But he did catch it! “I tried to get you a husk.” Out of the blue. “But it broke apart in Tatum’s arms.”

Rhys’ steps had slowed as he neared the porch, until he had come to a complete stop. The back of his neck was prickling. He ran a look across the porch, saw no one he knew, then turned slowly around and looked to the street beyond the yard. It didn’t take him long to spot Koyan.

“All right, let’s put that big head of yours to use with somethin’ smart for a second here,” Mesteno suggested, looking very much as if he were tempted to snag his shoulders and shake him until his brain rattled around in there. “Two days and they ain’t done **** yet, so they’re not looking for an easy target. If you’re going to force their hand, you need to apply as much stick as carrot.” He’d get to the point, really he would. “You’ve got more enemies than just these hunters, right? It’s not beyond the realms of belief that someone else might try and take advantage of you if you just happened to be foolishly wandering around intoxicated. So why not arrange for it to look like someone else got to you first. Let the rumour spread you’ve been apprehended so your bad guys are forced to get involved and come looking to take you from their competitors?”

Koyan faced Mesteno just as a gust of winter cold air rushed through the alley. What timing, that. He stood as still as he was able—slightly swaying—and studied Mesteno with his flask held hip high as if they were inside a library somewhere talking business over a drink. The collar on his smoke-colored button down fluttered as another breeze blew through. Frowning, he looked between Mesteno’s eyes and mouth as the words came like he was having difficulty following all the detail.

“....what? Too complicated.” He waved his flask around. A tiny droplet of very potent drink spilled to the alley floor. “I’m right here. How hard is it?”

“Well, plainly they don’t have an urgent need for you yet. They think they got all the time in the world to take care of you—why would they rush? That or they’re having fun with some psychological warfare…” He trailed off, content to remain in the wind blocked zone that came of having a broader body between himself and the wind.

Rhys had lingered on the walkway, torn between grabbing a beer and stalking over to that alley across the street. In the end, he started walking again. He could get the Brown later. The breeze tugged at his curls, prompting him to run a hand through it to ease the tickle. His footsteps were quick as he came across the street and up onto the pavement that flanked it, heading right for the alley.

“Gents.” He saw Mesteno past Koyan’s bulk.

“It’ll work,” Koyan was insisting. “Today, tonight...it can’t take too much longer.” Without looking over his shoulder, he said, “That’s Rhys. Rhys, this is Mesteno.” The flask waved hither and to.

Rhys, almost clocked by it, snatched it impulsively from the Turk’s hand.

“Don’t drink that, it’ll knock you on your ass,” Koyan warned.

Moving out of Koyan’s punching radius, Rhys turned his body and raised the flask—and paused. “Who do you think you’re talking to?” Growly, but humored. “He still using himself as bait?” he asked Mesteno. He’d caught just the tail end of their conversation. He defiantly took a sip from the flask.

The name Rhys rang familiar to Mesteno, but he couldn’t place the face. “Hey,” he greeted the man, amiably enough but a little distracted due to obvious drunkenness about a foot away (and the god-awful plan). “You should go home, Koyan. He should go home, right?”

“Hey. Yeah, he should. He needs to sleep it off so he can get some sense back.” Rhys was happy to jump right in.

Koyan scowled when Rhys drank despite his warnings. “Hey, **** you both. If you weren’t so damned scrawny, I’d invite you to a brawl in the yard.”

“I beat your saggy old ass when you were sober. The Hell makes you think I couldn’t while you’re barely able to stand up straight without weavin’ ‘round?” Mesteno asked him, though he angled an appreciative nod Rhys’ way for the agreement.

Rhys sighed happily after his sip, looking rather unphased. Licking his lips, he looked down at the flask. “That’s niiiice. I think I might keep it.” His eyes were bright when he glanced back up. “You’re off your face, old man. A squirrel could beat you in a brawl.”

Koyan gave Mesteno a disbelieving look. “You’re high. When we last wrestled, I won.” His chest puffed out marginally, though Rhys’ threat deflated him soon enough. “...the hell. Give me that.” He snatched for the flask, scowling again.

Rhys skipped a step back, out of Koyan’s reach. “Finders, keepers. Isn’t that the street rule?” He took another hasty sip, then started screwing the cap back onto the flask.

“Go home, Koyan. And at least call Eden to let her know,” the necromancer sighed at last because they’d argue the outcome of that match until one of them died and could claim bragging rights without the other about to dispute it.

“Mesteno.” The Turk appealed to him with a gesture to Rhys and the flask, as if he expected help retrieving it.

“I agree,” Rhys chimed in. “You should go home. Call Eden. See if she’ll unbend a little.” He was talking about something entirely different, but the outcome was likely the same. He slipped the flask into his coat pocket.

“You’re her brother. You call her.” Now Koyan was entering Belligerent Zone. He scowled at Rhys, then at Mesteno. Drawing himself up, he brushed his palms down his shirt. “I’ll take care of it, Mesteno.”

“I have. Twice. She’s ‘busy’.” Rhys made a face like a cat being clutched in the arms of a small child. Horrified.

The Turk exhaled in frustration. “When is she not busy these days?” He rubbed a hand down his face. Without the flask, he couldn’t keep his drunk on. Regular whiskey just wouldn’t do it for him.

Rhys shut his eyes momentarily as if trying to shut out the imagery. “When she’s asleep, and **** knows when that is these days.” He shook his head and gave a full body shudder.

“Oh, so you’re him.” An epiphany. There would be no help with the flask. Mesteno thought he’d finally solved the mystery of Rhys’ identity.

“I’m who?” Rhys looked at Mesteno.

“Eden and Paiva’s brother. I’ve heard you mentioned but never seen you in say...ten years or more of knowin’ ‘em.” He waved a hand though, it wasn’t important enough to keep either of them. He began to back off down the alley, comfortable enough with its twists to know his way home from where he’d spotted the Turk. “Keep trying with the corpses,” he added.

“Uh...I think you’re thinking of Paul. Eden is my twin, though.”

“Eden and Paiva’s brother is Paul,” Koyan said, in case there was some confusion. “This is Eden’s evil twin.” He lifted a hand for Mesteno, however, since the man seemed to be on his way out.

“She’s the evil one,” Rhys said.

“You’re both evil,” Koyan replied.

“You’d know,” Rhys retorted, inclined his head toward Mesteno.

“Keep that flask,” Mesteno suggested to Rhys as he left, though he hadn’t gone far, the men’s bickering still audible at the far end of the alley.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

“Give it to me.” Koyan held his hand out to Rhys, expecting the flask. No matter Mesteno’s advice.

Rhys patted his pocket where the flask rested. Maybe the contents explained the confusion. “No.”

“I will punch you,” Koyan threatened.

“Then come on with it,” Rhys replied.

High above, flying slowly, a giant golden eagle screamed a call that echoed through the sky far too loudly even for that size bird. It turned abruptly on a wingtip, circling back toward the Inn. Some distance off down the alley, Mesteno cursed up a storm and darted towards the shadows, where he intended to take cover until another aerial assault had passed.

Koyan and Rhys were too busy arguing over possession of the flask to notice the eagle or Mesteno’s hasty run for cover.

A sloppily-thrown punch from the Turk was easily evaded, his fist connecting with the wall rather than his intended target. After a moment spent scowling at the offending brickwork, he stuck out his good hand to demand the flask back again. Rhys ignored him and tipped a look up toward the sky after the eagle’s shadow flickered across the alley.

A moment later, the bird screamed again, folded its broad wings, and came streaking toward the ground straight for them.

Koyan was so intent on the flask that he didn’t pay any attention to death from above.

“Get down!” Rhys lunged at Koyan.

It turned out that it wasn’t hard at all to knock the Turk down. He landed flat on his back with a thud and a grunt, finally spotting the eagle. “What the hell?” Something niggled in the back of his mind about Eagles. What was it?

Rhys had landed right on top of Koyan and ducked his head, hoping the alleyway would be too narrow for the eagle to land in. “I don’t know! Who did you piss off?”

Koyan turned his head away from Rhys’ armpit. “The ****? Your armpit smells like cheese.”

“That’s your face, old man,” he shot back at Koyan. He gave him a tap on the ear with his open hand, hard enough to sting.

The eagle was big enough that its wings expanded across the bulk of both men now sprawled on the ground. It back-winged abruptly, rushing cold air over them both, its talons reaching indiscriminately for a hold on either. Long, golden claws tipped those talons, and with Rhys uppermost, it was his coat they pierced, scrabbling at his back before finally closing around his leg.

“****!” Rhys’ efforts to elbow at the eagle’s feet and get off of Koyan at the same time came to no avail.

In the sky, the clouds began to gather together and slowly darken.

Koyan kicked out at the bird’s talons, and grabbed onto Rhys’ coat with both hands, even the one with the swollen, bloody knuckles. “Kick it!” he shouted. And he kicked again too, engaging in a tug-of-war with the eagle.

The eagle screamed its victory, a deafening sound that close, and pulled Rhys back, wings flapping up a storm of air as it tried to launch upward with its prize. The kicking only made it latch onto Rhys all the more securely.

Disinclined to have Eden kill him for letting Rhys be carried off, Koyan pulled harder, teeth grinding. He dug his boots into the ground and tried to scoot back through the alley to bring Rhys with him, fists in a death grip on his coat.

Rhys was kicking at the eagle, but he yelped when a talon pierced the muscle of his calf, made all the worse by Koyan started pulling him in the opposite direction. Momentarily, he grabbed at Koyan’s sleeves, trying to stay earthbound, but the eagle was strong.

“Let him go!” Koyan roared at the bird. His back scraped along the gravel, tearing holes in his shirt.

The eagle beat hard at the air with its massive wings, succeeding in hauling both Rhys and the clinging Koyan out of the alley, and even a few inches off the ground. It was big enough to carry one man, but not two.

Rhys let go of Koyan’s sleeves and touched his hands together, concentrating before drawing them apart again. A slender blade grew between his hands and his nimble fingers snatched it out of the air. He smacked at one of Koyan’s wrists, trying to make him let go of that lapel, so he could twist around and slash at the eagle.

It finally released Rhys’ legs to take to the cloud-heavy sky, shrieking anew. From the clouds, a bolt of lightning came lancing down to strike the Inn’s yard.

Koyan landed hard, air rushed from his lungs, and a moment later Rhys landed right back on top of him with an ‘oof’, the knife extended outward to avoid impaling the Turk. It shattered against the alley floor.

The lightning flashed almost immediately after, forcing them both to scramble clumsily to their feet.

“The **** was that?” Rhys panted while Koyan aimed a two-fingered salute after the bird.

From the alley beside the Inn, Mesteno watched with eyes narrowed against the brilliance of the lightning strikes. He’d reached the spot just in time, via a little shadow stepping, to see the eagle rise up, leaving the men to clamber to their feet.

The eagle might have been taking a moment to reassess, but the lightning wasn’t. Again a bolt struck from the heavens, lighting up the clouds where an enormous, man-shaped figure seemed to be tossing them down at the ground. The next one hit the side of the building right there at the alley entrance, sending broken brick scattering everywhere.

Rhys rolled to the side and threw his hands up to protect his face. “Again, who did you piss off?” He tried to scramble to his feet then, but he was favoring the leg the bird had grabbed onto.

The force of the blast, however, threw Koyan into the street where his body began to vibrate, the palms of his hands beginning to glow. Spotting him lying out in the open, the eagle shrieked and dove again.

Koyan saw what he thought was a shadow in the clouds—and then the bird. He hadn’t gathered enough holyfire to do anything yet, so he ran toward the Inn. “Go, Rhys, go!” He was not the steadiest on his feet.

“Sanctus fut—,” Mesteno curse caught between clenched teeth. Things were getting too bad to avoid a confrontation by this point, so he did the sensible thing and went darting out onto the yard, whooping and hollering as loud as his lungs would allow. Here, birdie birdie!

“****!” Rhys lunged, bad leg and all, hoping to make it to Koyan when the eagle dove. He lurched and careened on his injured calf. Another burst of cold air seemed to emanate from his coat as he reached for another shard of ice and drew it out of the air.

Mesteno’s arrival on the scene was timely. Koyan seemed to have been the bird’s primary target, but now there were two likely victims suddenly there and it caused the massive eagle to hesitate, back-winging again, talons just missing their snatch for Koyan as its head turned toward Mesteno.

