Empathy

Okay, Wifey knows I can not resist.. So I’ll post what lead up to her above scene. Enjoy!
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“What are you doing?” Ess chuckled, kneeling down beside Lily who was staring very intently at Puppy in a cold stone expression. She looked so serious and was silent as the grave as the large dog stared right back at her, his expression much more curious and adorable as his ears perked up at Ess’ approach. When Lily didn’t answer, Ess folded her hands in her lap and watched the two for quite some time. Ess felt like it had been forever and went to ask Lily again what she was up to, when the girl tilted her head back, her face stretching in a wide and noisy yawn. Essence quirked a brow, thinking that maybe the child had grown tired of this staring contest, absently stifling a yawn of her own. Puppy’s tail thumped happily over at Lily as he reflected her gesture and let out a soft whine, his jaws parting in a yawn of his own, tongue lolling out of his mouth. Lily broke her statue like pose and began giggling and tackled her fury protector in a massive hug, the dog covering the girl in kisses.

Ess snorted shaking her head. “Lily…what are you doing?” She smiled in amusement.

“Hi Miss Ess! I was trying an spearmint..” Lily giggled, when Ess’ expression when dumbfounded.

“ A what?”

“A spearmint! Jason said that he read that animals and people…who are good…sense someone is good and you can tell this by if yawning and seeing if that animal or person does it too.” Lily lifted her head proudly as if she were giving a lesson on morality.

“OOooh…an experiment.” Ess laughed and nodded, tapping her chin thoughtfully as she listened to Lily’s explanation.

“Dat’s what I said, Miss Ess. An exspearmint. And it worked. Puppy yawned when I did.”

Ess fell silent for a few moments, watching the girl lovingly play with the Wolfhound. Thinking over the girl’s words, she began to understand what she was doing, a warm smile touching her eyes as she quietly appreciated the girl’s intelligence. Lily had a pretty good understanding of what Jason had explained to her, but Ess was familiar with what the boy had read and knew it was still quite a bit over the young girl’s head.

“It’s to tell..if someone has Empathy, Miss Lily. Do you know what Empathy is?” Ess sang softly, reaching over to ruffle up Puppy’s fur. Lily looked up at Essence and tilted her head in curiosity, staying silent to politely wait for the woman to finish.

“Um..well basically it’s..for example…Let’s pretend you fell and hurt your leg and I found you. I would feel bad and sad that you hurt yourself and want to help you. Your pain I don’t really feel, because I’m not hurt, but I see you’re in pain and I want to help it go away.I would want to take care of you.” Ess reached over and lifted the girl onto her lap as she spoke, running her fingers through her hair to separate and braid the loose strands.

“So…it’s wanting to help people?” Lily asked, quietly settling into Ess’ lap.

“Sometimes. It’s understanding what someone else feels, even if you don’t feel it. Sometimes you do feel it too.” Ess snorted, shaking her head when Lily looked back at her a bit confused. “Ok..what if Puppy didn’t yawn back, what did Jason say that would have meant?”

Lily was thoughtfully quiet as Ess twisted six small braids; three on each side of Lily’s head, uniting them at the base of her neck where she began braiding those together into a much larger design. When Ess was finished, that was when Lily seemed to come to an answer.

“I think…it would mean that Puppy was bad. I think if someone didn’t care about me then they’d be mean. I’m a good girl and I like making people stuff and helping Jason and the other kids and Maga. I was sad that day your hands hurt Miss Ess and you couldn’t eat..so I helped. So..I have mapthy..”

“Empathy..” Ess corrected, brushing a few hairs from her eyes. “..Yes…you do. and you’re right…those who don’t..can be very mean..”

“You have empathy too then.” Lily smiled.

Essence giggled. “Why don’t you go find out if Mr Luckas does too? Go play your game with him…but don’t tell him why until after, ok?”

“Ok!” Lily jumped up with a small burst of energy and went to run off to find Luckas. “Miss Ess?” Lily paused in step and looked over at Essence with what could only be recognized as confidence. “…You know what?”

“What is it, Lily?”

“Mr. Luckas has to have empathy because he’s never mean to me.”

“Is that so? Well, you sure it’s not because he knows he’d get his butt whooped by a camp full of guardsmen and women if he were to be mean to you?”

Lily laughed, clapping a bit in amusement. “Maybe..but I don’t think so..”

Blackbird's Nest

There is a bit of a history to the scene I’m going to post below and to those of you who are reading, or participating in, SOF it may actually be posted there in the future although. Read at your own risk, although it contains no plot relevant anythings and it’s just something I wrote for cuteness sake. The history I spoke of, well… I’ll tell you guys about it in the end. 😉

——————

Luckas sighed, holding back a laugh. They had been doing this for a while now; Lily followed him around for a bit then stood in front of him, stared for a few seconds, and then yawned vigorously. After some time of making the girl chase him down for this; with no explanation as to why whatsoever, Luckas finally stopped trying to get away and just sat down by the oak, compliant, watching as she stared…

View original post 1,281 more words

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Spring Storm…(With Flare)

So, some time ago I wrote a scene for the RP Shadows Of The Forgotten, called Spring Storm. My good friend, Camila, re-blogged it a little while  back and it reminded me of how I tried to put together sound effects and music to myself reading this aloud. Sadly, the cheap program I have made the sound…well less than perfect. It certainly has tons of room for improvement, but you get the point. I didn’t include the reading in this version because I couldn’t get the audios to not clash enough to my liking, so here is the music and sound effects. Camila was kind enough to take my writing and audio clip and put it into a visual youtube video for me. Thanks again wifey! ^.^

In regards to the scene, it is personally a favorite of mine for a couple reasons. One, I actually managed to get what I was daydreaming about in my head, out into paper. I am pretty proud of this scene because of that reason but also it shows some metaphorical beauty that one may get the basics from reading out of context, but not all of it. For those of you who are not familiar, Ess had found an unlikely friendship in a stalker; a stranger, that which is Luckas. The scenes giving some nice beginnings and background to their unexpected bond, can be found on this blog, referenced as ‘Ess and Luckas Meet Again: parts 1-5’. Anyways, I would like to think here, as Ess, she was experiencing a moment of peace that she wanted to share with Luckas. At this point in the story, it is fairly new, the realization and discovery that they share a psychic bond brought on when Luckas tried to erase her memories. This ‘bond’ lets them communicate in a way, unintentionally at times, so that in the past, Luckas had briefly experienced some troubling things Ess was living in a present moment. This scene is to share with him, those peaceful moments that are rare and far in between and I’d like to think also, to share a little piece of herself. It’s the only time I can remember, showing as her ‘adult self’, an innocence which she believes she has fully lost.

Eyes Are The Doorway To The Soul..,

Good Morning Beautiful People, If Only Our Eyes Saw  Souls  Instead Of  Bodies  How Very Different Our Ideals Of Beauty Would Be.  ~ Unknown    #Goodmorning #LovingLife #Lifequotes #Motivation #Inspiration

 

I love this and all things relating to this topic. I base a lot of my writing around expressions of the eyes, what is hidden behind their meaning, and perhaps even catching glimpses of someone’s soul. For those of you who have read any of the Lukey/Ess scenes posted here, I’m sure examples of this are there. I firmly believe in looking past the surface, diving into the rocky depths below to the bottom of someone’s heart or the back of their mind, to find what is hidden from the rest of the world; or at least those who don’t know where to look.

Bloody Knuckles

Original writings with Trickster (who wrote Mageria) taken from Shadows Of The Forgotten. Here we have my character stuck on babysitting duty and things take a turn a little bit down the line there. For those of you who may not have read other things I’ve posted, Ess can not have kids. (I’ve previously mentioned Darren as her son…that’s a spoiler, but he was born before the brutality.) That was taken from her at a young age from a brutal beating/rape from her time as a slave at a brothel before she escaped. Some scars just run too deep. We write in Text based Role Playing style, so again, be kind when reading as it is in a different style. 

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{Raven’s Nest}

There had been something of a one day cold that was working it’s way through the camp. Nothing harmful, but the best way to deal with it was for the effected person to stay by their fire and sleep for the day. And, it seemed to have caught Mageria. She had managed to get up and dress, coughing the entire time. Jess was glaring at her, but with six children in a building that was comfortable for two adults; she wasn’t going to get any rest anyways. There was a knock at the door, looking at the time told Mageria that she was far late for Ess’s training. She groaned under her breath and started towards the door, only to find Jess there in front of her. The pregnant woman pulled the door open and ordered the children outside before glaring at whoever was on the other side.
“Today, endurance training. You get to take care of the kids.” She closed the door firmly and grabbed Mageria’s shoulder, somehow managing to steer her even though the Captain was taller by 4 inches and had years of fight training.
“You . . . are going back to bed.”

Ess stumbled backwards from the sudden entourage of children running past and around her (followed by Puppy), quirking a brow she nodded with a chuckle at the idea of the kids as her ‘endurance’ training for the day; like she hadn’t done enough running already this morning. It was not a bad day to spend outside, although it was cold, it was well above freezing. Tala came pouncing over happily, diving into a pile of fluffy, light snow besides the wolfhound; the effect covering both animals in white. The boys and girls laughed happily in a game of tag, taking turns in tickle torture when they caught another and at first seemed to be self entertaining.

“Look, it’s the pretty doggie!” Lily yelped happily as she ran up to Tala, the wolf wagging her tail in response, distracted as Puppy playfully tackled her causing Lily to giggle. Lily turned towards Ess and gently tugged on her sleeve, “Can I pet her, Miss. Ess?”

With a slight smirk, Ess nodded, kneeling down to lock eyes with the little girl, “Only if you promise to be real gentle with her, okay?” Lily clapped in her excitement, running over towards the wolf and instantly wrapped her small arms around Tala’s neck, causing the wolf to cough in a slight choke, tail thumping harder in the snow. “Aww, think Tala likes you Lily.”

A sudden defiant scream, alerted Ess to the boys arguing who’s snow ball hit who first, the sight causing her to roll her eyes. With a sigh she stood walking over to the four as they began shoving one another back and forth. “Hey!…Really you all can’t play nice for five minutes?” Ess’ words fell on deaf ears as they ignored her. Tucking her upper lip behind her top teeth Ess let out an ear piercing whistle, Tala bolting forward to her side. For a second she got the boys’ attention before they went back into it. Crossing her arms a bit frustrated, Ess turned to Tala, “Tala….stand at attention!” She commanded, the wolf sitting back on her haunches expectantly with a bark. “Sound the alarm!” Tala tilted back her head and began to howl extremely loud and long, the sad song echoing into the day, causing many who were hustling around the camp in their chores to stop and question it with a curious stare. All the children stopped dead in their tracks to stare at Tala wide eyed. When the wolf ended her song, Ess stared at each child expectantly. “Now that I have your attention…who wants to help with Tala’s training?”

Ess smiled when all the children lined up like little soldiers, awaiting instructions. “First rule…any whining, you lose privledges….Any fighting…..you sit out for the activity for the rest of the day….Are we clear?” Ess spoke softly, yet her tone commanded obedience. All six children nodded firmly, the two girls giggling when Tala barked as if to confirm Ess words. “Right…and then you’ll have to deal with Tala…” Ess held back a smirk as the kids gasped, the wolf trotting circles around the line. “Ok then….while I work on a reward for your assistance….First task is to help Tala with her speed…Try to catch her!” With that the kids dashed forward, Tala leaping aside and around a few trees leading the children in pursuit, Puppy trailing Lily from behind.

Aiden had appeared behind Essence, and when she turned she almost collided into him. “Shit, man!…Funny I was just about to come looking for you…What can we do about making some sleds for the kids…?”

Aiden laughed, raising a brow at Ess’ question. “You plan on having them pull it, Talon?”

Ess shook her head, “Very funny….more like the Wolf and Dog..”

Aiden thought for a moment, crossing his arms across his massive chest, “I think I can work with some pieces we have lying around….When you need it by..”

Ess looked over her shoulder, enjoying the playful scene as Tala remained out of reach of the kids, but only just. It was as if she was letting the kids have a slight chance, enjoying the game herself. “…The sooner the better…”

~~

Lunch time came rather quickly, and already the children commanded Tala about with the cutest hint of authority. Ess taught them some basic commands, and in that Tala was spinning in circles trying to keep up with the demands of the little ones. “All right….who’s hungry?” Ess yelled out to the crowd, as she finished cooking a stew over the fire at her camp. Out of breath, the six happily sat upon the large log of lumber beside the fire, devouring the hot stew with some cider Ess was able to grab from Jess. The Captain was still confined to her bed with the much needed rest that was due to her, per Jess’ command.

One of the girls spoke up for the first time all day, “Miss Ess? Can I feed Tala?” The child appeared to be a few years off from Jason who was in the beginning of his adolescence, so Ess had no problem with her helping herself to the stew upon the fire. “Just..set it down and back up…don’t want to be in the way of a wolf and her food…and don’t forget Puppy now…”

Lily chimed in, “Ya, Puppy’s hungry too.”

Ess looked up at one of the younger boys, Clayton she thought was his name, as he approached her with a shy smile. “Miss Ess….do you know any stories?” All the children’s eyes were on her now, curious to her answer as they worked on their meal.

“Uh…” Ess’ mind went blank. “Let me think…a story…huh?” She smiled placing her bowl aside, arms outstretched towards the boy as he inched closer, climbing up on her lap. Ess wrapped her arms around the boy, a bit surprised by the small display of affection, but it warmed her heart all the same as she gave the child a small squeeze. Ess really didn’t remember any stories from her own childhood, she decided something somewhat true would be best. “Ok….I can tell you about the wolves then….”

Lily piped in, “There aren’t any wolves though…Tala’s the only one.”

Some of the other children began to debate, “..But if there’s no more wolves, then who’s Tala’s mommy?”

“Where’d they all go?”

“There has to be more, somewhere?”

“I hear the WolfPack helps protect them from mean hunters..”

Ess sighed, raising her finger to her lips, waiting patiently for the voices to calm in their sudden array of questions. “Wolves, are pack animals. They have very strong ties to family…they are loyal, loving, intelligent, aggressive, and great hunters. Just because you haven’t seen many doesn’t mean they aren’t everywhere, especially in the forests. They aren’t all like Tala here or like their cousin Puppy…and tend to shy away from people.”

Ess continued on in her explanation before she defined how not all are like Tala, and how she found her years ago. There was much that made Tala different from the average wolf and that was her training, human interaction from a tiny pup, and with the additional help of a Beast Speaker. Ess retold shortened, clean versions of the times Tala had saved her life and visa versa form poachers in these same forests.

“I heard that’s what Puppy was made for….war dogs for hunting wolves.”

Ess glanced along the many faces and then back towards the animals at her feet. “Just because one person created Puppy’s breed for that purpose, doesn’t mean Puppy has to live that way, right? Puppy, likes Tala, and seems to like people who are friendly. Puppy can choose what he likes and what he wants to do. We are all in control of this.”

Jason spoke quietly, “Just like Mageria says we don’t have to learn to fight if we don’t want to..”

Ess smiled as Lily scooted closer to her, nodding at Jason’s comment. “Very true, But one still needs to know how to defend one’s self.” Ess glanced up to see Aiden making his way over to her with an affirmed nod, Ess gently placing Clayton onto his feet. “Ok guys…ready for sled rides?”

The next couple hours flew by, as Ess simply watched the kids take turns on two sleds: One harnessed to Tala, the other to Puppy, giving tours of the camp at different paces. Aiden had explained to both animals to be gentle with the littler ones, making sure they didn’t fly off the sled even though the children pleaded to race one another. Ess shook her head, knowing better. No matter how hard they tried to command Tala or Puppy to go faster, the two only listened to Ess or Aiden.

Lily rubbed at her eyes, looking up at Ess expectantly, reaching up to be held. Ess was taken a bit back, just staring a moment before she knelt down and picked her up, letting the girl rest her head upon her shoulder. “All right kids, time to pack it up and give the animals a rest. Got to be back in time for dinner.” Ess slowly led the group back towards the Captain’s cabin, letting Aiden unstrap the wolf and dog from the sleds. The boys ran forward, barging through the door only to be reprimanded by Jess to take off their slushy boots and change into something warm and dry.

“Can we go sledding again tomorrow?” Lily whispered to Ess.

Ess stood in the doorway, looking at Jess as she set Lily down and smiled just a bit sad. “It will be up to Mageria…ok?”

“If Maga is feeling better..” Lily smiled, her eyes closing in a slit as she turned and bounced off for dinner. After Puppy made his way inside after the group, Ess closed the door behind her, making her way back to her tent.

‘Is this what it is like to have kids?’ She pondered to herself, her expression still a bit sad. Ess had enjoyed herself quite so, and she did feel more mentally tired than anything as the kids were good for the most part. Even when they fussed or argued, she wouldn’t mind doing it all again. Absently she rested her palm along her flat belly, thinking on what she would be missing out on, when Aiden approached her with Tala by his side.

