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

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Post by Mesteno » Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:32 pm

[Adapted from live play with Lexius]

Sunday March 5th, 2017

The little lake was much as Mesteno remembered it. Its surface rippled delicately as occasional drops of rain interrupted the stillness of its mirroring surface, but it was a mild enough night, and what little breeze there was barely stirred the trees to rustling. The rocky banks were mossy, and a tree had tumbled over on the northern shore, already overgrown with creepers.

He was happy to be back in Torrita, only forty miles outside of Rome. Too many years had gone by without him having set foot there, and he’d never expected it to be in the company of an elf.

Lexius had prepared for the possibility they might run into a few humans. He’d disguised his pointed ears and dampened some of the harsher angles of his face to pass for a rather skinny, sharp faced human. Whilst it had initially elicited a curse from the necromancer, whom Lexius had deliberately left uninformed of his intentions, the practicality of the illusion couldn’t be denied.

Together, the pair had left the woodland of the wildlife reserve set outside the town and made their way towards its walls of the town. Given the deliberately late hour they’d chosen to travel, only a few buildings were still lit. Bars and restaurants close to closing and entertaining what small number tourists visited in early spring. It was a town with a distinctly ageing population, and only during the summer months did that change, when mild swells from the tourists come to see the nature reserve filled the rooms of the hotels.

"How often have you been here?" Lexius inquired as he fell into step. He could detect the sense of connection Mesteno felt to the place."

"On and off for the last thirteen years," Mesteno admitted. "First as a tourist. Bought a time share after a while, and then stayed a few months straight. Finally bought the old guard house where the rift we're gonna be using is. The town grew up out of a fort from way back when, and the guardhouse just happened to be situated over the rift. Y'know, in that way strange phenomena always get buried and guarded. I don't doubt it was intentional, even if the builders weren't quite sure what was going on. Someone in the know just came to the logical conclusion that having a bunch of soldiers stationed there would stop anything going in or out, I guess."

The highest point of the town was the old castle, which by castle standards was provincially lacklustre. The surrounding buildings, clustered around gently winding roads and of greatly varying ages, were pretty enough, some the aged terracotta popular to Mediterranean buildings, others climbed by wisteria and the pale gold of sand. A meandering river ran along its southern aspect, audible even from a distance. Torrita was quiet, with barely a thousand residents to speak of.

"Why would you stay here for months?" There was no judgment in the question, no distaste.

"I intended to move out here and leave RhyDin," he explained. "With Michael. I missed home too much though, and the danger, and well... I was a kid." Nineteen to Michael's thirty-one. There had been some clashes of temperament.

As they neared the edge of the town, voices were lowered instinctively, just in case they happened across a stray local. There remained a risk, even after all this time, that some of them might recognise the necromancer, and he didn't want to have to exercise his rusty Italian on social niceties, nor risk being diverted from their destination; the old guardhouse.

It was small building, built of the same old shabby looking grey masonry as the main tower of the turreted castle. It had originally been one of a pair, but the other seemed to have been eaten up in more modern housing, and there were only trace cobbles of the road remaining just outside of the house itself. Someone, once upon a time, had attempted to make it a little less ugly than it's medieval self by adding window boxes and brightly coloured shutters, but the paint had long peeled to a non-descript dirge more in keeping with the age of the place, and there was nothing growing to suggest others tried to tend it when Mesteno wasn't around.

He led the way to the back entrance, an old oak door that whilst not the original, was probably a good couple of hundred years old despite it, sturdy and riveted. A pair of padlocks rusted well closed gave him a little trouble to begin with, but in the end they got inside, onto the uneven old floor of a kitchen in dire need of modernising. Mesteno didn't reach to turn on the undressed bulb over their heads, but locked the door again behind them, and led the Elf on with a murmur towards what looked like it ought to be a cellar.

"You leave it unattended?" Lexius asked, his voice still pitched low. “Have you never been through this portal before? Has anything come through to this side? How long have you been managing this?" He paused there, amused all over again. He sounded like Mesteno now.

"Not entirely," Mesteno replied, amused. "Wards. One designed to make the eyes slide right on past, the mind disinterested. Mrs Martello, the baker two streets over is the only one in the town that's deliberately not included in the workings. She was always trying to feed me when I lived here." Wherever there were mother figures, there was always a too-thin soul they focused on feeding. "Now she collects any correspondence for me, keeps an eye on the place.”

The steps were the kind of sloping stone that had been worn smooth and depressed at their centre's from centuries of passing feet, and they led down into a wine cellar that was notably colder than the rooms above. Mesteno dipped his chin lower into his leather jacket and headed for a rickety looking stack of shelves at the far end. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't what it seemed, and slid aside to reveal a passageway beyond.

"I've never been through," he admitted, voice echoing softly and something edging it like regret all tangled up in the first hints of trepidation. "Michael found the passage originally, and managed to dig up the history, the dating. He lived here for a while and given that we'd broken up, that I was with Drew by then, it didn't seem right to come and look. He'd been pretty open about hoping I'd come back to him, and so I tried making the journey back to my hometown over land back in RhyDin even after I'd found the rift marked on the maps. It was on that trip one of the caravans informed me the place had been. Seemed no point in carrying on when everything seemed set against me getting there."

"The magic works here?" The Elf was curious still, rather than doubtful, and followed where Mesteno led without pause.

"It works," he confirmed, "I don't think it's that this Earth lacks the capacity, it's just that it's so deeply convinced science is the only answer to everything that it doesn't explore magic in anything but fiction, and the people that claim to believe in anything preternatural don't do so wholeheartedly."

"It is surprising you would take no for an answer so easily." Lexius remarked thoughtfully, on Mesteno’s decision to turn back with the news from the caravans. He wondered if the passenger had anything to do with that acceptance, nudging Mesteno away from too much curiosity about his past.

"Between the news, Mistral being lamed, no caravans crossing the flats out there anymore, someone dying in the room I rented and this mother of a storm that hit, it seemed... like someone deliberately didn't want me going there. I may've mentioned that before. I suspect it had something to do with the friends who carved my leg. Now, if you're done implying I chickened out…"

He led onward down the tunnel.

There was a blatant division between what was ancient and what was less so. The newer portion of the tunnel looked to have been created in haste, the walls rougher and the height of the ceiling variable, but beyond it came a meticulously measured corridor of carved rock, an arch with a spiralling design of symbols with a distinct similarity to those that had been cut into the back of Mesteno's calf with the delicate edge of a scalpel.

He'd noticed this of course, even if he didn't comment, but there was nothing obviously identical. Nothing suggestive of protective wards. This was what Michael had studied years ago, had brought to him, studied but undeciphered. It was neither commemorative nor warning, offered no indication of what someone searching might find down there, and in fact it wasn't until they followed the tunnel around a curve that sloped down towards the river they'd seen that there was any pull of energy churning that indicated a rift.

It was right beneath the river itself in fact, some convergence of energy, where Mesteno stopped and faced the wall, tense with anticipation, but plainly a little daunted by what he might see on the other side. "It's right here. I guess be ready for anything," he told Lexius, turning to look at him, maybe just to see if he'd shed the human illusion.

Lexius could feel that energy by then and had several strands of thoughts spooled out to keep track of it as he examined the ceiling before looking back to Mesteno directly. He still hadn't dropped the human illusion. "Take my hands." He offered it, but didn't try to take the lead. The physical connection was what he was after as part of being prepared.

"Well aren't you romantic?" Mesteno remarked, the tease a little lacklustre thanks to the nerves.

Lexius snorted softly, the sound laced with amusement, then raised their clasped hands to press a kiss to the back of the Sadist's palm just before the man dragged him on through the rift without pause.

Like any other rift, they were snatched from one place and deposited in another. There were no wildly dangerous energies threatening to pull them apart, or send them off course, nor even anything particularly unbalancing that might leave the necromancer reeling as he tended to with teleportation. In fact, he stepped onto the salt-flat feeling remarkably level headed... until the wind hit.

It howled. It pushed like a great hand trying to scoop them from their feet and deliver them into the salt grit of the flats. Mesteno's boots had thick, sturdy grips, and despite them, he still slid, the mineral crust crumbling under his feet as he braced himself to keep from being shoved over. Airborne particles were peppering them mercilessly, threatening to blind and stinging any exposed skin (it was salt, after all) and even though it was night, the twin moons of RhyDin illuminated the bleak landscape to such brilliant whiteness that it threatened to sear the retina as if they'd peered at the sun for too long.

Mesteno's profanity was lost beneath the noise, and his grip tightened crushingly on Lexius' hand as if he thought the Elf might get dragged off and away from him.

Lexius could detect the turbulence of their destination milliseconds before it hit thanks to those tendrils he had extended forth. Enough time to begin building some sort of counter to the harsh environment even if it wasn't enough time to offer any mental warnings. He hadn't known what to expect, of course, but he was more than familiar enough with this kind of situation to have a ready counter. Mesteno's grip helped keep him in place and allowed him to more precisely extend his protection over the man. Whatever he did with his psionic tricks, it lessened the battering of the wind and the stinging impact of the particular it carried. They still had to lean into the force of it, but most of the wind was shuttled around them and away. Mostly above waist level, around their heads.

Lexius reached for some muslin cloth and handed a strip over to Mesteno as he spoke along the tie. Look down. And tie this across your mouth. Do you have glasses? The Elf didn't, but he could shield his vision against the flood of brightness.

With the protection in place, the wind tugged, rather than threatened to uproot them, and Mesteno unlocked knees that'd instinctively braced to keep him mule-stubborn in place.

For a moment he looked lost, stood peering out at the wide-sprawling expanse with the kind of horror of a man who saw nothing at all familiar, whose hopes had been soundly dashed. But this was the salt flats, even with its once incomparably flat surface torn asunder, peeled up in jagged hexagons like so many bleached teeth. It took a moment for Lexius' mental question to bypass his alarm, and for the necessity for action to reassert some self-control. He nodded, letting go of the Elf's hands and reaching for the offered muslin to wind it about his face.

Thanks. Was expecting to have to use this for the sun, he admitted darkly as he went rooting in his belongings for a pair of shades. Vintage aviators that Rick had given him years ago at Bess' place. They kept the salt from his eyes. Lessened the glare.

Mesteno couldn't feel it. It wasn't death magic. But it surely as hell was magic of a sort, the lingering effects of a tumult of battle magics that had been so devastating to the region that the after effects were still being felt nearly a decade later.

He took a moment to tighten the wrap of the muslin, to get it over his ears too and helping to keep his suddenly rather wild hair in place, before taking a slow breath, and letting the grip at his shoulders do its job of anchoring him. It appeared wholly welcome, no temperamental shrugs to try and see hands gone - he was far past caring whether he needed to make himself seem brave for Lexius' sake.

"They said it was a war that came here. I just wasn't expecting it to be like this. We didn't... they didn't use magic when I lived there. I don't remember any." But he was turning it over in his head. Could they have had some, all along, but only used in times of need? Had they feared it too much to use it? If so, he could see why! "I just need to get my bearings," he murmured, turning on the spot to survey the landscape.

Landmarks were useless, the horizon was too far changed to rely on that. Instead he slipped a look skyward to the moons so determinedly bleaching everything to argent-pale. Mental calculations, the hour (the city was almost due south of RhyDin, so he gauged it to be at least ten o' clock) and the lunar positions had him scuff a half-turn on his heels, and squint into the distance.

After a moment, he took a tentative few steps in that direction, disheartened by the lack of visibility. "It should be this way," he admitted, sounding miserably uncertain. "Too much crap in the air for me to see if there's cliffs that way." It had been built at the base of one. It was the bulk of that they would see first if anything, rather than any remnant city shadow shapes.

The Elf spoke aloud some of those musing thoughts as he followed confidently in the direction the Sadist finally chose. "They knew magic even if they did not use it, I think. If the war came here, then there were two sides. This does not smack precisely of a destroying spell, but the remnants of opposing forces. Very strong ones." A bit of a bland understatement.

"Well wasn't I ignorant?" Mesteno muttered grimly. He was wondering just what else he'd been oblivious to! "At least I can see why the caravans don't want to come out here anymore." That much at least hadn't been a lie to thwart his exploration it seemed.

Lexius didn't try to spend the energy in clearing the air for an unobstructed view, but he did send out more feelers ahead of them to detect the terrain. He looked for any remnants of the city even if he didn't expect to find much of anything, and he kept his hand on the Sadist's shoulder through it all. There was a certain tension in the Elf for what might be lurking in such a place. Just because most normal things would find the area inhospitable didn't mean there weren't other, dangerous things that might have moved in to call the place home and feed off the energies.

At the very least it seemed that the energies were further concentrated in the direction they were heading, albeit a little off course, further to the East.

The necromancer became distracted by something inward. It had woken up, likely as a result of his alarm, and was now attentively examining the world through his eyes.

Mesteno waited for some rising sense of satisfaction, or fear, to give him an indication of whether setting foot there had been a good or bad idea, but either it truly hadn't had a hand in sending him there, or it was suddenly excellent at guarding its own responses from filtering through to him, because all he could sense was that watchfulness, a readiness to respond should it be needed. It felt... almost bizarrely cooperative. He wasn't used to that.

"You were a child." The Elf countered. "And your memories may well have been altered by some external source if you simply didn't bury them internally for some reason." The Elf's mind was a busy, busy place just then. Answering Mesteno, keeping track of their surroundings while recording data about it and looking for dangers. And tracking the Thing, of course, now that it was suddenly roused and attentive.

Lexius didn't try to nudge or interfere between the Sadist and his Dark Passenger, but he did monitor that situation and could easily feel Mesteno's surprise with its cooperativeness. Given his last encounter with the it, he wasn't used to that reaction, either.

"The energies are stronger there. And I do not sense anything else here. I haven't reached the edge of the effect, either." He was trying to determine how much ground it ate up, that was for sure.

Mesteno slowed, redirected a fraction at Lexius' advice, then continued onward with a surer stride. The ground had been churned up all the worse the further they travelled, in places stained as if the salt had soaked up the magic, though none of it appeared to be blood. That would never have outlasted the rains that normally left the flats perfectly mirroring the heavens.

"Why do I have this feeling that this battle wasn't just the result of some roaming bad guys?" he asked, his words only slightly muffled by the cloth, volume lifted just enough to compensate for the wind's noise, even reduced as it was by the psion's talents. "I guess whatever they built their walls for finally decided to show up." He remembered no previous evidence of battle when he'd been a child though. No howling, magic-born winds like those they walked through. No savaged land when he'd run away in the dead of night with all the headstrong confidence of obstinate youth.

Lexius hummed an agreeing note of sound, looking sidelong at the Sadist as he spoke. "I wonder if they were looking for you." The thing they'd build the walls against, he meant. He didn't believe the wandering bad guys, either! "You and all the other Relics."

"A few decades too late if they were," Mesteno remarked, though he didn't seem to be ruling the possibility out.

Experimentally, Mesteno stretched out his senses, ready to wield the willing passenger even if he did do so with due caution. It unravelled obligingly; myriad serpent's tongues spun out in radiating lines that recoiled in disinterest when they found nothing of death's presence to guide them. But in one direction there was success, and he felt them narrow, sniffing after the evidence like a blood hound scenting the wind. It was only predictable at this point that it was in the very direction they were already moving. "What's the betting there's not enough left out there for me to get a corpse nice and chatty?"
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Re: Origins

Post by Mesteno » Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:36 pm


The Elf tensed anew, his fingers tightening fractionally on Mesteno's shoulder. "Magical energy like this is strange. It could just as easily be preserving something at the core of the conflux as it is destroying everything beyond that central spot." In other words, he wasn't going to take that bet.

Onward across the flats, having to scramble over gouges in the land too wide for them to circle around without difficulty, at last something loomed up out of the blue dark. An indistinct mass that was entirely the wrong shape for the cliff Mesteno remembered. Yet there it was where the cliff should have been, and the closer it came, the more certain he was that this was the cliff, albeit as torn as the landscape. One side of the northern face had collapsed, and it was yet far too distant to be able to determine whether any ruins sat huddled at its foot.

There was a sudden, familiar coolness in the gullies ahead that made him stop dead, rather than go nearer. At last a magic he knew the taste of.

The shadow elemental was hardly a threat to them. It was little larger than a fox, and skulked as if it were trying to imitate the way one moved. That it left no shadow of its own upon the brightly illuminated salt flat, and that it warped any other shadow around it, seeming to absorb them as it came nearer, only made it all the more obvious.

"Interesting." Was Lexius' comment. He was monitoring Mesteno’s passenger closely now. "Do you wish to do anything with it?" he asked of the shadow critter.

"No," Mesteno admitted, something of hesitance about the reply. His shrewd eyes picked more shadow-shapes from the darkness. Some of them wore similar forms to the fox closest to them. Others were snakes, beetles, birds’ silhouettes that travelled flat against the ground with imagined wings outspread so that they seemed almost like gliding rays rather than the buzzards they pretended to be. The necromancer let slip a half-baked laugh. "Escapees. That's what they are. They've come through tears that haven't closed."

Not entirely unlike the larger denizens that had begun attempting to claw their way out after Mesteno when he made his extended trips through the Umbral plane. It was just too dark out there to pick out the perfect black from the imperfect! "We should be careful," he added, turning to look at the Elf from behind the Aviators. "If the worst of what happened is nearer the city, there might be holes big enough to let something nasty through. I'm not gonna assume these little ones are coming our way by chance."

Lexius merely nodded. "You may well be right." he agreed. The kind of energies they were seeing affect the environment were easily capable of tearing more rifts into space and time and between the Planes. He kept his hand on Mesteno's shoulder as they continued. "I will use light should we run across anything too aggressive."

"Some of those things in the shadow planes? Big. Very big." Mesteno sounded dubious that light alone would be enough to banish one if it was powerful enough to hold its form. He could imagine the damn things being solid enough to have their own gravity! He'd certainly felt the ground tremor from their distant movements.

"No," The Elf agreed, "but it should weaken it to some extent." The light he could wield (the desert sun!) should surely give even a hearty shadow denizen a moment of pause or pain.

"I tried to catch one once," Mesteno admitted, turning a wry smile over his shoulder at the Elf. "Thought it'd be nice to have a shadow familiar, read up on how to do it, how to bait it with blood. We both had some near misses, but I never managed to claim one." Perhaps he should have settled with one of the foxes. They seemed to have decided to follow the pair almost like a procession, passing through each other as often as around, rippling across the ground, bleeding off little trails of gloom like smoke.

Lexius noticed their little following with a wry twist of lips. "Perhaps you will have one before we are done here." If he wanted it or not! They'd make handy eyes for something bigger, but there was really no true way to mask their presence now.

Onward, Lexius' hand still on his shoulder (and he'd briefly lifted his own hand to palm over it while they stopped, more simply to return touch than ensure he had a good grip) he watched as more of the small shadow shapes went sliding over the pale crags, never coming close enough to actually get in the way, but watching them, undeniably. Paranoia nibbled at his composure, made him wonder if this was all a plan of his passenger's after all, to get him herded to whatever lay waiting for him in the Umbra, but there was no eagerness in it to be felt. Nothing urging him on like a quiet voice at his ear assuring him all would be well. Or would that have been too obvious?

At last, they came close enough for the light to catch the edges of something sitting squat at the foot of the cliffs. Too low to be the town he remembered, but if war had come, what should he expect? A collapse of course. Man-made lines slung at crazed angles.

The Elf slowed a bit but kept on, tuning in more to their surroundings. "It will be there, if anywhere, I am sure. A direct approach could take anything by surprise with such boldness."

Mesteno paused to capture a few reference shots on his phone, hoping that when they made it back, he might be able to make some sense of the mess. The walls had toppled, been blasted back into the buildings closest to them. The pale city's columns, plainly inspired of the architecture the original residents had occupied, lay strewn horizontally, fragmented, and domes had been cracked open like rotten eggs, scorched at the edges of ragged masonry. It troubled the necromancer now that he had no photographs of the city before it's destruction to try and determine if any particular spot had borne the brunt of the assault. They were going to have to linger a while, if he meant to discover anything of worth.

"There's plenty of death in there," he muttered behind his veil. "Could be scavengers even if there aren't any shadow monsters to worry about."

The Elf was already trying to make sense of the mess of the city as they approached, and he was trying to gauge if the effect on the environment was any different beyond the shattered walls. "We should find a good, defensible location within." He advised. "I can ward it against the worst of this and craft a crystal you can wear to work as a barrier as we roam about. If anything is here, I'm sure we will run into it sooner rather than later, but it seems it will take us some time before we are done here."

The necromancer could not remember the city well enough to think immediately of any defensible spot, so he and Lexius would end up choosing one together when they made it within the walls. It didn't appear just then as if they'd have any issue doing so, either. A half mile out and he began to pick out the rift openings with more clarity, and in greater numbers. They were fluctuating, opening and closing like the mouths of stranded marine life, edges constantly torn away as if the rifts were struggling not to collapse in on themselves. Mesteno gave them a wide berth, as did their entourage, though some of them seemed off-put enough not to be skirting anywhere near and simply went flitting away for safety's sake.

"Is there anything here I can't feel that you can?" Mesteno asked as they came within a hundred feet of the collapsed walls. "Anything psionic? Anything that might want to melt our brains?" He was hearkening back to their first desert wander of course, which hadn't felt anything like as ominous as this did. Perhaps this was simply too personal.

The Elf's frown reappeared and took on a certain graveness that suggested he was deeply troubled. This kind of instability was a big concern, even in a place prone to such phenomenon as RhyDin. Still, left as completely unchecked as this place had been for years, he could just see it growing bigger and bigger. Lexius paused to consider how far they had come, how far the effects had reached from the centre of the destroyed city and how far these rifts had begun to appear. He didn't like the calculation he was coming up with in his head.

He hauled them both to a complete stop, just beyond the walls and well away from the nearest rift. "I have not sensed anything yet, but my probes have been widespread and much more general in nature. Abide here and I will look more in depth and specifically, but you must keep alert."

The Elf waited until Mesteno was ready before he began his psionic survey anew, this time keyed in for anything that might be remotely like him. So many rifts going to so many places could mean anything at all was in there, stuck.

"Go for it. I'll keep you safe," Mesteno assured, a deliberate tease because he damn well knew the Elf's pride wouldn't like the idea of him needing to be watched over, even if he'd as good as admitted it. It earned him a scowl, but nothing else.

Loosening up his scimitar, he unravelled his own energy again, to guard them as best he could should anything undead decide to play welcoming committee.

Lexius closed his eyes and concentrated as he made a mental sweep of the city. His scowl disappeared and his frown came back, deeper than ever. The chaos the magics had left behind was snarl worthy to the orderly Elf, never mind the effect it could have on one or both of them.

There were more of those tears in the city, in far greater number than there had been on the approach, but they were scattered like shrapnel and in places so tiny an insect sized critter would have been hard pressed to pass through. There were no active spells being woven, only the remnants of the old ones that had done so much lasting damage that even the air seemed charged by it. No psions wandered the ruins, no machinery hummed and (as Mesteno had realised as he examined things from closer vantage points) not a single soul lurked there. He didn't think they'd simply all fled at his approach, either.

Life though, there was. Far from in abundance, and scattered. Some still, others on the move. No more than a dozen, if that.

Lexius hummed thoughtfully before he spoke. "There is life in there. Nothing obviously psionic. They seem spread out, but that does not guarantee they are not together in some fashion."

There seemed to be no set pattern to the spread, but some of them seemed to be moving in pairs, and a group of three was entirely stationary, more difficult to sense strongly than the others purely because there appeared to be more rock in the way. Either they were tucked under some heavy building, or underground in some fashion.

"Why the fuck would anything be living in there?” Mesteno asked. “There's nothing for miles around except all these little shadow shits and shadow gates.... Unless whatever they are, they came here through them," he mused aloud, glowering all the more darkly at the remains of what had once been his home city. If he travel through them, there was no reason others couldn't. Again, he turned his attention to his dormant passenger to see whether it had any particular leanings, bad or good over this new revelation. Yet again, he drew a blank.

After a moment, and no little scowling, he suggested, "Do you think we should wait to go in until morning?"

The Elf mentally marked the locations of the life signs, especially the three obscured by the rock, before pulling back into himself more completely and looking at Mesteno's scowling face. "I cannot even say they are humanoid for sure, merely alive. And no," Lexius shook his head and looked back to the city, "we should go in now if we are to go in." He still wasn't sure it was a good idea to go in there at all, but he would if the Sadist still wished to do so.

"The gates might have spawned them or they may be taking advantage of what the chaos has produced here. Perhaps they are left over from the war, remnants of those people that once lived here. Perhaps they are what is left of the attackers." The Elf just threw a few of the possibilities out there as he looked back to the Sadist. "I have a rough idea of where they are not, so we can search there for some place to set up a camp of sorts."

"Ten years is a long time to hole up here, if it really is survivors," Mesteno pointed out, his scowl becoming a fixture. The residents hadn't liked him, and he couldn't imagine them being anything less than hostile, justifiably so if they expected to come under attack again. "And if they're the attackers, they must have a damn good reason for staying. Perhaps they're keepin' the tears open to make the place impossible to repopulate." Speculation, and nothing that couldn't wait until they'd found a secure spot to commandeer in the ruins.

"We shall have to meet a few and find out." Was the Elf's comment on the matter. But he set it aside for the moment and took to studying the terrain ahead and bolstering the protections he'd erected around them both. Each shield was personal, meaning Mesteno could move about rather freely. Lexius paid a little extra in energy for that, but he didn't seem too concerned about it.

Mesteno straightened from the displaced masonry he'd ducked behind as they stopped, and offered the Elf a tight smile. "I guess you'd better go first if you can sense them. I'll do my best to keep any shadow escapees at bay."

"Try to lure a few in,” the Elf encouraged. “They will know what to be afraid of and what to ignore." He might be joking, but the reasoning was sound!

The shield Lexius maintained about them had a harder job of keeping them safe in there, where the turbulence kept the grit thick in the air and the precariously poised ruins might slip at any moment to flatten the landscape further. Worse yet, the cliff guarding the rear of the city had collapsed onto a section of the grander buildings, making landslide just as likely. It was going to be slow progress at best.

Lexius picked a path through the debris which took them deeper into the city and all its lingering turbulence. He tried to keep track of the other traces of life he'd found and looked for a likely place for them to hole up, somewhere amidst the rubble that seemed stable.

"You know they're generally pretty chaotic. Since when did you invite that into your life?" Mesteno asked with an edge of a tease to his tone again. Truth was of course, that as soon as the Elf returned to RhyDin he'd asked for it. First with Pharlen's firmament, and then Ares' rescue. It'd been one thing after another, and he hadn't run from it... In fact, he seemed to thrive on it, if it meant he had chance to bring about order in the aftermath. Rather than refuse to oblige in the luring, Mesteno decided to trust in the advice, and pulled at one that seemed to have mimicked the shape of the small desert cats he'd occasionally seen in the city as a child. It had the proportions correct, though its edges smoked jet tendrils, rather than forming crisp lines.

It resisted, as he'd half expected. It's willingness to follow didn't seem to extend to being compelled to, and he watched as it flattened into an amorphous, slithering thing against the ground, finding some shady spot to blend into where it could watch untroubled. He determined to try again further in.

Keeping close to Lexius, Mesteno couldn't help but feel his nerves spark again on entering the city proper. There was something ominous about it that he couldn't simply attribute to the magical devastation, to his own paranoia. His fingers flirted restlessly about the hilt of his scimitar, though he resisted the urge to grasp at it, knowing as he did that nothing dead or undead was likely to get close without being detected by one of them. Irritatingly, his dark passenger still remained a passive watcher, willingly primed but seemingly unconcerned.

"It strikes me as strange that whatever happened here was this bad," he admitted, voice still low. "Whoever came wasn't interested in a takeover. Didn't see any value in claiming the city, just crushing it. Like they wanted it wiped off the map."

"We are supposing there is more than one...of your kind." Lexius commented, slanting a sidelong look to Mesteno as he spoke. He meant relic, of course, but didn't want to say that out loud. "Something we should have considered before it was mentioned, by the way." The chide was as much for himself as Mesteno. The passenger could have been lying, but it seemed doubtful. It only made good sense to invest more than one vessel with the capability to hold its essence, especially given how fragile humans were.