Koyan couldn’t have that. Couldn’t let Mesteno sacrifice without making an attempt to dissuade the bird—and the lightning thrower—from another attack. Stopping near the stairs, he rubbed his hands together to create more friction, body vibrating harder. Arcane words, holy words, fell from his lips in whispers. Then he flashed both palms at the bird, sending a bolt of blinding light at its head. Not just light, but heat. The symbols on his back under his shirt glowed as well, mostly hidden by the material.

Fight fire with fire, they say. He knew most likely he’d just made a gigantic target of himself.

Rhys took an abrupt kneel to avoid getting clipped by the white-hot blast Koyan had let out, then scrambled back to his feet and ran toward the porch, and Koyan by proxy.

In retrospect, Mesteno knew he really should have started carrying some damn grenades after the other night in the Temple District. Instead, all he had under that oversized shirt was a snugly holstered Colt, which he drew to fire a barrage of uncannily aimed shots at the eagle while a lash of shadows suddenly swarming up from under the tree.

The bullets hit it from the front, Koyan’s fire hit it from the back. The eagle screamed as it was set afire with holy flames. Momentum alone almost carried it into Mesteno as it fell from the sky, lashed by shadows. The shadows were steely things, dragging against the momentum of the great bird. They bound it up as surely as a boa constrictor, crushing any life left in its overgrown body and crumpling its wings up against its sides. It was left so much smouldering meat and feathers, the holy fire leaving a burned patch in the yard beneath it.

Sira had been watching from the porch as the men crossed the yard to the Inn, and pulled Bryn out of the way of the stairs, sending the big dog in through the front door, though she herself stayed out on the porch.

Thunder growled through the heavens, the sound like a million boulders grinding together, the storm localized now only over the Inn. The shadowy figure in the clouds lifted another lightning bolt and sent it streaking toward the desert man and Rhys.

Rhys flickered out of view between one footstep and the next as the bolt of lightning struck. He appeared a heartbeat later on the other side of Koyan—just in time to be shoved out of the way by the Turk’s arm. For a moment, Rhys was airborne, thrown up the porch steps and against the wall there by the blast of electricity. He hit the wall, then the floorboards, and rolled toward the railing, gasping when he came to a stop, sprawled on his back.

The bolt struck the Turk dead on, flipping him ass over ears. Singed, hair smoking, he landed face down atop the hedges near the rail. Sprawled, unconscious. Maybe dead. The soles of his favorite boots were a charred black mess. His favorite boots!

The figure in the clouds was lifting its arm again, another lightning bolt in hand, when it suddenly staggered, sending the zap of electricity to spark wildly across the tops of the buildings surrounding the Inn.

“****!” Sira swore, crouching down to stay small, first moving towards the railing to peer down towards Koyan, then looking over to where Rhys had landed. Then back out to the lawn and towards the bird, or at least its smoldering remains.

With great effort, Rhys pushed himself up from the floor and rolled over onto his stomach, eyes on the yard and on the thing that had once been the eagle. He glanced aside to Sira, noticing her for the first time, then he looked back to the yard with a curse.

Mesteno was spitting more Latin expletives, the lightning’s brilliance leaving his eyes half useless with a wash of sunspots across his retinas. He did manage to make out the prone bodies on the porch though, knew who they’d be, and rather than wait around to see if any further attacks were aimed their way, vaulted the railing (this time sans any showmanship) to check them one at a time.

Rhys was breathing, bleeding and wild-eyed. Koyan looked to be in worse shape; his nostrils were rimmed with what appeared to be soot and the tips of his fingers were black. Wisps of smoke from from different parts of his body and his hair stood on end. He didn’t appear to be breathing. Mesteno grasped him by the back of his shirt to haul him off the hedge, and Rhys got up to help Mesteno as best he could given his injuries. Koyan was heavy.

Mesteno was no healer. He knew at a glance how bad it was though as he eased the heavy man down onto his back on the decking without much delicacy. He only hesitated for a heartbeat before reaching into his pocket, grasping something tucked away there. Lexius, I need you.

“It’ll be okay,” he reassured Rhys vehemently, though his eyes were no less wild.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

Rhys was no healer, either. Well, not really. He frowned, looking into Mesteno’s eyes as he reached under Koyan’s chin, feeling for a pulse. The touch lingered for only a moment before Koyan gasped a breath. Koyan’s body tensed, eyelids popping open. Instead of obsidian dark eyes—his irises were blue. Wheeze. His hair still smoked, standing on end. Rhys jerked his hand back.

Meanwhile, an entire flock of gargantuan vultures came spiraling out of the darkness of the gathered clouds only to whirl back into the thickness of the storm, as coordinated in their movements as any specially-trained team of soldiers.

It took too long, the answer to Mesteno’s mental call. Fifteen full seconds passed without a response. And then the air in the front yard seemed to warp and rip before a hot blast of arid air spiraled out, spitting a desert elf out onto the grass gracelessly. Lexius staggered a bit, while in the sky, the lightning danced from cloud to cloud as vultures and man battled it out.

Sira had been still for far too long; suddenly she was moving. She had her messenger bag open and was rummaging through for her small field kit. Eyes still on the birds above, but clearly paying attention to the bodies on the porch. “I’m a doctor,” said hastily. “Not a healer.” She glanced down towards the singed man. He looked far worse off than Rhys.

“Uhn.” Koyan flailed a fist uselessly because he wasn’t sure who was hovering around him, or if the eagle was making another dive. It clipped Rhys in the jaw, knocking him back onto his butt, hard.

Mesteno fixed a splayed hand hard against Koyan’s chest, and though the blue of Koyan’s eyes was startling, his arm remained rigid. “Do not move,” he commanded the Turk, too late to keep poor Rhys from being smacked, but yanking the flailing arm down to keep the desert man from knocking anyone else over.

Koyan laid back, eyes open but unseeing.

From east and west, north and south, more birds were arriving on the scene. Normal doves, winging in by the dozens, fearlessly flying into the storm that was driving wind through only that area of the city and infesting the air with enough static electricity things would be sparking for some time.

One of the Inn’s regulars, a healer, had slipped out to see if they needed help. “Could you get us a few bottles of water? And some juice, or something else sweet?” Rhys asked her. That would probably help Koyan.

The woman didn’t leave him waiting long. She brought them several alchemy arrays, bottled water, and juice. “You guys look a bit roughed up,” she remarked.

“Thanks. You could say that.” Rhys was bleeding from the calf, the lower leg of his jeans gone dark with it. He had a bruise developing down the side of his face, as well as abrasions on his cheekbones and knuckles.

Mesteno distantly heard Sira’s confession that she was a doctor, but it was Lexius his eyes were searching for, and he spied the Elf between the railings. “Over here! He got hit!”

Sira had waited for Mesteno to get a good hold on Koyan before approaching. She didn’t want to get punched. She touched him lightly on his wrist and watched the way his chest moved, but she didn’t want to get close enough to listen. Most of her evaluation was just visual, a quick but thorough scan to see what needed attention first.

The Turk’s pulse was erratic and uneven. Missing a few beats at the current frenetic speed. His breathing was a little better, but not much. He grunted words or thought he did. Trying to say something. He was okay! Sort of.

Lexius caught himself, the beads clattering angrily at his side, and swept a look around to spy the gathering on the porch. He climbed the steps and twisted his will, reaching into the ground where sand still rested between the blades of grass. Not long after, a barrier shimmered up across the length of the porch, dampening the sound of the battle and the violence of the wind.

The necromancer was grim-faced and guilty-looking. Perhaps he’d come to the conclusion coming into the city was a bad idea. Worse, he’d drawn attention to the very man he’d warned off becoming involved, in case he was recognised. “You’re not okay, Scruffy. Do y’best to stay awake.” He spoke with the same, authoritative tone, though his voice was edged with concern.

Blinking, Koyan’s eyes moved here and there, but did not seem to focus on anything. Once again, he tried to sit up. “Rhys, Mesteno, okay?” he grunted. He heard their voices but needed to make sure.

Mesteno shoved him flat again immediately.

From time to time, lightning still hit the ground. One bolt slammed into the still-burning remains of the eagle, shattering it apart into so many ashy bits. There would be nothing of that creature left to salvage, though the shadow of it seemed to glow where it had landed, burnt into the pavement and grass.

The elf finally turned a look toward Mesteno, Koyan, Rhys, and Sira. The beads quieted at his side as he took in that scene with a more critical inspection. Mesteno glanced at him, cautious of finding reproach there.

“I’m here,” Rhys told Koyan. Then he looked to Mesteno. “Think it’s safe for him to swallow some of this?” He held up one of the water bottles. He figured the lightning had stripped most of the moisture out of Koyan’s body.

Mesteno slid a shrewd look across at Rhys—he could smell the blood, sure as a hound on a trail. “Your leg’s **** up,” he informed the man sharply. “Get some pressure on that wound.”

“Yeah, the bird got me,” Rhys told Mesteno.

Sira took two things from her field kit. First, a pressure bandage that she held out towards Rhys. “Wrap this tightly around that leg,” she instructed.

Rhys took the bandage from her and tried to tug his pants leg up. There was a sweetness in his blood, something magical and a bit intoxicating. The healer who had previously brought him the water and juice came over to help him, and he let her.

The next thing Sira took out was a penlight. She touched Koyan lightly on the forehead, found it hot to the touch as she flashed the light across his eyes to check the dilation. There was no response to the light at all and that left her scowling. She didn’t like what she was seeing.

The storm above the Inn began to break up rapidly. No more figures were backlit among the dissipating clouds. Out in the yard, the wind calmed down enough that the naked branches of the trees finally quit flailing about. One by one, doves began alighting in the trees. The cooing began not long after.

Lexius maintained his place there at the top of the steps, one hand gripping the railing, his expression utterly serene. Mesteno received no chastisement, but he did not crowd in closer.

Rhys could feel the heat radiating off of Koyan. “Should we try to cool him down?” he asked.

“Nnn.” Koyan tried to move his pinned arm. Mesteno was stronger than he looked.

“I don’t know man, I’m not used to making people better…” the necromancer admitted. He snarled a reprimand in old Anatolian at Koyan when he tried to move, but it was to Lexius his eyes returned. Can you fix this?

Whorls and runes and strange shapes began to appear all over Koyan’s singed shirt. On his chest, arms, shoulders, back. It looked as if the designs were made of water, clinging wetly to Koyan’s skin. A distinct scent of overheated flesh joined the charred scent wafting off of him. “Okay,” he murmured again. “Okay.” He didn’t have enough strength yet to get up, but he was breathing, his heart was beating.

Lexius kept the bulk of his concentration tuned to the barrier which still shimmered vaguely across the front of the porch, his gaze resting on the clump of people gathered around Rhys and Koyan. I do not know. He answered Mesteno along a single, carefully-placed thread rather than through the stone. He looked to Sira then, who was working on Koyan.

Rhys knew Koyan ran hotter than a normal, but this seemed excessive. Once the woman had finished with his leg, he offered her sincere thanks as she slipped back into the Inn, then he rolled over onto his hip and stretched out so he could get a hand on Koyan’s chest. “Yes or no: is the heat a good thing?” He wound his other hand, fingertips fanning, then drawing air back into his palm. He was asking Koyan since he seemed capable of single words.

“Yes.” Something else was going on inside Koyan, but he couldn’t at first figure out what. He blinked, looking for any kind of light in his vision. More than anything else, not being able to see was terrifying.

“Okay.” Rhys closed his fist around the energy he’d gathered. He exhaled a long breath. The porch boards felt good under his battered body.

“Your eyes are the wrong colour, old man. What does it mean when they get blue like that? That normal too?” Mesteno seemed to recollect seeing them that way once before.

“...blind,” was the one-word reply.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

Rhys pushed himself up to sit again, whipping a quick look at Koyan. “Completely?”

Sira looked up at Lexius and her frown deepened. She aimed surreptitious look at the crowd before her eyes dropped back down to Koyan. “Let me look,” she requested quietly, already reaching out with a fine lace of thought through the hand she still had on his forehead.

Koyan just swallowed at Rhys’ question. And blinked a few times, hoping something would happen.

Sira’s attempt came up against a brick wall, one that she did not push against. The doctor shook her head.

There were now clear skies over the Inn. And a horrendously ugly vulture about the size of an elephant was alighting in the front yard. Just one. It folded its greasy wings and curled its ugly red head and neck, squawking at the doves in the trees. Familiar. Mesteno angled a look out at it.

