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[Open] The Forsaken World

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Same energy as your local hairdresser Dynasty

 

     It didn't take long at all before wavering silhouettes appeared at the front of his shop. He looked up from his bead crafting for a second, listening with a thousand ears as he grasped the tail end of a sentence. ".....clothing outlet eventually? I'd like to be able to give Lucy back her clothes, but Vaz had made a good point about dresses and their lack of pockets....". Hm. He pushed the information to the back of his mind. Perhaps this patron wouldn't be a bad subject to test one of his newer hobbies on?

 

     Some female with striking eyes poked her head in first. He quickly focused back on his bead stringing to try and make it look like he wasn't eavesdropping. After she had finally entered he looked up as she gestured to the table in the center overflowing with assorted objects. He politely nodded to her then returned to the bead string in hand. Another followed in after. Silently he waited, letting them browse for now. He buzzed with excitement and trepidation watching their faces look at all his pieces. It was always so satisfying to watch their reactions. Some of surprise, wonder, disgust. Nice for someone other than himself to enjoy such works of art.

 

     Her question startled him out of his musings. Arising from his counter he proudly replied "Of course. These are all made by my hand alone, in this shop in fact. Haha. Sometimes i think i have too much time on my hands." He gestured to the entire store in sarcastic wonderment.

 

     Putting the bead string in the pocket of his tunic he drifted his way over to the cabinet she was inspecting. "It's personal branding. Where the painter has a signature, the woodworker a symbol, i have a motif." He explained. He followed her gaze to the cabinet. The specific necklace she seemed to be admiring was one of his favorites. Her contact with it sent a rush though all his senses. The wasps lay dormant, yet still so receptive.

 

     "Oh honey it would look fabulous!" He exclaimed with a circular wave of his hand. He sensed some discomfort from her however, her gaze holding on the necklace for some time. "But if a necklace isn't your style, you could try a brooch." He offered, gesturing to the neighboring cabinet which held large brooches and one or two attempts at hairpins.

Edited by DustyStar

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Jorath
When Vaz had winced in pain from their back, Jorath's lazy gaze faded just enough for concern to peek through while the guard picked him up. He was still focused on their well-being, even if that focus was more at the back of his awareness while navigating a situation involving demons he was unfamiliar with. Zoe was still talking, her sharp clap drawing his attention in time to absorb her choice of phrasing. "We made up but didn't kiss," Jorath mumbled, staring at her with a wrinkled expression, not sure if that should have been the first thing he responded with.

He glanced at the scribe, however, as Zoe made her claim about Vaz's former state of mind. He chose to ignore the smirk and glint to her eyes that suggested she didn't believe Jorath's correction. He didn't have much time to linger on her, however, as Gigi began circling them. Twisting, Jorath attempted to keep them in his line of sight. The individual's remarks suggested some sort of acquaintanceship with Vaz.

But the Scribe's distressed response was what Jorath heeded more.

As their wings bristled, he stepped closer, intending to edge more in front and block Gigi's access. However, their nudge at his elbow ceased his movement until Vaz could clutch his arm. Jorath rested his hand upon theirs and squeezed gently to reassure them. Feeling the pressure of them against his side, he made to follow their desire to leave.

Persistence was obviously an obnoxiously contagious thing, though, as both Zoe and Gigi carried on, hovering much closer than Jorath preferred. And definitely threatening to linger past the point of his tolerance for the pair. He nearly bared his teeth with the lift of his lip, just managing to coax the snarl into a glare. "You already know my name. What more do you want?"

Though it was obviously a rhetorical question, Zoe seemed to treat it as anything but. She started to hum a single note, drumming her fingers against her cheek. "Why don't you tell me about how you fledged into the Pride domain? I mean, you're a right curiosity with how against the grain you are!"