“You looked like you all had fun today, eh Talon?” He beamed, pulling his hood tight over his face to hide from the coming night chill.

Ess shrugged, attempting to hide her smile. “Tala got lots of exercise….Thanks for helping out.. with Tala and the sleds and all.”

Aiden gave Ess a playful tap on the shoulder, “Don’t mention it. Happy to help.” He gave Tala a gentle pat along her side as he added, “..Ever think about giving up this life and having kids of your own, Talon?”

Ess’ shoulders slumped at those words, her expression shutting off completely as her fingers clenched around her shirt across her stomach. A flair of anger cross her purple iris’ but she kept quiet, knowing Aiden was ignorant to her situation and was just making small talk. At least that was what she was trying to tell herself, to calm down. Ess attempted to play it off with a not very convincing laugh as she answered, “..If I want any…ever…I’ll adopt..So many without families ya know..”

Aiden nodded, “Right…but if you found a guy you liked…would you try for some of your own?”

Ess began to shake in her anger, not looking at Aiden as she started to storm off but was stopped by his hand clasping firmly around her arm. “…Ess…what’s wrong?”

Essence halted, turning abruptly, her fingers curled in a tight fist which painfully collided into Aiden’s right eye as she snarled in her fury, “Ess??!…Did I bloody tell you…you could touch me!?” Stepping back she held in a few tears, cradling her hurt hand, the knuckles already began to bruise. “Stupid men…” Tala began barking, glaring hard between Ess and Aiden while Ess shook her head to Aiden’s objections.

“..E…Talon…What did I say?!” Aiden cried out, holding his eye, blinking as it swelled and he tried to look at Ess.

“Just…leave me be..” Ess felt a bit ashamed in her fury but would not allow herself to let him see, she couldn’t stand for him to see… Ess bolted at full speed back to her tent, Tala on her heels as tears fell from her cheeks, she dove inside, hiding beneath a pile of blankets. There she remained for the rest of the evening, never leaving to eat or anything. Time seemed to stand still, Ess sobbing heavily for the first time in so long, she couldn’t even remember. She felt so alone in that moment, not even hugging Tala for comfort, as she cried herself to sleep.
~~~

Next Morning..

Mageria waited patiently for Ess to finish her run, sipping a cup of hot cider. She had heard about Ess entertaining the children yesterday; apparently it had been highly inventive. Rather more quickly than she had expected, the other woman came around the bend. She was shaping up nicely. Raising one eyebrow, Mageria beckoned her closer. With a closed expression she obeyed, standing just a bit defiantly before her. Mageria shifted so that she wasn’t facing Ess directly, staring instead out over the river.

“You know, we’ve all got things in our past that we’d not like brought up. Around here, we respect that, because we’ve all got our own personal hells. For example, I’d tell you to never ask Aiden about the scars on his wrists. But,” she shifted so that she could take Ess’s wrist, examining the bruises there. “First things first, I need to teach you how to hit properly. Your knuckles look worse than his eye.” She gestured at a bag of sand hung about chest high from a nearby tree. “You can start with that.”

Getting up, she walked Ess through the proper way of punching without breaking her own bones; then stepped back. “Come find me when your knuckles are bloody. After that we’ll go over the proper places to punch to cause some real damage.”

Ess nodded slowly, her expression almost empty as she stared and mimicked Mageria’s form, not quite punching the bag of sand just yet. When she was satisfied, she took a chunk of her rage and sadness and tested a few punches. Her wrist and knuckles ached a bit, but she saw the difference. Mageria had left her alone, and that was when she began hitting harder. Bending at the knees she lightly danced around the sand bag in a one, two motion with her fists. Trying to keep her mind clear was not an option that day, and it was just one thought after another memory,after another thought, which only seemed to cause her to hit harder.

{Flashback…22 years ago in BlackPond}

Essence backed herself into a dark corner, her hands bound before her which she tried to use to block the man from coming any closer. Her voice was weak from her constant wailing, her cheeks streaked through the filth from her flow of tears. Ess wasn’t alone in the room, however. Several other young girls were huddled together in the far corner, trying to remain silent in their fear of angering their attacker.

“…Now…be a good litta’ birdie and put the dress on for the mistress to see….” Jasper breathed heavily over Ess, the hot stench of him practically suffocating her, causing her to gag a bit.

Ess whined softly, shaking her head slowly, hiding her head behind her hands in preemptive defense, knowing what was coming as she was struck hard across the face.

“…You’ll do it….or I’ll do it for you!” Jasper’s voice bit into her as he began tearing at her nightgown.

“No….stop!” One of the other girls screamed. “Just do what he says….it’s easier this way…”

Ess was trembling, trying to fight off the man to no avail, so tiny and weak in comparison. Ess managed to kick the man between his legs, causing him to pause momentarily in pain only to grip her by the throat, raising her high against the wall. Her pale cheeks began to turn red, slowly to a blue as she kicked, panicking to breath as he choked her with one hand, the other tearing the sleeves off her gown. “Stupid….litta’ whore…” Another moment passed, Ess’ eyes rolling up in her head as she lost consciousness.

Essence awoke some time later, her throat aching in pain, finding herself dressed in a blue, cotton gown. She was on the floor of a room, empty of all but a fire place which was burning the last of it’s embers, several girls huddled around it for warmth. One of the girls spoke, the familiar voice perking Ess’ interest as a blond blue eyed girl, a year or so older than herself approached her. With a sigh, the girl looked over Ess, gently examining the bruises along her throat and jaw. “You…should of just done what Jasper said…you’ll live longer if you do.” The girl paused, forcing a sad smile that did not match the emptiness peering out from her gaze. “I’m Jemma….”

~~
Some months had passed, Ess finding her only friend in that hellish place was to be Jemma. They’d share the bits of bread given to them, or what they managed to steal from the dogs who seemed to be fed better than they were. It was like a prison, where they were told they would be conditioned to be the perfect little fantasy, the perfect woman; or as Jasper put it, “A savory whore.” The girls who cried a lot, were the ones Jasper focused on the most, so it was up to Jemma and Ess to keep eachother calm, and helping to keep eachother out of trouble. It began to dawn on them, how their numbers started to dwindle. Most of the girls had hardly any fight left in them, and when it seemed they were almost broken, Jasper took them out of the room and Ess never saw them again. They weren’t sure if they were being let go, or killed, until one of the girls actually came back. Tess, was her name; of course she stopped responding to such, and when she was returned, wouldn’t even look at any of the girls or explain what had happened to her. The look in her eyes, vacant and cold, gave Ess chills, unable to imagine the horrors she must of went through. It was like a nightmare they couldn’t wake from but instead fell farther into darkness, losing sight of the light.

“We have to find a way out of here, Jemma…” Ess whispered one night, unable to sleep.

“How….? We can only get out if Jasper comes for us….I don’t want to be like Tess…” Jemma cringed.
“…I see that as the only chance we’ve got….”
~~

The next time Jasper came into the room, Jemma and Ess began to cry, holding eachother in apparent terror. “Oh..what do we have here? Is it time for you two now?” Jasper muttered curiously, a sadistic sparkle in his eye as he dangled the room key playfully over their heads. “Well…you two can come along like good litta’ birdies or I can make you…”

The girls continued to wail but stood obediently, shuffling along the floor as they followed Jasper out the room, Tess watching Jasper dangle the key as if it were a piece of meat. In a sudden terrified craze, she began muttering to herself, rocking back and forth. “Why…do they get to leave…why do I have to stay….THEY ARE GONNA ESCAPE….NOT FAIR NOT FAIR..!!!” Tess began screaming, jumping to her feet, she leapt up on top of Jasper’s back, clawing at him for the key. Jemma and Ess were wide eyed in confusion, until they looked at eachother taking off in a sudden sprint down the hall. The commotion stirred up the house, several hired hands appearing down the halls, causing the girls to dip and run into another direction. Soon enough they were cornered against a window, where Ess instantly began pounding on the glass, not caring when her fist went through and sliced her all the way up to her elbow. After taking out all the glass with her bare hands, blood slowly coating her skin, Ess began pushing Jemma towards the window. “Time to go! Hurry, out the window!”
Ess squatted, Jemma climbing up on her shoulders and out the window with a heavy thud as she landed on the otherside. “Run Jemma!” Ess never even got a chance to climb out, before she was struck hard with the hilt of a sword, everything turning black as she hit the ground.

Ess groaned, her head throbbing in the annoyance of always getting knocked out in order for anyone to get their way. Maybe it was a good thing to not know what was happening to her, not like what she saw when she awoke. Tess, Jemma and herself were bound to chairs, all facing each other. Ess went to speak and Jemma shook her head sternly, thwarting that attempt as Tess began hissing in their direction. “You stupid girls…are gonna get us all killed…you know that-“ Tess was cut off as Jasper appeared off to the side, a chuckle escaping him. “Probably right…my litta’ whore…” He stepped in the center of the three girls, turning slowly to look at each of them. “So…whose gonna go first….hmm?”

Ess spat at the man. “You should be the one to die. You’re horrid man!”

“Ah…we have a winner….”

“Don’t touch her!” Jemma screamed.

“Oh…feeling competitive now are we?” Jasper turned away from Ess and grabbed Jemma by the hair with one hand, the other fiddling with his belt.

Ess began thrashing in her chair, rocking it back and forth, til she was almost on her feet, her back bending forward to keep balance. “Get off my friend!” Ess tried to ram into Jasper, using her chair but was simply knocked aside.

“Oh..is that it now…” The man sneered. “What are you gonna do for me, if I leave Jemma bird alone?..Maybe I should have Tess here show you girls how it’s done…”

Tess didn’t even put up a fight. It was like her mind was gone, and all that was left was an empty shell. Jemma screamed, refusing to watch while Ess simply cried silently, darkness filling her thoughts. “I’m gonna kill you one day…”

Jasper laughed as he approached Ess. “I doubt that birdie….”

“If not me….someone else will…”

Jasper brought out a dagger, and began cutting Ess’ bonds loose and then backed away, holding the blade to Jemma’s throat. “Now…if you want your friend to be spared…you best do what I say…”

Afterwards, Ess curled up, trying to cover her bare flesh, trembling in pain to the point she began to vomit. Jasper gently ran his fingers through Ess’ curls, panting like a dog over her as he dressed. “Better than you thought it’d be, wasn’t it birdie?” Jasper then walked back over to Jemma, who was sobbing perfusely, her eyes never leaving Ess. “You bastard!”

“Maybe I am…” Jasper snickered, bringing the blade up towards Jemma’s throat. “Did you get all that? Your turn…”

Ess sat up and growled, “You said you’d leave her alone….you said she’d be spared! I did all that you said! You’ve won!”

Jasper nodded, “I did, didn’t I?” Without another word he grabbed a handful of Jemma’s hair, slowly dragging the dagger along her throat, causing the girl to gurgle as she gasped for life, spitting up thick droughts of crimson. “See…where having friends gets you?” Jasper turned out the door, locking it behind him, leaving the three girls alone.

Ess stared back at Jemma, unable to move, her mouth dropped open in shock in almost a foolish expression as she watched the life drain from her friend. She stood, still without a stitch of clothing on her as she went to her friend, resting her head on Jemma’s lap she held her in her last moments. “I’m sorry Jemma….I’m so sorry….” Ess whispered.

“It’s your fault! You will get us ALL killed….he’s right you know…doesn’t pay to have friends in here..” Tess muttered hysterically.

It was in that moment, Ess felt the spirit inside her fade some; when much was taken from her today. She was soiled through body and soul, made to believe all this was her fault. Ess was the one who wanted to escape and failed. She had shown weakness, and let it be used against her all for nothing. Jemma died anyway, but at least now she was free. Tess was right. It wasn’t safe for anyone to have friends in here. They were all better off alone, worrying about themselves and their own survival. Ess remained with Jemma, letting her blood coat her skin, cracking and peeling once it dried. Felt like over a day before anyone came for them, dragging Ess away from the blond corpse without a fight. The violet color of her eyes twinkled with a silver lining, a curious glow emanating from them as she watched without feeling as the dogs were released upon Jemma in a hunger frenzy, tearing her body to bits as they devoured her.

~~~

~Present Moment~
Some time had passed, Ess finally paused to look at her knuckles when it dawned on her that she couldn’t feel anything anymore. Her skin was peeled back just around the knuckles, shiny and red from their repetition, yet Ess just smiled going for another round. “They…are not….good and….bloody…yet….” She muttered in a defiant growl, the words seeping out each time her fist collided with its target. The aching inside her seemed to level in her excursions, but it never dissipated that day. It was as if she forgot to find the Captain even after the blood began to drip off her hands, she kept going, tears of frustration streaking her cheeks. When her arms tired and she felt the muscles heavy and almost numb she started kicking the bag of sand, angry yells following each hit. Refusing to stop, hours had gone by as she attempted to release her rage into that sand bag before her.

“Enough!” Mageria came around the curve of the path, Tala dancing at her heels. She had gotten distracted sorting some problems out, otherwise she would have been back hours ago. Tala had come whining and scratching at her door, making her realize just how late it really was. Once she realize just what was probably going on down near the river, she had grabbed her healing kit and nearly run out the door.
“Enough, Ess. Sit down, girl.” Carefully taking one wrist, she grimaced at the state of her hands. “Gods. You may not have worked it all out today, but if you can move in the morning I’m going to be surprised.” Gently, she lead Ess over to a boulder and sat her down. Pulling a familiar small jar out of her bag, she started gently smearing healing salve made up with as many numbing agents as she could get in; it certainly made her own fingers go numb. After covering most of the girl’s hands, Mageria carefully wrapped them in a protective layering of gauze.

Mageria started cleaning up, placing her things back in her bag before standing up and slinging it back over her shoulder. “Come on, then. We’ve got something for you to eat back at the cabin. You can eat by yourself if you want, or you can eat with the rest of us.” She watched the path in front of them, smiling at Tala now that the wolf seemed calmer. “If you eat with us, the children have been told that they can’t bother you, so you don’t have to worry about that.”

She didn’t say anything else, just walked slowly as Ess stumbled and staggered. It was obvious that she was still raw over whatever it was that had been triggered yesterday, the only thing to do now was to wait and see if she could move past the pain or stay mired in it. She hadn’t been lying, nearly everybody who chose to work in the Blacks had gone through some trauma or other that lead to them being fit to living a life fighting in the shadows. It usually wasn’t fighting skills that caused somebody to have to drop out of training, she could pick candidates better than that. But nearly one out of three couldn’t move past their pain and would have ended up twisted and broken if she didn’t let them go. She prayed that Ess could move past this.

Ess had practically collapsed to the ground, back to reality once she heard the Captain in her ear. Blinking from an angry expression, her features softened as she let her wounds be attended to and was silent, watching the Captain curiously. Her heart still ached, but the anger was lost for the moment, so that even through the physical pain she was feeling she actually started to feel better. Ess whispered a thank you to Mageria as she followed her back to the Captain’s cabin. “..Those kids…..would never be a bother to me, M’am…” Ess stated firmly with a nod. The idea of seeing them somehow calmed her and made her realize just how hungry and thirsty she really was at that moment.

Tala had curled up next to Puppy as Ess ate with the others. Ess forced smiles at the children when they waved happily to her when she had entered, but now she was just frustrated that she couldn’t hold her spoon very well to eat her soup. With a sigh, she stared at the bowl on her lap, when a tiny voice whispered shyly to her. “Miss…Ess?” Lily smiled at her. “..You don’t feel good, Maga says, so I want to help…” Lily carefully picked up the spoon and brought some soup up for Ess to reach. She could hear Jess trying to call Lily away from her, but Ess only smiled.

“You’d do that for me?” Ess whispered, thinking how if it was any other adult who tried to do this, she would have shunned them away, but the innocent gesture of this child simply touched her heart; reminded her of someone in her past. Lily smiled and nodded with a giggle as Ess playfully snapped her lips over the spoon, giving an exaggerated satisfied response. “Mmm..thank you..” This went on for a few minutes until the bowl was emptied and Lily crawled into Ess’ lap. “Can I have a hug now too?” Ess asked the child, and Lily simply snuggled herself against the woman, responding with, “Tomorrow, you can come to my tea party…” Ess laughed unexpectedly and nodded, “Yes M’am.”

Some of the boys came over and sat on the floor before Ess with a sweet expression that simply melted her heart. “Can we hear another story, Miss Ess?” Resting her cheek on top of Lily’s head she beamed at the attention of the children, the aching in her chest slowly subsiding. “Well…what do you want to hear about?”

Clayton spoke up first, “Ooo..oo… I want to hear about dragons!”

“There’s no such thing Clayton..” Another boy protested.