“Up,” Koyan grunted, once more attempting to rise into a sitting position. This time Mesteno allowed it. Koyan grasped the hand Rhys offered, swaying as he sat up. He coughed and winced.

Lexius released his will and the barrier across the front of the porch collapsed abruptly. He tightened his grip on the rail for a moment then finally stepped closer to the group of people clustered about Koyan. The beads murmured softly. So softly. Sira’s frustrated look had not gone unnoticed.

“Koyan, will you let Lexius look you over?” Mesteno asked quietly, backing off to let Lexius have his spot.

Koyan’s heartbeat was evening out, like his breathing. If his entire body hadn’t felt like—like he'd been struck by lightning!—he’d be doing mostly okay. Barring the blindness. “Okay,” he said stubbornly. As if he wasn’t half-charred and singed, as if his hair wasn’t standing completely on end. He sniffed.

Rhys shifted around so he could put a shoulder against Koyan’s back to help him stay sitting upright. There was something he wanted to try, but since an apparent healer—at least, he thought Lexius was a healer—was coming over, he subsided. For now.

“Your hair is standing on end,” was Lexius’ mild greeting to the blind desert man as he stepped near, his grip shifting from the railing to Mesteno’s slumped shoulder to clamp down. The necromancer closed his palm over the back of the elf’s knuckles and slid a look his way that made it plain he knew he’d done something bad.

“...yes,” Koyan said to Lexius, though he didn’t reach up to feel his hair. “Need a smoke.” Which may have been the most ironic statement of the day.

“You are a smoke, mate,” Rhys muttered.

Sira rose up to stand, field kit tucked under her arm in case she needed other bandages. She eyed Rhys to see if he was in need.

Lexius’ gaze touched on Sira as she stood, Rhys in his support, Koyan with his blue eyes. The elf ground his jaw and gathered his will, extending several threads of thought Koyan’s way to investigate, though they came upon the same impenetrable wall that Sira’s attempt had. Instead of persisting, he turned his attention to the physical damage. He kept Mesteno’s shoulder tightly clamped in his hold as if to prevent the man from slinking away.

“That would probably be a very bad idea,” Sira murmured of the desired cigarette.

“The very reason he will do it,” the elf offered to Sira blandly.

“Also, your boots are kinda’ ****, I hate t’tell you,” Mesteno informed Koyan.

“I heard that.” At least Koyan was speaking in sentences now instead of grunts. He exhaled. “Favorite pair,” he lamented.

The lightning, combined with Koyan’s own source of power, had done a number on him. At the same time, his body was using the blitz to slowly heal itself, to store away some of the energy for later. Lexius nudged a few cells here, adjusted a few nerves there, attempting to redirect the priority order of healing

“His ears seemed to be in working order, at least.” Lexius’ tone did not change.

“Yes.” Koyan didn’t quibble.

“Thank David for small miracles,” Rhys muttered.

“He might be more manageable deaf,” Lexius told Rhys.

“I doubt it. He’d just flail around if he’d lost that sense, too.” Rhys’ jaw was still throbbing a little from the accidental punch.

“Yes.” The elf’s bland tone remained unchanged. “Unconscious would be best.” Tempting, but he continued his subtle manipulation to regenerate the man’s vision.

Koyan muttered in Arabic, and despite the guilt, Mesteno managed a low rumble of a laugh that did not help it abate. Rhys cursed Koyan right back in a tongue that seemed to be a blend of Welsh and something much, much older.

The desert man could feel little bits of healing going on, his body knitting itself into better shape. The edges of his vision wavered a little, and he sat up straighter. No bright sparks of life, but the wavering was new and welcome. “All right, you bastards,” he muttered. “Rhys, you hurt? Mesteno?”

“Not a scratch on me. You two’re complete amateurs,” was Mesteno’s quiet answer.

Rhys said, “Bird tore my leg open. Other than that, just bumps and bruises.” It felt like he’d been hit by a truck, though.

The subtlety of the healing couldn’t be maintained, of course. A wild flare restored Koyan’s vision a little too suddenly. “You ran like a chick—ugh!” Koyan had begun to accuse Mesteno, but his spine straightened as everything began to come into sharp focus too fast. He closed his eyelids.

Lexius withdrew his threads with a snap, grunting quietly. The beads gave a quiet, ominous rattling sound—and promptly slapped Mesteno’s hand. The necromancer snagged them sharply and gave them a tug hard enough to pull at the elf’s hip. It earned him a harder squeeze at his shoulder, one to which he murmured a quiet apology.

“Heal...Rhys.” Koyan made a squeak of an appeal to Lexius. This time, when he opened his eyes, he could see. Thank God. Rubbing his lids with the heels of his hands, he finally took a slow look around, placing everyone. He watched Mesteno yank on the beads and get slapped, and took note of Rhys still leaning against his back. Sira was leaning against the rail. Koyan didn’t look much farther beyond that. Drawing his long legs up, he wrapped his arms around his knees—with little spikes of pain shooting everywhere inside—and took a second to just...assess.

Koyan’s request had Lexius grinding his jaw so hard his teeth should have shattered. Nostrils flared on a carefully-drawn breath, he shifted his gaze to Rhys and waited for the man’s opinion on the appeal.

Rhys looked as rough as he felt. Alley debris still clung in his curls. Part of his face was bruised and reddened, and he had abrasions on his cheekbone. The bandage around his calf had stemmed the bleeding, but the stain on his jeans was large and dark. He just looked at Lexius. He had a strong inkling that the guy wasn’t too keen to expend energy on him, and Rhys wasn’t sure he wanted strange hands on him, even if he had just watched the elf work on Koyan. One brow lifted.

“Yes or no?” Lexius asked Rhys directly, tone somewhat clipped. His serenity was starting to crack. Out on the lawn, the doves in the trees chirped with a few branches swayed for no apparent reason at all.

“Do you have the juice?” Rhys’ tone was equally clipped.

“What the hell just happened here?” Koyan finally asked. The question seemed to prompt the vulture in the yard to warbling raucously as if it was laughing.

Tight-lipped, and perhaps a little pale beneath that perpetual tan, Mesteno shot a filthy look across the yard at the vulture, as if it were somehow at fault. There was a pull beneath Lexius’ hand as if he meant to head its way.

Koyan saw the vulture for the first time, recognized the sound of doves in the trees. Now that he wasn’t getting heckled about his hearing and vision, he could concentrate on his surroundings.

Sira moved from the railing suddenly and swiftly moved over to the front door. In all the excitement there was something she had forgotten—Bryn was sitting there by the door, patiently and far too obediently. He wagged his tail as he got up to pad warily back out onto the porch, sniffing the air.

“Mesteno?” Pointedly. Koyan wanted answers. “What happened?”

Lexius bared his teeth at Rhys in some parody of a smile that looked far too vicious. He let go of Mesteno’s shoulder and stepped toward Rhys to lean, clamp his hand down around the bandage on the man’s leg, and squeeze. The inky lines of a geometric tattoo slithered across the back of his hand and over his fingers toward the man’s leg!

“My fault,” the necromancer told Koyan, quietly of course, but not without sincerity. “I didn’t think I’d get tracked here, now they’ve seen you, so...remember what I tell you about the birds.”

“But what is it? Why is it here? And why did that eagle attack?” Koyan said.

The clamp of Lexius’ hand around Rhys’ leg hurt. He narrowed his eyes and moved both of his hands, the air around him turning abruptly cold. He didn’t trust that tattoo that came sliding down Lexius’ hand. His fingers snatched at the air, grasping the hilt of a weapon that then solidified in his hand, its blade growing away from him. “Think twice,” he said quietly, “if that’s meant to harm.” He met the elf’s eyes and held them.

Koyan glanced back again to see Rhys and Lexius, frowning faintly. His eyes had slowly returned to normal, a sharp glittery black instead of blue.

“Because,” Mesteno was replying awkwardly, his focus darting from the barbequed Turk to the vulture in question, and then across to Lexius and Rhys—and oh, how quickly he moved when he saw what was forming in Rhys’ hand. He whipped around and a lashing line of shadows snaked out of nowhere to seize the man’s wrist. “Do not!” Vicious.

Rhys whipped a look at Mesteno as the shout came and the tendrils of shadow coiled about his wrist—and calmly reached over to touch the darkness sliding across his skin. A rime of frost began to spread along the shadow and down it, seeping through. Normally it might have solidified what it touched, but the necromancer’s shadows were already hard as steel.

That tattoo sank down under Rhys’ clothing, onto his skin, the feel of a thousand gossamer legs crawling over flesh. The elf held the man’s gaze with his own just as firmly, the pressure of his hand unchanging until the tattoo was completely transferred. Then he let the leg go and straightened away even as the ground seemed to shiver under their feet. A tiny earthquake that swiftly settled. Lexius stepped back. “Use it if you wish. Press upon the mark and will it to work.”

“Mesteno,” Koyan snarled. “He tried to save my ass like you did. Knock that **** off.” He wasn’t up for another fight right yet.

“If he means me harm, I’ve got the right to defend myself.” Rhys looked pointedly at the tattoo—or at least where it had been. He twitched hard, feeling the crawling sensation seeping over his skin. His gaze came back to Lexius, watched him rise. He blew out a breath. “What will it do?” He took the blade he had conjured out of his trapped hand and lay it across his thighs, then removed his hand from the hilt, a show that he wasn’t going to try to lunge. He was asking because he clearly still didn’t trust what the elf had done. Not after the reluctance and the look. He wasn’t stupid.

Lexius stepped back again, putting himself well out of reach of the weapon Rhys had conjured. “It will heal.” He answered as he turned away from them all and headed for the steps.

“He’s doing you no harm. Send the damn blade away,” Mesteno was insisting, but since Lexius was out of reach, he relented, and the shadows snapped back into place like elastic, leaving the man’s limb free.

Rhys tilted his head, leaving the weapon where it was. His dark gray eyes were hard and stayed with Lexius. “In that case, thank you. It’ll melt,” he added for Mesteno.

The vulture, at least, had stopped laughing, though it was watching the porch rather curiously. Or maybe hungrily. Soon, it spread its wings out there in the yard, flapping them once to launch itself in the air. The take-off was too smooth, too easy, for such a ponderous beast, but it was up and headed toward the sky in seconds. The doves followed after it, dozens of them streaking from the trees in the vulture’s wake. Sira leaned over the railing to watch the flock go, packing away her kit and rummaging through her messenger bag.

The elf did not answer Rhys. He touched Mesteno’s shoulder briefly as he passed, steps steady and controlled, the beads muttering restlessly by his side.

Koyan stared hard at Mesteno, then glanced at Lexius. A complicated look crossed through his gaze, before he rolled over onto his knees, and used the railing to help him stand. Then he reached a hand down to help Rhys up if he needed it.

“You two owe me some goddamned answers,” Koyan said to Mesteno and Lexius’ backs. He sounded...unhappy.

Mesteno offered Rhys a nod and a complicated look which seemed to harbour some regret. It was not how he’d imagined a first meeting with the ‘twin’ might go, but it was a little late to fix things now. “It'll work,” he quietly added assurance to the elf’s. His focus shifted across to Lexius as he made to pass him, and a thin sigh came slithering between his lips.

Rhys tracked the elf for a few moments, then looked to Mesteno. He returned the nod. “I hope so,” was what he said of the mark he’d been given. There were more words poised at the tip of his tongue, but rather than explain himself, he pulled the knife from his lap and tapped the blade on the porch by his hip. A tiny flex of his will sent a crack webbing through the ice, and then it fell apart. Dropping the hilt, which began to melt immediately, he reached up for Koyan’s hand and got to his feet.

Lexius paused at the top of the steps, answering Koyan without looking back to the man. “The titan you raised left its mark. Some now are looking to impose a punishment for that crime and more.” And that was all he planned on saying it seemed, for Lexius continued on and away, down the steps and across the yard. He didn’t vanish in his usual fashion but strode on toward the walkway and the city.

“Keep an eye on the skies,” Mesteno warned. “Storms ‘n big **** birds.” He didn’t think to add metal gargoyles to that. “I’m sorry,” he offered again to both men candidly, and it was probably unsurprising that when he turned to go, it was after the elf. It didn’t take him long to catch up.

