Broken Oaths

A knife edge life. Battles with instincts, scruples and inevitable descents.

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Mesteno
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Broken Oaths

Post by Mesteno » Wed Jan 01, 2020 12:38 pm

[Adapted from live play.]

Saturday, December 17, 2016


It was several weeks before they received word of the meeting they’d requested, a missive winging their way by owl.

Mesteno, who’d been out walking Sanctuary’s perimeter, had seen the avian glide overhead and immediately gone loping back through the impenetrable looking tangle of woodland surrounding his cabin to find the sleek, black and grey specimen perched on his porch. Lexius had beaten him to it, and the necromancer wasn’t long in spotting the thin piece of parchment in his fingers.

Your request has been granted. You presence is expected upon the Field of Valour precisely 12 hours hence. The letter had been signed with a single letter, a stylized A.

Lexius had met the Sadist's gaze squarely. "It is worrisome, but ultimately better he meet you on his ground. It will be difficult for any of the Others to oppose his will there."

"What others do you think I should be expecting?" Mesteno had asked after a moment, a little queasy about the notion of how they might rile one another up against him if they examined what he harboured too closely.

"His Uncle, for one. His Golden Brother. Those two, at least, but perhaps more if this issue has becomes something their committee needs to rule on."

"More." Echoed flatly. Mesteno had inhaled a slow breath, letting the bracing cold shock a shiver down his spine. "This seems like something I should be getting kitted up for. Go in there armed to the teeth."

It had been intended as a jest, but by the time Aiden had arrived, Mesteno had taken necessary precautions. The scent of blood trailed him as he arrived in his living room, taking up a spot on the opposite side of the map Lexius and Aiden were examining in his living room. What he'd done was concealed, no evidence to betray those dark magics on his clothes or the small spans of skin the fabric didn't hide.

"Yeah, it's right here." Aiden was saying, pointing at an expanse of space on the map that seemed more like a field. "It's all his turf and I'm not even sure the Old Man would try to challenge him on it. Whippet won’t even be able to get there without a guide. So you should probably expect the sons to show up to take him. Probably in the same place you met the last one. Being out of the loop like I am, though, I can't say who else might be there."

"There's no risk of the sons having been swayed by your Uncle, I hope?” Mesteno had interjected. “I'd hate to leave with 'em and find I'm being delivered to the wrong god."

Aiden didn't even pause to ponder the question. He’d shaken his head and shot the Sadist a hard smile. "No. They're loyal. To a fault, sometimes. Just try not to openly insult him and they should be fine. Of course, the more he liked you, the more they will hate you. Which is why they detest me. So. What do you plan on saying?"

Mesteno had been busy studying the map for any landmarks it would be wise to have memorised, but he answered nonetheless. "You were the one thought we should speak with him before the meeting with the Egyptians took place," he reminded the Greek. "So I'm going to tell him to keep his nose out and let us finalise things, let him know how badly he's been handling everything and that he should ask for a vote on temporary dictatorship from his fellow Powers so he doesn't have to assemble a committee every time he wants to make a decision."

He lapsed into silence for a moment, to give them time to stomach the horror of his words... then cracked a grim smile, admitting "At least that's what I'd like to tell him."

Aiden had gone a little wide-eyed with disbelief and the Elf had almost developed a frown for Mesteno's first words. It was the demi-god who barked a laugh of relief. Lexius merely buried his expression in another long drink of coffee.

Backing away from the map, arms folded, Mesteno leaned up against the wall beside the hearth, watching Elf and Greek both. "I'll tell him the truth about our plans with the Egyptians, remind him that an alliance will serve them well, tell 'im that the tablets aren't up for grabs if he raises the subject of 'em, but keep quiet otherwise. What else can I do?"

"Just be prepared for him asking you about that other thing," Aiden had warned, once they’d agreed he was unlikely to offend anyone with his revised intentions.

"He can ask," Mesteno replied, but there had been an edge to the way he said it that implied he wouldn't be baring his soul to Ares and whatever audience they accumulated. That he wouldn't be promising their safety from the passenger, or trying to explain what little he knew of it. His secrets had nothing to do with what they faced, nor the alliance with the Egyptians, after all.

"He'll actually like that you don't take no shit. So of all of them," Aiden was speaking to Lexius, "he'll take the least offense to a less than diplomatic approach. But if Our Uncle is there," he turned back to Mesteno, "try not to antagonize him too directly."

Lexius set his coffee mug aside before he spoke. "Invite War, and War alone, to the final proceedings with the Egyptians."

"I will,” Mesteno had promised. “There'll be much less wriggle room for the Egyptians if he's there overseeing it. Maybe Snout'll hold his tongue, too."

Aiden had left them to prepare, and in his absence, Lexius stood, coffee mug drained and began to unwind the beads from his belt.

Mesteno had seemed about to protest them coming with him, but he knew the Elf would demand it, and so he only slipped him a wry mental message of At least you can be pretty sure they'll come back to you, even if I don't.

And so, Ares sons appeared later that day to play escort to the Fields of Valour.

Aiden had gone to meet them, and Mesteno and Lexius found the trio stood outside Sanctuary’s walls. Deimos had hold of Phobos' arm, as if he was holding him back from attacking. The god did look ready to unsheathe his sword and slice the jaunty grin right off of Aiden's lips. Behind the twins were three rather striking horses busily munching on what little grass they could find beneath the trees.

Mesteno ticked an up nod Aiden's way, perhaps a 'thank you' for occupying the brothers.

"Salvete," the Roman greeting, and he refused to spare them the sound of it. "Wouldn't want to keep your father waiting. Shall we?" He gestured towards the horses, kept everything business-like.

Whilst Phobos had sneered, Deimos had been more reasonable.

"No, we do not wish to keep him waiting." Deimos' voice was ragged and deep, and he even went so far as to incline his head to both Mesteno and the Elf, a greeting of equals almost. Phobos turned away to stalk toward the mounts who didn't shy from the waves of terror he was putting off.

After a few farewells, Deimos had deliberately put his own horse between that of the necromancer and his brother as he led away from Sanctuary's walls. "You've causes a stir, all three of you. Where you're going, stirs are swiftly crushed. Remember that." There was no outward threat in that ravaged tone. Merely a warning to prepare him for what came next.

"Would you believe me if I told you it wasn't my intention?" Mesteno asked, and let his tone speak simply; no deception. He wasn't expecting reassurance of any sort though. "I've been pretty content this last decade or so not clashing with Powers and to be honest with you, everything since Hades' grabbing me for the jail-break's been about trying to keep my head above water. S'harder said than done when I've got metal gargoyles chasing me through the city, eagles attacking my friends and Egyptian Powers pokin' their scaly snouts in." He paused for a moment, considered that he might have already spoken too much, but Deimos seemed reasonable, and perhaps if Phobos could hear the facts without the hostility of a confrontation, he'd be willing to reassess his poor opinion. "I know there's talk about other things, probably some exaggeration, but I doubt any one of you can offer an example of any threat I've offered."

Deimos gave Mesteno a measuring look for his words, black eyes full of a dark, lurking Dread that preceded the all-out terror his brother inspired so easily. He said nothing, but the tight, thin line of his lips spoke volumes. Intentional or not, the Sadist was a Problem. One that had been given into his care to be delivered onto higher authorities. One that had done things others hadn't dared. That might have been a fleeting grimace on the god's face as he turned his gaze back forward.

With the best will in the world Mesteno wouldn't have been able to disguise his disappointment. Deimos had chosen not only to offer remark, but made it obvious with expression alone that his opinion matched that of the others who thought him trouble. He refrained from sighing his exasperation, but the flicker of muscle gone taut in his jaw, the tension in his brow and the narrowing of his eyes hastily wiped away disappointment and replaced it with frustration bordering anger.

The portal appeared ahead of them without any obvious gestures from the Sadist's escort. The air split and swirled, and what should have been more of a forest path turned into a gateway to a field of gold and white, lit but not too brightly, by an unseen sun. Not too far from the field were tents, set out in orderly rows. The beginning of a soldier's camp.

Phobos lead the way through the gate, his horse breaking into a hard trot which seemed to cause Mesteno's to follow suit.

The necromancer’s sensitive eyes narrowed against the paleness of it as if he expected a dazzling that never came. He was silent as he observed the military encampment. Habit had him attempting counts - tactical advantage to know numbers. How many tents? How many soldiers to a tent? How many horses ranged about and what armaments?

Despite the War God's penchant for chaos, he ran some orderly camps. The tents were perfectly aligned, the soldiers that moved among them well armoured, armed and disciplined. Mesteno's count rose into the hundreds, with men and women both amongst the soldiers. Foot soldiers were separated from the Calvary and these horses looked like the real thing. Many of them were drilling in distant fields that had been cleared for the purpose of training. The land rolled on, with hills and valleys and forests and even a not too distant mountain range, allowing practice in the arts of War on a variety of terrains. All in all, it had a distinctly Roman feel (they had conquered a majority of the known world, after all!) rather than a Greek, though the sigil embroidered into the various flags marking the company had nothing to do with any earthly places.

Central to it all was a mounded hill, the top flattened and dominated by an expansive tent. The sides of it had been rolled up around the central part to expose the tables and the beings within. Mesteno wasn't being taken just to meet Ares.

He took some time to measure the strength of the tie he shared with Lexius, listening as a man might with strained ear at a door for any echoes of thought or emotion. It felt more brittle than usual, a gossamer, ghostly thread spun by an ephemeral spider, but it was there nonetheless.

He'd been busily absorbing the details of the camp as they proceeded, and as such hadn't really examined the central command tent. When at last they trotted into clear view of it and he glimpsed the waiting assembly, it was all he could do not to wheel his horse around and spur it back to the gate. He felt a wake of dizziness as his passenger shrank inward, a fox desperate to burrow further from the bloodhounds digging at the mouth of its earth. It pulled the stretch of its energies to such compact extremes that his body felt suffused with a growing numbness, the entirety of strength and sensation locked at his core, and he waged an inner struggle to unravel it.

Hide here, coward, and I drop like a fly at their mercy. He addressed it directly, thought at it, unsure if it would work, but miraculously it must have been listening, even as it stuck its proverbial head in the sand, and the threatening faint passed before he could disgrace himself.

The beads chose then to rattle for some reason, a sound both physical and mental, tickling across Mesteno's thoughts as much as they echoed in the air.

Deimos frowned as he cast another look his way, but remained silent. That Dread seemed to ratchet up a notch, either a natural by-product of their changed location or a reflection of the god's current thoughts. He was troubled, unlike his brother, fully convinced of Mesteno's potential and uncertain of the future it would bring to his family. Perhaps he had noticed some paling beneath the Sadist's skin in that look, or sensed the shift of the thing that hid, burrowing itself deeper.

Phobos never glanced back, his opinion firmly set and his distaste for both the man he escorted and the very job itself etched in every line of his posture. The trot became a canter, as if to deliver his burden more quickly and be done with it would be a blessing.

As they climbed the hill toward the tent, Mesteno glimpsed something else come into view on the far side. There, nestled in a yawning valley, had been built a replica of the Old Temple District and its surrounding sections of the city. There was the evidence of Aiden's work since his release. Every inch of Rhy’Din’s most holy and profane sectors and beyond had been meticulously mapped by the demi-god only to be recreated here. Another terrain on which War was practiced.

Within the tent the Gods and Goddesses turned to watch the approach of the Brothers and their charge. Silks gleamed and glimmered, metals shone and sparkled. Wine (ambrosia?) and fruits decorated the tables and torches with colourful flames lit the already well illuminated area beneath the canopy where the Powers had gathered. There was a dais in there, long and semi-circular, with comfortable looking thrones placed upon it. The Powers began to shuffle their way to their seats as the trio reigned in.

Mesteno dismounted mechanically, every step nearer to the assembly taken against instinct, the dread in him growing until he felt it an effort to even lift his feet. His breathing had hastened, edged beyond the higher side of normal for that of a normal man, but to his credit he held it together as he let his escorts lead the way, barely registering the spectacle and finery. He was far too busy trying to identify familiar faces.

There were more bodies in the pavilion than there should be, but the main Powers stood out easily enough. There was Ares, looking sleek and dark and far more robust than he had when they'd found him imprisoned. The Christians must have patterned the Devil's good looks and overall demeanour on this man rather than Hades, for he seemed to embody everything a dark, fallen angel should.

Beside the War God, one delicate hand on his arm, was the stunning Aphrodite, looking no friendlier than the majority of the God's present, but every bit as riveted to Mesteno as the rest. There to the left was the golden haired Hermes, actually offering a supportive smile and an inconspicuous thumbs up when the Sadist's gaze panned over him. Next to him stood an older, more refined looking version of debauchery pouring wine into a classic silver kylix. Dionysus was frowning.

Off to the right were two females of the breed, one clad in woodland leathers, complete with grass stains, as if she had just come from the field. She was a jarring contrast to the older woman dressed in flowing silver silk who had wisdom etched into every line of her beautiful face. Artemis and Athena took their seats without ever looking away from the Sadist, the latter reaching back to touch her fingers across the soft, downy feathers of an enormous owl perched on the back of her throne.

Of Hades, there was no sign.

Deimos stayed by Mesteno's side, while Phobos strode angrily ahead, boot heels thundering unnaturally across the ground. The horses shimmered and melted away once they left them behind, but the god's presence remained steady and solid. Not precisely reassuring given the Dread he still exuded, but certainly reminding the Sadist he wasn't exactly alone.

In his scuffed, steel-toed boots, beat-up leather jacket and ratty jeans, Mesteno tarnished the luxury of the pavilion, likely looking particularly unworthy of any attention, and at most a subject for the gods’ ridicule. He had not their majesty, their beauty, and hadn't the greatness of stature to seem proud. All he had was his conviction. He did not kneel to the Powers. Instead he stood and he stared them down unflinching.

Deimos murmured, "Strength." under his breath, either commenting on what Mesteno was already displaying or offering some kind of warning about it.

Mesteno held his silence, as the son of Ares had earlier, and took it, rightly or wrongly, for a suggestion. He would not stand there and seem feeble before the assembly, not without losing what small measure of respect Ares might have for him.

Phobos bowed to Ares (who had the central chair) and flung his arm out to indicate their charge.

"Your...guest, Father." He made the word guest sound like the rudest curse! Thankfully, he didn't go on and Ares dismissed him with barely a glance before he set his gaze on Mesteno heavily. Three females to one side, two males and an empty chair to the other.

Mesteno’s attention didn't linger overly long on any one individual. He didn't mean to challenge them with antagonism, not when this was likely to be his only chance to dispel some of the rumours about him. Mesteno acknowledged Hermes’ support subtly, a respectful inclination of his head but no more. It was the empty chair his eyes returned to repeatedly, and it was there they were fixed, the vacancy ominous, when Phobos announced him (unnecessarily) with such distaste.

Hades. It had to his sea. Too conspicuous, this absence, and he didn't dare hope that it meant he'd been denied access to the event because of his actions towards Aiden. As a senior Power, he could have forced the matter. So there was question in his eyes when to the war god they turned, and he took a slow, steadying breath.

"Thank you" Speaking before he'd been addressed, yet not disrespectfully, "for bringing Sulphur to us. They had chance to say goodbye." Not that he expected it to be of importance to the others.

Deimos hustled his brother off the field before he could say anything antagonistic, leaving Mesteno to the uncomfortable attention of the rest of the pantheon’s major players.

Mesteno's words might have been received much more poorly than they were if the Death God had been in attendance. As if was, Ares' lips twitched ever so faintly toward a smile.

Off to his side, Artemis was squinting at Mesteno and she made no effort to drop her voice when she leaned toward Athena to make a comment. "I don't see it."

"You seemed less than grateful at the time." Ares commented harshly despite the fleeting evidence of a smile. He held up one hand, the skin perfectly smooth, as a reminder of what he meant. "The effort served its purpose." The War God continued, purposefully somewhat enigmatic in the reply. It could be he cared no more than his half-sister about the demon's fate. It could be he'd planned it all to put the man right where he stood in that moment and had nothing at all to do with Aiden. Or it could be he was somehow praising Mesteno for following the evidence he'd been given to find the missing demi-god and bring him to a protected place.

"What is that glow?" This from Dionysus once he'd taken a healthy sampling from the kylix beside his chair. He, too, was squinting at Mesteno.
It was Hermes who answered him as thunderclouds filled Ares' expression at the interruption. "He is no mere human, though the base of that is strong."

"Enough." That from Ares, who cut his hand through the air so sharply the air actually whistled. Overhead, in a perfectly clear sky that held no sun, thunder rumbled ominously. They were definitely not on the Prime anymore.
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Re: Broken Oaths

Post by Mesteno » Wed Jan 01, 2020 2:42 pm

[Continued…]


The War God called order just in time.

Mesteno had let Artemis’ careless words pass unremarked upon, hoping he’d have luck on his side and that the deities might persuade themselves that the rumours were all false, or at least greatly exaggerated from the lips of the chthonic deities so prominently absent. Unfortunately, his words dried up in his throat as the Powers began conversing amongst themselves, discussing him as if he were a specimen rather than a sentient creature. At the mention of the ‘glow’, he took it immediately for the beads, threaded between his fingers, and his first impulse was to discreetly attempt to conceal them. At that point though, any movement was bound to be witnessed, so he stilled his reactions and held his tongue, until at length the War God called order again.

Strength. Mesteno couldn't let them doubt he had it, or they'd never agree to an alliance of their engineering. His lips thinned with his resolve, defiant of the thunder rumbling warning overhead. Let it silence the others. Let his words refocus them.

