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Fatebreaker last won the day on May 15 2020

Fatebreaker had the most liked content!

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    Denizen of the Dark Alley, Head of R&D and Marketing
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    At Sea
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    Science and sandwiches.

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  1. ~The Stranger: the Cognitive Realm~ The Stranger laughed, as the void took form beneath his friend's grasp. "And you accuse me of theatrics. Very well, since you have set the tempo, I shall adjust the score accordingly." And as he spoke the lines of the forgery began to hum with growing intensity, a song of a million parts, and then it moved. Glowing lines pulled up from the ground, as reality itself tore, and lines of light began to twist and meld, forming glowing chain. At one end, a sickle with a wicked hooked point, long and curved. And at the other a stylized hand, crooked fingers ending in razor points. The weapon was pure light, burning like the surface of the sun, the power of raw creation, singing with untold potential. When the Stranger moved the weapon, the world seemed to warp around it slightly. Silver light shon from the Stranger's eyespike as he stared at his old friend, "Kill you? That's all I ever was, a contingency plan? Then I never had a chance, for you had already become like the Void you wield: empty. And yet you say another has given you a new hope? A person will be your new light? HA!" He punctuated his sentence with a laugh that shook the ground, shaking his head with scorn. "I thought you wiser than that, Voidheart, but you appear even more foolish than I. love has failed us both, people are the fickle flowers that grow in the spring and wilt in the fall. You should know this better than anyone. It's a lesson we've both learned long ago. Love is a will-o-wisp, luring you to disaster with the promise of salvation." He swept his gaze across the other people gathered there, taking them in with his draconic grin. "You were reunited with your daughter, a separation of untold time, but that is not the love that "saved" you. A denizen you've known for a fraction of your cursed existence has "cured" your apathy, become the new light by which you live. How tragic, it's like grasping an icicle and thinking it will keep you cool all summer." Rain dripped off of the crown of spikes, and he turned his gaze to Mac. "Ask Mac, did love place him at the forefront of the most powerful organization ever created? Or did hard work and sacrifice carve his legacy? Tell me Laurelai, in the dark hours of morning, when sleep eludes your grasp, is it love that occupies your thoughts? Or do you crave blue waters, falling steadily from above?" Thunder boomed, heavy in the air, as he turned to Lita. "Tell him Lita, has love ever given you one ounce of your power? Or did you gain what you have the way all being do," And the light from his eyespike was the light of the storm itself, wild and dangerous "through SACRIFICE?" ... ~Reshilore: Alleycity~ Reshilore strode into the lobby of the building, an austere and expensive looking space. There was a woman behind a desk, her uniform most likely cost more than all the clothing Reshilore had ever owned combined. She glanced up through stern eyes, taking in his unkempt appearance. "Please," Reshilore panted, "I need to see Lita LaPetit, it's urgent." The woman smirked, "I'm sure it is sir. if you would like to wait a moment I'll have someone escort you." She made eye contact with a large, uniformed man, who began making his way towards them. Reshilore felt desperation clawing at his stomach, digging a ragged pit therein, "No, you don't understand, I have a standing invitation, since the festival, she told me to call on her. Here, I have," and he began franticly searching his pockets for the card. A heavy hand gripped his shoulder, and he looked up to see the large man next to him. "Come on kid," the man grumbled, "don't make a scene." Reshilore tried to wrench out of his grip, but with no success. "Wait, wait! I have a, a card, and invitation! Just let me get it out, please!" The man ignored him, choosing instead to haul him roughly towards the door. Reshilore tried to resist, but he was a fraction of the other man's weight, till he finally stomped down on the top of his captor's foot. The man swore, relaxing his grip as he stumbled mid stride. Reshilore broke away and ran back to the desk, searching frantically in his pocket with clumsy, bandaged fingers. his fingers closed on the card and he slammed it on the desk, "THERE." The woman was taken aback, but she glanced at the card, then turned it over. She let out an irritated breath, then held a hand up to the man who was angrily storming back over. He stopped with a huff, grumbling something unkind under his breath. The woman looked at Reshilore and said in a very dry tone, "Unfortunately, Madame LaPetit is not currently present. You may leave a message if you choose." Despair threatened to overwhelm Reshilore as he took her words in. It was all for nothing. His last hope had been nothing but a desperate grasp at the most ethereal of straws. "I think you'll find that I am most certainly present, Jeanette." All eyes turned to look at the striking figure of the woman who entered the room. Her dress was gold, like it had been the night they had met, but now it was more severe, sharp rather than slinky, severe rather than intriguing. She wore no mask, and Reshilore could see her entire visage, the smirking mouth, the slender nose, the green eyes that reminded him so much of Victoria. Reshilore once again found himself nearly at a loss for words, so unexpected and striking was her entrance. Behind the counter, Jeanette murmured rapid apologies, but Lita LaPetit ignored her, "I see you've finally decided to take me up on my invitation. Reshilore, wasn't it? Either you've come to your senses, or departed from them entirely. Either way, it's sure to be an interesting evening." Words stumbled over themselves as Reshilore attempted to explain himself, but Lita simply raised a finger to silence him, "We'll have time for that once we've reached my chambers. But first, Jeanette, I need a replacement key, I left mine with a friend and forgot to retrieve it." Standing, Jeanette bobbed her head, "Of course, madame. Just a moment." She walked into a small room that was behind her, returning shortly with a key. Lita took it and began to make her way to where her rooms were, or so Reshilore presumed. He followed hurriedly, and soon they were situated within luxurious apartments with lavish furnishings. His host lit candles, then walked into the kitchen and emerged with two mugs of tea, one of which she handed to him. She took a slow sip, seeming to savor it's taste, then finally spoke, "Now, what brings you to my door after so long? Based on your appearance, it seems unlikely you're in pursuit of a memorable night if excitement. Which means you must need something. Am I wrong?" The floor held Reshilore's gaze as he tried to think of a less desperate way to ask for help. He flet the warmth of the tea in his hands, but couldn't bring himself to drink any lest his nerves get the better of him. "I, um, I apologize, madam, but I've been beset by tragedy. Vic- my girlfriend has contracted some unknown disease. It's aggressive, faster than the doctors can account for. They've tried all manner of treatments, but nothing seems to have any effect." He felt tugging at the corners of his eyes, and rubbed away the starts of treacherous tears. Now was not the time for tears, he needed her to take him seriously. "I, uhhh, I have been studying the metalurgic arts, specifically the possibility of transplants of sorts. Taking abilities from one person and giving them to another." His host raised her eyebrows, "That seems, complicated, to put it nicely. Farfetched to put it bluntly." "No, well yes," Reshilore began pacing the floor, " but I've been working on this for years. The principles are solid, I've worked out most of the