“Says who?” Ess interjected, her brows narrowing in a puzzled look. “I happen to know many who believe they exist, and some who swear they have seen one..”

“What do they look like?” Lily chimed in.

With that, Ess was hooked, reeled in and caught, spending the next hour recalling the stories she had shared with a childhood friend, from long ago. In the end, in order to get Lily to go to sleep, she had promised, when she was feeling better, she would draw her a picture of what she thought a dragon should look like.

Just Another Moment…

Hello,

I was rereading some posted pieces on Shadows of the Forgotten and decided to share this. To bring those unfamiliar with the story, up to speed, this takes place after Luckas and Ess leave the city of Blackpond, just after disposing of Ess’ traitorous brother, Ian. He deserved his suffering, trust me. Maybe another time I’ll post that entire scene but in the meantime if you are curious, you can read the story at the above link. Anyways, Ess’ mother died in childbirth and she never saw her (can’t remember her because she was an infant) and Luckas took a memory from Ian and gave it to Ess. It’s a sweet and beautiful moment. Enjoy.

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Ess’ head snapped up at attention, her brows came together in a puzzled expression, as she moved away from her horse and stood before Luckas. Gradually her eyes casually scanned her friend, snickering when her hand reached for Luckas, fingers once again slinking through his hair where she paused to ruffle up a few locs. She let her eyes lock with his, the rest of the world melting away.

In the beginning, as usual, there was only darkness. As if her eyes had been closed, suddenly opening, rays of fading light; reds, oranges, pinks, and yellows streamed along the horizon. Leafless trees bending from a howling wind against the setting sun, gave the surrounding buildings a lingering glow as street torches were lit for the oncoming evening.

“Ian…it’s your turn to clear the table son…” A man’s voice called from inside. “And shut that window, you’re letting the heat out.”

Ian sighed, giving the window a forceful shove, locking it tight. Moving towards the kitchen table, he began piling the dirty plates together, pausing to stare over towards the mantle. There, Ess’’ father was massaging his wife’s shoulders from where she sat before him, rocking slightly in her chair. Symphony was humming quietly, resting her hands upon her enlarged belly, cheeks glowing a rosy hue against her snow white skin. Dirk was running his fingers through her long, burgundy strands, humming softly in unison. Symphony’s eyes slowly closed as her lips parted in song:

Sweet…Sweet child…see me…..
Tiny..white dove..
Destined to be free….
Winds carry you above…
Speckled in crimson blood…

Sweet….sweet love…hear my song…
Burn with desire…
Never settle for the wrong…
Toss regrets into the fire…
Their ashes blinding those who conspire…

There was a pause, Symphony opening her lavender gaze to look into Dirks deep blues and for a moment it was like all else was forgotten. Dirk leaned forward, kissing Symphony’s forehead as he slid his hand over hers and they gasped, muttering simultaneously. “…You can feel the heart beat…” They both laughed, as Symphony continued to sing, her husband’s tenor grace reverberating off the walls when he joined in.

Sweet…sweet baby…
Open your eyes….
Beauty of the soul, little lady…
Real love… that never dies…
Drink deeply the life, draining the skies..

“Ma…how do you know it’s a girl?” Ian muttered out, Dirk chuckling at his son’s apparent perplexed expression.

Symphony turned to look upon Ian, a kind smile overtaking her expression. It was like Ess was there, looking straight into her mother’s own eyes…her eyes. The voice that answered, was unexpected, compared to the soprano-alto that sang seconds ago; now higher pitched with an accent, her vowels dragged out in a subtle lisp. “…Because son….she told me..”

Essence beamed brightly, tears shimmering like stars, aching to fall, yet she held them back, gasping a bit, her vision going dark. As reality slowly trickled back into focus, Luckas’ black eyes already faded from their mimicked violet, Ess found herself stretching out for the image of her mother as it disappeared. She didn’t even notice how her hand hovered just beside Luckas’ cheek, her ears ringing with her mother’s words. “I can feel it……she will be the light in darkness…she will love…she will hate….she will suffer….but still her fire will burn..”

As Luckas’ eyes faded back to his usual black there was something slightly different in his gaze, so much in fact he could feel it in the form of a slight shiver working its way up his spine. He wasn’t sure what that shiver was, or what feeling was behind it really, it wasn’t unpleasant just… Odd. Slowly, he took a step back, his cheek brushing against Ess’ hand as he turned his face away from her, his eyes lowering to the ground as he whispered. “Like I said… Moments.”

Lady Death And Time

I’m not sure where this came from…

All flames grew still, falling to silent ash flaking from one glass chamber to the next. The hourglass felt heavy, aching in her arms; the burden never lightening to sooth her tired muscles. With every step, she gathers enough strength to foretell where her path will lead her towards her next soul. With each step her form trembles, simplifying the illusion that she will finally fall, only to give way to anticipation as her courage grows. Her face is shrouded by shadow, only glimpses of the light in her empty sockets can be felt, because any who manage to meet her gaze, will surely  befall claim to her purgatory abyss. Silence and despair, teeters along the edge somewhere between faith and certainty. 

Time watches from behind Death, having no influence or say to when each fleck of ash would fall, longing eyes burning in desire as he looked on Lady Death with a certain fondness. He was one of the few who could look upon her and not be afflicted in the same manner as mortals, knowing their strength was on a different dimensional plane all together. It had been perhaps five hundred years since he was granted an audience of her enticing stare, but to Time, there was only now. He appreciated the moment, unlike so many others ignored, taking him for granted; but not Death. She understood him, always feeling his presence upon her skin like goosebumps; a shadow that covered just as much area as her own and yet they were both ignored. No one cared to pay either of them a bit of attention until the ashes dissolved; only then they were no longer invisible. 

However, there was a moment,  where both Death and Time locked eyes and she felt his hand upon hers to steady the hourglass as it rained down soot like wet snow dropping from a rooftop. Encompassing and absorbing the remanence of spirit, reason, and desire; all that makes up the soul; it didn’t fade into the winds, lost and forgotten. Space is unlimited inside the hourglass because out of the ash, the soul is reborn; they are recycled, as those destined to meet again, await one another to where Time has little meaning except in always appreciating the moments the Twins bless their children with. Those who are destined, those who find their way, become…Infinite.

Essence and Luckas Meet Again: Part 5

Shadows Of The Forgotten

Here we are again..continuing a scene that still gives me chills. Best way to put it, like my friend Camila/Blackbird says.  It is true though because it was here where I somehow sneaked into her brain and thus began the epic mind ninja battles. >.> You don’t need to understand…all you need to know is we were on the same page and it wasn’t even planned. Love it. 

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Luke raised an eyebrow at the coin pouch as he recognized it immediately, honestly surprised to see it again. He didn’t say anything however, not until the wolf-girl had gone out the door and had time to walk a fair distance. Then he stood up from his chair and stretched lazily before walking up to Ess. “So, what are the vials for?” He asked, smirking and playfully attempting to peek at the spot where she had hid them. Looking up at her eyes, he gave a light half shrug. “You know, Pretty Lady, I like your real face a lot better.” He said with a small wink, before walking back to the chair dropping down on it rather comically, almost knocking the chair, and himself, to the ground in the process, watching Ess carefully the whole time as if somehow he expected her to vanish the moment he looked away. While the compliment had been an absent one that he had let out on a careless moment, turning it into a nickname somehow made it easier for Luke to handle this weird affection he seemed to have for this woman; it was a name and nothing else, it was alright to say, it didn’t mean anything. “So…” He started, crossing his arms behind his head and staring at the ceiling for a bit. “Do you have any more questions or do you want to pick my brain now?”

Ess watched the Tala copy disappear into the coming dusk, awkward shadows teasing her perception as the streets temporarily cleared. Something was changing. She wasn’t sure anymore where she was headed, and it absolutely terrified her while simultaneously causing her smile to broaden. Closing her eyes, she inhaled slowly through her nostrils, taking in the sweet scent of distortion before closing the door tight, locking it behind her.

Ess responded to Luke’s playful advances to sneak a peek down her dress with side steps and dodging movements, countering his gaze. She couldn’t help the smile, thinking how she hadn’t laughed or smiled so much in so long and that she just couldn’t prevent it as easily as she wanted. “The vials, dear Luckas..” She teased, “are my insurance…. One needs a back up plan, or two.”

Ess let her head drop, her gaze staring at her feet a moment. Her mind tucked away the casual statement of Luckas again admitting he thought she was attractive, it adding more fuel to her conclusions which she kept to herself for the moment. She raised her arms up towards her head with an elegant grace, her hips swaying gently as her body arched into a wave like motion. “I think this ‘Mirage’ is quite flattering in the art of distraction.” Ess whispered, her body twirled in a curious dance, her core and hips working into a steady pattern before she came to a halt with a gentle laugh. With a sigh her facade melted away back to her doll like features. “Got to save my strength anywho..”

She watched Luckas find his seat with what she saw as disorientated steps, she giggled as he almost fell. Ess plopped herself onto her bed, lying on her side she rested her head in her hand propped up by her elbow. The fire began to die down a bit, as she was hit with a sense of deja vu, seeing Luckas leaning back in his chair casually, the light from the flames reflecting off his black orbs. It was a moment before the memory of the dream hit her. It had been so long since she had it, but she remembered clearly how their first encounter had left Luckas’ presence in her mind. Blinking she shook off the feeling, knowing her staring blankly in awe at Luckas would create some questions. “Sorry, spacing out.” She could only think of one immediate question for Luckas in that moment, and it was a bit odd.

“Have your eyes always been black?…Or is it a result of your…talents? Just…” She shrugged, “…seems like they should be grey…transparent.. But instead they are like a hole in your wall you keep at your beck and call.” Ess paused shaking her head, not knowing if she even made sense to Luckas, adding playfully remembering a comment he made earlier about her drawing, “Maybe you are manifesting into one of your demons…or maybe your a reflection of one of mine.”

Ess waited for him to respond before she suggested, “So, shall we try out my idea?” Her mind was scattered, and as confusing to some it may be, it strangely comforted her, spreading her emotions thin.

Luckas tipped his chair a bit too far at Ess’ question of his eye color and fell flat on his back with a little groan, he chuckled however. “You are one to talk of unusual eye colors, Lady.” He stated jokingly. “My eyes are black for as long as I remember, and I have had my gift for just as long as well.” He answered, not elaborating on how long exactly ‘as long I can remember’ was. “Maybe that’s all I am, the manifestation of others’ nightmares… Perhaps I’m not real after all…” He mumbled, partly to himself. It was a rather comforting thought for some reason. “My whole existence is the result of a bad dream and the sheer power of someone’s most twisted thoughts… Maybe I’m the only one who is truly still human… People speak of humanity as if it was a good thing, but is it really?” He continued that in incoherent mumblings until Ess spoke again. “Huh? Oh, sure we can try that.” He answered, sitting up on the floor and crossing his legs like a kid, looking up at her. “Just lookie here.” He said, with a little grin, pointing at his deep black eyes.

Ess turned onto her stomach with an amused grin as Luckas fell, sliding face first towards the end of her bed so that she could look into Luckas’ eyes, all the while contemplating briefly his words: “. “Maybe that’s all I am, the manifestation of others’ nightmares… Perhaps I’m not real after all…” Ess was partially entertained by his rantings, but at the same time saddened by them. If he really believed that then why keep going in life if nothing mattered, if his actions were pointless. Why care? Inhaling slowly, Ess relaxed resting her chin on her arms, letting her mind go blank curious to what was about to happen.

Luckas took a deep breath as he looked into Ess’ eyes. He tried to pull his mind into what he wanted her to see and separate the rest. In his mind he relived every conversation and brief encounter he’d had with the Black Knight Captain, it worked, but a part of Luke’s mind was still caught up in his previous thought and something else came forth in his memories, something Luckas himself didn’t quite recall.

Luckas’ eyes were opening as he woke up. He felt himself choke as someone was holding him up by the back of his shirt and the collar was pressing against his throat. The unusual amount of light flooding the usually dark basement meant that the door was wide open. Once the five year old boy felt he could open his eyes, he noticed he was being held up over a girl’s dead body. “Look at her! See what you did, you little piece of shit? You killed her! That’s what happens when you disobey, you little freak!” With an angry growl the boy was forcefully thrown across the room, pain invading his body as he collided with the stone wall. “Stay on that side of the line!”

More and more the man shouted, but Luckas wasn’t listening. The boy’s eyes were fixed on the pretty, lifeless, features of the girl lying on the dirty floor. Did he kill her? Had he done that? He couldn’t remember anymore, his mind was blurry, his head hurt… How could he have killed her? He couldn’t have… It couldn’t be…

Boots blocked his view as the man stood before him, forcing him to listen. “You are a killer, a monster, and that is all you’ll ever be. Accept it, embrace it, and learn to play by the rules. It’s the only way to ever leave this room alive.”

Luckas broke eye contact with Ess, crawling his way as far away from her as he could and jumping to his feet even before the image of the woman’s house came back to him. Blindly, he stumbled over the chair he had knocked over moments before in his desire to get away. Unable to look at Ess, or say anything, he simply made his way to the door and stormed out leaning on the outside walls of the house, breathing in the cold night air. What was that place? Who was that girl? Had he actually killed her? Why was he remembering this now? Now of all times! He pressed both his palms against his face, hiding from the world, but unable to escape himself. Luckas let out a muffled scream. The unkown man’s voice echoing in the back of his mind. “Accept it, embrace it, and learn to play by the rules.” Maybe he was a nightmare someone else had dreamed after all. Maybe he was never real.

Ess stared back into Luckas’ eyes, slowly, as if paint splattered across her line of vision, everything went dark, her home disappearing from view. Ess was seeing through Luckas’ eyes, as if she were inside his head. Flashes of Mageria flew by, minutes of information condensed into mere seconds; down to the way she spoke Luckas’ name for example and the emotion only some could see, behind her eyes that she fought to hold back, in the Captains own mask of deception.

The images were ripped away, quickly replaced by a blinding light in utter darkness. Ess’ mind couldn’t think while Luke’s own memory flooded into her brain. They stared at a dead girl, to a dark figure of a nameless man as they were scolded, punished and abused for the terrible act. When her vision came to and the connection was severed, she caught Luckas’ stumbling to evade the room already recovering from an apparent fall, her brain quickly sorting through what she was just shown. It didn’t make sense. Did it have to do with the ‘hypothetical’ questions Luckas was drilling her with earlier? Was it a forgotten pain? Hidden shame?

Ess blinked, quickly rolling herself off the bed and onto her feet, not hesitating in her pursuit of Luckas as he escaped outside, a despaired scream rumbling from him as he seemed to be having some sort of panic attack. Before she even reached him, her mind fumbled in the pieces, overwhelmed with questions and concerns. Who was that punishing the poor boy for something a child most certainly did not do? She couldn’t believe it and knew from enough abuse how the victims were sometimes manipulated into feeling they were responsible for whatever horrors or despair they were experiencing first hand or by proxy. The voice echoed in her ears, as if she still could hear the man, “It’s the only way to ever leave this room alive.” Tears welled in her eyes, yet her expression was almost angry when she halted by Luke’s side, searching to see his eyes before she stepped closer, heeding his warning if they were red. “Luckas….what just happened?….” Ess paused waiting for an answer and saw he was still lost temporarily inside himself, not quite understanding how to act. She needed him to focus so she raised her voice a bit hoping to snap his attention to her… “Luckas! Look at me!…Who was that who hurt you? Is he still alive?” She growled.. “If he is..” She trailed off, not sure what to expect but she needed to take a breath, for Luckas’ sake, to figure it all out and not bombard the man with too many questions at once.

Luckas slid down the wall onto the floor, face still hiding in his hands, he was trembling now on account of the cold and the freezing rain, but he couldn’t even take notice; he was trying to hold onto the imagery, to some detail, to anything that could tell him who he was; who he truly was… He could hear Ess was speaking to him, her voice beginning to break through asking who was the man hurting him… If he was still alive… Luckas had no answers. As he replied his voice came out weak, but rose more and more in his frustration. “I don’t know, I don’t know, I DON’T KNOW!” He shouted, taking a moment to breathe out and get a hold of himself before running both his hands over his eyes and through his hair as he looked up at her finally, his eyes had their usual black color, but for the first time in a very long time they showed fear. “I don’t know who they were, I don’t know where that was… I don’t know if I killed her… What if I killed her? I can’t remember…” His voice broke as he leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. “I don’t even know who she was…”

After a moment more of half coherent ramblings, Luke managed a deep breath and spoke; his voice now more firm as the shock began to fade. “I was found, me and my brother, in the basement of this shop at age nine, when the owner died, apparently of natural causes. We were taken to the orphanage after months in a hospital ward… The medics said that we had probably been locked there for a period of at least six years. I don’t remember any of it. Nothing before my first day at orphanage. Nothing. At least, I didn’t until now. When I lived with the White Shadows, their leader at the time, the only telepath who ever managed to affect me, she tried everything… I never managed to see a thing before the orphanage. She said that pushing any further would be too dangerous… That the memories were so painful that my mind built a wall around so strong that it could break beyond repair if we tried to push through it…” He heaved a heavy sigh. “I still wanted to try, but she wouldn’t let me.” He mumbled, still unaware of the rain or his own shivers as he sat on the cold ground. “Suppose we’re even now, huh? You got to violate me a little bit.” He joked, managing a weak smile.