"Hermes has told you already the nature of our dealings with the Egyptians. They're ready to proceed with negotiations that would benefit your cause, but to stall them now on the eve of a beneficial agreement might make them doubt our conviction. This has been almost a year in the planning. The doors of the Roman temple remain open with intent. We've already thwarted one attempt to raise up a usurping Power and weaken your grip on the worshippers, without reward and with only minimal assistance from your pantheon, arranged by Aiden - who doesn't deserve to be attacked by his own-," he caught himself on the verge of a lecture as his momentum built, sucked in a breath and swung from his tangent back to the direct train of thought. "But I ask that you consider our previous success, and trust that it reflects on what we're trying to achieve now. I urge you to take advantage of it and set aside issues that might distract from the bigger picture."

In short, what he harboured, and the danger Lexius represented. Equally so, their possession of the tablets.

Ares ground his teeth together, but otherwise managed to maintain his calm as Mesteno made his case.

It was Aphrodite who dared to speak first, right on the heels of Sadist's final words. She snorted rather eloquently and flicked her fingers into the air. "As if a mortal could understand anything beyond their own measly desires."

Off to the side, Hermes covered his brow with one hand and squeezed his temples. Dionysus was talking to him again, much more discreetly, but that hadn't kept him from hearing the Lady of Love's biting words. Between that and whatever the God of Wine and Revelry was saying, the Power was obviously trying to battle off a headache.

Artemis was quick to jump in next, but her words were directed at Aphrodite rather than Mesteno. "This from one who gives in to her every desire on the spot." Her tone was the sort of too pleasant that held a wealth of pretty venom.

Aphrodite straightened in her richly appointed throne, tilted her chin to a haughty angle and slanted a narrow look to the Virgin Goddess of the Hunt. "You've no voice here, Child. You should go back to your woods and play with your deer and pine for your brother." Another flick of fingers her way in an equally dismissive gesture as the one she'd given Mesteno. Little sparkles of dust trailed through the air at the gesture.

Artemis, expression equal parts outrage and agony at the pointed reminder of the lengthy separation from her Twin, shot up from her simple wooden chair, words flying as sharply as arrows from her fabled bow. "You do not rule here, Sister." She put more than a few barbs in that reminder.

Through it all, Ares' gaze never turned from Mesteno. The skies beyond the pavilion were darkening swiftly as heavy black clouds swirled and churned into existence, reflecting the violence that now, no longer safely banked, burned hotly in the War God's gaze. Maybe it was Athena's continued regard on him that kept him from completely losing it. "Shut. Up." He commanded the women, each word a physical blow accompanied by a clap of fresh thunder.

Aphrodite (who was on her feet by then) and Artemis both were propelled back into their chairs by the unseen power behind the booming thunder. They both looked shocked, but there was more than a little of molten desire in the look the Love Goddess turned on the War God.

Ares stood, the violence in him clouding the air immediately around him much the way the terror had seethed visibly around his son Phobos, and stalked down from the dais straight for Mesteno. That action, more than anything else, silence any further arguments from the Powers and focused them acutely on what was happening.

Mesteno clenched his jaw so tightly that his back teeth ached from the pressure. As the catty remarks had flown, his muscles tensed all the more, and he channelled further effort into trying to find the serenity Lexius came by so naturally.

He paced, his impatience creeping out in the restless strides he took. They didn't need to be able to read his mind to know he was wondering why they'd even needed to be brought along. Egos. That could be the only reason. They had to feel included, Ares had to pander to their pride or he'd get nowhere.

If only he'd had the temporary dictatorship needed to bypass these time-wasting exercises!

What Mesteno had never expected, not in a million lifetimes, was that when Ares abandoned the dais after propelling the arguing parties back into their chairs, he found himself stepping towards him. Not away from the violence, like any sane man with a shred of self-preservation to their instincts, but toward as if he were the one source of common sense left around him.

"We don't have time for the--," them! "this," he corrected himself before his instinctive dismissal of the time wasters could incite outrage. "Why isn't he here? If he's not here to speak his piece he'll only hold us up later. He's the one that attacked Aiden, it's his seat that's empty," he didn't even ask, he was sure. "Please fuckin' tell me at least one set of ears is listening with a mind behind 'em that's not full of prejudice." His hands were up, reaching forward as if he might grab at a man's lapels, but at the very least he managed to curb the impulse.

It wasn't the fact that Ares had taken a heavy hand with his quarrelling siblings or the expectation he was about to do some harm to the mortal who'd been brought before them that focused the Powers so keenly. No, what surprised (and disgusted, in some cases) them was the fact the War God chose to put himself on even ground with such a lesser being.

Athena alone seemed satisfied with Ares' choice.

When the Sadist approached him fearlessly, still speaking passionately of his purpose and cause, Ares slowed his stalking approach and seemed to gather back into himself that rippling violence. The potential remained right there, just under his skin and ready to break free, but his voice was surprisingly calm. "He declined to be here on his own." Much to his obvious annoyance.

"Maybe it's for the best, if votes're being taken," Mesteno muttered. It did mean after all that Hades had auto-abstained, and wouldn't be able to stand against something if it went in Mesteno's favour.

Behind where they stood, just within reach of each other, standing face to face, Hermes stood and strode down from his own chair rather swiftly. "We all hear, and respect," did Dionysus just chortle? "your attempts to aid our Cause. We cannot, after all, remain split from the rest of our family forever."

Artemis was looking stoic up there, even if she winced a little. But she was listening. They all were, even if Aphrodite had a sneer still on her lips.

Hermes continued, back to Mesteno and Ares and facing the rest of his family, arms widespread as he ramped up the charm and worked at convincing them. "Let us not forget it was this empowered Mortal and his friend that brought our Brother back to us when we thought he was lost beneath the weight of Father's Edict. It was they who helped stave off a shift of control in our Uncle's realm and rescued his beloved."

Aphrodite's sneer became a scowl and Dionysus muttered none too softly that the rescue was more likely the cause of Hades' absence.

"Regardless," Hermes continued, only to get cut off as Ares turned.

"Regardless," the War God's growl was much less coaxing and whole lot more 'deal with it', "he has served me well in the past," to include killing a Titan, "and continues to do so now." Poor Mesteno. Relegated to servant status! But Ares was taking his side solidly. He was, in fact, taking the credit for all their good work, as if he'd commanded it all from the get-go. It seemed something the others were more likely to understand as opposed to any other reason the Sadist stated for helping them.

Even if Ares did take the credit. Mesteno could live with it, if it kept things moving smoothly on, and he couldn't honestly see, with the poor reception he'd been given, how he'd achieve the negotiation without suffering this minor injustice. All he did was offer Ares a shrewd look, confident he'd understand he would condone it, but didn't like it, and let him finish uninterrupted.

"A temporary alliance with the Egyptians will give you the advantage you need with a price you won't even have to shoulder if they meet our terms. The only drawback is the empowerment they gain from it, but even so they're not gonna rise to compete with you. The new worshippers they stand to gain are going to be limited naturally by the deserts and the amount of life it can support. Even with a river to echo the Nile, their reach has a finite radius. Endorse it."

The storm that had been building outside the pavilion slowly began to ease, though the clouds remained black and heavy across the strange sky. The rumble of thunder had finally ceased. Phobos and Deimos were in a heated, but hushed debate just beyond the ring of chairs and a few of the other creatures and beings in attendance were murmuring and discussing the matter amongst themselves as the events unfolded and Mesteno continued to live.

Aphrodite made that scowl still wore look pretty rather than petty, especially when it morphed into a dissatisfied pout at the way Ares decided to stand up for the mortal. She was none too pleased about that, to be sure, as it didn't fit into any of her long reaching plans no matter the nonsense Mesteno spouted. How could he possibly benefit them (her specifically) being such a lesser creature?

Artemis looked conflicted and glued to her chair in her indecision. Dionysus drank more wine!

It was Athena who moved first after a lengthy, contemplative silence. In all her regal glory, with the owl fluttering to her bare arm she stepped rather majestically from the dais to take her place on the ground with the Sadist and the other Powers. "Finally," she murmured to the War God, "you think with your head." A rather matronly insult that had Ares darkening and pointedly not looking toward his lover.

The Lady of Wisdom's words seemed to spur Artemis into action, for she was down from her chair next.

Dionysus peeled himself out of his lazy lounge and, wine in hand, joined them all a few seconds later, speaking to the stubborn Aphrodite as he went. "They'll be no party up there all alone, Dear, and I'm sure our Uncle will just make it all the more dreary." He was moving closer to Mesteno second later, inspecting him anew. And those beads.

When instead of calling for his execution the other deities began to descend from the dais one by one, Mesteno was so stupefied by the development that he thought he must be imagining it. He turned a look of disbelief Hermes' way, needed the reassurance to ground him, but dared not speak to ask.

To his credit, he didn't budge an inch as they all joined them, even though his soul strained against the control he exerted to keep it from retreating so far he risked collapse. Look close enough and they'd see it, see past its foetal guise and become aware of the terrible potential. Even cramped and hiding, it threatened.

"That's it then? It's agreed?" he asked cautiously, turning a wary look Aphrodite's way to see whether she intended to come down too. "The negotiations will go ahead with you in attendance?" That particular part to Ares, though he'd snatched more than a few glances at Athena for her intervention and apparent authority.

Hermes nodded to the Sadist, resembling nothing so much as a proud father. He was the champion of humans, after all, even if Mesteno had transcended (dangerously) that simple classification.

"You can't possibly..." Aphrodite began, giving Ares a beseeching look.

He didn't let her finish.

"This is the future." He stated flatly, dropping a bold and heavy hand to Mesteno's shoulder. He didn't anticipate he'd welcoming of the touch, but attempted it anyway just to prove to the recalcitrant goddess that he wasn't kidding.

To Mesteno, It felt like something had performed a back-flip, right in the core of him, was wrestling with itself to the point it might come apart. A ripple of crippling hunger and abject fear blinded and deafened him transiently.

Finally, something less than pretty touched Aphrodite’s face. Pure rage and disbelief. Seething frustration. She stood from her chair alright and pointed at Mesteno. "He is anathema and you are all fools." Her pride wouldn't be wounded because she wasn't backing off her position, refused to give up her plans.

There came the thunder of horses’ hooves galloping up the nearby hill. None of the Gods turned. Hermes was, in fact, placing himself bravely between the Sadist and the Goddess of Love who was channelling a great deal of hate just then. Ares had bared his teeth in a growl.

Need to get out... Mesteno was thinking it, but not precisely begging Lexius for an exit strategy. Flimsy as the thread of a tie was, he didn't even know whether his mental voice could be heard, or whether he was just a distant, phantom feeling in the Elf's mind.

He is anathema. Who'd said that? He couldn't even recall it being spoken aloud. But there was Hermes, stood between him and Aphrodite, and he had his answer. Tangled as the love lives of these Gods were, he wouldn't put it past her to break ties with Ares and try and take up with his equally as disgusted son, Phobos. Team them up with Hades and he was in for a world of trouble.

"I should go so that you can discuss it... Do I have your leave?" Let me go let me go let me go. He wasn't even sticking around to gloat.

Dionysus paled, but not because of Aphrodite's hissy fit. Ares lifted his hand away....not hastily, but certainly more quickly than he'd laid it down on Mesteno's shoulder. He didn't glance the Sadist's way and didn't step away from him, but the violence was churning anew within the War God, only partially because of his Lover's reaction. She was thwarting him. And maybe for good reason, given what he might have just felt.

Athena sighed, as if the bickering of children was something she was heartily tired of bearing witness to. She looked instead to the horseman skidding to a stop outside the tent even as Hermes and Artemis both began to talk to the pissed off Goddess and Ares prepared something more aggressive.

The beads chose then to rattle, no matter how tangled Mesteno's fingers were in the string, perhaps in agreement with the decision to leave despite the fact a storm was suddenly well under way beyond the pavilion. Their behaviour had alarm bells ringing in his head.

Rain was coming down in sheets, the wind had picked up hard enough to shake the tent. All that was missing was lightning, but there would be none of that anywhere in this realm.

There was only silence along the tie, but the faint and distinctive presence of the Elf had not faded.

"Ares!" Came a call, interrupting all debate. It wasn't often the War God went by that name and even less common for a mere soldier to call him by it. It was the rider who'd dismounted, looking grim and dusty in his worn armour, his plumed helmet obscuring his face. An officer of some type, surely!

Ares paid him heed immediately. "Varian?"

"He's broken the pact." Of all things, Varian looked at and spoke directly to Mesteno next. "You must return now."

Treachery. Of course.

Panic clawed up to choke Mesteno, and with it a fury that seared him through and left him quite literally seeing red. His head pounded at the temples, the noise so loud it drowned out the thundering downpour. Beneath the rising hysteria, his passenger laughed - hate them - all the better when the time came for its goals to reach culmination. He stepped away from Ares and towards the messenger, out from beneath the pavilion and under the storm's incessant curtains.

"Open the way!" He demanded of Ares'. He had every intention of taking this Varian’s horse and riding it back to RhyDin.

Varian didn't stand in his way. He shot a look to Ares, one hand on the hilt of his sword and a question in his gaze. Would the God truly open a gate and throw Mesteno to the proverbial Wolves?

The other Gods had broken off their argument and were watching the proceedings with varying amounts of interest. Aphrodite was looking justified. Or maybe just satisfied. The mortal was nothing but trouble, tossing out commands to his betters.

Ares returned Varian's look then reached out one hand to the warrior as the air beyond the tent shimmered and warped, but did not immediately resolve into a gate. "There is...resistance." Varian slapped a sword into the God's hand as Ares' brow furrowed deeply. He'd expected resistance, more even then he'd had before, but this was something different. His dark eyes landed on Mesteno (he was suddenly fully armoured!) as he went on. "The barricade is not yours."

Finally, the air split apart and souls screamed as they were ripped asunder. Apparently, the God of Death had used a few (thousand) to weave his own barrier around Sanctuary. The scene beyond the gate was one of devastation.

That was Sanctuary, without a doubt, but where the cabin should be there was empty space filled with fallen, broken and twisted trees and vegetation.
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Re: Broken Oaths

Post by Mesteno » Fri Jan 03, 2020 9:49 pm

[Continued…]


Close as the gate was when it began to form, Mesteno's hands never closed on the horse's reins. Instead he loped the few strides on foot, his urgency palpable.

On the other side, but certainly not safely out of view of the Grecian pantheon, his passenger unfurled from the knotted core it had made of itself, surging through the shallow-flowing channels of his body. It twisted like trapped, black smoke beneath the glass of his skin, crept out in curls where the scars cut deep.

He didn’t hear the gasps behind him.

Didn’t hear Aphrodite crow, "Do you see now?!" even as she backed away, urging Ares not to follow him through. She clutched at the war god’s arm, while her peers begged him to listen to her. In the end, he shrugged them all off, and followed the necromancer, away from the pavilion.

The wall of souls Hades had created to try and keep Ares from penetrating it proved useful. A source Mesteno could scour. An instinctive terror of the hunger in him sent the souls fleeing like shoaling fish attempting to flee the gaping mouth of some terrible shark. Some were absorbed, snatched from Hades' protection, empowering the furious sadist who charged incautiously across his property.

He almost didn't recognise where he was. He was scrambling over the fallen trunks without registering that these were his sentinels, the landscape so radically changed that he turned about in his confusion. It was only that he knew the feel of the land here with such intimacy that he cast his doubt aside. Slowing, stopping, he attempted to get his bearings, straining to spot landmarks, and there sure enough where his cabin had stood, was empty space. It seemed almost as if a hand had reached down and plucked the place up, the crumpled trees gone clawing vainly after it only to be smote down for their efforts.

He made no effort made to try and locate any lingering enemy - he was too busy processing, or trying to. The shock of it had stalled his poor, mortal mind, and the distance to his wide-blown eyes suggested he wasn't entirely there...

He fumbled along the tie, the chaos of his mind wordless. Only a distinct need to know - where were they!?

The tie remained thin. It was as if the Elf were still much too distant, Planes away. That or he was intentionally smothering the bond into near nothingness. He received no answer.

Whatever had happened in his absence, it had been violent. Towering trees had fallen, the water garden area completely devastated. Sand was...everywhere. What had once been a well-kept pit of the stuff had turned into several tumultuously churned dunes with the trunks of trees speared through them. All was eerily quiet now, not even the hint of a breeze to be felt in the darkness of the night.

Overhead, the sky was a blanket of absolute blackness, as if Hades had hidden the very stars from view.

Ares, sword in hand, was following at a much more cautious pace. Behind him, all across the fields of his realm, more troops were rallying to his call. For now, only Varian accompanied him.

Abruptly, a single word of warning reached Mesteno via the mental tie to Lexius. It sounded incredibly distant, but filled with urgency. Beware.

On the heels of the warning came the attack.

The blackness of the shadows laying so heavily on the ground and beneath the tress rose up, shaping itself into bat-winged Shadow Demons. One, five, fifteen. They were rising everywhere Mesteno looked, their glowing red eyes fixed on him.

Without opportunity to offer reply, he found himself readying for the fight, attention diverted to the closest of the shadow demons materialising.

His passenger stretched outward, pulled towards the buried dead who'd risen not so many days ago in response to Sulphur’s delivery. They darted forward to intercept, programmed with no greater task than to assault and keep doing so until they were rendered too damaged to be of use. Beneath one demon, a ward flared gas-light blue, the sigils reflected glimmering on the air above it, the single Latin word 'Timor' visible before it vanished, a fear curse powerful enough to incapacitate the living… It had visible no effect on the Shadow Demons. Only the briefly lived light seemed to make them shy away.