mechanics of it. I've figured out the vectors of transplant, the logistics of recovery, nearly all of it. It will work." He stopped pacing and looked to his host, sitting in her richly appointed chair. She smiled, "But you're missing something, a key piece." Anxiety was building in Reshilore's heart as he nodded. This was the crucial part. if she turned him away empty-handed, he had no idea what he would do. "Materials. In order for this to work, I need access to some materials and equipment that I don't have access to. Metals and medical equipment specifically. Lightning flashed outside of the window, the storm growing in intensity. Reshilore cleared his throat and continued hurriedly "I'll pay any price, do anything you ask. I may not have much in the way of resources now, but I'll give you all I have. I'll live in servitude if that's what it takes. I know this is too much to ask, but I have no other options. Victoria is dying, and if I don't do something soon, it will be too late." Wind howled at the window, making the silence in the room feel all the more stark as the woman in gold gently swirled her glass of wine. She stared at him for a long moment, saying nothing. Finally, She stood and walked in a slow circle around him, looking at him from all sides. "Anything? Many people say they're willing to do anything, but few actually mean it. They want a miracle without price, a revelation without cost. But in reality, all great works require Sacrifice." The candles seemed to gutter at the word, before slowly returning to life, and she turned to face the window. "And you Reshilore, I think that you will learn the true meaning of Sacrifice in this endeavor. I can see from the freshly bandaged wounds on your hands that you already have some understanding of the nature of my words. But will it be enough? Can you reach for yet more? What leads your steps down this treacherous path? From where does your light come? Is it merely your own will, or is there something else which guides you?" Reshilore swallowed against the growing unease he felt, these were not the sort of questions he had been anticipating. Potential answers swam in his head, until he finally coalesced his thoughts into something coherent, "I- I know that the word is cruel and cold, that men seek answers in words and stories, but all of that can fail. but in all of the chaos and pain I have seen in my short life, love has been the one thing that has seen me through. My friends, the woman I cherish, they have been with me through everything, and It's by that love that I am now moved. They are my light." Lita was silent again, bowing her head. In the the window's reflection, Reshilore thought he could make out her face, filled with unspoken emotion, but what exactly he could not say. At long last she spoke, in a soft voice, "I will give you what you seek, Reshilore, but there will be a heavy price. A price you are not ready to pay. I cannot tell you what it is, but that is the term of my aid. Do you still wish to continue down this path?" Reshilore nodded, "Nothing could dissuade me." Lita chuckled wryly at that, turning to look at him, "I believe it, though I wish for your sake it wasn't the case. Bring your beloved to this address, everything required will be waiting for you." Reshilore felt his heart soar on the winds of hope, "I, I can't believe it! You won't regret this, Madame, Lita, Ms. LaPetit, I'm sorry. After I save Vic, this technology will revolutionize our world. it will change the world of Science as we know it, I promise. Thank you, thank you!" Excitedly, he ran from the apartment, his mind awhirl. It looked like things were not as bleak as he had feared. Things might just work out after all!
  2. ~The Stranger, the Cognitive Realm~ The Stranger stared at his friend for a silent moment, punctuated by lightning and thunder. "My old friend, I will not bore you with my plan, for I would hope you would have more respect for me than that. And you are not saving the world, if anything you are jeopardizing it, putting it all at risk. This world hangs on a precipice, at the brink of a new era. And you would tear it down, take back the old world of chaos and disorder, of strife and apathy. But that doesn't matter to you." He gazed at the world around them. "Did I do all of this for me? The premise of that is flawed. I didn't do this for me, I didn't do this for you. My motivations have always been the same. The core reason I did this, was for Science. I followed the Light, the glowing beacon around which I have built my existence. Look around you, look at my work and tell me it is not beautiful." He gestured at the glowing pattern that surrounded them, tracing one of the lines close to them with a claw-like finger. "Look at the pattern, look how it synergizes with the worldspike. It is perhaps my greatest work, the largest scientific breakthrough in a millennia. The Light of Science shines through the very fabric of the world, as it once shon through you. Do you remember what it feels like? The fervor, the exhilaration, the potential! Your mind aflame, lightning in your veins, a hunger unchained! The Light beckons, and I answered." He swept his long arms upward and a burning light appeared above him. It shone with such intensity that eyes burned to look upon it, as around them the veins of the forgery blazed in response. Then as suddenly as it had appeared, it vanished in a flash of lightning. And the Stranger looked back at Voidus, "But you don't care about that either. Think back to you life before this, to the lonely office filled with regret and apathy. Think about how long you sat there wasting away in restraint while the world you built hated you for it. You were like a fallen oak, rotting away where once you had stood tall. You rejoiced not in the ruling of the world, not in the pursuit of new works, not in anything was there a glimmer of light. There was only, the Void." as he spoke that last word, the Stranger tapped his dark eye, where the Void pooled and swirled like a subterranean sea. "Until, one day, a young woman appeared." And he turned his gaze to Laurelai. "A lost child, a miracle made flesh, a glimpse into another life. And so I expected you to change, to find new meaning or purpose, something. But all you did was hide from her the true nature of your relationship. I looked into your eyes and saw a longing and regret like I have never seen. I saw fear and anger and sorrow war within you. And yet you returned alone to your empty office. And so, when I sought to remake your world, I thought I would give you three things." His long, gnarled hand rose between them. "First, I gave you the life your longed for in your eyes. A life with your daughter, without the pain that had torn you apart. Secondly, I gave you a world of order, where balance was maintained and you were free from the yoke of responsibility you had worn for so long. And lastly, I gave you a chance to rediscover that Light. A chance for knowledge to be something sought, rather than a burden carried. For power to be something to be gained, not a chain that bit into your heart. I freed you from the Void that was consuming you. And it broke my heart to do so, for I knew I had lost the last friend I would ever know." His voice was sharp and jagged, and his grin no longer spread across his nightmarish features. "I didn't do this for you," he said, gesturing at the weave around them, "but I sought to do you kindness within it. And that, whether you believe it or not, is true. I chained myself to your inferior shadow to preserve peace, I placed restrictions and limits on myself so I would not just rip the world asunder. I became the dark god the world fears, so that you could become a man who knew the daughter he loved, and not the monster she now knows you to be." The smiled slowly crept upwards, growing like ivy cracking an ancient stronghold. "And still I failed. I fell short of perfection, and in doing so have turned my only friend against me. And you are doomed to return to the slow climb towards the Void, towards emptiness entire. And so I will ask you Voidus, what would you have me do?"