Ess’ eyes widened as Luckas yelled in frustration, noting the familiar blackness staring up at her from where he had slinked upon the ground. Kneeling down beside him, ignoring the freezing specks bouncing off her back, she adorably rested her head on his shoulder giving her best smile she could muster at the moment while she listened to him. “Sounds like an evil person to have locked up children in a basement…”She whispered, not breaking her gaze from Luckas. “Well…you didn’t attempt to break through this ‘wall’, it just happened this time. Maybe this is a sign, that your body is ready for bits and pieces to be revealed…maybe I’ve hypnotized you with my sweetness and maybe I’m just good for you.” She winked, her smile only broadening, motioning for him to get up and come back inside where it was warm.

“You were only a child and you don‘t remember exactly what happened so you can‘t rush conclusions either now. You can’t cast blame or judge with nothing to back it with.” Adding another point, she shifted the conversation slightly. “Should I blame myself for all the horrid things I was forced to do in order to survive the brothel?” Shaking her head knowingly, she continued to hint at her open door.

“Do you still think you’ll have to kill me?” She teased, standing she tugged lightly on his arm, attempting to lead him back inside. “Or maybe we have more in common than you even thought in the first place.” For some reason, Luckas’ words from an earlier conversation appeared from the back of her mind; the meaning creating more questions for herself: “I hope you remember what you just told me. It might save your life some day.” He sighed and mumbled under his breath. “Hell, it might even save mine.”

“…maybe I’ve hypnotized you with my sweetness and maybe I’m just good for you.”

Luckas laughed softly at those words. “You think so, huh? Well you sure think highly of yourself, Pretty Lady.” He chuckled as he stood up slowly, still trying to retain the image of the dead girl, but it was already fading from his mind again; fading into that part of him that he had never known. He couldn’t help the feeling that she was important however, that she was important to him personally for some reason. “I think that I killed her, because that would explain a few things… And haven’t you blamed yourself? At least for a moment, haven’t you?” He asked, again mumbling, partly to himself, although still expecting an answer. He ran a hand through his hair, a little startled to discover that he was soaked. “Looks like I’ll need those clothes after all.” He stated absently.

“Do you still think you’ll have to kill me?” She teased, standing she tugged lightly on his arm, attempting to lead him back inside. “Or maybe we have more in common than you even thought in the first place.”

Luckas seemed to flinch at those words, and he stared at Ess for a long minute thinking about them. No one had ever seen so much of him before and she spoke of them having things in common. Luke was unsure what to make of it all, he was unsure of what that told him about her exactly. “I think…” He started, moving towards her and half-stumbling forward, momentarily forgetting that he had just had his mind prodded minutes ago, he caught his balance as he continued in a soft snicker, leaning in close to her as if telling a secret. “I think this is one of those things that can destroy or save a person… And we’ll never know which it’ll be, until it is.” He then walked past her to walk back inside. “We should go back to the castle soon, if you think you have what you need.”He stated, finally going back to his usual demeanor as if the whole meltdown had never truly happened.

“Well you sure think highly of yourself, Pretty Lady.”

Shrugging her shoulders, pulling a soaked curl away from her eyes her smile faded a bit. “Maybe, but more likely it’s part of the persona…giving ourselves the image of confidence. Could be stemmed from a deeper, internal source of hope..or it could just be my successful attempt to make you smile.”

Ess shivered, wrapping her arms around herself in a gentle hug, hopping in place slightly wanting to keep warm. “Seems you and I are not use to certain changes in our lifestyles, but today is just full of ‘em. Of course I’ve blamed myself…it’s natural…this is just my feeble attempt at being your…friend.” She whispered, giving him a half smile, not even quite sure what she had just said.

Following Luckas inside, her only response to his last comment of this making or breaking a person was a curious look, “I look forward to that day then.” Locking the door behind her, she left Luckas with his option to change into the clothes she left upon the bed, while she began digging through floorboards at a hidden assortment of supplies. It appeared as if she was prepared long ago to flee, with the option to do it at any time if necessary; several leather satchels were filled with jerky, raw ingredients most recent and fresh for her serums, plenty of money, and some clothes. She paused upon a few basic swords that she had on hand, thinking how she may just be following the Captain wherever she was planning to go with her loyal guards.

“Well…I’m already prepared for the coming trip into the unknown… so check. Luckas…do you ever carry a weapon? I could give you one…you know besides that brain of yours.” She listened to him, keeping her stare along her supplies and began thinking over Luckas about how she would need to get to the castle to acquire an uniform, something that Mageria would wear and also to go light perhaps only with a weapon along her thigh, similar to the Captains. Standing,she lazily draped herself across her bed with a sigh, feeling her body ache subtly from her excursions throughout the day. “We can leave in an hour…there’s still plenty of time. I think we need to get warm…You can eat some more if you like..get some strength up…rest a bit so we don’t make ourselves vulnerable…” Closing her eyes she mumbled, “Do me a favor..Mr…I don’t do favors…” A tired giggle escaped her chest. “Wake me up in half an hour..”

Luckas smiled quietly at the word ‘friend’, but was careful to hide it from Ess. It wasn’t a word he heard often, and even though friendship was never something he sought, or even understood, it was an intriguing idea nonetheless. Once back in the house Luckas changed into the dry clothing quickly, absently hearing the sounds of Ess going through things, by the time she was done looking through the supplies, he had changed and sat at the same chair he had been sitting before, barefoot, and absently checking his boots for any holes. He lifted his head curiously as she asked if ever carried a weapon and offered to give him one. “I’m not that good against opponents who fight back, so I figure it would be a waste of a sword.” He replied absently with a light shrug. “Nice of you to ask though.” He knew he needed training. That had become clear to him a long time ago, but the thing with Luckas is that he trusted almost no one. Lena had taught him a few things, but she hardly had enough time to work him into something decent. Aside from his gift, Luke was just about as harmless as he looked and he looked pretty damn harmless.

Luckas slipped his boots back on, glad that, even though the soles were pretty worn, there were no holes in them just yet. He nodded quietly when Ess asked him to wake her in thirty minutes, not helping a small chuckle at her comment about favors. He shot a small glance in the woman’s direction as he pulled his chair closer to the lit fire; he was still freezing from sitting on the nearly frozen ground outside. Ess was right though, these clothes were far warmer. He took another quick glance towards Ess and confirmed that she had in fact fallen asleep. Thirty minutes… Luke sighed, looking around the house, watching all the drawings on the walls carefully and trying to be as quiet as possible, but feeling bored and uneasy as he sat there. It had been a strange and exciting day for Luke and despite the little scare he had just gone through, he was hardly tired. Eventually his eyes reached the shelf where he had placed the journal Ess had dropped moments earlier, he shook his head, mentally scolding himself a few times before he finally let curiosity get the best of him and he stood up to get the book, one eye always on Ess as he took it out of the shelf and returned to his chair with it.

His mind set on just skimming through the journal to ease his curiosity and putting it back, he opened the book absently flipped the pages, not minding the writing and simply looking at the several drawings contained inside, most of them the same ones drawn on the walls of the house, Ess’ different faces, the little blue eyed boy… Tala, annoying little creature, Luke just knew he was going to end up bitten… Suddenly Luke caught sight of something that caused him to lean forward in his seat, his eyes widened and slightly sparkled in red as he saw the drawing, a grin widening on his face. The drawing was all black, dark, and out of the darkness eyes stared back at Luke. Several eyes, of all different colors, but all the same in a way and unmistakable; his eyes. One single line of writing followed the image:

“Why are the Eyes, the gateway to the soul? Why so many for one soul?”

At this point, Luckas was way too intrigued not to read, and his curiosity spoke louder in his mind than any shred of a conscience he might have left on him, drowning any possible remorse over invading the privacy of someone who had offered him comforting words and even friendship moments ago.

The journal entries were addressed to ‘Blue Eyes’ and they were written as if speaking to this boy. The first few entries Luckas went through made clear that Blue Eyes was dead, and Ess confessed to her friend how much his death had affected her. Those entries spoke of things Luckas never felt, things he was unable to understand, at least up until this point in his life. He didn’t know what it felt to care for another to a point where their absence is unbearable. He’d seen it many times in the healers’ camp when people watched their loved ones die, he saw it when Captain’s friend died as well… He stopped for a few moments going over those words, trying, but failing, to imagine the extent of that pain.

Is it pathetic to miss you so much, Blue Eyes? To love one so deeply that it hurts to eat…it’s hurts to breathe. I feel no reason to keep going, but I do to a point. I wake up every day remembering your words…the words of a child who promised that even in death, would never leave me. I believed you, and although I never forget you so that in a sense you are always with me, I have never felt more alone.

I am eating again…but sleep my days away as it is easier than to live each day out in pain.

I don’t remember the last time I drew something…

I haven’t sang since the last time I saw you…

I don’t deny my own words to you on life, I just find it harder to swallow them now.

Losing the will to live, barely surviving without a purpose I am unsure where to find that edge to continue on.

Not long ago Luckas would have said that it was indeed pathetic, but he remembered the dead girl and wondered if he had ever felt such pain, maybe this is what he was so afraid of. Was he really this pathetic underneath it all? He shook his head, shoving the thoughts aside as he continued to read. A few entries, or pieces of entries catching his eye here and there.

It’s ironic that with my freedom to NewHaven I would chose to gain coin through the same means as my slavery burdened me. Is this all I am, a whore? Do I have any other skills? Is there really anything more to me? Perhaps I am just wasting away..wasting myself…

Is it wrong to feel good about killing another human being? It wasn’t in self defense this time, but a vengeful and preventative act. He wasn’t innocent…he hurt so many, my friend, similar to those who hurt me as a child for all those years. I know you would understand, but if you were still alive you may be scared of me. The emptiness inside is numbing more. It’s as if the hole is still there but filling with shards of tiny purposes. I think I could get use to this…maybe one day I can fill the emptiness inside.

So…how does one tell the difference between Heaven and Hell?

Again, Luckas shifted in his seat as he found himself here and there amongst the woman’s entries…

Stupid. Stupid. I don’t even know where to start Blue Eyes. I took a job, not knowing much about the client. First mistake…..he attacked me…wouldn’t allow me to choose what I was willing to participate in…I escaped..with his coin purse and a few bruises…but I’m ok. Tala was not with me, as I try to keep her low key as not to draw too much attention to my real self. I mean..how many people have a wolf? Right…So the past hour is a hazy blur. I’m pissed off, having to relive some horrid memories that I thought I was past. What I remember is that it was late, walking home alone, came across two men in an ally….next thing I know is one is on the ground slamming his head into a wall and all I remember is a face…a teenage boy..raven locs….purple eyes…no black….maybe both? His smile made my skin crawl…but at the same time…he didn’t hurt me. In fact I came home with two coin purses instead of one. I don’t know who he was….maybe I dreamed it all?…There’s something familiar about him…

It was a dream….I’m pretty sure. Mostly because Tala was sound asleep and she would of been alert and angry if there was an intruder. The dark eyed boy …I opened my eyes to find him smiling beside me as I lay in my bed with Tala curled up behind my legs, all warm and snug like. His smile…..so sad….and he was silent as he brushed one of my curls from out my eyes..and then I blinked and he was gone…What is happening to me..?

Every night this week this stranger has visited my dreams…same way every time

Is it weird that I missed not having that dream last night?

He seems older now..this shadow in my dreams. Now he sits by the fire in my home, watching me sleep curiously, his eyes a terrifying red. As much as he seems frightening…I’m drawn to him and I want to know more…but I always wake up if I move from the bed.

Luckas slowly lifted his eyes from the book, and he shot a glance at the sleeping woman… Feeling a slight chill at the fact that he was exactly where she had dreamed him to be. Maybe he was someone’s nightmares after all… His eyes lit up red, burning bright for a moment as he watched her face, but the light went out as he continued to read.

I dream less and less now a days…kinda disappointing…

He snickered softly at one entry, shaking his head in amusement:

Today, I took on an appointment, but I was bored and troubled…..In a disguise, mirroring the client’s own wife I ‘broke’ into the home assaulted him, stole money and happily acquired a pretty set of finger sized daggers….What a lovely addition to my collection. I know what you may say my friend, but I took one look at this man…saw his lies….saw his lechery…and knew I would not touch him with even my sword. At least I didn’t kill him…

“Should’ve killed him. I would have killed him.” He whispered to himself.

Why are the Eyes, the gateway to the soul?

Demons do exist..inside of us all.

Last night….I dreamt the black eyed stranger was everywhere…
Inside my home…around the corner…down an ally…watching me from afar at a lonely table at the bar…Eyes flashing all colors…his smile so sad….yet his gaze seemed to penetrate my very soul…he saw me for who I am…he knows what I’ve done….His sad smile turned almost manic in his sinister laughter..I can still hear it..

During my dream I was a bit shaken…but when I awoke I swore I could hear him breathing..and I longed to know him.

Luckas frowned slightly wondering why she kept calling him sad. Wondering why he felt like he had actually been there like she had imagined him, or maybe he wished he had… Seemed to him he would have learned a lot more by following Ess around like she dreamed he had than stuck in the White Shadows camp, where he actually was most of those years. Even if he didn’t understand why she had never forgotten him, why she wanted to know him… Ess was right in her statements; they had plenty in common.

“I’m not that good against opponents who fight back, so I figure it would be a waste of a sword…”

“…Nice of you to ask though.”

Ess’ breathing slowed, but grew louder in their rhythm when she drifted off to sleep, the last thing she thought of was how maybe they could trade off in skills as teacher and student: He could give her lessons in defense against telepaths and she would give him self defense ones in turn. Memories, not her own manifested into dreams, flashing from one to then next in almost the same manner she absorbed them earlier from Luckas, Mageria’s voice whispering in the back of her mind.

“You’re dead. You’re not real, you’re dead and I don’t have to do what you say because you’re not real.”

“Why aren’t you doing what I tell you?”
Mageria didn’t even look at him, refusing to even acknowledge that he was there. He started to reach out and touch her, and she leaned away, not wanting to let him get his hands on her even as a hallucination. When he made it clear that he would continue to try and touch her if she didn’t answer, she stopped and glared at him. “What?”
“Why aren’t you doing what I tell you to do?”
She sighed. “Because you’re dead. I saw your body back at Newhaven and I know you’re not real. So therefore, you don’t have any control over me.”
The teen rocked back on his heels. “Do you see things that aren’t there often?”
Mageria sighed. “Only recently. Why?”
He tilted his head to the side. “Are you Enlightened at all?”
She shook her head. “No, not the slightest. Go away and leave me alone. You can come back later.” She started to move away and he jumped in front of her.

The memory scattered like broken glass, revealing another behind it…

Luckas looked down and smiled like a child that had gotten away with something truly mischievous, then pretend to think for a while, tapping his chin with his index finger. “Hum… I probably shouldn’t tell you… Should I?” He mumbled, grinning. “Fine, as a token of my appreciation Captain, I’ll tell you what I saw: I saw something I didn’t knew even existed, and I might have gotten a little too close to it in my curiosity. And when IT tried to kill me… I found out IT is in fact a HE. Because, see… My ability only works on people, and it worked, thankfully. Even though it sure didn’t look like a man, he thought like a man, at least momentarily… And you were very much on his mind the whole time Captain. On his mind, on its mind… Both, I think.” He leaned further into the wall and looked up again. “As it occurs to me that you might not believe me, if you like I’ll gladly show you proof. The little mark he left on me is still quite fresh.” He said, reaching for his chest, where he had been bandaged the day before.

Ess was seeing everything again, as if she were Luckas, realizing by what he wore this memory was from the night her and him had been…reunited…

Luckas hesitated, going silent for a moment before asking another question, now looking at the ceiling and trying to pretend the question was innocent. “Say… How well did you sleep last night, Captain?”

Mageria hesitated and shrugged. “Nightmares, of course. Would you expect any less?” She sighed. “They seem to be following a theme lately.” She stated it simply and left it at that. “Why do you ask, Luckas? You don’t seem the type to worry about another person’s health like that. No offense.”