Beneath the necromancer’s clothes, the shadows he'd bound to his own blood swarmed about him, solidified like armour and thrust outward over his fingers. He hadn't been able to accomplish enough shadow wrangling with so little warning to divert any to the formation of weapons as well, but there were plenty of shadows tucked beneath the fallen trees, and he pried those up into a shadowy echo of his old scimitar, for as long as he could extend his attention for such a task.

For now, his plan was simply to get to the morgue, where the stairs leading down might still permit him access to the dangerous creations he had in the laboratory. He had no intentions of simply abandoning his home to Hades' minions, and nor, evidently, did an irate displacer beast, shaking its way loose from beneath the tumbled trees, dazed but furious, to launch at the creatures - albeit not from the spot they thought him. Displacer tricks! He vanished and reappeared in an entirely different spot to launch at a demon.

The demons were distinctive in shape but no more substantial than the shadows from which they had been created. They ringed the place where the cabin had stood in loose groups that seemed to move together as a unit. Each of them seemed tuned to the Sadist alone, black bloodhounds given a particular scent and a single, vicious mission. Composed of amalgamations of souls somehow bonded together and given control of the shadows, there was a parity to the way he would manipulate such things himself.

Given the incorporeal nature of the attackers, Mesteno’s risen wardens succeeded only in slowing the main assault down. The Shadow Demon's bodies might be insubstantial, but their claws worked adequately tearing them to shreds.

Ares and Varian were back to back, facing the backs of a group which was tearing through the zombies to get to Mesteno. Some of the demons weren't playing by the rules. Individual members from each pack were leaving their brethren behind and blinking forward, toward the Sadist. Some flew swiftly, bat like wings extended. Others seemed to teleport, just like the Elf, trying to get to his position. They were leading with their claws.

It was not the kind of battle Mesteno was accustomed to fighting. For several minutes the best he could manage was to keep clear of those that reached him, pitting his shadowy blade against the equally shadowy demons.

Tucking himself into a roll across the splintered deadfall, he narrowly missed getting caught by a set of flaring bat-wings, and the stumble back to his feet was far from tidy. He didn't dare to try and use the shadows to walk the Umbra when Hades had plainly gone to pains to wreathe so many over the property to blot out the sky.

Ares (who prided himself on his combat prowess) and Varian (an obviously experienced warrior) weren't having any better luck than the Sadist. The swords they wielded were surely magical, for the blades glittered every time the steel connected with a shadowy form, rending the misty bodies in two. But the darkness just gathered itself back together, shying away briefly for the flickering light and the attack, only to reform into the bat-winged, humanoid bodies which continued to attack relentlessly.

Another ward flared, this time a flicker of green light, its original intention as useless as that of the first, but light nonetheless. It left a skinny space for him to dart through on his way to the morgue entrance, but even on the approach he could see that the trees had partially blocked it, and getting through the aperture was going to be a squeeze even for his narrow frame.

Things were looking grim, and a ripple of unhinged mental laughter slithered across the fragile tie as finally, one of the demons caught Mesteno hard enough to scrape past his shadowy armour, leaving a wide tear in his jeans just north of his knee and slicing neatly into flesh. It wasn't enough to lame him, not yet, but it was an alarming first-blood nonetheless, and the smell of his own was maddening.

The demons closed in for the kill they'd been promised. The first hint of blood in the air caused them to howl, an absolutely horrifying sound meant to curdle the prey's blood in his veins. Another to the Sadist's left blinked in closer, looking for a taste of its own with claws slashing toward his ribs...only to have the attacked blocked by a simple, yet suddenly mobile, string of sandalwood beads.

Ares was roaring, his rage a tangible thing even from yards away, pulsing through the air with the sound like a wave of force that actually succeeded in pushing the demons surrounding him back. But that yell was no match for the clanging sound of the demon claws connecting with the beads. It was like someone in the heavens had struck an unimaginably large gong. Everything trembled.

Things only got worse for the demons when the Necromancer figured out he could make a feast of the things.

Perhaps without the scent of his own blood, the idea wouldn't have even occurred to mind, but it seemed to speak to his broad splayed passenger, busily puppeteering the diminishing numbers of dead. It could sense the souls holding those shadow demons together, and therefore so could he. For the second time that day he dared assault Hades' souls, let the ravenous monster stretch out and engulf those amalgamated in the demons closest to him, growing ever more powerful for each it swallowed.

The feeding caused the amalgamation he’d targeted to unravel, and those surrounding it tried to backpedal swiftly.

Mesteno abandoned the mindless undead he'd been wielding as weapons, and trusted all of his concentration to the personal assault on the shadow demons. For each unravelled, the nocturnal gleam of his eyes seemed to brighten, until they appeared back-lit by scraps of Helios, an otherworldly brightness which cast illumination upon the high slopes of his cheeks. It wasn't long before the bloated monster was no longer hungry, but fed for the shear enjoyment of it, the violence of destruction and never once did it pause to take note of the Gods growing frustrated with Hades' minions.

Ares stood with sword still at the ready and a grim sort of gleeful appreciation in his gaze as he watched the Sadist. He could almost taste that darkness within the man, and knew damn well it could come for him next. Could sense its potential to destroy him just as easily as it had eradicating the Demon threat. He wasn't horrified in the slightest. In fact, he might have been just a little bit envious.

In fact it came crawling ever closer to them, dragging down the foes they encountered until Mesteno felt dizzy with what he'd taken in, the buzz so much worse than autumn that he couldn't think straight, knew only that he needed somewhere to channel it out before his flesh, fairly vibrating with the energy, came apart. Too fragile.

There was an ache in him, a throb behind his sternum that had nothing to do with his wildly racing heart, something fit to crack, and much sooner than intended. Sunk low amidst the splintered timber, he finally reeled the abomination in, banshee howling against the restraint, and in desperation found the only target he could think to use the energy on; the shadowy curtain covering the whole of sanctuary. He wielded the stolen energy with all the subtlety of a sledge-hammer, grasped at it with metaphysical fingers to wrench it down and unveil the stars again.

The pressure inside the necromancer abated as if a tap had been turned on, emptied him out of the excess and in doing so, the seal threatening rupture held. The throb was gone and the relief was so immense that the necromancer wanted to drop to his knees and sit there slack with his brow to the ground. Instead, he stood staring at the sky, sucking down lungfuls of bitingly cold air as the spirit barrier came apart like tattered streamers, and those surviving souls fled him, leaving the property barren of souls again.

The damage had been done. That clang had set the War God and his companion to reeling. It had even caused a few wide eyes beyond the still open gate (of course they were watching). Confusion reigned supreme... until they noticed just what Mesteno and his gluttonous companion were doing. Confusion gave way to something like horror.

The War God bared his teeth, and kept watching, curious rather than wary. Varian stood with him through it all, either unable to see what Ares could see or simply standing loyally by the man through thick and thin even if it meant enduring some hellacious explosion.

Despite the eruption of power, Mesteno’s eyes were still too bright when he turned them Ares' way. Varian, too, whom he'd barely paid any heed to, came under the searchlight of his wide and disoriented eyes, and then at length the gate stood yawning, the audience visible beneath their rain sodden pavilion on the Field of Valour. Nauseatingly, it began to dawn on him that he may have signed his own death warrant. How now could he convince them he was no threat?

Finally, he sat, easing down with deliberate slowness onto a fallen tree to stare at the spot where his home should have been. The absence of the building itself he could have dealt with, albeit angrily for the audacity of the assault, but gone were the breadcrumbs he'd gathered over the years that might have led to answers about his origins. Gone the books he'd reclaimed from his hometown. There were few material possessions he put any great value in, but those small things had given him a sense of origin. The pitiful, human evidence of him gone, leaving him ever more firmly in the grasp of the thing inhabiting him. Digging it all up again felt like an impossible task.

Finally, the Elf murmured to him, another distant whisper of his voice. Very good.

Knowing that Lexius was monitoring him, even if distantly, wasn't enough to keep Mesteno from succumbing to a numbing self-pity. Even if he had persuaded Ares' half of the pantheon to support and overlook him, he'd still been defeated that day. Hades had struck him a blow he wouldn't easily recover from, and his secret had been laid bare. There seemed little to do but wait for some axe to fall.

Ares and Varian had sheathed their swords, the latter headed back to the gate without a backward glance at the War God’s order. Ares himself didn't take his glittering gaze from Mesteno for a second. He was still full of the violence and anger that fuelled him, but he'd managed to reign in any envy he might have felt and gathered his calm. He approach the man boldly, one hand still on his sword.

The sound of his armoured approach drew Mesteno's attention across the swathe of devastation, fastened to him with initial defeatist dullness, and then a flicker of rebellion. He didn't jump to the conclusion of impending slaughter despite the positioning of the war god's hand, but he prepared for a lecture, perhaps forced confinement. He remained sat where he was, convinced of his inability to escape.

"How does the God of War deal with oath breakers in his ranks?" he asked, though he knew without needing to be told that the penalties he wished on the death God could never be inflicted.

Two things happened abruptly, the most notable thing (for Mesteno) being that the strength of the tie returned to something more normal. Lexius was still distant, perhaps somewhere in the desert, but not several Planes away.

The second things was the appearance of an angel descending down from sky toward the place where the cabin used to be. It wasn't an angel, of course, just a certain demi-god with those ghostly wings of his in full view, spread wide and glowing. His boots landing firmly on a clear patch of ground between the weary Necromancer and the approaching God.

The beads chose then to let loose a chortling rattle of sound, apparently rather tickled.

Between the sudden (suitably flashy.) arrival of Aiden on the scene, and the rattling beads, Mesteno knew he wasn't liable to get an answer from Ares. He only knew that he didn't mean to have the demi-god get in trouble for him a second time, and he began to rise from the shattered trunk, flakes of bark falling away from his bloodied jeans.

And then he was snatched. Tugged away across the miles that separated them by the distant Elf.

He fell over, had absolutely no chance of doing anything else, and sat down hard on his haunches, the momentum rolling him further onto his spine with his arms spread eagled clumsily. The breath jarred out of him and the world spinning, he closed his eyes and remained stretched out supine until he could reliably see without everything rocking like a ship on rough seas.

The tie was at full strength as Lexius knelt beside Mesteno and splayed one hand across his chest in a grounding sort of touch. There was no pressure behind the contact, no attempt to keep Mesteno down, just a thick strand of relief threaded through heavier bands of a familiar weariness that the Elf felt when he'd been working his power close to his limits.

They were outside, rather than in, on that plateau at the back of the circular canyon that overlooked the whole of his little town but far enough back from the edge they couldn't see it. Sand was a thick, soft cushion beneath Mesteno's spine, the pale white of it churned up and messy as if waves had battered it about. The stars were particularly bright there in the night black sky and the temperature just as cold as RhyDin had been, if much more sharp and dry.

The Elf looked thin, but not lich-like in appearance, and his dark eyes still burned with the terrible power he was capable of wielding but, for the moment, he held precisely in check.

"Breathe." He murmured softly, fingertips curling against the man's chest.

The steady rise and fall of the chest beneath Lexius' curling fingers might have seemed a relaxed pace for a man of more mundane physiology, but for Mesteno’s standards it was quickened, and it came with a subtle flare of nostrils and a tremor to his muscles that spoke of barely restrained impulses.

When he opened his eyes at last to see Lexius kneeling beside him, his effort-induced gauntness only served to add fuel to the fire. Shoving a palm flat to the sand, he levered himself up, scattering the grains clinging to his hair and shoulders to get a better look at him. He satisfied himself that the Elf was whole, uninjured, but the struggle to remain so had plainly been taxing, and that Hades had assaulted him in the first place...

"I'm going to destroy him." He wasn't quite sure how, but the validity of his intentions couldn't be questioned. His tone was resolute, and the hatred dangerously consuming.

[End]
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Re: Broken Oaths

Post by Mesteno » Sat Jan 04, 2020 3:59 pm

[Adapted from live play with Aiden.]

Monday January 2nd, 2017

Mesteno had never been a materialistic man. His possessions had been minimal, his furniture shabby, and the cabin at Sanctuary itself considered four walls and a roof more than a necessity. Home to Mesteno was not a building, something that could be considered a burden, thanks to the business of upkeep. Therefore, technically, he’d lost very little in the wake of the Death God’s attack.

But it had been home to thirteen years of memories, and he found that more distressing than anything else.

Even the erasure of small gifts he'd kept in sentimental moments - the book Gem had used when she taught him to read common, the dried forget-me-not from Eden - and the journals he'd kept, couldn't compare to the simple fact that those spaces where he'd raged and loved and broken were gone.

Still, ‘it doesn't matter’ was what he told Lexius, dismissive to avoid the business of dwelling on things.

The Elf had not been fooled.

"You may stay here as long as you wish.” He’d said, offering his new home up selflessly. "We should return tomorrow, however, before Kalari grows too hungry." He was not going to allow Mesteno much of a reprieve before he made him face the wreckage.

Aiden worked to restore what he could of Sanctuary, though the worst of the mess, the decimated woodland, seemed inclined to manage itself.

The sentinel trees, those collapsed, uprooted, or outright shattered had become brittle, hollowing out at a rapid, unnatural rate. Eventually, those specimens came apart, trunk from roots, and come the next morning, those pale, plum leafed monsters were so reduced that they were easy to push aside, clearing the ground. A little prodding around uncovered, small green shoots nudging upward in the disturbed loam. They would recover, so long as the pale bulbs from which they'd long ago cast their roots had survived.

Kalari needed little coaxing to emerge from hiding. Predictably, the feline had come through it unscathed and without a smudge to her fur.
Unfortunately, there was also a tell-tale stench rising from beneath the morgue. The vault-like door that had been masquerading as a fridge front in the kitchen might still be standing, but there was a hollow pit beyond it, leading to the stairs, and something down there was rotting. Or more precisely, some things. The body lockers hadn't all been vacant, and many of the parts Mesteno kept for his work had relied on refrigeration or freezing, neither of which now functioned with the electricity supply disrupted.

Mesteno hadn't been looking forward to returning, and didn't inform anyone when he chose to.

"You're still here." His footfalls had been eerily quiet. He was only stood about five feet away, albeit to Aiden's left.

The Greek’s shoulders jerked, and electricity crackled briefly between his fingertips. He put on a quick grin as he straightened, teeth exceedingly white against the dark scruff coating his face. "Whippet!" He looked Mesteno over closely. "Yeah, well. Didn't seem right to leave it empty. Besides, you said I could stay here, right?"

Touching a hand lightly to Aiden's shoulder, Mesteno studied the bike he was working on. Considered using procrastinating and avoiding the difficult subjects. In the end, he resigned himself to honesty. "Thank you," he told him, "for steppin' in the way you did. And for sticking around when your Uncle stuck that barrier up. I know it'd probably have been easier to leave."

Aiden’s grin deepened, but the expression was far more real than his usual happy-go-lucky facade. "Where else am I gonna go?" He clapped Mesteno on the shoulder lightly, leaving streaks of grease behind.

"What happened after I left? Is your boss-- I mean did he tell you what he's intending?" He didn't state whether he meant the deity's intentions towards him specifically, or whether he meant in how to progress with handling old gloomy and the Egyptians.

Aiden sighed. Not his favourite subject.

"Dead Head showed up looking for you, found us. Pretty much caught in the act, ya know? Whatever Spock did, he did a damn good job masking our presence until he was right in the middle of us. They didn't stick around too much longer after that. They're not supposed to be on this side as it is, two in one place is bad. Anyway, War Boy left me in charge of the clean-up and I haven't heard from either of them, any of them, since." So he had no idea what might happen next. And he was clearly frustrated over the fact.

Parked himself nearby on one of the few stumps that hadn't yet rotted away into nothing, Mesteno made a lattice of fingers, prop for his chin as he slouched to lean elbows to knees. He listened as to Aiden recalled what'd happened and huffed a sigh. All that effort just to make an example of him.

"I thought for a minute there War was gonna come and," he drew a finger across his own throat, a universal gesture if ever there was one. "I was pretty pessimistic of my chances. He wouldn't give a shit about clean-up if he meant to off me though, and Lexius seems t'have faith in him, too." Stating, in round about ways, that it was only the good opinion of those he trusted that kept him from declaring the whole Greek pantheon he'd been aiding treacherous, like their death god.

Aiden tossed the tool he'd been using back into the pile, and settled back onto the ground beside the bike, arms hooking around bent knees as he took a look around the property before settling his gaze back on Mesteno. He was suddenly looked very serious. "In that moment, he might have. He'd been known to do some unpredictable shit when he's amped up." Which was the reason Aiden had landed between them.

"I'm guessing he's gonna have to do a whole lot of persuading to bring the others 'round to his way of thinking,” Mesteno murmured. “They might have been ready to side with me before this, but they saw… If Little Miss Love teams up with your uncle, there's gonna be no chance of negotiations going ahead on time."

“War Boy has no intention of backing out of his promise,” Aiden assured. “Mostly for his own good, mind you, but a lot for you, too. He can relate to your situation, believe me. That's why he is like he is.”

"I'm not sure how you came to the conclusion a Power could relate to my situation. So far as I know, he wasn't learnin' from the streets durin' his formative years." Mesteno wasn't about to enlighten him on what he'd been occupied with during that time!