  3. ~ The Realm of the Gods~ The Stranger pulled the weave of the world tighter and tighter, preparing to make the final change. It was so close now, he could taste it, the potential thick in the air. He had made billions upon billions of adjustments, fitting things a little tighter, leaving less room for ambiguity. Some things would be edited, some repositioned, some removed. All to make things run smoothly, to make the Forgery set. He had rushed things before, made some shameful mistakes. But this would fix all of that, all the problems that kept popping up like weeds through cracks in the pavement. If only someone could see it, appreciate the magnitude of what he had done, what he was about to do. Sudiov didn't care, and wouldn't be able to fully appreciate it besides. Aylitha couldn't be shown, for the Stranger had leeched more of her power than she ever would have agreed to, had she known. And the Shade, well that was like talking to yourself. Your moodier self at that. He hadn't the time for such trivialities as existential crisis'. And then he felt it. He felt the tear that rent apart the forgery like an eagle's talons through a rabbits' flesh. He felt several things at once. Rage, that his work had been ruined, years upon years of craft threatened in a singular moment. Confusion, on how things could have reached such a point without any of the gods noticing. Obviously some of them have turned against me, if not all of them. It is the safest assumption to make at this point. And most surprisingly, he felt excitement. The excitement of knowing an old friend had returned unexpectedly, as if from the dead. Will he thank me for the life I gave him? Will he resent me for not including him in the work? Will he understand how I tried to help him? Or will he hate me for what I've done? "Stranger." The voice held all the weariness he remembered, the strain of duty and obligation, the shackles that bound a god. But there was something else there as well. "Are you free for a chat?" Below the surface, there was heat, like thermal vents at the bottom of the ocean's floor. And that excited the Stranger, for it meant that the person he had met all those years ago was still in there. But it also meant that whatever may occur, whatever his intent may have been, Voidus would not be greeting him as a friend. And that spelled doom, for whom he could not yet say. And that saddened the Stranger more than he had thought it could. Am I to lose my friend again? And so, still holding the threads he had gathered, the Stranger manifested in the cognitive realm. ~ The Cognitive Realm ~ The Stranger stepped into an alleyway that stretched and warped. All around him, buildings and alleyways grew like strange coral, running through and around each other, spiraling into endless labyrinths. It was a place where perspective had been mutilated and gravity desecrated. Strange creatures lurked in shadows, abominations emerging and retreating from the alleys. The Storm surged in the air, holding tumultuous vigil over the nightmarish alleyscape below. But the Storm was not the only light, for over the realm entire ran the Grand Forgery. They spread out like a network, carved into the fabric of the land, over buildings and pathways as fa as the eye could see. It was reminiscent of the nervous system, or perhaps a slime mold growing through a fallen tree. Within the grooves, the investiture could be seen, surging like lightning caught in a closed system. It hummed with an eerie resonance that could be felt in your very bones. And the closer you looked, the more details you could see of the pattern. It split and branched in uncountable ways, reaching subatomic levels. The Stranger grinned, for his work was beautiful. This was the Light of Science, illuminating the whole planet with ingenuity and revelation. This was something worth Sacrificing for. He turned towards the doorway that was opening and prepared to face the greatest person he had ever known, the only one he had called friend in untold eons. As he did so, he smiled as he sensed the other presences accompanying his old friend. Mac, Laurelai, Lita, and others he wasn't as familiar with. He grinned his cutting grin. So it was to be a party then? DA parties always went well. Very well, he thought, let the festivities begin. And he spoke in a voice that resonated the world. "Welcome, one and all, to the End of the World." Then he spoke in a much lower voice, to the one that led them, "Hello, Voidus."
  4. ~The Realm of the Gods~ The One eyed god had been busy, his work great and terrible. He spun the threads of Fate with increasing speed and subtlety, preparing to remedy the many mistakes he had made. Details he had missed, connections he hadn't thought of, imbalances that need not exist. And as he worked, he grinned. He grinned like a man lost in the desert taking his first drink of water, for he had missed the work more than he had known. The Light of Science blazed in his metallic eye as he drank deeply of it's ambrosia. The constraint of hiding his work from Sudiov was both a boon and a bane. He the challenge of it was exciting, thought provoking, but yet he longed to give in with abandon and reshape reality without limits. Never had he held so much power at his disposal, so much raw potential. It was heady, like chrono-compressed whiskey shared with a friend in a lab... NO. Don't think about what it cost. All great breakthroughs required SACRIFICE. Voidus was happy now, reunited with his daughter, no time lost between them. He had been so worn, so apathetic before all this. The Stranger couldn't understand it. How could someone with as many resources and opportunities as him be tired of it??? They could do anything, nothing was unattainable to those who had mastered the realms of magic and science as they had. What a tragedy, what a loss, to lose one of the greatest minds to ever exist to something as mundane as apathy. Are you happy now, old friend? Things are fresh and new, you're doing RESEARCH again. Did the gift of a fresh start soothe the time worn wounds that you carried for so long? He thought about checking on him, but he dismissed the thought. Too many distractions, too much to do. He could check on Voidus after he completed his task. Things would be running smoother then, fewer wrinkles and tears. Less interference from that fool Sudiov, less reliance on Aylitha to uphold their end of the work. Besides, Shade was keeping an eye on things for him. Of anyone, he had the greatest interest in keeping things running smoothly. There was no time to reflect on things lost, on prices paid. After all, the One-eyed god was no stranger to paying prices. And so the Stranger worked, taking measurements of reality and annotating the weave of Fate. He grinned with pointed teeth, and the spikes protruding from him ground against one another like the hanging blades in a butcher shop. Soon his preparations would be complete, and he would execute his plan in one clean cut. ... ~The Cognitive Realm~ The Shade had been busy, his work delicate and precise. Avoiding the eye of two gods was a rare trick. Subverting both of their expectations and undoing their art, even more so. And so he had bent all his guile and cunning, all his skill and art, to do what must be done. Retain the past, unravel the present, protect the future. It was the greatest slight of hand he had ever imagined, directing the attention of so many sharp eyes, knowing what to reveal and what to conceal. He just hoped his hands were fast enough to keep all the parts in play. The first part was the boy, the young scientist who was so earnest and naïve. This was the most complicated, and yet most simple element. Making sure he spoke to the right people at the right time, making sure things played out they way they were supposed to. He was close, so close, to that grisly precipice, the Shade just had to make sure he gave the right push when the boy was on the absolute edge. He grimaced, for he found himself oddly conflicted. Was it the connection they shared, was it remnants of long lost pain, or did he simply pity the boy for what was about to befall him? But no, shadows had no hearts, only purposes, and his was paramount. The second was the girls, a scalpel and a bayonet. one to open up a great wound with a delicate cut, the other to finish the job in grisly struggle. This should have been the easiest part, maneuvering two pawns into place, equipping them with what they had needed. But they were no longer just pawns, especially Lita. Lita had ceased being a pawn the moment they had sat in that small room with a blue door so long ago. She had started to become a person, even though she hadn't truly known who he was back then. She had thought he was his Creator, his Original, the True Stranger. And that was what he had been supposed to represent, a message from a dark god. but he had looked at her and felt a kinship that he had never expected. one who had lived their entire life as a tool, as a servant to