"And we know they were hiding their ability to use magic. Were, no doubt, hiding in general. To protect you? Or was your type discovered amongst them by mistake? Given the nature of the thing, it seems logical one would be bent on destroying it." He shook his head and continued on.

Lexius could feel resentment along the tie at the mention of the relic.

It was only natural, at the notion of being one of a multitude rather than an individual. Some morbid mental comparison of being like a predatory arachnid, parasite infested, remodelled for the purpose of the inhabitant. It was vile, nauseating. Naturally, Mesteno didn't speak of it. Why bemoan the unfairness when there was nothing to be done about it?

"So, by that theory, are we assuming the people that followed me to RhyDin city were from here in Amhinata?” he asked the Elf. “That they were trying to protect me from whoever did this?" He gestured around at the great collapse.

He couldn't dispute that there was some logic to it, but he'd never once considered that someone from his hometown might try and protect him after he'd been physically chased out on the single occasion he had been able to return. He strained to try and picture the photographs he’d found in Alistair’s apartment, to recall the memories that had surfaced when Aoife had invaded his dreams. Two of them had been dark haired, as he'd remembered everyone else in Amhinata being. The third, a male, a hulking red-haired creature.

He looks like you, Mira's voice echoed in his head. The hooker had led him to Alistair's home, delivered the results of the Englishman’s investigations right into his hands. He remembered his indignation at the suggestion as she stood there, a scrawny, dreamy eyed slip of a girl in fish-nets and too much kohl around her eyes. Don't you think?

"Over there. Looks promising." He pointed, shattering recollection before it could become too uncomfortable. There was a building that looked relatively intact, sheltered by a pair of taller ones to either side which had tumbled about its roof but not been sufficient to crush it. Like all the others, there was no glass left to its windows, the door had been ripped loose, but the pale masonry was only marred by superficial cracks.
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Re: Origins

Post by Mesteno » Wed Feb 12, 2020 5:17 pm


Lexius paused to squint in the direction of the building Mesteno suggested, stretching out more than a few mental tendrils to ensure the place was truly uninhabited. He assessed the structural integrity of the place, tweaking a few things here and there to add more stability before he finally set off again.

"Those are interesting memories." He remarked, just to let the Sadist know he had been watching. "But, yes. We could go with that supposition. Perhaps they were a part of these people. Perhaps they simply hid amongst them. Perhaps they had a whole flock of your kind which they scattered to the winds to increase their chance of survival. Whatever came searching may have had no idea that had been done, or had no true way of detecting what it sought within individuals so destroyed them all." Crazier things had happened, even from those things considered 'good'. "You are only humans, after all."

Lexius added the last with a faint smile. He partially agreed with that in general, but not concerning Mesteno specifically. "Perhaps this was their punishment for harbouring your kind."

The necromancer trailed him distractedly, stepping robotically over scattered stone while the wind howled its futile rage around them.
"There's... some sense to that," he agreed, albeit grudgingly. Further comment was put on hold until they were inside, and no longer reliant on the shielding to protect them from the brick and bluster.

There at last, a prickle of nostalgia. The building's interior still had remnant patches of fresco, the carnelian orange-reds and lapis blues faded memories of what they'd once been. The stylised figures, something adapted from the popular Roman imagery they'd left behind, were arranged in various states of repose, and collapsed stone benches suggested the building had been some sort of leisure facility. Mesteno stood just within the doorway, lips parted and eyes searching, fiercely bright as they cast their flitting attention across the ravaged decor.

"Maybe the 'flock' caused trouble somewhere else, and whatever defeated them there decided to stamp out any more trouble before it could start. If this was the primordial slime from which we crawled, I can't blame them."

Once they were inside the walls, Lexius eased the amount of energy he was putting into their protection and set about inspecting the interior as he freed a few rough cut crystals from a pouch on his belt. At the same time, three colourfully striped lizards came crawling out of his satchel to zip down his leg and scatter in different directions. That sensation from Mesteno had the Elf pausing and looking back, stones clicking in his palm.

"Another reason they might not have been actively using magic. So that they could not be tracked by it. All this," he gestured to their surroundings in general, indicating the fallout of the magical energies, "is a mess of energy now, but may have been very distinctive when they used it in a more controlled fashion." He paused half a second. "You remember this place specifically?" he asked as he resumed moving to place his crystals here and there throughout the room.

"No. Kids weren't allowed where the adults went. We got marched around from one place to another like a herd t'be guarded. But a lot of the buildings were like this inside. Frescos,'s just strange seeing it in person again," Mesteno admitted, fishing his phone back out of his pocket to take a few shots. He didn't think there was anything in there that might offer clues, but that didn’t keep him from wanting clear memories when they returned home.

Lexius hummed a thoughtful note of sound, and stared at him for several seconds before he resumed his work. "Why do you think they raised the children so?" He sounded only curious, but given the things they were discussing Lexius just might be forming some other ideas on the matter.

"Why? I don't know. It's just the way it was." He hadn't intended to sound belligerent. He was annoyed (and more at himself) for not wondering over the reason for such a deviation from the human norm. Why would a society accustomed to family social units suddenly drop them? He should have questioned it, instead of merely attributing it to a tradition. "It'd be helpful to know if it was something they instigated as soon as they established the town, or whether it happened in the centuries since. Maybe there's a record somewhere..."

The Elf finished setting his crystals in place, and they connected together with bright lines of power that swiftly faded beyond the visible spectrum.

Mesteno’s eyes followed the path of one of the lizards, and he chose to pursue it deeper into the building, grit crunching between his boots and the cool tile. There was blood here. Old blood. His nose picked it up despite the passage of time having darkened it to a rusty patina almost entirely obscured by dust. The quantity suggested someone had died there, but there were no remains to speak of, no bone or fabric. Nothing he could question.

Further investigation suggested it had been a bath house, for there were wide (and very empty) sunken pools in the adjoining rooms, and more intact artwork even going so far as to illustrate it. Decorative urns and shattered figurines had all been abandoned. Things of worth that would not willingly have been left behind save for in a time of disaster. Mesteno crouched down to pick up a palm sized fragment that had been a face, elbows resting on knees. The place appeared to be safe enough for them to make it a base of operations. Nothing came darting out to ambush them.

Lexius chose one of the sunken tubs to work on and dropped down into it to do some more mysterious things with his stones. "If I knew more of magics, I could speculate on if it is the fluctuation of the energies that drove the any lingering spirits from here. Perhaps they were taken in through the shadow portals."

Mesteno rose to play guard. He wasn't expecting imminent trouble, but that ominous feeling still hadn't passed, either. He didn't think he was going to be able to relax anytime soon.

"We were taught it was for population control that they were so strict about new births. One person dies, another couple is permitted to breed. It was more beneficial to the city to have all the children start from the same level though, without the different social status, the special treatment that being an heir might bring. Everyone to have the same opportunities and see what they made of themselves. I could see the sense in it." And families had seemed odd to him until he'd left and witnessed them just about everywhere else.

Again, Lexius gave one of those thoughtful hums. "That does sound sensible. But it is the kind of sense most humanoid cultures do not ascribe to unless there is some sort of severe external pressure."

The Elf straightened from his work and stepped back up out of the bath he'd been in. Again, lights lit up like lasers, connecting all the crystals in a latticework of beams across the top of the pool. A makeshift prison or trap. "It would be helpful to know how it was beforehand, I agree. Much of what is here has been destroyed, but we made find some lingering evidence. Make sure you record all the paintings, no matter how shattered. We can piece things back together later." He stepped toward the Sadist then and laid a hand on his shoulder. "This area will be secure enough. The lizards have not found anything big enough for humans to get in through."

"A lucky find, this place,” Mesteno said. “It's too bad we don't have any street plans, or a handy Lan to do a fly-over to spot any anomalies. This isn't gonna be nearly as organised as I'd like." Impulsive though he tended to be in everyday life, and certainly when flung headfirst into trouble, that didn't change the fact that where planned missions were afoot, he preferred thorough preparation. Lingering habit from his time spent with the Syndicate. "If we're going to find anything useful, it'll be in the senate building, or those adjoining it I guess. They were located near the foot of the cliff, but from what I could see on the approach, it looked like that area took some nasty rockfall. I don't fancy trying to dig through it at night. The darkness is gonna give any shadow-related trouble too much strength if it decides to try us."

He squeezed the Sadist's shoulder strongly. "Even Lan would have trouble with the turbulence in the area. And anything I could send out will be buffeted too strongly by the winds. I could survey mentally, but it will take quite some time. I would rather invest the energy in keeping track of those few life signs we've already detected."

The Elf turned them both back toward the main room where he planned on setting up a place to rest and preparing something to eat for himself. "The darkness will not aid us." he agreed as they went. "But you may have more luck attracting a shadow pet." He was still pushing that agenda.

"Don't send your lizards out there," Mesteno urged firmly, too soft as ever where those small lives were concerned, to be truly pragmatic.

Lexius gave Mesteno a tolerantly amused look. "If you had named each one and fed them daily, I would expect such loyalty. But they were created for just such a purpose, you know." He didn't agree not to send the lizards out, but he knew their range would be limited given the distance and conditions.

Mesteno took up station by one of the windows. There were no shutters to pull across, no curtains to secure in place, and certainly no handy planks of wood that could be nailed up. Anything with a mind to could peer in and spy them, and that troubled him of course. He took it upon himself to weave enough darkness up in front of each open aperture to serve the purpose. Whilst keeping it rigid to act as a barrier would have required some constant attention merely darkening the spots was something that required little effort.

Away from the window, he settled on a partially intact stone bench, the seat a little slanted, but a seat nonetheless. He was still pondering how to go about digging for records beneath the senate collapse.

"I wonder if it was the darker aspects of the magic which tore those rifts here,” Lexius mused aloud. “Are you worried agreeing to see this thing will mean losing more of yourself?" He watched Mesteno keenly as he prepared himself something to eat. A mug of coffee was already brewing, though the distinctive scent of it was lacking.

Fingers steepled and their tips resting against his smooth-shaven chin, Mesteno gave the Elf's question due consideration, ignoring as he always did, the food when it came out.

"I can't think of anything else it could possibly be," he admitted, leaning his weight into his elbows. "It's already demonstrated its lack of regard for my identity. I'm an inconvenience. Survival of the flesh is what was important to it, but it offered no reassurance about keeping my mind whole. Maybe the reason it hasn't asked again is because it's realised I'll be harder to get rid of than it initially thought now you'n I are all..." He struggled to find an appropriate term for it, and as ever fell far short of the mark. "Tangled up, the way we are. Maybe it couldn't function as it hopes, thanks to the link."

He fell quiet again, watching the steam rising from the water Lexius heated. His eyes were still fixed there when he spoke again, a youthful awkwardness to his tone. Not grudging, not at all that, but certainly unsure of itself. "You kept it from killin' me when I was on that table, and I'm not sure I ever said thank you. I saw the way you were after." Drawn, sapped, sharp as he often became through great expenditure. "Gratius, Lexius. For keeping me."

Lexius used tiny packets to make the coffee, one for each of the mugs he pulled free from his satchel and filled with the heated water. He slid one of those Mesteno's way and took a turn at being thoughtfully silent in the wake of the man's answer and his tentative thanks. His expression matched the utter neutrality of the feeling along the tie. There really was no telling what he might be thinking or feeling in response to anything the Sadist had said. It was no purposeful hiding, of course, simply the Elf being his usual taciturn self.

He devoured a few of the meat rolls he'd brought along before he finally offered any sort of answer, but at least the words were accompanied by a low pulse of warmth along the tie that was meant to be reassuring. "You've no need to give me thanks. I did no more than what you have done for me." He paused a moment, absolutely sincere, to let that sink in before he continued. "That said, had it persisted, I would have lost you as It would have lost the portion of itself It has invested in you. I believe that is why It stopped."

Obviously Lexius had been pondering it. Of course, his assertion was an educated guess more than a fact even if he stated it more like the latter than the former. He continued on in that same, sure tone. "Your personality, who you are, is much too developed. The only way to be rid of you now is to completely destroy you, but doing so will destroy a good chunk of Itself even without my interference. Something, I think, it is not willing to risk. It knows It is weak enough as It is."

Lexius lifted his coffee for a slow sip, heedless of the heat and his gaze still fixed on Mesteno. His eyes narrowed a bit for the taste of the coffee and something along the link echoed with a sort of satisfaction that went beyond just his appreciation for the drink. "You do belong to me, though. While it may well try to suppress you, it will not succeed no matter what manner of entity crawls from the Shadowland to try."

The grit of displaced plaster and crumbled mosaic flooring grated beneath the soles of Mesteno’s boots as he abandoned the bench he'd claimed and moved to sit where the Elf had slid the second mug. He let it sit untouched as it cooled, eyes back on the blackened windows and ears half-distracted by the drone of the wind beyond the shielding Lexius had set around the building.

"What kind of a creature can be divided like that? Does it just have seeds of itself in other bodies, ready to start from scratch? Or is it as conscious in them as it is in me? Could it be more? What if it finds a way to send them to come get me?" But no. Even saying it felt intrinsically wrong.

After a moment, he slid a hand across and gave Lexius’ thigh a squeeze, nothing deliberately provocative, but appreciative, and in no way short of affection. Sometimes it was easier to tell than say. Facta non verba, as he was fond of saying.

Lexius covered his hand immediately, but lightly. The touch was a welcome one.

"It is not a creature, per se," he answered. "It is more...a concept. An idea given form. An archetype able to manifest itself physically. With certain limits, though it is difficult to tell if that is because of the material it has to work with, its own architecture or something that has been imposed on it. As old as it is, there are magics and powers just as old that even humanoids might be able to wield enough to hamper it."

"If it's a concept... whose concept?” Mesteno wanted to know. “I always got the feeling it was old as hell, something pre-history. But then we have the theory that Gods were concepts too, thought up by needy races as a crutch to get them through the tough times to begin with, and then praised when they actually took the time to answer as their worship grew. How does a concept that pre-dates organised worship, that doesn't have any worshippers of its own, become what it is now?"

He reached for his coffee finally, predictably cautious with his first sip, but downing the rest after determining it was safe even if the salt of the flats on his lips gave it an odd taste. "How're your lizards doing?" the necromancer asked, rather than continue to dwell on what lay in the shadows.
Lexius was even then checking in on them. The distraction of his split concentration was a barely a blip along the tie, but Lexius apparently needed a few minutes to figure out just what their little eyes were seeing. Something made more challenging, no doubt, by the endless fluctuations of magical energy and the shift and warp of rifts tearing open time and space throughout the city.

"Hmmm." His dark eyes had gone just a touch unfocused as he hummed. "Two are still scouting the more direct path for us to follow once we are ready. The third is nearing one of the life signs I detected earlier." Lexius stayed with that third more closely than the others, but he didn't let that deter him from holding up his end of the conversation. That the far-away look in his eyes lingered added a certain element of creepiness to what he said next, as if it wasn't just him saying it.

"Some concepts were intrinsic to and became part of the very foundation of existence itself. It was not there in the Beginning," somehow, the capitalization of that word was obvious, " but it was born not too terribly long after as things began to...coalesce." The Elf certainly did tell the tale as if he'd been there. The beads clicking somewhere inside his head only added another layer of otherness to his gaze. "The way you can think of things now cannot capture the reality of It in anything by the vaguest sense of truth."

It wasn't the absent quality to far-seeing eyes that disturbed Mesteno. It was what Lexius said about what was in him being so old it might be intrinsic to the fabric of existence. Or at least the concept! For some reason, it had been like a knock to the head, dredging up the surreal experience he'd been pulled into by the Elf's guardian when he lay comatose in the aftermath of their metaphysical battle. He's seen far more than his mind could comprehend, been left reeling by what he witnessed but couldn't grasp entirely. Too much for his inadequate mind, and thus something he'd pushed firmly back and into the recesses of his memory where they wouldn't slowly send him mad with incomprehension.

"You'd think it would have taken the time to be pickier about the species it chose to inhabit. I guess it didn't have much choice, being Earth bound though. Probably cursing its luck having seen RhyDin, that it wasn't something a little grander. Maybe a dragon..." Or an Elf, his sidelong look suggested, though Lexius was busy with his lizard visions and likely wouldn't notice.

The solo reptile was indeed coming closer to the lone, living being Lexius had sensed. Through its eyes, he saw a huddled figure, armed, and seemingly playing sentry at the dark-spilling entry of one of the shadowland rifts.

He was armed, haggard looking, and seemed to be struggling to stay awake. A thick beard, stiff as a brush, had swallowed up the lower half of his face, making the blood-shot eyes all the more prominent a feature. He'd a little collection of candles burning around the rift, the flames flickering unsteadily, but evidently intended to reduce the power of anything that might attempt to crawl through.
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Re: Origins

Post by Mesteno » Wed Feb 12, 2020 9:13 pm


Lexius prompted his scaled spy into moving closer to its target. The little creature was more than its appearance suggested, of course, being an Elven creation rather than merely a natural inhabitant of the sands he'd picked up and trained to do his bidding. Through its eyes, Lexius was able to discern that the shadow portal was of roughly man height, slimmer than it was tall, but substantial enough for trouble to pass through.

The man stationed there had a canteen beside him, and his blade was naked, as if he thought whatever might come through wouldn't do the courtesy of allowing him to unsheathe his blade. This wasn't his primary weapon though. There was a crossbow, pre-aimed right at the opening and ready to fire. Now and then the man shivered, as if the cold spilling out of the opening was managing to bite through his blankets, but there was something resolute about his dark, haunted eyes that suggested he wasn't going to be slacking on the job and having a nap anytime soon.

"We should think about getting some rest - do you want to meditate, or should I try and grab a couple of hours sleep first?" Mesteno was asking, oblivious. They'd set out at evenfall, and the hour would be well gone midnight by now.

Lexius had finished his meal and was working on his coffee, which he had refilled from the still warm pot he'd brewed earlier. His attention remained split and there was another, predictable delay in his response.

"Hmm. You should sleep." That in a somewhat distracted tone. He was more interested in what the lizard was seeing. "There is a single humanoid set up outside a rift not too far from here. He seems to be waiting to kill or capture whatever comes through. He looks...determined. I will watch over the proceedings."

He was even then directing his lizard to crouch in stillness so it could watch. Hopefully, the guy wouldn't try to make a meal out of it, even if lizard was pretty decent eating.

"What!? Why didn't you say before? If he's on his own its perfect." Mesteno seemed willing to forego rest and abandon their base of operations if it meant getting answers more quickly. "We should try and get to him before anything comes out and attacks him. We can't be sure the other living creatures you mentioned are other humans and I'm not loosin' our only potential lead."

Not that there seemed to be any activity there presently. The lizard's presence must have gone unnoticed. That or, even the glimpse of movement in periphery wasn't worth risking the lapse of attention, because the man hadn't responded to it at all. For a sentinel, he was of the dogged variety.

Mesteno meanwhile was already scrambling to his feet and shouldering his pack.

Lexius had seemed perfectly content to wait and watch and gather more information before they moved on anything. The intensity with which the man had camped out at the rift was certainly curious to the Elf and getting a chance to see what might come through was worth the delay. Of course, he tended to approach most things in that manner, as if he had all the damn time in the world.

When the man jumped up. he drained his coffee and watched him without moving a muscle, clearly pondering the next course of action. Or simply Mesteno's all too human tendency to jump in now! He must have decided this was the Sadist's party rather than his own, for he set aside the mug and rose. "I can teleport us directly there, if you wish, and bring us back here once you have secured him. I am not sure lingering there for any length of time would be wise."

Mesteno was already at the door, his shadows unravelling like a pulled thread, and yet he heard the Elf despite his haste and his expression shifted to one of pained indecision. Thumbs hooked beneath the straps of his bag, tongue darting a nervous pass over his upper lip, he made a low, almost distressed sound as if, for once, his impulsive nature hadn't entirely been able to override his caution.

"You said he's watching over a shadow gate, right? What if we snatch him away from it and something gets through because there's no one there guarding it?" He scowled darkly at the world beyond their commandeered bath-house, the grit-choked air kept at bay purely by the strength Lexius spent shielding it. "If he's a survivor, I don't want to get off on the wrong footing with him, or whoever else he may be working with."

Another moment spent arguing with himself, and his lips pressed firm. Resolve. "I think we need to approach him without startling him and let him know we're here."

"Very well." Lexius bent to retrieve his things, packing up with surprising swiftness. He did nothing to dismantle to protections he'd erected around the place. He wasn't completely happy, but he offered no protest at all. "We can go afoot. It is not too far."

It was a combination of trust and certainty in his own and Mesteno's abilities that allowed the Elf to bypass his natural cautious tendencies. One did not live hundreds of years without a little due consideration of risks. Of course, the Elf had visited death that one time due to a distinct lack of caution, following another human. He just might be having trouble learning that particular lesson.

Mesteno offered Lexius a smile, sharp as a straight-edge razor off the strop, and stepped out from the bath house and back into the incessant bluster howling about the city's ruins. He nudged the shades back down over his eyes, craned his neck as he searched the buildings closest for any sign of trouble, and stole a look up, just to make sure there was nothing airborne he'd missed.

"Take me to your lizard," he intoned, with mock-solemnity.

The Elf had been in RhyDin long enough to recognize the reference behind Mesteno's words, hence the mild snort he gave the man. No comment accompanied the sound, however. The Elf simply built their protections back up around them both then led on into the magic induced storm. Mental tendrils unfurled around them, Lexius monitored their route as best he could and picked the clearest path for two humans to the spot his lizard clung to, still watching the man before the rift.

When they neared enough to see the shadow outline of things, Lexius slowed and slanted a look Mesteno's way in question. His turn to lead.

Nothing came leaping at them from the collapses they traversed, and even the sputtering shadow rifts (on the brink of closing one moment and gaping fish-mouthed open the next) seemed incapable than doing more than being ominously present. Of course, the one the lone man was stationed by was far larger than these, and Mesteno could feel it instinctively as they came nearer. It had a different quality to it, as if rather than being open as an aftermath fault...

"The hole he's near, it's being held open purposefully," he murmured to Lexius’ slanted look. His expression took on an aspect of frustration, and Lexius, linked as he was, was privy to the fact that he was doing a little metaphysical investigative work to try and isolate the individual expending the energy to do it. His frown deepened, clear-cut marks on his tawny brow. "And it's not him doing it. It's from the other side."

The absolute chaos of the storm and the fluttering rifts had the skin crawling relentlessly along the Elf's nape, but he heroically ignored the sensation and the desire to try and put some order to things in favour of their current mission.

"I could tweak the portal from this side if you think it might bring the entity responsible through. Then we can see what this man will do," Lexius offered. Of course, it could kill the guy so thoroughly even Mesteno couldn't question him.

The necromancer gave him a look of such astonishment for the suggestion that it was damn near comical. Lexius met it with absolute serenity in his own expression.

"And if you pulled it through and a small army of its friends arrived at the same time?" Mesteno asked, cracking a smile that suggested he wasn't all that taken with the idea. "It's a safe bet that whatever's holding it open is also responsible, in part, for whatever happened here. And that means it's powerful. I'm not doubtin' our capabilities but we got no defences prepared and we ain't gonna be able to face what a whole city couldn't." He patted him on the shoulder, the way an elder might commiserate with a youngster all raring to go and frustrated. "Don't be so eager to die again."

The Sadist earned himself another snort (mild reprimand of his own) for the shoulder patting, but he turned his attention back to the rift, tonguing an eye tooth as he considered their options. "I don't know if trying to close it is a good idea, either. It might draw attention the same damn way. You know what? I'm just gonna go over there. You hang back out of sight, but somewhere you can still see, and if he tries anything... maybe paralyse him the way you've done with me a time or two?"

"I may not be able to paralyze him in the same fashion," Lexius warned. "But I will be able to do something to assist if needed." To his credit, he didn't warn Mesteno to be careful or try to talk him out of his idea. There was some distant, quiet mental grumbling about why the man thought it was safer than his own suggestion, though!

"I guess I'll go and attempt to look harmless then," Mesteno decided. That didn't involve parting with his scimitar though, and he took care to loosen it in his scabbard, waiting only so long as it took for Lexius to find a convenient spot to vanish before he began his approach.

The Elf growled under his breath and gave Mesteno a swift, assessing look. Mesteno could look skinny, but he could never really look harmless. Lexius didn't say as much, he just slid a crystal into the back pocket of his jeans before melting away into the debris to be ghost elf on observation. He kept close watch, both of what he could see with his eyes and what he could sense with the tendrils of mental energy he still had extended around their location.

Mesteno was deliberately noisy. No attempt to muffle his tread or avoid things that might crunch underfoot. He moved unhurried, aiming to round the half-tumbled walls only after giving the man time to become alert to his presence so that he wouldn’t feel the need to act with instinctive, defensive violence.

"Salve!" he shouted. Effortless. His voice carried clear - he knew perfectly how to project it, despite being softly spoken usually. "Gratum mihi fac facio ere, non germinat me!"

(Translation: 'Greetings, do me a favour, don't shoot me!")

Thanks to the eyes of the lizard scout, Lexius had a fine view of the immediate alert Mesteno's shout caused in the lone watcher. Fear was a difficult emotion to hide, and all the more difficult to replicate candidly. The wide-blown eyes and the nauseated slackness to the bearded man's mouth spoke all too eloquently of horror, as if a nightmare had just been made real. He shook off the blankets he'd been huddled in, scrambling for the crossbow (and knocking his spear over clumsily in the process) but only after he'd thrown a small glass sphere on the ground that looked remarkably like a marble. There was a pitiful sputter of light, as if electricity had sparked and died in the space of a heartbeat, and then a tiny light, firefly sized, shot off through the debris laden winds and vanished.

It had gone in the direction of the little group closest to the cliffs.

The man meanwhile, fumbling the crossbow into a grasp that looked familiar, capable despite the tremor in his arms, had stood up with his back pressed to the half-tumbled wall, keeping himself carefully out of sight of any ranged attack, but still refusing to turn away entirely from the shadowy portal he'd been guarding.

"Quid Vis!? Quod nomen tibi est!?" The man's bellow was half wind-swallowed, and the strain in his dry throat was palpable.

Lexius continued to monitor the scene and tracked that flash of zipping light as best he could. That the bit of magic was more a warning than a protection or attack seemed apparent and the Elf was aware the path it took was less than optimal.

He may well be in league with the others. Keep alert. He was already winding a few mental threads of his own and anchoring them across the space the Crazy Guard and Mesteno now occupied.

What makes you think that? Mesteno's thoughts came sailing with a surprising calm along their link. He seemed to handle being in difficult circumstances like this, better than he did sitting, waiting, not knowing how the hell to progress.

Meanwhile, there was a very obvious response to the scrap of magic. Identical scraps of magic were being sent out from the trio the warning had reached, zipping like fireflies amongst the ruins until the other lifeforms Lexius had sensed in his initial scan all seemed to have been alerted.

"Ego quaeram qui reliqui fuerint de bello," Mesteno called back to the lone man, making no attempt to close the distance between them, "Et nemo vult nocere. Ego tantum volo tecum loqui."

(Translation: I search for survivors from the war. I mean no harm. I only wish to speak with you.)

The man didn't seem to be calmed or convinced. His eyes darted from the portal and back to the edge of the wall closest to which he suspected Mesteno to be.

He is nearly feral with fear, Lexius commented mentally.

The delay came then as the questing tendrils of thought he'd sent to track the flash of magic released from the marble vibrated anew. He couldn't see the other bits of light flashing across the city, but he sensed at least one of them answering the first flash. Unfortunately, the mess of the winds and the general chaos the rifts were causing in the area kept him from tracking anything more closely. He could only control things in a much smaller area.

The light was a warning. I believe I sensed another, but that is all for the moment. That was his eventual explanation as he continued to weave his little web over the Sadist.

I'll keep trying to convince him. If it looks like we're going to get swarmed, get us out of here and back to the bath house, Mesteno instructed as he considered how best to deal with the lack of response he was getting from the uncooperative man.

"You don't have to come out," he continued, still in Latin. "I can see that you guard something. Only tell me what happened here. Who came? Is there anyone else who might speak to me if you won't?" He was hoping (perhaps foolishly) that by offering to turn his communication efforts elsewhere, the man might let slip about there being others. Perhaps indicate how many, or who they were.