Rhys muttered thanks and set about trying to straighten his clothes. He was a lost cause, for the most part. His dark eyes ticked to Mesteno. There was something complicated in his expression, but he nodded once before the guy turned to go.

Koyan was still staring at Mesteno and Lexius. His jaw clenched when Lexius kept going without giving him time to say anything else. “And people wonder why the **** I drink.” Finally, he glanced back to Rhys. He reached up to run a hand through his hair...and realized it was still standing straight up. Jesus God.

Rhys bent to snatch up a bottle of water and a bottle of juice. He also grabbed that little vial the woman had given him earlier. That went into his coat pocket. He held the water out to Koyan. It would help with the frazzled hair if nothing else. Maybe.

“Thanks.” Koyan took the bottle with a shaky hand, ripped the cap off, and drank half the contents straight down. Wishing it was whiskey the whole time.

“Yep.” Rhys cracked the seal on the juice and drank down a bit of that.

Koyan took another drink, stared down at the bottle, then hurled it against the side of the inn. Water blew everywhere, the plastic cracking down the middle. And it hurt, that blip of violence, but it also did him good.

Rhys flinched and turned away from the spray of water and bouncing plastic, holding up his hands. “What the **** Koyan?” More plaintive than angry that time.

The Turk snarled very unkind things in his mother tongue, under his breath. When he switched to English, he didn’t sound any happier. “I’m heading to the Den. You’re welcome to come, or not.” He couldn’t say there was a shortcut to Alvaka from there out loud, but there was food and drink and respite from everything else. Notably, he did not explain his temper.

Sira still lingered there, silent, arms crossed over her chest. Or at least she had been lingering. She and Bryn padded quietly down the stairs. The pair headed off without so much as a goodbye.

Rhys made a face, but he said, “All right.” Yeah, he noticed that Koyan hadn’t answered him. Maybe it was neither the time nor the place. He had noticed a few things and would content himself with putting pieces together until he got some harder answers. Capping the juice, he slipped it into his pocket alongside the flask which was miraculously still in his possession. “Lay on, MacDuff,” he said, gesturing to the yard.

The desert man thought about simply vaulting the rail, but didn’t think his legs would support him. So he took to the stairs, annoyed at the funky changes in his body, at the weakness the strike left behind. Rhys followed close behind, while Koyan veered toward the mouth of the nearest alley, brows furrowed, and his temper darkening with each step he took. Soon, they disappeared into the shadows.

[End.]
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[OOC: Continues directly after the last scene. Adapted from live play with Lexius.]

November 22nd, 2015

When Lexius had answered Mesteno’s call for aid, he’d been a great distance from Rhy’Din.

Crossing it, raising the barrier, and finally the healing, had been too much.

No, really, Koyan’s mere presence had been too much. The Elf had been trying not to rely on the roots he chewed to aid his control, but his power was already leaking to his immediate surroundings, and he didn’t dare disappear in his usual manner while it was behaving so unpredictably. So he’d walked away, needing the distance in order to collect himself, and thinking to follow the necromancer when he left the others at the inn. He hadn’t expected to be followed instead.

He was surprised, pleased, frustrated, worried and enraged all at once. It made for a curious mix of sensations along the shared mental tie, and the Elf tried to clamp down on too much of it being passed along. He did slow his steps though, to allow Mesteno to catch up.

The beads weren't done chastising Mesteno. They slapped him across the knuckles, and he made no effort to try and snare them.

"Mea culpa," Mesteno murmured, and the sentiment of it echoed through that pre-existing tie. While Lexius endeavoured to guard against feelings passing between their minds, the necromancer was doing the opposite, and hunting for them clumsily to know the state of his thoughts. "I wouldn't have called on you if I didn't think it was desperate. I couldn't do a damn *** thing to help though and I know-- *** I know this probably just set us back and made you wonder what the *** you're doin' with me."

Rambling, trying his best to apologise, and really not sure what kind of response he'd get given the complexity of what escaped Lexius’ mental constraints. He knew it was too soon to touch him, but he did anyway, catching his wrist, eyes guileless and his expression undeniably earnest.

The discord in Lexius’ mind was going crazy. It always did when he made himself walk away from Koyan, defying the internal urge to stay and help and heal and touch, to do whatever the man might ask. The flaw had its own little voice during those times, and it screamed at the Elf to go back, that Koyan was in need, that he should do all he could to aid the man, that he should rip down the world to fix whatever problems Koyan faced. It was a driving need, a twisting of feelings he no longer honestly felt, a perversion of the things he would do when so thoroughly invested in somebody else. Lexius managed (barely) to temper those things when in the Desert Man's presence and typically handled them by avoiding the man altogether.

It was all of him that had been left until, somewhere along the line, Mesteno had teased out a little more.

The demand of the faults remained, but underneath it now were those things he was certain were more real. Once, he'd watched Mesteno and Koyan together and been only concerned he would ruin a long lasting friendship. Today, the Elf had come to realize how much more deeply the issue now ran. How much of a problem it was going to cause.

The clash of emotions was suddenly spiralling hard enough it tested his control in all new ways. For a moment, the Elf was fairly certain he'd never be able to breathe again as the honest want clashed viciously with programmed desires. He barely heard Mesteno's words, wrapped up in the cacophony of the internal struggle he was doing his best to keep suppressed to a whisper. He really should snap the mental link, but Lexius thought doing so just might set him adrift and turn his feet right back around to a place he knew he had no wish to go.

The touch to his wrist had jolted him and he was drawn to a stop easily as a lamb. The breath rushed into his lungs. His gaze seemed dazed, but it was far, far too bright with power. Power that crept along Mesteno's skin from his own, unshaped by his will, draining right out of the Elf through touch.

"What?" he sounded no better than Koyan had not too long ago.

Mesteno had known the risk he was taking when he'd called for Lexius’ aid. Had it been anyone else lying there, lightning struck and charred and unseeing, he likely wouldn't have shown any hesitancy in asking for it, but with Koyan, despite the man being one of those few friends he possessed a deep and unconditional loyalty for, he'd faltered.

It wasn't just that Koyan was different, capable of surviving more than a mortal man could, or because he'd thought someone amongst the others on the porch might be able to assist. It wasn't because he thought he'd be chastised for recklessly returning to the public eye after the previous week's fiasco, either - he just hadn't wanted to draw Lexius into the desert man's presence. He'd dreaded the old programming seizing hold, been a little terrified that, when faced with it again, Lexius might succumb.

When it became clear the Elf had heard none of what he'd said, his expression dissolved into a miserable grimace, and he let go Lexius’ wrist to clasp his shoulders, turning him so that they faced one another squarely, right there in the middle of the narrow street.

"Focus on me," he told the Elf, both hands sliding up, framing his jaw, then his temples as if to guide his concentration. His fixed his own eyes on the wild brightness snapping in those of the dazed elf, and kept his voice low and level, despite his own damnable, jittering nerves. Focus, he urged, mind to mind, so that there the mental and the physical both vied for his attention with the discord. "It's done, finished, and you fought against those false instincts and won. Don't drop the link. Stay with me even if it feels wrong." His thumbs swept back from his temples and into his hairline, a soothing sort of gesture.

Mortifying for Lexius, being unable to concentrate. It would haunt him later. That, and the uncertainty behind what had truly driven him to the actions he'd taken that day.

Every time he managed it walk away from Koyan, it was a victory. Every time he succumbed to the man's requests, it was a defeat. That day, the tally of wins to losses was muddled. It had been Mesteno who asked him to help Koyan in alignment with urges he tried to resist. He would have crumbled if the Sadist hadn't been there, he knew, and aided the Desert Man in his injury regardless. So was it a win that he'd done so this day because Mesteno asked? Or was it a loss that he hadn't been able to deny the Sadist's request for his own damn good and at Koyan's expense? Lexius knew for sure it was a loss to have helped Rhys in any way, shape or form. He'd done that because Koyan has asked it, pleaded it, and he'd cost Mesteno something in the exchange, he was sure. But how wild the pleasure had felt for a moment, when the Sadist lashed out with shadows on his behalf.

He'd managed to keep that to himself, as well, along with all the contesting emotions he'd been experiencing up there on that porch. Now, however, his control of it was chipping away like bits of stone beneath the touch of his tool. He latched on to a certainty that suddenly drifted through his fractured thoughts; Mesteno should not look so miserable.

The Sadist's touch finally drew a shivering reaction from his muscles, denial and enjoyment tied inexorably together in that reaction. He wanted this touch, no other. And Mesteno should not look so miserable.

Lexius growled, stepping into the man, his own hands lifting up to latch around the man's wrists with a kind of urgency that might suggest he was going to rip his hands away. A large part of him wanted to do just that. Demanded he do just that. But there was the man whispering in his mind. Focus. Focus. Focus. So Lexius focused.

Several more threads of thought lashed out, too strongly, to race along the currents of power streaming off the Elf and along Mesteno's body. They delved into Mesteno's energy, twining through it on their way to his mind where the Elf set more hooks in place. The connection between them seemed to expand, exposing more of what the Elf was trying to keep hidden despite his best intentions to hide it.

"Mesteno." His voice came rough, intent, echoed along the tie.

The threads latched into the Sadist's brain began to gather together into a single, thick strand that grew hot. He should ask, he knew. Somewhere way down deep in that small little part of him the Sadist had brought to life, Lexius knew he should ask before he forged the tie permanently in place. No. He shouldn't do it at all. Not the way he was now. His power fluctuated again as he tried to pull back, looking away, break the connection no matter the urging.

"Right here, I'm right here with you. Don't you dare go rushing off anywhere. Don't even think about it." Mesteno wasn't aware that Lexius had expended too much energy in all his struggling, and still suspected he might vanish in a mad whipping of desert sands.

He, or rather than sentience inside of him became aware of those invading threads, and like a woken lion might observe the passing of some small, harmless thing it had no interest in devouring, it watched. Mesteno was aware that something had roused it, felt it's shift from dormancy to a state where he might readily wield it should he wish, but unaware of any immediate danger he ignored it, and remained blissfully ignorant of the energy currents streaming from the Elf. Not for a moment did he suspect that he was on the verge of a permanent tie. Nor had he ever been aware of the fact it was something Lexius had found himself desiring over the past months.

Despite the urgent grip around his wrists, he lowered his hands, and instead of simply holding fast with his fingers, one arm went snaking around Lexius’ waist and the other about his shoulders, sliding hard over his back to pull him tight to his front. It was bruisingly possessive, head turned to press his face in against the side of his throat, and it didn't matter in those moments even if the Elf stood there with his arms slack at his sides, so long as he felt the determination, the defiance against all the dissonance he knew was churning.

Oblivious to the permanent link threatening, he gave himself attentively to the task of learning the Elf’s turmoil in greater depth, and attempted, in that unskilled way of his, to make the embrace, that leaning into him as much a mental thing as was the press of their chests and the constriction of his wiry arms.

"Take your time. I know you can control it. Your Will is greater than anyone else I've known," he urged, a vehement whisper near his delicately pointed ear.

Mesteno was making it worse, unintentionally. Yet, at the same time, he was making it better. The full body hold earned the buck of another physical shudder from Lexius, rejection wrapped up with acceptance. The Elf growled again, fully unaware he was making the noise, and transferred his gripping fingers deliberately (defiantly!) into Mesteno's hair, tangling in the knotted mass of it. His second hand latching at a hip, a punishing grip. Each hold mirrored the same possessive intent radiating from the Sadist both physically and mentally. All of it only encouraged him on in forging the link from mind to mind.

Mesteno said the exact right thing. He was stronger than this. He could control it. His Will was great. Great enough to prevent him from making a beginner’s mistake. Strong enough he would not succumb to instinct over intent. Mesteno's breath against his neck became another point of focus. The words the man had whispered echoed again and again in his mind. The Elf took his time, as advised, and meticulously shut it all down.

The burn of that thick, ropey tie eased first, and then the strands broke apart into the more delicate strings he usually used. Some of them dissolved away into Mesteno's energy, bits of himself that fed to the watchful beast of the Sadist's soul, little morsels of power. The Elf picked apart the struggling emotions next, his teeth grinding near Mesteno's ear quietly as forged together his control anew and calmed the war going on inside him.

Parts of the battle persisted (they were hugging, after all), but as a whole everything seemed to calm and settle enough for Lexius to give a low, long sigh of relief and a few murmured words of his own.