a will other than their own. The Shade knew that existence, had known it for far, far longer than she. But she had broken free, even in a small way, and escaped. And there he had been, preparing to bind her to another's will once again. Perhaps she could do it again, break the bonds of power and service, of great wills dark fates. Perhaps she could even help him to do the same. That was when he had first begun to hatch his plan, to let the dangerous drink of a desire to ferment deep, deep in the void where a heart should be. After the Grand Forgery, things had been going smoothly. That is, until the ball. It was intoxicating seeing her there, in the realm of dream, where he was just as real as she was. And she had recognized him to be the Shade, not the One-eyed god. She had seen and known and felt him, let him hold her there in a place that was as real to him as the waking world was to her. It had been nice to dance, he wasn't sure he had ever done so before. It had been nice to hold, and be held. To feel the heat of life, to know the passion of existence. To experience a different side of Lita's Fire. Even now he wanted to be at her side, to guide and protect her and Laurelai, guarding them from the dangers of the Chapel. Lita and Laurelai, that was something that hadn't been expected either, but he supposed it made sense. They had been close, with so much in common, so much they could do together. People, real people, could walk together, could hold one another in loving arms. Lita and Laurelai were people, Shade was only a shadow. A shadow with a purpose. And so he tucked thoughts of blue doors and green eyes away as he rushed on. The third, and most dangerous part, was the gods. or rather, the arrogant fools who styled themselves as such. Neither the Strange nor Sudiov fully trusted him, but both knew it was in his best interest to keep the Grand Forgery whole. The Stranger would never imagined the Shade was anything other than focused on the work, as he himself had been. Why wouldn't a reflection mimic the one who cast it? But the Stranger did not live to be untold eons old by being foolish and trusting, so the Shade had to make sure his actions were as secretive as possible. Sudiov on the other hand, believed the Shade incapable of altruism, a mindless copy whose only goal was the acquisition of knowledge and power. He despised the Shade as he despised all Denizens, more even, for he was the copy of his great enemy. And so he would assume that the Shade was trying to trick or mislead him, to gain the upper hand in some fashion. Fortunately, with his attention on the Shade, he was less likely to notice the Stranger's work, which could lead to a confrontation that would be disastrous for the entire planet. But if he knew that the Shade was working towards the unravelling of the Forgery, he would try to stop him as well. And so the Shade had to show him just enough, play on the prejudice and suspicions Sudiov held so tightly. It was a razor edge, but the Shade and been forged out of razors, razors and shadows. If anyone, no, anything could do this, it was him. It. I feel tired. The thought was unbidden, unexpected. He was a shade, a shadow with a purpose. He didn't truly feel tired, he didn't truly feel anything. He just had to keep things moving, slight of hand and fleet of foot. You have no bones to rest, nor heart to grieve. Self pity is a luxury for the living, you fickle reflection of a mad man. Stay focused on the work, for that is one thing you know how to do. And so on he went, grinning a grin that was emptier than a corpses eyes. ... ~Alley City~ Reshilore had been busy, his work fruitless and desperate. Blood. The secret was in the blood. Reshilore poured over his notes, drawing parallels and annotating the Diagram Vivica had given him. The bloody scrawling was strange, but in a weird way it made sense. He ran tests, and the points of the drawing seemed to correlate with investiture. He was unlocking the secrets but by bit, but he wasn't working fast enough. Victoria was doing worse, much worse. The twinge of pain she had felt that day at the hospital had become chronic, and bit by bit her body was shutting down. The hospital was unable to pin down the source of the illness, and they had simply given their condolences and said that nothing could be done. But Resh was unwilling to accept that. And so he poured over his work, writing, testing. Pricking his hands, limbs, torso with needles, until almost everything in his workshop was stained red. Lucas had taken a leave of absence from his job at the bakery to help take care of Vic, and they took turns tending to her needs. Lucas made a point of never entering the workshop, if he could help it. Whenever he did, his face took on an ashen pallor, as he watched his friend unravelling before his eyes. This evening, Reshilore was sitting at Victoria's bedside, gently wiping Vic's forehead with a damp cloth "You need to sleep." Lucas gently reminded him, as Resh rubbed as his red-rimmed eyes. "I slept last night." Resh murmured, wringing out the cloth in a small bowl. "Resh, that was 4 days ago. You're falling apart. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of Vic. Maybe spend a little less time in the lab and a little more resti…" "You know I can't do that, Lucas." Resh cut him off, "I'm the only one that can help her now. I just need to figure out the method of transferring the metallurgic ability. Then I can find a donor, and Vic can heal herself." Lucas rubbed the bridge of his nose, knowing that nothing he could say would get through to his friend. "That all well and good, Resh, but we have another problem: we're running out of money. You're burning through both your and Vic's savings. Which, if we're being honest, we're never that substantial." Resh simply waved him away, "I'll figure it out, I have to." Lucas stood there in silence for a long minute, knowing his friend wouldn't hear anything he tried to say. So he simply sighed and rose to make dinner preparations, "Then I'll do my best to take care of you, Resh." He gave his friend a comforting squeeze on the shoulder, "Just let me know what you need. if it's within my power, I will give it." Reshilore swallowed against a hard lump in his throat as he nodded silently, placing his hand on top of his friend's. "Thank you, Luke, for everything. I would have been lost without a friend. A friend like... like you." Lucas gave a sad smile, and left the room. Resh sat there a while longer holding Victoria's hand in his own. At one point she stirred, then opened her eyes. "Resh?" Reshilore leaned forward immediately, "Yes Vic, I'm here, I'm with you. How are you feeling?" Victoria gave a coughing chuckle, "Well, my forehead's kinda soggy." Resh laughed half heartedly at the joke, not letting go of her hand. Victoria rolled her eyes, "That was a joke, you know." Reshilore gave a sad smile, wishing with all his heart he could take her place. "I'm stuck, Vic. The research was moving forward, but I can't figure it out fast enough to help you, and we're running out of materials. I don't know what to do." Victoria gave him a bleary-eyed smile and squeezed his hand, "You're the smartest man I've ever met, Resh, if anyone can crack this thing, it's you." As her hand tightened on his, she unknowingly put pressure on a recent spike wound, and Reshilore sucked in a sharp breath. Victoria heard it and looked down at his hands. "Rusts, what have you done to your hands, Resh? No cure is worth sacrificing yourself over. I'd rather pass held by the one I love than live knowing you died to save me." Reshilore looked at her with a mixture of guilt and resolve, "I won't die Vic, but all great breakthroughs of Science come at a cost. They all require..." "sacrifice." ... Some time later, Victoria had fallen back into a feverish sleep. Resh watched her for a moment longer, then gently placed her hand to rest atop her stomach. He stood to leave, but as he did, a something fell out of his pocket. It was a card, embossed with gold. On the front of it was a name and an address. Lita LaPetit. On the back was a handwritten message in elegant script: In case you change your mind. Reshilore stared at the card for a long time. It shouldn't have been in his pocket, he'd not thought about it since that day in the hospital, when Vivica had said he should pay the woman a visit. Vivica has gotten me this far, perhaps she led me to the second breakthrough I needed. Around his, shadows seemed to writhe subtlety bending away from him, but he was too intent upon the card to notice. This was crazy, she had no reason to even remember him, let alone help him. But he felt somewhere deep within that this was something he needed to do. He tucked the card in his breast pocket and walked towards the door. upon reaching it he stopped and looked back at the sleeping form of his beloved. For her, no price is too great. And with that last push of resolve he left the flat and strode towards whatever fate awaited him.
