Genesis/Metamorphosis

Faerie tales from beyond the veil to the streets of RhyDin

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Bailey Raptis
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Genesis/Metamorphosis

Post by Bailey Raptis » Tue May 14, 2019 11:54 pm

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
(John 1:1)

"Well, God said something but didn't mean it
Everyone's life ends but no one ever completes it
Dry or wet ice, they both melt and you're equally cheated"
(Modest Mouse, "Dark Center of the Universe")

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Re: Genesis/Metamorphosis

Post by Bailey Raptis » Wed May 15, 2019 1:48 pm

May 14, 2019
Hugo's Tacos


The warmth of spring had come to RhyDin, bringing with it a breeze that kept pushing Jewell’s glamoured hair into her face as she tried to eat a taco. Bailey had stressed the need for discretion, so Jewell was sporting blonde locks—wiping her hands off on a napkin and twisting it all up into a messy bun—as she sat at Hugo’s and waited for the Archmage. The place was bustling, as promised, with packs of teenagers recently set free from their educational prison. The Empress paid them little mind, devouring a pork and pineapple taco and washing it down with a Badsider as she waited for Bailey to arrive.

Bailey’s late arrival probably wouldn’t have shocked his friends and colleagues in the fashion industry, who, even three years after his firing from L.D. 50, still viewed him as the enfant terrible of RhyDin’s haute couture. What would have surprised them was his ordinary outfit: plain blue jeans, black combat boots, a faded green crewneck t-shirt, and burgundy leather gloves. He hadn’t even bothered with makeup, save for a neutral lip gloss that likely went unnoticed by most passers-by on the streets. Unless they were magically inclined, they would also miss the way his glamour flickered, cut in and out and provided true glimpses of his mien.

Even in a crowd, even with hair dyed (or glamoured) blonde, Bailey easily spotted Jewell. He wanted to believe it was his keen vision that picked her out among the teenagers taking advantage of Taco Tuesday at Hugo’s, but he’d be lying to himself. The Empress had a magnetic pull -- that damned glamour -- and so he found himself taking a seat at her table with butterflies in his stomach. “Good afternoon, Jewell. Sorry I am late.”

She likely didn’t make it any better when she smiled at him, all coral lipgloss and genuine friendliness and always that touch of magic tucked away in the corner. “Hey! No problem. Just don’t hold it against me that I started without you. It smelled so good, I couldn’t wait.” Jewell politely just picked at the second taco on her tray now though, tearing off a piece of tortilla and popping it in her mouth as she asked curiously, “Isn’t it a little warm for gloves?” For her part, she was in a breezy summer dress and sandals. It was never too early in the year to start showing skin.

“Allergies.” The waitress stepped up to the table right when Bailey seemed ready to explain further. Instead, he placed an order with her for battered fish tacos and a water. Even when she drifted well out of earshot, Bailey lowered his voice and leaned across the table as he continued his thought for Jewell. Something there -- her recent kindness, or the tug of magic -- drew the admission out of him much faster than he anticipated. “Cold iron.” Two simple words that held heavy weight for the two. A weakness for the Fae, and the material with which Bailey’s sword and knife were forged. A sword and knife he had fought with for years with no apparent side effects. As if realizing their conversation’s quick turn to serious matters, Bailey backpedaled with a forced smile. “Do not worry about starting to eat early -- it does smell quite good.”

Her smile faltered a little at the explanation, and she couldn’t help the way her right hand drifted up over the spot just beneath her ribs where Kal had stabbed her. “Nothing quite like that cold burn.” Questions cropped up in her mind rapidly--namely just how Bailey could suddenly be so sensitive to iron--but she left them unasked for now as she washed away the momentary bitter taste in her mouth with a swig of Badsider. “So what’s up?” Since he had said she needn’t worry about starting to eat, she moved in on the second taco (fried avocado), ready to listen.

Bailey adjusted his gloves, eyes drifting momentarily toward the tacos. His gaze remained there even while he made his inquiry. “I have a question for you, Jewell. How were you created?” Color touched his cheeks slightly as he followed up, “I mean, I know all about the, , the singers and the stingers…”

Her eyes widened and it took quick work with a napkin to prevent the bite of taco she had just taken from falling out of her mouth as she coughed and laughed. “Singers and stingers?” she gasped out, trying not to choke and quickly taking another sip of Badsider. “I think that’s uh… the birds and the bees? Though I never understood that because I’m pretty sure they can’t uh… well,” she made a crass gesture. “But as far as I know, I was created the singer and stinger way.” She grinned just a little at him.