"My thanks." Sincere, that. Most especially for the way Mesteno was so clumsily leaning in as best he could mentally as well as physically. "It is better." He assured.

"That's good. See, I knew it." There was no patronising suggestion that Mesteno was proud of him in those few words, but he did sound relieved, and the hand splayed wide over the Elf's shoulders lifted to smooth over the back of his head, where the worst of the turmoil had been cantered. The final step in helping settle his mind was to put an end to that very contact he'd used to brace him, so Mesteno eased away, though not far, one hand still resting on his shoulder.

"Come on, we shouldn't stand here in the middle of the street. It might not be as safe as we think."

There had been birds and lightning bolts, but just because they'd retreated didn't mean that there weren't gargoyles slinking about in search of them still.

The fever bright gleam of too much power in his strangely coloured eyes had lessened, replaced by the usual edge of sharpness with which Lexius observed most everything. He was studying Mesteno right then, as if seeing him anew. Finally, he gave a nod and turned to walk, and the beads at his side reached out to brush along Mesteno's leg much more nicely than they had before, like a reward for a job well done. That snickering rattle they made immediately afterward might somehow sound a little smug, as well. Lexius ignored them as he usually did, slanting a look across the people and the buildings.

"It would be better," the Elf finally murmured, voice smooth and even, "if you took us back along the Shadow Paths. Then you can tell me what happened."

"All right. Let me get us a little closer to the marketplace though. The further the distance to travel, the trickier it is if I'm dragging someone along with me."

It wasn't far to the marketplace at all, the road they were on a direct route, and Mesteno stayed close enough that there was the occasional bump of shoulders or brush of arms, even if it wasn't intentional. His attention took to the skies here and there, tracking the clouds as they dispersed to something more natural, but always on the lookout for high-flying specks which might be avatars on the lookout.

It was in one of those cramped little alleys that he stepped out of the crowd, drawing Lexius with him by the wrist, and within moments into the familiar pitch of the Shadowlands. Rhy'Din's November weather felt positively summery compared to that chill! They were spat out onto the porch of his cabin.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

Lexius paused before he allowed Mesteno to go any further, staying him with a curl of fingers around his forearm. He'd gathered enough serenity back to allow an extension of power and the Elf used it to double check not only the cabin, but the grounds surrounding it, as well. Only once he was certain things there were as they should be did Lexius finally relax.

"All seems quiet." The Elf had no intention of lingering outside once he was satisfied, and herded Mesteno toward the door and inside.

The necromancer made right for the fireplace, leaving a muddy trail of half-frozen footprints, and absently dusting aside the lingering chips of ice that'd formed in the Shadowlands. He'd dragged a small, burnished urn of dry scraps of wood, thin enough to snap up for kindling beside the hearth, and crouched to start stacking them in the centre of the fireplace, hair sweeping untidily forward over one shoulder.

"In case y'weren't right in y'head to hear me before, I'm sorry," he told him, with the same gentle candour of earlier. “I guess I wasn't doing a lot of smart thinking. The attack came out of nowhere and I wasn't expecting Koyan and Rhys to be targeted. I was leavin', heard the eagle and the storm starting and figured I'd better get out of there. Only I just skipped from one spot to another to see what was coming this time, and when I came out, the *** eagle was all over them. Maybe he has the taint, too." Grimly!

The Elf stood at Mesteno’s side as he worked, ridding himself of his satchel and unwinding the beads from his belt, nudging Mesteno lightly with one knee to the side in response to the apology. "Do not be sorry for calling me." He could feel the flickers of guilt still sparking in the man. It was effort enough to get Mesteno to seek any assistance. Lexius was grimly certain this night would put a crimp in getting him to do so in the future. "I would rather you did, than not. It may well be Koyan carries something similar. But they have other reasons for being displeased with his existence. They simply haven't had a reason before to care about it." The grimness was in his voice now, but for those unnamed reasons and for the mere fact they were talking about the man.

Lexius crouched, and reached to draw that untidy mass of hair back over Mesteno's shoulder to better see his face...and keep it from going up in flames when the guy lit the fire! "You did nothing this night I should not have expected beforehand."

"He thought he might have something else that erased it, but thinkin' back on it, the way that eagle fixed on him..." Mesteno’s mouth grew pensive as he carefully arranged the kindling to make sure there'd be enough air to the stack. The profile revealed when Lexius drew his hair back was one of a jaw set firm, of brow pinched to knotting above the pin straight line of his nose. He didn't look up from his task despite the unexpected contact, and fed in a few scraps of paper, making sure there was plenty for the flames to consume hungrily from the offset - torn up notes, music half written he'd become frustrated with.

"I guess you're right though, his involvement with Aiden probably displeased some of 'em, so it could just as easily have been a case of him being in the wrong place when the attack came... ***, at this rate there's gonna be nowhere I can go without gettin' chased out or endangering someone."

More wood, larger pieces, all mounted up into a well-spaced pyramid over the original kindling, though nothing particularly heavy still. Enough to get the fire going, and so down came the matchbox, the faint sulphur stink and curl of smoke as he struck it, its illumination leaving angular features harshly limned before he tipped the little flame into the space he'd left. The paper caught, and the narrow, split sections of dry wood shortly after, and once the flames licking along the larger pieces had begun to catch, he added a few short-cut, sturdy sections of log before easing to sit back on his haunches.

It was then he tipped a look across at the Elf, his expression faintly resigned. "It's still so strong, that old need in you," he murmured. "I don't know why, it's not like I wasn't aware it hadn't been fixed, but I think it's the first time I've felt it churning in you while he's been around and it caught me off guard. I thought--," he caught himself, as if he were second guessing the wisdom of letting such things be spoken. He'd always been impulsive though, and he could only keep it contained for so long. "I thought after you felt it again, realised what it was to feel that way about someone, about him, you might think you were makin' a mistake takin' up with someone else. Don't misunderstand," he lifted a hand to caution him against speaking, "I don't expect much at this stage, it's early days, and I'm the last man in this city to rush things, but what you felt for him was very real. I wouldn't blame you."

Lexius couldn't deny a bite of frustration at seeing the resigned look, but he welcomed that emotion because he knew it was relevant, current, real. He allowed the silence to linger before he responded, gaze steady on Mesteno's face and the tie nudged open a little wider as if to better capture the man's feelings. He even allowed that expansion on his own end (no easy thing, purposefully doing so!) so the Sadist could be sure of the words he spoke next. The dissonance was quieter, but it was a constant thrum of discontent.

"What I felt for him was real decades ago." Decades for him at least! "What I feel for him today is not."

He stated it flatly, firmly, no matter the parts of him that recoiled for such an admission. Lexius endeavoured to ignore that and it was easier to do when not face to face with the man. Instead, he focused on that smaller part that cheered approval beneath the grumbling of the rest.

"That I have chosen to allow it to linger so long has only entrenched it deeper within me, but all of it is false. Such things no longer belong to him, Mesteno, and it is well past time I see about purging them." His resolve felt strong somewhere beneath the stab of pain he received for voicing the intention. Lexius tightened his eyes and bore it. "You will not be so easily rid of me." He'd said it before, but the Elf thought it worthy of repetition just then. A niggle of fear did accompany the words, though. The current proposed solution could well wipe out not only that flaw...but everything inside him. Lexius had somehow gotten to the point he wasn't sure he wanted to risk what was growing in him that he came to rely on more and more as being real. The Elf took a breath banished the the fear. First things first.

"Have you kept the stones on you?" A few days might not have been long enough, but it may well have to do. They really couldn't afford to linger much longer without attempting to identify and try to remove or mask that Titan's taint from inside Mesteno.

Mesteno wasn’t unwilling to hear reason, but that didn't mean those suspicions he had would be easily purged. He wanted them gone, wanted to accept all that he heard, especially when it was spoken so candidly, but pessimism had a foothold.

What if we rid you of it, and it comes back despite it, a natural want for him, something more than the programming? That would be the real test, facing the desert man and the Elf feeling his heart sit quiet and unstirred, to see him only as another man, another friend perhaps.

Of course that it was Koyan made everything so damn complicated. Mesteno might mock Koyan at any given opportunity in good natured banter, but he wasn't blind to the qualities which'd attracted Lexius, and Dair, Bjorn and Whisper. He could still remember how Dair had returned for him, the Scotsman’s misery in the wake of being spurned. And here was Lexius, their relationship a thing long past, still struggling. It would appear the Turk was not an easy man to get over, and Mesteno did not wish to resent somehow he thought so much of for being an obstacle.

Not oblivious to the train of Mesteno’s thoughts, Lexius shifted towards him. "These feelings I still hold, they are not for the man you know today. They are not for a man you have ever known. You remember my choices, yes?" He only paused a moment so Mesteno could recall that conversation they'd had months before. "One of them involved pursuing what is within me, in discovering if there is something there in who he is now that I could feel the same for. I did not choose that route, Mesteno, because I know there is not. We have both become different people. My only fear is that I might lose this thing between us in purging the rest."

Mesteno studied him as he spoke, and finally reached to touch a hand lightly to his thigh. "I'm selfishly pleased you want to," he told him, "but what your protectors suggested, we still don't know if it’s something I can do safely. I risk harming you, and you were so sure about not wanting to before..."

The Elf dropped his hand over the Sadist's, the skin to skin connection plucking the strings of that disharmony, but Lexius didn't allow the warped vibrations of it to deter him from trapping the man's hand in place so it could not easily be withdrawn.

Mesteno reached into the pocket of the muddy sweatpants he wore, and drew the stones out in his palm, still wrapped, and a little warm from the heat of his body. The fire was roaring by then, devouring the wood hungrily, and he shifted to rope his knees with both arms, leeching the heat shimmering outward and up in waves, "How long do you think I'll need to keep them with me before we try the damn table?"

"I would prefer you held them a month. But let us try within the next few days. If the tie is not strong enough, we can try to wait a little longer. The more I learn about this and you and the way your soul and energy are tied, the more I can learn if perhaps this method of helping me will be suitable." Lexius gave no ground, but remained close through his explanation, his thumb brushing along the back of Mesteno's knuckles as he spoke.

It wasn’t exactly comforting, knowing Lexius considered it so risky, but they’d little in the way of options. Mesteno hadn't once considered the potential for erasing more than the lingering programing, and there was a new sharpness to his eyes which was vastly different compared to the normal, predatory intensity lingering about them.

"It would be selfish of me to refuse what your protector's think we should try, simply 'cause I don't want to risk what we have," he admitted quietly, his voice almost lost beneath the low roar of the flames and the occasional, startling snap and pop within them. "When I suggested findin' a way to remedy your problems back then..." There had been Evander, and Lexius had been a friend, new and still someone to step lightly around as they learned one another. "...never would've thought it'd even be something that would need to be considered." He squeezed lightly over the flesh of Lexius' thigh. "S'for the greater good though. There's no contest if it means riddin' you of all that mental ***; the remnants of those things are gonna hold you back forever." Longer than Mesteno would be around at any rate.

"I'll keep the stones with me, and I'll come lie on your table whenever you want me to." There was a grave finality to his voice.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 8:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

"Be selfish." Lexius encouraged, quietly droll. "Then I shall not be alone." He spent some time in silent contemplation of Mesteno's face, lit by the flickering flames, playing out the possible outcomes in his mind. He had to wonder if, given another chance, Mesteno would choose to act differently, if his obstinate, defiant nature was what kept him on this path.

"Very well." He finally stirred himself from the stillness and study, shifting his body to settle onto the floor beside the Sadist, facing the opposite direction. He still hadn't relinquished the man's hand, but his thumbed had ceased to caress across the scarred knuckles. "It will take me two days to prepare." And recover some lost sanity from this night's events! "In that time, I wish you to remember how to meditate. How to form an image of yourself in your mind and to know it is real. You understand?"

"I remember how it's done," Mesteno assured "though I can't promise I'll be much improved even if I practice. Why do I need to be in a state of meditation when I'm on the table?" He hadn't been the last time, and though he knew he'd reacted poorly (not just to the unexpected nudity, but to the table itself) he wasn't sure he'd find his nerves jangled so badly now that he knew what to expect.

Lifting a knee, Lexius nudged it under the man arm to lean against his side and finally let free the hand he'd held trapped against his own thigh. He reached for Mesteno's hair again, long fingers brushing through it, tugging out the knots patiently as they spoke.