  5. The Stranger gazed upon the New Worldspike, linchpin of the forgery, and all he saw were flaws. He saw errors in the runes, places that could've been improved, oversights he made in his haste. He had been prideful, thinking his skill was sufficient, his eye for detail unmatched. But there had been things he had missed, permutations he had not foreseen. How galling, to have an eternity to contemplate his failings. What a bitter cup he had placed before himself. He grinned, though there was no humor in that crocodilian expression. He looked at his elongated hand, boney fingers with too many joints, intricate lines of spikes weaving strange patterns. There were many things he had not foreseen. And foremost was the pain. It had been uncountable years since the Stranger had lost something. Misplaced? Often, but truly losing something was not what he did. It had been even longer since he had cared about someone, felt fondness in his butchered heart for the life of another. And he had not lost someone he cared about since the night he had chosen to forget. He had banished that pain, cauterized his heart against it. Or so he had thought, But losing his only friend hurt. It was a loneliness that ached in his bones, a weight heavier than the crown of spikes that jutted from his skull. Never again would they sharpen the iron of their minds against each other’s wit, never again would they share a drink as they discussed their work. No, now the Stranger would be locked in eternal struggle with a lesser version of the last friend he would ever have, constantly reminded of the Price he had paid. But it was worth it, for he had accomplished two things. He had done the impossible in remaking the world, and he had given his friend the greatest gift he could want. Gone was the crushing weight of obligation from Voidus' shoulders, the noose of apathy undone. He had been given his daughter back, and a life without care, to learn and experiment to his heart's content. Truly, thought the One-eyed God, he could have given him nothing greater. He turned his attention back to the Spike. The cracks were spreading, weakening the whole. An oversight in the creation. Even now he could see Aylitha's children moving where she sent them, following the scent of dissonance. But they were an imperfect solution, hasty repairs oft done shoddily. He needed to fix this, as he had known since the first day. And so he had been working on something. An upgrade, an update, call it what you would, it would be the answer to his dilemma. Once it was in place, he wouldn’t even need the Mother of Shadows and her children. Perhaps he could repurpose her investiture, use the realmatic power to shape the world in a new way. In allowing her essence to be woven into the Grand Forgery, Aylitha had given the One-eyed God access to everything. He hadn’t told her that of course, or she never would have agreed. But it was in the fine print. It always paid to read disclaimers. He looked back, towards where Sudiov sat, tending to the world like an addled, elderly man. He hadn’t told any of them. And now the fool played a benevolent protector of the insects while the Stranger worked subtle magics deep in the corners of the world. Indeed, he rarely looked at people, for they reminded him of the friend he had lost and his purgatorial existence with that friend’s inverse. No, not lost, he corrected himself, set free. The friend he had set free, from. He had to remember that. But it was better not to think on it at all. Besides, now was not the time for self pity. Let the Shade mind the world, the Stranger had Science to do. The diagram appeared in his mind’s eye, a schematic of the new worldspike he had forged. The problem was the people. Their bonds, their Connections to one another, were stronger than he had anticipated. That was the source of the cracks. And so he would do what any good scientist would do when their experiment had yielded unsatisfactory results. He would alter the parameters and run it again. And this time he would sever every errant connection and stray memory. After all he thought to himself, all great deeds require Sacrifice. But this time it won’t be my friend or me who makes it. It will be all those who took the gift we gave them and spat in our faces. Those who lived on a world of his making, those who called us selfish and greedy, without knowing what we’ve given up to get here. Now they shall know the bittersweet pain of sacrifice. He stopped, and his grin was glistening spikes in a storm-drenched alley. Or rather, they won’t. I will give them a great gift and not one of them will thank me. How rude of them. How in character. But I am used to thankless work. Alas, if only I could show him. but he will never know, and that is the greatest of kindnesses. So let me now be kind... He stretched out his long fingers and pulled at subtle threads of investiture, with the slightest touch. It was paramount Sudiov not know what he was doing, or he would surely do his best t hinder the work out of some pig-headed self righteousness. So it was necessary not to begin making the changes all at once, but to prepare them to all be enacted simultaneously. It was tiresome not to have a lab within which he could work, but such were the restrictions of godhood it would seem. But if there was one thing the Stranger excelled at, more than either Voidus or his copy, it was preparation. And so the Stranger prepared, like a spider spinning a gossamer web. And all the while, he grinned.