Luke laughed out at the words ‘no offense’. “You’re too polite, considering the circumstances.” He nodded, still smiling. “And I do worry about your health, Captain. Perhaps not for what you would call ‘the right reasons’, but I do.” He sat up straight again, and nodded. “The reason I ask is because I haven’t been sleeping well myself. And while I can’t always remember my dreams exactly, since I got here… Well… It’s gotten worse.” He stated, showing off his left forearm that still had the reddish marking of the word ‘stop’ scratched on it. “I’ve also been seeing and hearing things, even while awake, ever since I looked into that thing’s mind. It’s bothersome. Especially because it all seems to have something to do with you.” He scratched the back of his head and sighed. “I guess I’m trying to say that… I want to help you, when time comes for that.”

Ess began to stir, the dream fading from her mind. As her eyes peeked open, she saw Luckas by the fire, appearing quite mesmerized by something in his lap. At first, she thought she was still dreaming, everything was so familiar until she realized what Luckas had in his lap was her leather journal. She couldn’t move in the mix of emotions that plagued her at that moment, her heart beginning to pound in her ears. Closing her eyes to try to get herself to focus, she kept up the notion that she was still asleep.

How could he invade her things like that? Why did she leave it out in the open to be found? Why did it interest him so to read the depressed dribble of her inner most despairs? How far did he get? She wanted to scream in her embarrassment, to lurch at him and tear it from his grasp to just toss it away in the fire so that no one could read it ever again. Minutes went by as she tried to decide on her reaction, trying to bury inside her frustration with the situation. Finally, still with her eyes shut, she abruptly spoke, her voice letting him know she was pissed, but still managing to keep her tone calm and low.

“…You miss my company that much, you couldn’t wait to find out more? What do you wish to know so bad about me, my dear Luckas?”

Luckas was about to close the book and put it back when Ess’ voice reached his ears. He winced, staring intently at his shoes as if he was a scolded child.

“…You miss my company that much, you couldn’t wait to find out more? What do you wish to know so bad about me, my dear Luckas?”

Her voice was calm, but it was clear that she was angry, why wouldn’t she be? This was private and he had overstepped; he knew that. He was silent for quite sometime, wanting to say anything to make this look a little less invasive, but there was nothing, Sure he could lie; he could say he didn’t even get the chance to read anything, that he had just opened it right then, maybe that would make it a little better. The problem with that was the fact that lying was the one thing Luke wasn’t capable of. Finally he stood up and quietly placed the journal back where it had been. “I’m sorry…” It was strange to say that without the sarcasm. “… I guess, I was bored and them I got curious.” He returned to the chair and leaned back on the backrest, heaving a sigh. “I was just going to skim through it, find that drawing you showed me before, but then… It… Got interesting…” He mumbled, scratching the back of his head. Luckas truly look like a scolded child, staring at his feet and mumbling apologies. He felt stupid for it, but he really couldn’t help it; he knew very well that that book was important and it was personal, and he took it anyway.

Ess’ eyelids flew open when he didn’t answer right away, still not moving from where she lay, only watching him carefully as he rightly put the journal back upon the shelf. Her anger grew, literally biting her tongue to keep her temper, her violet eyes ablaze with the obvious displeasure of the situation, burning a hole into Luckas as she studied his reaction. It was clear he knew what he had done and wasn’t denying it, which made Ess calm just slightly. Sitting up she sighed, “I usually keep it on me…it’s my fault. I would of probably done the same thing…apology accepted…but only if you really mean it.” This wasn’t anything by any means, worth holding a grudge over, but she felt like the purpose of the journal was ruined…that maybe something was taken away and out of spite she still wanted to burn it.

Still studying Luckas closely, the glow in her eyes faded as she shook her head. “I’ll be honest with you hun, I can tell you read something that you are not understanding…so just ask me. Not everything is written down or explained in there, that’s the problem with those things. It’s what we choose to disclose, either for shameful reasons or…” Ess snickered, “…Self incriminating ones…”

Deciding the best way to get rid of her anger was to keep herself busy, she stood, changing out of the semi wet dress she had slept in, into a pair of black leggings that had closed feet with a matching black shirt that fitted snug along her hourglass curves. She could easily slip other clothes over these and not have to worry about them. Finding a small belt, she lifted her leg onto the empty chair beside Luckas, buckling a simple looking dagger along the outside of her thigh.

Luckas kept staring at his boots the whole time. He did feel sorry and he didn’t like feeling it one bit, it started to make him a bit unnerved. He’d done a lot worse in his life than go through someone’s journal why didn’t he feel sorry then? Why was he feeling so damn guilty for this? It was so stupid. Finally he broke his silence. “I don’t say things I don’t mean and I don’t need any explanations on things I shouldn’t know in the first place.” He muttered in a barely audible tone, before standing up and raising his voice to normal level. “We should just go… We’ve been away from the castle long enough; the meeting probably ended hours ago.”

Things had gotten a little more personal than Luckas was comfortable with in the past couple of hours and, after this he just wanted to talk about something else, anything else, that didn’t have to do with anybody’s past.

Ess brushed through her hair, watching how Luckas wouldn’t even look at her now. As she braided it up similar to Mageria did hers, the tone of her voice changing softly as she stretched her vocal cords to match the memories and experiences of Mageria with an impressive start. Quickly slipping a curious ring around her right hand, a silver claw turned inward along her palm, she finished dressing in her cloak, pulling the hood up over her head the material drooping over her face to hide her from plain view. When she spoke, her voice gradually drifted from her normal tone, to mimic the Captains. “Luckas…I believe you. You’re right, enough hanging about…Just keep in mind that you’re not the only one weirded out by all this…I thought I was still dreaming when I saw you by the fire…”With a sigh she trailed off, her smile peeking out from beneath her hood. Ess had not changed her appearance, but yet the way she carried herself and moved showed that she had definitely made much use of the memories Luckas gave her. It was almost uncanny in the simplicity and detail that usually may go over looked when comparing people; each step and each word improved the fantasy that she was becoming the Captain. “Let’s get on with the show then, my dear Luckas.”

“Maybe we’re both dreaming an none of this is real… Maybe I’m still locked up in that basement, maybe you never really left Blackpond to begin with… Who’s to say it isn’t all just one big illusion? Maybe nothing really changed.” Luke was mumbling under his breath again, taking notice of the change in the woman’s tone and thinking that things were just getting weirder by the minute.

Luckas was quiet as they walked the path back to the castle, trying hard to focus on the task ahead, but it had been one strange day and his mind was a little bit scattered all over the place; he needed it in one piece, he couldn’t lose control… He said he’d get the information out of Xypher, killing the man before finding out his motives would be failure and that wasn’t an option. With only the corner of his eyes he watched Ess, registering all the changes in her posture, in her walk… It was impressive how easily and how quickly she changed. If he didn’t know any better… He shook his head, amusement showing clear on his face even though he still kept to himself until they reached the insides of the Castle at which point he mumbled the word “uniforms” and began leading the way towards the Black Knights’s ward, hoping it’d be easy to snatch one with all the confusion of people preparing to move out.

As they reached the Black Knight’s ward things looked agitated. There were broken things being carried around and it didn’t seem like the Guard would be all that welcoming to visits right now. Luckas turned to Ess with a rather intrigued expression on his face. “You think we should tell the Captain what we’re doing? I mean… If she happened to show up while you’re luring the man, that could be a problem.” As he said that a member of the Guard approached them. “Hey, you two, what are you…” The man flinched for a second, but he took a second look at Ess and went on talking, shaking his head as he did so. “You shouldn’t be wandering around here, so why don’t you just turn around?”
Luckas tilted his head to the side curiously as he noticed the man had reached for his sword… Things had certainly grown more tense in the past few hours. “We’re allowed.” Luckas stated calmly. “Answer me: Where’s your Captain?”
The man relaxed some. “You’re allowed.” He agreed. “Captain’s at the medics ward.”
“Really?” Luckas asked. “Tell me more.”
“She and Pondus had one hell of a fight. They both ended up really messed up.”
Luckas flinched a little bit. “Pondus? Ain’t he the dead guy?” He asked absently, then he shook his head. “Never mind. Thanks a lot mate, move along, now.”
The Guard went on his way and Luckas looked at Ess, scratching his head. “Well, I’m going to the medics’ ward then. You wanna come with or you rather maybe go find some uniforms?” He asked.

“Maybe we’re both dreaming and none of this is real… Maybe I’m still locked up in that basement, maybe you never really left Blackpond to begin with… Who’s to say it isn’t all just one big illusion? Maybe nothing really changed.”

Ess shook her head, not liking the idea that all of this was a dream. She rather enjoyed the fact that Luckas standing beside her was not just the dreams haunting her, fragments that were not understood, now slowly were coming together. When she had rested her head on his shoulder, he felt as real as anything else she had experienced in her life. It didn’t make much sense to her why he wanted it all to not be real, so very bad..or maybe it did make sense. There are some things she could do without, but there’s no sense in wishing the impossible. Keeping her thoughts to herself, she felt a subtle ache in her chest for Luckas at how awkward all this seemed for him and she began to feel guilty for her anger towards him, even if she was in her right to feel that way. Having control over her temper once again, the glow in her eyes faded which was helpful not to draw unnecessary attention to herself before things even begun.

Entering the castle, Ess was in utter awe how much had changed in the past couple hours, the place was a disaster. She went to whisper something to Luckas, when the Guard approached giving Ess a double take. Dipping her head a bit, to continue to hide her face she smiled in her silence, letting Luke take care of the small matter. ‘Very useful this one is..’ Ess pondered to herself as the guard wondered off.

“I’ll meet you and the Captain in a few moments then..” She muttered, still tweaking certain vowels to resemble Mageria’s speech. Without another word she slipped past a few men, hustling down the hall, disappearing around the corner.