With her and Gigi both picking at his apparent 'lack' of style--a topic of insult that he was familiar with--Jorath rolled his eyes to conceal the touch of aggravation prickling at his hackles from, in particular, Zoe's question. "No. I'm not telling you how I fledged," he stated. He glanced at Gigi on his opposite side then. "And there's the answer to your question. Plus, my shoes aren't 'tacky'; they're practical. Who wants to be running in stiff, pinchy, dress shoes?" Gigi chortled but otherwise didn't say anything as Jorath spoke.

He fell silent at the questions about deities. Stiffly, Jorath looked away to focus on where they were walking. "I'm a demon. Why do you need me to answer such an obvious question?" he eventually said.

"Because, you're in a place where that which is In Between can have existence."

That drew his focus back to Gigi. As he caught their strange gaze, he noticed their private, perhaps even secretive, smile. It caused an unsettled twinge to carry down his back and he looked away quickly. Zoe was leading them towards a shop, the words scrawled across the top in a manner that Jorath recognized as elegant but also maybe acted as a declaration of pride or something else. (He had Vaz to thank for teaching him bits and pieces of how to identify traits and characteristics found within writing styles.) From the displays in the windows of the store front, Jorath suspected Zoe of picking it first because of his 'tacky' appearance.

"Welcome to Paradise Found, my lovey-doves!" Zoe announced, twirling with a dramatic flair befitting what she perceived as an ideal tour guide. "Managed by the lovely Arachne. She makes all of the items in her own store." Her gaze shifted down and up across both Vaz and Jorath, seemingly examining their appearances. "And you won't have to worry about the clothing being ruined by... unpleasant, surprises. Hm?" Beaming again, she snatched for Jorath's wrist to drag him and Vaz inside. When he yanked his arm away from her, she startled but quickly recovered to simply motion for them to follow.

Within the store, Jorath scanned the variety of shelves, dressed mannequins (some displaying different plastic wings for the infernally or celestially aligned, tails, and even extra arms), and hanging displays. Formalwear from front to rear of the shop. Although, when he finally spotted it, there was a designated space for accessories. The thought of potentially being able to find Vaz a new scarf eased some of his mood about stepping into the store.

A greeting welcomed the group and he looked over, spotting the demon currently arranging a display. She hadn't turned around. Instead, upon the shaved half of her head, a black eye blinked at her visitors from the back of her skull. Perhaps the matching eye was tucked under the brown curls cascading down the other half of her head. While the expected two arms fiddled with the display, a second pair extending from the middle point of her ribcage gestured as she spoke. "Welcome. Always good to see new faces here. Have a look around, though don't hesitate to ask any questions you might have. Zoe," Arachne said, no mouth visible to betray whatever expressions she might have on her face. "I hope you remembered to bring back the dress you loaned. Have you?"

As Jorath stepped away, his arm gradually coming free of Vaz's hold as they drifted to begin their browsing, Zoe's response faded into the background. Something told him Zoe had forgotten to make her return. Gigi followed him and he frowned at the individual, making a beeline for the bench he'd spotted. "What?"

"Oh, nothing. Formal isn't usually my style." They sat next to him and continued grinning. "Think I'll decide on a nickname for you by the time we leave this shop."

Deciding to ignore them, Jorath went back to studying the store's inventory from his newfound seat. Eventually, Fi floated to him and tucked herself behind his ear. Maybe Gigi would grow bored and leave? Jorath wasn't certain. But watching the individual from the corner of his gaze, he started to hone in on their aura.

"I know you're staring," they said. "If you're interested, you only need to ask." They winked at him, causing Jorath to stiffen. Gigi lost the smirk. "Oh, relax. I don't bite, promise. What happened to that spot of disobedient fun you had earlier?"

"You and Zoe butted in."

They snorted. "Alright, fair. I'll give you that. Not fond of strangers much, are you?"

"No." Jorath gave them a brief glance before getting up to walk about the store. Though he figured he could take Taathiir at their word about safety while here, Jorath still hovered near Vaz's vicinity at a distance that wouldn't feel like overprotective bearing. Gigi hadn't followed him this time. Perhaps they took the hint.