“Lady Wisdom might be on your side, too. She's...far sighted, ya know? She's a lot like Spock that way." He laughed then, actually a little amused. "And I was pretty damn sure Miss Uppity was going to take that stand. She is one pretty little viper looking to take her Momma's place. Anyway, what you guys should do is move up the schedule. Just a few days. Enough to throw them off. I can get that message to them, no problem. You can say it's to give them time or opportunity or whatever the fuck to be totally dedicated to the turnover on the day, right?"

Rather than argue, Mesteno was intrigued.

"All right, arrange it if you can. Just don't put yourself in harm's way to achieve it, all right? And I mean that, Aiden." The mortal wagging a finger at the demi-god. Typical. "Don’t risk a confrontation with your uncle. He's gonna be even angrier with you than he was before you had to go hide in the Tech sector."

Aiden’s smile showed teeth for the admonishment. “Why you want to take all the fun out of everything, Whippet?" He made no promises, but there might have been a spark of real warmth in his steady gaze for the concern. Not that he'd ever admit to it.

[End]
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Re: Broken Oaths

Post by Mesteno » Sat Jan 04, 2020 6:16 pm

[Adapted from live play.]

Monday January 9th, 2017


The meeting Aiden had arranged was to be held in the same, decaying city that Lexius and Mesteno had discovered on their trip to the desert. Once it had been infested with the Yuan-ti. Now, the streets were empty of snake people without so much as a scale or drop of purplish blood left behind as a reminder that they'd ever inhabited the place.

The Elf had done more than just clear the place of pests. New blocks had been brought in to rebuild a large portion of the collapsing buildings and all traces of idols or statues that might have been erected to other Powers had been removed. Waterways and wells had been cleaned and cleared in preparation for the flood of water that would come down from the mountain the moment the spell holding it back was broken. Hardy desert foliage had been brought in, in anticipation of that event.

All the activity of late around the location had drawn plenty of attention.

Beyond the city, amidst the sands and rock that surrounded it, were tents and wagons belonging to the people whose interest had been piqued. Lexius hadn't had them sent away, but his Samahar did patrol the perimeter, keeping the curious back. Some manner of prophets were already moving amongst those onlookers, and that seemed enough to hold them at bay without driving them off.

The sun was winter weak, when Lexius and Mesteno appeared within the wide, open courtyard of what would eventually become the bazaar. A platform had been built, covered with colourful tenting and decorated with throne-like chairs. A multitude of them, all currently empty. Unlit torches were spaced evenly around the platform and the symbol for each of the gods to be represented was drawn on each.

Lexius had ensured a place for Ares amongst those seats. A different chair, more simple but backed with a fancifully carved vulture holding a double bladed axe, set off to the side of the others at the same level. An observer's spot, really. An ally.

The backings of the other thrones were much more elaborately decorated with the animal heads of the gods they belonged to. Here an Ibis, there a Jackal, there a Hawk and more. There were twelve chairs in total, the two at the centre raised a scant inch higher than the others and one of those a little bit wider than its mate. The larger chair was backed by a sun disc topped by double crowns, the other by a crescent moon.

Set directly before the collection of thrones were two more chairs, one made of stone, the other wood. That had no back carvings, but a dragon had been etched into the rock of one and a strange, wavy symbols marked the wood of the other.

Rich rugs covered the wood of the platform, but there were no curtains or drapes to obstruct the view. The courtyard itself was on the highest ground, of course, which meant those onlookers from afar would see the assemblage, if not up close and personal, and whatever might transpire during the meeting.

"Not quite what I was expecting," Mesteno murmured as he caught sight of the loitering desert folk in the distant, rocky stretches beyond the perimeters. "I'd complain about the open venue if I didn't see what you were doin'. Let 'em see first-hand the crop of fresh new worshippers."

Of course he said it all low enough that his voice wouldn't travel in case there were any furtive sorts that'd snuck in past the Samahar, and once he was steady enough on his feet post-teleport, he studied the chairs more closely. It didn't look like Lexius was anticipating an intimate little meeting. More a performance.

"And be seen by them." The Elf agreed mildly as he slid his hand from the low of the Sadist's spine.

Lexius had dressed a little differently that day. Over the usual lizard skin trousers and the muslin shirt he'd donned something of a robe. It draped to mid-thigh and did not fully close in the front, leaving his clothing visible beneath. Stitched into the finely woven fabric were the same kinds of symbols he wore on his skin, the thread shimmering not so differently than the ink. The beads served as a belt for the robe with enough length of them dangling down to truly add to the druidic/psion effect the garment was meant to bring to mind.

"The city is ready to be inhabited again. And I have made certain we can reclaim it should things go...poorly in the future." He'd put the damn place back together, after all. It was to be expected he'd left his touch in multiple places. One really wouldn't suspect the decorative carvings etched into the new stone that had been scattered throughout the city during the renovations. There was more, of course, but the Elf didn't go into the details.

"We’re going to be a little out-numbered," Mesteno pointed out, still fixated on the assembled thrones.

Like Lexius, Mesteno had made an effort to look respectable for the occasion, and had exchanged his usual non-descript efforts for something freshly store bought. A sleek, kaftan-style tunic so dark a red as to nearly be black save for when the light hit it just right, sleeves rolled up to his elbows to bare (along with the train wreck scars) the gold pigment sat under the skin. The symbols were arcane undoubtedly, channels to better guide his energy should he wish it, though under his dark skin they were difficult to spot. The labradorite pendant sat openly over his clothing where anyone that wished to could see it. Linen pants, even darker than the tunic he wore might have seemed a bad idea given their tendency to absorb heat, but cold blooded as he was, he could afford what would be a mistake to others, and had thus let his hair hang loose and tidy.

Moving towards the platform, he roamed its slightly elevated position to better peer out over the city, his frame stiff, muscles taut. The longer the Powers kept them waiting, the worse it would become, but he consoled himself that at least this time, he wasn't alone.

"Don't suppose there's any chance I can just sit here 'n look pretty? You know it's gonna be you they're asking about the tablets."

Lexius was spinning out mental threads, but also freeing several small crystals from a pouch at his waist and sending them floating off in various directions. A herd of crystal spiders was currently crawling down his leg to skitter across the courtyard as he worked. "They are not yet tied to this land despite their affinity with the environment. The desert belongs to me. Their numbers will not matter." It sounded arrogant, though Lexius spoke the words in a matter-of-fact tone rather.

In the city, the crystals began to connect with a latticework of lights that started to catch the attention of those in the sands.

Lexius chuckled deeply, and moved to join Mesteno. "You will sit here and look pretty." He assured, touching the wooden chair and raking his gaze over the man. "You will also speak as the head negotiator. I doubt you could keep silent if you tried." A light tease, certainly, but all too true. "Should any of them but Djehuti question the tablets, turn the question to him. He is the author. I will speak with him directly."

One hand skimming over the same wooden chair the Elf touched, Mesteno nodded at his advice over Thoth (thankfully he'd buried his nose in the Egyptian books long before the attack by Hades, and thus recognised the original name Lexius used) and determined to do precisely that. With the spiders all out of sight, he slumped directly into the seat, but twisted about to examine the lines carved into the wood, undulating at his presence.

"Those're more than just decoration, right? They're gonna create some impenetrable, Power-proof force field that renders me invulnerable. You've got Lan hiding in the hills and the spiders'll grow to the size of small horses and create a distraction while we escape if shit goes down."

"They are more than just decoration." Lexius assured far more blandly than he felt. He was actually imagining the spiders as large as horses, covering the courtyard! That idea seemed to amuse him greatly. “Lan will attend remotely. He remained at the Canyon to ensure the security there."

A breeze picked up rather suddenly, blowing hot and dry across the courtyard without stirring up even a fine layer of dust or sand. At the city's perimeter, the latticework of lights pulsed once. "They shall arrive shortly." The Elf announced, slanting his gaze toward the opened space at the foot of the platform, ringed with pale stones. There, the very air was beginning to warp.

Mesteno had been silenced effectively when the breeze swept in, and he rose, not because it was the respectful thing to do when a pantheon arrived at their invitation, but because he'd no intention of looking up at them as they neared.

"Shouldn't Aiden and Ares be here by now?" he asked between his teeth, unsure whether they could be heard when the portal was only half-way open. "It's gonna look messy if he keeps them waiting. There's already hierarchy issues between them and now he pulls this bullshit?"

They will be along. Came his voice in Mesteno's mind. A whisper of sound carrying a mental touch of reassurance meant to sooth more than just the tension of the missing Greeks.

Rather than remain rooted to the spot, Mesteno moved to the centre of the step leading up to the platform where they'd hold the meeting, as if to play welcoming committee.

Tranquillity settled over Lexius like a blanket of sand and it might be easy, indeed, to think him just another part of the landscape despite his very real presence standing there near the stone chair, the beads swaying lazily by his thigh. He did not join Mesteno on the steps, though he found it interesting the Sadist made such a very diplomatic change of position. His smart-mouthed moments aside, he did know some of the tricks to the art of negotiation and Lexius always found it intriguing when he finally chose to use them.

Around the platform and behind the empty chairs, the torches began to light themselves one by one, and the symbols for the Powers came alive in the dancing light. Whatever the paint was, it was obviously special and somehow tied to the rippling of air where the portal was trying to break through. The gate did not fully form until the last of the sigils was fully illuminated, something that had the whole of the area suddenly glowing in a reflection of the web-work lights surrounding the city. Way out there on the sands were some unheard exclamations for the display which was only partially for dramatic effect.

Even Mesteno, usually numb to energy not death related, suddenly feel as if everything had shifted. As if, perhaps, they weren't fully on the Prime Material Plane anymore, yet hadn't really left it at all. With that sense did the portal finally spawn, the base of it cutting into the courtyard stone and spilling forth something like golden fog. Thus did the first Powers emerge, seeming to float or glide rather than simply walking.

A man and woman strode through the gate together, both dressed in flowing linen robes of startling white, edged sparingly in gold. While their outfits were plain, the jewels and makeup they adorned themselves with more than made up for any simplicity. Intricately woven armbands fashioned into the creature they chose to represent them circled the golden skin of their arms and flat, heavy torques decorated with a myriad of hieroglyphs hung about their necks. The man bore an ankh and the woman a sceptre and they settled their faintly glowing, dark eyes on Mesteno as they emerged with a distant, regal sort of look that didn't quite touch haughty.

Ausir and Iset. The Elf supplied along the link. The Greeks had named them Osiris and Isis, and the Elf was sure Mesteno would make the association.

Mesteno did his best to channel some of Lexius' calm, but inwardly there was a great deal of turmoil, and all of it born of deep rooted distaste for the very nature of the beings he was going to have to tolerate meeting. It was no easy thing, standing there ready to play the gracious host when every fibre of his being was working on overload to convince him he was in a bad place. Should run.

A deep breath taken and spilled out steadied him, and deep down the now expected retreat of his passenger began to feel like a foreign body, wedged up against his spine. The hard, angular planes of his face spoke clearly enough of his discomfort, but he didn't let his eyes slip away from the glossy dark eyes with their distracting glow as they fixed on him.

"Welcome both," he began somewhat awkwardly, uncertain of what titles they should be given, and finally doing away with such formalities altogether. "You do us a great honour in your willingness to consider this alliance. I apologise for the change in schedule and hope it hasn't... inconvenienced you." He afforded them a respectful dip of his head that never descended into a bow, and straightened again with his composure sorely tested.

The Elf watched the Sadist struggle without offering a lick of help, yet there was an undeniable tingle of approval for the way the man chose to handle it.

The couple had turned their gaze briefly to the courtyard once they'd fully come through the gate, Isis' hand resting lightly atop her husband's, but as they neared the Sadist they only had eyes for him. Apparently, they hadn't yet heard (or simply disbelieved) any rumours that might have surrounded the Necromancer. Now that they were in his presence, they were suddenly much more interested! Amazingly, neither of them looked particularly hostile with his presence or offended at his greeting.

"How wonderfully bold you are." Isis spoke first, the accusation given on something of a laugh in a heavily accented voice.

"The timing is suitable." That was Osiris as he examined Mesteno head to toe and back again, waving away his apology with his free hand in an elegant gesture. "You have much of the Duat in you."

Their brethren continued to come through the shimmering portal. Horus was hard on his parents’ heels and Set not much further behind. Anubis and Thoth, Hathor and Ma'at and Bastet were all arriving, their attention split between the surroundings and the exchange between the leaders of the pantheon and the human.

Mesteno did his best to ignore the head to toe examination, and took another deep breath, this one surreptitiously taken.

"I'll dare to hope that means you're keen to negotiate something agreeable," he responded, and hesitated at being linked to the mysterious Duat. No helpful clarification from Lexius to help him this time, so he was left to scour his memory again for any mention of the word. It surfaced, finally, result of his necromancy studies, and he felt the beginning prickles of a cold sweat. Hiding what he was seemed to be out of the question. "I suppose there is," he agreed, attempting to keep his voice even, rather than let it quaver in his difficulty.

Thankfully distraction came in the arrival of the stream of deities, and his time was taken in acknowledging them, taking stock of who had chosen to come. There was actually a scrap of a smile there, albeit half-way dignified for Thoth and Ma'at purely because he'd met them before, and perhaps because as of yet there was no sign of Sobek appearing.

"Welcome all," he began again, after having given them adequate time to assess the renewed city, the effort made to illuminate the occasion to their best advantage and, of course, the crowd of desert folk who had eyes for nothing else. "I hope you'll forgive the audience we seem to have accumulated but..." He trailed off with a gesture that implied as much 'what can you do, they're curious mortals?' as much as to imply they make the most of the attention. "Our Greek friend should be here any moment now. He's eager to begin discussions."

Where is the bastard!?

The pantheon’s reception by (and of) the Elf was a silent, almost wary affair of faint nods and lengthy looks. His elven heritage had much to do with that, though there were other reasons that gave the Powers some bit of pause, not quite sure how to properly deal with the alien being.

Sekhmet was the final Power through the gate, lion heads (one male, one female) painted on her cheeks. Of Sobek, there was no sign at all. Ten gods in total and the portal behind them closed. The Powers did not mill about aimlessly, but moved to their chairs to inspect the thrones as closely as they had looked at their surroundings.

There was more ever so slightly off about the group. More than just the way they seemed to glide across the ground rather than walking. They were almost transparent. It was a subtle quality, somehow matching the shift of reality around them upon their arrival. It was as if they were not fully there, or could not fully manifest their selves into the Prime without whatever help and preparation the Elf had provided.

"You do know how to set a stage." That was Hathor in a silky tone, Aphrodite's counterpart but with far less hate and mistrust in her every look.
"Better it be memorable for all involved," Mesteno replied to Hathor, his smile tentative as he angled a nod toward the desert clans, doubtless roaming as close as they dared toward the city walls for a better view.

They deities all inspected Mesteno rather closely, having heard more than a few rumours. But if any were truly concerned with what the Sadist harboured, they gave indication of such worry. Anubis had even sidled close enough he looked likely to touch Mesteno at any moment.

This sufficed to smudge out any grace Mesteno may have managed to accumulate. There was no convincing himself to ignore it, or to slink away, yet he was bound by good behaviour not to protest, so he turned to face him, and took of the moment what he could. A rare chance to study a death God without being assaulted by it.

Anubis had the same gold skin of his brethren, though he was just a shade or two darker than the rest. His eyes were jet black, lined in kohl, and seemed to reflect a shadow of the darkness that lived inside Mesteno. With a build reminiscent of the jackal he used as a symbol and fearless curiosity in his dark eyes, he’d been about to try and engage Mesteno in conversation…

Luckily, it was then the air rippled anew off to the left, in a separate spot Lexius had prepared for Ares' arrival. A Hell Gate tore itself into existence there, drawing every eye on the platform, and the War God came striding out like he owned the place with Aiden rolling his eyes behind him. Just as soon as the demi-god went through the gate, it collapsed into his body.

Anubis huffed out a frustrated breath, but he moved away without a word to the chair that had been designated as his. Apparently, he wasn't all that interested in the newcomers.

"Ah, fashionably late of course." Mesteno remarked, almost between his teeth.

Thankfully, Ares kept the dramatics to a minimum. "We do not cling to time the way mortals do." He told Mesteno in a sharp tone typical of him, rather than any intentional berating. His was a voice better suited to snapping orders. He managed to tone it down a notch to something almost respectful as he took his place on the platform and faced the assembled Egyptian Powers. "We offer Our thanks Asir and Iset for their invitation to these proceedings and We will bear witness without interference."

"Aris is generous." That was from Isis (Iset), the words reflecting a humoured sort of sarcasm that certainly implied Ares wasn't really known for any kind of generosity whatsoever.

As the Gods spoke, Aiden sidled into place next to Mesteno to stand by his shoulder, vibrating energy like a live wire. "So far so good?" A low question as he looked over the group. He didn't wait for the answer but supplied a bit of his own information as Ares ground out some barely controlled reply to Isis. "There was a vote whether or not to bring Snout Face. He lost and Sekhmet won."
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Mesteno
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Re: Broken Oaths

Post by Mesteno » Sun Jan 05, 2020 9:36 pm

[Continued…]


Mesteno had schooled his features into something composed, and Aiden's arrival beside him resulted in an easing of tension. He managed a smile, edged with caution but genuine. "It's all been very civil. They seem to be...more unified in their behaviour than I expected." Based, he might have added on his experience with the Greeks, who seemed far more divisive, far more likely to bow to their egos. Only Sobek had given him any grief so far. "Can't say I'll miss his charming presence. One less obstacle to get over." All of it low-murmured.

"They're...different." That was Aiden’s response to the Sadist's observation. His tone was equal parts amused and cautious.