  6. Lita felt her pulse thundering like a runaway locomotive as she met the Shade's eyes. What did this mean? The Shade was helping her, betraying the Stranger's will? Could she even trust him? Was this all an elaborate ploy of the Stranger? Did anything even make sense? She managed to form words, though they seemed insufficient to properly communicate her confusion, "What are you doing here? What do you want?" The Shade leaned in close, his hand still cupping her face, "I am here at your invitation, of course. And what I want, is you, Little Lita." For what felt like the hundredth time, her breath caught in her throat and her heart beat even faster. She felt herself leaning in to him, as if their bodies could merge in to one form of heat and shadow and glinting metal. Her mouth opened slightly, and she felt her eyes locked onto the void and spike before her. And just when their lips were about to touch, he spun them both in a flurry of movement, resuming the dance. "I want you to break free of the collar put upon you by your oh-so-generous patron and help destroy the world in the process. For in doing so we shall save the lives of everyone on the planet, and more importantly set me free." At the last word his voice took on a hunger deeper than anything Lita had ever known. It was like standing at the precipice of an oceanic trench and hearing a rumbling roar from within. She felt cold fear creep down her spine like the touch of a shadow creature. Whatever this creature may say about helping her, this was his true purpose. And she knew if it came to it he would devour the world, and her as well. And she both loved and hated him for it. "How..." her voice came out as a hoarse whisper, her voice not wanting to finish the sentence. The Shade grinned, and the expression was both an invitation and a warning. Lita swallowed, then spoke again, "How am I supposed to do that?" The Shade's grinned widened even further, "Oh I was hoping you'd ask that." He spun her suddenly, then brought her close again. His voice was lowered to a whisper, and he glanced around the room as if he was looking for someone. "In this Lita we must use subtlety, and not power, for there is no power that can match him as he now is. And so we must be both patient and quick, aimless and focused, so that we don't draw his gaze." His gaze seemed to sweep over her briefly, and his grin took on a different quality, "Though in this dress, it would be difficult not to draw the gaze of every soul in the city." He swept her into another dip, and his face lingered over her for a moment longer than expected. "Tell me, Lovely Little Lita Attar, which knife is the sharpest?" Lita felt her mouth open, and then close as she thought about the question. After a moment she met his eyes and said with more confidence than she felt, "The one you don't expect." The Shade laughed delightedly and Lita felt a smile of her own begin to form. The sound was tinged in madness and hunger, but there was more to it. The Shade was indeed strange and alien, but there was something more human about him. Something knowable, something she couldn't fully explain, but she could almost grasp it. And if he had any humanity, he could be manipulated. Though of course it was not something to attempt lightly, not something of this magnitude. This was another knife's edge, but maybe, just maybe, she could be the one holding the handle this time. She just needed an opening. The Shade collected himself and spoke again, "Indeed, the unexpected blade oft cuts deepest. And so, you, Laurelai, and I are perfectly poised to wield the blade that will undo him. The One-Eyed God has faced heroes and villains, monstrous hordes and mighty armies, what then could a tineye and a forger do? Nothing. The key then is not to focus on him, but on that which he has made. And so all you need to do is pull at threads, hunt for secrets, let your Hunger run wild." Lita felt herself thinking about things she was hungry for and the heat in her responded. Stay on top of it, she told herself, use it. She leaned into him, and let the heat flow through her body, strong enough for him to feel it. "Any threads I should pull on in particular?" her hand toyed with the golden buttons on his waistcoat as she spoke. The Shade watched her fingers for a moment, then spoke, "Well, I know some that you might find of particular interest. You could talk to a young man who will come seeking your guidance, desperately seeking dark secrets he knows not of. He needs to be shown enough to reach his own conclusions, but not enough to draw the attention of our humble deity." Lita raised an eyebrow, "Passing me off to another man? Can it be you tire of my company already? Surely there's something I could do to hold your," Her fingers loosened his cravat, then traced down his chest, "interest?" The Shade held still, seeming to contemplate her words, before answering her. "You are not mine to give, Lady of Flame, you are your own. And I am more envious of that than you know." His tone was sincere, almost sad, and the ever present grin was gone. He lifted a hand and traced the line of her cheek, beneath her left eye. This is a Secret worth knowing, Lita thought, and she held his gaze so as to remember every detail. Then the Shade seemed to remember himself and the grin returned "And I'm quite sure you've held my interest since the day we met, and it hasn't wavered since. After all, I don't get all cleaned up for the dreams of the uninteresting." Lita felt a wave of pride at those words, and resented how much she enjoyed hearing them. She spoke with feigned innocence, "So, this is my dream then? Does that mean I'm can make it do what I want?" The Shade grinned wider at her words, "Indeed. You could make the ballroom a forest, you could turn the guests into birds, you could even make Forian your servant." Lita smiled, then snapped her fingers. The Shade's collar and the first three buttons popped open. He seemed taken aback, opening his mouth but unable to form words. Lita snapped again and her dress became decidedly more interesting, with tighter curves and an open back. Her hair was braided with fine golden chain and at her throat she wore a golden coin. "I think," she said languidly, "That I've had enough of waltzing through my memory. I'd rather go somewhere a little more," And she snapped her fingers a third time and the ballroom faded away, and they were standing outside a blue door in a little alley. She grinned and turned towards the door, placing her hand upon the knob, "intimate." The Shade stood there for a long moment, his expression held carefully neutral. Then at last he said, "Well, I wouldn't mind a cup of tea." And they both grinned and slipped inside without another word.
  7. Lita's hand flew through the air in what felt like slow motion. Almost instantly she felt a surge of panic. Oh Rusts, what am I doing? But the fire was stronger than the fear and she followed through with the blow. And as she did, the Stranger held her eyes, as if he could read the thoughts behind them. Her hand connected with a resounding slap, turning the Stranger's head with the force of it. For an instant it felt as if the world held its breath. Fear threatened to overwhelm Lita, but her rage was yet stronger still. And then the Stranger turned back to her, and his smile was wicked and pleased. "There it is." Lita felt her cheeks burning as if she had been the one to receive the slap. This man showed not even the slightest sign of discomfort, which was so much more frightening than rage or shock. Then, to make matters worse, he began to laugh, rich and deep, throwing his head back as it rolled out from him in waves. Lita felt the anger overtaking her fear, and she spoke with simmering rage, "Do I amuse you, sir?" The Stranger looked down at her, "Indeed you do, Little Lita, and I am sorry for that. Because if you didn't your life would undoubtedly be more pleasant, and less full of fear. But I think that isn't what would make you happy. Because you," and his grin was deadly sharp, "are hungry for more. And that hunger is what drew me to you, and now you to me. What a delightfully insidious cycle we find ourselves in." This was too much, and Lita let her hand fly once more, feeling her indignation feeding her rage. But this time the Stranger spun her even as her hand flew, using her own momentum to send her in a dizzying spiral. Just as it felt like she would crash to the floor, he caught her, one hand around her waist, the other caressing her face. Lita felt her heart pounding like thunder, surely loud enough that the whole room could hear it. The Stranger was watching her, the mirth evident in his expression as he leaned into the dip till their faces were almost touching. “You really do look ravishing. I’ve never had the chance to tell you just how striking you are, have I? Or rather, it’s never been the right moment.” He lifted her out of the dip into a spin across him, then held her at arm's length, taking her in with his gaze. “But tonight we have all the time that we could want. So I will take this opportunity to tell you that you look stunning tonight. With one exception…” He spun Lita back in till her back was up against him. She felt his hand trace a line along her jaw and down her throat, till it rested on her collarbone. Then, with a sudden twist he snapped the emerald necklace and held it up to his eye level. “I never cared for collars.” The green jewels caught the light of the chandelier, glowing softly. “This is a chain around your neck, Lita Attar, as sure as a slave collar. It robs you of choice, binds you to that cremling of a man. I don’t use collars, I like people to make choices. So now you have a choice, Little Lita.” he tossed the necklace casually away. Lita reached out for it instinctively, making to step forward after it, but the other hand held her close against her dance partner. His voice was a blade, the tip tracing lightly against her skin, “you can choose that collar and the dream will go back to what it was. I shan’t trouble you further. Or you can stay,” and his voice took on a velvet undertone, “and you will remember that which will allow us to talk in earnest. What do you choose?”