“Yes, that.” His cheeks reddened further as she corrected his misplaced metaphor and kept discussing it, complete with a demonstration. “I suppose all that is logical, as opposed to vampires, some lycanthropes…” Bailey drifted off, his thoughts darting in two separate directions. “I thought maybe it was something more mythic, more...like a god.” He became quiet as he looked up at her. “Like you were always just there. Maybe the other Others are - have you heard of anyone becoming Fae through means other than birth?”

Tap tap tap. Her pointer finger nail beat out a rhythm on the side of her Badsider bottle as she thought over that. “I think…” Jewell huffed out a sigh and slouched in her seat a bit. This was taxing her brain and there was a memory, fleeting on the edge of her mind and then gone the second she reached for it, of Elsewhere. “I think Mallory could have become Fae… or at least fae-like if she had chosen that path. But I also think we are not all created or born the same. I exist elsewhere from here, if that makes sense.” She stared off at something over his shoulder. “I exist in the spirit planes as well. The astral planes. I can walk those with this body, though it is different. And when… if I die,” she looked back at him again, her smile a little sad, “it is a different death than my mortal friends. I will live on in the Deep Dreaming or maybe even somewhere else. There is a part of me that will carry on beyond this place and time. That is eternal.”

Again, the waitress returned just as Bailey was about to speak. He thanked her and took a few quick bites from his fish tacos as Jewell discussed Fae mortality. After politely wiping some loose cabbage from his mouth, he nodded and spoke up. “Last fall, after that underground rave, I...traveled to the Hedge. And I met someone there, who claimed that he killed a Fae and became One himself. He claimed that I could do the same -- asked me if I would do so.”

Jewell arched a brow and there was the hint of a smile on her lips, “I thought you said you weren’t going to kill me…” She let the joke linger between them a moment before asking more seriously, “Do you believe him?” She didn’t ask the more important question yet: Do you want to believe him?

And why?
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Re: Genesis/Metamorphosis

Post by Bailey Raptis » Wed May 15, 2019 2:11 pm

“I told him that, even if I wanted to kill you -- which I do not, truly -- that I have sworn an oath of loyalty to you.” Bailey sipped his water, nibbled some more of his tacos, and went on. “In the words of my friend Per, I think he’s full of shit. Max and I watched this movie once -- Max is my roommate -- where half of it is just men in kilts talking about killing each other to gain each others’ powers. I think B-BO1 huffed too much of his spray paint and watched that movie too many times and got it confused with reality. But that might be a crimson fish --” Bailey’s head tilted from side to side, and he chuckled to himself before continuing, “ -- red herring. I have no proof that he killed a Kindly One, just his word and the fact that he knew of Their weakness, which, let us be honest, is not precisely the multiverse’s best kept secret. But (and we can certainly discuss what level of threat he poses to you later) my selfish worry is that something is happening to me.”

“Because you killed a sídhe?” she asked with casual curiosity, trying to pick up what was left of her taco before giving in and grabbing a fork out of the holder to try and scoop the scattered remains of it with that instead.

“No, and that is God’s honest truth. I can speculate -- that it has something to do with me using magic -- but I have no solid evidence of that. Despite our detente, I am still something of a persona non grata with the Stolen Ones, and Lyeorn never went over anything like this with me.” Bailey looked slightly annoyed as he wiped his gloved hands clean with a paper napkin.

Her brow furrowed as she shoveled a bit of remaining avocado taco into her mouth and thought that over. “That is… strange. But perhaps maybe not. In a way, you may be channeling the energy, power, magic -- whatever you want to call it -- of the NeverNever right through you. I imagine that would change a person, no? How could it not. It is meant to be used by us, but we do not really use magic. We are magic. So for someone who isn’t…” Jewell trailed off, but the gist of what she was getting at was hopefully obvious.

He crumpled the napkin up into a ball, picking up the pace some with the tacos in front of him. At the right moment, he chimed back in. “The more I use magic, the more I use glamour, the more I become magic and glamour.”

“Exactly.” Jewell pushed the tray towards the center of the table. She had done an impressive job of getting most of the crumbs. “I’ve never seen it happen, but I also haven’t had many dealings with Stolen Ones outside of Faerie. It makes sense though. And if you have developed allergies…” she nodded to his hands before shaking her head, “kind of crazy.”

“So the obvious solution,” he ended up repeating it twice, after his first attempt was muffled by a mouthful of taco. “The obvious solution is to stop using magic, and to stop wielding a weapon made of cold iron.”