At the mention of others, the man's eyes darted in the direction the flash of light had gone speeding, doubtless hoping that support would come from that direction. They were moving, as it happened, but they were still a long way off. It might be ten or even fifteen minutes to navigate the streets and the debris. Swallowing hard, he pressed his skull back into the wall, and fixed both eyes back on the unchanged portal.

"The only thing you'll find here are our blades ready to silence you! Waste no more breath. Leave!"

They always were unhospitable, Mesteno muttered, and sounded surly too, right along that link.

The prick of annoyance with the absolute chaos of their environment was somewhere in his mental tone when Lexius finally replied. He is of your people then? It sounded that way, but Mesteno would be better able to tell the nuances of the language peculiar to his people.

Based on the accent, I'd be surprised if he was anything else, Mesteno admitted. Names he lacked, the faces were all a blur after so long. But he knew his own accent when he heard it, the enormous diversion from the ecclesiastical version heard in every Catholic church and cathedral in countless realms. This was less regal. It was thicker, undiluted, the melange of tongues that had gathered in Rome from all those lands close about it when it had been little more than a village, competing with the others to be the dominant culture.

Do you wish me to take him, as well? Lexius asked. If so, you will need to get closer to him. Touching would be best.

There was no immediate answer. Taking a slow, calming breath, Mesteno stubbornly tried again with the man, who'd managed to get over his surprise enough to collect himself. There was, buried in there somewhere, a man who'd fought, been terrified, but survived on his own merit. He was ready to face an end if he had to. Mesteno recognised the fatalistic qualities.

"I haven't come to trade threats with you. Listen to me. Don't you hear me speak? Amhinata was my home once. I only want to know what happened here." It was telling more than he'd have liked. They'd chased him out once and there was no saying he'd be better received this time.

And the man did listen. His brow pinched, as if finally realising this was a native speaker, that there might be a thread of truth... "We're not the only ones with the old tongue. Enough trickery! I give you my last warning!"

Not the only ones? It wasn't truly a question for Lexius, but Mesteno was thinking it rather fiercely. Who else had they permitted here that spoke it? Surely he couldn't mean the tradesmen from the caravans.

More movement. The other living bodies around the city were on the move. Not all of them, but three more, from other locations, were closing in. Mesteno still wasn't near enough to touch his target, either.

Lexius hummed that thoughtful note of sound along the tie in something of an answer for the thoughts the Sadist was having. Another faction from their homelands, perhaps. Those who'd been on the side of the Soul that now infested Mesteno's body. It was the Elf's best guess, though he didn't mention it just then. His attention was split and split and split again, monitoring Mesteno and the Crazy Guy, the rift the man had been guarding, the threads he was weaving out as a net of detection and protection and the other lines he was laying down to evacuate the Sadist if he needed to, not to mention the continued chaos of the storm and any reaction that might have come from those lights

Your time runs low. He hadn't sensed the others closing in yet, but the attitude of the Crazy Guy alone deserved the reminder.

I know, Mesteno offered, though it was calm. No suggestion that the warning had made him impatient.

He was intending on taking a risk, that much was obvious. Some hasty mental projections as to how rapidly he might make it from A to B, how best to accomplish a physical confrontation with the lowest likelihood that he'd end up with something stuck in his guts.

The Elf braced himself for whatever recklessness Mesteno was preparing to enact. He didn't even try to follow the mental projections, but he knew the man well enough to predict what he would most likely do.

"Look, I'm not going anywhere," the necromancer told the lone man, and here at least he did allow himself to sound openly impatient, as much old fashioned, human inflection in those few words as anyone might expect. He didn't mean to have the fellow think it was all an act. "I'm coming over there."

And just as he'd suspected, the man spun out from around the corner of the wall and loosed the bolt. It came sailing for the centre of his mass, sure sign the man wasn't new to the weapon, but Mesteno had bet on just that tactic and had gone leaping sideways (not at all balletic but with a certain mantis elegance with those long limbs). Three bounding strides and while the panicked man was reaching for his blade, the necromancer barrelled into him, planting a shoulder against his chest so that they both hit the ground amidst rock and dust, the stranger shouting his alarm and Mesteno grunting audibly.
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Re: Origins

Post by Mesteno » Wed Feb 12, 2020 10:01 pm


It was as Mesteno was throwing himself at the crazy guy that Lexius caught the first trace of action out there in the city, coming closer. Something more than just the winds and the shadow creatures skulking between the rippling rifts. Lexius immediately began to tighten his threads, pulling them in, even as he shifted physically from the place he'd been skulking.

Others approach. He hadn't done any teleporting yet. Lexius was as loath to leave the gate unguarded as Mesteno was, and checked the rift anew to see if anything was coming through it. Thankfully, it appeared to be stable in its lack of activity, if nothing else. Its edges continued to flutter, crawling, smoky tendrils lapping outward and fading to nothing, the cold leaving the ground in front of it ice rimed.

Mesteno meanwhile was doing his best to subdue his (potential) countryman without actually doing him any harm. Grappling for his wrists and taking the brunt of wildly swung punches on his forearms. The man was underweight, shorter than he, but had the strength of adrenaline fuelled fear making him not only more of a challenge to hold still, but to predict.

"I'm not trying to harm you!" Mesteno snarled down at him, with Lexius' warning ringing in his ears. "I told you, I just want to talk!" Knuckles clipped his jaw, infuriating, but not enough to result in furious retaliation. Instead he finally succeeded in shoving the flailing limb down into the dirt and pinning the man.

"Liar!" The man accused, leaving Mesteno all the more bewildered about precisely what of his actions might have suggested otherwise.

We should get out of here, he finally decided.

There the Elf was, near enough to the rift that ice began to collect on the toes of his scaled boots. He didn't seem to be feeling the least bit guilty for not having Mesteno any assistance at all in subduing his prey.

Lexius dropped a crystal to the near frozen ground as the pair struggled briefly, tamping it down into the dirt with the stomp of a boot as he tossed another through the lowest part of the rift. It took two seconds to accomplish and already Mesteno had made the decision to leave. Prepare yourself.

Again, he caught the flicker of motion in the storm. People rushing closer. The Elf took three steps closer and wrapped his threads of thought around Mesteno and the Crazy Guy like steel bands. The wind torn world warped dizzyingly before it disappeared for half a second. Then the three of them reappeared in the bath house, Mesteno and his prey down in that empty basin the Elf had prepared earlier.

This time when the man bellowed it was for the surprise of being snatched bodily away. Even sprawled beneath another body, it was hard not to be aware of the teleportation sensations, and of the fact that the wind had suddenly become absent, its wailing dimmed and distant. Even the stones digging into his back were gone. The fight went out of him abruptly, and all for the better, since Mesteno suffered his usual wave of vertigo at the other end, and struggled to keep watch of him with the world teetering one way and then the other as his balance rebelled.

Lexius wasn't watching them. He was fully committed to his lizard back where they had been and the crystals he'd placed like a tether on each side of the rift. The pair were connected, a psionic weight that would keep the thing from closing.

Their absence changed nothing, but the figures who'd been visible coming closer did come pelting in some twenty seconds later, audibly out of breath despite the wind and speaking raggedly to one another as they stooped to investigate the abandoned cross-bow, the pile of empty blankets. Three had come, two from one direction, a third from another, but it was plain they were familiar with one another, and all spoke in the Dead Language.

"They've taken him!"

"I told you this one needed two to guard it!"

"Do you think there might be some loose in the city?"

All three male, though one sounded gruffer, older than the other two, and it was to him they seemed to turn for instruction, collecting the snatched guard's belongings hastily before retreating as a single unit, not waiting around to investigate further, with agreement that they would search again come dawn.

"Be still!" Mesteno snapped down at their captive. "As you should've been when I told you to be before. We're going to talk, yes? Just talk. But I swear to the Gods if you punch me again I'll hit you right back."

Lexius reeled the bulk of his attention back to where he was, standing there at the edge of the empty pool. He looked down to Mesteno, only a small measure of his mental awareness now centred where they had been.

"Three more came." Lexius spoke in common even as he stepped down into the basin to crouch and touched a hand to Mesteno's captive. With that kind of physical connection, it would be far easier to overcome any mental shields (natural or otherwise) and enforce the ‘don't move’ policy with a little physical paralysis. "I believe they think he was taken by whatever comes through the rift."

Between the two of them (though perhaps more Lexius' presence and commentary than anything else) the man calmed and lay still, panting, wide-eyed, but a ball of confusion other than outright violence. He'd spent himself thrashing around, too ill-fed to keep fighting for longer than he had already.

Mesteno felt content enough that they wouldn't encounter further resistance that he actually released his wrists and moved, with deliberate care, to sit beside him rather than astride. Showing no signs of exertion personally, but rubbing absently at his jaw where the man's knuckles were bound to leave a bruise, he considered the news with a scowl. "They didn't say what came through the rift?" he asked the Elf, slanting a grim look up at him.

"Don't go near them. They need to stay on guard," the stranger breathed out nervously, at last paying attention to what they discussed.

Lexius eased the paralytic hold enough that their captive could sit up and support himself with braced hand, his back against the edge of the pool. He stared at the man for several seconds in the wake of his words, expression much too serene.

The Elf was sorely tempted to go for a mental walk through his mind and rip out the information they sought, but that would leave him rather damaged, something he was not convinced they needed to do just yet. He left a thread floating inside the man's head through, something to sense thoughts as they happened. A mental voyeur.

"They did not say." He answered Mesteno first, gaze still on Crazy Guy. His next words were directed at him. "What are they guarding again?"
Mesteno was rather perturbed by the way the man kept stealing glances at him. Not at the Elf, with his pointy ears and dark, amethyst eyes (and he truly didn't think his people had ever permitted anything non-human within the walls) but at him, as if he were some freak of nature.

It was the nocturnal gleam of his eyes. Lexius might catch that in the voyeurism, the way the man was likening it to other eyes. Eyes that spelled trouble. Associated with unpleasant memories.

After a moment their captive made a concerted effort to look at Lexius as he replied. "The shadow holes. Things come through, like when the attack happened. If something comes, we're supposed to try and catch one alive."

"What things? Is this the attack that happened about eight years ago?" Mesteno asked, sitting inelegantly sprawled, but too tired to care.
"How do you know about that if you weren't there?"

"I was travelling out to try and visit," Mesteno admitted. "I told you, I used to live here. I heard it from one of the caravans that there was no point. Amhinata got levelled."

Lexius filed away the little details he was learning via the thread and spared Mesteno only a brief look to see what the other man was seeing. He met that gaze steadily once it was directed at him and made no effort to hide what he was.

"Tell me of the initial attack, how this all began." The Elf instructed the man, paying close attention to what he might say or only think. " Were you there? Did you see what came through the rifts? Do you know why it began? Why has there been no effort to repair this place?" He might have realized that was a flood of questions and paused before he overwhelmed the man.

Another reluctant slide of wary eyes from the subject of his concern to the Elf, who seemed more acceptable to him even if he did have eerie powers and bloodlines other than human. The man let his head tip wearily against the side of the bath and spilled a sigh, but it was plain he was buying himself some time by not answering immediately. He was acquainting himself with their bolt-hole, checking to see if there was anyone else around, or any sign of shadow 'holes', as he called them.

"I was here," he confirmed to begin with. "A big tear, like the one I was guarding, it was right up at the top of the cliff. Huge. I couldn't see what it was, but something came from inside of it and half of the face just caved in and crushed the buildings underneath. Everyone was running to try and help the people that got buried, and we've always assumed that was what they wanted us to do, because then the holes started appearing near the walls behind us, and there were more things, man-sized, coming through those. Some people they just snatched and then vanished with. The ones that ran...well some of us fought, and then the senators that'd been pulled out of the rubble started trying to fight back. They were less careful about taking people alive, after that."

He'd rambled, and perhaps more than he meant to. The recollections had come vividly. A night-time attack. The ice bleeding out everywhere and the dust from the collapse churning through the city, blinding and choking.

"We can’t rebuild. You've seen what it's like here. Who in their right mind would try?"

So Lexius listened closely to the explanation, gaze half lidded as he sorted through the mental images that accompanied the telling. He shared them with Mesteno in a much more controlled fashion.

"Your senators fought back. With magic." It wasn't a question, just an observation. He didn't try to answer the man's question, but asked more of his own. "Did any of them survive? Why is it you wish to capture one of these creatures?"

Mesteno made no comment on the visuals he was receiving second hand, but he was not unmoved by what he witnessed. The destruction of the city was lamentable, but it was the terrifying vision of the violence wrought by those shadow shrouded attackers that truly settled like lead in his stomach. His eyes had the glassy look of a man distracted from conversation as he considered what he'd witnessed, but he listened all the same.

"None of them," the murmured reply from the mad man. "There's..." He stopped, guarding something - not that he could keep it from the Elf however.

A small collection of escapees, no more than three dozen, made up of those who'd been injured and left for dead, or those who'd managed to hide successfully. They'd resettled somewhere, miles away, and he meant to keep them safe. "There's just those of us here, now. We want to try and rescue the ones that were taken captive through the shadow holes. We thought," his tongue darted across dry lips, and a bit of the zealous gleam returned to his eyes. "We thought we could catch one and make it talk. Tell us where they were taken, or use it as bait to make more come through."

Wreak some vengeance, if they couldn't get the information they wanted.

"Some of the holes are still active," he admitted, looking between Lexius and Mesteno, frown sharpening. "Including the one I was guarding. They send things through that sniff around, like hounds."

"And you've been able to kill those?" Mesteno asked, breaking his silence. The man nodded a positive.

Lexius canted his head, curiosity still prickled by that zealous gleam in the man's gaze. The situation didn't seem to warrant that that kind of hard-core reaction. Most people wouldn't be eager to face such crippling odds against them in the hopes of saving a few of their own. Especially when there was such a small group of survivors already. So why come back to ground zero, amid such terrible conditions where the enemy had such a clear advantage and without the support of any kind of magic users at all?

Lexius hadn't witnessed that kind of dedication to vengeance since his days with Mourne, and he'd spent enough time with the type who gave themselves over to that kind of emotion to easily recognize the breed. He wasn't so sure that was all there was to this situation.

The Elf didn't call the man on what he'd left out, what he tried to hide or what he claimed for reasoning. Instead, he questioned his reaction to Mesteno. "Why are you more concerned with his presence than my own?"

"You don't sound like us," the man told Lexius bluntly. "You speak our language, but the accent is different. He sounds..."

"I already told you, this is where I was from originally," Mesteno retorted him, and didn't hide the fact that it irritated him to have to keep reminding him of the fact.

The captive barked a laugh, or rather a croak that sounded as if it was probably meant to be one. "So did they, when we heard them speak. If I hadn't known better, I'd have thought they were some break-away freaks from within the city." He made an effort to stand, but found that whatever strange phenomena had been used to push him against the side of the sunken bath wasn't going to let him get to his feet. He didn't comment on it, as if he knew it would be a waste of breath.

"Are you certain you do not know better?" This from the Elf. He didn't expect an answer, but offered the question more as a prompt and, perhaps, an indication of his own suspicions.

"Well I can see I'm not gonna convince you easily, even if we are sat here talking like you’ve got some sense in your head," Mesteno muttered. "Did the Senate have any idea who was attacking, or what they might want?"

"We don't know. We can only speculate that it's whatever they had the defences for in the first place," the man admitted grudgingly.

Lexius nodded, as if he'd expected it. "The same reason your people came here from their own world then? Which is what? And why hide your magic use? Did you bury any of your Senators?" Just the asking of it might prompt a mental picture of where they could find some graves for the Necromancer to possibly plunder.

"Imply whatever you want," the man countered the Elf, his tone a combination of resigned and resentful, as if he thoroughly expected everything he said to be picked over, dissected to death. "I was just a sentry. The Senate didn't tell us anything but what we needed to hear. Right up until the day the attack came, all we were told was to keep strangers out unless they were traders. No refugees, no visits, or we were doing double duty."

"That sounds about in line with what I remember," Mesteno admitted, his words for the Elf. "The magic though... no one was using magic when I lived here. Unless it's something the kids just weren't exposed to."

"Sixteen. You get assessed for occupational status," the self-proclaimed sentry told him. "If you didn't go through testing out of the schooling system, you'd never know. The kids didn't get told anything but what they needed to know."

"Then magic capabilities aren't uncommon?" Mesteno pressed, suddenly sounding hopeful. Perhaps he wasn't an anomaly.

The man gave him another wary look, grunting before he admitted. "The statistics were something like one in five hundred. We had a couple of dozen. You're headed for the senate if you have the abilities." Speaking of whom... "We couldn't get to the bodies for a long time. They were mostly rotten or eaten. Couldn't tell who was who. The wind took what was left."

The Elf's brow furrowed minutely, briefly, before he gave Mesteno a subtle nod and a low thrumming sensation along that link that confirmed he couldn't sense any real deception in what the Sentry was telling them. Beyond his desire to hide the existence of that group of survivors, everything he said seemed to be truthful.

"You're certain then? No remains that you know of exist on this side of the rifts?"

"No. No remains," the sentry snapped, as if he took it as a personal affront, this picking over sore subjects. "You've seen what it's like out there. Anything that's not bolted down ends up airborne." There was even some uncomplimentary mental muttering Lexius might have overheard from him, as if he were questioning intelligence. Maybe his captors were fools he might escape from after all. Then what? Let the others know news had spreads somehow. That vultures were coming about the ruins looking for... for what? Corpses?

The Elf had more questions, of course. "How often do they send creatures through? Do they just seek the survivors or do you think they go beyond the city? Have any of them made a home on this side?"

"There were some small shadow creatures out on the flats," Mesteno added, to Lexius' words. "Just small ones though, like foxes and snakes. They didn't try and harm us though."

"Often enough," the man replied, with a defeatist shrug. "But they don't stay. Sun comes up and they're gone. We don't know what they're doing here, and at this point I'm not answering any more of your damn questions. If you're really not here to do harm, let me go so I can get back to the hole and let the others know I live. Whatever you people want, it's not nearly as important as us getting our people back."
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Re: Origins

Post by Mesteno » Sat Feb 15, 2020 4:36 pm


"Why is that so important?" Lexius sounded honestly curious.

This time the man only let his indignation at the insensitivity show, shook his head, then lapsed into silence. They'd be getting nothing more out of him unless they began to consider his demands. Or the Elf decided to take a more destructive wander through his head.

The Elf transferred his gaze to Mesteno, and abruptly tweaked at the man's passenger, though only lightly, nothing intended to be debilitating.
Mesteno, deep in thought, was taken off guard by it, and shot the Elf a wondering look. As for the creature itself, it was not unresponsive. It tugged back, in the other direction, like a mutt who had the end of a rope and didn't intend to relinquish it anytime soon. Beyond that small, disagreeable response though, it seemed intent on remaining a silent observer. Mesteno wasn't complaining.

"What d'you think?" he asked Lexius after a moment. "Head out at dawn like we intended? We could see if his allies are any more reasonable when we're not distracting them from 'shadow-hole' duty."

The Elf made a sound half hum, half growl at the response. Awake and aware and being stubbornly quiet. Very well! He decided against doing anything more mentally destructive to their captive, stood, and gestured Mesteno along with him out of the basin.

The necromancer acquiesced, climbing up, though not without a backward glance at the exhausted looking native. The man slipped a hard-eyed look his way that was entirely untrusting, and not without (Mesteno thought) an apprehension that was undue, given how gentle they'd been with him in the aftermath of the capture. It wasn't as if they'd tortured him, or used magics to rifle through the contents of his brain.

"He speaks the truth as he knows it,” Lexius informed him. “Aside from a certain atypical zealous loyalty to your people as a whole and a selective blindness to the reality of his situation, he seems sane enough considering what he was been through."

"Sane," Mesteno agreed, "but I still think he wouldn't hesitate to put a crossbow bolt in us apiece if he were given the option."

Lexius let their captive hear that much before he leaned to empower the crystals he'd embedded unto the basin's walls. A latticework of lights made a brief appearance, like a spiderweb, across the top of the pool before it disappeared from sight. The hum of the power was there, though, like high tension wires full of deadly current. It would cut of their voices as well as discourage any easy escape. Only then did the Elf continue.

"He thought of several places where Senators had fallen, but the best chance would be amidst the rubble where they had never been dug out in the first place. We could return him to the others or to his rift, but I am not certain they would ignore us afterward, nor do I think his fellows would be likely to tell us more even if they know it. There are more survivors they protect, settled out of the city. Their existence makes me wonder why they continue to risk more here."

Mesteno turned to glance at the latticework of lights, palms resting on hips and spine a far cry from admirably postured. He was considering their options. "We try'n dig out the bodies and you know they're gonna try'n get the jump on us. We can't ignore their presence, and we can't round them all up and leave them here in the bath house with him either. If their presence at the shadow gates has been keeping something at bay all this time, it might just try and take advantage of a perceived negligence." Lower lip dragged between incisors, he bit down thoughtfully for a moment, frowning savagely enough to make his brow throb with the tension. "Perhaps patience is key here. Start with surveillance and see what the others do come dawn. If we can get a better indication of their numbers, their boltholes, maybe even spy long enough to get some idea of what they're planning, we could determine how to proceed. As things stand, we just don't know enough not to fuck things up."

Lexius clasped his hands behind his back and tipped his head a bit back, a vague smile touching his lips as he listened to Mesteno. “Did you just counsel patience and caution?" Too dry, that tone, and with a glint in his dark eyes that had nothing to do with the mental power he was wielding.

Mesteno barely managed to keep from spluttering is indignation before he schooled himself to something more composed. "Not everything has to be impulsive. I got that urge taken care of by dragging you out here, after all."

Between themselves, they elected to hunt for the remains of the fallen senators, and perhaps dig up some records, if they were lucky. The lizard scouts were set to the task immediately, scrambling through the rubble of and navigating every collapse at risk to their own pitiful little lives, but mainly on the lookout for underground tunnels. Their captive, Mesteno determined, was a liability if he were cut loose. His release could wait until their search was complete; they would simply have to hope that his kinsmen would accept him without suspicion.

"I'm not sure we have any other options," Mesteno admitted darkly when Lexius questioned the choice. "I'm not willing to harm him, and there's no way we can gain their trust in order to avoid them seeing him as a risk." A cold worm of guilt tracked through his thoughts, latched leech like and stubborn. Certainly, it hadn't been his intention to ruin someone else's life by visiting his ruined city. He sounded resigned when he spoke again. "When the time comes, we'll ask what he wants us to do. Leave it up to him. I don't think we can do any more than that."

Rather than linger on this new source of guilt, he turned his mind to more practical purposes.

"Focus their efforts around the senate house,” he advised the Elf of the lizards. “It's possible the cliff's collapse will have broken through into whatever lies below and opened up a route for us." Of course, thoughts of things underground were bound to lead his mind in peculiar directions given all their previous excursions into caves, and it was only moments later that speculative threads began to coalesce into a more solid idea.

"These were Roman people that built here. The first damn thing they'd do is make a mundus. If we can find the lapis monalis," the sacred stone used to close it off! "we might have our way down right there. And who knows what else they might use it to hide. There's nothing like a pit to the underworld to keep curious people at bay."

"I shall also see if they can find any trace of your mundus, though such a device might lead us to more troubles than answers," Lexius warned. There was a certain underworld God with a hardon for Mesteno, after all. He wondered (not for the first time) if Hades had any inkling of this group or if he'd lost them when they abandoned Earth no matter their continued worship.

Mesteno hadn't forgotten about Hades, nor about Dis. He simply wasn't sure that his people would have been able to successfully open an underworld pit in RhyDin, so far from the God's usual territories. This wasn't RhyDin's Temple District, where swarms of people flocked to their respective houses of worship. In fact...

"They weren't religious here." He blurted all at once, spinning away from the window wide-eyed. "I remember not knowing what praying was, what it was that people did in churches when I reached the towns on the other side of the flats.

"There might not be a Mundus at all, or if there is something like it, it might just have been for entombing corpses. Our new friend will know." And just like that he was stalking away and back through into the room with the sunken bath.

The man looked startled to see him, straightening against the wall where he'd been propped, alarmed at the purposeful demeanour of his captor. Mesteno hopped right down in there with him, to make sure they he could hear his voice beneath the latticework of sound wards and containment that Lexius had erected, and sank into a crouch, forearms across splayed knees.

"We didn't worship Gods, did we?" he asked, probably looking a lot like a zealot himself, with those golden eyes so bright and eager.

"What?!" The sentry asked, plainly not following, suspicious of some trick.

He is suspicious of you, Lexius warned along the link once he’d followed him back to the sunken basin.

Good. He'd be an idiot not to be, was Mesteno's reply. After everything the sentry had been through, he'd have to have learned suspicion in order to simply survive.

"When I lived here twenty-five years ago, I was just a child. But aside from remembering the kids all living together, I don't remember us ever having temples or prayers or celebrations for any Gods," he explained, evidently deciding that it was better to be honest with the man, to let him feel he knew something of him if he were to provoke an honest answer. "I don't remember us ever being taught that, or told when we died that there was an afterlife. Am I recalling this correctly, or was this just another thing we weren't allowed to know, along with the senator's magic?" he pressed.

The man's expression had shifted from one of alarm to strained confusion, and Lexius' mental threads were confirming it was no act. He was studying Mesteno's eyes, his hair, all the striking features that made him arresting in a crowd, which made him unlikely to have ever been Roman born. Yet the fact that he was offering these facts - and they were very much correct - offered the authenticity Mesteno had hoped for.

"I already told you, I'm not telling you anything else," the sentry rasped, stubbornly.

"Oh, come on," Mesteno insisted, impatient. "If I meant you any harm, I'd have done it by now, or I'd be asking you where your people were hiding. I don't care about that shit. I just want to know whether we had Gods. What happened to us when we died?"

Lexius didn't drop down into the basin, but stood at the edge well within view of the Sentry as he was questioned. He threaded a glittering crystal he’d been crafting while they planned through a length of leather, making the item now shaped like a spiral into a rough necklace.

He is having trouble reconciling how you look with what you know. He kept Mesteno informed of his discoveries, managing to resist digging out the information they sought. He'd been right in thinking Mesteno wouldn't want to permanently harm this man, so he was patient and gleaned what he could as the mental observer. He has not made any sort of recognition of who you might be. Yet. The implication being, if the Sadist kept on, the guy might make the leap if he'd known anything.

"We may be able to assist you with the present if we know more of your past." Finally, he spoke aloud to the crazed captive, reasonable as usual. And truthful! "We do not wish to make this situation any worse through ignorance and in that, you can assist."

Subtle was the calming influence he sent toward the Sentry along that single thread he had connected to his mind. Very subtle!

Mesteno made no reply to Lexius' observations, but he understood precisely what it was that the man was going to be puzzled over. His eyes hadn't always been so bright as they were now. As a youth they'd been amber at best, a light, golden brown shade that had only become preternaturally effected once the first seal had been broken. His sight had been no greater than any other human's.

The sentry wasn't immune to Lexius' powers, and his heart race ceased to pound quite so savagely, the adrenaline coming down off its peak even if not altogether at normal levels. He was listening though, trying to find a way out of the mess he was in without bringing trouble down on the heads of others. Trying to determine what it was safe to tell them. Time and again, 'tell them nothing' was what he directed himself, because then there could be no doubt he'd given them any ammunition, but his mind was logical beneath the fear, and what he heard was not reconciling with what he'd have expected of enemies.

"Your ignorance has already taken me from my duty," he told the Elf, breaking his self-imposed silence.

"Yeah exactly," Mesteno waded back in. "and there's every chance we might blunder into something' else that causes you guys trouble if you don't talk to us. Listen to what he's saying."

The sentry's eyes darted between the two of them again, and ended up downcast in his lap, brow knotted. "Worshipping deities of any kind was prohibited and strictly enforced," he finally offered quietly, because how could that harm anyone? "Our people abandoned the tenets our ancestors adhered to in the founding, just as we understood our children would be better brought up with equal opportunities, instead of under an outdated concept of family."

"Yeah, I'm a prime example of how well that anti-family bullshit turned out," Mesteno informed him darkly, evidently less inclined to holding his tongue.

Lexius hummed thoughtfully as he considered the information. "How was it that happened? That your group decided to break away from your ancestors’ teaching and attempt this new way? Were there new founders? Was it one or a group? Did something happen to prompt the change?" One did not wake up one morning and decide to make such a drastic shift!