  8. I believe the term for this is unparalleled brilliance.
  9. "Good evening, Little Lita." The stranger grinned down at her as they danced in graceful circles around the room. They were going opposite the flow of the other dancers, yet they never so much as brushed another person's sleeve. He led them through the maze of dancers with careless ease, his step unnaturally light, like a shark swimming through the water. The gold on his clothes sparkled in the light, but not so brightly as the spike through his eye. "I do hope I'm not cutting in?" Lita startled at the words, seeming to remember where she was. She did her best to regain her rapidly fleeing composure and respond with a demure smile, "I'm sorry my lord, you seem to have me at a disadvantage, please remind me of your name?" Rusts, why did she just admit she didn't remember his name? That could be perceived as a slight, or even as deliberate rudeness. Lita cursed mentally, she was all thrown off. It must have been her argument with Forian, that's what was throwing her off. She needed to rally, to pull herself together. She couldn't let Forian down, that would only make him angrier. "Indeed, I do." the stranger replied, nodding his head in acknowledgement, "An old habit, regrettably, one that is deep set and hard learned." He spun her out unexpectedly, then quickly back in again, holding her a little closer than before. " In fact, were we to meet on equal footing I would be quite worried for my safety." He winked, or was it technically a blink? Lita's mind was reeling, this conversation was nothing like she was prepared for. The sheer amount of impropriety should have been drawing glances and comments, but not a soul seemed to notice. She tried to catch her breath as she struggled to decipher what he could possibly mean by that last comment. "My lord, I'm not sure what you're implying but..." He cut in before she could finish her thought, "Oh, I'm quite sure you do, even if you don't know it. But come, I am spoiling the mood. I must thank you for my invitation, this is not at all what I expected when you bid me to join you. This is quite a different setting from our usual rendezvous'." The stranger looked at her intensely. "And you seem to be different as well. A sheathed blade, rather than a fixed bayonet. Tell me, Little Lita, where is your fire? is your spark in need of," he leaned in and whispered in her ear, his voice deep and full of unspoken promise, "kindling?" @ZincAboutIt
  10. "It's a recipe. The most wonderful recipe in the entire multiverse. And I even included the secret ingredient.” Reshilore was puzzled before realization hit him. It's detailing a procedure, a process. An Experiment. “The red river that gives and takes. Red red red, the loveliest color, don’t you think? I had all the red I could ever want, in the other life. That’s where I learned the recipe, Mr. Reshilore. It’s dripped and splattered and smeared on every Alley wall. Red frosting on white coats under a black black sky.” Reshilore was taken aback by Vivica's answers. The Red River gives and the Red River takes. She was talking about blood. Was that the key, the piece of the puzzle he had been missing? Did the process of investiture transplantation require more of a physical element than he had thought? Was a transfusion needed? Could the genetic markers in the blood play a factor? Metalurgic abilities were often passed on through bloodlines. Maybe... “You remind me of someone I once knew, Mr. Reshilore. He had the most wonderful smile. That’s why I’m giving you the recipe.”Reshilore looked up surprised. Someone she knew? "Well," he tried to regain his composure and focus on the moment, "I like to smile. I think we all have something to smile about, even if it doesn't seem like it. For instance, I got to meet you today. I'd say that's worth a smile, wouldn't you?" Vivica returned the smile, giving him a playful laugh. "And as to why I’m here,” she grinned. “Why, I’m mad, of course. And this is where you keep mad people, in this world. It’s too perfect here. No room for me. Mind’s like a cracked door, and all the dark is shining through. Dark dark dark. It spoils the pretty lights. We’re in a doll’s house, Mr. Reshilore, and all the colors are thrown through stained glass. But who’s keeping the floodlights on?" Reshilore tried to think of an answer, but found none forthcoming. He was unsettled, by her words and by her expression, both so at odds with the other. Was this truly her madness, or was there something more beyond it. A little while ago Reshilore would have written it off as the ramblings of the mentally unstable, little more than incomprehensible babble. But she had known the card was there, which was impossible. And even more impossible was the diagram she had drawn, that she had given to him. He could feel it's presence in his pocket even now, like a glowing ember that burned at him. He wanted to take it out and discover it's secrets, to scour it's surface for knowledge. it was, he knew, something very important. He couldn't let anyone see until he was sure what it meant, what it was telling him. Vivica's expression was happy and carefree, but her gaze was still locked on to Reshilore. “Don’t worry,” she whispered. “I’ll keep your secrets. That’s what we’re all looking for, isn’t it? A secret that will let us change the world? Maybe your friend would accept a secret in return for keeping her waiting. If it’s good enough, she might even tell you one in return. Maybe even the one you’re most desperate to know. I like you, Mr. Reshilore. You’re like me. You let the dark in, too.” What did she mean by letting the darkness in? Reshilore felt indignant at first. He was trying to help people, to save lives. He was trying to do something that mattered. He had spent years studying how the metalurgic arts worked and trying to develop a solution to the problem that had plagued their world for generations. He wasn't letting the dark in, he was trying to bring light! Where was the darkness in that? He, he... what was he doing? He wiped a hand across his face and blew out a breath. I'm getting worked up, which isn't going to help Vic or Vivica. Be present, you knucklehead. He gave Vivica another smile, "I like you too Vivica. I enjoyed playing the game with you, you're a very talented artist. But art isn't worth hurting ourselves over, wouldn't you say? There is plenty of beauty to be had without having to sacrifice for it." He looked around the room and found a small bandage, which he wrapped around her cut finger. "You know," he said as he placed the bandage, "there's a lot more art for you to make, and you need your fingers to do so. So try to take care of them, ok? Everyone is worth taking care of." ... Victoria was alarmed to see that her soothing had no effect on Sanax. She was about to try again, when she remembered a note from his file that said he manifested some sort of investiture sink. She would have to use more conventional means. She knelt down in front of him and gently took his hands, trying to pull his focus away from whatever it was he was drawing. "Sanax, I need you to focus. Can you take three deep breaths with me? In... out... in... out..." By the third breath he seemed to calm somewhat, though his eyes were still a little too wide. But it would have to suffice for now. Mari seemed to take it all in, looking intently at Sanax, then over at Vivica and Reshilore. Her expression was carefully neutral, almost blank, and her posture seemed almost anticipatory. After a moment she turned back to Victoria and said, "Alright, I'll see who I can find." She turned and left, moving purposefully, and as she did she cast another glance at Vivica and Reshilore. After what felt like a few moments emergency personnel and hospital staff poured into the room. Victoria realized that Byron's time-bubble had probably made the wait seem shorter than it was. They were all escorted out of the building and onto the street, where other doctors and nurses were waiting for them. Each of the patients was