The devil was in her grin, “Or kill a faerie.”

He matched that grin, after a swig of water. “Or someone who thinks he is one. I confess, I had...a lot of other things on my plate, that I could not really pursue that…” The word slipped away from him, and he looked to Jewell for help filling in the blank.

“Opportunity?”

“Yes, I suppose it is, in a sense.” Bailey scratched at his nose as he thought about it. “But now...with the court off of my back, I can...figure out why someone is so hell-bent on killing the Fae, and in me becoming one.”

“People always want to kill the Fae,” she shrugged. “The second part is strange. Unless they know it’s not going to work.”

Bailey’s fingers massaged his scalp as he remembered the night he met B-BO1. “Most Taken want nothing to do with the Gentry. We move heaven and earth to stay beneath Their notice. Very few of us ever interact with Faerie willingly, let alone work against Them, so if you were looking to get a Stolen One to behave in that way, you had better offer a damn good incentive. I think B-BO1 believes that I want to become Fae -- that is his carrot.”

“Become a Fae to work against the Fae? Seems silly.” Jewell lifted her Badsider and finished it off. “Do you even want to? Become Fae, I mean.”

“Not if you want to replace them,” Bailey said, before picking up his last taco to devour it quickly. It gave him time to contemplate her question. When he finally answered it, he couldn’t quite look her in the eye -- his eyes focused on the teens filtering out after having their fill of tacos, replaced by young college students taking advantage of Hugo’s happy hour. His answer was a dodge, and he knew it. “What I want is to be left alone, but I fear I never will be. Sandman may have brokered a truce, but Glesni and those who support her -- those who believe I am firmly in Arcadia’s pocket -- will come for me soon enough. Or B-BO1. Or the Snake. Or the Sculptor. I do not know what choice I have, or if I even have one.”

Jewell understood the desire to be left alone. She understood it so keenly that her heart constricted hearing Bailey utter those words and his fears, so it was with fellow feeling that she gave him her cockiest grin, “If you’re gonna be Fae you gotta think Fae. Just do what I do -- put yourself in a position so you’re pretty much invincible and burn those mother fuckers down one by one as they come for you.”

The comment brought out one of Bailey’s sharper smiles, all teeth and eyes that glowed briefly with the burst of emotion across the table. “I suppose...that is what I am aiming to do.”

Before he could elaborate any further, the waitress came back to gather their empty plates. “Would you like dessert, or just the check?” she asked the pair. Bailey looked across the table at Jewell, turned to the server briefly, and looked back to Jewell.

“It is up to her. Would you like to hear the latest Benson Boulevard gossip? If so, I will have a Badsider. If not, then a check will be fine.”

“Make that two Badsiders and some churros.” She confided to Bailey, “I never say no to gossip!”

With an elbow rested on the table, the Archmage leaned over with a conspiratorial grin on his face. “Well, the word on the Boulevard is that…”

((Written with Jewell's player, with many thanks!))
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Re: Genesis/Metamorphosis

Post by Bailey Raptis » Mon May 27, 2019 4:15 pm

May 26/27, 2019

When Bailey came back to the Celestial Tower after his night at the Annex, his statues immediately knew something was wrong. Not just because they shared a link, a connection born of the stone they were made of and that Bailey controlled. No, Bailey’s lumbering gait as he headed down the Citadel’s hallways would have tipped off just about anyone who saw him (in fact, it dominated conversation among several of the goblins on the Isle who spotted him earlier shambling across the sands to his usual teleporting spot). Bailey’s proxies insisted on helping him into a warm bath, then walked him back into his bedroom where they kept careful (and, he felt, rather needless) watch of the door. They likely would have sent one of their number into the room while Bailey changed for bed, but he insisted on at least a modicum of privacy, even in the midst of their grave worry.

The dribs and drabs of green makeup that stained Bailey’s gray t-shirt were of little concern now -- Bailey’s blood had soaked into most of the neck of the garment now, rendering it a total loss. He balled it up tightly and tossed it into a mesh metal basket by his small marble-topped and eucalyptus wood writing desk. Luck seemed to have spared his other articles of clothing: blood dotted his jeans, his boots, and his gloves, but those could be dry-cleaned or carefully washed at his apartment. He set those items on top of a glossy white low dresser, pulling open a drawer to retrieve his blue knit pajamas. As he stuck his arms through the sleeves of the shirt, he remembered something. Mist gave me something at the end of the night, and it is still in my jeans. I should take it out first. Once fully dressed, Bailey did just that, turning over the smooth aluminum tin in his hands, before opening it up.