The man gave them both look that suggested he thought them backward, but such were minds indoctrinated to a way of thought from childhood, with no evidence to convince them otherwise. A single, crazy eyed man wasn't going to broaden his mind and make him willing to reconsider. "You two came all the way out here for a history lesson?" The sentry asked them in disbelief when Lexius began with some mild interrogation.

"In part," Mesteno admitted, unashamed. "If it helps us figure out why the city was attacked, it's relevant."

Another spell of silence, but in part it was because the sentry was trying desperately to recall the lessons he'd endured as a child in the same facilities Mesteno had been put through, albeit ten years earlier for the sentry. Finally, he looked back at the Elf, and now his voice was calm, slow.

"We were taught that what people called Gods were just fabrications. Our ancestors in Rome welcomed worship of deities from other lands, they even deified their own family members when it suited them. It was foolish. How could anyone believe, when it was so clearly just another way to control the plebeians? Or to elevate certain families above others?"

Mesteno listened, searched himself for memories of similar lessons, but with nothing ringing bells, he supposed it must have been something taught to the older children.

"It was amongst our first laws, the original tablets were on display in the senate around the auditorium," the sentry admitted. "I don't know the names of the founders, I... don’t remember the lessons. We have never had families here in Amhinata that I know of," he added.

Lexius brow furrowed minutely as he listened. It seemed these Romans had been separated from their brethren far longer than the Elf had initially guessed from the things Mesteno had told him. When the man stopped, he nodded to Mesteno. "He speaks the truth as he remembers it."

Looking to the Sentry again, Lexius asked another question. "Did you ever see the tablets yourself? And was this difference in views what drove your people here, to RhyDin? Or was that something else?"

Lexius finally stepped down into the pool, opened his satchel as he moved, and withdrew a skin and a cup. He filled the latter from the former (fresh, clear water!) and took a slow sip from it before he leaned to set it near the Sentry.

Mesteno's eyes were trained on Lexius as he descended into the basin, and he offered him the barest glimmer of a smile for the reassurance. It might have been more if the sentry hadn't chosen that moment to pipe up, glancing between them again with growing awareness of just how inhuman they were.

"He reads minds?" he asked, Mesteno, and the subtle lift of his shaggy, dark brows was not incredulous. "Why does he not just see for himself what I know?" From Mesteno to Lexius his haunted eyes flicked. "Just look! You ask me things from two score years ago and I don't remember. I was a sentry, not a teacher. There was a reason that role went to others."

"Because they assessed you and found you hadn't the desired traits," Mesteno murmured absently, before he nodded confirmation. "He can see what's in your head, yes, but to find the things we need to know he'd have to dig deeper, and that might cause you harm. We don't want that." A white lie. Mesteno didn't want it. Lexius was just behaving because he'd been asked to.

"Well I don't know what to tell you," the sentry admitted. "The tablets I only saw once or twice on visits as a boy. I was too busy trying not to make a fool of myself to study the scenery, but they were big, wide, rectangular stones. Taller than you are now." Evidently he seemed to have decided that a poisoning was unlikely, because there was some haste in the way he took the cup and drank, losing some of it in his dust-paled beard.

Well now. The man had just invited Lexius to do it! Knowing and willing compliance was an entirely different matter. The risk was significant even if the man couldn't readily recall the information they wanted. Natural barriers and resistance would be lowered if he were actively allowing such a search.

Lexius settled across from the man, not looking nearly as eager as he suddenly felt. Oh, yes. He would go traipsing deeper through this man's thoughts in just a moment. "Very good. Think of that time and relax." He prompted the guard as he settled, cross legged, before him. Not within easy reach, but directly facing him. He laid the skin closer, capped, so the man could refill the cup as he wished.

The Elf, of course, didn't tell the man that letting him in was like allowing a fox free regin inside the henhouse. He would be good! Mesteno had asked him, after all, and Lexius had yet to find any real reason to leave the guy a mentally broken, drooling mess.

The man looked up, still wet-lipped, and his panic seemed abruptly renewed. "But he just said it might do me harm for you to go looking!" he exclaimed, fingers gone so tight around the cup his dirty knuckles gleamed through white all the same.

Mesteno slipped a look across at Lexius as he settled the same question on his mind. It was only because he knew the Elf wouldn't deliberately complicate things by harming him that he offered the sentry a weary attempt at a smile, no doubt lacklustre.

"This is a little different. He's going to be trying to focus on a specific memory, one that you're going to need to bring to mind as vividly as you're able. If it's right there at the surface, he's not having to dig through years of brain fog and unrelated memories." At least he hoped that was the case.

The man couldn't help look dubious. He was worried that even if he was focusing, the knowledge of his friends, tucked away safe miles away, might be uncovered, but if this man - this elf - could read minds anyway... "All right," he finally agreed, complying.

He didn't close his eyes, and he didn't reach to refill the cup, but he did remember the senate. He and a group of boys in their mid-teens were lined up neatly across the senate floor, staring up at the seated senators arrayed in a crescent upon the stone auditorium seats. It was a domed building, and open fronted between tall columns so that spectators could have observed should they wish to. The tablets (and they were much as he'd described them) were set equidistant from one another in alcoves along the upper wall, each safely behind panels of glass, the sheen of light bouncing off them making them even more indistinct. The youths had been listening to the senators speak, each of them smartly clad in tunic and high collared jerkins of ivory leather. Some sort of graduation or taking of oaths, judging by the uniforms.
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Re: Origins

Post by Mesteno » Sat Feb 15, 2020 5:26 pm


It was a chemical splash in the brain, a twisting shift of the mind. Compliance made all the difference and the Elf took advantage of that ephemeral window opened up when the Sentry agreed and slipped his threads in, snake slick and swift, until they were slithering through his thoughts and memories as if they were his own. As if the man's mind now belonged to him!

The current recollections were, of course, the strongest and most vivid. Lexius filtered them for strength and passed them along to Mesteno so he could see the things he was seeing and take his time studying what the Sentry remembered. Meanwhile, he was digging deeper, slipping further into the man's mind, and uncovering nuggets of useful information. Other times the man had been in the same place. What he knew of their people's history. What he recalled living in the City. What he remembered the day of the attacks. It was a chain, a ladder of one thought leading to the next, a spiralling vortex of memories all connected together in the most intricate maze. The Elf knew how to navigate it without any trouble at all.

Mesteno had never been to the senate before - just another place children hadn't been welcome, so the gathered men in their uniform white (not the generous, overblown folds of fabric that they might have worn in ancient Rome, but their stiff looking, structured ensembles still had a broad band of red that cut from one shoulder to the hem of the same side to distinguish their rank) were unfamiliar, and presented a rather daunting audience. He could well imagine how uncomfortable the boys lined up before them would have been.

Not entirely forgetting the tablets, he attempted to make out the Latin inscriptions chiselled into them, thwarted somewhat by the reflection off the glass covers. He managed to make out fractions only.

...shall conspire to father children without the consent of the governing body, and no woman to bring forth a child in secrecy should prevention fail. Not one that surprised in the least!

No man or woman should invite authorised tradesmen from outside of Amhinata beyond the merchant's guild hall premises. To bring them within the city proper will entail penalisation... Nor a surprise were the particulars of handling outsiders. As little contact as possible for the general populace!

Worship of a religious nature is strictly forbidden, nor shall any citizen keep idols or artefacts representing the deities of foreign pantheons. Failure to comply will result in inquisition.

The sentry recalled oaths taken - sworn to protect the city inside and out, to keep the flames burning constantly atop the city walls and within the streetlamps as if the rules were intended to keep the darkness at bay. Strict curfews to enforce should anyone be found wandering the streets, the severity with which he'd been reprimanded when he'd let a tradesman loiter too long at the city gates. Worst of all, the whipping and ultimate capital punishment he'd witnessed when two sentries had failed to prevent an escape, shortly after he'd been sworn in.

They'd actually gotten lucky in capturing a former sentry rather than a more mundane person who wouldn't have been well placed enough to see some of the things their captive had witnessed...and carried out. Lexius ferreted it all out, to include every thought and emotion the man himself had during all those memories. It gave him a real measure of what kind of person the man was and how his attitude had developed over time. He followed the chain of recollections right along to the present day, stored it away for later review.

Later, the Elf would recall and write down every word from those tablets that he could decipher from the Sentry's memories. He would record all the intricacies of the ceremony, as well as the grisly details of the punishment and more. For then, he was concentrating on what their captive remembered of the night the City had been overrun.

He prompted him in a low, smooth tone. "Now recall when the city was attacked."

The sentry (his name was Marcus, the Elf had discovered by this point - no second name since no one in the city had them, only a number in Roman numerals etched into a band of metal worn about the ankle like identification) didn't really wish to recall that night. Memories of the senate evaporated, and there was a blank moment where Lexius likely saw himself and Mesteno through the man's eyes, how his mind had magnified their differences.

Nonetheless he tried.

Endless, moonlit flats as far as his eyes could see, and a night sky full of constellations unobscured by cloud cover. The wall he was stood upon was tall and strong, built of the same pale stone as the cliff, and it was lit at intervals by torches, the noise of the flames about the only thing there was to hear. Behind him, the city was quiet, curfew obeyed, though as he made his rounds, he glimpsed light burning behind shuttered windows. Lights still burning in the senate, where the men there worked later hours than the other citizens. Nothing to be concerned about. His fellow sentries were making their rounds in the streets below, easily identified thanks to the streetlamps and their uniforms. All was calm. His mind was fixed on what he might get to chow on when he returned to the guard house for the brief break he was permitted (something that he now felt guilty for, this lapse of concentration).

The shadow crept over the city from behind him. It jutted rudely into his view of the salt flats like a great wedge, darkening the silvered stretches where the light from the walls didn't reach them. It puzzled him, because there were no clouds. It wasn't until he turned, and saw the darkness up high, yawning vast at the top of the cliff that he realised the cause for it. One massive rift had opened up there, and something moved within it.

Too much blackness, too dark to see. He heard one of the other sentries shout out, the scramble of feet as someone ran for the nearest bell and the ringing disturbing the still night with crisp peals, but it was drowned out by the ear-splitting crack of the rock face coming apart, an enormous section of it sheared away and dropping, coming apart in the air.

He shouted then too, but it was wordless, just a horrified sound of denial as the deafening impact rocked across the city, the cloud of dust exploding upwards almost as tall as the cliff had been.

Of course, it continued to be particularly strange for Mesteno, who found himself frustrated at the limits of the sentry's natural vision. Had he been the one upon the wall that night, he might have been able to discern what it was, moving in the gaping maw of that rift staining the city with its darkness. Instead he had to watch, search for details within the parameters he was provided.

Lexius attempted to search for knowledge of the senators, but turned up little. Marcus had not been particularly interested in politics or governing. Just what the scope of his job and home life required, but that was not to say he was completely oblivious. He knew that the senators were only elected if they were more than forty years old. He knew that there were figures amongst them whom had more weight to throw around than others, either be it from a matter of charisma, age or popularity amongst the civilians, but never due to a matter of money - money didn't seem to factor into life particularly. He knew only a handful of their names, one of them had been a boy he'd known during his formative years before they'd been sent their separate way in life. The other lad had been taken into the collegium of magi in preparation for his future political career. Lucius he'd been called.

And the horror of that evening played on of course, as best Marcus could recall it. The bell had summoned the city's military forces from their barracks, and the sentries not on duty had obeyed its demanding peals just as hurriedly. Concerned, and terrified citizens alike had forgotten all about the curfew and stepped from their homes or flung their windows wide to try and see what had happened, but the dust cloud had so obscured things it'd become hard to see.

"Hold your positions!" Marcus had been commanded by a man below, with the accoutrements of a captain to mark his superiority. Marcus and his fellows had been hard pressed to obey, and yet they'd done as they were told, watching as the pale dust settled and the first wailing, despair thick and horrified had reached their ears. Now he could see the cloven cliff face, the changed landscape of the city. The dome of the senate house was crushed, though parts of the wings and associated buildings still stood, the lights all gone out. Some men had left their homes to go and assist in whatever ways they could, and the sentries hadn't commanded them not to. If there were survivors to be dug out, better there be help.

So intent were the guards on the distant chaos that they hadn't seen the smaller rifts beginning to open at the foot of the walls, inside of the city rather than out on the flats. The first thing Marcus had noticed was the chill wind sprung from nowhere, the unsettled feel that he couldn't have explained, but which was a result of the chaotic energies making the region unstable. The first scream from the wall had been near the front gate. He saw a sentry fall the twenty feet to the ground below, had been about to sprint that way along the battlements to help, when something dark and amorphous had lunged at him from below and almost toppled him backward off the wall.

A rather coordinated attack, Lexius commented to the Sadist along their private link. I am following other chains in his mind, looking for any indicators in the days before the attack.

Meanwhile, the Elf reached out other threads to his lizards braving the magic storms, tweaking their paths and checking on in what they may or may not have scene of people or creatures as they scurried through the city. Lexius had withdrawn a leather-bound journal from his pack and was busy sketching out the ruins, using both the Lizard view he was getting back and Marcus' memories of how the place had look before it was all destroyed.

Marcus was no coward, but he'd been startled well enough by the creature come lunging for him that his fellows had heard it, been ready with their weapons as more of the things had come swarming up the wall to assault them too. It was no surprise that Marcus had survived of course, since he was sat there before them, even if he was a wasted, far cry from what he'd once been. They had not attacked him with obvious blades, but they'd raked open a bloody set of claw-mark wounds across his chest. His attacker had seemed to think it a mortal wound, because it had moved on, plunging down into the city and from the sentry's line of sight. He'd lain there groaning, his vision a pain-blurred mess of faltering stars, and had to pick himself up, rather than being assisted. There were slumped forms along the wall as he propped himself on his spear. He knew better than to waste time checking them.

He'd gone down into the streets, and by then there was the terrible howling of the winds, the streets had been made slick with ice, and the whole place seemed distorted as the streetlights had gone out and the shadows were flickering like the tentacled stuff of nightmares. Distant sounds of soldier's shouts, rallying cries. Shrieking youth, barely old enough to have been discharged from school and into work, being chased by something shadow-borne, engulfing him. Gone.

Marcus had strained his way, on the heels of the enemy rather than being attacked by them, struggling not to collapse as the breath he so desperately needed further tore the muscles of his wounded chest. By the time he'd reached the central plaza, the surviving senators had been pulled from the rubble, their whites filthy and bloody, and wielding what small magics they still had the strength to keep the shadows at bay. Illumination and shielding, flame given to the weapons of the soldiers who seemed to have better luck forcing back the enemy with the light on their side. Many of the soldiers had already fallen. There were very few civilians there, cowering behind the fitfully fluttering shields.

The enemy for the most part seemed to hold no continuous shape by which they could be identified, but there was one there, near the back, relatively man shaped. A pair of brilliantly golden eyes flicker-flashed amidst the seething shadows. Even Mesteno had no trouble recognising the parity to his own, and understanding just why Marcus was so loath to be near him.

Lexius looked aside to Mesteno, brow mildly furrowed, as he murmured an encouragement to their captive. "You are doing well. What happened next?" This seemed an important thread, what little the man could recall of the confrontation here. Lexius flipped to a new page in his book and took notes right then and there of the scene.

Mesteno missed Lexius' glance. He hadn't yet the skill in watching other people's mental visions to be able to concentrate on them and also monitor reality. There was an uncommon tension to his mouth and eyes, and the muscle at the hinge of his jaw showed in taut relief, molars aching from the clench. He was apprehensive about seeing more, and yet these revelations were whipping his imagination into a frenzy.

As for Marcus, he obliged, the memories pulsing through his brain rapidly, as if even had Lexius demanded he desist he might have had trouble. Perhaps they'd been banked for so long, held at bay behind mental walls designed to keep him from suffering the traumatic stress, that the flood simply had to run its course.

One by one the senators fell. The civilians banded together like shoaling fish, picked off at the edges by the shadow creatures which snatched them away into tears while the remaining soldiers were massacred. The winds had picked up to the point that buildings were collapsing around the plaza, huge chunks of masonry colliding with walls, bodies airborne and dashed to pulp and smears. Marcus had been no fool. He'd scrambled against the wind initially, but when it became obvious no one could stand against the enemies, he'd taken refuge, huddling behind a crumbling wall slick with ice, his breath fogging the air. He'd been able to see the bright-eyed figure roaming, unbothered by the magics, striding toward the crushed senate building.

Soft clink of chains, but no sight of them.

Marcus had remained there, playing dead with a pair of corpses as the shadow attackers had come looking for survivors. He'd remained that way, growing feverish, sure he'd die there in his own waste and under the slow rot. The others had plucked him out, a rag-tag band of survivors in the daylight while he'd been hallucinating - the memory ended there, thankfully. Marcus was staring blankly ahead, unblinking.

Lexius reached out, heedless of the Sentry's presence and brushed his fingertips briefly along the tightness of Mesteno's jaw as if to remind him to relax before he cracked his teeth! A light, fleeting touch. As delicate as the one he had on Marcus' mind.

Well aware of the toll all these memories was taking on their captive, Lexius did not try to encourage him to remember more when this last recollection came to an end. In fact, he twisted those mental threads he had inside his head and squeezed just so on his consciousness, pressing him into sleep. Even more threads went out to catch his body as he slumped so he wouldn't crack his head open on the tiles in the basin. He didn't figure they would get much more useful out of the man that night and he deserved some rest.

Marcus slipped into Morpheus' arms with a shuddered sigh, ending up in a dust-grimed heap on the cracked mosaics. It would probably be the best slumber he'd had in some time, if the hollows his eyes were mired in were any indication. Under the ragged layers of patched together clothing, he was far too thin. Exhaustion was a constant state of being for him.

"Mesteno?" Lexius murmured, checking this time on the Sadist's frame of mind.

The necromancer was not unresponsive. He felt the fleeting touch, and like a child being corrected on its posture, relaxed his jaw as the rest of the scene unfolded. He too had realised the significance of the senate building, though he doubted it could be something living it had gone searching for in there. They wouldn't have begun the battle by dropping half a cliff on the place if they'd wanted to get someone out alive, or even in one piece. With his eyes clear of the memory's overlay, he drew in a sharp breath and frowned down at the slumped man in the basin with them before responding.

"Enlightening." He lifted his eyes to Lexius, the tension still dominant in shaping his expression, then reached over to close his fingers around the Elf's wrist, tugging once, to draw him along with him out of the bath and back into the front room where they'd left their belongings. He moved smoothly enough, though mentally there was the sense he was shaken by it all. This time there was no pacing, no checking at the windows. He simple sat back down where he'd been intending to sleep earlier, Lexius' wrist free of his hand again. "Looks like we have a good starting point. It's where we'd been going to check anyway." Matter of fact. Sticking to planning was helping to keep his mind steady.

More coffee seemed to be in order and Lexius set about brewing some as he pondered what they had learned as well as the Sadist's reactions. "I've directed all the lizards but the one where we found Marcus to exploring the area, both above ground and below. There are sewers, so far, but no other true passages beneath the city itself. There is also no sign of any of the other survivors, though there are more rifts. Currently quiet. If you show yourself too freely, however, I am not certain they will remain quiet."

"The sewers will have to do,” Mesteno stated firmly. “They'd have to extend under the senate building - they used to have facilities for the kids, they'd definitely have had something there. If we can find the right tunnel, we could get in under the collapse and find out what that... thing was searching for in there."

Lexius settled cross-legged as the coffee brewed, and set about building a wider mental net to surround their location. Something that would discourage those shadow creatures from slinking in unnoticed. "I wonder if your passenger is simply too much for one host to handle no matter how modified and adaptable. It needs to have several."

Lexius' remark about the hosts left a snake of disgust writhing in Mesteno’s stomach, the desire to find some way to dig the thing out of him rather than simply be some side-effect personality sharing flesh with it, but those weren't thoughts he gave voice to. It wasn't the first time he'd had them, nor he supposed would it be the last. He stretched out on his back, arms folded beneath his head with elbows butterflied outward and his hair vivid as the spill from a gunshot wound where it rivered across the floor.

"Is it even worth staying, d'you think?" he asked as the coffee brewed, spicing the air again, but doing nothing to tempt him to hope for a cup himself. "If it got in there, it would have taken what it wanted anyway. There might be nothing for us to find. Or if there is something, it might be a trap for anyone else who might go looking for the same item." It might have sounded like he was backing out from cowardice, but there was logic in there somewhere too.

Lexius was quiet for several minutes in the wake of Mesteno's comments and question. Long enough to pour himself some coffee.

"It is worth staying. Even if all we find is a trap, we will find out more about what it was that placed it." Of course, triggering such a trap might draw the thing itself. Then they would get to learn plenty, he was quite sure. "We have learned more here about your past in the last few hours than you have in the last several years. We should finish the search and see what it brings." He drank from his mug, glancing back to where Marcus was still passed out.

"We should bring him, as well. If the others come, we can give him back. At the very least, leave him there once we are done." He looked back to Mesteno then. "Or I can simply teleport him elsewhere now and he can wake up freed."

He couldn't deny what Lexius said. They truly had learned more, even if he wasn't sure how all of it related to him. "We should give him the choice," he murmured, waiting for the weariness to grab hold and pull at him. "Like you said, they might not trust him if we just hand 'im back over. He'll know what's for the best." Or at least he hoped the sentry would. He didn't need to leave the damned place with another thorn prickling at his beleaguered conscience.
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Re: Origins

Post by Mesteno » Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:58 am


"So, I was thinking," Mesteno started awkwardly, "that maybe Marcus is a little in the dark about some things. Like the Gods. Maybe he's just recitin' what he was told when he was a kid. Never gave it much thought because it was widely accepted that religion and anythin' associated with it was backward. What if the reality of the situation is that the senators knew what this... thing in me was made to eat. So, they weren't taking any chances about having Powers here for it to nibble on? I don't know why else they'd be so strict about even having images or trinkets or whatever else kept out when the tradesmen come. They couldn't risk anyone adopting beliefs coming in from outside."

He turned his cheek against a bicep, looking across it towards Lexius as if half expecting to see him scoff over the suggestion, eyes heavy lidded and dust from the floor already beginning to imprint itself onto skin and fabric. "Maybe only people admitted into the senate were told the truth about things 'cause they didn't trust the population to handle it."

Lexius seemed thoughtful and approving rather than critical of his ideas. The awkwardness with which Mesteno broached the subject was the only part that confused him and the reason he studied the man for several seconds with a slight furrow to his brow.

"I'm quite sure what the Senate knew was vastly different than what the people of the city did. There were probably levels to the Senators, as well, based on talents and experience, years of service." The Elf paused to have another sip of the coffee before continuing. "What I am not certain of, however, is how much or what they actually knew." He pressed his lips together with annoyance and shook his head.

"Ultimately, that most likely does not matter except to my own sense of curiosity. What I truly wonder now is just how the Soul is associated with this thing we saw in his memories. I also wonder if those who kept track of you for so very long were actually part of the Senate or something else altogether. Some aspect we are not even aware of yet. The kind of attack that happened here seems to suggest the thing that seeks to destroy it, not an ally. Yet it encouraged you into the Shadowlands to Or something else?" He shook his head again, still working the angles in his mind.

"You should rest and I will need to meditate before we go on." He put that out there before they could get too involved in conversation and debate.

"You're right, I know," a low murmured response from Mesteno, and after a moment he rolled onto his side, using that same bicep to rest his head on and letting his eyes slip shut. "Wake me when you need a turn," he told the Elf.

He didn't voice what he was thinking. The thread of gratitude that he wasn't there wading through it all alone. That Lexius was not only seemingly unshaken by what he'd seen and suspected, but that he never once tried to talk him out of his investigations, or running away. Further still, and he didn't know whether it was simply because Lexius knew too well how to hide his feelings, but he'd never caught even a snippet of the Elf wishing he were not involved with him as a result of it all. Washing his hands of it all would have been the logical thing to do.

With a helpful mental nudge from Lexius, he was able to drift off. The usual corpse-still slumber, breath a rare-taken thing and his heart rate slower even than the norm. There were no dreams to speak of, nor did the Elf have any to study from Marcus' mind.

When it was the Elf’s turn, he opted for his usual meditation. Four good hours was all he needed, then he was blinking back awake and immediately consulting with his lizard army.

Not all of them had made it.

Eye slit into fine slivers of amethyst, he took stock of the situation and unfurled himself from the ground.

"Bonum diem," Mesteno greeted the Elf with a crooked grin. At some point, he'd washed his face of the grit and finger combed his hair into a semblance of order. There were items from his pack arrayed around his knees where he'd settled cross legged; pen and notebook, phone and a small container with a few pieces of coloured mosaic tile stored away. Being methodical helped, apparently. "Feeling rested? You didn't stir once when I took your clothes off and took photos of you." And being crude. Definitely feeling better.

Lexius snorted at Mesteno's comment, though a faint smile did tug at his lips. "The rest seems to have done you some good. Or you have simply let go of your sanity altogether."

He scanned the Sadist both visually and mentally and quirked his eyebrows a bit, pleased with what he saw and felt but mildly suspicious, as well. "You've been busy." He invited Mesteno to explain with that simple comment as he processed the data he was getting from his lizards, studied the room and checked in on their captive.

"Just shook off some of the doom and gloom is all," Mesteno admitted. "You sit about remembering all the crazy shit you've already been through and miraculously survived, and somehow it doesn't seem all that bad."

Stowing the jar in his pack and folding the notebook closed (there were a fair few pages filled out in his elegantly gothic hand), he nodded agreement on his activities, offered an affirmative grunt. "So, I was thinking back to what I knew about why these people left Rome in the first place. They were driven out from what I could tell, on the run from someone or something. At that time, at the height of Roman power, the deities of its pantheon would have been at their strongest. We can assume that means they're either too dangerous to predate on, or they're really good fodder. Either way, my friend is either going to be unwelcome or better off far from them, especially if they've noticed it. I'm inclined to think it was the latter."

He secured the fastenings on the pack and then crawled inelegantly the couple of feet through the dust to beside Lexius, as ever disinclined to distance when they were alone. "The Temple I've been working at in Rhy'Din, the Temple of Summanus, it's outside the Roman district. I never thought much of it until after I went through there and ran into Miss Springtime. Then I read about there being a lightning strike at the original temple in Rome that took the head off the major statue there and cast it into the Tiber. Seems like a weird coincidence, don't you think? Especially given who lightning bolts are generally attributed to. No one worships at the Temple in RhyDin and the one in Rome got built over by one to Jupiter. It's like they were trying to erase something."

Lexius studied Mesteno as if he was an interesting bug. He did that from time to time when the man said something thought provoking. Thankfully, the look didn't last long.

"The logic is sound if you make certain assumptions. I wonder, though, why would such a temple be built here at all, especially when your city was so insular. Was it yet another fracture within those who followed the initial group that broke away? Or something else? And why draw attention to themselves at all?" he stopped the pondering there and gestured for Mesteno to continue. He wasn't trying to discourage the man, only offering a few thoughts out loud! "But you are not finished. Continue."

Seeing that Lexius hadn't immediately found fault with the beginnings of his suspicions, Mesteno’s grin stretched a fraction broader.

"Like you said, fractures." He wagged a finger at Lexius' chest. "How likely is it that this group of people stayed together harmoniously? That none of them disputed how to live or worship or whether it was right at all to come here when they saw how different it was in comparison with Earth? Maybe some of them decided to take their idea north to RhyDin city. Maybe the others thought it too dangerous. We don't know yet, but the evidence is there for a split. Now we assume that they brought it here to keep it safe or something. Was it singular then, or was it already in pieces, like it seems to be now? Was it in pieces because it was attacked? Maybe parts of it went north and parts of it went south."

They theorised for some time, before finally deciding it was time to head out to search for a way into the senate.

"Sooner we start the better. I'll go and find out what Marcus wants us to do with him,” Mesteno decided. “If he wants cutting loose when we're out, we should consider this spot no longer safe, 'cause I don't doubt the others will want to come back here and drive us out somehow. Oh, and maybe get a lizard following him so we can keep an eye on their movements. Are there any left?"

Lexius nodded along with Mesteno's ideas and offered a comment of his own in the wake of the proposed ideas. "He was thinking of something. Of guards being punished for allowing an escape.” This as he filled a small pouch with more of the trail-mix he'd been eating and sprinkled a bit of sand dust from one of his pockets into the pouch. He held it out to Mesteno. "For him. We've no more lizards, but the sand dust will be enough."