Mesteno slipped a glance across at Lexius, hoping to meet his eyes, but outwardly, the Elf continued his statue imitation. It was only along the tie that there came a faint pulse of warmth. With no indication to suggest it was unsafe to interrupt, the necromancer steeled himself and took the initiative.

"I hope you'll all forgive my eagerness to begin..." he moved away from Aiden's side, though only by a few feet, as he addressed the assembly, "as has been pointed out, we mortals do cling to time, and with good reason." A look deliberately shot Ares way, though with enough self-deprecation to be excused.

His patience had apparently paid off, because Ares actually appeared somewhat relieved when the Egyptian eyes found a new point of focus.
"Humans are always eager." That was Set, who'd braced his elbows on the arms of his throne, legs stretched out lazily before him, and steepled his fingers together at chin level. The darkness of his gaze seemed to roil, reflecting the chaos that seethed beneath his skin.

"Setesh." That was Horus who spoke, his tone sharp with warning. Set just smiled, but he said no more. Horus continued directly to the Sadist. "My Uncle is rude." Was that an apology? "We are quite ready to begin."

"I don't doubt the details of our last meeting have been shared,” Mesteno went on, with a vague inclination of his head in acceptance of the unexpected apology. “And that you've all had time to come to your own conclusions about the proposals. There's no doubt in our minds that all stand to gain from alliance, but I'd invite any to speak up if they're opposed so that we can justly address their concerns."

"You offer the desert," this time it was Sekhmet who spoke, smoothly inserting her low voice into the conversation as she sized up not only the Sadist, but Lexius and Aiden, too. "And all its peoples who agree to hold faith. What gives you the right and the power to do such?"

Mesteno’s attention bounced from Set to Horus to Sekhmet, careful not to linger overlong on the Uncle who seemed most likely to oppose. He tilted a nod, acknowledging the need for clarification, and skimmed a look out to where the desert dwellers had collected themselves to watch. It was they, that were being discussed after all, and it felt to him much as if there had been some miscommunication.

Lexius did not immediately answer, even if he knew the question was more directed at him. He'd put Mesteno into the position of authority, and would wait until the man offered him room to speak.

"The people of this region aren't ours in any way, shape or form," Mesteno clarified to begin with, "and if they give themselves to your worship it'll be of their own free will. That said, what we give you in relation to this crop of potential faithful, is opportunity. There are no prominent deities to be usurped, and we've done the groundwork to ensure this territory becomes a major hub out here, in lands specifically scouted to ensure it's a close match to your territory on Earth. More will come, as they learn the Yuan-ti have been chased out. More will come, when they hear of the city just waiting for occupants. Imagine how rapidly the talk will spread when the caravans carry word of this very meeting...a manifestation of deities, for they can't and won't mistake it for anything else." A little flattery, though it made him want to spit the foul taste of it from his mouth.

Hathor leaned to speak to Ma'at who had settled between her and Isis. "It sounds as if it might be too contrived." Not so subtle, the comment, her gaze on Mesteno as she spoke.

Still, he hadn't quite finished yet. "You'll all have heard about the river by now. One fit to rival the Nile. This can be the great miracle you bring to these drylands, one no one but you can govern better. But I'll let someone more qualified to discuss the river explain how we intend to provide you with that particular commodity... Lexius?" It was an invitation, plainly, and somehow he avoided letting it trip off his tongue with any note of pleading.

Anubis was the one who spoke next, even as Mesteno was calling Lexius forward. "We do seem to need all the help we can get." His tone was droll. The comment actually drew something of a laugh from some of the others.

Osiris wasn't one of those amused. "We do not need a congregation of slaves." His tone was thunderous! But he didn't seem to be speaking to either Mesteno or Lexius. He was, in fact, glaring at Anubis.

Anubis spread his hands, smiling deeply. "He was trying to help us."

"So he says." That from Bast, who spat the comment out like a pissed off cat. If she'd had a tail just then, it would be lashing.

Thoth chose then to finally speak. "We have discussed this at length already." He reminded them all in a diplomatic tone. It seemed to quiet the lot and tune them back into the fact the Elf was about to speak.

Lexius waited patiently until all those eyes were turned his way. He kept his own focused on Thoth. "The source of the flow had been blocked for some time. We can remove the impediment to suit your needs. I would suggest it be soon for those who live amidst the sands. The water has been missing far too long."

"What is to keep the source from being blocked again?" That from Isis, swift to see a future problem.

"We shall ensure it is not interfered with again." The Elf assured calmly.

"You will ensure?" That flat question, full of unspoken implication, came from Set. His gaze slid from the Elf to the ever-so-quiet, but very attentive

Ares who was watching the proceedings with a faint smile. The expression darkened considerably when Set silently accused him of being in collusion with the Elf.

Lexius took a single step forward, putting himself just a hair ahead of Mesteno in that simple move. The beads rattled once, softly, but it seemed to refocus the lot of Powers back his way, including Area. "I will ensure."

Osiris and Isis exchanged a long look past the empty thrones. The others were equally silent, exchanging looks and quiet whispers amongst themselves. Thoth, however, never looked away from the Elf. He, too, had gone statue still as if it were some contest.

Mesteno had been holding his tongue, no matter how much he wanted to snarl at the Egyptians and call them ungrateful. His eyes were the only part of him moving, flitting from speaker to speaker, the rest of him striving for stillness without tension, arms lax at his sides and nothing of his restlessness manifesting. Finally, he did add to the discussion, albeit more diplomatically than usual.

"You could search the deserts for centuries out here, and not find another stretch of land as suitable as this one. Centuries may not mean much to you, but why wait to build upon what you have?" he asked, appealing to all of them, rather than a few, and determined not to slip up and make any mention of how low they'd fallen. "And you might not think much of the people waiting out there beyond the walls, but they're tough, the sands have tried and tested them. You won't get soft city folk thriving in these climes, so who better?"

He wished he hadn't felt the need to defend them at all, and yet he owed the sand-folk for dumping a group of Powers in their midst and abiding by the deception they'd been the ones to formulate. Quiet again, he left it to Lexius to explain just how he'd make sure there was no 'interfering' again.

Lexius continued rather than drawing out the staring contest in silence with Thoth. "The land is mountainous. Beyond the scope of full desert control. But Apis' sons seems to have taken to it regardless. I think they favour the rough terrain."

It was Sekhmet who laughed first. "Clever." She sounded approving. Thoth continued to look overly thoughtful as Ma'at leaned forward to speak her thoughts.

"We wish his touch," she was pointing at Mesteno, "amongst the protections."

Lexius inclined his head a fraction as he looked to her. "The balance will be maintained." He assured.

Mesteno strove to keep the positive momentum going by being agreeable rather than awkward, though he hadn't particularly wanted to leave any stamp of his abilities about for them to inspect.

"Naturally, I'll do my part should you choose to go ahead, though I'm sure those amongst you familiar with Lexius' abilities could reassure you it would hardly be necessary." There, that thread of pride again, and few would miss it.

Set looked much too pleased with Mesteno's cooperation. The Power practically rubbed his hands together with glee.

Aiden was giving Ares a 'hard look', which his brother was pretty much ignoring. Still, the War God said nothing to break the negotiations and the demi-god offered a discreet thumbs-up signal to Mesteno as a reassurance.

Hathor leaned forward in her chair, eyes bright upon the Lexius and Mesteno, she rested her chin on the heel of her hand as she studied them.
Mesteno’s composure slipped for long enough for a shred of surprise to show in the immediate arch of his brows, though it was at least better than the deep rooted revulsion that came of a Power’s attention.

Thankfully, Horus spoke before she could do more than bat her eyelashes.

"It is your abilities that intrigue." Straight forward. The other Powers were agreeing, some nodding and others leaning to get a closer look at the Sadist all over again.

"The Duat is strong in him." This, thoughtfully, from Anubis, echoing Osiris' words from earlier.

"Perhaps he should be offered a position." That (slyly) from Set. There was no immediate disagreement, though the idea had caught most of them by surprise.

Ares was frowning again and Aiden stepped toward his brother swiftly to lay a hand on the back of his chair as he leaned and murmured.

The suggestion of an offer had hit Mesteno like a splash of ice water. The very thought of being more closely tied to them setting a light under the powder trail leading straight to panic. Or, more accurately, to what coiled in him doing its best to hide. For a long moment he said nothing, even the usual mental murmurings gone dead silent as he turned his focus inward to try and forestall any alarmed reactions. He found his voice eventually.

"It's not my intention, nor do I have any ambition, to be more...involved in things than I already am," he told them, not unaware that they might take it as an insult. "I am not involved in this for personal gain beyond trying to prevent what old Thunderbolt set in motion," and now they knew he had nicknames for Gods! "Because that'd be fucking bad." Another slip, the language gone coarse. "I've been informed already by other parties it's a long-shot to hope you'll all forget me, but just so you know, I wouldn't mind if you did."

And the look he angled Ares' way made it plain the same went for the Greek pantheon.

Lexius and Thoth were still studying each other as if the rest of them did not exist! Of course, the Elf was quite aware of every other Power present and Mesteno's ever inward and outward reaction.

Ma'at gave Mesteno an undisguised look of utter sympathy mixed with a splash of wry amusement, as if to say 'oh, you poor dear' without actually uttering the words out loud. Bast was less considerate of the Sadist's feelings.

"Foolishness to even consider such thing possible after all this." She waved a hand to their surroundings in general, but the gesture swept over the Sadist to include him, as well. She tapped her long, painted claws on the arm of her chair and showed him pointed teeth in a cat-ate-the-canary kind of smile. "You'll never be forgotten now."

"What are your ambitions, Mesteno?" It was Set again, leaning forward in his chair with his full attention set squarely, disturbingly, on him.
That he had used his name was something that finally dragged Lexius' attention away from Thoth and over to the God. He was almost frowning.
Set managed to look even more pleased with himself.

"Well, maybe it would be better for all concerned if you did," Mesteno shot back Bast's way, and in no more than a dozen words had probably gone and undone all of his hard work. He clamped his jaw tight before anything further that might be construed as a threat emerged and took a slow breath through flared nostrils, though his eyes never left the Power who'd chosen to goad him. "All that's come of noticing me so far is that a number of you now consider me an issue. You were blissfully unaware I even existed before, and I didn't have to be worried about people jumping to the wrong conclusions about my ambitions."

His eyes snapped across to Set with that particular word, the particular stress he put on it making it painfully obvious he disliked it.

"I'll say it again. I have none. None that involve you, none that set me amongst you on a personal level. Let me live unbothered on the Prime. It's not much to ask." Briefly, almost sullen, he slipped a final look across at Ares, making sure he knew that he intended it as much for the Greeks as the Egyptians.

Bast looked delighted rather than offended that Mesteno had the nerve to get lippy. "Blissful ignorance is no longer a luxury we can afford to claim."
Set actually chortled. "Let you grow stronger in peace?" He made it sound a foolish thing, indeed, but he really wasn't expecting any sort of answer to the question since he leaned back (his point made) to sprawl lazily in his chair.

"It's difficult to ignore you," Anubis chimed in with a sidelong look from Set to Mesteno "when you and your brethren see fit to destroy," not just kill, but destroy, "a son of the pantheon." It was difficult to say if Anubis bringing up Jetrell meant the god was on Sobek's side or just trying to use the incident to their collective advantage.

"None of that would've happened if that son had picked his targets with a little more intelligence, Mesteno muttered. “He might still be out there fucking crocodiles if he hadn't been so fixed on petty vengeance. You can thank evolution for that - survival of the fittest can be a bitch."

And as if he suspected Lexius might think him pushing his luck too far, there was a grudging mental message sent before he could be reprimanded for his audacity. I know. I'll stop. You were supposed to remind me to watch my tongue. Because it was all the Elf's fault, of course.

It was Ma'at who spoke next, her tone somewhat amused. "One could argue such action was beneficial rather than detrimental." Horus frowned at Ma'at, finding no humour at all in her observation! That didn't seem to matter at all to Thoth's lady. "He did return the bulls." She reminded

Somehow, the little outburst seemed to have burned the worst edge off Mesteno’s nervousness, and a little of the tension melted out of his muscles. It made the forward rolling gesture he used next seem almost languid, an unrepentant let's move this along, we're straying from the point of this meeting.

"I doubt anything more we might say here will change your minds. You've discussed it already and you know the terms of the agreement. What more is there?"

Horus inclined his head a bit, acknowledging the point, before he looked back to the pair. "There is still the matter of the Tablets."

Mesteno was content to sit in the chair Lexius had left there for him and pass back the reins. "Lexius?"

Off to the side, Ares was murmuring something quietly to Aiden, who was grinning like an idiot.

Hands still folded behind his back, the Elf didn't move as he spoke. The beads were swaying, of course, ever so lazily, as if to offset his stillness. "That will be between myself and the Master of the Balance." His gaze was still locked with the god, who said nothing in response to the Elf's flat comment. Every eye did turn to Thoth, though. Even Ma'at seemed honestly unsure what he might decide.

Finally, though, after his eyes flicked briefly between Mesteno and Aiden off to the side, the god inclined his head just a fraction. Set scowled, but that was the extent of the reaction from the pantheon.

The Elf spoke again in the wake of the unspoken agreement. "The settlement I specified will remain off limits and this man," the Elf moved enough to gesture to Aiden, who looked suddenly surprised and alert, "will serve as liaison."

"What?!" That was almost a squawk, from Aiden.

Ares was the one chortling now.

Perhaps you should have discussed that with Aiden, first? Mesteno remarked, mind to mind but just as amused about the situation as Aiden had been, when Mesteno had been running his mouth. I didn't think someone that big could reach that note.
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Re: Broken Oaths

Post by Mesteno » Sat Jan 18, 2020 3:25 pm

[Continued…]


He would have refused. Was the Elf's calm, reasonable reply to Mesteno along the tie. He didn't even glance in Aiden's direction. Now, it is more difficult for him to do so.

The Egyptians looked rather curious, both for the Elf's choice and the all too obvious fact Aiden hadn't known ahead of time. Sekhmet was eyeing the demi-god like he would be her next meal.

"He is Greek." It was Isis who raised the objection, though there was a note of subtle doubt in her voice.

Ares scowled, as if taking offense on Aiden's behalf.

The reaction (or, the potential for violence brewing vividly behind it) snapped the demi-god from his shocked stare. He snapped his mouth closed and clamped his hand on Ares' shoulder, pasting on a winning smile. "Not that Greek." He assured, ignoring Ares' snort.

"Very well." That from Thoth, rather than Osiris, with a note of finality that made it sound as if the matter (all of it) was done.

You could've tidied all this up nicely half an hour ago, if you'd done all the speaking, Mesteno accused Lexius mildly. His taciturn nature didn't give the Egyptians anything to work with after all.

We learned far more with you doing the speaking. A pointed assurance from the Elf, who was still watching Thoth.

Sitting up in his chair, Mesteno slipped a look across the assembly to make sure Thoth's fellows weren't about to speak out in protest, and then nodded his satisfaction. "Your weight will be thrown behind that of Ares' Greeks and the river will flow again." He didn't even bother to glance in the War God's directions to see if he was satisfied with things. He wasn't there to do more than spectate, so far as Mesteno knew. "From here on, all that Lexius and I will do is add our protections to the river's source as promised. The rest will be for your respective pantheons to arrange. I trust you won't need us for that."

"We shall prepare a scroll." Osiris responded, with a brief look Thoth's way which the god didn't bother to return.

"We shall await the reading." Lexius replied rather formally. "When will you require the river to flow? Or is the timing of the event of no importance?" He knew better, of course. Just as he knew all the details still weren't completely settled. But enough of it was for them to continue forward.

The pantheon shared a few looks between them before Isis offered the answer to Lexius' question. "Three days hence."

The Elf inclined his head before stepping back. The beads rattled briefly, quietly, which earned him a few sharp looks. Ares rising abruptly from his seat shifted their attention swiftly enough.

"Any further negotiations can wait. I'm sure your liaison…" that with a hard look at Aiden, who had the gall to wink back. There was a snarl in the War God's voice as he continued. "Can make all the necessary arrangements." That was as much of a goodbye as Ares gave before he marched off toward the space where the Hell Gate had brought them in. Another appeared, less flashy, to carry him away. Alone.

Mesteno was riding a wave of elation as they came through the straits whole. It would appear they had pulled off the impossible. He couldn't even bring himself to feel too sorry for Aiden, since he knew the bastard had the charm to pull off the liaison act without upsetting anyone. If anything, he'd smooth the way to better relations and strengthen the alliance.

"I'm sure he'll do a fine job," he commented, wishing he'd done so before the War God left, before turning a grateful smile Aiden's way. It earned him a suspicious, squinty-eyed look.

There were some murmurs amongst the Egyptians at Ares' abrupt departure, but Horus was waiving it off as he stood. "He, too, lacks certain Greek traits. Like diplomacy."

"Someone else created that." Was Aiden’s quip as he stepped away from Ares' empty chair. He gave Lexius a sharp, toothy smile and Mesteno a more genuine kind of wink for his vote of confidence.

As for the onlookers out in the desert, there were certainly more than there had been when the proceedings started. Whatever the Elf had done to keep them at bay was still working, though quite a few had moved into the abandoned buildings inside the city to get a better view of things. They couldn't quite breach the perimeter Lexius had set as the boundary, though.

The rest of the pantheon was up and drifting toward the location their own gate had appeared, looking a bit more transparent then when they had arrived. Thoth was off to one side, speaking to the Elf.