Several rows of what looked like individual pips from a chocolate bar sat inside the container, but on top of them was a thin piece of paper. Bailey pulled it out and read it:

1:1 Dark Chocolate + Sea Salt.
10 mg THC/10 mg CBD. Indica.
72% Cacao. Vegan. Gluten-Free.


With a shrug, Bailey popped one of the pieces into his mouth, chewed, swallowed, and fell into bed staring at the ceiling. He leaned over and reached towards his nightstand, a retro rose-colored circular piece with a pullout drawer. A sketch pad and pen sat on top of it, and Bailey picked those two items up and began doodling wedding dress designs until the edible kicked in, making his limbs feel like lead. His aches and pains faded away, replaced with that weight, a heaviness that relaxed his body and eased him into slumber.

***

An air conditioner hummed and whined relentlessly, fighting a losing battle against the oppressive heat lurking outside the prefab metal walls. Bailey could hear the moans of the injured -- the moans of those he had injured, and a faint iron scent cut through the stale recycled air inside the warehouse.

Blood dripped down Bailey’s knife onto an engineered concrete floor as he stalked across an office filled with the usual corporate crap: motivation posters with animals (some hanging from tree limbs), a calendar with photos of puppies, outlines of delivery routines and shipping schedules. At the very end of the room sat an overly ornate, large, and out of place executive desk made of chestnut wood, with shiny brass knobs on its drawers and the usual business trappings. A tower computer, in and out baskets for mail and correspondence, a black curvilinear desk lamp, a walnut wooden cup filled with pencils, a day planner with a burgundy leather cover, a telephone. The man behind the desk -- a man who was a dead ringer for Bailey, save for his rumpled blue business casual polo and khakis -- held that phone to his ear, frantically speaking to someone on the other end.

“Please, send help! My evil- someone told me I would be safe in here but I’m not, there’s a man here trying to kill me! Please-”

Bailey slashed at the phone line, cutting the call off. His doppelganger fell out of the chair, pressing his back against the wall and whimpering.

“The trap failed,” Bailey said coolly, staring at a face so much like his it almost made him shudder. The only difference now was the fear in the man’s green-blue eyes, wide open and begging Bailey silently for mercy.

“A trap? I don’t know anything about that, they just told me to come here, that someone -- you -- were after me, and they’d protect me. They didn’t tell me I have an evil twin!”

With two jumps, Bailey leaped onto the desk and then over, before smashing the hilt of his dagger into his double’s face. A thin trickle of blood escaped the man’s mouth, dribbling down onto the collar of his shirt. It smelled like copper and pitch.

I’m not the evil one here!” Bailey shouted as his anger overrode the usual care he took when speaking. “You don’t know what you are? Tell me -- what’s your name? Who were your parents?”

“A-a-Addison Schrover, son of Adam and Annie Sch-” Addison’s last syllable got interrupted by another blow to the face.

“That was supposed to be my name, my life, my parents! You’re a fetch, nothing more than a puppet, dancing on strings pulled by the Gentry. And now, you let the Stolen Ones court jerk you around.”

“What? No-no, that’s not true. I don’t know anything about this Gentry, or these Stolen Ones! I’m just a traveling salesman, and these people -- those men you just killed! -- were just trying to help me.” Bailey grabbed Addison by the collar, hoisting him into a more upright seated position as he knelt down by his fetch.

“They were trying to trap me, kill me, and I’m sorry, but you were nothing more than bait.” As Bailey lifted the dagger, Addison tried to claw at him, but a quick slam against the wall stifled his resistance. Instead, he sniffled, tears welling up in his eyes.

“Please -- I have a family.”

“No, you don’t. Your parents -- my parents -- are dead. Killed in the Marketplace bombing.”

“No, I have a wife, Emily. We have a daughter. Kerri’s two years old this upcoming June. Please.”

Lies," Bailey hissed through his teeth. “You are sterile. Hollow. An empty shell. A poor simulacrum, a mockery of life itself.”

“I-I swear, I’m telling the truth. Why do you have to kill me? Just let me go, and I will never bother you. I’d never even seen you before today.”