He stood once the Sadist took the offering and began to gather and put away his things. "I will withdraw the stones from the area once he is gone. We will have no need to return here."

"We should ask him if he remembers anymore about the escapee. If they were a mole, knowing when it happened might make it easier to search the records. Y'know, if we find them." Mesteno took the pouch, but refrained from asking whether the man might not just cast it out in suspicion.

Marcus had sat up, drained what water had been left him, and eyed them with predictable caution when they returned to the baths. Mesteno didn't bother to offer any smiles of reassurance, because he knew they wouldn't be trusted. Instead he stepped down into the basin, pack on his shoulders (and this he noticed the sentry was eyeing) and the pouch in his hands.

"We're moving on from here," he told him bluntly. "There's no reason for us to keep you now. And," he hastened to add when he saw the way eyes widened in response to those words, "we wanted to know whether it would go easier for you if we just released you, or left you bound up somewhere for your friends to find you."

Marcus stared hard at him, expression a mixture of stern resolve and frustration. His mouth appeared from somewhere amidst his coarse, tangled beard as he spoke. "You're one of them, and you're just... letting me go. No hostage taking." Disbelief.

"I'm not one of them. I told you. I was from here originally."

"The boy that ran."

Mesteno was silent a moment. Lexius would probably laugh later, that he hadn't associated himself with the escapee who'd caused two guards to be executed. Now he saw the link. Now he realised why it would be pointless to ask him when it happened.

"Probably me." He confirmed, unapologetic even if there was a twinge of guilt. "I'm not a part of whoever came here though, all the same. I just came looking for answers, and I think you've told us all you can. So choose, Marcus. What do we do with you?"

In the end, he simply asked that they release him. Mesteno pressed him to take the pouch of rations, and though it was taken, unargued, he still doubted it would actually be consumed. The desert-beaten man was lost to sight rapidly once he'd left the bath house, only looking back once to be sure he wasn't followed.

Lexius had volunteered nothing to the conversation prior to Marcus’ departure other than a knowing note of sound as, between them, they confirmed his suspicion about the identity of the escapee. He waited until Marcus was gone before pulling one of his crystals from the walls of the basin. He stared at it for several seconds and the damn thing promptly sprouted spindly little legs that it used to propel itself along once the Elf tossed it back onto the ground. It took in the same direction the Sentry had gone, pulsing with a faint light that made it seem more a firefly then a stone.

That done, Lexius turned to eye Mesteno critically as he held out the rock he'd been working on the day before, wrapped around with a leather thong.

"Put this on. It will hold the storm at bay as I did yesterday without me having to expend the effort. The power will wane, but it should be enough while we are here. We can go overland most of the way and find a sewer entrance closer to the remains of the Senate building."

Mesteno examined it only briefly before doing as the Elf bade him, tucking it down under his clothes to lie alongside the labradorite with its dragonesque mount and salvaged chain. "All these baubles. I'm beginning to think you like seeing me all decked out in jewellery like some harem girl."

Lexius almost smirked. There was, along the link, the swift flash of an image. Women dancing with skirts of colourful scarves that flared and fluttered with their motions to reveal tempting flashes of their legs. The Elf might not prefer the gender, but he did appreciate the dance and the beauty in that kind of thing and Mesteno's mention of harem girls had brought the display to mind.

"You are most certainly not a harem girl." He assured. Emphasis on the girl! "Even if the hair might fool some."

"The hair hasn't fooled anyone in a long time," Mesteno snorted, and didn't seem at all offended that Lexius might be hinting that it did. No woman would let her hair get to such tangled messes as he did.

The city looked much changed by daylight. Even only partially risen, it was a harsh, intense illumination that reflected off the pale, salt-rich ground and the equally pale stone the masonry had been cut from. The shadows they passed were more sharply defined, but smaller, and the rifts themselves seemed to have less breadth, as the rippling, amorphous edges no longer licked outward so keenly. It was a fair bet that by the time the sun reached its zenith, they would be at their least powerful. A good time to be on the prowl for anything not of the shadow realms.

Lexius took a few samples of stone as they walked, pausing briefly to pinch some salty earth from the ground into a pouch, and monitoring the one they had given Marcus along with whatever feedback his spider crystal might be sending about the man and his location.

While Lexius took samples Mesteno was taking shots of the ruins on his phone, and in places even recording footage, though how well he'd be able to view it when they returned home thanks to all the dust was questionable.

Here and there, fallen monuments caught his eye, and on those occasions he drew Lexius from his path in order to investigate, trying to work out if they'd been raised in honour of any particular figure, and how long ago. Certainly, it would have been a curiosity even if he was just sight-seeing, but given that any scrap of history might help solve the puzzle of the city's strange policies, he wasn't willing to bypass anything. Even those Ozymandias style feet left behind in the dust. He snapped a shot of the weathered inscription beneath before they went any further.

The Elf, mind occupied on other fronts (tracking Marcus and the movements of the other humans alive in the ruins) sounded distracted. "What does it say?" he asked of the inscription once they'd continued on. He was angling them toward a nearby avenue that had been well paved and once upon time. Rubble was now strewn across the cracked cobbles, but there was a sewer access route not too far away.

Sliding his phone into a pocket, Mesteno’s eyes drifted to a demolished fountain, fragments of bronze and gold mosaic still feebly gleaming under the layer of salt, the basin utterly dry. Not too far away there was what he imagined must have been a public park, for there was dirt instead of stone or cobbles (carefully cultivated, in such arid and salty climate) to yield grass, and young fig trees thrust up from cracked urns, the fruit long gone and their narrow trunks splintered, blasted apart by the winds. Nowhere that the children had been allowed to roam, certainly.

"It was pretty badly weathered, but 'In memoriam of senator Antonius the first', then the plinth was splintered. Something about chains. I'll have a closer look at the pictures when we get out of here. If that was the first Antonius to make it to the senate though, I'd be willing to bet he was one of the founders."

Lexius hummed a low note of acknowledgement and continued on through the rubble until they found one of his lizards (missing its tail) perched amidst ruins near a rent in the ground. It looked like someone had driven a massive axe into the street, splitting the cobblestone and the rock beneath in two, leaving behind a fissure that exposed a section of the dry sewer system beneath.

Lexius paused at the edge of the gap, measuring the access anew now that he wasn't looking through a tiny reptile's eyes. "Were we any bigger," he murmured, a flash of Aiden coming to mind with amusement, "we would not fit. This shall do." He looked up to Mesteno even as he stepped out onto the air to hover there for a moment before he slowly sank down into the hole.

"Don't get stuck," Mesteno commented as Lexius began the descent, "I'll be right down." He was keeping an eye on things above ground to make sure no one was spying on them.

Amhinata hadn't been technologically advanced, but they'd built upon the Roman system of sewers and aqueducts so that they at least had adequate filtration and sanitation. No city that had stood for two thousand years on the same spot, harbouring several thousand inhabitants was going to cope without one... and these sewers had been well used. Dried they might be, and with a good layer of rubble and grit fallen through the gap, but it wasn't going to eradicate the predictable smell from all that dried up waste.

The tunnels were a little over man height, but they'd had a lip to either side that workers, had they a need to, could have perched on instead of having to descend into the central channel where the waste was carried out, underground water sources from beneath the cliff used to keep things moving. Mesteno waited until he was content the Elf wouldn't be directly below, and crouched down to slide over the lip of torn street to lower himself cautiously through. The lizard (Stumpy) waited until Mesteno was scrambling down before it scuttled to hitch a ride on his back.

"Humans could learn a thing or two about building cities." A minor complaint from Lexius that suggested elves had come up with a way to deal with the entire sewer issue. Or maybe just the scent of it.

"I doubt they came through the rift with a handily chosen group of architects," Mesteno chuckled, the sound not echoing yet, while they were beneath the tear in the street above. "Perhaps you should go into it as a profession. Make your slogan 'Tackling the human stink'. Be fun to see how many of the Humanity First dregs take insult."

Lexius found his way to the ledge, a twist of thoughtful architecture he was glad to see. Mesteno joined him there, swinging from the lip and an angled release dropping him neatly on his feet. Down in the tunnels, the Elf had a dimly glowing crystal hovering in the air and moving away from the fissure. The light was less about allowing either of them to see and more about detecting any strange current in the energy that might indicate a trap of some sort. Or simply trouble. They were going to have to walk stooped over, and with care not to let the grime-slathered roof touch them if they wanted to stay relatively clean.

This way. They've not had time to search every branch, but I believe this will get us under the remains of the corner of the senate building. Lexius spoke mind to mind now rather than exposing his tongue to the aromas!

Mesteno was more than happy to follow the Elven example and use mind-speak for the duration, letting him lead the way and occasionally turning to watch their backs. Can you sense where Marcus' allies are right now? he asked, making a mental note to burn his clothes when they got back.
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Re: Origins

Post by Mesteno » Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:51 am


The Elf re-shuffled his mental deck once again. Mesteno might even received the sense of cards rapidly reorganizing within deft mental fingers. He was checking on what he could sense of the living presences above which had, earlier, gathered enough in their search for Marcus to allow him to somewhat pinpoint their individual signatures. Still, all that wild magic still whipping about and the distance was bound to cause some kind of interference.

They're quite far and I sense no other humanoid life within the city itself, Lexius shared.

The natives were above ground, and some distance away near the city walls, split into groups as before. It was likely they were searching for any sign of Marcus in their secured hide-outs, but as of yet he remained alone, well planted to avoid discovery by anyone but them. Nothing else living roamed the city. It appeared nothing wanted to suffer the magic-gone-mad, or the constantly churning dust.

At they continued through the sewers, they found Roman numerals marked upon the walls, likely some indication to those charged with maintaining the systems as to their location. Smaller tunnels, no wider than a basketball, entered the main channel they were travelling at drainage slanted, though nothing unsavoury slid down them now.

They had to scuttle that way a good half mile before they came across a few sorry remains. Some poor fool had been trying to escape from the chaos above and fallen into the main channel below them. Only bone now, the moisture and bacteria had eaten away all the flesh. Nothing would be gained from attempting to make him (or her) speak. Mesteno did happen to notice one particular however.

Looks like they were headed back the way we've come, he commented, still content to use mind-speak. Think it might have been someone coming from the senate?

I believe it might have been. Lexius gestured ahead, to a more narrow shaft off to the right. We've come far enough to be underneath where the building once stood. The narrow shafts should lead to somewhere we can go up.

Mesteno eyed up the tunnel Lexius was inferring they climb. It was some two and a half feet high, and roughly the same width, but the angle of the shaft was sharp - not particularly promising for a dirt-free climb. I hope you have some way of sterilising us when we get out of here, he muttered mentally, and began the climb with a sigh.

Lexius had some psionic tricks to support them, extending his levitation to them both. Remaining stable however required some touching of the walls…

Old, desiccated filth crumbled away under their boots as they ascended. light from above might have seemed daunting, but given that the collapse would have blocked any natural light anyway, Mesteno didn't let his hopes die. In fact, when they reached the pinnacle of their ascent, his spirits still weren't shattered when the gap turned out to have been half filled in by the debris of the disaster.

You can move that, right? He sounded so confident in the Elf's abilities! Never mind that it might be a thousand tonnes of rubble.

The lizard left its Mesteno perch to go scrambling ahead into the debris that blocked their way in the wake of the man's question. it was some few moments before Lexius answered. I can move it. Stabilize yourself. Some debris will fall.

He could (and did) shield them to an extent, but he also had to give the stuff room to fall around them. Soon enough the rubble was shifting and dust and rocks were raining down from above to go bouncing and clattering down the shaft to the sewers below. But light appeared soon enough through a narrow gap that the Elf reinforced with his thoughts. Go now. He advised with some urgency.

The opening led into another drainage channel, but this one was directly under two feet of stone flooring that'd been caved in by the fall. It was an easy vault up and out onto the ruins of a mosaic floor, and Mesteno scrambled as quickly as he was able in order to make sure there was room for Lexius to follow, turning about once he was clear to help grasp him and pull on whatever part of him came through first.

The noise that the falling debris made was tremendous, echoing through the tunnel below them and carrying - potentially far enough to raise some alarm in the lurkers near the wall. Should they come looking the dust would be long settled. Mesteno doubted they'd be wanting to come and investigate a blocked sewer anyway.

Fucking Hell, let’s not do that again anytime soon. Mental disgust carried well!

Lexius’ expression was grim and that disgust Mesteno emitted in his thoughts was something the Elf reflected right back to him. Far easier to come this way than from above, he assured calmly. It was the right choice even considering all the filth.

Once they were both clear, Lexius forced air to rush down them both, scraping the debris and the filth from their forms to collect around their boots. He suppressed the dust cloud and sent it all spiralling down the shaft they'd used to climb up. Then he let the rocks go (carefully!) which he'd been mentally holding apart to allow them passage and the tunnel was covered once again. At the very least they would hear something new breaking through. The floating crystal was off to the left, pulsing its pale light.

All seems quiet, Lexius reported, after taking a moment to do some mental checks. Gather everything you can that interests you. We should not dally too long looking. How stable the collapsed building was...was debatable.

With the contaminated matter and air flushed away through the tunnel, Mesteno resorted to speaking aloud again, though he still kept his voice to a murmur, as if he thought even a note too loud might cause a collapse. "What a mess," he murmured, trying to identify anything of worth.

The room they'd emerged into looked to have been a study of some sort. One of the stereotypical, backless chairs that the Romans had been fond of had been reduced to splinters and leather scraps behind an equally devastated, stone-topped desk. Shelves had collapsed and spilt their contents on the shattered mosaic flooring in a collection of pottery and coloured glass, but one section of wall remained intact, and its eerie decor with it.

Masks. Not the smooth, anonymous creations that modern day Italians wore to their festivals, but death effigies, taken from casts of the deceased's face with empty ovals for the eyes. They were arranged in a pyramid, and numbered no more than three dozen.

Mesteno frowned at those darkly, lifting the phone to snap a shot. "S'weird. Romans used to do that for family members, but we didn't have families here, so who the Hell were these guys?" There were no names beneath them. Nothing but dates.

Lexius stretched his spine a bit as he looked around, mental feelers still extended and Stumpy sent exploring a likely route away from the room they'd emerge into. The crystal floated closer to them, the faint light pulsing strangely across the features of the casts.

"The Founders? Former Senators? Obviously people or importance to the culture. Do you recognize any of them? Perhaps their descendants favoured them." He knew he was asking Mesteno to remember a lot from a distant and tumultuous time, but something might be sparked by those captured visages.

"I don't... I can't remember the faces that well," the necromancer admitted, sounding disappointed in seven-year-old Mesteno's memory. "Usual kid-blur, everyone lookin' old."

The Elf shuffled a boot through the remains of the desk. "You should take one, at least." He advised.

Mesteno didn’t really need the encouragement, and approached the wall to see how to go about removing one. Simple hooks held them in place, and when he lifted one down finally, he turned it over in his hands to find more Roman numerals cut into the fragile seeming material. Nothing more than XXII.

He reached up for the one beside it, but the number on that one (XXVI) certainly didn't suggest a special sequence. He decided to take both of them, and pulled from his own backpack the bag of holding that Pharlen had given him not so very long ago. He'd stowed two, but ended up taking another three before he was satisfied. "All male," he remarked, "or at least they look it. No old faces in there, either. Distinguished warriors, maybe? Individuals given martyr tasks and remembered in secret?"

Lexius insisted he check every single one of them even if he was only going to take a handful. "Perhaps former hosts. Or potentials." He murmured thoughtfully as he watched the Sadist work through the collection.

"Could be," Mesteno admitted, wondering if his face had ever been lined up to join the array clinging to the dusty wall. There was nothing in the features that screamed of parity, the faces too detailed to be anything but true death masks - not carved replicas - and he was so fascinated by them that he wasted precious time getting frontal and profile shots of each, as well as the numbers on the back, carefully ordered so that he'd not end up confused when he sat down to study them when (and if) they reached home.

He moved on, away from the wall of dead men, and behind the desk to search for drawers. They were closed, seemingly undisturbed, but much of the contents seemed practical - stylus and writing tablet, a seal and a few spare bits of candle in vivid red.

The Elf was inspecting the remains of the shelves when he the scroll cases. There was a spike of pleasure along the tie when he discovered the maps within. Hand-crafted ones, meticulously embellished by someone with a flair for it and the predictable Latin script. "Maps." He explained even as he was tucking one after another away into his satchel.

Mesteno couldn't help the crookedly slanting smile, a mirrored pleasure not merely for the discovery, but because it pleased him to see the Elf enthused over his find.

Lexius let Mesteno finish searching through the room with a final suggestion. "Check the walls. Carefully." For hidden doorways or cubby holes! That's where the real good stuff would be hidden. The Elf tried to help by laying a hand to a nearby support, checking the stability just as much. "There is access to a hall beyond here, as well that leads deeper into the building."

Gentle raps of knuckles suggested no hollow portions, and there were no tell-tale marks, no wear that indicated any spot had been visited more frequently than the rest. "Nothing," Mesteno advised after a time, and with no small measure of disappointment. "Let's check out the hall and see how far we can get before the collapse blocks the way," he urged, eager to visit as much as they could while chance permitted.

The mosaic flooring in the hallway had survived in its entirety, though it was nothing more that typically pedestrian scenes - citizens reclining beneath fig trees, hunters vanquishing prey and horses pulling chariots. Nothing that told a story (though Mesteno was searching for it). Two doorways opened off to their right, but they'd no choice to enter, since three feet in both were full of rubble, floor to ceiling. It was as they were coming towards what looked to be a dead end that they came across remains.

A withered corpse, in a far better state of preservation than the poor bastard down in the sewer. His clothes, though stained with the darkness of long dried bodily fluids and torn, were the pale of a senator's uniform, with the bold stripe. His body seemed intact, with no obvious wounds... but no head. No sign of it anywhere in the hall.

Lexius crouched to inspect its preserved state, rather impressed it had survived everything so well. "Was it the collapse of the building or something else that killed him?"

Crouched on the other side of the corpse, Mesteno took some shots of the body, and of the space around it, trying to get any blood-spatter, to make sense of the way it'd fallen, but inevitably he had to check the stump of the neck. No grimacing (the worst of the smell had long faded after more than a decade) but even with the dried blood pooled around the neck it was easy to see that the decapitation was too clean, too precise to have been anything accidental. "No crush injuries," he murmured, "or at least none that I can see clearly. It looks like a blade did this, so the head shouldn't have gone too far unless it was kicked away and got buried in one of the rooms. That or it was taken."

And he didn't like what that implied. There was a sinuous chill riding his spine palpable along their link. "If I were killing someone, and I suspected another necromancer might come along and try to get the corpse to talk afterward, I'd take its head. Or reduce it to dust." He was searching the hallway for any sign of something that wasn't just the grit of fallen masonry, but there was nothing obvious. "Is there any way to get this back with us?" A grim notion!

The chill Mesteno felt called Lexius' gaze back to him, eyes narrowed until the violet was a mere slit of colour. He hummed thoughtfully. "Reducing it to dust sounds more logical unless they did not particularly care who came along later." Or were trying to spook them! "Perhaps they collected the heads to interrogate later." A grim prospect, but Lexius made the suggestion as if he were talking about the weather, no more moved to squeamishness than the necromancer as he inspected the body. "Is that possible?"

Lexius rose to move slowly around the corpse. "I can send it back now." He assured. He would ensure it stayed preserved, though, hence the grains of sand he was sprinkling from a pouch over the remains as he walked.

"It's possible. So long as the vocal cords remain relatively intact, the tongue..." He was remembering the farm boy they'd repaired unexpectedly well when they'd gone searching for the sacrificial bulls. If they'd been capable of that, he imagined that a necromancer with more years beneath his belt could easily achieve it. "Or stitch it to another corpse, or collection of parts. Nice flesh golem."

He was touching absently at his own throat as he thought about it, watching Lexius sprinkle the remains with sand. He'd never attempted to call on a soul to speak to it without having its body as an instrument through which it might do so, but he was valiantly attempting to recall any method by which he might call it back and commune in other ways. Maybe recruit Vadriel. Perhaps find a way to give the soul energy so that it could write...? It was too early to decide. But at least they had the body.

"Another thing," he pointed out as he straightened. "There're no shadow tears in here. The invaders herded the stragglers to the plaza in front of the building. They didn't chase them into it, or out of it. This guy had to have been killed by someone though so..." He was thinking of the golden eyed creature swathed in gloom, the one who'd gone marching toward the building at the end of Marcus' vision.

The sand the Elf sprinkled separated into individual grains that connected somehow, forming a shell just millimetres away from the remains of the corpse. A crystal (of course!) tied the whole network together and Lexius leaned to lock the little rock in place before twisting his Will around the entire package and sending it...away.

"Where would you be without your crystals?" Mesteno asked with a faux-sigh and a wink that looked particularly bright in all that darkness.

"They are rather useful at times." Lexius’ answer was so serious that it might seem he didn't realize Mesteno was teasing him! The quick, sidelong look and even quicker wink belied that notion. "The rooms below what remains of the cabin at Sanctuary are still functional and The Greek has placed new doors. It will be there until you wish me to move it again or you do so yourself." He advised of the body's disappearance. He was moving on to the subject at hand swiftly, calling to mind that mental image they had both seen in Marcus' mind.

"Hmmm. The thing we saw in Marcus' memories then. I wonder why your passenger stays silent on that matter." He was poking at it again, inside the Sadist. A lazy sort of prod, though he was ready to react should IT decide to do so.

Unfortunately it appeared it was still beyond provoking, awake and aware, but in the same way that someone nosy might people-watch. It offered no insight whatsoever, which to his unwilling host, was rather suspicious.

Lexius inspected what other spaces might be accessible to them - there were gaps wide enough amidst the rubble for the lizard to go sneaking. The room closest to them offered no hope for them of teleporting simply because there were no cavities large enough, everything within utterly devastated by the crush. It was the next along - the first they'd passed by that actually offered some hope. Though there was six feet of densely packed rubble to wriggle through, the other side had a good twenty feet of space, so long as they didn't mind crawling around on their hands and knees.

Via the lizard's eyes, Lexius could spy the crumbled bust of another male figure, toppled from a plinth. There was a bronze plaque beneath it, too dust covered to read, but more interesting yet, the shattered mosaic floor had been crushed in one place by a fallen slab of masonry and appeared to have a hollow beneath it.

Here." Lexius murmured. "There is a pocket of space here. I can teleport us into the space, but we will need to crawl. There is something in the floor."

Mesteno chose to let the Elf work his teleporting tricks, mainly because he had a terrible vision of accidentally dislodging something and bringing the place down around them thanks to a clumsily trailing foot. So it was they appeared on the other side of the collapse with an immediate need to bend over almost double. The air was thin here, nothing that would support them for more than a few minutes, and their arrival stirred up the dust and would have had Mesteno coughing if not for the crystal that Lexius had fashioned to wear around his neck.

While Lexius chose to inspect the plaque and the bust, Mesteno went to the disturbed patch of mosaic, just as Lexius had described. That it'd been a separately created panel designed to be removed and replaced was obvious, so he carefully lifted what he could of the lid's remains and set it aside, small pieces crumbling in his palms. "Y'see? Your lizards do all the hard work for us. You should let this one go into retirement," he urged as he knelt at the edge of the hollow and reached down into it.

The magic triggered out of nowhere, a trap set in it that Mesteno had been (as ever unable to sense), and had been foolishly not expecting purely because the lid had been shattered. He'd seen something down there, something temptingly book-shaped (but as large as his whole torso) and evidently it required some protection. A flash of light, bright enough to blind him and chasing back the shadows until the space they occupied looked utterly flat, and then a sensation like a sledgehammer to the back of his brain.
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Re: Origins

Post by Mesteno » Sun Feb 16, 2020 12:04 pm


Lexius turned away from the shattered bust of ‘Magister Claudius I’ (as the plaque read), and reached out physically and mentally as he spied the necromancer pitching head first into the gap.

He managed to cushion some of the blow, kept Mesteno from falling all the way in, but the mental lights were out - not permanently snuffed - but the spell had been designed to incapacitate anyone that might try to raid the items hidden down there.

That growl was all annoyed Elf, as he pulled Mesteno back and assured himself no permanent damage had been done. His own damn ears were ringing! "Mesteno?"

Mesteno's head was as muddled as might be expected, floundering like a man just woken and not yet aware of his surroundings. He was slack limbed, uncoordinated, and put no protest to Lexius pulling him around physically. Either he recognised the Elf, or the capacity to protect himself hadn't kicked in just yet. The passenger however... well that was wide awake now, and there so vigorously that it was likely it had been ready to spring to the fore when the magic went off. The necromancer was aware of it, might have been fearful had he been able to recall what it was, but it was long moments, uncertain ones before he started to shake off the effects Lexius had been able to blunt.

"Yes?" he asked, stupidly. At least he remembered who he was now. Then, a little more tentatively. "Ah... what're we doing?"

Lexius crawled along until he was beside the befuddled Sadist, looking him in the eye. He could feel the passenger's presence, all bushy tailed and fangs bared. The touch he stroked along the side of Mesteno's face with gritty fingertips was as much to calm it as the focus the man.

"Apparently, we are setting off traps." A mild quip that helped shroud his worry even if he was finding nothing seriously or permanently amiss. "That is part of what the lizards are for, you know. Not retirement." See? He'd been listening! Said lizard was even then crawling down to gap to ferret out any more dangerous proximity traps! "We shall see if it finds more then try again. I believe the one you found was only to incapacitate."

Some short-term memory loss issues were afoot. Mesteno stared at Lexius blankly, a frown slowly gathering between his brows with each vacant seeming blink. After a moment, he pinched that growing knot just above the bridge of his nose, a mother of a headache building. It didn't help that he was still seeing light spots dance across his vision from the sudden burst of illumination. Now what was the Elf talking about traps and lizards for? He strained to make it all connect, whilst thwarted, the passenger sank back like a cobra tormented by the pipe player, returning to its woven basket.

"Right... shit.” Finally, he gathered enough of his faculties to register what had been said. “Gem'd lecture me about that," he admitted as recollection finally brought him up to date. The little Elf was far more thorough than he. That or he was just too excited given the rather personal nature of what they were doing out there. "Hopefully I spared the lizard imminent doom," he drawled, propping himself up inelegantly while he peered with a dubious narrowing of eyes towards the hole the little creature was investigating.

At least one of his wishes came true. There were no further traps triggered by its furtling about down there, and the Elf could see through its eyes that there was indeed a book of sorts down there, though its pages were of bound sheets of hammered metal rather than parchment. Made to last. There was a small box too, of bronze like the plaque, ornately worked and very definitely locked.

Lexius just made sure the necromancer’s confusion went no deeper, wasn't spreading, and when he was satisfied with that, he pinched the side of the man's neck lightly.

Mesteno aimed a half-hearted smack at the offending fingers, but came nowhere close to being on target (which only irked him all the more). "Bully," he accused, but that was more flirtatious than anything.

"That is not something to be hopeful for, Mesteno." A bit of a growl in his tone again with the chide. He was serious about the use of the lizards! Luckily, he did not lecture further but concentrated on what the lizard was seeing.

"There is a metal book and a box." The Elf finally murmured. "The book is too big and, most likely, too heavy to easily move. Especially into his cramped space. I can try to relocate it as I did the body. The box we can deal with here." He paused a beat, refocusing on the Sadist. "Does Magister Claudius ring familiar to you? The plaque has his name on it." He shifted to be the one to reach down into the gap next.

"I didn't know any Magisters but those that taught as during lessons, and none of them were called Claudius," Mesteno admitted darkly. "I doubt somehow that the Magisters that earn themselves statuary in the Senate are the same ones that teach a buncha dusty brats. More likely to be some kind of tutor to the magic users that got identified when they reached graduation." Evidently, he was thinking straight again. "If this room has something to do with that, maybe what we've got down there in the hole is something to do with their magic."

He made no attempt to retrieve them a second time, not trusting his balance or strength to accomplish the extraction. "Send the book back with the body, if you can... and then maybe float the box out if you'd be so kind." That last part mumbled, because he didn't want to pitch in the hole again and look like an imbecile.