Anubis however, was boldly approaching Mesteno once more. "Perhaps you will visit us again, hmmm?" An invitation.

The necromancer had almost slouched into his seat again, until he spotted the jackal approaching. Not for the first time that day, he felt the inner retreat, and there would be no reminding it that it was pointless, that they knew... it would continue to do its damnedest to make itself seem insignificant.

He didn't quite manage a smile, but he did offer a lowering of his head, respectful, expression intrigued as he resisted the impulse to force his energy out to probe at that of the deity.

"Aside from the fact I doubt my welcome would be warm from some of your family," Sobek would go unnamed, "my intentions remain to...fall off your radar. Though I regret the loss of what I might learn, I'll admit." Anubis' lack of hostility was as good as bait, yet he couldn't (and wouldn't) trust him. "Thank you, all the same."

Aiden remained there by Mesteno's shoulder, though he didn't interfere in the conversation. He kept a close eye on Anubis, but he didn't seem overly worried the Death God would try to do something. Not yet.

As for Anubis, he looked mildly disappointed but undeterred. He could sense the Sadist's intrigue. "Do you know your history, Young Mesteno?" It wasn't a question he wanted an answer for right then, as he continued without much of a pause. ""Do you know ours? I think you might find much more to learn than you can imagine if you were to brave some exploration." He left it at that with a jackal-like cocking of his head and a quiet, yip-like laugh as he moved to follow the rest of his family as they withdrew.

By then, the Elf was done talking (or listening) to Thoth and had returned to Aiden and Mesteno, watching until the last god disappeared. Once the gate was closed, he rubbed his hand across the air and all the symbols worked so carefully into the ground vanished. For a moment, the world seemed to wrench itself back into place.

Mesteno groaned his relief and slumped right back into the seat, the sweat prickling at his skin and both hands running backward through his hair, ruining the uncharacteristic sleekness of it with a mere pass of palms. His mouth had dried up at those morsels of intrigue, the compulsion to question in his usual impulsive way come creeping up on him. But like all Powers, he knew interacting with Anubis would entail something in return, and it was too great a price already, making himself more vulnerable by association with them.

"I never want to go through another mass meeting with Powers again," he grunted, letting his head tip against the chair back and turning his eyes towards the sky. "That's it, I've done my quota. I add some protections to their river source and go into hiding for the next twenty years. Your boss," he pointed at poor Aiden, "has the help he needs. He can go kick your Dad's ass and round up this war y'got going, and Lexius and I can just be remembered as ‘those mortals who were briefly involved and then didn't do anything else worth mentioning’."

"HA!" That was Aiden, loudly declaring Mesteno full of bullshit. He pointed his finger right back at the Sadist, unafraid. "You let Spock drag me into this." As if he didn't deal with the godly sort all the time. "You probably put him up to it!" Mostly a tease, but he wouldn't put it totally past Mesteno to come up with such an evil plan. "You don't get to back out now.

Lexius watched them both, expression still utterly serene. He interrupted the demi-god's tirade when he paused to take a breath. "We will need you to break the spell holding the river in check. Will tomorrow suffice?"

Once again Aiden looked surprised. Oh, he'd known that part, it was just pretty fast! He suddenly glared at the Elf. "Is that all?"

Lexius smiled faintly. "For now."

[End]
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Re: Broken Oaths

Post by Mesteno » Sat Jan 18, 2020 4:30 pm

[Adapted from live play with Lexius.]

Saturday January 28, 2017



It was safe to say that Mesteno had spent more time in the desert the preceding year than he had in all the previous years combined. Lexius' offer of putting a roof over his head when he needed one had been well and truly accepted, though there were still nights where the necromancer was simply too exhausted to leave the city behind and passed out in the back of his van, or at a push dragged his heels to Vadriel's home, where he slept on the floor beside the painfully 18th century styled four poster bed.

Sanctuary it, seemed, had come under attack one too many times for him to do anything but resent it.

He'd done what he could to salvage his belongings, digging out battered books and a few items of clothing most would have been glad to see the back of. The lab equipment and as many of his reagents as he'd been able to rescue from the morgue, had been given a temporary home in Yevgeny's workshop. The rest was a ruin, winter burying it in snow and rain and ice, the trees attempting to shelter it still not tall enough to do more than offer a meagre wall.

"It's just until I find a place," Mesteno had promised Lexius, and true to his word he had been looking, though he'd seemed painfully adrift and uncertain of what really he was looking for.

Three weeks on and he was sat up on the canyon wall, overlooking the desert folk who'd come to dwell in Lexius' fortress. He'd come back from a prowl in the Temple District a few hours earlier, but hadn't troubled Lexius by seeking him out. For a house guest he was undemanding of his host, the sort of presence easily forgotten since he rarely needed entertaining, but that afternoon his mind was an uncomfortable riot of thought that couldn't have been particularly restful to be on the other end of.

Called out by the chaos going on in Mesteno's head, the Elf left off his work to join the man where he sat overlooking the canyon. "It needs a name." He said by way of greeting as he paused. The beads snickered out a welcome, brushing against the Sadist's shoulder

"You don't want my help with that," came the low reply. Mesteno hadn't looked up to see the Elf, though he did lean back, bracing his weight on the flats of his palms as his legs hung carelessly over the edge. It left his shoulder bumping innocently against the side of one of Lexius' thighs. His brain handily provided a terrible example, to which Lexius was privy as ever... 'Castle I'vegotadragon' wasn't the worst of them, either.

The Elf chuckled quietly as he settled himself beside the Sadist on the ledge. "I will simply translate it into another language and it will sound mysterious." The beads, meanwhile, had unstrung themselves from his belt to go crawling all over Mesteno.

The necromancer had borrowed the bathing pool for a quick dunk when he arrived, and was letting the desert sun bake him dry, but it meant he'd become a damp trap for any breath of sand that stirred up, and the beads were just as likely to get caught by the snaking strands of his hair if they weren’t careful.

"I think I'm going to start looking for a home outside the city somewhere,” he admitted. “I mean further than the suburbs. Maybe try and track somewhere down that has a handy rift sight from those charts you stole and see what's out there. Would you still come see me if it was a swamp? You need a little contrast, right?"

He'd no more choose a swamp than Lexius would, but he was trying, half-heartedly, to lighten his own mood. He was perhaps a little jealous that the Elf knew precisely what environment he desired for a home, and had only needed to do some exploring to find a suitable spot.

Lexius hummed a thoughtful note of sound as he pondered not only what Mesteno said, but what he didn't. "I will visit you anywhere." He assured seriously. "Even a swamp." That bit added with a touch more tease to his tone. "I will not like it." He promised. "Nor will you." A sage prediction! "If one wished to be so wet, they should simply live in the ocean." He turned his gaze to study Mesteno, narrowing his eyes a bit. "You are very unsettled."

Mesteno took his eyes from the productive Samahar people working diligently down in the canyon, to turn his chin toward his own shoulder and peer at Lexius over the hunch of it. He might have spoken to him mind to mind, and never once opened his mouth, but speaking would always come more naturally, if they hadn't an audience to keep secrets from.

"I was in the Temple District earlier," he told him, unashamed to admit it now that the risks seemed to have plummeted, even if not abated entirely. "Nothin' happened," he added, before any concern could arise, "but I went to visit the temple where I worked to see if they were still up to their old tricks with the sheep, and I was half-way down the tunnels before I realised I probably shouldn't have been there 'cause of who they were worshippin'." And yet there he was, whole and relatively hale, and there had been no confrontation, or Lexius would have known of it. "Sure enough they were there, takin' blood oaths from idiots, and not one of 'em carin' or even aware that the doors of the temple of Janus are still wide open."

He didn't need to state why that concerned him, for Lexius' studies had likely been more in depth than even his own.

Lexius frowned faintly, an expression that lingered on as he processed the implication. "So then, you think there is no true connection left to this Power? Or that the Power itself no longer exists?"

"That's what it seems like," Mesteno admitted, his ill-postured lean bumping them briefly shoulder to shoulder. "You can't really kill a god, right? So long as there are people worshipping them, they exist in some way. And since there's endless parallel dimensions out there, it makes sense that there should be an existing link to it, even if not a strong one in RhyDin. But nothing." He cast his attention back out over the canyon, scowling, though quite without the realisation that he was doing so.

After a moment of silent speculation, he added quietly, "It's not even in the same end of the district as the rest of the temples. It's almost like it’s a break-away cult, or they got banished by the rest of the Romans for some reason. Could he have been part of some other pantheon, and just got briefly absorbed by the Romans? There's not a lot of written knowledge about him that I can find, 'cept for the odd mentions linking him to Pluto."

Lexius reached to smooth a touch along Mesteno's scowl, the slide of his fingers warm and just a bit gritty across the man's skin. "No, they cannot be killed in the traditional sense." He agreed, his tone still thoughtful.

The Elf pondered the potential reasons for several seconds in silence, his hand falling to curl his fingers around the man's knee, instead. "There is much of that. The absorption. It is very possible it was a transient Power from another pantheon. Perhaps the current Romans still draw some energy from the worship there. Enough to allow its existence, but not so much they truly care what happens there."

Mesteno folded his own hand over Lexius', reciprocating purely out of pleasure for the tactile. He did however pull that hand from his knee, and as if his hands were afflicted by the same restlessness as his mind, he busied both of his own with kneading his thumbs into the Elf's gritty palm, working upward from the heel to the base of his fingers, pressure firm, though not cruel as he could sometimes unintentionally become.

"It's too bad the Romans sided with old Thunderbolt," he muttered as he worked, "maybe I could've had a nice calm chat with Little Miss Springtime's second suitor to see what he knew of him. All this unwanted contact with Powers, and I can't learn the one thing that'd be of use."

There was a momentary notion of going to Anubis, and asking him to supply an answer, should snooping about be possible between pantheons. The jackal had seemed to intimate that he might have knowledge of his origins. He ditched the idea almost as soon as it had come though, determined to do as he'd stated and remain well away from them all, for as long as he was able.

Lexius hummed again, his eyes narrowing. It was all distracted pleasure for the way the Sadist took to massaging his palm. He didn't say anything immediately about Mesteno having a chat with any Power, but he hadn't missed that fleeting temptation to seek out Anubis.

"Perhaps it is the Liaison that can help you the most. I should think, of any of them, Roman or Greek, the Lady of Wisdom would know the most about the Pantheon as a whole, even those minor ones. She, herself, is a....transplant." He left it at that for Mesteno to ponder, though he would keep a close track of the man's inward debate as well as his outward actions.

"Lexius, have you ever tried sleeping on the Table?" Mesteno asked abruptly. "I mean, I know you don't sleep now, you just meditate, but what would happen... or what could happen, if you slept on it?"

Mesteno had actually managed to surprise the Elf. "I have not tried." He admitted. "I am not sure what would happen. Something different, I think, depending on who it is in such length contact. Why do you ask?"

The frown Lexius had smoothed away was back. Perhaps it was just concentration on the massage though, now involving some pull along the fingers, stretching the tendons, making a few joints pop in the process. The necromancer kept his eyes fastened there as he spoke, as if the task were helping him find the words he wanted.

"I could ask our brilliant Liaison whether anyone in the Company is a chronicler. Maybe they have a list, and someone on there will be ancient enough to remember Summanus' first incarnation. Or you know, I could just go visit Mount Summanus and try and figure it all out on my own without being beholden to anyone." An idea that had its appeal, but he knew would take time. And time, it appeared, was an issue, because it was very much connected to his question about the table.

"I'm not getting any younger, Lexius. Admittedly I don't know whether I'm physically getting any older either, since I don't know what's happening to me, but I'd kind of like to know what my darker half is up to. All this tempering bullshit is leading to something, and like Vadriel pointed out when I introduced the two of you, it's not gonna wait until I'm soft 'n wrinkled before it pulls something new out of the bag." He stole a glance upward, trying to determine as much from the Elf's expression as from what he could sense mentally, whether he was averse to the subject. "I thought maybe if I took a nap on the table, it might surface in my dreams or something. The one time it came out to hold a decent conversation with you was when I was meditating there."

The Elf’s surprise continued, lifting slanted brows. "It may be the most likely place to have such a... chat." He allowed that much. "However," Lexius pulled back his hand, as much to get Mesteno looking up to him as for any other reason, "it may not yet be the best time for it."

Shifting to more face the Sadist, Lexius dragged a knee along the ground between them and left his other left to hang off the ledge. He offered Mesteno his other hand to manipulate as he continued. "You've made remarkable progress, but there is more to work on. What has prompted this sudden need to know now?"

Mesteno shifted, almost mirroring the way Lexius was sat since it was the easiest way to continue the conversation face to face, and started kneading diligently at the base of a thumb.

"Having a bunch of Powers that don't like me." An honest answer. "Ares' girl, she was vicious. And his son?" he arched a brow, as if to invite Lexius to deny the hostility. "Old doom 'n gloom, Snout, Thunderbolt, and I'm sure you noticed not all of the Egyptians were rallying around me, even if some were more congenial. I don't like that so many are aware, and the more attention they pay, the more I feel... it shrinks down inside me like it's trying to hide, which is pointless. They know it's there."

He caught himself beginning to follow the tendons in the back of Lexius' hand just a little too firmly, and sighed before continuing with less pressure. "When it retreats, I get weak. I almost feel like I could pass out. I need to find a way to work in concert with it rather than trying to wrestle with it. I almost feel like I'm in a hostage situation, where it's holding my flesh to ransom and I need an open line of communication to try and calm it the fuck down. Does that make sense?"

Lexius was silent for several moments. Always thoughtful! Finally, he inclined his head. "It does make sense." He reached with his free hand (careful not to disturb the massage) and splayed his fingers wide across the Sadist's chest.

Mesteno couldn't help being distracted. His chest was all slow-drum heart and sinew, but he didn't cease the work of Lexius’ captive hand, even when a slight dig of nails threatened to derail his thoughts, steering them from the unsettled concern towards things less chaste.

"I am curious, I will admit, to know more of its motivations and goals. But I think It will resist giving such information too easily or freely until It think it is ready." Ready to own Mesteno completely, he meant. "Unless It thinks you will help It by giving in to Its whim. I merely wish to make sure it is always at your whim." The Elf pulled back his hand from Mesteno's chest and rested it on his bent leg instead. "At the very least, let us study how it is tied to you physically. We can visit the Table tonight if you wish."

Thumbs skimming over Elf knuckles, Mesteno chewed over the offer, knew it for the best, but couldn't supress a shudder all the same.

"You know, part of me thinks about blowing its plans apart with something pre-emptive, but it must know everything. It must know what we're talking about now. So, I think that anything I might come up with must be something it has put there in my head. Is there any way that you could discern the difference in my thoughts? Could you differentiate whether it's coming from somewhere that's not in my head? Or are its thought processes likely to be too tangled up in there that you can't tell any difference?"

He was doing his best at that very moment to turn his attention inward and try to sense whether it was awake, but something as old as that wouldn't have any trouble deceiving him, he suspected, and just then it seemed drowsy-dormant, disinterested in quiet discussion and their desert view.

Lexius’ vague smile melted away. He grew more serious, more sombre, and shook his head.

"It does not 'think' the same way as you do. But it is fully capable of utilizing your thoughts, your knowledge, for itself." The Elf pulled his hand away from the massage and off the man's leg, holding them palm to palm between them, as if he was praying, before he curled one into a fist. "You are two separate entities, merged together as one." He curled his palm over his closed fist, then did that thing he did, where his flesh became insubstantial.

His wrapped fingers became smoke trapped within the more solid coil of his fist. "You are both tangled together and it is possible for each of you to interpret and effect the thoughts of the other. You simply do not know how, while it is something of an expert at it. This is how it has manipulated things and people since the beginning of its existence." His hands became normal hands again, fingers interwoven.

"Your advantage, one it hopes you don't truly understand or believe, is that you are naturally capable of controlling it." He curled his hands over Mesteno's leg again, resting them there where the beads were looped around his knee. "At some point, it became too late to separate you without destroying you completely and, no doubt, damaging it beyond acceptable limits. Of course, it just may be that how it is, how you are with it inside you, is how it should be. How it needs to be to maintain the balance."

Mesteno had rearranged himself so that he was sat cross-legged, every inch the student absorbing a lesson. Instead of being distracted by the Elf's ability to turn himself partly incorporeal, he was engaged in the words, brow knit with concentration in case he should miss anything, or worse, misunderstand.

"It’s there in replacement of my soul. How can it be a separate entity? I feel like something went wrong somewhere." He felt insecure discussing it so openly, when he'd spent years attempting to deny it, fearing it was a parasite of some sort. Knowing otherwise hadn't brought him the comfort he'd expected. Now, his own hands came apart, lifted to gesture rather than illustrate, and not nearly so eloquently as the Elf had. "I'm just me until I hit...twenty, twenty-one. Then the seal opens and it is there in me, but there's none of this sentience I'm dealing with now. It's almost as if it was supposed to wake up and whatever personality I'd evolved over the years should have just died with a whimper and given it free reign. Why it didn't, I don't know. Maybe because the seal was forced open rather than it happening naturally. Premature?"

He studied Lexius to see whether he followed, wary of any hint of dubiousness. Still, he continued, foolish though he felt. "So now we're here stuck together, like Id and Ego, not entirely individual anymore. I worry that this tempering is its way of preparing my flesh to give it the advantage when the next seal breaks, so would it be...wiser to do it before its ready? Give me a fighting chance?"