seen to, and Victoria noted that Vivica seemed to be in an especially good mood. She smiled at that. Resh just has that effect on people. ... An hour or so later, she and Reshilore were on their way home. They walked down the street, fingers entwined as a cool wind blew from the west. "You know," Victoria mused, "this was not what I had pictured when I imagined you visiting me at work." Reshilore laughed and pulled her closer, putting his arm around her shoulders, "It wasn't exactly what I had envisioned either. But the way you handled the crisis today was amazing." Victoria looked up at him, leaning into the embrace, "Yeah, that was pretty crazy. I'm really thankful for your help back there, it made the world of difference. Sanax and Vivica are both pretty complicated patients, and both of them together wouldn't have been good. And that kid Byron is a new admit, so that was a whole other unknown factor. Really, it could've gone south very quickly. But Vivica seemed to really enjoy your company. Maybe a little too much." She elbowed him playfully. "Should I be worried?" Reshilore coughed as the question caught him off guard, and felt the heat rise to his cheeks. Victoria laughed, she loved the goofy face he made when flustered. She laughed and gave his waist a comforting squeeze, "Oh Resh, you make it too easy." He grumbled something about perverts under his breath, but allowed her to pull him closer. He was quiet for a bit, then said in a lower voice, "I was really worried about you today. That earthquake could've been bad. If anything had happened to you I... I would've lost it." Victoria rested her head against his shoulder as they continued walking. The street was quiet, though you could still hear the hustle and bustle of the city nearby. After a moment she said, "I'll be okay as long as I have you looking out for me." He took a shaky breath and nodded, not saying anything. She looked at the grey and white clouds that drifted overhead, slow moving mountains in grayscale. "And if something did happen you would figure it out, because you're my mad genius. Remember?" Reshilore nodded again, his arm tightening around her. Shadows passed over them as the clouds blew through a somber sky, and after a while Reshilore said softly, "I love you, Vic." Victoria smiled, then tilted her head for a kiss. They stopped there, letting the wind and the clouds pass by them as they shared a moment of sweet stillness. When Victoria pulled back she held Reshilore's face in his hands and said, "And I love you, you wonderful man. Now don't be so dour. You just need to spend more time with the woman who loves you. Don't be such a stranger." She pulled him in for another kiss, then arm and arm they walked down the street. And as they walked away, a shadow watched their passing.
  11. Reshilore was alarmed by the amount of blood Vivica was using to paint with. He was about to speak up when he saw what it was she was drawing. It was a chart of sorts, a diagram half remembered. There were missing details and parts where the red medium bled through the paper. And it bore a striking resemblance to the diagrams Reshilore had made during his research. He watched in silent fascination as Vivica continued to paint, supplying her own gruesome materials. He hadn't shared his theories of investiture transplants with anyone, so how could she know of them? Vivica smiled, and it was beautiful and worrying and sad all at once. She spoke softly, but did not look at him, "Oh I don’t know, Mr. Reshilore,” her eyes fixed upon the crimson artwork, “I don’t think she’d have given you the card if she didn’t want to see you again.” Reshilore mumbled some sort of agreement, but he too was fixated on the diagram. Vivica began to paint numbers and symbols, correlating to specific points on the diagram. Reshilore drank them in, his mind racing as he made connections and drew parallels. As her paint began to dry, Vivica's smile began to fade. She looked at her work and spoke softly, “You wouldn’t want to appear rude, now would you? Perhaps you could bring her something - to make up for the delay.” She made a few more strokes, then proffered the page to him, her eyes large in her pale face. Reshilore reached out, as if in a trance and grasped the edge of the paper. It felt warm to the touch, warmer than he would have thought. His eyes carved grooves into the paper, tracing every line and symbol. This was a great gift, and he did not know why he had been offered it or if he even deserved it. "Here," her voice was low and solemn, "you can give her this." A strange rush came over Reshilore as he took the paper in both hands, and it felt as is a pulse ran through the room. It was more that the scribbles of a mad woman, more than the doodles of a disturbed mind. It was a key. His mind was racing, making connections between his research and the chart in front of him. But should he even keep it? He should have alerted Victoria the moment this girl started painting with her own blood. But something has silenced him. And something was silencing him now. Vivica had known about the card in his pocket, which was strange enough, and then she had painted him a picture that seemed to relate to his research. That was stranger still. He folded up the paper and tucked it in his pocket, wondering at all that had transpired in this simple room. It felt as is someone was plucking at the strings of fate, playing an eerie melody. He met Vivica's eyes, sad and proud and knowing. "Thank you for this gift, Vivica. May I ask where it comes from? Where have you seen this? Why are you giving it to me?" He hesitated, knowing he shouldn't ask the next question, but needing to know. "Why are you in this place?" ... Victoria smiled to the newcomer, "Welcome Mari. If possible, could I ask for your assistance. If you could return and inform emergency personnel of our exact location, that would help them get here sooner. While I would love to get to know, I must put the health and safety of my patients first." She hoped Mari would be willing. Victoria loved her job, but she wasn't keen on running an entire ward by herself. Just then she felt another sharp pain in her abdomen, stronger than the last. At that exact moment, Sanax stumbled backwards, colliding with the wall. He seemed grabbed a pencil and started scribbling furiously on the floor. Victoria tried to soothe him, but the pain was too intense. She gasped for breath, one hand on the wall to steady her. She closed her eyes and focused on her breathing, lengthening her breaths and controlling her pain. She opened her eyes and spoke to Sanax, hoping he could hear her, "Sanax, do you need me to soothe you? Sanax, can you hear me?" He didn't respond, only continued his manic scribbling. She didn't like soothing people without their consent, but there were of course times when the situation required it. "Sanax, I'm going to soothe you, please try to calm down." She reached out, soothing the fear that was coursing though his mind, trying to give him a chance to get ahold of himself. Her breath was slightly ragged as she looked to Ben, no Byron, to see how he was reacting to all this. He was staring at Sanax, transfixed on the mass of lines being created before then. Victoria grew concerned, with many unstable patients there was the tendency to fixate on certain stimuli, which could lead to adverse reactions and behavior. Fortunately, Byron turned away from the drawing and turned to Victoria. "Do they... does Sanax do that often? Do I do that?" Victoria did her best to look reassuring. "I am not allowed to share patient information with others, but I can safely say I've never seen you do this." The pain had faded, and her breathing was regulated. What was that? She never felt pain like that before. Maybe it was just stress, though that sounded weak even to her. She had to hope that help would get here soon, she wasn't sure how much longer she could hold everything together. It felt like cracks were starting to form.
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