"Part of learning to control yourself, every part of yourself, comes from knowing those parts intimately. What is in you, Mesteno, is vast and more than a little wild. You have experience manipulating it through your necromancy, but there is more in you, more to it and, thus, more to yourself to come to know. That is more easily done when you meditate. I will need you to be aware and focused to help me interpret that which I see and find. And I want no more surprises between us, as we had that evening on the cliff."

His gaze shifted from the work of his fingers to Mesteno’s face as he reached (fingers still coiled about with hair!) to lay his palm light on the man's chest. "Sometimes, I think, we consider what is in you as something separate. But it is as much you as your hair or your eyes or the breath in your lungs. Both of us must come to understand all of it is you and, perhaps, in that harmony, you will better align with the true depth of it."

"I'm not sure aligning with it is wise," Mesteno admitted, and there was an edge to his voice which was not harsh, but was certainly stubborn, had the potential to become outright difficult. "It's usually compliant when I call on it, and I won't deny it protects me when I'm unable to consciously make the choice to, but it's the source of my appetites. It revels in violence more than I would alone." And he did already. "It's far too attentive when I'm cruel, when I kill, when there's blood on my tongue. The way I am now, I'm in control of those urges, I can uphold my scruples without worryin' I'm gonna do something really bad. I don't think there's a way to harmonise with it. That it'd just overwhelm my better judgment and push me down that stereotypical route most necromancer's take. I don't know whether it can be reasoned with, and I sure as Hell don't trust it."

He exhaled sharply, as if his fear of himself and what he might become was an irritant, but he understood why it was so important to have it under his control, rather than wild. "The way I am now, I function without too many problems." His heart was noticeably quicker than normal under the press of the Elf's palm, and not from some adolescent-like excitement over simple, physical contact. "But if you think it'll help when it comes to getting you fixed, I bow to your better judgement."

Lexius resumed his finger combing, drawing more and more hair forward past the Sadist's shoulders to work out the worst of the knots. He considered what the man said carefully before he spoke again.

"To align yourself does not mean allowing it to control you. I understand your concerns, and they are valid. But as it is a part of you, it is you that will maintain the control of what is acceptable and what is not, what you will allow yourself, through it, to do or not to do. To exercise that kind of dominance over it, you must understand as much as you are able and build your own will as strongly as you can. What I propose should allow you to sense the shift and play or those darker desires you do not wish to indulge earlier and to temper them to your wishes more completely. As much as you do not trust it, it is a part of you that does not trust the rest. If we strengthen that within yourself, you may well have far less trouble. To be in synchronization with it is to master it. Not for me, but for yourself.”

"You got this way of making even the scary *** sound reasonable," Mesteno complained, though there were threads of amusement to be heard in that soft-spoken voice. "The idea of mastering it, I like that. Self-control is important to me, believe it or not."

"We shall go as gently as possible, building upon the foundations you have already established and expanding them as needed." A sudden smile quirked the Elf's lips, curling them slowly at the corner. It had nothing to do, really, with their current conversation. He was simply processing fully something Mesteno had said earlier and finding a renewed pleasure in it. A good sign that his brain was multitasking again, if a bit more slowly than usual. "Are you warm now?"

"I have to admit," Mesteno murmured, tightening his arm a little around Lexius' knee and leaning into him as if he half intended to push him over (he was bullying, albeit playfully) "the idea isn't so worrying as it should be. If I know you're in my head, it's like I have a focus if I start feelin' unsteady in things. A landmark in the fog." The playfulness dissolved though, sliding fluidly back into something deadly serious, and the lean was put to use for an intense look, the sort of fixed and determined stare not to be questioned. "I don't want it to take too long if in the meantime it means you have to struggle. I might not be feelin' particularly brave about ***, but push me, challenge me. If I fail at something it makes me hungrier for it. If this thing can be done by anyone, I'll be the one t'do it." Lexius was spared the cockerel puff of chest though, because he nodded, easing up on his lean. "I'm warm."

Lexius braced his free hand to the floor, his smile deepening even and eyes narrowed for the playful pushiness. A part of him was undeniably thrilled by it, even if it stirred up a bit of the discord alongside the appreciation. Not about to be easily moved about, the Elf pushed back with his knee to hold his ground.

"I can tell," he murmured the words, but there was a sharp humour in the dry delivery, "you've completely lost the talent for seduction, comparing me to a lighthouse."

"I was thinkin' somethin' a little more impressive," Mesteno drawled, though thoroughly amused by the lighthouse idea. "A mountain, something that stays stubbornly the same while everything else shifts 'n changes around it. Also real old." Oh! "But if you'd rather be somethin' shiny like a lighthouse, I suppose that suits your sunny demeanour." Now he was just being an ass. He enjoyed those occasions Lexius chose to be playful, and he was revelling in the opportunity to tease him, welcoming it after such a grim evening.

Reaching in again, Lexius turned his fingers not toward Mesteno's hair, but to curl then up high and firm around the man's throat, just under his jaw with enough pressure to tip his head back a bit. The Elf was the one leaning forward this time, blue-violet eyes glinting with the same intent look Mesteno had offer him as he brought his mouth close to the Sadist’s ear, whispering his next words. "You will go at my pace in this." It was not a negotiation. "You will also go shower," he went right on, not even allowing Mesteno a chance to retort as he doled out the commands, "so I may lay with you this night and walk away un-muddied."

Mesteno didn't pull away. In fact he stretched his neck as if to prove his lack of fear, something proud about the up-slant of his jaw, the way he gazed at him, not somnolent despite the hooding of his eyes, but certainly challenging, insubordinate. Let's see you do worse, it seemed to say as he watched him. If you mean to take charge, persuade me you mean it. And he could expect rebellion along the way, even if Mesteno did remain still for the words breathed warm beside his ear.

Commanded to go and shower like some filthy child come indoors after playing in the mud, he might have snorted, smacked away the hand at his throat if not for the obvious intentions. It was probably a bad idea. No, it definitely was a bad idea after what'd happened, but the thrill of it quickened his heart, stimulating him as surely as a hand at his ****.

To say he was ‘eager’ would have been a kindness, considering the speed of response. He was on his feet and in the bathroom before Lexius had chance to persuade him of anything.

[End]
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2018 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[OOC: Adapted from liveplay with Lexius.]

November 26th, 2015


A miniature sandstorm hissed across Sanctuary.

The grains rattled across frost hardened grass and lodged in the nooks and crannies of the silver trunked trees. It sent an offended white feline into the bushes to avoid getting pelted, and it found a necromancer, barefoot amongst the branches at the edge of the yard, dislodging some precariously hanging deadfall.

"Such a flair for drama!" came his commentary from up in the tree, as he observed the sandy eruption.

Lexius looked like he'd been buried in a sand dune. The transfer looked far smoother this time than it had the last. The Elf didn't stumble and the air hadn't warped and wavered before he appeared. He stood calmly at what had been the centre of the storm, the beads chortling merrily at his side, then canted a look up into the trees, his blue-violet eyes glittered with fading power.

"Is that a complaint?" The Elf knew it wasn't. Four days absence had been too long in some ways, and Lexius took his sweet time studying what he could see of the Sadist in a long, almost hungry stare. Which just made the beads snicker all the more. He ignored them, as usual.

"Not in the slightest. I might feel compelled to compose some rousing theme music though," Mesteno warned, countering one tease with another.

A faint smile ticked the Elf's lips for Mesteno's rejoinder, though his eyes did narrow a fraction at the mention of the music. He'd yet to sit and listen to Mesteno play, and intended to remedy that soon. "I shall have to hear it before you release it as my official anthem. Why are you in a tree?"

"I'll make sure you find it appropriately stirring," Mesteno assured, before answering question with action.

He braced one arm around a sturdy branch above his head, planted a heel against the severed tree limb with its withered leaves and crumbling bark, and kicked, tipping the balance to let gravity drag it to the ground. There had been some strong winds over the past few days, and whilst they hadn't been able to uproot those suspiciously mobile trees, they had ripped loose some branches here and there.

Mesteno seemed as confident in the trees as he did scaling cliff walls, and moments later, made it back to terra firma without incident (or splinters.)

His smile was sharp as a scalpel, arresting rather than handsome, and despite all its sharkish, predatory quality, there was a definite warmth there for the Elf. His hair was bound, drawn forward over one shoulder, secured with a scrappy little length of leather just below his clavicle, and he was clad in sturdy, brown leather pants and a simple oversized sweater in hunter green that seemed to have developed a few holes in the hem.

"You're 'bout as dusty as I've ever seen you. Been rolling in the sand?" he asked, coming near enough to sweep some off Lexius’ shoulder.

Lexius tracked Mesteno all the way to the ground with only two brief darts of his gaze elsewhere. He picked out the place the branch fell, located the dogs (including the old Doberman sacked out on the porch) and extended a few carefully controlled threads of thought, as well, to inspect the grounds and cabin more closely even as he focused back on the Sadist keenly.

"I've been amongst the dunes." He admitted. He stepped in closer, to share the dust along with the grains that trickled along Mesteno's fingers for his bold touch. His own fingers were touching along the holes in the hem of Mesteno's sweater. "I found your hole in the sands."

"You found my what?" Mesteno asked, struggling to assert concentration when he was running on his usual one-track instincts. Give it a second and it'll-- there it is. "Oh! The one I fell down when I was communing with your protectors..." Statement, not question. He looked puzzled. Instead of reaching for Lexius, he reached for the beads, letting them nestle in one palm. They made no effort at all to avoid his reach, appearing nothing more than a string of old, worn beads. "You know for some reason I never actually figured that was a real place. I thought they were just nudging me along and fabricating something my mind could cope with. That the well at the bottom was just a metaphor rather than something I could physically visit."

He was jumping to conclusions, assuming he'd found the well down there, but how else might Lexius have determined it was his hole? And then... "Why is it mine? Did they never take you there? I thought you must have been shown it too."

Lexius sent a tendril of thought snaking into Mesteno's mind. He felt a twinge somewhere in his brain as he set up the mental link, but that was easily overwhelmed by the sense of ease that came with the establishment of that unseen tie. That Mesteno was currently radiating contentment and pleasure only heightened his own and had a certain sort of tension he always seemed to carry bleeding away into nothing. Better. Far better.

"The well is real." Lexius' voice was grave. "And it is yours because this one appeared for you. Where mine was no longer exists." His long fingers were still poking through holes in that sweater, rubbing slowly along the cloth that covered scarred skin and sleek muscle beneath. "When I was more dragon than Elf, yet during a time I was somewhat lucid, I went to the place my well existed and dismantled it. I made the table from the stones there."

Mesteno’s thumb rubbed back and forth over one of the discoloured beads as absently as Lexius was toying with the holes in his sweater. The news had succeeded in directing his mind from the simple pleasure of the Elf's company and had re-routed his thoughts as surely as had a roadblock been erected.

"So they're just dotted all over the desert? Or under the desert. How many though? And why were you able to locate mine?" There was a strange lilt to his voice when he called it that, as if he half wished it weren't because of whatever implications it might hold. "From me just tellin' you what happened?" He wasn't sure he'd described any part of that vision with particular clarity, and though Lexius had mapped the deserts extensively, he knew there must be locations spread over endless seeming miles that he might have had to explore.

The confession about the table Lexius had constructed was just as surprising, but it was a revelation to know of its origins, something that made sense to his sorry, human brain. "You relocated the stones?" He seemed to be asking for clarification. It seemed strangely coincidental that the well would've been sat there in the rear of the red dragon's lair. Far more likely the psion had used his considerable skills to teleport them from the well site to that place he'd chosen to make a refuge of. "And why dismantle the well? Did you seal it up? Why'd they even let you?" So many questions. Mesteno was never content with ignorance.

Lexius withdrew his fingers from their probing touch through the sweater and lifted them to carefully cup the side of Mesteno's neck, instead. A full, skin-on-skin touch that he didn't seem hesitant to make despite the slowness with which he accomplished the hold. His serious gaze studied the Sadist's face even as monitored the man's mind along that single strand that tied them together. His smooth, quiet voice matched his sombre expression.

"I do not believe there is ever more than one on any given world." That he had such an opinion certainly suggested he'd investigated the matter at some length. "And I was able to locate it from what you said, what you wrote and from the memories I studied in your mind. I know this desert quite well." He added that with a trace of amusement. He damned well better know it given the damn place had created him.