Still no waking from his passenger. He wanted to poke at it like a kid with a stick might a mutt, just to try and sense alarm or amusement from it.
Lexius would be the first to admit his opinion on the matter wasn't completely based off fact. He hadn't been there to see how it had happened and the Sadist certainly had a point when he mentioned something had gone wrong. The Elf was fairly certain that part was true.

"No, I do not think it meant for any of this to happen as it has. Which may suggest it has never quite done this before, or there was something about you it did not anticipate." He canted his head a bit, rubbing along Mesteno's legs absently as he pondered aloud. "Or maybe it was forced into you, put to sleep behind the barrier, and the breaking woke it early and in much too weak a state to do anything but gather information. As you are now, you are one being. But it began as something else."

He hummed then, as he considered Mesteno's idea and, more precisely, the Soul's complete lack of reaction to it! "It may be it knows I will discourage you from trying too much, too soon. Or that is does not process things the same way we do, until the danger is more immediate and immanent. I believe breaking another Seal, however, will expose you to more of it more directly and I cannot say how that might go."

"I'm pretty sure you and your Guardian have been a thorn in its side for a while now," Mesteno admitted with a wry smile. "Having attention drawn to it of the magnitude of Powers and divine beings... it's like something trying to hatch out in a hostile environment before it can fly."

The Elf scoffed quietly and pinched the inside of Mesteno's thigh rather smartly. "I am not the one that exposed you to them initially. It only has itself to blame for not trying to steer you away from youthful idiocies." He meant the Titan killing contest, of course. That's what had started it all!
Mesteno brushed absently at some sand on Lexius' knee, pointless really since it was going to get sandy again almost immediately, but it was likely just an excuse to touch, albeit fairly unobtrusively.

"You're right of course. And breaking the second seal would be a desperate measure, and whatever that mark carved into the back of my leg is that those stalkers put there years ago, was supposed to hide me from something. It might not keep hiding me if another seal breaks, and then fuck knows what's gonna show up out of the blue and get involved."

The Elf sobering all over again. He grabbed hold of Mesteno's leg before he could move too much, fingers coiled around that mark he'd just mentioned. "Do not be negative. And do not ponder it too much. You do exceedingly well in everything you try when you refrain from over-thinking."

"The table then," Mesteno decided grimly. "Let's see if my lack of meditation practice shows."
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Re: Broken Oaths

Post by Mesteno » Sun Jan 26, 2020 6:47 am

[Continued]


The isolated mountain cave where Lexius had been keeping the ominous Table was home to a dragon’s hoard, the vast cavern full of melted currency from numerous nations, planes and times. Usually guarded by wyrsa (which had not emerged to meet them) it also had hallway offshoots harbouring alcoves where myriad enigmatic treasures were kept in safe storage. The Table was only one such item, made from the rocks of the well where Lexius had once glimpsed the same mind-boggling view of divinity’s reach that Mesteno had been unwilling subject to.

The chamber it was situated in was illuminated by an odd twilight glow. None of Lexius’ usual orbs were evident in supplying the light, it simply… existed. The temperature was neutral, neither warm nor cool, shelves lining one wall, where the Elf had paused to set his satchel and retrieve various stones and crystals. Though he seemed distracted with the task, he was observing Mesteno closely.

"We will see far more this time than the last." Lexius predicted quietly.

"Why so sure?" Mesteno asked, where he was stood beside the Table.

Touching it had not elicited the old feeling of inherent revulsion he’d come to expect. The new development was, he had deduced, a result of their recent visit out to the Well where they had made Lexius whole again.

"You have been touched by it." The Elf finally answered, equally suspicious but extremely patient. He leaned to retrieve the muslin he'd used to cover Mesteno last time. This time, he was folding it into something of a pillow.

"And by you," Mesteno murmured, his gaze sliding predictably from the collection of crystals to the Elf himself.

"And by me." The agreement came without much pause and in a distinctly satisfied tone. He didn't look up from what he was doing, but Mesteno might catch a glimpse of the smile that touched his lips briefly.

"Last time we were here there were little pale pieces, like sand," Mesteno recalled. "It's gonna be different, I know it is. It changes when we kiss, when your blood is on my tongue, when we fuck." He didn't set aside the profanity for something milder, perhaps because he never considered the activity gentle enough to warrant more civilised terminology. "Would I see a darkness in you now, if you lay there instead? Do I contaminate you?"

Lexius knew what the Sadist was getting at and listened patiently, offering a confirming nod for the questions. "It is not contamination, per se, but there is more darkness in me than there used to be. When was the last time you actually ate food?" So did the questions begin.

"I couldn't tell you and be absolutely sure," the necromancer admitted, slowly beginning to shed his clothes as he became aware of a climbing warmth that could only have been Lexius’ doing. Having come from the desert, there wasn't nearly so much to come off as usual, but it was boots first, leaving him barefoot on the stone, the Henley he wore next, with a soft hiss of descending sand dislodged from the wrinkles. "Does it matter?"

Lexius turned to watch Mesteno disrobe with an intent, appraising stare, then began to unwind the beads from his belt as he addressed the question. "I would like to keep track of it more closely. That and the other differences in your biology. We have the baseline from before," he might have sounded mildly distracted as he continued, but the Sadist was half-naked by then. "We shall see what it different and that will allow us to determine how often we might need to do this in the future."

"We don't even know what it is clearly, and you don't care that it might be contaminating you. That's kind of sweet," Mesteno tormented, tossing his shirt down on top of his boots and working the fly of his jeans open. There was nothing showy about it, nothing intended to keep Lexius' eyes on him. It wasn't as if his nudity was a novelty anymore, and at long last, Mesteno seemed to be comfortable in his own battered skin.

Lexius narrowed his eyes a fraction at the tease, but the smile he was wearing lingered stubbornly. "I am full of sweetness." He deadpanned in return, gaze trailing south. That note of sound he made was pure appreciation for the sight he continued to study closely. For scientific reasons.

"You want me to keep track of how much I drink, how often I have to use the bathroom?" Mesteno asked with a tolerant smile. "Are we including how often I go out and re-fuel in this little diary?"

He moved over to the table, and with a palm at its edge, slid his bare backside up onto the rough, but oddly warm stone. He waited for some jolt of revulsion, but nothing came, and after a moment he stretched out, toes pointing towards the air and his hair spilling every which way off the sides.

"Hmm. The core of your humanity is in your biology. We should monitor how much of that it is trying to change."

The Elf moved in closer to splay his hand across the man's midsection. Touching for no real reason beyond the pleasure of it. No feelers came out of the rock to latch on to the Sadist, but there was a sense of... brushing in the way it touched his scarred skin and there came a low-level tingling that started in Mesteno's gut, where the Elf's hand was.

He slid a hand up and over Lexius, pressing the rough texture of his palm over the taut flesh of his stomach, likewise for no other reason than appreciating the contact. "You know the fastest way to see what's up in there would be a scalpel blade and a set of rib spreaders. I had a set down in the morgue. Biopsies, endoscopies, that kind of thing if you want to make a real study of it."

Attempting to get a rise out of his passenger was proving difficult, which was rather unnerving given how volatile it usually was when it felt threatened. Disappointed that he'd not even managed that (though it was hardly surprising he couldn't manipulate it deliberately, when it was privy to his thought processes, his intentions) he subsided, and let his hand slide back to the table.

Rather than frowning or offering any sort of chastisement for voicing such an idea, the Elf looked thoughtful. He could keep Mesteno alive through such a procedure and it might make for some rather interesting exploration. Suddenly, what might have started as simple Monster Baiting was taking a more serious turn.

Finally, Lexius shook his head. "No need for that yet." Yet.

Mesteno snorted. "You better quit coppin' a feel and start decorating me with stones, or I might just drag you on here with me," he warned.

The Elf’s smile deepened, flashing teeth, and he curled his fingers into the Sadist's stomach firmly. "We will get to that later, as well." Hot promise in his tone. Then he took his hand away and turned to retrieve what he needed.

Deft fingers undid the ties of a bag of stones he’d been demanding Mesteno carry for more than a year now, tuning them to him deliberately for just such an occasion as this. The room was cosy by then, and a subtle tingling sensation was spreading through Mesteno's body from his core, travelling north and south within him.

"You are doing well." Lexius murmured as he began to place the stones inside the bag onto Mesteno's body in precise locations. Each one landed with a metaphysical click.

There was no physical manifestation possible for his passenger that Mesteno knew of, beyond his own flesh. The thing he harboured infiltrated every last molecule of him, saturating it, even if the majority of its energy seemed bound by the channels of energy flow marked by the spots Lexius was placing the stones.

The necromancer’s breathing, infrequent but regular, slowed down a fraction as he lay supine on the slab of rock, the warmth seeping up through his muscles, relaxing knots he hadn't been aware he had, and he brought to mind the dark, featureless image of his own body, casting his mind away from the bone and sinew of his corporeal form almost as if it were no part of him at all.

Eyes and mouth appeared on the visual, gleaming gold, flashing white respectively. He attempted to clarify it further, to define the edges rather than permit them to be misty. Click, click, click... it became easier with each stone.

Calling into being the finer details of his own face and body was tricky. Imperfections were magnified, as well they might be in any mind so self-critical. The set of his shoulder was recalled with the fault of the broken collar bone to make it as flawed as all else, and the image seemed to flicker between an abjectly thin horror and something more like the meat, lean and hard though it was, of adulthood. His brows flickered briefly, pinching towards one another as he strained to hold onto the present and set aside the memories. Moments stretched long before he'd finally accomplished a respectable semblance, one that he could hold to, fixing there in his mind's eye as he'd been taught.

The Elf's touch was light but warm as he slid the stones into place. He held the last one in its spot for a moment before letting the man go, feeling the way the unseen lattice he'd been building made its final connection with a chime of sound more felt than heard. A tuning crystal struck to make the perfect note.

The table seemed to expand without moving at all. The desert wind seemed to brush its way through Mesteno's body. Licks of fire heated the connections within his body, quenched a second later by the lapping touch of an invisible liquid, all of it grounded deep into the sandy earth as all the elements came into play. The Elf was still moving, setting more stones and crystals around the edges of the table and scenting the air with some kind of incense that burned above the Sadist's head on a ledge. Lights danced above the man's prone body, forming a picture.

Mesteno was unaware of his own flesh. Unaware of the soft movements of Lexius as the Elf worked around him. Not even the light which seeped through the thin flesh of his eyelids could trigger his attention. Muscles had gone lax, not without a parity to the stillness he came by in slumber when he lay there like a dead thing.

He was also completely unaware when his eyes opened, too focused on the metaphysical to be aware that he'd been usurped, smoothly and deliberately.

As disinterested and unthreatened as his passenger had been, it had completely blind-sided him with its intentions. Now the being stared upward from the warmth of the table, blinking languidly, and then sat up without warning, angling a knee out so carelessly that it knocked one of the stones edging the table straight off and onto the floor, while those Lexius had been placing over the rest of him, he swiped absently at with a palm, as if they were small, biting irritations to be rid of.

"Well done," it told Lexius, as if he were a student who'd passed some test. "I was growing weary of attempting to insinuate the need for the table in his mind again. He's much more amenable to your guidance. I very nearly attempted to suggest it to you, instead."

The mental link. The creature swam between them in that ever-tightening connection, and it understood this.

Luckily, Lexius was monitoring the tie closely enough he wasn't taken completely by surprise when the shift of control happened. The smoothness of it was disturbing, and that Mesteno didn't sense it immediately was of some concern. Still, the bulk of his psyche did seem to be safe within the image the Sadist had created and that was a very good thing!

That matrix of lights around the spread itself down and out as the crystal was knocked from the edge of the table, defining the perimeter of w cage as Lexius addressing the unknown.

"That would be inadvisable." He'd known from the beginning the dangers (and opportunities!) that tie could present. "What is it you wish to discuss?"

Mesteno. His voice came there in the Sadist's mind. A gentle nudge to it. Something of a wakeup call.

"It would have been a last resort," it responded, in a voice familiar and yet lacking any of the characterising intonations usually expected. "If it had failed and caused some lasting damage, his end is not mine, but I'm surprised by the resilience of the flesh and his habit of surviving the ill-advised circumstances you both seem intent on becoming embroiled in. It would be a shame to lose this body. I put a great deal of work into it."

It didn't attempt to climb down from the table, but the creature did examine the air around it before using the back of Mesteno's scarred knuckles to feel out the limitations of his space.

Inwardly, things were an entirely different matter. Nothing languid at all as Mesteno heard their voices as if from a distance and knew just what had happened. The shadow sculpture he'd made of himself vanished and he strained to rise up, shake off the meditative trance in order to supplant his usurper. Attempting to reply proved tricky, with the paths of his mind so full. Lexius might feel his acknowledgment, his slow-rising panic, but there were no words making it through, only feelings.

"It has become too dangerous to remain this unevolved," the creature spoke again, and didn't specify why it was dangerous. Its fear of the Powers they'd been negotiating with, angering, had pushed it to these measures. "I won't linger to keep this one functioning if we do not reach an agreement, Elf. He walks the Dark Road before spring, or I'll take my chances with the other relics. He's too far changed to function without me. You will persuade him."

The lights that had begun to resolve into an internal picture of Mesteno's physical form continued to coalesce until the image hung above the man, shaded in a variety of colours as it shifted and throbbed and rotated. The whole of it only loosely resembled the Sadist's body to begin with and degenerated further into an unrecognizable matrix of lines that glowed with varying intensities. Unfortunately, there was no chart to explain what all those different hues and shades meant. Lexius studied it with a certain intentness, obviously able to interpret the data easily.

Lexius remained utterly calm and more than a little distracted. Still, he did answer the threat of the thing's words. "You would have already moved on if any of them," there were more?! "had even half as much potential as Mesteno." Apparently, Lexius wasn't buying what the Soul was selling. "And do not think your abandonments means his end." He continued, matter of fact, focusing on Mesteno's face a little more. He even looked different, though that was no surprise! "Did you not just speak of his resilience? I'm sure you also know well my resources and strength of Will. That said," he waved one hand before folding them patiently before him. "I am willing to listen to what you have in mind."

"Too far changed, Elf. Pry him open as he suggested and see for yourself, if you won't take my assurances. This flesh is adapted to my ends, and his mind exists only because I fill the shell with life. Your talents might be capable of a great many things, but you cannot give a mere personality a soul. You cannot trap him in one of your pretty little stones." It picked another from Mesteno's scarred skin and flicked it aside demonstratively before turning borrowed eyes upward to consider the image hanging above it. It did nothing to try and disperse it, utterly unconcerned.

Still trapped, and as confused as he was horrified by all he heard, Mesteno was making brute efforts to try and claw his way back up and out, efforts made clumsy by his fear. Like a drowning man who tired himself kicking and splashing instead of lying still, his strength was doomed to fail at some point.

Along the that tie, the Elf offered a quelling pulse of assurance that was as much a slap as it was a stroke. Panic would not serve either of them right now.

The slap was so unexpected it not only put a stop to Mesteno’s panic, but made him recoil, too besieged to recognise where the sensation had come from at first. It was only when a sense of bracing became apparent that he realised the truth of it, and attempted to gather some semblance of calm.

"My alternatives are inconveniently located at present,” the creature informed Lexius, “but their potential is no less than his, and I wouldn't need to compete so fiercely for control. His choice of associations is a trouble of its own," the creature added, lowering brilliantly golden eyes back to the Elf. "So now I give them, you, an opportunity to be a convenience instead. Assist him. Tell him to go back into the shadows where the path was laid and follow it as he should have done months ago."

The Elf's smile was full of enigmatic confidence rather than any trace of worry. He didn't continue to try and convince the thing it could be wrong. They might both be wallowing in their own brand of arrogance, but Lexius seemed perfectly willing to chance the creature's abandonment of Mesteno's flesh. In fact, given the depth of his thoughtfulness on the matter, it might just be he would prefer it. The steady throb of his assurance continued for the trapped Mesteno, like a distant heartbeat full of steady rhythm and measured calm. A beacon meant to sooth and help him continue to focus now.

Lexius looked back up to the unravelling threads of the image wrought from the Sadist's continued contact with the table. He wondered if the creature understood the Power that fuelled the thing. It had to. It had to.

"And if he does? Tell me of the path and the future. You know in choosing him, you will never have the control you wish."

"He will find guidance there," was the monotone reply. "And he will need it. Waiting longer than I have already would be nothing more than an indulgence, particularly if the Undead Lord who has taken so firmly against him chooses to attempt another assault. He was close to severing us in his temple. In the Shadowlands he will find what he needs to ensure that will no longer be a concern. If he attempts to hurry things along as he has spoken of, he will bring trouble on our heads we have not the capacity to deal with. Yet. I speak of the same trouble which reduced his city to rubble."

It was being inexplicably communicative compared to the last time they'd spoken, spilling secrets and baffling Mesteno with its suggestions. He'd known something was there in the Shadowlands, a luring, but his forays had always been necessarily short thanks to the cold. How was he to survive that, for an extended duration? And what would provide the guidance? He strained to be heard by it, to be a part of the discussion, but it seemed to have identified Lexius as a more rational mind. One which wouldn't become viciously argumentative.

"This one is aging, Lexius. The others have ceased to do so. If he does not take the Dark Road before Spring, I will join them and start afresh. I can afford to waste as many bodies as I wish - I am old," an understatement, "and can afford to start again as often as required. If you will not assist him, I hold him within. Have I your compliance?"
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Mesteno
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Re: Broken Oaths

Post by Mesteno » Sun Jan 26, 2020 7:50 am

[Continued…]


The beads. Where had those beads gone? Lexius had reached for them where they usually hung by his thigh, but the string was gone. He smoothed his fingers along the lizard skin of his trousers, instead, testing the suppleness of the material as he considered the threat and his choices and just what it might be that lived there in the Shadowlands that could help Mesteno along. He could get them both there, of course. He was fully capable of the task the Thing was demanding. But in the end...it really wasn't his choice.