"I believe you are right. A very good find, though you will need to be doubly cautious in opening the book, if so." He was checking it over one more time even then before touching it lightly and wrapping his thoughts around it to send it away. He did just what Mesteno suggested with the box, pulling it out with his thoughts as he moved back to give it some room. The lizard was riding atop the thing like a decoration.

"Drink some water. Take a few breaths. You are still somewhat scattered." A mild suggestion as the Elf checked not only the box itself, but the rubble around them to make sure it was still steady. "Did you bring lockpicks?"

The tie suggested a gloating sort of pleasure from Mesteno at seeing the lizard come out unscathed, ascending like some victorious slayer atop the bronze box. He did as the Elf had advised though, and went rooting through his pack for his canteen, as well as fishing out the little roll of lockpicks he'd brought with him to wave triumphantly.

"Can you sense anything wrong with it?" he asked between sips, and with a gesture to the box.

It was discoloured with age, but the figures, etched to look as if in battle, were still easily to discern. Roughly two handspans wide and rectangular, the majority of the weight of it seemed to be the box itself, rather than whatever the contents were. Mesteno was already examining the lock, refusing to even consider that it might just be simpler to try and attack the hinges, while he selected a pick for the fine aperture.

The lizard scrambled away when the Elf reached out toward the box himself, tracing fingertips along the seams and over the lock, his mental feelers bridging the miniscule gap between flesh and metal. "Nothing obvious. But have a care still as I am no mage and there are still mechanical traps that could be concealed within it." He could pick it apart at the molecular level with his mind, but that did take time. The picks would be faster, without a doubt.

With the check for magical traps complete, Mesteno picked the box up in both hands and turned it this way and that, examining it for any pin-prick holes that might be intended to disperse acid or a gas to someone not carrying the right key. No Latin text forbidding access with curses, no unusual runes or sigils. He even sniffed it, in case it might contain something that might disperse when the lid was lifted!

"No secret catches, nothing I've been trained to look out for. Still," he grunted, and reached back into his pack to pull out a steel-lined glove, because if anything did pop out, he didn't want his fingers ruining.

The slim pick went in smoothly, but it took a second, gently inserted to find the right turn and nudge in order to result in the satisfying click of it coming open. No acid, no flying darts no insidious vapour. Mesteno couldn't sense anything wrong, but with the opening, Lexius would likely be able to sense power. It was a small and faded thing, as old as the city, emanating from what was inside the box, rather than the box itself.

"Have a care." Lexius murmured, the very moment he sensed the power. "What is within has power. Old, faded, but clinging still. What is it?" He shifted to better see, even as he compared the power he felt to that of the trap, to the sense of the passenger, to what he could of the magics in the air even, looking for any parallels.

The power in the box was very much different to what had protected the hole it was concealed in, and what Mesteno brought out of it, handling with the care someone only offered the most fragile of items, were oak leaves. There were nine in all, and each had been preserved by a magic on the verge of decaying entirely. They should likely be kept in climate-controlled rooms in order to protect them in case those old enchantments wore off. They'd been strung together at the stems in a specific order, and it wasn't Latin written on them, but Greek hexameters.

Mesteno wasn't completely oblivious to the language thanks to the time he'd spent with Aiden looking over the Emerald Tablet, but this was too faded. He simply couldn't read more than a few letters at a time. He lay the string of leaves out gently across the opened lid where Lexius could examine them, then reached in to retrieve what had lain beneath them. The same preservation magics had been used upon thin sheets of papyrus bound together with desiccated thread, 'books' that were no more than twenty pages or so thick, and only three in number, and each with the cover marked with CVMAEA. That at least he recognised.

"Cumae. I know that word, it was in a history of Rome I was reading that... ugh my brain is still scrambled." He looked (and felt) impatient with his recovery.

The Elf leaned closer, though his eyesight was perfectly fine, perhaps to see if he could catch a scent from the preserved leaves. In truth, he was trying to discern as much as he could about the pattern of the preservation spell and just how much longer it might last. He wasn’t comforted by whatever answers he came up with.

Straightening, he settled into something of a comfortable, cross-legged sit and reached into his satchel for some muslin cloth which he laid out flat against a bent knee to sprinkle sand on. He was most certainly working his Will, but he was still listening to Mesteno, as well. He looked at the books, head tilting to catch the writing on them and hummed a low note of agreement. "It was the name of a city." The Elf had probably seen it on a map! "A very old city."

Lexius nodded toward the leaves. "That is ancient Greek, as I am sure you recognized." He knew the Sadist did! "I've done no research on the place, have you?" He looked to the books and the leaves and pulled out more muslin. "If you have not, I am sure The Mouth will have some information."

The oak leaves were at the most risk, liable to come apart on a breath the moment the preservation spell failed (which felt pretty imminent.) Something as old as those didn't turn up in every ruin-raid, nor the metal leafed tome, the binding on which had frayed to the point of alarming delicacy. It had been handled with some frequency, as suggested by the marks at the edge of the cover. Thankfully, someone more talented might just be able to prevent ruin.

"That's right,” Mesteno agreed. “There was a woman that came from Cumae to Rome, back when it was still ruled by Kings. Shit, which King was it though?" It wouldn't come, no matter how hard he raked through his memory for it. "Cumae...It was some kind of Greek colony I think, and she was a priestess there? No! A sibyl. Seers."

Now Lexius was getting the full length and breadth of what the necromancer recalled of the subject, as if that little tug had dragged up a monster-fish at the end of his line, rather than a squirming minnow. "She came to Rome with books, and wanted so much gold for them and he refused, so she burned most of them, and in a panic, he bought the ones that were left, and had them locked up in the Temple of Jove on the Capitoline Hill. But something happened... the temple got burned down. There was a law that forbade copies of the prophecies in the books being made."

Which meant either what they had in the box there was not what he'd begun to suspect. Or it might potentially be a copy, a good reason for the people who founded Amhinata to flee Rome, or that they'd somehow pilfered the originals and burned the Temple of Jove. He kept his hands to himself, entirely unwilling to touch the damn things in case they fell apart.

The sand Lexius had sprinkled into the muslin had become part of the material, adding glittering flecks to the otherwise drab looking cloth and enhancing not only its looks, but its strength. Of course, there was more to it than that, and that became clear when he slid his creation into the now empty box and used his thoughts to oh-so-delicately put the books in question inside them. He paused, though, when Mesteno mentioned Jove.

Utter stillness from the Elf, several threads of thought sent spiralling out around them. Just in case!

"We should, I think, have a care naming names until we are clear of the city." Or at least not under ten tons of rubble that could collapse on them, driven by one slamming lightning bolt from a pissed off deity. It was probably an excessive amount of paranoia. Zeus probably couldn't even reach so far from RhyDin, never mind get through the mess of the magic left raging across the surface of the place. If he cared and could, he would have long since ravaged the place, but Lexius didn't take back what he said, especially given how all of this was crossing over.

"Shit!" Mesteno clamped a hand over his mouth as if he thought he couldn't trust himself to keep from blurting anything further, eyes gone wide and round as coins. He waited, expectant, half-convinced that he'd called Old Thunderbolt down on their head, and that the last Aiden would hear of them would be some bragging remark from his father about having crushed them in the ruins.

When all remained quiet, Lexius continued. "The prophesies obviously interested them. Real or copied, this cloth should see they remain intact. The leaves as well. We will most certainly need to study them. Something like this would be of interest to a golden-eyed invader, hmm?"

Heart still blundering along in his chest far more rapidly than its usual sedentary pace, Mesteno spilled a sigh that stirred the dust around them in wild spirals. "Sorry, I was so busy tryin' to remember it all I forgot." How irritated with himself he sounded! "We might need to commandeer some more of Aiden's time to help us translate it all - I got a fair way but I can only do so much in a few months," he admitted.

"I guess we can look on the bright side and assume that the attack might have been to get these, and nothing to do with me personally. But also, it failed. Wherever they end up going though, we should make sure there's every damn protection we can afford it in place in case they can be tracked somehow."

Lexius wrapped the oak leaves as he had the books and tucked them all back into the box, closed the lid, and held it down as he went still again. Waiting. If they could be tracked, having opened the box would have sent the beacon out, otherwise the searcher would have found them the first time he was there! Back in the box and in his cloth, they should be cut off again, but the Elf was checking on the locations of the portals Marcus and his friends had been guarding anyway. Especially that big one.

"We should withdraw from here. If, as you say, they can be tracked, us having opened the box here may have drawn some attention."

The suggestion met with an encouraging nod from the necromancer, who appeared to have seen as much as he needed of his hometown for the moment. Enlightening though the trip had been, it had also been far more than he'd expected to find in a little under two days of setting out.
"To wherever you think is safest," he murmured. "There's nothing stopping you from teleporting us out, right? Wait-- Where's the lizard?"

Satisfied, Lexius slid the box Mesteno's way so he could tuck it into his special bag. The Elf took swift inventory of himself and their surroundings, but he wasn't looking for his lizard until Mesteno asked about the thing. He'd actually planned on leaving it there, but the stubborn slant of the Sadist's thoughts when he inquired after the creature suggested he might encounter some resistance to the idea.

He pointed to the tiny reptile, which had it scrambling out of the swirled dust to latch itself onto the Sadist. "There is your lizard." Mild amusement coloured the words.

The lizard was greeted with small sound of satisfaction as Mesteno shouldered his belongings again, and he covered it with a palm protectively. "His name's Fred," he declared, as usual bestowing the most groan-worthy and unsuitable name that sprang to mind.

That was all he managed before reached out and clamped his hand around his wrist. He teleported them both away without another word, back to his home in the desert. To his lab. The safest, most shielded place he knew!

Lexius’ grimace over the name choice lingered even through the teleport. So did his amusement. "You truly are terrible at naming things."

Cautiously, Mesteno let his eyes crack open a fraction, assured himself that they'd made the trip without winding up ambushed and sent elsewhere thanks to the magics. Assured himself that Lexius was whole and hale, and then that Fred had survived the trip. Content on all three counts, he gave Lexius a crooked smile. "If you hadn't come with me, I'd probably still be out on the salt flats inhalin' the dust," he remarked.

Lexius unfolded his legs and stood, offering a hand down to Mesteno for no other reason than to touch the man. "And suffocating." His smile deepened despite the dire words. "I am glad I could assist you, though I am quite sure you would have done just fine without the assistance."

Mesteno took a moment to fish Fred out from down the back of his shirt, then reached up to take the hand Lexius offered down to him. He found his feet somewhat wearily, but didn't put any weight on the Elf's arm, perhaps out of pride. "Come on," he muttered wryly, his smile lingering, self-deprecating. "I wouldn't have been able to make it into the senate building. Too much rock in the way. Even if I had made it past the city walls, the most I'd have got out of it was some shots of dusty buildings and courtyards. Nothing like what we found today."

The Elf dropped his dusty satchel onto the floor beside one of the tables, then cleared a space for the Sadist to set his bag. "You would have had to go about it differently," he agreed. "but that does not mean you would have failed."

When Mesteno didn't immediately reach inside the bag to withdraw the box, the Elf quirked a slanted brow at him. "It is safe to examine the items here. I will bring the book, as well."

"I feel like we should have Aiden here to tell us what everything says," Mesteno explained, though he was honest enough to admit, "and you know, not be stinkin' up the lab the way we are."

"Very well. We can study it all at Sanctuary if you wish, though I would like to set up some protections around the place first. Involving him will be acceptable." But the Elf didn't seem eager to bring the Aiden to his personal lab. "Take your clothing off." he instructed quite commandingly in the next moment. Apparently, they wouldn't be tracking sewer filth any further into the caves.

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Re: Origins

Post by Mesteno » Wed Feb 19, 2020 7:06 pm

[Adapted from live play.]

Saturday May 13th, 2017

Sanctuary felt different. It wasn’t merely the lingering after-effects of the death god’s assault, but the continuing changes that Aiden wrought on the property during his stay.

Mesteno hadn’t asked any labour of him, but Aiden had seen fit to try and make the place look less like a recovering warzone and encourage the wilds to reclaim things as they had twice already in the past.

He’d moved the tents he’d been living in to somewhere between where the cabin had been and the now cleared lake. It offered a commanding view of everything in between. The tents themselves blended in well with the foliage and had been there long enough some vines were starting to climb parts of the structure, a U-shaped configuration with a central fire pit that burned with a seemingly eternal flame.

There was a subtly surreal feel to the place that matched the demi-god himself and made everything seem more vibrant, lush and alive, a sidestep away from reality itself. It was just what happened when he stayed in one place too long. His divine presence eventually started bleeding out to infest his surroundings.

Weeks ago, Mesteno had delivered to him his findings from Amhinata. Aiden hadn't asked too many questions at the time, but the longer he’d studied them, the more a slew they became. One whole section of a tent had been dedicated to the them, spread out on a table that was surrounded by various electronics. Now the necromancer had come to visit for a progress report, having put it off in one of those rare cases of fear he would never admit to.

He was surprised to hear two voices in the tent he approached.

Aiden was facing off with an ageless looking woman on the opposite side of that table, glaring daggers at her as he growled a few heated words in ancient Greek. Mesteno recognized the curse words first. There were a lot of them.

He came padding in on silent feet, foregoing eavesdropping since he knew too little of the language for it to be of use.

Neither of them were quick to look his way, too involved in their debate. While the woman's voice was not nearly so heated as Aiden's, there was no doubt from her tone that they were arguing.

Clad in a flowing, pale dress with an exquisitely woven shawl looped around her bare arms, the woman in question had long, dark hair that stretched well past her ass on its way toward the floor. Each strand of that dark mane seemed alive as the whole of it moved with her when she gestured and turned her head to finally look Mesteno's way. Her face was comely without being stunning, skin a smooth olive colour that spoke of her Mediterranean heritage. She did not smile or frown, but simply looked at Mesteno like he was a mystery that needed to be solved. For some reason, her finger's twitched.

By looks alone, she could have been anywhere from 20 to 60. Her eyes were far older and far, far stranger. Colours abounded, every colour conceivable and even a few unknowns. They all wove together, like the threads of the shawl drapes across her shoulder. Like the tapestry of Life itself.

"So," her comment held a thick accent she didn't bother to hide, "this is the one."

Aiden sighed and gave Mesteno a swift, apologetic look as he answered the woman. "Yes. Now you’ve seen him. Now you leave. You hold no sway here."

The woman finally evidenced something of a smile. The faintest twitch of lips Lexius probably would have been proud to see. "That you exist outside the Pattern does not give you leave to be rude,” she told Aiden. “Remember who it was that made it possible."

Aiden snarled (not nicely!) at her and jabbed a finger in her direction. "I remember everything just fuckin' fine." If he was lying, he was doing a damn stellar job of it. "I'll let you know if he wants your help." Apparently, there were to be no introductions. In fact, Aiden was ripping open a hell gate right there in the tent, singing the fabric of the tent walls and setting a damn rug on fire. "Get out."

He had met her attentive gaze without flinching from it, but he didn't actually stir himself to speak and interrupt them until Aiden made it plain that he was trying to be rid of her. Part of the necromancer was happy with this. He didn't want anything from the Greek pantheon that wasn't Aiden on his property, but it felt equally foolish to let her vanish without having spoken at all. He strode into the tent with his overgenerous mouth thinned in vague displeasure, reached to grip Aiden's arm in a stalling gesture.

"Why're you sending her away? Who is she?" They were obvious questions, and doubtless Aiden could answer them without her present, but letting her think Aiden ruled with an iron fist over the mere mortal... well his pride wasn't particularly happy with that. "Why do you think I might want your help?" What had she seen?

The woman had turned (had she rolled her eyes at the imperious tone?) to comply with Aiden's request, but Mesteno's interference had her halting. Whatever she might have said in return to the demi-god was silenced as she studied Mesteno anew. Oh yes, there was that small smile again and the quirk of her elegant eyebrows Aiden's way. "Your rug is burning." She told him calmly, folding her hands primly across her stomach.

Aiden huffed or maybe snorted. The Hell gate collapsed so violently it put out the flames on the rug, leaving behind the mild scent of sulphur tainted, burned cloth. When the woman moved, turning to face the Sadist and the demi-god more fully once again, her dress brushed across the spot and the weave began to magically repair itself. Easy to miss since Aiden was finally introducing her.

"Mesteno," he didn't even try to use a nickname, as if he knew it was useless, "this is Lachesis." He let that name sink in for maybe two seconds before he continued. "She is very interested in the items you brought me as they once belonged to one of her daughters." He raised a hand to stay the woman when it seemed she might step forward. My, how she was staring at Mesteno! "She is also quite interested in you."

"Hmm, those threads." Lachesis was murmuring to herself more than anything. Again, her fingers were twitching. "We really must bring him to Clotho. She would know for sure."

Mesteno was wishing he'd brought Lexius along for this visit, and reached out to him across the mental link, a violently rude interruption of whatever the Elf was busy thinking about. Potential trouble, was all he said, refusing to linger too long on words when the psion could just as easily tune in and see the whole of their interactions through borrowed vision.

"I know your name," he admitted coolly. "You're one of the Fates. The Moirai." He didn't bother to look to Aiden for confirmation. He'd been doing some research on the Greeks since their return from Amhinata, and that name had featured on several occasions, as had that of Clotho. "I didn't realise that you were mother to the Sibyl of Cumae though," he admitted grimly.

The leaves, strung together, must be the variety the seers left outside the mouth of their grotto to foretell the future before the winds scattered them and made of them nonsense. The books, those that the last Roman King, Tarquinus, had finally consented to buy when the rest of the set had been burned.

"If you've seen them, and you're interested, that must mean they're authentic," he deduced after a moment. "And you must know already that I have no intention of giving them up. They were bought, paid for a long time ago by mortals. There's no rule that says they have to be given over when the buyer passes over. Besides, shouldn't the Fates already know what's in store for a man?"

Lachesis' tiny little smile edged toward a smirk when Mesteno identified her in that manner. She then gave him a look that grandmothers often gave to tiny children, one that distinctly screamed 'isn't he adorable?' He had recalled her from whatever she was trying to identify in him, at the very least. "No, I am sure you did not realize. No more than that fool Tarquinus."

"He was a greedy monarch who thought he could haggle with an oracle,” Mesteno pointed out. “Be sensible not to have expected much of him in the first place. Give me a little credit though, huh? We're a couple of millennia further down the line and I'm reading about y'dear sweet daughter from history books. If I'm a fool, it's only because the writers neglected to mention her illustrious bloodlines."

He was doing it again. The backchat that he never could help, and which he seemed to rely on the Elf to help curb.

Aiden's temper had cooled somewhat, but he kept himself positioned between the two in case anything got out of hand! "It's all authentic." He confirmed. "And she doesn't want them. She wants to read them."

Lachesis looked toward the table somewhat longingly, briefly, before turning her weird gaze back on Mesteno. "Our reach does not extend here, to this place. Most belong to another Pattern, another Weaver, here. But are different." Intriguing. "I would know what my progeny wrote about you."

Mesteno folded his arms, the universal show of obduracy, and met her eyes with a proudly up tilted chin. "I'm sure there's a whole gaggle of you wondering what she predicted. Old Grumpy and his pretty little ally more'n the others if it gives them reason to be calling for my execution." Hades and Aphrodite, he meant! "But you don't get to know. Unless you sweet talk Aiden into runnin' his mouth, but I let him have them because I trusted him not to, so I guess you're out of luck."

He shot a look Aiden's way that suggested he was more than a little proud to have him on side. No pressure there. Just more secrets to keep from the family!

Lexius had 'tuned in' when Mesteno's initial trouble call had gone out along their shared mental pathway. He'd said nothing, though, and was simply watching through the Sadist's eyes, listening with his ears, as the encounter unfolded. He was, however, much closer (physically) than he had been a few minutes ago.

Lachesis looked more amused than offended by Mesteno's stubbornness and the way he referred to the other Gods. She either held no great love for them or simply didn't care how they were spoken of by others. Even his refusal to let her read the books didn't move her to fury or threats. She did roll her eyes toward the roof of the tent, as if calling on powers even greater than her own for patience. "You seek answers of your heritage, do you not?" A mildly asked question, her gaze pinning on the Sadist once again. Yes, that was a tapestry in her eyes, so vast only the endless colours of the threads bled through.

"Who the fuck said they were about him at all?" Aiden jumped in, throwing up his hands to help make his point. "His Thread never even touched Clotho's spindle, and all those that did were cut when the Weave knotted up in that part of the Pattern." Never mind that the books might very well have predicted that very knotting he was speaking about. "Bottom line, he owns them now, as is his right. And I can assure you she had nothing to say about you, your sisters or your mother in any of this."

"And if I did seek that kind of information, you'd be in a position to provide it?" he asked Lachesis, meeting the disturbing riot of colour in her eyes with solid and unwavering gold. How such a colour could ever look cold was a wonder, but just than it was. Frigid as a tundra lake. "Nothing is given freely with you." And it was a great, huge, sweeping sort of 'you' rather than her personally! "There's always cost involved, debts to be paid. I'm not getting any more tangled than I already am. So, if it takes a while longer to figure it out without your help, or hell, even another fifty years, that's what I'm gonna do."

He didn't wave her away dismissively, but he did move to where the items in question lay, to stand over them in the manner of a victor defending a hard-won prize. If the Greek wanted to open that Hell gate back up, it was unlikely he'd be trying to sway her to stay this time.

Lachesis had inclined her head, an affirmative, to Mesteno's question. She didn't seem overly surprised when he refused. She looked to Aiden once the Sadist had moved to protect his goods like some feral beast with cold, gold eyes. "They fashion us in their image then complain when we act like them." She might have sounded proud in her amusement.

"I didn't fashion anything," was Mesteno’s snorted, indignant response.

Stepping onward, she closed on the demi-god's position rather than Mesteno's, coming close enough to him her dress almost brushed his boots.
Aiden did nothing to avoid her. His hostility faded completely when she came near and he leaned his head down toward her level. She was short! "You were never fashioned in anyone's image."

"Are you saying I'm not adaptable?" She reached a hand to touch his cheek with her palm and their conversation continued for a few moments more in ancient Greek before she swept out without looking back.

Aiden watched her go then swung his gaze back around to Mesteno, rubbing at the back of his neck. "Sorry about that. I had no idea she'd show up. She doesn't usually give two shits about material things. I think she just wanted to meet you." He smirked a bit, but his blue eyes were troubled. "That she knew you would be here today, right now, is kinda worrisome."

"Maybe I should start autographing things, charging for meet 'n greets," the necromancer drawled once she'd left them alone. At once he gave up guarding the objects; no point in being demonstrative now. "You don't have to apologise anywhere. You're not their Keepers, and she's never offered any harm our way before." His shoulders hitched a shrug, and he padded around to where the gate had formed to eye the spot on the rug where her trailing robes had repaired the scorched threads. "Who else knows we have these things?"

Inside Mesteno's head, the Elf piped up with an amused murmur. It is a wonder you have survived so long. He was teasing even if it was the truth! Lexius kept a mental ear tuned their way, but didn't come any closer than he had already. He was somewhere at Sanctuary, just not in the tents with them.

And why didn't you come to meet her yourself and keep me out of trouble? Mesteno asked the Elf, as if it were his fault. As if he needed supervision! Maybe you should quit hiding and come see whatever it is Aiden found in the books, he suggested.

We both know my presence is no guarantee you will 'stay out of trouble'. That's what Lexius had to say about that! He did not address anything else, but his presence was moving closer.

"Her sisters know for sure,” Aiden admitted, “but that's probably all. They don't..." he cut off, shook his head. "They're not really part of everything else. I wouldn't worry about word going beyond them." He sounded confident of that, at least, even if the pinching around his eyes suggested he was still a little troubled.

Clapping his hands together, Aiden rubbed his palms together briskly then gestured to a chair. "You should sit and tell me why you brought me stuff getting you even deeper into this whole mess you say you want no part of."

Mesteno dropped into the chair the Greek had indicated.

"This isn't about your mess," he began, and knew that even though he'd spoken the truth, there was no way to deny the thread of connection. "This is about trying to figure out how to stay alive and do it safely, both of which are becoming more difficult to maintain." He hesitated again, wondering just how much of it he should trouble Aiden with. The catastrophe that had been the last visit to the Table was still fresh in his mind, but it would take a lot of explaining, and reveal to the man that the Table existed in the first place.

After a moment, guessing and second guessing himself, he offered what little he could. "It turns out I might be... superfluous to the needs of my unpopular friend." He found a palm drifting to his chest, to indicate the thing inside him, quite without thinking. "It shouldn't be it and me, just it, by now, and since it's not flying solo the way it expected to be with this body as old as it is, it feels pessimistic about its chances of surviving given my current associations." Was he being vague enough? Poor Aiden. "It wants me to cooperate with its demands, and I'm disinclined to just do whatever it wants. So, the more I can find out about what I am and how to handle it, the better my likelihood of surviving."

He sat forward, and touched the edge of one of the books with an index finger. "We found these in my hometown. Got suspicions they're part of the whole history of how this thing came about, or at least how it came to be in a person. That's why we need them."

Aiden got two beers and popped their caps while Mesteno pondered then spoke. It was obvious to him the guy was leaving things out, but he let him finish, offered over one of the beers and sat across from him, long legs splayed outward, as he drank and processed what the man had said. Finally, he nodded. "Ok, I think I followed most of that. All except for the superfluous part. How are you superfluous?"

Mesteno's response to Lexius was little more than a mental grunt, a reluctant agreement with his take on the matter, but he didn't ask him to hurry and join them. Somehow, thanks to the tie, he could sense his proximity was that much greater. Perhaps he'd join them in due time.

For now, the necromancer took the beer Aiden offered his way, murmuring the requisite Latin in thanks, but didn't yet drink. It was a difficult subject to begin with, and without having all the answers himself, he didn't want to dig himself any holes he couldn't get out of. If there was something particularly incriminating in the Cumaean prophecies, the Greek was going to be hard pressed to stay on side and not give him up to his full-blooded elders as it was.

"From what I've been able to..." Sigh! "The thing. It doesn't need me. My mind. What I am is just a side-effect of mortal flesh. Until it was let out, it needed something to run the body it was going to inhabit, so I just existed like every other human out there, functioned exactly the same way. When it woke up, I was supposed to be superseded so it could take the reins, so like I said, superfluous."

In more than one way! He just didn't mention that there were evidently, other bodies out there that could do precisely the same job, with far less hassle. Now seemed a good point to start drinking, so he upended the bottle for a swallow.
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Re: Origins

Post by Mesteno » Thu Feb 20, 2020 11:55 am


Aiden trapped his beer bottle between his legs and leaned to fiddle with some of his fancy little electronic devices. He took his time setting up a strange looking metal tripod with a glass eye in the centre of it, glancing away briefly toward the space beyond the tents when the Elf crossed onto his turf.

Mesteno's answer was definitely enough to keep him sober and focused on the matter at hand even if he couldn't (as usual) sit completely still for the telling.

"Well," He declared, finally looking the Sadist in the eye once more, "that's fucked. What was supposed to happen, I mean, not what did happen." He winked with the assurance. "No wonder you're such a stubborn shit. It's a survival instinct. Probably took the place of you needing to eat."

Aiden lifted his beer and saluted Mesteno as he leaned back to sprawl in his chair. "Keep fighting that fight, Whippet. I'll help ya out however I can." He sounded sincere, passionate even. He drank, then continued. "So, in this case, I guess that means giving you the translations to the book. You want me to wait until Mr Spock skulks inside? And how much do you know of your ancient roman history?"

Mesteno managed a wry smile, none too pleased with the situation himself, though he'd become resigned to the fact that it was a true case of ‘can't live with it, can't live without it’. Something he'd just have to survive for as long as he could, and pray that when it did consume him, he wouldn't be trapped there, watching through its eyes as it always had through his, while it committed terrible atrocities. It was never happier than when he was out causing chaos. It revelled in every act of violence, every splash of blood.

Feeding time was long past due again, particularly after the week's expenditures, but he didn't want to let it glut of late, unless in doing so it found the strength to act against him. Still, it was only a matter of time before necessity demanded it.

"You do enough already, Aiden. I'll just be thankful if you found anything worthwhile in those things. They took some getting hold of." He wasn't going to tell him he fell into a trap like an amateur, and would probably have been left brain fried in a pit somewhere if Lexius hadn't been with him. Speaking of...