Luckas simply nodded, walking in the opposite direction towards where he knew the infirmary was, whispering under his breath. “Be careful now, Pretty Lady.”

~~~~~

This is where I will end this posing. Perhaps another time I will post more, but if you are really interested on what happens next, please click the link above at Shadows Of The Forgotten. Thanks for reading!

Essence and Luckas Meet Again: Part 4

Shadows Of The Forgotten…

Continuing the same scene…we get an unexpected visitor. All rights to Ari are credited to a an amazing, fellow writer, Nibblesnbits (her Screen name). Or as I call her at times, Nibblets. Can’t leave stuff out now… Enjoy!

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“Hum…” Luckas chuckled looking at the drawing. “I always imagined these demons to be more… Human-like. You know, like darker and creepier versions of our selves with red eyes and manic smiles on their faces… Oh, wait…” He said, breaking into laughter.

Even though he joked, Luke had paid close attention to what Ess was saying, it made a lot of sense. After all, some things are just worth the risk. He tilted his head and smiled rather cheerfully. “I hope you remember what you just told me. It might save your life some day.” He sighed and mumbled under his breath. “Hell, it might even save mine.”

Ess’ head snapped up listening past Luckas’ voice to catch the familiar shuffle of boots and clammer of armor, her fingers releasing her journal to the wooden floor. Her attention turned towards her front door as if hypnotized, raising a hand towards Luckas to be still immediately going for her sword and dagger that was still on her bed. As she withdrew both her weapons a curious sliding thud echoed off her door, causing Ess to curse quietly to herself as she was expecting something quite different from what she found as she peeked out from one of her curtains. Men dressed all in black, similar to those she encountered that morning with their leader and his hawk. Kirsten was the man’s name, if she remembered correctly. He indeed had left a curious impression on her, one that she was not willing to trust. Ess had no idea who was at her door, for she could not see into the shadow and she hoped she wasn’t running into the man again, but at least this time she wasn’t alone.

Ess licked the tips of her fingers, squeezing the life out of the candles by the windows before she whipped open the door, ready to strike at whatever threat was before her. Instead, she found a woman falling onto her back as she was using the door for support. Ess violet orbs widened, her gaze shifting furiously between the men in the street and the girl at her feet and in a matter of two seconds she made her decision. Biting down on her dagger, she freed up her left hand, taking a rough hold of the girl’s arm only to drag her further inside before closing the door quickly however gently behind them, locking it tight. Was this the woman Kirsten was searching for earlier? The description didn’t match up, but who knew if this woman was enlightened and to what end. Peeking back out the curtain, Ess was trying to determine if she was seen in her haste.

“This day just gets better and better…eh Luckas?” She whispered over her shoulder as she proceeded to quickly explain to Luke about her morning hunt and the company she encountered. Switching her gaze towards the girl, Ess’ brows met as she spoke, “So…who the hell are you and what kind of mess did I just get myself into?” Her tone was serious but slightly amused, remaining on the softer side so not to be heard from outside.

Luckas remained seated for a little bit, but the moment Ess moved towards the door he picked up the journal she had dropped. Considering the option of skimming through it, but discarding it quickly, he placed the book carefully on the shelf where it had been safely kept moments earlier. He stood back while Ess opened the door to reveal this blond girl that had been leaning against it. He wandered to the window and peeked outside to see the black riders that were wandering up and down the streets.

Watching curiously as Ess pulled the girl in and closed the door behind her, and raising an eyebrow to Ess’ explanation of her morning encounter, Luckas wondered how this would get in the way of what they were planning to do. Ess asked the girl who she was and what kind of mess was she in, but she didn’t reply quite as quickly as Luckas would like.

Moving closer to the new arrival, Luckas looked down at her, as she hadn’t even gotten off the floor, and spoke without any hint of emotion or interest in his voice. For now this person was simply a distraction from what he wanted to do, and to him that could mean extra fun or something he needed to get out of the way. “Stand up straight.” He ordered, patiently waiting for her to stand and enjoying the expression on her face as she realized she had no choice but to obey. “Look at me.”

The moment his eyes caught hers they lit up, shifting from their deep black to a bright green as he went through her memories. The scenes flashed and passed by: The forest… A dungeon… Torture… Riding to Newhaven… Everything in the past day was reviewed in excruciatingly vivid details, after which he simply pulled his gaze from her and returned to his seat.

“Ari Lupir, Wolpack recruit, shifter, but only takes animal forms, if I’ve seen correctly. She was taken from the forest, to Blackpond, tortured, brought here to those guys out there, healed, and now they are ordered to hunt her down and kill her.” Luckas informed. Then he turned to Ari and snickered. “You know, for someone who claims to trust no one you trust shady characters rather easily. Just saying.” He then gave a light shrug and turned to Ess. “Help her, toss her out… Whatever you like… I’m good either way.”

Turning to Ari, his eyes flashed red and he smiled. “I sincerely hope your Alpha comes for you though. I’d just love the opportunity to pick his brain on a few matters.”

She growled, shaking her head to remove the images from her head, everything, every moment she had relived even if she wished she hadn’t. Obviously it was his enlightenment that gifted him the ability to do this and she hated him the moment it all clicked. She looked up at the girl, her eyes hard as she withdrew her emotions form view. She hated being controlled by others besides herself and to make herself feel wild she slowly let her enlightenment take control, the silver in her eyes slowly coming through.
“Don’t you dare talk about him, she snarled as she took a step forward. She couldn’t help it, that struck a nerve and she became extremely defensive. She shook her head trying to regain control and resisting the sudden urge to shift into a bear and with one deft swipe, take off his jaw. What he had pointed out about the trusting thing, well…..she was just very glad that he hadn’t dug deeper to see the reason why she “trusted” like she did. When she was sure she wasn’t going to flip and tear someone to bits she opened her eyes which she realized had been closed.
“True and not,” she said in a monotone voice, “Trust me. And what right do you have to push yourself into my memories?”
She couldn’t help the tiny growl that rose from her throat as her eyes narrowed. She glanced over the frail, skinny boy and then dismissed him as unimportant, instead turning her attention to the girl. She could smell the wolf that clung to her, its sweet smell permeating every inch of the room.
“What he said is only somewhat true, but to spare you the details I will just tell you this,” she said dipping her head momentarily, “Kirsten’s men, the Night Hunters did save me from my pervious fate and now instead of one Lord, I have to deal with a small army of professional killers. So, I thank you for dragging me into your home but I would hate to intrude on you and your lover here.“

Ess absently twirled her blades, her wrists stretching to their familiar weight as she quirked a brow at Luckas. “Wolf Pack? As in…the Alpha who supposedly killed the girl we saw at the Inn?” Shaking her head to herself she sighed, not liking how political all this drama appeared to be. A crooked smile curled Ess’ lips as Ari began scolding Luckas for his mental intrusion. With a laugh Ess leaned into Ari, the points of her blades threatening to pierce her chest, “Don’t mind Luckas…it’s just something he does. It ticked me off too, but there’s no stopping him really….But you don’t seem to be a direct threat, right?” Ess nodded retracting her blades, turning about to peek back out the window as she asked Ari, “Why would they save you and then try to kill you? Is it some kind of sick fetish?” Ess began giggling at the last comment as Ari stated, “…I would hate to intrude on you and your lover here.”

Ess thought to herself about what to do with this woman, as Luckas seemed to not care either way. As always her conversations seem to get interrupted, by no real fault of anyones, but it was getting tiresome, and they need to work on their plan sooner than later. “We weren’t enthralled in the heat of passion or anything, if that’s what your worried about Ari..besides..I haven’t decided if I would charge him or not for it.” Glancing over her shoulder she playfully winked at Luckas only to add, “The name’s Essence by the way….” Crossing her arms Ess leaned back against the wall beside the door… “So, Ari… What do you plan on doing now?”

Luckas seemed incredibly amused by Ari’s rage. “Well, if you don’t like the conclusions I’ve drawn from twenty four hours of memories… I can simply dig a little deeper.” He said in a low growl, his eyes flashing green again, but only for a split second. “And excuse my manners, but people lie and I truly trust no one. I have no time to waste with whatever bullshit story you were planning to come up with while lying on the floor.” He smirked slightly. “And don’t bother trying to shift and bite my head off. I can control you even if you do and you really wouldn’t want to push me into it.”

He then turned to Ess and answered her question, the growl returning to his tone. “The Alpha; as in the one who sent our dear friend Xypher a letter this morning.” He informed. “This…” He smirked slightly, glancing towards Ari and imitating Sean’s tone as he spoke. “… Kid, is the Alpha’s recruit. I just happen to think it would be delightful if he came by so I could discuss said letter with him face to face.”

“We weren’t enthralled in the heat of passion or anything, if that’s what your worried about Ari..besides..I haven’t decided if I would charge him or not for it.”

Luckas laughed lightly at the words. “Hey, speak for yourself.” He played. “And please give me notice if you plan on charging me coin, so I have time to steal it.” He asked her, a little devious grin spreading across his features. “Although, if I recall correctly, I already paid you coin about five years ago…” He stated, tilting his head to the side and looking up at her with the corner of his eyes. He was pretty sure Ess wasn’t going to just throw Ari out without any help so he’d have to help her as well if he wanted to go back to what they were planning. “How small of an army is this and what kind of enlightenments do they have?” Luke asked, turning to face Ari again, his tone a little less aggressive this time.

Ari flinched, her eyes narrowing with the sudden doings of the Alpha that she had no idea about. It hurt just a little to know that he had opened up but had kept many many other things hidden. She couldn’t blame him, she was just a recruit. She frowned, realizing that acting out in anger probably wasn’t the best option. She wouldn’t let the boy dig at her, not anymore. Sean may have been her weak point but she needed to get over it. Ari smirked, her cheeks flushing as they flirted. She coughed and shifted quietly.
“I wasn’t bullshitting my way through this,” she murmured, “Only trying to figure out what the hell had just happened.” She looked up at Essence and then back at Lukas. “As for how many, you cannot ask me that. If I could answer that, I would. As for enlightenments, there are many: Beast speaking, telepathy, and there are empaths. There is also a pain blocker; I don’t know what you’d call it. There were probably more, I wasn’t there for long.
Then, then there is Kirsten. He…he can go into your mind, find your biggest fear and then bring it to life through illusion,” she paused, her eyes locking onto Luckas, you didn’t have to read her mind to know that she was comparing the two and was shocked.
~~
Ess sighed, giving obvious annoyance at the idea of the Alpha causing Mageria this trouble, that Luckas and herself had to sort through. “Leave her be Luckas, she obviously is oblivious to what the Alpha has been up to, you can see it in her eyes. I think she’s just lost a little, maybe?….I know how that is.” Ess’ violet gaze flickered in a soft glow as she inspected Ari closely, right down to her pores and the blond variations in her hair. “Hm…telepaths..”Ess spat, not excited about the idea. “Is there even a way to block that? Like visualizing a stone wall or something..or perhaps…someone else’s memories?”

Tilting her head to the side, she pivoted away from the door as she looked at Luckas curiously. “My my, aren’t we in a rush to get me alone again, eh?” Ess did have some questions she wanted to ask Luckas, but certainly not in front of Ari, but that could wait. Ess could tell Luckas was a bit restless and she figured he knew her well enough to not turn down someone in need. She would try to keep out of the technicalities, the only thing she personally knew was that this Alpha had done Mageria wrong and so many others would suffer at his selfishness.

“I don’t feel like waiting around for someone to break down my door…should there be a distraction?…Maybe a bait n switch?” A wicked smile crossed her face, looking back over at Ari. She wondered if she could pull off Ari’s mirror image, giving Luckas a distraction to toy with..while Ms. Ari made her escape… “Ari? You can change into…any beast?”

Luckas listened in silence as Ari listed a few enlightenments. Telepaths couldn’t harm Luckas, he was resistant to most forms of telepathy, but they could probably resist him as well, which was troublesome. He usually made empaths nervous… Like poor Alistair, the healer couldn’t stand to be around him for more than five minutes… When she started talking about Kirsten, however, Luke’s eyes examined her closely and he leaned forward, oh so slightly, in his seat. Still, he remained silent.

He looked at Ess pretending to be offended. “Hey, I’m a telepath!” He exclaimed, putting on a pouty face. “That hurts my feelings, Ess, I thought we were friends…” He started, but broke into laughter a few moments later, not being able to hold up the act any longer as he explained. “There are a few techniques and tricks to shield your mind from telepathy, but it takes a lot more time to learn than what we have.” He told her. “Another time, maybe, I can teach you.” He grinned at her, noticing her expression as she looked at Ari, he knew what she was thinking. He wasn’t all too pleased with the thought of those guys going after Ess thinking she was their target, besides, it was unlikely that they could keep them fooled long enough for Ari to get out of the city safely. He didn’t have a better idea though. “What kind of distraction do you mean?” He asked. “The ‘sir can you help me find my puppy?’ kind or the ‘by the twins everything’s on fire!’ kind?” He asked. “I can do either. I like the second one better though.”

Ari looked nervously from each of them, her eyes flashing slightly.
“Any animal,” she said in answer to Ess, her body shivering, “except for birds for a long period, I can’t stand the feathers.” She gave a small smile and then as a thought hit her, her smile broadened. “I would say we don’t need a distraction, besides it won’t work the Telepaths will be everywhere digging. If you want to help me escape out of the city, hear me out.” She paused, thinking quickly and nodding as it came to her. “You have a wolf Ess yes? I can smell her everywhere. I can do wolf very, very well. If we can find a way to give me a description or image of her, I might be able to mimic her coloring. Luckas? Is your enlightenment only limited to searching and coercion or can you put up a front on someone’s mind? Like a shield around mine so that they don’t know I’m actually a human.” She nodded slightly, if he could that would work wonders and if not she would have to be extremely careful. “If you could spare the time Essence…. you could take me to the nearest city gates or someplace where if I were to become human again I would blend.”
She paused, closing her eyes and envisioning it out like a dream. When she reopened them she slowly shook her head, “Damn it.” She didn’t wait for the knock to change into something small, a small ragged looking cat. She had kept her mouth shut, letting loose only a small whimper as she changed, just as the knock sounded. She yowled, flicking her tail and ears towards the clothes on the floor. Her tabby form scampered past Luckas and into the shadows, slipping though them and under the bed where she let her mind settle, thinking only cat thoughts as she waited for Erin to disappear.

Ess’ brows came together again, her nose bunching up in a look that questioned Luckas and his playful pouting at her words against telepaths. “Oh ha ha, You know ONE telepath is enough for me…especially at once..” She snickered, thinking to herself that Luckas had called her a friend. Even if it was in a playful ruse, he still said it, similar to how he absently kept calling her ‘pretty lady.’ Just little things to hint to Ess that he was trying, maybe wanting to trust her. Maybe even enough to explain why he would offer her defensive tips against enlightenments like his.

Straightening her body she wandered over to her bed, kneeling down beside the headboard to remove a curious box from somewhere she purposely avoided to reveal. Lounging lazily along her bed she began sifting through the box, pulling out tiny viles in all assorted colors. “A color for every purpose…for every mood…” She muttered to herself, thinking which mixture she would play with today. Glancing at Luckas from out the corner of her eye, a loc of hair playfully dangling in front of her glow she thought about his desire to cause chaos for a distraction. “How bout lighting someone on fire?” With a wicked smile she laughed, not giving away whether she was joking or not.

Ess picked out two viles, one purple and one black, tucking the rest back inside the box. She turned over onto her back, arms outstretched in front of her towards the ceiling as she looked between the two, weighing out in her mind which one she would prefer. As she listened to Ari’s suggestion, she motioned, still holding the viles, over to the wall where Tala’s picture hung. “My wolf…who is currently MIA, that’s what she looks like…”She paused with a sweet smile curling her lips.

A knock on the door and the sudden transformation of Ari into a kitty cat did not seem to phase Essence as she rose from the bed, snickering at the cat as it disappeared into the shadows. “Interesting..” She whispered only to turn towards the door snapping loudly with a strange accent, “PISS OFF!” Ess slid the viles down her dress, snuggling them between her breasts before her form melted away; her burgundy curls straightening and darkening to deep brown, her skin glowing with a tan sun-kissed radiance, and her lips and nose were a size smaller than her norm with a higher cheekbone definition. Ess smiled to herself, clearing her mind as she looked at Luckas with a fake innocence.

Luke shook his head in disappointment when Ari said they wouldn’t need a distraction. It seemed like he really wouldn’t be having any fun with this. “I can’t shield another person’s mind. That’s not how my enlightenment works, neither is it exactly the way you said it is.” He stated in a slightly annoyed tone as if he was trying to discuss philosophy with an infant. “One thing I can do, if you grant me access, is project your memories and maybe your thoughts onto others. That way if a telepath was to search for you, he won’t be able to know your exact location, your mind would literally be all over the place. Do you understand?” He asked. “I would have to be close to you to do that, however and wouldn’t be able to keep it up for too long; an hour, at most. I’m not risking my life for anyone, especially the Alpha’s pet project.” He muttered, narrowing his eyes slightly, but relaxing a little bit soon after and turning to Ess with a little grin. “Oh, I don’t plan on sharing you with any other telepaths… They better stay out of my territory.” He stated, his tone not making clear if he was joking.

“Oooh, can I?” He asked, hopefully when Ess asked about lighting someone on fire. Aside from that he kept quiet in his seat, resisting the urge to kick the Ari-cat as it made its way past him, settling for kicking the girl’s clothing underneath the bed instead. Maintaining his relaxed posture as Ess replied to the knock on the door by telling whoever it was to piss off, he remained seated and silent, honestly starting to get bored of this whole thing.

Erin didn’t need to open the door to know that Ari wasn’t in there and he shrugged turning to the group of men behind him. It wasn’t his job to deal with women who were pissy and he nodded sharply, making sure they dispersed before calling out an apology and ambling off. His head hurt and he shook his head gently, this was wrong.
Ari ambled out, after she was sure he was gone before jumping up, looking at the picture. She began to arch up, her body shifting into an exact replica of Tala except for her eyes and she dove under the bed, emerging with the black clothing in her jaws as she looked pleadingly towards Ess, then back at Luckas with a tiny growl. She didn’t want to drag them further into this and she pawed at the door, whimpering slightly. She could smell that she wasn’t wanted here and she’d rather take that chance of running to her death then staying here with these two together. Ari liked Ess, she was willing to help but the boy…Not a chance. She growled and furiously began to claw at the door. Her mind screaming to be let out.

Once Ess was sure the person at the door had left, with an odd apology, she relaxed a bit, still in her Miraged form. Essence’s mind raveled in Luckas’ responses to her and Ari’s. Thoughts raced to possible conclusions in several directions, only to rest into a calming almost meditative state. Luke acted as if he cared for no one but himself, and perhaps most of the time he did. He maybe wasn’t too fond of Ari because of the Alpha of the Wolfpack (which he stated), but she didn’t quite believe him when he said he wouldn’t risk his life for anyone. Perhaps that was still to be foreseen. She liked the idea of Luke not sharing her with the enemy, even if he seemed unsure of her at times, he hinted at his greed in his escapades and may just resort to hoarding whatever plans he had for Ess to himself. Ess kept an emotionless smile, lost in herself momentarily, the painted facade giving no hint to her soul except an eerie sense to those who didn’t know any better. Giggling at Luke’s obvious interest in lighting someone on fire, Ess just nestled that bit deep into her memory for another time.