With a rough shove, Bailey inched back away from Addison, though he kept the dagger trained on him. “I’ve been trying to find you for almost ten years now.” Bailey allowed himself a chuckle, though it lacked any mirth. “You were not easy to find, and I suspect if you had stayed away from the court, I may never have found you.” He paused, sniffed once, and continued. “I saw you -- I saw them die, and you, bleeding, carried away by paramedics. Our parents -- our parents?” Another joyless laugh escaped Bailey’s lips, accompanied by a shake of the head. “It does not matter. Fletcher told me his greatest regret was not finding his fetch and killing them. For him - for all of them -- I have to do this.”

“Please, no, I-” Before Addison could finish the sentence, Bailey plunged the knife into his chest. The fetch gurgled, spit blood and pitch on Bailey’s face, then looked down at the blade lodged between his ribs. He tried to lift his head to look up to Bailey, but all his strength had ebbed away, and his head rolled back on his shoulders before he slumped onto his side. The body swiftly disintegrated into its component parts: corn stalks, coal tar, cat’s eye marbles, and tufts of rabbit’s hair. Bailey had little time to contemplate the "corpse", as the door on the other end of the room smashed open.

“Z5456 police! Show yourself, hands up!” Instead of following their directions, Bailey glanced down at the wax cord dangling down his neck. At the end, a simple circle charm made of stainless steel hung, resting over his heart. He slipped his pinky finger inside of it, muttered the command words that Jewell had taught him to activate the teleportation spell, and felt the powerful magic rip him away from the scene of the crime…
It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Protect me from what I want

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Re: Genesis/Metamorphosis

Post by Bailey Raptis » Mon May 27, 2019 8:10 pm

…and place him in a familiar wooden hallway. The Annex locker rooms were behind him, towels and bloody clothes left carelessly on the benches; and before him was the meaty sound of fists on flesh, the clash of steel, and the bloodthirsty roar of the crowd.

But a black painted door separated Bailey from this terrible din, and crimson light glowed through the cracks.

The Archmage’s stomach lurched, and he doubled over, hands to knees, preparing to vomit up blood -- just like every other time he’d had this nightmare. He retched, heaved, but nothing came forth at first. Then, something caught in his throat, and he pounded on his stomach with a clenched fist trying to force the foreign object free. With one last gagging cough, he finally spit it out into his hand: a black star sapphire key that burned his hand when it settled in his palm. Bailey ignored the searing pain and approached the door, bending down to try and catch a glimpse of what might be on the other side through the keyhole, but there was nothing besides blinding red light. He rose from his kneel, frowning, but unlocked the door and stepped through.

The light faded at once, revealing a more sinister reflection of the fountain at Three Foxes Court — three sleek black hounds with crimson eyes, teeth and claws closed around a marble arm in the center. In its clawed fingers was an ever-beating heart, spilling blood into hundreds of thin rivulets that flowed over the steps of the fountain, across the courtyard and right past Bailey’s feet.

The locker room was no longer behind him. A dark and empty city, obscured by the mists of the Veil, stretched out in every direction.

“I feel…” Bailey began to recite the words he’d spoken when he first teleported back to RhyDin just over two years ago -- words he’d repeated each time this dream recurred. Now, though, he faltered, as he took in his surroundings. “Wait. This is not how it happened.” He turned around, searching for the door that led him here, but it had disappeared, leaving only an impenetrable and shimmering black wall of magic.

“Bailey.” It wasn’t a greeting, but a thoughtful recitation from the figure who spoke it: thin and pale, barefoot yet dressed in a fine dark suit, with platinum hair combed back around their curly horns. Malleus. A familiar book of names rested in their left hand, the kind commonly used by expecting parents. They flipped it shut and smiled. “I can see why you picked it.”

“Do I...know you?” Even as Bailey asked the question, he found himself stepping towards the androgyne. “Your voice is very familiar.” For now, he let Malleus’ comments about his name go unaddressed.

“The rave. Don’t you remember?” Malleus narrowed their eyes slyly. “I shouldn’t be offended... We’ve both changed since then.” They opened their hands to welcome Bailey to approach; the book was gone.

Malleus.” Bailey’s curiosity won out over his caution, and he stood before the horned figure, taking them in with a quick up-and-down sweep of his eyes. “What are you? Besides a we.” A quick detail, tossed out in hopes of letting them think he knew more than he actually did about them.

That only made the being laugh, and they padded a quiet half-circle around him. “True... Mallory has changed also... but I was talking about the two of us. Myself, and my new role... my new home... and you, and your light.”