"I will assist Him with whatever He decides." He told it pointedly, firmly. "If you wish His compliance, you will provide better answers. Or you may leave now." He invited the thing to abandon Mesteno rather boldly, but in a tone that suggested it was no big thing at all. In fact, the Sadist was in the perfect place to be abandoned. "Let him speak and be part of the discussion or I may well keep you right here until I decide another course."

"I waste my time attempting to communicate with you," the creature stated bluntly. There was no disgust in its tone. Nothing but bland and obvious.

The next thing that happened was the abrupt diminishing of the light in Mesteno's eyes. As if someone were turning a dimmer switch, the uncomfortable brilliance faded, and the block which had kept Mesteno's mind suppressed snapped like a twig in two. The necromancer didn't have to swim to the surface, in fact it was as if he were buoyed there, the brain unwilling to cope without a sentience to occupy it fully.

The grimace was very much Mesteno, none of the fixed intensity that the creature had worn when it was in control, and he looked thoroughly shell-shocked by everything that he'd heard, a trembling to his muscles that had nothing to do with any cold, only a nervous energy rocketing through them that had been as suppressed as everything else.

He had time to take a couple of gasped breaths, for his sight to focus on the image hanging above him, and then just as abruptly as he'd surfaced, he collapsed. The creature withdrew as it did when attempting to hide its presence from the Powers so intrigued by it, taking with it every scrap of energy and leaving the channels it travelled dry. His head smacked rudely into the stone table with an audible thwack, and his pupils fixed, dilated, jaw slack and limbs untidily sprawled as if the body were a bag of flesh carelessly deposited and nothing more.

Not a thought flickered across the tie.

Lexius had told it to leave. It seemed to have decided not to waste breath in further discussion.

Grimness was the emotion that came from the Elf. Stark and deep and embedded in the resolve of his decision. He didn't waver for a second, even when Mesteno collapsed.

To Lexius, this was the Soul's bullying tactic, meant to evoke his fear in order to get its way and establish its control. Of the situation, of Mesteno, of himself. It had, no doubt, orchestrated all of this from the beginning in its attempt to hide from whatever it was avoiding. Even if it were more than that, even if the thing's intent was exactly what it had stated, to start anew in someone else, Lexius simply couldn't allow it to fully achieve what it sought, especially at Mesteno’s expense. He was pretty sure the Sadist would rather die, right there, right then, than become subsumed by that Darkness. Travelling the path that it now demanded without offering resistance would lead to that consumption, the Elf was sure.

The Elf had no guarantee the table would keep the thing trapped. He had no certainty in the fact his Guardian would do a thing to help. But then, Lexius had never relied on outside assistance to get what he wanted.

The table was steeped in the essence of the Well, but Lexius had lain on it himself and had long since learned how to use its powers to his own ends. So, it was his manipulation and control that had created the shield that kept the thing trapped physically. It was just a twist of thought to extend that to the metaphysical, as well. He did that as the Soul withdrew.

At the same time, he speared his mind into Mesteno's, taking over the physical aspects of his biology in case they shut down, as well as shoring up some of the mental processes. His gaze remained on the display of coloured lights and strands (less colourful now) displayed above the man.

Mesteno’s skin seemed to be being stripped of its usual tawny pigments, starting at his fingers and toes and rapidly spreading until his pallor was uncomfortably corpse-like. Mesteno had never suffered the maggot-pale necromancer look despite his nocturnal tendencies, and hadn't even been a natural red-head pale, so it looked startlingly unlike him, the limp body on that stone table.

The creature made a concerted effort to purify itself of what did not belong, ushering those sand-specks back into the flesh, eel-squirming as it compacted itself as if to be rid of the well's influence too. Whilst it didn't seem to be attempting to breach the shield Lexius had erected, there was something strange going on metaphysically within it. It was attempting to form an exit, right there in the middle of the flesh it meant to abandon, and slivers of shadow, light warping, seemed to be working their way into ears and nose and lax mouth, sending an ungodly chill through delicate mortal tissues.

Lexius tightened his jaw, stepping closer to the table and leaning to strip off his boots and touch bare feet to the base of the stone. He was cursing quietly to himself, but just as his resolve hadn't wavered in the beginning, so too did he not hesitate to lend his own energy to the Sadist's form. Those sand-dust like pieces of him already inside Mesteno made it all the easier to accomplish.

Down the tie spilled the Elf's unique brand of psionic energy, filling the channels the soul had left dry with its retreat. It seemed a temporary measure (how long could he keep that up without killing himself?) but Lexius didn't seem to hold much back in the giving.

Within Mesteno, as the rift tried to open wider and breach into the Shadowlands, the creature would find not the soothing darkness of that home, but the molten heat of the well suddenly flooding through the opening.

The shadow portal snapped shut like a child's hand being slapped away from a cookie jar, and then nothing. Just the sense that the creature was waiting, calculating.

Remodel the body further. Leave it incapable of functioning even with Lexius' involvement. That was possible... Wait until the Elf could offer no more energy? Another possibility, unless the meddling guardian chose to lend its aid. In the end it must have reached an entirely different verdict (not that it offered Lexius any hint of threat or plan) because it abruptly unravelled, spinning like a river breaking its dam to surge along dry riverbeds and in doing so, restore the natural hue of the skin, the light to the eyes, which shrank down to pinpricks before stabilising.

And like a sleeper waking from a black out, confused, memory warped, the mortal mind sparked back into existence where only a void had been.

The creature's lesson had been a convincing one, and the Elf was convinced there would be no keeping the Sadist alive if it ever really escaped. Not without some serious outside interference.

By the time the creature finally decided to relent, Lexius was beginning to look a little skeletal. He'd kept his colour, but the flesh was paying the price in other ways. He did not back away from the table, though he hadn't yet reached through the barrier keeping Mesteno physically in place.

The wash of that darkened energy back into the channels he was fuelling had him twitching for the contact, the clash, the cool against the heat.

Rather than being forced out though, his energy melted into the rest. Or did it melt into the channels that funnelled it? It was somewhere. Just like those beads. The Elf took a breath, bared his teeth and mentally latched onto the reawakened awareness of the Sadist even as he reached through the barrier to close his hand around the Sadist's throat. "Be still."

Mesteno’s vision was blurred, and there was a general heaviness to his limbs, almost as if his nerves weren't functioning properly, or had been held pinned beneath a great weight for too long. Inexplicably, to him at least, he felt freezing in a localised area, right at his core where his heat (what little he had) should have been greatest. It hurt there as if he'd been punched, though he had no idea why he might have needed to be...except that Lexius' hand was around his throat.

Finally, his sight clarified enough for him to see the gaunt way Lexius' sand-formed flesh had retreated, and he reached the logical conclusion. That he'd lost control entirely and attacked him. That there had been some sort of fight. He closed his eyes rather than see, though the pain in his abdomen was making him want to curl into a foetal position like a man impaled would around the implement still stuck in his gut.

He could feel the energy flowing through him, right where it was supposed to be, but not a flicker of that cool intelligence that had been making demands and taking the reins of his flesh.

Lexius, too, was looking for any trace of that creature. It was there, he was sure, but had gone dormant again. Biding its time, until it was off the table. As with his energy, Lexius couldn't keep it up forever. And Mesteno couldn't stay on the table forever. It only had to wait a little while. Which meant they had to resolve things now, one way or the other.

Lexius let loose his hold of Mesteno's throat. The snarl faded and he gripped the edge of the table itself and turned his gaze back up to the image, all colourful and fleshed out again. He studied it for several seconds, finding his calm once more, then looked back to the man. "Mesteno?"

It's me. He offered it mind to mind, as if he wasn't sure he trusted his voice to produce his own words. He could still feel the pressure of the Elf's fingers across his Adam's apple, and despite the lack of pressure holding him down, he was still wary of moving. All he did was straighten himself out on the table so that his limbs weren't sprawled so uncomfortably, but his foot brushed the barrier, and he knew himself to be hemmed in then. Did it try to hurt you? he asked bluntly, his eyes still closed. You look drained. Something happened.

Lexius' continued contact with the table was helping restore him far more quickly than normal when he was away from the desert. He stayed that way as they spoke, his gaze roaming down Mesteno's body. But he wasn't really looking at the outside. He relaxed a fraction when Mesteno answered along those mental pathways, but only a fraction.

"No." He answered aloud for some reason, his tone hoarse. He was still keeping track of the mental, though! "It attempted to leave you because I was not co-operating. If it succeeds, which I doubt that it can in this place, it will kill you without outside intervention. It may simply be waiting now until you are off the table. Or it may have given in to my demand to speak with you. Or, perhaps, it is mimicking you." He didn't think it was the later. There was no sign of that along the tie or in the image the table offered, which he was studying again. Still, it was possible! "How much do you remember?"

Mesteno barely heard Lexius' question. He was stuck on the thought that tie or no tie, Lexius thought there was possibility it was the creature trying to mimic him - that he couldn't tell the difference as he'd automatically assumed he would. Of course it resulted in the usual messy jumble of thought and background noise, the ‘how do I prove it?’ and the reflex indignity that made him want to demand he be allowed off that table right that second, and if denied he'd damn well find a way to force his way out.... except that was something the thing would say, would threaten.

He covered his face with both hands and smothered a sound beneath his palms that was half dismayed groan and half frustrated growl, fingertips pressing hard enough into his brow to leave red marks behind. He wasn't even sure it was safe to speak in case the words that came out weren't his own and only condemned him, but he did in the end, because silence would win him nothing. Lexius seemed disinclined to answer mind to mind, so he followed his example and used his voice.

"It's when I meditate it takes advantage. When I'm not concentrating on holding the leash. I'm not meditating right now so... I don't think it can come back." It was plainly a guess, though at least an educated one. Never had it been able to overthrow him while he was fully conscious and not mentally adrift. He turned his attention inward, but aside from the rapid pounding of his own heart, fear induced, everything felt normal, the abdominal pain aside. He didn't mention it though. He was more interested in getting off the table, getting back into his clothes and being anywhere else. Maybe a nice hole to crawl into...

"I remember it telling you to persuade me...to go into the Shadowlands or something." The best he could manage when at last he remembered the question.

Finishing his visual inspection, Lexius turned his gaze back to Mesteno's palm-smothered face. His frown this time wasn't subtle, but he reached out and lay his hand against Mesteno's chest lightly as he monitored that internal battle. “It can still influence. Or attempt to. It claimed to have been trying to get your here for some time now."

It didn't seem he was ready to let Mesteno off the table just yet. No, he couldn’t sense any active trace of the thing, but he was quite certain it was listening. He was quite certain it was waiting. "It wishes you to travel the path there. To find someone, or something that can aid you. It says you can find what you need there to ensure that it cannot be severed. He wanted to rush it as you have spoken of, which I assume means breaking the second seal, would invite trouble of the sort that destroyed your city."

"Great," Mesteno muttered darkly, still beneath his palms. "I'm weak minded enough to manipulate even with you shoring up my mental walls." He couldn't honestly have said whether he thought the idea had been his own or not. But then, he and the passenger were one and the same thing in the end, two sides of the same coin, where it seemed his darker half would have preferred to smooth him down to blankness.

The Elf scowled, unseen. It was in his voice. "You are not weak minded." The claim seemed to have offended him personally.

Lexius wasn't willing to let him off the table, but Mesteno was quite finished lying there prone even if his gut was going to make him pay for it. He sat up beneath the Elf's hand, finally lowering his own to help lever himself upright. The pain sharpened to an agonising throb as his abdominal muscles took the strain of the movement, but he pressed his lips to a determined seal against any sound that might escape, and sat there for a moment breathing hard through his nose, knees drawn inward and feet flat to the table.

"I knew there was something out there," he murmured, glowering at his knees purely because the source of his ire wasn't present to level it at. "But even when I did stray off the usual paths, it never seemed to get any closer."

Breaking the second seal seemed to be inevitable, loath though he was to admit it, but just as they'd discussed earlier up on the canyon wall, he wasn't ready to combat it. If it had a greater power over him with another seal dissolved, relegating him to background noise, he'd have rather offered himself up to Hades.

Lexius shifted his touch from the man's chest to brush a palm along the messy splay of his hair. A petting action that required he switch hands. He kept the other latched to the side of the table, somewhere around the Sadist's drawn in feet. "I can aid you in finding it, if you wish. But I cannot predict how it might change the dynamic between you. That it is using your meditation to its own ends was not something I anticipated, so we shall need to adjust that."

"I'm not meditating again," Mesteno declared stubbornly. "If there's ever gonna be a time it surfaces, it's gonna be then. I feel like I don't even want to sleep in case it decides to fuck me over." Of course, he had no idea what had happened when he'd passed out. No idea how easily the thing might continue whilst wiping him out with barely a thought. He passed a hand absently over the ache in his gut, and slid a look over the edge of the table where the shield must have sat unseen. "I'm not going to search in the shadows. Fuck that."

Amazingly, all that negative stubbornness eased the frown from the Elf's lips. He might even have ghosted out a smile. That was not in his voice. "No." Not commandingly. Just matter of fact! "You will not meditate like that again." He agreed on that part. They simply needed to alter their method.

Switching hands again, the Elf slid the one Mesteno was watching in between his body and his knees to splay his fingers light across his abdomen. Where that ache was centred. He could feel it. "If you choose not to do that, I believe it might well abandon you in favour of the other relics it mentioned. It tried to, which is the cause of this." He brushed his fingers in a light rub against the man's stomach.

"Other relics," Mesteno repeated, the memory of relics, the term, surfacing through his memories. His brow furrowed darkly as he tried to recall precisely whose lips that word had left, and when. Unfortunately, his head was too much of a mess to cooperate, and he let the slippery memory sink again as he considered it abandoning him entirely. "It goes and I die. That's the basics, right? I don't get the option to live separately because if either of us is actually a parasite, it's me, an inconvenient personality that developed and stuck around instead of vanishing when it woke up."

He reached for the Elf's hand abruptly. Kept hold of it and finally looked him in the eye. "Let me off the table. If it wants out, it can try right now."

Lexius twined his fingers through Mesteno's and gripped, perhaps a bit too hard. Less bony, that hand, but his dark eyes were too bright with power, swirling with tiny little fleck of pale sand-coloured grains. "It did just try." He assured with that same grimness he'd had before. "While you are on this table, it has no way out, though it can still probably kill you. Are you willing to chance death right this moment or do you wish to discuss the possibilities more?" He was going for neutral on the matter, but it was hard to disguise he wasn't a big fan of the 'die now' choice.

"I wasn't awake that time," Mesteno remarked bluntly. There was a fierce sort of determination there, and not without cause. Normally, during his waking hours, it was he that had the control. He that could wield the creature, reining it in and forcing it out like a weapon, just as he had around the Powers it had been so determined to avoid. If it couldn't deny him then, what might it hope to do when he slid off the table?

The Elf remained close. In fact, he leaned a little closer still and decided to abandon neutrality. "I would you did not die this day." Sincerely! "It wished me to convince you for its own aims, but I would do so for ours. Given that it has withdrawn and given you a chance to speak, it may well be willing to work with us rather than against. But not, I think before you make a more solid decision about the future."

Mesteno managed to dredge up a smile that looked passing brave. "I can't stay on the table forever, and I can't make up my mind without time to think things over. I'm not ready to try and talk to it again yet. I have to try and remember..."

The Elf pondered for some time, statue still and gaze searching, before he finally offered a nod, easing his grip and twisting something with his Will that had the unseen shell dropping from around the table. He stepped back, hand still holding the Sadist's though he neither pulled him forward nor pushed him back.

Mesteno didn't falter in sliding down off the strangely warm stone, though part of him was railing against the idea, as if it were the one scrap of land amidst a storm-tossed sea. His feet grazed the floor, then took his weight, though the back of his thigh was still in contact. It wasn't until he took an entire stride from it, closer to Lexius, that he spilled a sigh of relief. In fact, he reached out with his other hand and found a spot to grip at his waist too, unashamed for once about needing the support.

"It wanted me on the table. Maybe because it enhanced the meditation somehow? Or just because it planted the idea that I could sleep there? Maybe if I had, it'd just have taken control and walked out and that'd have been that."

Lexius pulled Mesteno in sharply, a bit of tension within him unwinding another notch even as another part of him tightened with the anticipation of a badness that didn't come...yet. The grimness had returned along the tie, underscoring everything, but the Elf dredged up a smile when the Sadist continued to live and breathe unhindered.

"It could be any of those reasons. It claimed it wished to speak to me rather than deal with your denials." That with a faint quirk of lips. "I'm rather convinced it wishes you as its true host even if it was willing to leave. I am uncertain, however, if that is because it thinks it can overcome you eventually or simply because you hold the most potential."

"On the positive side," he continued, looking back to the table briefly before meeting Mesteno's gaze again, "we have a wealth of data on just what happens when it is and is not in control."

The rapid pace of Mesteno’s heart slowed, albeit not all at once, and the longer nothing happened to put an end to him the more flooding his relief. He shared the smile, even if it was a little weak his end.

"The others... who're the others? How many of us are there?" Had this been something the Elf discovered while he was passed out? "And why the Hell would it choose me over ones that aren't... faulty?"

[End]
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