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!
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….