“Why are you in my dream?” Bailey hesitated, looked back over his shoulder even though the area was empty, save for the courtyard, the fountain, the streams of blood, and the two of them. When he looked back, his eyes had narrowed. “I have heard that some Fae can travel in dreams -- even some of the Taken. I doubt that you are one of the latter, since most of them do not possess such power, but the former? That I could believe.” The thought of facing down one of the Gentry would have put a knock in Bailey’s knees years ago, but now, the Archmage stood as tall as he could while Malleus paced around him.

Malleus paused beside him and opened their hands again. “I am but an avatar of Mallory’s eternal soul, a position that first gave me her dreams to traverse while she slept, and now others. And it is true that the rites that began with my birth, and ended with her rebirth, were inspired by the rites of the first Fae to name themselves, in the Forest of the World when it was new... But, really, you’re far more Fae already than I’ll ever be.” They smiled. “I’ve seen it. The light that burns in the center of Jewell’s soul. The same light that burns in yours.”

Bailey walked over towards one of the marble steps and took a seat. He looked up at Malleus and almost gestured for them to take a seat beside him, but thought better of it. “While I appreciate the information you have given me on the origins of the Fae, I still must confess I do not know why you have brought me here. If this is an attempt to convince me to fully give in, you should know that you are not the first, or even the second — ”

“Why do you carry that iron?” Malleus asked. Bailey hadn’t offered, but they sat down beside him just the same. Reached up to scratch one of the hounds on the jaw, statuesque as they were.

“Wh-what?” Bailey expected Malleus to defend their motives, or at the very least explain what they were trying to do. That question though? Regardless of Malleus’ intentions, it still felt like it came from personal interest in Bailey. It cut through the armor around his heart and left him sputtering.

Malleus shrugged, and produced another book to peruse while Bailey sputtered and recovered. Clearly he’d heard them. There was no sound in the city besides the gentle burbling of the fountain and the pages turning under their fingers, an invitation to fill the silence with truth. With knowledge.

Bailey sat there, thinking. And thinking. And thinking. His lip quivered. Then, as sudden and as inevitable as storm clouds opening up to drench the earth on an overcast day, he burst into tears.

With a quiet shuffle, Malleus shut the book, holding their place with a finger, and rested their hand on Bailey’s shoulder.

He hunched over, face pressed against the inside of his forearms, knees pulled up as tight against his body as he could. He rocked in place, back and forth, as he tried to compose himself. “Δηλητήριο...it’s *sniff* all I have left of Fletcher. The closest thing I ever had to a father. I can’t give that up.”

Malleus kept their hand there, though they made no other movements. “That is your choice... as is how you go about keeping it. Will you suffer in his name, Bailey? Or will you both grow and change together?”

With one last sniffle and a sigh, Bailey straightened, wiping at his face with the back of his arm. The usual blue-green in his eyes shifted to a darker jade hue, flecked with specks of red -- the lingering effects of his blessing as the Lord of Bloodstone. “Maybe... maybe just his last name will be enough. Maybe I can be the last remainder of Fletcher Raptis.”

Malleus’ hand slipped from Bailey’s shoulder, and they gave him a rather flat look. “Your dream-wandering soul has come to the domain of Mallory’s heart. It has a vast and growing library.” They opened a hand to the nearest buildings, where silent shades moved among the stacks visible through the windows and open doorways, and let that hang for a long moment. “Where... she’s had the contents of the Tower of the Earth copied.” Another beat, and a more expectant look from the avatar, angling their horned head. “And the Keeper of Earth has dominion over elemental earth, including metals... such as iron...”

Bailey’s eyes followed Malleus as they pointed towards the buildings, whose shadowy shapes came into sharp focus with each gesture. He watched the shades move through the area, but still seemed unable to connect the dots that Malleus had lined up. “So…”

Malleus sighed. “If the cold iron’s burning your flesh, transmute it. Make it copper. Or silver!”

“But I don’t know how...to.” Finally, recognition dawned on Bailey, and each word came out slower. “Oh.”

“You can read tonight, for as long as you’re dreaming,” the avatar gestured to the nearest buildings, “and figure it out from there. I’m pretty sure Mallory will help you,” and with a sigh, they crossed their legs and reopened the book. Kitab al-Aghani. Arabic poetry.

Bailey stood, returning Malleus’ gesture from before and resting on a hand on their shoulder. “Thank you. I owe you and Mallory a debt.”

“Tch. Go on. Rest is fleeting; dawn approaches.” Malleus felt his hand leave their shoulder, heard him moving across the courtyard, and only then turned their head to smile after him. They shook their horned head and smiled, returning to their reading as they murmured, “It’s a good thing he’s pretty...”

((Written with Mallory's player, with many thanks!))
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