"Lexius, I need moral support. Come hold my hand or somethin'." He was making light of things as usual. Coping mechanisms. He went on to answered Aiden's question. "I've studied it in parts. Very specific parts though. If I get confused, don't worry, I'll be askin'."

The Elf revealed himself by walking through the same opening in the tent that Mesteno had used. His typical serenity had a certain sense of severity to it, especially when he exchanged a lengthy, silent look with the grinning demi-god. Neither of them said anything to each other, and Aiden didn't even try to offer the Elf a beer.

Lexius had joined Mesteno...and actually took his hand.

The Elf knew, of course, the Sadist was making light, but he was going to keep Mesteno’s hand trapped between his own by force if need be.

Mesteno slipped a look down at his captive hand, let it rake back up the Elf's chest to his mouth, then his eyes, and rather than respond with exasperation, gave him a deliberately shameless ‘how you doin'?’ waggle of brows, as if hand-holding were something unchaste.

Meanwhile, Aiden was attempting to get his chortling under control so he could proceed. He was only marginally successful!

"Ok, so. Once upon a time, on a little ball of dirt called Earth, there existed a group of people called the Hellen. That's my people, by the way." He waggled his brows, trying to keep the story telling light-hearted! "Anyway, in the way people do, as their population grew, they spread themselves far and wide from their homeland until some of them settled on the coast of what would later be called Italy. They established many towns, but the one we care about was called Kume. Them Latin speaking folk," yes, he was grinning toothily at Mesteno just then, "later called it Cumae."

Aiden reached out the toe of his boot and nudged the little tripod on the ground. It came to life with a holographic image hovering in the air between them all. It was a pretty detailed depiction of the Mediterranean Sea with Italy and Sicily centred in the view. One area of the boot shaped land was highlighted. Cumae.

"For many years, people and People Plus," his grin flashed again, "people like me," he elaborated, "lived here, to include your Sibylla. She wrote a lot of whit in her time, and eventually, for reasons unknown, decided to collect all her work and travel to Rome and sell it to the King." He paused there to have another drink from his beer. He was fairly sure they'd known all this stuff, but he was establishing the beginning to see what reactions he might get.

"King Tarquin The Proud," Mesteno supplied, ensuring Aiden knew he wasn't entirely oblivious to the history.

Aiden saluted the Sadist with another lift of his beer and drank again. "Tarquin the Idiot. That's the one." He wasn't even teasing a little bit. The guy had gotten himself overthrown, after all.

"From what I read,” Mesteno went on, “the Oracle was already pretty old by that point. Made some deal with...what can we call him?" He searched for an appropriate name for Apollo, "Mr Sunshine?” Aiden laughed a little at the name. “The shooter from afar. He lets her live for as many years as she had grains of sand in her hand if she'd let him screw her, but once he'd given her the blessing she refused to go through with it, so he made sure her body kept on aging, and by the end, she was just dust in a jar that had a voice."

Aiden changed the view of the map with a tap of his toe against the tripod. The image now showed a veiled woman and a man clad in the roman style standing on the shore where a boat was being poled closer to the dock. The single occupant of the vessel had skeletal hands.

"Yeah, that's how the story goes and it's pretty accurate. What they left out is the little fact that Mr Sunshine was her daddy." Just a minor footnote. "What's really interesting about this particular Sibylla, though, isn't her lineage so much as a couple of other things she did before she became jar dust." He gestured to the image. "See, she took a guy by the name of Aeneas on a little trip to visit Mr Dark and Gloomy. Well, he was really trying to find his daddy, but ya know. They all live in the same place."

Lexius squeezed Mesteno's fingers for some reason, amusement trickling down the tie all over again. Perhaps because it was Aiden had referred to people 'living' in the Underworld.

"Not gonna lie, Aiden,” Mesteno interrupted, “that's one incestuous family tree you people have. Bet you're glad you're not full blooded." Because then what would he be? Spawn of Zeus and Hera, brother and sister? He decided it better not to think on it, even if he now had a lingering curiosity about just who his mother might have been.

The demi-god barked another laugh for Mesteno's comment on his family lines. "It wasn't such a big deal back in them days, especially when you're trying to preserve the quality of a particular Thread. And besides, they're divine. They don't face the same gene challenges as humans even if their behaviour often suggests they do." Droll, the demi-god. Very droll!

Mesteno gladly turned his thoughts back to the story. "They found Aeneas’ father too, if I remember correctly. And she even got him out safely afterwards." Unlike some other famous figures who'd made the same descent. "He was supposed to go and conquer the people of Latium." And, he recalled, was somehow a progenitor of the famous twins who'd nursed at the teat of a wolf - or more likely, a 'wolf' had been a reference to a prostitute who'd found the children in the Tiber and taken pity, after they'd been taken from their priestess mother.

Aiden tapped the tripod again and the picture changed to the very thing Mesteno had just been thinking about. Two infants suckling at the teats of a wolf. "I'm sure you know what family line our Realm Travelling Hero produced. Keep in mind that He was a People Plus. His mommy was Miss Love and Sex Appeal, which just might be part of the reason he got back from his trip in the first place. But think about that, ok? She was ultimately the mother of your people." He pointed at Mesteno, meaning the Romans, of course. It was a tie not to be ignored, especially given their current circumstances.

Mesteno didn't seem particularly pleased. Having any ties to her certainly not something he was going to brag about! "Mother's a little inaccurate. More like great, great, great...something, grandmother. Hardly any of her left in 'em by then. Wouldn't they all be stupidly desirable? I mean I know Lexius can hardly keep from droolin' on me but even so, he's just got odd tastes." He darted a wicked wink at the Elf.

Aiden chuckled thickly and shook his head. "He does have damn odd taste." The demi-god couldn't resist agreeing with that! He continued before either could protest his agreement. "Keep in mind, being good looking isn't Her only attribute. And we chased out one of the beings who would be able to answer how pure her Thread remained with the most accuracy. Not to worry, though. I'll ask her later.

"But anyway, back to King Idiot. You obviously know how that all went down and the story is, again, accurate enough for our purpose." Whatever that meant. The hovering picture changed again, showing the built-up hills of Rome and a building engulfed in flames. "King Idiot put the books in Mr Lightning Bolt's temple which later was burned to the ground. Everyone thought the books were destroyed in that fire." Aiden gestured to the table where the parchment and the leaves were. "Wrong."

"Very wrong," Mesteno agreed, "I was half-convinced I'd made a bad guess about what they were until you explained who your visitor was earlier though," he admitted, his eyes slipping back to the preserved treasures they'd collected. "Still don't know how they came to be with my people though. Why would they want a bunch of prophecies?"

The demi-god changed the holo image again. This time it was a painting, tattered, old and faded. The scene on it was clear enough. A Roman man with armies behind him, standing atop the burned remains of a building with lightening bolts in a clear sky above his head and a group of darkly robed figures cowering and scurrying before them as he brandished a sword. "That's a good question." He commented rather than immediately explaining the picture.

He let them study the image for some time before tapping at the tripod again. Words appeared above the painting.

And on that day, an assemblage of strangers from the lightning touched home of Jove’s bane will bring flame to the Mons Capitolinus. The Hostes will be driven away from the slope of the Aventine by the great dictator.

"The Sibylla predicted a lot of things in these three books you have. The Carthage Invasion by Hannibal, Emperor Constantine's rise to power, the birth of a particularly pesky Jew. But then there was this other stuff that was more difficult to interpret. It was a big enough occurrence, though, that someone painted the scene."

Mesteno found himself sitting forward, frowning at the violence of the painting, and the words themselves as he tried to make sense of it. Aiden's mention of the Sibylline prophecies played backdrop to it, and made it plain the scene above had been translated from amongst them.

Lexius glanced aside briefly to study Mesteno's face, more than aware of the ideas exploding within the man's mind as he studied the words and the image of the painting. He held fast to his hand lest the man take off into orbit. Or simply as answer to the tightened grip.

"That's the fire that burned down the temple where the prophecies were kept - s'gotta be,” Mesteno declared. “The Kings were long gone by then, it all happened..." another pause, the necromancer’s lips pressed thin as he dug into the memory banks and couldn't quite find the year. "Sometime in the 80's BC, when Sulla was made dictator for life. Caesar was too late, can't be him." His hand had tightened around Lexius' without him being aware of it, and he was jabbing toward the hologram with his little-touched beer bottle, the liquid sloshing about noisily. "I don't know for sure who the 'bane' was, but I can tell you something else for sure. There was a temple to Summanus on the slope of the Aventine. Summanus bein' the one deity whose temple in RhyDin isn't sat in the Roman sector. Summanus' statue bein' the one that had the head taken off by a lightning bolt."

And, he was sure he needn't add, Summanus being the supposed deity whose temple he'd been working in for the past several years for the sake of a seemingly harmless cult.

Aiden nodded, still smiling, mostly for Mesteno's obvious enthusiasm. He pointed toward the image of the dictator in the painting. "Yeah, I think you're right. This is Sulla, that's for sure." His finger swept down to the cowering figures. "And these are probably the Summanus worshipers. Or...who they thought were Summanus worshipers. That was harder for me to figure out, until I ran across this phrase." Another tap to the tripod and the image shifted again. The words popped up first.

And in the home of nocturnal thunder, the holy spring shall run with blood. He who was crowned at its font with the ebony wreath, falsely deified, shall be thrice split and on sky-coloured horses sent out enfeebled and unborn.

They hovered above a picture of a night sky, thick with clouds lit up from the inside by flickering lightning bolts which revealed the shadow of a face somewhere deep within the tumultuous shifting of the clouds themselves. Obviously not a painting. "So, the beginning of this one clued me in to Summanus. But the content of it suggests his temple or power or something was infiltrated."

Some of Mesteno’s revelation-borne excitement seemed to dwindle. For a long moment, the mental tie was empty of ideas, and he sent a searching look in Lexius' direction as if he hoped he might have been able to comprehend it more fully. When his attention shifted back to Aiden, his expression was thick with uncertainty.

"I haven't come across anything about fonts running with blood, or ebony wreaths before," he admitted. "And a Holy spring? If that was in the Temple of Summanus, there's no way to be sure now. Rome's all built over and everything that old is probably under the foundations of something new. I'd have to study, see if I can find anything about it in the history books." Falsely deified though. He had an uneasy feeling that his would-be God eating passenger might not have bothered to argue deification had it fooled worshippers into thinking it a divine being. As for sky-coloured horses... Well how ridiculous, a blue horse on Earth!

Aiden was watching Mesteno very closely now. "And the second half of the phrase was kind of a mystery, but I did tie it to this." More words, this time below the image.

Thrice split and thrice sealed, the relics united will restore the deceiver in the flames of Phlegethon beneath New Avernus. When the Ostium Orci opens, so shall the divided be brought low.

Mesteno finally seemed to remember he had a beer in his hand. He wasn't a fan of it, and had no intention of winding up inebriated, but his throat was tight, dry. Anxious all over, he was finding it hard to sit still, and was glad of Lexius' hand wound about his own, keeping him anchored.

"Relics?" He asked, his voice gone small. He'd heard that phrase before. He'd heard himself referenced as one, and could only assume that his fellow hosts were the others.

Thrice split. So, there must be three of us, his thoughts were whispering along the tie. He didn't speak it aloud, because he hadn't yet explained the full meaning of why he was superfluous to Aiden. Nor was he sure he should. Worst of all though the part about the flames. His masochistic tendencies might have been almost as twisted as his sadistic ones, but even he had no desire to be engulfed in flame. His expression had gone grim.

Better to concentrate on the other parts! "Ostium orci... that's a gate to the underworld," he muttered. "And I know the name Avernus, but can't recall from where. But who're 'the divided'?"

Lexius was processing the information Aiden had revealed, his mind humming along in the way that it did when he was calculating and weighing. He had ideas already, but he didn't voice them aloud. Instead, he gave Mesteno a reassuring kind of nod.

Rather than questioning the pair, the demi-god threw out his own ideas and a bit more information. "The 'font' could refer to his power, even his essence. I'll tell you this, your Dark Thunder Boy hasn't been seen in a damn long time." He pressed his lips together briefly, looking at the image still flickering in the air. "No one has ever been too worried about that because he was aspect or a shadow of Mister Lightning Bolt and he never gained enough ground to be a Thing in his own right."

"I think maybe I can guess where he went, if he wasn't particularly powerful," Mesteno admitted. He'd set the beer down on the table and was speaking against the backs of his knuckles, gaze gone distant. "I guess I can understand why Lightning Bolt thought it appropriate to 'thrice split' him too, if he was getting that ambitious." He. It. Whatever it was. Like the entity beyond Lexius' beads, he highly doubted it had a gender naturally.
Aiden moved on.

"Anyway, the last thing I found that might relate was this." The tripod flashed up more words. No accompanying picture this time.

The stolen sons and daughters of Rome, beyond the reach of Jove, will found a new city at the edge of a great salt sea. Hidden from the gaze of those who took them, they shall prosper for as long as they hold to the laws proscribed upon the twelve tablets.

“I'm not sure how it fits other than Romans being hidden from His sight. That sounds kinda like you out here." He shrugged and continued, not expecting an answer even if they had them. "As for 'the divided', I can't even guess. Unless it's just a reference to the Thrice Split. I can tell you that the Phlegethon is a river of fire Down Under and Avernus was a lake near Cumae said to be a gate Down Under, as well. The Sibylla's grotto was on the banks of that lake. This seems to imply there'll be a new place like that somewhere."

The demi-god suddenly went serious, eyeing Mesteno head on. "Whatever all of this means, I think we can bottom line it all by saying you should stay far, far away from the Underworld."

It was listening. Mesteno could feel it, very much awake, and unhappy. It wasn't a violent sort of unhappy, but it felt like a long-held grudge, a discontent, and it had been becoming more palpable ever since Aiden had mentioned something being falsely deified. Just it's awareness was enough to feel sinister.

"My city, it was at the edge of a salt flat," Mesteno told Aiden, sounding distant. "I guess that could look like a sea. If it rains on one of those things it’s like a mirror, and everything at the edges is crusted with salt. A seer wouldn't know any better from a vision. "They're not prospering anymore, as y'might have gathered from the fact that we managed to steal away their secret books, but they did have the tablets, so I suppose we can assume the link." Finally, a wry smile, as he shook the distance off with a shiver. "Don't worry, I'm not planning any more trips to your Uncle's hidey hole."
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Re: Origins

Post by Mesteno » Thu Feb 20, 2020 1:06 pm


Aiden finished his beer then leaned to capture the tripod off the floor. He spoke as he folded up the legs. "I hadn't thought of that." He admitted, referring to the Sadist's initial words. "That Mister Lightning Bolt did the splitting, I mean. But you do have a point. Too bad we can't just ask him." As if Zeus would ever have cooperated being interrogated about anything. "Seriously, though, you should probably try and avoid him, too. He might recognize you." For more than being a Titan Killer!

"I guess it's a good job he was too busy starin' at you when we came to fetch you out of Nidavellir," Mesteno remarked with a weak looking smile. He'd spent the last year and a half staying out of Zeus' way. Continuing the trend wasn't going to be any great effort.

Aiden laughed, leaning back in his chair. "Yeah, that's the thing with him. Short attention span, narrow field of view." He winked. "Besides, I'm so good looking it's a wonder anyone can keep their eyes off me." He made light of it if only to help counter the fact that Mesteno hanging out with him seriously raised his chances of being discovered by said God.

The demi-god fetched a small thumb drive shaped like an oak leaf and handed that over to Mesteno along with the holo-tripod. "It's all on the drive, translated. Keep it away from any network when you read it. I'm sure you'll find something I missed, but I think those are the highlight. And as a side note, that book," he pointed to the pages Mesteno had brought him, "it can disintegrate, like Sibylla's body did, but it can't be burned."

"Gratias tibi. You've done more for me than you ever needed to," Mesteno told the Greek as he pocketed the data and slid a look toward the book. He knew that Lexius had worked his talents to aid in its preservation, so at least for now, it was safe from ending up dust in a jar. "I'll let you know if I can," a condition he imposed himself! "if I stumble across anything else of relevance in what you've translated. If your... Moirai relative happens to come back, let her know her daughter's visions came in useful."

Lexius flexed his fingers for a few moments than used the grip to pull Mesteno to his feet. "Our thanks." Apparently, they were going. Mesteno didn't require much motivation, just that tug at his hand to encourage him up out of the seat.

Aiden was already waving off Mesteno's appreciation, nodding to his assurance. "Not even close to paying you back yet. Let me know if there's anything else I can do. And I will be talking to her again soon, so I'll let her know." He paused a second, one knee waggling back and forth restlessly despite his sprawl in the chair. "Don't worry too much about Her or Her Sisters, ok? They're...adopted. And they usually stay pretty neutral on things they didn't have a hand in."

Turning from Aiden with a nod that he wouldn't waste time worrying about the Fates, Mesteno eyed up the steely-eyed Elf. "Back to yours?" he asked, evidently willing to tag along for the ride wherever Lexius had intended. There was rather a lot to discuss.

Lexius hummed under his breath, as much an acknowledgement of the demi-god as an agreement with the Sadist's question, then twisted his will around Mesteno and himself and took, them away. Back to the desert, of course, where he was strongest. They appeared inside the living space of his cavern home. The warming stones in that strange table provided the only illumination though RhyDin's moons, both full, were silvering the night beyond the archways that overlooked the valley. "I will make coffee." He was already stepping to what served as the kitchen.

Mesteno kicked off his boots near a wall and padded barefoot after him, though to his credit, he didn't get in the way, only propping his shoulder to stone while the ceiling shifted incessantly overhead. "Three, Lexius. There's three of us." Thrice split. The prophecy, if it were to be believed, had been quite precise about the number.

While Lexius’ coffee was sacred, at least he was willing to share. But more, the actions he took in the making of it (methodical and precise) were soothing. The Elf took his time, especially when Mesteno came over to watch him. So wry, his smile. "Three is a powerful number." He wasn't surprised in the least!

"If there's always been three of us,” Mesteno went on, “it seems to me that if one gets killed, another's gonna pop up somewhere. S'why it didn't care too much if it lost me. Could just be that presently I'm the best of a bad batch and that's why it puts up with sharing headspace with me."

And perhaps the Elf had been right in his theory about what those masks on the wall represented. Perhaps they'd all been hosts at one time, hunted down or slain when they were detected amongst the populace of Amhinata. Perhaps they'd known the secret, known to keep hunting the carriers.

Lexius nearly scowled, and immediately shook his head.

"No. It is not settling." He set down two mugs while the coffee brewed, turning to face Mesteno directly. "I believe it does not wish to lose your strength and the other unique attributes about you. I believe it thinks it can overcome the minor flaw of your personality either through the training it wants you to seek or, in the end, when it merges the three." His brow furrowed as he pondered that.

Mesteno considered the correction, turning it this way and that in his head, but as usual he wouldn't meekly accept an opinion without questioning it first. "If it was so desperate to keep hold of me, it wouldn't have tried so hard to escape last time I sat on the table. It decided there was no reasoning with you, and it didn't even try to reason with me when I was conscious of it - just manipulated me in wanting to go there and meditate so it could rise up like it did before. I saw you afterwards. You were drained. It didn't seem like it'd just been a half-hearted attempt to scare us."

As usual, Lexius did not protest the fact Mesteno hadn't immediately agreed with him. He was always up for some debate, especially given how little that actually knew for sure.

"Perhaps." He tapped the stone with his fingertips as he pondered Mesteno's point and the scent of the coffee clouded the air thickly. "Such a lengthy existence has, I think, given it a unique form of patience. But I think it can be impetuous, as well. It wants what it wants, and while it understands getting what it wants often takes time, it will take the easier route if it can. Dealing with you has become more than it wishes to endure and, in that moment on the table, it was done." He wouldn't deny how close it had come to leaving Mesteno behind.

Lexius reached for the coffee pot as he continued, pouring each mug slowly. "But it could not get its way without losing much of itself. This caused it to withdraw and, in withdrawing, it has had time to think. I cannot say for sure it would not abandon you if given the free chance," he admitted that much, "but I am not convinced it truly wants to do that."

"Maybe," Mesteno mused, moving nearer as the coffee poured, "it feels threatened by all the Powers we've been dealing with to the point that it thinks it has no choice but to try and jettison the flesh if I refuse to find whatever's lurking in the Shadowlands."

He eyed the mug and its steaming contents, and knew better than to reach for it yet, no matter the tempting scent. Instead, he leaned an elbow against the stone beside it, and simply breathed in the spices while he pondered the path of his thoughts.

"Listening to what Aiden managed to pick out of the prophecies, I'd estimate that it's been a good two thousand five hundred years since old Lightning Bolt 'thrice split' it for whatever mischief it got up to. Maybe swallowing Summanus, since it'd taken up residence in his place of worship." Speculation, but not unfounded anymore. "That's a long time to stay split. In the intervening years, we can guess that the people in my city were hunting down the carriers for whatever reason. Maybe they didn't even know the whole reason, just that there was a threat to them if they didn't. Now, even if it did invest heavily in me, facing off with that particular deity again, risking being even further reduced if he realises I've been working for the opposition, would be genuinely terrifying."

He was considering the shadows. Maybe investigating them did hold risks. But maybe it was also the only way of surviving a direct conflict with Zeus. If only the damn thing hadn't been so enigmatic.

The Elf, of course, lifted his mug immediately. He blew a cursory, cooling breath across the steam before he sampled the coffee, eyes slitting somewhat for the heat and the pleasure of the taste. He pondered Mesteno's words in silence for some few minutes, gaze steady on the man.

"I find it...curious that it could be split at all." Against Its will, he meant. "Back then, I would guess it was whole and recently fed from the very essence that sustains it. That should have made it that much more powerful." He was sure it had devoured Summanus and taken over his followers. A ready-made group of worshipers had to be hard to pass up. Still..."Unless the reason it had such a weakness was due to the fact it devoured an aspect of the Lightening Wielder." The Elf's eyes were narrowed again, this time in thought. His busy mind was buzzing, marching ants turning this way and that as his thoughts churned.

"That's an interesting thought," Mesteno admitted, considering Summanus not merely as a deity with his own identity, but some echo of Zeus, lengthening the stretch of his worship and thus his own power. "Perhaps it let its guard down, too," he added, eyes gone unfocused as he picked over this and that. "It had fed, it was sated, it did what any well-fed creature did and settled in to digest its meal. Lightning Bolt would've been smart to make his move when it was dormant. It seems prone to long stretches of inactivity."

"And when did your people split?” Lexius asked. “Why did they split? Is it simply those that followed the Nocturnal Thunder against those who followed What Devoured Him? Did the majority think by destroying the minority it would bring back their lost god? Or did they simply wish to purge all divinity from their ranks for the trouble it had wrought?" He was staring at Mesteno's chest, his mind arrowing along their link to circle around the spots he knew were seals inside the Necromancer.

"The concern, as you say, could be valid given its weakened state now. But who slays Titans and surrounds yourself with those associated with its deepest past, you with your Necromantic skills not solely born from It, are a path to vengeance it could not easily find otherwise, I think. You, I think, would have the power it needs. If only it could control you more reliably." No, Lexius didn't see it wanting to give Mesteno up at all even if it had had that little spat on the Table.

"A cowardly moment," he was referring to that! "that I believe it has reconsidered. Perhaps we should see what it wishes you to learn, but with a care for just how that is brought about."

"Something about what Aiden said about the settlers made me wonder,” Mesteno admitted. “He called them 'The stolen sons and daughters'. It made me think of slaves. Romans kept a lot of slaves, and I don't think those at the temple would just have left their own behind when they got chased out. The slaves might not have worshipped the thing. In fact, with all the dark symbolism around it, I wouldn't be surprised if they were used as sacrifices. Maybe the slaves were just regular citizens snatched, people from Torrita, or priests they stole from the Temple of-- well you know, the one they burned." He hesitated, then added, "The prophecies were protected, you know. That much I do remember from my studies. Fifteen priests dedicated to keeping them safe and denying anyone else access. Perhaps they were taken along in case the followers of Summanus didn't have the knowledge to translate the Greek."

Lexius tapped his fingers against the side of his coffee mug then took another drink, his gaze raising from Mesteno's chest back to his face. "Yes, that may well be." The slaves, of course! He hadn't considered that. The Elf took it in and readjusted his own thinking. He did agree the Soul tended toward laziness (like a predator!) once fed, so that was another good point he filed away.

Lexius' last comment though, the one about trying to see what it wished him to learn was making the sharpness return to Mesteno’s golden eyes, and they snapped up to focus on him through the coffee steam. "And how do we do that, without going into the shadows or trying to talk to it again?"

The Elf shook his head a little and addressed that sharp look Mesteno was giving him. "I am uncertain." He wasn't shy about admitting he had no real plan. They would figure something out! The Elf did have an idea he offered.

"Perhaps in your home city. It is already heavily connected to the Shadow Realm without being within it. And if it is truly the land of your birth, then you would be tied to it more strongly than anywhere else, something we could use to our advantage. Perhaps we could empower the survivors there, trying to kill what comes through the rifts, to capture something instead. Something we could interrogate." He knew that would take some careful manoeuvring, but if they could get those struggling survivors to work for them it could well be worth the effort.

Lexius reinforcing his theories made Mesteno latch to the potential for recruiting the refugees, though he was still dubious of their chances. "I hate to be the one to point it out, but you'n I, we're not that great with people. You saw Marcus. He thought I was connected to that thing leading the attack on the city. The others are gonna come to the same conclusion. And you're not gonna win any awards for congeniality." There was a gleam of humour in his eyes when he said it, because as cautious as people were around Lexius, Mesteno had never really been convinced not to go and interrupt his seclusion as they grew to know one another.

"I will give you one point though," he decided, as if he were some unofficial scoreboard keeper for their grand ideas, "attempting whatever plan we go for in Amhinata is probably a good one. Those shadow portals will probably have established paths we can travel where I don't have to waste energy keeping them open." He scooped up his coffee then, and took a slow sip. He might have deliberately slurped it a little, just to prickle the Elf for the disrespect to the liquid.

Lexius immediately scowled at Mesteno. It had nothing to do with his accusation of being less than congenial and everything to do with the slurping! "I will stop allowing you to drink it." He warned in a dire tone. Thankfully, he was only partially serious. He knew Mesteno was doing it on purpose just to goad him.

Lifting his own mug, he paused to speak before drinking. "We could send The Mouth to try and negotiate." He found the idea amusing, but not completely unreasonable! "We will have to do something with them, Mesteno. We cannot work in the city as we need to with them skulking about. Better to try and have them on our side than a third contentious party in an already contentious environment and situation." He paused long enough to slide closer to Mesteno, reaching a hand out to try and steer him across the room so they could sit. "The other option is to drive them from the place completely."

"We ask Aiden to go and then we have to explain it to him,” Mesteno pointed out. “It puts him in an even more difficult position with his family, and I hate to point out the obvious, but they're probably gonna end up trailing him out there and poking around in things they need to stay well clear of. Though if anyone was gonna charm 'em..."

"If you do not explain it to him, he will investigate on his own." Lexius warned. "We've given him enough information as it is to perk the interest of his Family, something that is unavoidable no matter what we do so long as we continue to associate with him."

Mesteno didn't quite sigh, but he did relent to being re-directed toward the cushions, where he predictably parked himself on the floor amongst them rather than use one to sit on. He arranging himself cross-legged, until Lexius, settling on a pillow beside him, dragged one of his legs over his own thigh. The necromancer didn’t protest, both hands wrapped around his mug. He was considered the other option with a palpable twinge of guilt.

They could accomplish it, either by simply scaring the survivors silly… or by bloodshed, but neither method seemed fair, not when they'd been braving it out there for a decade, or perhaps more.

"There is another option," he admitted, still staring down into his coffee as he tried to calculate the potential for trouble. "We win their trust by closing the rifts. Or at least some of them. Between us, I think we could design some method to do it. It'd take a lot of energy, a lot of preparation, calculation, planning...but we're good at that kind of thing." You more than me, his thoughts seemed to suggest, "but they might tolerate us there if we're helping stabilise things. Now the downside, or rather the double-edged blade of the matter, is that closing them is probably gonna draw attention to what's on the other end. We'd have to be ready for a fight. But at the same time, it brings something... or things, through for us to capture."