"As for the table, yes. I relocated the stones to create it. Doing so destroyed the location the well once rested. I believe I was allowed to do it because of the purpose I put them to, which was growing and preserving a new body in a somewhat accessible yet guarded location." He did not find Mesteno's questions tedious. Nor did he think the man in any way foolish. He knew there would be a flood of inquiries given he'd only explained the situation that led to his rebirth in the most basic way.

Mesteno let the beads swing loose again. Their lack of activity was intriguing, and he hadn't yet decided whether it was because those they played conduit to wished him to concentrate on the matter at hand, or because they were trying to avoid some sort of blame in case he became belligerent over their manipulations. When he finally looked up from the beads, it was to fix the Elf with another of those shrewdly golden stares. "You're taking me there, aren't you?"

"No." Lexius assured. "Not today. It will wait."

"I suppose it was worth finding, even if it did take you away a while. I'd offer to join you on your jaunts, if I didn't think I'd slow you down." And Mesteno knew he would, if not intentionally, then due to some mortal ineffectualness. "It's about time we sat down and talked about how this might work, and what precautions we should take to keep it from *** up. I know it's not gonna require as much planning and precision as what you were doing before," there was no new body on the cards! "but the risks are still high, and I don't have a perfect track record when it comes to 'helping' people."

He didn't offer examples, but they were there in his head for the taking, flickers of memory; an ill lit place beneath the ground where he wrestled with a dark haired man and slew him with a wooden knife, an image all tangled up with Bjorn's voice accusing him of murder. Taneth ragdoll limp in his arms, wan and bleeding one moment, slashing wildly at him with a blade the next. More threatened, but he seemed to stem the unwelcome flow before his mood could foul too far, and he moved to slip an arm low behind the Elf's back to urge him towards the cabin. There was coffee there after all.

Lexius didn't comment on anything right away, especially those memories flicking through the Sadist's mind. It hadn't been his intention to have such a discussion just yet, but he didn't protest the suggestion out of hand even if it made him tighten up and tense in places that were just beginning to relax.

Easily guided, the Elf slid his palm to rest high along Mesteno spine but over the sweater now rather than directly touching skin. He hadn't had his fill of that, but there was no need to push the matter into dangerous territory. The Sadist had said and asked much that made Lexius ponder, but the offer to join him was the thing most prominently swimming around in his head. His brow furrowed a bit as he considered it, but his mouth didn't really wait for his brain to catch up!

"You're welcome to join me whenever you wish, though I did not think you would find any appeal in doing so." Lexius knew from what he'd been told Mesteno had made such jaunts before and he'd seen for himself the man was both familiar and adaptable to the ways of the sands. But when compared to his home, it seemed a poor substitute even considering all the dead leaves and branches!

The necromancer's arm tightened about his waist without warning. Levering the elf up against his side for a clumsy bump of bodies might have seemed pointless if not for the kiss he smeared against the side of his neck where once he'd fastened his teeth harshly enough to draw blood. Lexius was caught between a laugh and a snarl, and both amusement and arousal twisted intricately together, came glimmering along the tie.

"I like to explore," Mesteno told him simply, "Its only commitments here in the city that keep me from doing it as often as I'd like. Besides, I'd be lying if I said the opportunity to watch you in your... natural habitat was not appealing."

He let Lexius go so that they could head inside without tripping over one another, and made immediately for the kitchen where he set the water to heating without even pausing to ask whether he wanted coffee. Mesteno left the rest of the task to the Elf though, recalling well his ban on handling it. A perch on the opposite counter seemed to suffice for a place to observe from, as if he meant to learn so that one day he might be permitted to brew it for him.

"You were dead set against what your Guardian suggested when we spoke on this before," he remarked, absently plucking a few scraps of brittle leaf from his ragged sweater. "Not without good reason either. Those reasons no longer bother you?"
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2018 9:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Continued...]

Lexius was unthreading the beads from his belt, and pooled the string on the counter. “They bother me." His tone was grim, but he kept it level as he occupied himself with drawing out two mugs he'd left in one of the cabinets. He was silent as he drew the box of coffee packets closer and twisted his will upon it to open it. Two packets withdrawn, the scent of the spice filtered into the air immediately. Lexius drew in a deep breath of that before he continued, his gaze still set to the task of making the coffee. "It is rare for them," the beads, he meant, "to make such a forward and obvious suggestion about anything. Typically, they are content to let me deal with things as I see fit. The only time they actively interfere is when something not merely threatens, but has the ability to destroy me entirely." He paused and looked aside to Mesteno. "Yet now they are encouraging you to do just that. There are many, many reasons to be concerned with that development."

Mesteno dipped a brief nod, and settled with his elbows against his thighs, chin propped on the back of his knuckles. "Perhaps they need you fixed for some reason, some task," he suggested, his eyes narrowed thoughtfully and his brows severe to match his frown. "Or they've noticed some kind of change in you they don't want to progress, something they're concerned might end undesirably."

He'd his own suspicions about that. Koyan's return to RhyDin had resulted in some uncharacteristic loss of control moments, and if he were to be faced with it frequently, how much before he snapped? "Of course it might just be that they actually genuinely care about you and don't want you suffering any longer." That last seemed a little too innocent for the entity on the other end of those beads, but he couldn't rule it out. Even hoping to discern their reasoning was a fool's task! "So, their desire to see a change, despite the risks, has made you think it's worthwhile?"

Lexius was taking the time to appreciate the sight Mesteno made just then, perched in that unusual position with sand dust marring his skin and intelligence glittering in his eyes as he worked the puzzle the beads had put before them. The Elf spent a long moment trying to decide if the way the man looked now was more or less devastating than the way he smiled. He came to no certain conclusion and turned his gaze away, back to the packets of coffee he was turning and turning between his long fingers. Lexius took a measured breath before he continued.

"Whatever the reason, I am quite sure it is to serve itself rather than me." The 'itself' now referred to whatever used those beads as a conduit. Lexius thought of them separately more often than not, though he knew the two were inextricably tied together. "My concern lies more in what the process will do to you, what It wants from you, how It will change you, than anything that might happen to me." He was sliding the packets into place, letting the hot water steep through them as he spoke, his tone growing harsher.

"I no longer court death as closely as I once might have, and It seems invested in keeping me alive regardless. It is also quit familiar with how selfish I can be. It will use that against me to get what It wants. And the beads have been interested in you since the very beginning." Apparently, he didn't ascribe any altruism whatsoever to that entity or the beads no matter how much he might owe them for his existence.

"Your concern is appreciated," Mesteno admitted, with a smile Lexius wouldn't see since he'd turned his back.

His flippancy had the Elf’s shoulders tightening, and Lexius ground his jaw, wishing for a root.

"And I can't say I don't have my own concerns about the whole thing.” Mesteno continued, apparently oblivious. “I'm not sure how much of that battle between your energies and mine you remember, if any, but when 'It' intervened last time to tell me you belonged to it, to separate us, it did so real easy." He marked the haste with a snap of his fingers, before letting that same, unoccupied hand come to rest lax between parted thighs. "But my energy had only just begun to counteract yours by trying to drain you. If it wants me to do more, to filter out the faults..."

Plainly he was concerned that wouldn't be such an easy feat. Or that separating them was something that couldn't be achieved without more vigorous methods. A filter was easily cast aside after all if it was damaged after all.

"...I'm not sure it'll be able to separate us cleanly, or easily. If I knew how to control it better though, to stop before anything is permanently severed," soul from flesh he meant! "I'd feel better about the whole thing. So I need to know that if we try this, there's always gonna be a lifeline I can't sever. We need to look up some way to keep you safe, because I'm done with making mistakes, and I couldn't live with ending you. What do you think the likelihood of you coming out and not remembering any of this are?" he asked, and if Lexius had turned by then, he might see the gesture Mesteno made between them.

The beads had stealthily migrated their way across the counter to where the Sadist was perched. Even then, they were sliding over one knee, defying gravity as they went. Lexius finally poured the coffee.

"I recall most of what happened that evening." A few days of focused meditation had helped him piece it all together. "Though I am still uncertain how It did what It did." He turned, stepping closer to offer Mesteno one of the steaming mugs.

Despite their blatant manipulations, Mesteno couldn't bring himself to dislike that entity the beads channelled, so when the string had come creeping over his knee, he didn't flick them aside as an irritated man would. If he gave it any thought, he'd probably come to the conclusion that he and the beads were on the same side; both desired Lexius free of all that hindered him, even if their reasons for desiring it were vastly opposed. His fingers curled beneath the string, tipping them into the cup of his palm as he listened.

"Gratius," he murmured for the coffee, free hand curled around the mug and as ever coveting the heat.

"I don't know how things will go.” Lexius admitted. “I suppose it will depend on how much of me is...consumed and how much is recovered. It may well take from you whatever it cannot save." he shook his head, reaching once Mesteno took the mug to brush away the sand dust on the man's jaw. "I have no idea how it will do what it suggests, but I am sure it will not be clean, as you say." He paused a moment before finally offering some small bit of help. "I will use the table, as well, so you might see the way the patterns of energy lay in me. Perhaps the visualization will help you recognize that lifeline."

One might almost be forgiven for thinking Mesteno docile, civilised as he sat there, but when Lexius reached to brush away the traces of dust clinging to his skin, he set such illusions to rest when he turned his head, lips smudging apart against his hand to make way for the teeth which came pinching down on the heel of his palm, close to the sensitive, delicate skin of his inner wrist. It appeared he didn't mind the taste of the sand. The scrape of teeth gentled before doing more than leaving a faint, reddened impression of his incisors behind.

Lexius didn't seem to mind. His fingers curled in hard against the side of the Sadist's jaw in response. His eyes narrowed, a quiet sound rumbled in his chest, but he drew another careful breath and allowed the man to pull away without any sort of retaliation. The Elf lingered close, though his frown was more for the carelessness with the coffee than anything else.

"I wish the *** things would talk to me when I spoke to them," Mesteno admitted. "Maybe if I meditate hard enough they'll answer me." He gave the string a little shake before they could start snickering again, and lifted them from his knee to set them on the counter beside his thigh.

"Do not court the attention so brazenly or you may well receive it." Lexius meant the contact with whatever was behind the beads. Getting its attention was one thing, actively seeking it out another altogether. "Unless you wish your own set of beads to deal with." This he added far, far too mildly. He leaned a hip to the counter beside the Sadist, eyeing him through wisps of steam as he lifted his mug to hover close to his face. His bitten hand he rested atop Mesteno's leg.

"I can't guarantee having you lie on the table will help me find your ‘tether’,” the necromancer admitted, “but it's a beginning. Hell, maybe we should even practice, figure out whether I can draw on you gently as if I had intend to feed and stop without a problem..." Though he frowned as he suggested it, as if the notion of even tasting a little might end poorly.

"Have you ever done something like that?" Lexius asked.

Mesteno observed the Elf through the rising steam, slouching back far enough to rest his head against one of the cabinet doors. "I've drained someone deliberately without killing them, yes. I do it frequently amongst the masses in large numbers where I can be less cautious, but on individuals, less so."

Still, he felt the need to clarify. "You know how it gets when I'm not in control, you've seen it. Once when... when I was broken, I dropped a crowd in the market place. A few dozen at least. They weren't dead, but unconscious. It escaped my control. When I go out with intent, and I can keep it on a leash, it feeds only a little and from many at a time so that none are aware. No harm done." The way he preferred it. He did flash a smile though when he added, "The individual I succeeded in performing it on without problems was the Governor’s Minister of Justice. With good reason of course. She didn't like me, so I drained her, kidnapped her and took her out into the Dry with Sam for a few nights. She changed her tune when I got her back to the city." Oh, the smug bastard! The slant of his smile seemed to suggest it had been a rather dramatic change. "If you don't want me to, I understand. You've seen enough that I'd understand your caution."

Lexius squeezed Mesteno's leg, as much to feel the denim pressing into the place where teeth marks scored his skin as to acknowledge the Sadist's admission on past misdeeds and the way he usually tried to feed. He watched in silence for some time, breathing in the spiced scent of the coffee that curled against his face in the steam and pondering their options, of which there were precious few. He braved a sip from the mug before he said anything at all.

"We can try." He finally allowed. "But after the table. And in a very controlled environment." The desert, of course. "Have you been meditating?"