Snapping her attention to Ari, Ess smiled a bit impressed. Kneeling down she extended her hand, almost forgetting it was Ari and not Tala and couldn’t help herself as she gave Ari some scratches between the ears. “So pretty…” Slinking across the floor, Ess opened one of the many floorboards, taking out a familiar pouch full of coin. She winked at Luckas wondering if he would recognize it as she tucked it into the pocket of Ari’s clothes that she held in her mouth before explaining the quickest way out of the city. Standing with a gentle smile, she turned for the door, unlocking it slowly as she peeked outside not seeing a single man in black around. Before she opened the door wide for the ‘wolf’ to escape she whispered softly, “Good luck young lady, hopefully we meet again and hopefully not on conflicting sides.”

Essence and Luckas Meet again: Part 3

Shadows of the Forgotten

So here we continue a scene in a tavern and I decided to not cut out another favorite character that belongs to Blackbird. Crystal Rivers/Crys. I think she helps set the environment and it is the first time Ess sees her, which is ironic because it turns out they know the same people. (which doesn’t come up now) Sheila is an NPC. Basically, for those who may not know the term, that character can be played by anyone.  Again, please advise this is in the style of Text Based Role Playing. Anyhow Enjoy!

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Crys had made it to Newhaven in a decent amount of time. She didn’t rush to the city as if she could stop anything, because she couldn’t, but she had increased her pace after she had finished speaking to Ari. She hadn’t been as far as one of the cities in almost three full years, but she had heard enough from the other assassins to know the shape of things around them both.

As she entered the Inn a bell rand above the door, announcing another customer had walked through it. A few people were inside, she could sense them, and hear their voices, but no one she knew; and definitely none of them were Wolves. There was no one behind the bar at the moment, but that was good in a way; it gave her a quiet moment to look around, so to speak.

She might have looked a bit odd to whoever bothered to watch her movements as she paced slowly silently counting steps between tables and running her hand through the length of the counter, amused to find that, at least to her, the place looked exactly the same as it once was. She had to appreciate Sean’s attitude on that, at least. It almost brought back memories, even though the wooden surface of the counter was smooth and lacked the several knife wounds and scorch marks the previous one had, and the floor boards didn’t make the familiar screech in response to her footsteps. The whole place was squeaky clean and impeccable in a way it had never been before. Almost familiar, but… Not quite. As if someone had taken an item of sentimental value and replaced it with another exactly like it; the same, but not quite.

As she finally settled down in a stool by the counter she heard a female voice speak quickly as Sheila wandered in from the backroom. “You’re not welcome here.”
“I thought this was a neutral zone.” Crys replied, unfazed by the woman’s attitude; she was expecting that.
“It’s not neutral for you, but since you’re here I can take the opportunity to personally tell you to go straight to hell and rot there.” The woman replied.
“I’ll be sure to head that way after we talk.” Crys replied, with a little laugh, turning as the woman walked past her to serve a customer at a table. “Sheeeila… I’m not leaving…” She snickered. “It’s just easier if you tell me what I want to know.”
“I’m not telling you anything. Just crawl back to whatever rock you’ve been hiding under…” She then proceeded to mutter something under her breath, it was barely audible, but enough for Crys to get.
“Whether I do or not leave him alone is none of your concern.” She replied, an angered expression forming on her face. “He is a grown man, in case you’re not aware.”
“Oh, I’m aware.” Sheila snickered, again walking past her.

Crys now realized there was someone else by the counter, just a couple of steps away and stopped to hear the sound of one single gold coin dropping on the counter. She didn’t hear what the customer had ordered, but she heard Sheila’s response. “That’s not enough, pretty boy.”
The young male replied by snickering softly. “Yes, it is… Take it.” He didn’t raise his voice above a whisper, but even though his tone was gentle, something about it caused a chill to run down Crys’ spine.
“Huh, it is enough.” Sheila agreed suddenly, causing Crys to turn, now knowing that something was off.
“No, it’s not.” She stated, dropping another coin on the table. “This should do it, however.” She stated, turning towards the young man. “What did you do to her?”
“You?” He mumbled absently, sounding a bit shocked before chuckling slightly. “Pardon me Miss…? I’m with a friend, and suppose I was trying to impress her. I only have this one coin, however, and so I made use of my gift. I honestly didn’t think the Pack would miss one lousy coin all that much. I much appreciate your gesture. I will repay you one day.”
Crys frowned slightly, wondering if she knew this person, he seemed so startled to see her there for whatever reason. Still, he didn’t lie when he said he meant to impress his friend, he was actually keeping his voice down enough not to be heard from where Crys could tell the only other female customer was. “Rivers…” She started simply, since she felt it was fine to give him at least that. “… Crystal Rivers. And you, Mister…?” She trailed off leaving room for his name, same as he had done for her, and then moved on. “It’s clear that you like this woman enough to steal from people who can easily kill you for it… Who am I to stand in your way, right?”
“… Just Luckas…” He said. “And, who knows? I might just have a death wish or something.”
Crys chuckled. “Alright, Luckas… Believe what you will. It was nice meeting you.”
He retrieved the drinks from the counter and began to walk away without saying much more, however she caught a whisper as he walked away.

“It was nice meeting you in person, Crys.” He whispered.

Crys tilted her head slightly, wondering what the hell that meant, however she simply let the strange man go and turned her attention back to the matter at hand. “So, where were we?” She asked Sheila, with a fake smile.

She remembered when Sheila showed up in the Pack. Jake had run into her in Blackpond and helped her out of some trouble… He sent her to the camp with a letter to the leaders saying that he thought she would be a perfect recruiter; and so she was. However, the woman had never liked her for her own reasons, and after a few occasions in which she had demonstrated her dislike very clearly, the feeling became mutual.

“I said go to hell.” The woman repeated. Although this time she stopped across the counter from Crys. “Would you like a drink, since you’re here?”
“I’d love a drink, I just don’t trust you not to poison it.” Crys replied. “I don’t have all the time in the world, Sheila. I need to know when you last saw Jacob, and where I can find him.”
“Of course you do.” The woman said. “When it’s convenient, right?”
Crys stood up, her seemingly endless patience was beginning to wear out and she leaned forward on the wooden counter, her face closer to the woman. “Enough with the innuendos already… Just tell me what it is you think I did wrong this time so we can move on with our very separate lives.” She muttered.
“Honestly Crys, to sum it all up: I think you would have done us all a huge favor if you had just decided to stay dead. Especially Jake, the poor guy really deserves a break.”

That was it. It wasn’t completely Sheila’s fault, but the woman should have known that when someone crawls in the dirt for hours trying to catch the next breath, spends days just trying to keep her heart from failing, and consequently loses everything, all within a month, ‘you should have stayed dead’ is just not something you say without causing something to snap. And something snapped inside of Crys so painfully that she didn’t think twice to plant her foot on the stool she had been sitting on moments earlier and push herself up and across the counter, pulling one of her Sai and launching herself at the woman, aiming a stab at her face.

Sheila only had time to grab a metal tray to defend herself with, the Sai dagger collided with it forcefully; once, twice, three times before the impact knocked the woman over to the ground. With very little room to move behind the counter, Sheila planted both her feet against the metal tray to push Crys away, pulling out a short sword that was sheathed at her waist as she jumped to her feet. “I believe I hit a nerve.” The woman stated, slightly pleased with the fact that she had managed to get through Crys’ calm exterior.

Crys was knocked back a few steps, but kept her balance enough to not fall back. At this point the rage had subsided, but it didn’t mean she was going to sheathe her weapon and walk away. Not without answers, and she didn’t have time to waste. Gripping the metal tray with her free hand like a shield, she advanced towards the woman, letting her attack. Crys camly dodged the first blow, blocked the second blow with the metal tray and the third with the Sai, trapping the blade of the sword between the blade and one of the metal prongs of the weapon, pulling it down and out of the way. She then slammed the metal tray against the woman’s face, momentarily stunning her and causing her to loosen the grip on the sword, which was then knocked out of her hand.

It could have ended there, except Crys still wanted her questions answered and, admittedly, she wanted Sheila to suffer a little. The woman’s hand placed on the counter as she tried to catch her balance had provided the perfect opportunity, and Crys pulled her second Sai and stabbed right through it, pinning the woman’s hand to the wooden surface.

Sheila let out an ear-piercing scream at the pain caused by the blade. “You… Psychotic… Bitch…” She muttered, as Crys held the tip of the other blade pressed against her skin at a very dangerous spot below her eye.
Crys sighed releasing the Sai that was jammed through the woman’s hand and pinned to the wooden counter and reached under the counter, feeling around the space where a few bottles and other ingredients were kept until she found a lemon. “I’m sorry Sheila, but really… I have somewhere else I need to be and you’re just not being helpful.” She stated, speaking softly and squeezing the lemon slightly in her hand.
Sheila tried to slowly reach for the Sai, to release her hand, but the hand holding the blade to her face stiffened only slightly and she reconsidered. “I’m going to get you for this one day… I swear I will!” She muttered.
“Fine, as you wish. Until then, you’ll answer my questions and tell me ANYTHING else that might be useful to me. You have ten seconds to start talking.” She told the woman, pressing the lemon against the blade of the Sai that was pinning her hand, threatening to slice it open and let the acidic juice flow onto her wounded hand. “Ten… Nine…”

“You’re bluff-“The woman didn’t finish the sentence, Crys had sliced the lemon open and the liquid had run down the blade of the dagger, causing her to scream in agony. “On the Twins… I’ll kill you…” She muttered.
“I don’t bluff: Now talk.” Crys stated, threatening to squeezing more juice out of the fruit.
“Jake was here, the day before the Festival. He told me to inform Sean that he was with the Black Knights and something else about a woman from Blackpond meeting with the Queen and mentioning the Pack. Three of our people walked in not soon after and confronted Jake, that’s when this woman came inside to help him. They didn’t seem to know each other well, but he was friendly with her; they casually mentioned the fact that she had followed him and mentioned ‘the others’ at one point of the conversation, so I assume she was one of the Blacks, or a part of the Guard. They knocked our guys down, and I didn’t catch much more of their conversation since I went to the back, but there was this other man here and by the time I came back there were other people on the floor and Jake and his friend were leaving. I haven’t seen him since, so… Well… A little while ago he mentioned going to Blackpond; he seemed to feel strongly about the situation there for some reason. If he’s not with the Blacks I assume that’s where he’ll be.” The woman informed. “That’s all I know.”

Crys sighed softly, placing the split lemon on the counter and lowering the Sai that was pressed to Sheila’s face. The tip of the weapon hadn’t even left a mark on the woman’s skin; despite the steadiness of the wielding hand, the touch of the blade had been gentle enough to leave it intact. Sheathing the dagger, Crys picked a cloth and a bottle of rum. “This will sting, but don’t move or you might make it worse.” She informed, soaking the cloth and wrapping it around the blade, using it to press Sheila’s hand against the surface of the counter as she gripped the Sai by the hilt and yanked it out with one steady pull. As she sheathed the bloody weapon, she kept pressing the wounded hand against the counter. Sheila’s breathing was unsteady from the pain, but she didn’t as much as move a muscle. Crys took the time to take the woman’s hand and wrap the rum-soaked cloth around it, binding it tightly, before leaving the establishment without another word exchanged; the bottle of rum still in her hands.

———————————————-

Luckas spent a good few minutes ‘interviewing’ the servants who cleaned the dirt in Xypher’s chamber, cooked his meals, and overheard his conversations. He was very disappointed; the man was as boring as one can be. It seemed the old man only had one woman in his life, and that was his dead wife. They couldn’t get him that way, but Luke had an idea of what might work. It would probably be the most entertaining part of the whole thing. Xypher wouldn’t make a good kill for him, but in a way that was good; if they had to end him nicely and quickly he wouldn’t be at a loss.

Walking out of the castle and onto the courtyard, Luckas shivered, realizing he hadn’t been outside since the previous day; he’d forgotten how cold it usually was this time of year, but he simply brushed it off, putting two hands in his pockets and forgetting the cold after only a few steps.

There were several Inns in the city and Luke hadn’t asked Ess which one she would be going to, which was dumb, but he was lucky to find her in the first place he looked. He waved the gold coin she had tossed at him earlier and headed straight for the counter before even walking over. The barmaid wasn’t there yet, so he leaned casually against the counter of the bar, waiting.

Someone walked in a minute or two after Luke, but he didn’t turn to look. Whoever it was didn’t seem to acknowledge him either, better this way. The newly arrived customer was a redheaded woman and an odd one as it seemed. She seemed to be walking aimlessly through the entire place mumbling something under her breath. That went on for a little while, until she settled down in a stool by the counter, sitting with her right elbow leaned on the counter and her back was turned to him. The barmaid came from the backroom of the bar and said something to the woman about her not being welcome, and they exchanged words here and there. Luckas was getting the odd sensation of knowing that redhead from some place and it just made his stomach twist painfully; how many of those was he going to get?

Finally the barmaid addressed him. “What are you having, hun?”
“Two of what the pretty lady over there is having.”He said, discretely indicating Ess with a nod and dropping the gold coin on the counter, fully aware of the fact that it wasn’t enough.
“That’s not enough, pretty boy.” The barmaid told him, crossing her arms over her chest.
Luke leaned forward, whispering softly. “Yes, it is… Take it.
“Huh, it is enough” She replied, beginning to pour the drinks.
“No, it’s not.” The redhead spoke suddenly, dropping another coin on the table. She had turned to face Luke and now he knew where he had seen her before. “This should do it, however.” She continued, facing him and asking in a severe tone: “What did you do to her?”
“You…” Luke mumbled, a little shocked that he’d just stumble into her this way. It felt like seeing someone come to life out of a dream. It was odd and amusing. Quickly he came up with an explanation for what he was doing, taking the chance to maybe introduce himself. “Pardon me Miss…? I’m with a friend, and suppose I was trying to impress her. I only have this one coin, however, and so I made use of my gift. I honestly didn’t think the Pack would miss one lousy coin all that much. I much appreciate your gesture. I will repay you one day.”
She was suspicious of him for his shock in seeing her, probably wondering, like he had, if they knew each other. Apparently she brushed it off, because she replied giving just the opening he needed. “Rivers…” She started simply, but Luke already knew that. “… Crystal Rivers. And you, Mister…?” She gave him room to introduce himself, perfect. “It’s clear that you like this woman enough to steal from people who can easily kill you for it… Who am I to stand in your way, right?”
Luke flinched slightly at the last words she spoke, but just brushed it aside as her having bought into his talk, playing with it instead of showing it had bothered him slightly. ” …Just Luckas…” He said. “And, who knows? I might just have a death wish or something.”
She chuckled as if she didn’t believe him. “Alright, Luckas… Believe what you will. It was nice meeting you.”

Luke didn’t respond this time, he simply took the drinks from the counter and walked to join Ess at the table, a slight frown crossing his features as he whispered to himself. “It was nice meeting you in person, Crys.” He would have to tell Jakey about this, he was sure the man would be delighted to know Luke had met his ‘better half’.

With this thought still in mind, as Luke sat down across from Ess sliding one drink across the table to her, he had a strange grin on his face; the one reserved for annoying good old Jakey. This would be good…

Snapping out of it, he shook his head slightly and spoke. “So, did you have time to misbehave or was I quick enough?” He played. “Xypher. Well… The man is practically an eunuch.” He stated, still shooting glances towards the counter. “Captain was right, someone familiar he would want to converse with might be our best bet. Say, do you think you’ve spent enough time with her? I think he’d believe that she wants to face her accuser.” Luke suggested.

Essence finished off her drink, a curious smile leaving her lips as the memory faded. The bell rang in the door a few times here and there but she kept her eyes down most of the time, until she noted Luckas entering, passing her with a smile he headed straight for the bar. She nodded and winked, thinking to herself how that boy looked like he should eat something; that they both should most likely if they were to have their strength up for later.

As she waited, a moment later another patron entered the Inn. Ess didn’t pay much attention until she noted out of the corner of her eye how the woman walked about curiously, as if she were memorizing where things were. Ess quirked a brow, not quite understanding at first why the woman lacked direct focus on her surroundings and then it clicked. There was much overcompensation with the red-head’s sense of touch while she seemed to pause and listen to her surroundings. ‘Must be something off with her vision.’ She thought to herself, unsure exactly.

Ess retracted her gaze, reaching for her wrist she retrieved one of her small daggers, twirling it between her fingers. Slipping her hand along the smooth surface of the table, Ess dragged the tip of the blade deeply through the edge as she carved her name into the wood. She looked up as Luckas sat across from her, sliding her drink within her grasp.

“What’s that look for?” She inquired, watching Luckas closely, half hearing the red head and the woman behind the bar arguing softly in the background. ‘“Go to hell…”’…Was mostly what she got out of the conversation as she focused on Luckas.

“Ah…I managed to keep to myself…decided that I didn’t want you to miss out.” Ess shrugged casually, her tone was careless remaining upbeat. As Luckas spoke about Xypher she sighed, “Ok so you were productive, good to see. I impersonated Mageria while we sparred before you and I ran into each other in the practice grounds, so I know it’s feasible.” Ess paused, leaning in closer towards Luckas, she slid her arm across the table, hiding the blade beneath her sleeve. “I can mimic the Captain, but I would need some practice to impersonate her voice…then there’s the blue eyes I can’t do..” Raising her glass she sipped her drink, her cheeks giving a gentle red glow as the heat of the liquor spread across her face. Some people found drinking was over all bad for the blood, but in Ess’ case, while it thinned out her blood, it held back any potential bleeds since it promoted better circulation for her.

“Luckas…” Her eyes brightened with an idea. “You have many memories of the captain I’m sure…are you able to…pass those on to me? It would make the process quicker, to know more of her speech patterns and how she tal-” Ess was interrupted by a sudden commotion of metal against metal, snapping her attention away from Luckas towards the women at the bar. Apparently they were not on very good terms and seemed to be battling it out on the bar counter itself, amidst curses and threats. An amused grin took over her expression, her teeth peeking through as she watched the women argue; about what she wasn’t sure. Ess glanced over at Luke as she drank heavily from her glass, giving a curious almost questioning look. “Is that your fault or something?” She joked.

“Whatever do you mean?” Luke asked with a mischievous grin as Ess asked about the look in his eyes. With a small chuckle, he added: “One secret at a time. I’d hate to see you lose interest in me.”

In the back he could hear the barmaid and Crys talking, but he really paid them no mind, keeping his focus on Ess as she mentioned the difficulties in passing off as Mageria. Luke listened intently, leaning back in his chair and absently thinking of the best ways to get around those details. When she suddenly asked if he could pass his memories onto her he sat up straight. he never tried that before, he wondered if he could though… His memory manipulation skills were similar to Lena’s, so it was likely. He only had two full conversations with Mageria though, one of them happened three years ago when she thought he was a vision.

As he heard the sounds of metal clashing he jumped to his feet to get a better look at what was going on at the bar as he replied. “Oh, I wish.” He snickered, when Ess asked if he had anything to do with that. However he continued on with their conversation as if there had been no interruption. “In theory, I could, but we’ve only actually had two full conversations in three years. Although, I’m not sure the one when she thought I was a ghost counts as a full conversation. If it helps… We can try…” He laughed out, as a high-pitched scream echoed through the room. “Assassins are so incredibly fun.” He said absently as the barmaid stood with her hand impaled and pinned to the counter by a Sai dagger, its twin touching her face menacingly. Turning his attention back to Ess, rising his voice slightly as the woman screamed again, he continued. “We can try that, but we’d need a more private place…” He stopped talking as the screaming stopped. “… Because neither of us will be able to see a thing of our surroundings while we do it.” The sounds of the bell above the door announced that Crys was leaving the Inn.