"That is the most complicated option." Lexius agreed, though he didn't sound discouraged. "They are your people. We shall do as you wish. But we will need to scout and plan, as you say, quite closely."

One of Mesteno’s hands sought a slim, sun-browned elf-ankle, fingers siding under the hem of his pants to idly feel around the bones there. He might be searching for boot fastenings, or just a way to get said boot off, if it merely needed a tug. His other hand remained busy with the mug of course, and now it wasn't likely to burn his tongue, he was making short work of it.

"If Aiden is going to end up involved, we should make use of him as more than just an ambassador between us and the natives," he admitted, uneasy with the idea of him poking around without being poked in the right direction. "Didn't you say something before about taking him out there to soak up some of the magic? There's enough of it out there to keep him fed like a glutton. It'd help calm the winds, weaken the portals on top of whatever we manage to come up with. We..."

He hesitated, grunted. "We do what we did with the desert folk. We stage a performance. Let them see it happening rather than do it in secret and make it flashier, more impressive than it needs to be so that they're more convinced of our efforts to make the place better." He hated the thought of deceit, or treating humans as idiots, the way the Powers did. After all his complaining, he was considering hypocrisy.

"Hmm, better to direct him." He agreed, of Aiden’s involvement. There was just no telling if he might try to barge in on his own to help. Given the kind of complication that came with merely knowing the demi-god, they really should try to get as much out of him as they could! Hence the reason Lexius didn't have a twinge of guilt for using him however they could. Nor was he much concerned in manipulating the humans they'd encountered in the city, Mesteno's people or not. He could tell it bothered the Sadist, though, and so he chose his words carefully.

"As mistrustful as they will be, a big display seems…necessary. Especially if they are even half as stubborn as you are." That last was meant as a tease despite the truth of it. "We cannot afford, and they will not survive, some manner of waiting for them to come around on their own."

"Fine," Mesteno agreed, though the grudging tone masked a seeming certainty that it was the right choice. That they'd a better chance of
accomplishing what they were considering as a trio even if the third team member did come with complications. "But I'm asking him and telling him they there'll be nothing held against him if he refuses. This isn't a case of him owin' us anymore. He's paid us back for breakin' him out, he's proven he's more than one of them," no need to clarify who they were! "and if he says no, I'm not pushin' it."

Aiden was a friend. A strange, perverted, unpredictable one, but a friend nonetheless, and Mesteno didn't make a habit of dragging friends into his messes, so he felt badly for even considering it.
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Re: Origins

Post by Mesteno » Thu Feb 20, 2020 1:46 pm


Mesteno’s fingers moulded themselves around one of Lexius' heels, then back up the ankle, behind the calf muscle, an absent massage while the Elf indulged in his coffee.

"He will not say no." That was the Elf's sage predication of Aiden’s propensity to help. He didn't bother to try and explain why he thought so, but hummed a low note of pleasure for the Sadist's actions and left off his rubbing to remove his other boot himself. "Now, tell me what you know about sealing shadow rifts that you did not create."

Using both hands, the necromancer worked the leg of Lexius' pants up towards his knee, and above it, the fabric bunched behind the joint. He was quiet for a moment, studying the limb. Then... "I ever tell you y'got the prettiest, knobbly knees?"

Lexius actually rolled his eyes toward the disconcerting ceiling, as if communing with the ever-shifting ripples of sand. Somewhere amidst all that subtle motion he found patience, though it was more a masking of his mildly outraged humour. Knobbly knees? "My knees are not knobbly." Ever so patently. He didn't deny the pretty part.

"Honestly," Mesteno admitted, "I'll have to poke about out there again before I'm sure I can accomplish anything. If I were making a path and wanted to hold it open, I'd have to find some way to anchor it without me being present. Something that would pass unnoticed so it wouldn't be disturbed, the way you plant your crystals and hide them. I've been able to tether shadows to physical items and instil them with a single purpose before, like with the bird I gave you. It just requires some of my own energy to begin with, like a magnet. I either need to use my own energy to overwhelm it and snatch control, or get Aiden to sufficiently weaken it so that we can..." He mimed a pair of scissors snipping.

"I have always thought of them as fabric and threads, the former of which is ripped open between the realities and the latter of which is used to tie the opening into something more permanent." Lexius explained, before narrowing a hard look at Mesteno. "Do not go out there alone." He didn't care who the man took with him, as long as he didn't go solo.

Mesteno nodded, fingers still busy kneading into muscle. "Making the opening to begin with, yeah it's threads of this shadow tugged from there, and another from under here," under anything that cast them really! "stretching them and empowering them until there's enough of them to do the job. It's not a particularly complex thing, not intricate like weaving. Maybe more like... a knot," he suggested after some thought. "But if I were intending to make a permanent one, the way the ones out there are created, I wouldn't be surprised if it were done with more care. It probably makes them more secure, less likely to fray or unravel. Still, to make so many, and to hold them open all at once so that an army could pass through would've taken a lot of power."

He considered for a moment, then squeezed his way back down to an ankle. "The kind of power that comes from killing a lot of people... say by dropping a cliff on them. Mass sacrifice."

The Elf bared his teeth for that too hard press of fingers, the expression easing into something more appreciative as Mesteno finally got around to the real massage. He nodded his agreement with the supposition about the cliff then closed his eyes for several seconds as he brought up Marcus' memory of that night the city was attacked.

Lexius didn't try to hide what recollection he was reviewing even if he didn't force the images into the Sadist's head. With a little effort, Mesteno could probably connect to those memories as the Elf played them out. "Do you suppose the one who did this is another of the Three?"

The memory was unexpected, and Mesteno’s fingers stilled, the view of Lexius' leg temporarily a nothing-blur as the vision superimposed itself across his mind's eye. It took him a moment, feeling his way around more than truly seeing, to return to the firm-fingered kneading.

"It seems likely, doesn't it?" he asked. Because it had already crossed his mind, as early as the point at which Marcus had panicked at seeing him, and he didn't doubt Lexius had entertained similar thoughts. "If it is, it makes me curious. I sure as hell don't have the power to bring down a cliff, or open all those shadow portals, or command an army of shadowland entities, if that was what they were. That thing was fucking powerful, and probably older than me, so why am I the relic currently favoured as the vessel it tries to operate through?"

His brow furrowed, and he kneaded the flesh outward from the shin bone in either direction, as he would with the muscles to either side of the spine.

"It’s probable it was working for someone, rather than itself, don't you think?"

The Elf slit his eyes with pleasure for the attention of Mesteno's hands, his hum was mostly contemplation of the matter they discussed.

"Perhaps, as you say, working for another. Perhaps filtering their power." He didn't sound convinced. "Or perhaps not another of the Three at all, but somehow associated with them. A being, perhaps even a former human, that was touched by the Soul when it was whole, before it was split. Perhaps that is why you are being steered toward It, if It is, indeed, what you are supposed to seek out."

"It's not a Power," Mesteno pointed out, half inclined to ask if there was some oil about the place that he could use to work in with his hands. "I don't know how anything that's less than one could invest a follower with that kind of strength. If it could, and it knew its followers were still out there," and it must know by now were that the case, since it had witnessed Marcus' vision too, "surely it'd be doing everything possible to get back to them instead of just sitting tight in me. Be much easier to do that through one of its other options instead of attempting to persuade one unimpressive body to go."

He was not being deliberately unflattering about his own flesh, but acknowledging its deficiencies. It would never have the strength it might have were he not deprived in his youth. It would never lack the flaws he'd earned in his carelessness. How far could the tempering go?

"No, not a Power." Lexius agreed with that much even if he still didn't sound completely certain. "But who were those that watched and hid you for so long? They had their own abilities, perhaps born through their association with the Soul. Perhaps from elsewhere. We will not truly know about them or this Thing from the shadow realm until we encounter them."

"I don't know," Mesteno confessed, his hand stilling on Lexius' shin. "I keep thinking about them, trying to figure out who they might have been, but I'm comin' up with nada. If they'd been from Amhinata, there would have been some drama about 'em leaving, surely. If they weren't from there, it stands to reason that they're from a different group that knows about what I'm carrying, and one that's reached RhyDin city somehow. I have to face the prospect that the original followers who stole the prophecies are at large here, or at least have agents active in the area if my stalkers thought I needed protecting."

And if that was the case, nowhere was really safe. It wasn't just a matter of avoiding certain streets in the temple district anymore, or making sure that images of him were kept out of the local papers, mention of his name from all public records. He'd worked hard to remain a no one (even if it hadn't always gone to plan thanks to certain tabloids!).

The Elf shook his head, leaning more heavily against the table. A heavy tome appeared there, already open to blank pages. He pushed that toward Mesteno. "Write down for me what you find in the translations. The writing of it may jog your own memories of things or give you new ideas."

Mesteno eyed the opened tome Lexius pushed his way with a raised brow though, rather than voice his concerns. He didn't need to be any more of a hermit than he already was. "Aiden's translations? He already told us what was in them," he pointed out, confused by the instruction.

"Hmm. Perhaps our stirring things up shall ferret them out of hiding. If any of them are left." Lexius reached to tap the book again. "He gave you the translation, yes? You should write them yourself. They concern you and hearing them may not be enough. Have the books handy when you do." Which meant going back to get them from the demi-god. "It may lead to nothing or it may...remind you of something."

Mesteno grunted agreement, though he pressed the sides of the tome Lexius had nudged his way closed decisively. "Better copied into my own notes. They're... extensive." They were also still in the library where he'd been furiously at work with the star charts before their excursion. It was an environment conducive to thought, and when he did buckle down to tackle the whole enigma, it was most often there that he retreated to do it.

Disentangling their limbs with a sigh that suggested he'd have preferred to stay put a while longer, putting fingerprints on flesh and distractedly drinking coffee, he heaved himself upright. For a moment, he simply enjoyed the opportunity to look down on the Elf imperiously.

"You gonna come rescue me if they try and throw me in a lava flow?" he asked, sounding far too casual about the risk. It was right there in the prophecies after all, and as best he knew, he was far from fireproof.

Lexius frowned, but the expression was smoothed away into serenity by the time the Mesteno achieved his feet. He canted his head to return the look, not looking much put off by the stance. "Perhaps." No promises. How cruel. "It may be that you will need to merge one day in order to continue to exist. Your sense of self will need to be very strong indeed for that day. And I believe you will have protections to live through it." More than just the fire, too.

An inward shudder, more emotional than physical really, was palpable along their tie at the mention of the merging. It appeared the idea was not merely something Mesteno was opposed to, but abhorred. His jaw tensed, molars ground together as he waited for the feeling to settle, to be sure that he wouldn't respond by spitting vehement refusals.

"Better to find some way to extract me, if that's even possible. Though I'm not sure what I'd be without it." Could a personality exist without a soul? Could the damn thing even be considered one? He shook his head, as if it were too much to consider, and cracked a smile decidedly wry. "I need to track down the stalkers again. That's what I should do, before I consider anything more drastic. I might go talk to Aiden and see what he thinks of coming south when time allows."

He wouldn't, for personal reasons, draw him away from the job with the Egyptian Powers. It was simply too important.

The Elf narrowing his eyes thoughtfully at the severity of Mesteno’s internal reaction, but it was the man's spoken suggestion that really got him thinking. One could almost hear Lexius' brain kicking into higher gear. That kind of thing was just up his alley. He was, after all, living proof it could be done! The Soul part was just an extra bit of enigma to be worked on. And he was already mentally working on it.

Wisely, Lexius kept the actual content of his ideas to himself. The passenger just might get uppity if it knew what he was thinking. "It’s rather curious how much of this can tie back to him. He is a good resource, one we are lucky to have access to."

Mesteno could almost hear the overdrive of the Elf’s brain, and narrowed his eyes on Lexius, speculating over at precisely what point it'd begun. It didn't take him long to pinpoint, and after a moment he laughed a laugh as wry as his smile had been.

"What would you do with me, Lexius? Pop me in a crystal until you found a way to grow me a new body based on this one's genetic information?" It had to be something like that. "And then what would I be?"

Well, since Mesteno had brought it up! Lexius' smile held more than a little enigma. "Cloning you physically is the easy part." Scary how casually he said that. "I could do that now if I had a mind." He wasn't kidding.

Mesteno knew what he would become, if Lexius did manage it. He'd be what he'd always professed to being. A human. One without a soul, certainly, and that was a puzzle that couldn't be fixed with the simple insertion of a personality. But simple human, lacking all the power that his co-inhabitant gave him. Needing to eat. Being defenceless beyond the very human limits. He knew without even having to dwell on it that he'd detest that reversion to what he'd been in his youth. Prey.

Always prey.

"Don't waste too much time on that, huh?" he asked, and vanished off to the library to tackle the translations.

Lexius kept the faint, mysterious smile and watched Mesteno withdraw without a comment, sipping at his coffee. There was much work ahead of them both.

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Re: Origins

Post by Mesteno » Sat Feb 22, 2020 8:26 pm

[Adapted from live play with Lexius.]

Saturday June 10th, 2017

Closeted away in the unnatural twists of the tunnels beneath the Temple of Summanus, Mesteno had always been able to think straight. When the dark moods took him, which they had frequently of late, he was in no fit state to be social, and a retreat into somewhere as convoluted as his thoughts inexplicably offered a measure of peace.

He hadn’t gone there expecting to find any leads, but not long after his arrival, avoiding the acolytes and the ‘sheep’ looking lamb-lost as they were marched from holding pens to altars, a gunshot had cracked through the quiet.

It felt rather like someone had tipped the world on its end and unbalanced him – or so the mental tie he shared with Lexius had suggested.

The Elf’s response was immediate, reaching out with more than just his voice to pinpoint Mesteno's location, his voice a murmured along the tie. What is it?

Shock was settling in. The ice-water numbness of it obliterating all the necromancer’s earlier surliness. There was no answer. Even the train of thoughts usually reliably there, turbulent and keen seemed to have stalled.

Then there was pain. He seemed to notice this only reluctantly, in the way a man's subconscious demand he do so, rather than there being any real concern over it - but then this was Mesteno, who thought little of hurts no matter the extent. It seemed localised to his abdomen, where the throb of it grew gradually more insistent.

Borrowing Mesteno’s eyes, Lexius peered into a murder scene.

There was a man slumped face down across a massive desk topped in black, silver veined marble, with a grisly splatter of blood and grey matter across the wall behind him that had erupted from the back of his skull. An exit wound.

A second body was slumped on the floor, still twitching with spasms, eyes wide and pupils fixed, broadly dilated. The throat was banded with a thin seam of scarlet, a skinny ribbon of it - the blood was messier where it'd bubbled around his lips.

This particular dead man had a gun in his slack fingers.

After a moment of inactivity, Mesteno moved towards the door, automaton-calm, and locked it.

It was enough to give Lexius a fix on the man's location and to pinpoint a place that he might teleport to safely. His threads went surfing along the Sadist's body to what he suspected was a wound inflicted in the altercation.

He wasn’t wrong. There were two shell casings scattered about the second body, and the second round had found a home in Mesteno's lower abdomen, just south of his navel.

When you are ready. Lexius murmured, making clear his intent to join the man.

It wasn't the first time Mesteno had been shot, and doubtless it wouldn't be the last, either, but he seemed so distracted by the man on the floor that he hadn't even touched a hand over the wound to try and apply pressure to the bleeding. He could feel the warmth of it, soaking into the waist of his jeans, glossing a hip, an uncomfortable stickiness, but he was moving dumbly back to the body in a strange state of mixed horror and growing fury.

That was better than shock of course. So too was the fact that he'd locked the door, because within a few moments, there was a pounding on it from the other side, and the raised voice of someone calling. “Pontifex? Pontifex!” - over and over.

Mesteno finally seemed to get his thoughts in order. Or at least got the mental cogs kick-started again. Lexius' words had broken through the seize. It's him, he told Lexius. Fuck, I killed him. Fuck! The second expletive indicative of auto-admonition.

The mental link was as much a physical thing as it was metaphysical. The connection allowed Lexius a little leeway in applying his Will to the Sadist's body. it wasn't something he often employed, but he used it then to purge Mesteno’s body of the bullet and snip off the internal bleeds.

Lexius was rather wrapped up in that task of repair to take in the nuances of the scene the man was still immersed in. He could hear the banging on the door, though, and feel the Sadist's growing fury. He just needed a few more moments, so his answer was delayed.

The fact Mesteno wasn't doing nothing to staunch the wounds didn't help.

Find something to press against your wound. I can only blunt the worst of the bleeding from here. Do you wish me to bring you all here? Dead and living would travel. He recalled enough of the glimpsed scene to know the second body seemed intact enough for the Necromancer to work with still. If so, you will need to touch them.

Both, yes, Mesteno confirmed. At the very least he seemed capable of following instructions. The view shifted as he searched for something to staunch the bleeding, failed entirely, and ended up pulling his own shirt off over his head, folding it down into a pad of fabric and trapping it in place against the all too blatant wound by stuffing its bottom edge under the waist of his jeans. His fingers seemed to function reliably enough, no tremor to them, and Lexius find that in this instance, the passenger’s tempering was working to their advantage. The thick, dark blood moved particularly slowly through Mesteno’s veins, and his heart rate, despite the tumult of emotions, was still slow.

Snatching up the gun and wedging it in the back of his jeans with a wince, he reached for the man's wrist, pulling the body toward the desk with less strength than he expected of himself. He stretched his other hand to touch the shoulder of the slumped corpse on the desk, careful not to leave prints on anything else.

Ready, bring us all, he managed, as a second voice joined the first in the tunnel without, and the pounding turned to weighty sounding thuds against the door.

Lexius left off the healing and stretched his touch in different ways through Mesteno's body. Sand sliding down rivers of blood, using those pale specks that were now a part of Mesteno's flesh to make the trip. He took full advantage of the minor changes the Well had made; changes only entrenched all the more securely every time the Sadist tasted his blood. Next came the lightning.

Bolts of mental energy surged through Mesteno's body, seemingly born from his brain, to race down into his core and stretch along his limbs. It crackled out of fingertips and palms to surrounded the copses as much as it engulfed Mesteno himself. The sensation of pulling that always accompanied the Elf's long-distance teleports was more like a wrenching this time around, as if two large hands had reached into his body then pulled outward, ripping him apart.

Luckily, Lexius was skilled at putting everything back together. So did the three appear within a cleared-out space in his lab. Lexius was right there, too, immediately placing his hand on the Sadist's shoulder to steady him.

As a result of the unexpected pain, Mesteno was gasping when he arrived, dragging in huge, grating lungfuls of air and shuddering through the business of working out where the hell he and his grisly baggage had been relocated to. It took him a moment to recognise the lab, even if the Elf was immediately familiar.

The corpse with the gunshot wound to the head was determinedly leaving a small puddle of blood under its face (it'd emerged as it had been before, face down, albeit with the limbs in an ungainly heap having been removed from its chair). The other body, the one it seemed all too likely the necromancer had dispatched, was in precisely the same position it'd been sprawled in the pontifex's office. Air bubbles had already crawled down the carotid and jugular vessels, making the blood leakage more a lazy trickle than a dramatic spurting.

"It's him," Mesteno rasped, jutting a wobbly finger in the direction of Mr Cut-throat. "He's the one. One of them. At the canal." He didn't appear to be making a great deal of sense presently. He was however leaning rather too heavily against the Elf.

The man in question appeared to be in his early forties, and had been moderately handsome - dark haired and with uncommonly bright, blue eyes. Tall, but with the tell-tale softness of middle age spread beginning around his middle. He hadn't changed a great deal since Mesteno had last seen him, save for a greater quantity of silver threaded through his thick hair.

Once upon a time, before Aiden’s wrathful uncle had flattened Sanctuary, his image had been pinned up on Mesteno’s wall, along with that of two other suspects. Nameless stalkers who’d carved a rune of hiding into his calf.

Lexius checked the bodies only enough to make sure they were, in fact, bodies now. The one with half his brain missing was nearly a given, the other might have some life left. Finding nothing, he lifted Mesteno off his feet – much to the necromancer’s indignant surprise - and onto a nearby steel table.

"At the canal? One of the three?" He still hadn't really looked at the man in question, too intent on fixing Mesteno's stomach first.

The table, was cold, even through the seat of Mesteno’s jeans. He grimaced at the contraction of his stomach muscles, and closed a palm down over the wadded shirt, now gone unpleasantly damp.

"Yeah, one of the three." He breathed out, sounding no less shell-shocked. He hadn't seen any of them in more than half a decade, and now, just as he'd been so eager to find them, one of them had shown up at his place of employment and shot him. "Just turned around and..." he mimed the shot with his free hand.

Lexius pushed Mesteno back, until he was laying down, not about to put up with any resistance. He could paralyze the Sadist if he needed to, though it would tweak both their tempers. "Did anyone know you were to visit the temple today? Be still while I close this more fully." He instructed sternly before he pulled away the wadded shirt, his fingers now stained with the Sadist's blood.

Things floated to him from around the lab to help with the task so he didn't have to leave his side. Busy, busy elven mind, split three ways as he worked and talked and processed.

"I didn't even know until a few minutes before I drove there," Mesteno admitted. "Parked a few blocks out like I usually do, and then found an alley..." He trailed off there, but it might easily be assumed that he'd slipped through the shadows from that point. "Coulda been watching my parking spot, if they knew what the van looked like," he murmured, frowning up at the ceiling, and then down the length of his train-wreck scarred torso to where Lexius had pulled away his shirt.

The wound looked fairly clean. The bullet had been nothing exotic, just a run of the mill human manufactured specimen, lacking poison, explosive, or anything more high-tech nasty from out near Star's End. He'd been lucky in that respect, even if it had been a sizeable round. It'd punctured an area prone to causing peritonitis, but judging by the state of his insides, that might not be as much an issue as usual. Though the tissue didn't look unhealthy in general, there was none of the usual stink associated with a ruptured intestine. The extent to which his gastrointestinal tract had ceased to function was all too plain. More than likely if he tried to resume normal consumption, he'd cause himself harm.

Mesteno deliberately avoided asking what it looked like. Didn't want to know, or didn't care. Thankfully, he did hold still, while his blood, the scent of it all wrong, dark and provocative, clung to elven fingers.

Lexius noted the changes, checked deeper, down to the cells, discovering just how far things were moving along in the whole 'tempering' department.

He just worked on stitching flesh back together neatly with the needle of his mind. Mesteno's own flesh was the thread, he just had to remind it that it belonged together rather than apart. Not the best at that, the Elf, but at least with his quick attention any scarring would be minimal.

"No doubt he was looking for you. Why he would kill the Pontifex, let alone you, is another question." He had a few guesses, but he made it a prompting question so he could hear the Sadist's ideas on the matter. He added more, too, just to try and keep the man's mind agile. "Any chance you were seen going inside?"

If Mesteno found the process uncomfortable, it wasn't obvious. His mouth was pressed tight, but that might have just been displeasure over the situation, rather than pain. He neither flinched nor vocalised any pain over the sensation. Simply lay there staring up at the ceiling with its endlessly moving sands. He still have expected grains to drift down and hit him in the eye.

"Why start looking for me now?" he asked dully. "Unless I'm not the only one they're watching and something else changed..." A frown knit his brow, and he tore his gaze from the ceiling with its ever-moving sand in order to eye Lexius instead. "They can't see me go in. I step into the alley, then walk through the shadows. I come out in the tunnels under the temple in a spot I have committed to memory. I haven't used the front doors in years now."

But that didn't mean he hadn't ever, he knew. It was quite possible that he'd been seen in the past.

Lexius had no doubt at all these people had known precisely where Mesteno had been working. They probably even knew where he’d been living until a God tore the place asunder. They were interested enough in Mesteno to put that mark on him when he needed to continue to hide. No way would they willingly lose complete track of him. Still, Mesteno had a point with that idea that there was more than him in this picture.

"If we go with our assumption," brow furrowed, the Elf kept his eyes on his bloodied hands which were holding the wound closed as it knit, "that your city was the home of those that were stolen and not those that burned the temple and stole the prophecies, then the descendants of those thieves are still out there. They would be the worshipers of the patron of that Temple, no doubt familiar with its existence. Perhaps even yours. It is difficult to say, but I think it is not just convenient timing they appear now. Something we have done stirred them."

He finished with the wound. Delicately tied, flesh to flesh, but it would hold. "Go slowly or you will rip it apart again." He advised, looking up to the man's face. "Perhaps we shall learn more when you question the corpse." He didn't seem so concerned about sliced vocal cords.

"There's too many things to pick from," Mesteno admitted dimly. "Anything could've done it. Maybe they had links to the survivors in the ruins though..." Even as he said it, the flimsiness of the theory made him dismiss it, and he propped himself up on an elbow, moving with the caution Lexius advised so that he could get accustomed to the way the healed flesh felt. A certain vulnerability, the not-quite-right of untested muscle. It didn't concern him, so he levered himself the rest of the way up and slithered down off the table.

It wasn't particularly graceful. The combination of blood loss and having lain flat left his body struggling to work with the slowed blood flow his passenger had forced. He felt his knees go as soon as he asked them to take weight. A blackness rushed up behind his eyes, head too light, and he slammed a hand down hard on the table's edge noisily to grip white knuckled until the dizziness passed. Breathing, he noted, felt a little more laboured. Logical observations kept his brain from outright powering down at least, and he blinked his vision back to rights before he tried moving any further.

"This is the one who thought I wasn't worth the effort," he managed, as his focus returned, appropriately right on the dead man's face. "He was trying to persuade the woman and the big guy that it would be simpler to kill me. I wouldn't be surprised to learn he went rogue."

Lexius was offering him a mild scowl. "You will need to feed." The idea of it wasn't the problem, just the actual doing of it. He really did need to find a way to make that easier for Mesteno when he was out in the desert. "Until you do," he continued a beat later, "you must go more carefully. Should we see to that first? They will remain preserved until you are ready."

There weren't visible domes around the bodies, but Lexius had done something that had the pair safely secured, the decomposition radically slowed. Even the little trickles of blood on his lab floor were far less than they should have been.

The Elf was studying the man in question, recalling what he could of Mesteno's memories. His guess seemed perfectly logical. "Perhaps he did. But why now?"

Mesteno shot the Elf a mildly accusatory scowl, as if suggesting he thought he was deliberately trying to hold him up from interrogating the dead man. Of course, it was mainly due to his own reluctance to go out and feed, to find some pulsing place in the city's heart where he wouldn't hurt people. The only other option was to find a handy nest of vipers and drain them all in one fell swoop, but entering that kind of dive presented risks of its own while he was still reeling.

Actually, it wasn't the only other option. The third was a band-aid fix, a litre of gasoline in an otherwise empty engine. He knew it would work though, enough to hold him through the evening and avoid returning to RhyDin. He found his eyes skimming the side of Lexius' throat in impulsive contemplation. The blood stink, and his woken passenger weren't helping him quell the notion, but the reluctance to play leech, even if to hasten discoveries, kept his mouth shut. Lexius' abhorrence of vampires was just too fierce for him to risk it.

"Maybe the others were suggesting something he wasn't comfortable with,” he muttered, rather than voice the suggestion. “Or maybe they have knowledge of something we don't, and he decided enough was enough. Hell, maybe he was the only one left." He glanced at the firearm he'd pried from the dead man's fingers, and took a few slow, careful strides until he was beside the dome-covered corpse. "We should check his pockets, see if we can find some identification," he suggested, reaching to see if he could pass his fingers through the dome safely. "It's a long shot, but we might be able to find if the gun was registered to someone, too." Of course, firearms were passed around with such blatant disregard for Earth-style control legislation that he wasn't hopeful.

Lexius was frowning, watching Mesteno move past the line of his brow as he continued to meticulously clean his fingers. He hadn't missed that thought from the man. It had kickstarted his own mental processes that put the frown on his lips. "I doubt the weapon will lead you anywhere." he commented with some measure of distraction. The preservation bubble broke when Mesteno breached it, allowing time to resume its normal flow around the corpses.

Still watching the Necromancer. Still cleaning his already clean fingers. The blood was all over the muslin cloth he'd used, something he wouldn't throw away. Something that might join the other items he'd taken from the man for study. He looked to those things, his frown deepening and the churn of his thoughts (his emotions) becoming...obvious.

This was Mesteno.

"You may have some if you wish." He finally murmured, looking back to the Sadist.
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