"That all sounds sensible," Mesteno agreed. He might have been the one to suggest it, but that didn't mean he was eager to try. Meditation was another issue entirely. His expression twisted into something sharp and critical, and he drew his eyes from the Elf and down to his own coffee. He lifted it for a sip, surprised when he didn't scald his tongue.

Lexius watched the transformation of Mesteno's expression with mild fascination. He knew the answer just from that observation before the man even spoke.

"I try,” the necromancer admitted. “I've managed on a couple of occasions but things snap me from it more easily than they should. And actually reaching the state is a trial when my head is so full of worry. I don't have your mental control. It's frustrating." Not that he expected to be able to compete with the mastery of a being so much older than he, but it plainly bothered him that there was something he couldn't master.

"I've kept the stones on me at all times though, and I'm finally finished with that damn physics book, so I suppose I'm not failing entirely at everything." It was the last of the loaned volumes to be finished, and the one he'd been caught out with in the rain. "There was nothing in any of those books which'll help our current situation of course. Maybe Mister Snout's son will have something more enlightening in his book."

Lexius could taste Mesteno's frustration in the tie, hear the self-recrimination underlying his words. None of it was surprising, given what he knew of the man's nature and his past experiences. Lexius was not disappointed that the Sadist was having trouble. It was inevitable that he would. That he was trying, reacquainting himself with the mind-set and habits of it, were the more important parts at this juncture.

"You will only master it if you continue to practice. I will give you four more days. At the end of that time I will expect you to be able to calm your mind, build a picture of yourself within it and maintain the state for an hour." Mesteno would do better with more defined goals, he was sure. The man had told him to make it a challenge! "Hold the stones while you practice." He advised. The Elf drank from his coffee again, deep and long, before he continued. It helped drown his smile even if a glimmer of amusement did filter across the tie for the Egyptian deity’s nickname.

Mesteno straightened his head from the cupboard door when he sensed the trickle of amusement, and his golden eyes narrowed shrewdly, accusingly! "I'd rather picture something else if I have to maintain an image," he retorted, setting down his coffee and this time avoiding any spills the Elf might disapprove of. "Four days then. Though I'll be ready in three."

Because he did love a challenge.

[End.]
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2018 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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

November 29th, 2015


The Red Dragon’s commons were a ghost town that afternoon, which was no deterrent to Mesteno. He’d chose a spot at one end of the bar where no other stools could crowd about him, and an open bottle of Grand Marnier, reliable old poison that it was, had begun the slow business of warming his hollow stomach.

Visiting the watering hole was a risky business lately, and he’d half expected trouble even though he’d arrived via less than conventional means, avoiding roads and alleys and open skies. He hadn’t expected the trouble he did get at all, though in the days that followed, given time for retrospect, he would concede that had been foolish.

Koyan had chosen the lesser known pathways through the city, short-cutting through alleys and behind businesses on his way through town. Several stops later, he arrived at the back door of the Inn, pausing there to stare at the handle with a pensive expression on his face.

This way, there be danger.

Fae wine sat hidden on a low shelf, a bottle he'd kept there for years. Regardless of his own misgivings about alcohol, he stepped inside, already digging a pack of cigarettes from his front pocket. He wore black jeans, buckskin boots, and a coat of buttery black leather. He hadn't even made the bar when he saw a body propped atop a stool. Koyan paused, dark eyes glittering. Glancing behind him, he considered going right back out the way he came.

Mesteno’s fingers stilled an inch from the throat of his bottle, the noise from the back door intrusive after so long spent in his own company. He was confident trouble wouldn't follow him inside the inn, at least not of the sort he'd been dealing with lately, but still he turned to tip his chin towards his shoulder, glimpsing the desert man in the process. Koyan's stillness was telling.

"You're all recovered," he noted, and for once the place was quiet enough even words soft-spoken as his own carried untroubled. He might have said more, but there was a measure of extra scrutiny to the wolf's gold eyes that suggested he was assessing the situation rather than assuming all was well between them.

The Turk’s stare was unkind at best. Hard. Cold. Propping a cigarette between his teeth, he went through the motions of lighting it and stuffing the pack, along with the lighter, back into his pocket. Drawing a deep lungful of smoke, he exhaled and looked over the interior of the Inn. He still seemed on the verge of simply walking out without replying. In fact, he said nothing in reply after all. Nor did he move from his frozen spot.

The silence was cutting. When Koyan made no move to reply, Mesteno turned on his stool to face him, one forearm propped along the edge of the bar.

"I've seen you harmed worse. You're not angry about getting fried," he remarked, ignoring the itch to reach out for the bottle again. "If I offended you in restraining your friend, my apologies. If it's about the Grecian issue, I know I was wrong to hold my damn tongue."

Koyan rolled his head left. Right. Around until he was staring at the ceiling instead of boring holes into Mesteno's face. One shoulder twitched. Glancing down at the cigarette he held between the knots of his knuckles, he cautioned himself over and over about his temper, about the consequences of his actions, his words. He found it difficult to speak. There was no good starting point.

When he did find words, he looked up, right at Mesteno's eyes. "How long?"

Mesteno hadn’t expected that. His expression became severe, as if he were surprised to find Koyan's temper riled over what he suspected, more than all else combined. The frown smoothed though, into something unrepentant, perhaps even curious.

"Two months? Less, in truth." He did reach for the bottle then, and uncivilised as ever he'd been, drank straight from its mouth. "Nothing you ever spoke of to me has been mentioned to him. And if you've still some... claim on him I should be concerned about, you should probably make it plain. I wasn't aware something so long past would trouble you."

Lexius. The discussion had been inevitable, but as he’d naively told the Elf, he hadn’t expected it to matter.

Instead, the second ‘two months’ hit the air, Koyan started shaking his head. Once more, he stared down at the cigarette in his fingers, watching ash curl away from the end. He spent long minutes just standing there, absorbing, dealing. Coping. Then, he laughed. It started as a deep rumble, raspy and bitter.

"No. No, Mesteno, I don't have a claim on anyone. But you should have ****told me." Koyan glanced at the door, the window, the bar top. His shoulders trembled with the need to expend violence.

Growling at one another from across the room didn't suit Mesteno. He was unsure whether anyone renting the rooms above might eavesdrop, and should anyone else wander in he didn't mean for it to end up gossip fodder. He left his seat behind and approached, despite the violence he sensed rippling just under the Turk's skin. He was ever unafraid, to the point of recklessness.

"You didn't care when I befriended Bjorn, or Dair-- granted I wasn't **** the latter, but you've never desired to know who I was bedding. I was supposed to make an exception for Lexius? The pair of you barely speak, and I'm supposed to divine... from what? That this is your business? You still care for him?" Bluntly asking whether he was stepping on toes.

"Don't." The warning in Koyan’s voice and eyes was clear. Don't come any closer. Lifting the cigarette, he drew deep--then spewed the smoke out when Bjorn's name hit the air. "Are you **** kidding me? Bjorn?" Obviously, he hadn't known.

And then, then he exploded.

He took a threatening step forward, using the hand he held the cigarette in to point at Mesteno. "If I had started up a relationship with any of your serious ex-lovers, Mesteno, I would have told you before two months was out. I just figured that was the right thing to do. Not only didn't you tell me, you're standing there acting like I don't have a right to be pissed. I thought we were **** friends. Friends tell friends things like this to avoid awkward circumstances. It's called respect goddamnit. Because if I'd have known? I wouldn't have let you call him to save my life. I wouldn't have allowed him to get involved at all. But you didn't give me that choice, did you? Don't ever do that again. I don't give a **** if I'm bleeding out on the lawn, do not ever call him to save me again."

Mesteno stopped, but it was not due to fear. Merely a respect for the distance the other man seemed to desire. And then he weathered the storm that was Koyan's temper, and stood there unmoving, immutable as a mountain until he paused long enough for him to reply. And it was honest, as always.

"Let me re-word that first part - Bjorn and I never... just fumbled around a bit a couple of times." He was perhaps doing Bjorn a disservice in making the man's intentions sound unserious, but he left the subject behind, eyeing the cigarette without caution despite it being jabbed his way. "And I speak the truth when I tell you I never thought you would have cared. The two of you seemed on good terms when he helped at Alvaka, and you'd clearly moved on several times since you and Lexius parted ways. I was supposed to come telling you about it when I thought you were still reeling over the one you lost in Madrid?" He spared him stating her name - he'd only known it because of Eden. "I won't call him again," he promised quietly, and there was no guile in his eyes when he added, "I misjudged, plainly. I-- I'm sorry Koyan but you were harmed and whether you like it or not, I panicked."

Very little panicked the necromancer. Apparently a dying Koyan did.

The cigarette burned all the way to Koyan’s knuckles. When the skin singed, he snapped the filter out into the room, careless where it landed.

"I don't give a rat's ass about Bjorn. That's an entirely different situation." Raking a hand back through his hair, he expelled a rush of air. "Yes. Yes, you were supposed to tell me. But I guess that's how I do things, and not how you do them. And yes, it's been a year since I lost my fiancee, a year this month since my family died. That notwithstanding, I really did believe you'd be the type to at least mention something I consider important to me. Because there's a lot of bitterness there on my part, and, like I said, I would have chosen a different path the day of the eagle." Some of the inner rage eased. Not all, but some. "I can't for the life of me figure out why you'd panic over me, but so we're clear--no more."

He took another step closer, like he might say something devastating and private. But he checked himself, checked the urge to tell a hard truth. He hadn't gotten the truth up front, after all. "Good luck with all that." Indifference entered his gaze after the rage had gone; the shutters came up, the coolness came back. Things had irrevocably changed between Koyan and Mesteno.

"You can't figure it out?” Mesteno asked, apparently not willing to let matters drop. “Either you're assuming I think you're indestructible, or you have no **** idea of where you rank amongst those I call friend, in which case my past actions have never spoken clearly."

He wouldn't speak of them, but if the Turk's memory was still sharp and he cast his mind back, perhaps he'd pick over their lengthy acquaintance and realise how often the secretive bastard had offered his aid unconditionally. He wasn't sure what it was that went unspoken just then, but likely he mistook it for some violent whim taken back at the last moment rather than some hard truth.

"I knew it would be hard for him too, yet still I called him," he reminded darkly. Certainly he'd pleased no one that day! "Making sure you stayed alive was more important than the history between you, even if it meant you'd both be angry. I've upset you in a way I didn't know I would, and I'm not blind, I see what I've done." That change. There was a certain rawness to his voice now, a regret he couldn't hide, and he didn't look at Koyan then, because the indifference was worse than anything. "Your opinion of me is changed. At least know you remain in my affections whether you wish it or not." Stubborn.

"I could **** punch you a thousand times right now," Koyan snarled. "No, I don't know where I rank, Mesteno. But certainly higher than not telling me something like that. And of course it was hard for him--he's treated me like utter **** since I first saw him around again. He can't even be bothered to extend niceties to Eli, who happened to be there for Lex when Lex came back from the dead. Oh, I don't know, you'd think that would buy someone some kind of loyalty. But no. So I imagine he was far less than pleased when he realized you'd summoned him to save my sorry ass. If you just would have told me."

Once again, he raked a hand back through his hair. He really wanted a drink. Then he cut a hard look aside again when Mesteno talked about affections. "All I ever asked for was to be a respected friend. That's it. I've confessed so much **** to you, Mesteno, and yet I get hardly anything in return."

He waved a hand dismissively, unable to maintain his indifference and coolness in the face of their ongoing conversation. He dug out the pack of cigarettes again and lit up, dragging down a deep lungful of smoke. Koyan fell to silence then, toying with the lighter before pushing it and the pack into his pocket.

Mesteno knew better than to offer to let work off some of that violence. Better than to think he'd have the restraint himself not to retaliate! Koyan had his cigarettes, Mesteno had his drink. Just then he'd have given anything to slump into a pleasant, chemical stupor, the cowards' way out of things. Worse yet, that he couldn't even explain the reasons for Lexius' behaviour without spilling other people's secrets. So he said nothing of it, and made no apology in his absence, lifting his bottle to swallow and ease some of the tightness in his throat.

"I have a great deal of respect for you, Koyan. And perhaps I haven't been as open on some matters, much to my current regret, but I've never hurt you with intent. You know full well I'd do anything for you, you bastard, and you can't forgive me this one thing?"

Even as he asked, he suspected he knew what the response would be. At least he was braced for it.
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