Luckas sat back down and finally reached for his glass, drinking from it and leaving it half-empty, or have-full maybe, depending on one’s opinion. He glanced towards the door and an amused grin appeared in his face. “Do you know who that was, by any chance?” He asked Ess, with a snicker that said he had incredibly good gossip to share.
Ess smiled, thinking how ironic it was that he commented on her losing interest in him. “Hmm, good to know I still have yours.” She couldn’t remember how long it had been since she spent so much time with a man, noting that half the day was already gone and she still had her clothes on. It was quite a different experience, the nervousness creeping back inside her stomach, lingering with a dull pain. The change was exciting but it was something she was not very familiar with, and she knew that the fault could only be credited to herself.

“Well..” Her voice grew louder over the women’s curses and screams as she watched the one with the Sai dagger release lemon juice upon the other woman’s wound. “Us redheads can get away with just about anything.” She smiled up at Luckas as she answered his notion to go somewhere private. “I was wondering how long it was going to take you to suggest that.” Leaning back in her chair she downed the rest of her drink, relaxing.

“Seriously though…”She looked over Luckas with a perplexed gaze. “When was the last time you ate boy? Come on…I’ll heat you up something at my house and we can see if my idea works. There’s much to prepare for.”

She shook her head curiously. “Am I suppose to know who that was? I’ve never seen her before. Course I usually don’t talk to women..” Ess chuckled. “Too complicated, and always fighting over a man in one way or another.”

Luke raised an eyebrow when Ess asked when was the last time he ate. It was just so unexpectedly thoughtful. “I… Uh… Yesterday.” He admitted, scratching the back of his head. “In my defense, you distracted me.” He added, crossing his arms over his chest and tilting his head. “And… Boy?” He asked. “Haven’t we had this conversation already?” He asked with a grin, emptying his glass and taking a few glances around before saying. “That blind redhead who left just now… Was the leader of the Wolfpack until three years ago. Word out there, officially, is that she was killed by the current Alpha. She hasn’t been seen anywhere in three years.” He shrugged. “Makes me wonder why she’s here, now of all times.”

Standing up, he added. “I wouldn’t advise you to fight her over any man.” He nodded towards the woman behind the counter. “Something tells me that was friendly conversation.” He shrugged lightly. “Not that you would have to fight her over me… There’s plenty to go around.” He told her playfully, snickering softly as he stomach emitted a rather loud growl. “And thanks for reminding me I’m hungry.” He laughed. “Can we go? I might bite you otherwise.”

Ess pushed back her chair, making her way for the door. “You are younger than me…although a man..you’re still a boy.” With a laugh she added, “Don’t take offense..just accept it Luckas.” She knew age didn’t mean much, as it was one’s mentality that mattered, but she thought it was funny how she may have slightly touched on one of Luckas’ nerves. Ess fished out a few more coins, feeling a tad bit bad for the bar tender’s current state, leaving her a hefty tip.

“Huh??” Ess stared at Luckas long and hard..”Really…THAT was..” She looked almost offended as she eyed Luckas. “Why the Hell, would I challenge HER?” Ess didn’t understand what Luckas was getting at as she opened the door and exited, only a few more minutes towards her home. Ess only had ever heard rumors and rumors..well…never did one justice. With a sigh she whispered, “I guess anything is possible, except me sharing…” She smiled half heartedly, playfully giving Luckas a shove. “You definitely don’t want to see me jealous either..”

As they approached her home, a simple cottage size building with one large room, Ess noticed a note on the door. Snatching it down, she didn’t even bother to read it as she crumpled it up knowing who it was from. After unlocking the door, she quickly threw a few logs onto the dying fire to add some light to the room, as she kept the curtains closed on her windows. She paused, as if debating what to do with the note before she tossed it into the fire. Unhooking her belt, she lazily draped it along her bed, her fingers slipping beneath her Tunic to retrieve her leather journal. Her eyes froze over a simple, old looking Teddy Bear dressed as a knight that guarded her pillows only to snap out of her trance, she grabbed the Bear and placed both the stuffed memory and journal on an empty shelf.

Ess sighed, mostly silent as she lit more candles and began retrieving clean bowls from a cabinet. Wandering back over to the fire, she hung a tiny caldron over the flames as they grew, it containing a stew she had made the day before consisting of assorted meat and veggies from the market. Unwrapping a small cloth, she revealed half a loaf of bread she cut in halves for herself and Luckas, placing the pieces beside their bowls on her mini table beside the fireplace. As the fire roared, many of the shadows dissipated revealing entire walls covered in Ess’s drawings; wolves, dragons, self portraits of her different selves (including her true form), Tala, what appeared to be a family portrait of her father and brother, and a smaller picture of a young boy simply labeled ‘Blue Eyes.’ All of them were drawn in ink, with exceptional details, only the eyes had color which added to the illusion that they seemed to follow her where ever she went.

“Sit Luckas, relax..stay a while.” Ess smirked, pointing towards a ceramic bowl and pitcher of water before a grand mirror that reached towards the ceiling. “Go wash up first..it’s my silly pet peeve, people who eat with dirty hands.” With a shrug she gave the stew a stir before wandering over to a large white tapestry extending from floor to ceiling; painted with what looked like a dying Oak tree. She carried a candle over to it and stepped behind to change. Ess didn’t care that Luckas was in the room, or that he probably saw her hourglass silhouette shadowed behind the cloth as she threw on a simple red cotton gown, stretchy and comfortable. Ess appeared from behind the cloth holding the candle in one hand and a set of men’s clothes in her other hand. The shirt and pants were a plain black, the material loose and soft. Quirking a brow she wondered out loud, “You think these would fit you? I made them some time ago but they won’t fit me…you can have them if you want.” Essence didn’t need them and she didn’t want Luckas to think she was being charitable, so not to cause offense or wound his pride.

“So, what you’re saying is that I’m a man-child, is that it?” Luckas asked, slightly amused. He didn’t quite get why Ess seemed somewhat offended by his comments. He was just playing, and his tone showed it clearly, but he brushed it off as she shoved him saying that he wouldn’t want to see her jealous. “Oh, I don’t see why I would ever see that.” He said innocently, with a small chuckle.

As they arrived at her house, Luke was quiet for quite some time; his eyes registering things such as the note at the door, later tossed into the fire unread; the teddy bear on the bed and the journal that were put away together in a shelf. He took his time looking over all the drawings on the walls, the one of the boy caught his eye and he couldn’t seem to look away from it… It was familiar somehow, but maybe he’d seen it in her memories at some point. Looking away from the drawing he finally broke his silence as he walked to wash up as she asked.
“Your drawings are impressive, you know.” He stated, washing his hands and face and frowning slightly at how pale his face looked in the mirror. He didn’t turn to where the woman was changing, however he took a very discrete glance in her direction, which was followed by a little smirk. He only turned to face her when she asked him the clothes would fit. He stared long and hard at the clothing, half wondering if they did fit, half wondering if he should take them. The infirmary had been the only occasion in which he accepted anything from another person, but he was naked then.

The clothes Mageria had given him were a little long on the arms and legs, but they did fit just fine and, aside from the little blood stain in one of the sleeves, they were new. Luke never carried anything, he was used to taking what he needed in the moment he needed it, in any way he needed to. Be it food, clothes, money… It didn’t matter. “They might, yeah.” He answered simply, still unable to actually say he’d take them. Finally he spread his arms and looked down at his clothing before looking back to Ess. “Why, do I not look handsome in these? I thought they were quite stylish.” He joked, then he waved the blood stained sleeve. “Although the shirt might be permanently ruined.”
~~

” “Your drawings are impressive, you know.”

Ess smiled, her cheeks flushing softly with color at the compliment, almost forgetting the drawings were even there. Feeling a bit embarrassed she answered slowly, “Thank you Luckas…uh..just something I do to pass the time…sometimes I fear I may forget what I cherish most..or what they look like.” She glanced along the drawings of her family and her childhood friend with an accomplished nod, unrolling the shirt and pants to see how they sized up to Luckas.

“They seem alright…and definitely warmer than what you have on.” Ess stepped back draping the set onto the bed. “They are there if you would like them.” She added a wink, “I will admit Luckas, you are handsome..but don’t tell anyone I caved…you know how rumors are.” She looked over the blood stain on his sleeve and only answered his comment on how the shirt may be ruined, with a questioning gaze. Was he hurt? She didn’t want to pry, so she simply turned back towards the fire, serving the re-heated stew into the bowls. Absently she went to get Tala’s dish on the floor, pausing abruptly with a small laugh, forgetting that her furry friend was not around. She felt almost naked and alone without her faithful companion and had to remind herself that she indeed was neither of those things.

Ess seated herself at the table only after she quickly washed her hands, motioning for Luckas to join her, not waiting for him to sit himself before she began nibbling on the bread, dipping it into the stew. After a few moments in silence, both of them munching away at their meal, Ess paused to pour them both a glass of water. “So, you said in theory, my idea should work. Is it going to be painful? What do you want me to do? The memories transferred, if it works, will emotions be included?” Ess let the flow of questions escape her, her words almost colliding together. She shook her head at herself, thinking her current action reminded her of her childhood friend, how he would always ask a lot of questions all at once, before taking a breath. Essence hadn’t realized until now that, that had rubbed off on her.

“…sometimes I fear I may forget what I cherish most..or what they look like.”

Luckas flinched slightly at that sentence, shooting another glance around the drawings on the walls as if he now saw them as extra people in the room. It made him nervous for inexplicable reasons and he didn’t speak for a long while, still giving the walls discrete glances as he sat at the table and started digging into the food. The silence gave him time to think of how much he was trusting Ess, and how much that could cost him… He also wondered what she would think of him if he told her… Who he was, what he knew he was… Could she ever understand…

He broke out of his thoughts at the sudden wave of questions. “It won’t be painful, all you have to do is relax and maintain eye contact. No emotions are involved aside from whatever feelings you have at the moment.” He answered, in one breath, just the same way she had asked. Then he stared at her for a little while before asking something out of the blue. “How did you get that?” He asked, tracing his finger along his own eye as if drawing her scar on his face.

Essence steadied herself at Luckas’ question, her fingers swiping the last bit of bread around the bowl to pick up the remanence of stew as her chewing slowed dramatically. She wouldn’t raise her gaze up to meet his as he stared at her. Not knowing how to respond exactly even though this wasn’t the first time she was asked that question, Ess simply painted a smile on her face, pushing herself to her feet, evading the question. “Would you like more to eat, Luckas?” Ess abruptly turned towards the fire, the flames reflecting in her violet orbs as her smile faded. She didn’t know how much Luckas had absorbed of her soul, but she had assumed he knew about certain demons that remained buried beneath her surface, including how she obtained her scar. Crossing her arms, her hands clasped her elbows tightly as if she were shivering from a chill, remembering with a sigh that she had told him to ask her questions instead of invading her personal space and he was remaining true to her request.

“…I acquired many scars with this one around the same time…” Ess began hesitantly. With a shrug, she kept her back towards Luckas as she continued. “…I had my revenge…many of those responsible for my pain..are no longer in this world..” Clearing her throat she glanced over her shoulder at Luckas, “It’s a pathetic story..I’m sure it would just bore you.” Even though she was trying to avoid the answer to Luckas’ question still, she wouldn’t lie to him and she knew if he pursued the knowledge, she may just re-tell one of the many tragedies of her life. Ess suddenly felt mentally weak for even considering such a tale to someone she barely knew…but then again she hadn’t felt such an odd connection with anyone in quite some time, and it scared her tremendously.

Luke had been leaning forward on the table, but immediately pulled back when Ess avoided his question and stood up from her seat, leaning back as far as he could. He was used to hitting people’s weak spots, but he usually did it willingly. He didn’t think this would be such a delicate subject; he simply wanted to use the example to get a point across. Her reaction, however, proved that his question was much more important than he thought it was.

Not really knowing what to do, he absently chewed on the last piece of his bread until there was nothing left, listening to the little Ess was willing to tell, and seeing how difficult it seemed for her to tell him that much. Looking at her in that particular moment made him wonder what memories truly were; blessings or curses. Suppose it depended on what memories one kept, but either way they all posed as weaknesses in a way or two.

Slowly, Luckas pushed his chair back and got on his feet. Walking over to where Ess was standing, he stood as close to her as he thought he could without being intrusive and reached out as if he was going to grab her shoulders, but stopped himself half way through the gesture and lowered his hands, letting them rest at his sides. “You don’t have to tell me any more, if you don’t want to.” He whispered. “Just answer me this: If you could forget all those terrible things that happened in the past. If you could erase those memories, and still be you, but not knowing what made you this way… Would you want that? Do you think it would be better?” This he hoped she would answer. It wasn’t just important… It was everything.

Looking up from the flames, Ess inhaled deeply as she turned to face Luckas. Something natural, that had been lost emerged from inside herself, dropping all facades Ess let her walls fall in that moment. She took a tiny step forward so that they were just far enough to not be touching, but the heat of her skin emanated from her entire being, radiating like the fire behind her. Gently she looked up into his dark eyes in a peaceful, thoughtful manner.

“You want to know, if I would willingly erase my past?….To avoid pain and still be who I am? That isn’t possible, Luckas because I would be someone else entirely.” Ess eyes flickered and glowed with her heightened emotion, brushing a loose curl from out her gaze. “We define ourselves by our pain and triumphs. How do we learn and better ourselves if not from those memories? We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we continue on in our lives, what to do with the cards we have been dealt.” She paused, taking in a breath, her eyes gazing back and forth from his own, down towards his mouth as she watched his expression, looking to understand where these questions came from.

“I would rather feel pain, than be empty. Sometimes we need to act irrational, to be sane in the long run. I choose, to be a stronger person. I chose to suffer for a time, because I thought it was my punishment for my failures. I am beginning to understand differently now, but I would not be standing before you now without going through what I did. I understand that there may be some memories I have wished to do without, but in the end, what’s the point? We might as well just light a fire and burn in our emptiness…..ring out…give up.” Ess closed her eyes a moment, inhaling through her nose before opening those beautiful eyes back up at Luckas, shaking her head. “I admit, I was weak once. That I am still lost in some ways. I know what it’s like to be a slave and have no free will, so I appreciate my life now and my ability to choose, even if they are not always the right choices.”

Essence didn’t realize how her hand reached up to touch Luckas’ cheek as she whispered, “Life doesn’t always make sense and is never easy, but the journey is just as important as reaching the end, Luckas. How would you realize what you love and hate?….How would you make sense of all the chaos that is in this world?…I’ll tell you what still hurts just as much as knowing I can never be a mother…..” Ess retracted her hand, her warm, soft skin brushing down Luckas’ chin. “It’s losing loved ones. But I would rather have known them, than never met them. Even if they disappoint or hurt me…because Luckas…because they have helped shape me into the person I am today…” Ess pointed knowingly where the picture of the blue eyed boy hung on the wall…. “That boy…that child….showed me many things..had more knowledge and wisdom at that age than I did…He taught me that I am beautiful…that I do matter…That I should stand up for myself and defend my life. That if you really do love someone, you trust and support them, even if you don’t always agree with their actions…that we can forgive…”

With a shaky laugh, her eyes glimmered with tears she never let skim the surface of her skin. She caught herself in her rant, a bit surprised she unraveled like a ball of twine, her skin blushing a deep red as she kept her gaze upon Luckas. “I’m sorry…guess I went off the deep end a second there…Not what you expected huh?” A shy smile curled her lips, her mind wondering if she had said too much.

Luckas stood facing Ess hearing her words intently, as if in a trance. Although his body was as still as he could be, his mind was racing furiously underneath his cold exterior, something inside his chest was aching painfully for reasons that, once again, he was unable to understand. She had said what he expected her to say; what he wanted her to say, what he needed someone to say… It was validation in a way… Purpose… Meaning… Maybe those thing existed after all. Maybe this was someone he could share his secrets with one day… One day, maybe soon, but not today…

Opening a rather faint smile he moved back to his chair and sat, leaning back on the chair and looking up at the woman before speaking. “Let’s say then, hypothetically that you had this one terrible event happen in your past… Something so horrible that merely scratching the surface of that memory brings more pain than any normal person could possibly handle without giving up their sanity… Knowing the nature of those memories, knowing the little you know about what they could do to you… Would you still want to remember? Would it be worth it? He asked. “If you had been who you are your whole life without knowing, if you were aware that once that door opened it could never be closed again… Would you want to know then? Isn’t ignorance bliss in this case?” His tone was one of someone presenting a simple logic problem, but something in Luckas’ eyes gave away the fact that it wasn’t such a simple question to him.

Essence smirked at the word as she breathed, “Hypothetically hmm…?” Her brows narrowed a bit as she studied Luckas, understanding there was something deeper he was hinting at, but what she couldn’t decide. He had stood before her and actually listened to what she had to say. Not many ever cared to do that, even if there was a personal reason behind it. She didn’t understand why it mattered what she thought as he continued at her with more questions, studying her in return.

“It’s only human to be hesitant or frightened of pain..emotional, physical, or both. Is it easier to live a lie? To deny oneself? Yes. Everyone has experienced such opportunities to avoid or escape pain, and it’s natural to do so. Yet, one can never really escape the past and it will catch up. Does one choose the path of insanity and despair, strength and prosperity, or perhaps one discovers insanity only to recover. Whatever is devastating enough to tear through a person, once that gauntlet is passed, the release is euphoric.” The glow from her eyes brightened as she bit down on her bottom lip at a thought, snickering to herself. Clearing her throat she seemed to float across the floor, seating herself back across from Luckas. “I think the journey would be most devastating, this extreme pain. If it is something to even consider, then it is worth it. Opening new doors has only proved beneficial in the long run….just have to find a way over the bottomless pits.” She started to laugh, “You know…the ones with the soul devouring demons with scary sharp teeth..” She stood abruptly, making her way over to the leather journal she had placed on the far shelf. Quickly ruffling through some pages, she paused at an eerie drawing, her laughter slowing. Looking up she turned the journal about to display her version of a demon.: A small, lanky, yellow slit-eyed creature with dagger like teeth. The skin was almost transparent hinting that whatever was inside this thing burned with a hideous fury. “I’m not religious at all, by the way, but this is what I think of when I am battling my demons. I believe we all have them inside us…sometimes they win battles..however small…But when we win battles…they are forever life altering.” She paused again before finishing, “If you give a meaning, a reason, or find that purpose in something else that makes the pain worth it…then to hell with Ignorance..”

~~~~~~~

To Be Continued….