Letting that fact ease his shoulders, Jorath drifted towards the accessories, happily discovering the display of scarves. Colors and patterns greeted him. So much so that he didn't know what Vaz might like most. Fi didn't appear to know immediately, either. He'd have to bring Vaz over, then, and let them decide.

Returning to the shop's primary focus of formalwear, his fingers eventually reached out to lightly feel one of the many suit jackets hanging from a ring-shaped stand. It was an ordinary black coat from what he could discern. Nothing seemed fantastical about its creation that would withstand damage. But he was far from any level of expert on clothing and the fabrics that made them.

An idea crept into the back of his mind, one that caused a shy but eager twitch to his lip. Jorath flickered his gaze to where he saw Vaz last, confirming that their back was to him. "Hey, Fi?" he started, voice quiet as he reached up to coax her out from behind his ear. "Make sure Vaz stays distracted. I, uh... I want to try something on. Okay?" She seemed to pause in the air before an enthusiastic dip confirmed her understanding. She zipped back towards Vaz as Jorath roamed in search of something that fit what he had in mind.

Shortly, he found clothing that ranged a variety of colors instead of just black or gray. His hands settled upon some sort of dark blue, sleeveless waistcoat, with a black vest poking out from beneath. Blues and black were always a safe combination, weren't they? Locating a sky-blue, button-up dress shirt and a matching set of dark blue slacks, Jorath was almost hard pressed to find a set of black shoes that would work with both his preference of comfort and avoid being 'tacky'. However, he drew a firm line at ties and actual coats; they were too restrictive, hindering motion and instilling a sense of anxiousness within him.

Stepping into a fitting room, Jorath hesitated when he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror. He looked ragged after the events of the night. No wonder some people had been staring. Running fingers through his hair to try and stop them shaking, the idle thought of needing a trim slipped its way through. At first, he almost didn't notice but, when he did, Jorath's breath caught in his throat and he staggered from the mirror.

His hair shortened ever slightly.

Leaning a hand against the wall, Jorath looked at his reflection closer, eyes wide and breathing quick. Not only had it shortened, transitioning from unruly into something more groomed, the red streaks had vanished among the black strands. His fingers combed through his hair quickly, trying to locate the red. A moment into his dazed shock, the red appeared and his hair returned to its usual state. Pressing the heel of his palm into his eyes, he inhaled deeply and sighed. He was seeing things. Of course. There wasn't any way he could shift his appearance like some other demons could. If that were something he could do, he would have shed Jay's appearance a long time ago.

Stuffing the shock down once he passed it off as weariness, Jorath carefully went about changing his clothes. It felt strange to put on the pristine outfit. The fabric was soft and unwrinkled, even despite his uncertain expectation for something less comfortable. As he folded up the shirt borrowed from Vaz, pulling his coin pouch from the endless pocket and flipping his hand to slide it into his own little physics-defying dimension, Jorath searched for a way to attach Illstrund. He stared at his reflection again, briefly worrying if he was going to imagine his hair changing again. When it didn't, he coaxed Illstrund to wrap about his upper arm beneath the sleeve of the sky-blue dress shirt. It was almost completely invisible.

Ensuring that the top button of the shirt was unfastened, Jorath stepped out of the fitting room to locate Vaz.

---
Argia
"It's an interesting choice of branding," she replied, a curiosity rising. Maybe there was a story behind the decision. "What made you drift towards it?" At the man's reassurance that the necklace would go well, she made another hesitant pause. Which only allowed the jeweler space to interject with other suggestions. "Oh, it's quite alright. I've just never worn jewelry before. Makes me a bit uncertain about how things will look. So, I guess, you could say I don't really know what is or isn't my style." She used the phrasing he had, letting a smile play at her features.

As if to prove a point--though she wasn't sure if it was directed at him or herself--Argia put the necklace on and glanced at a nearby mirror to examine how it looked. She brought a light finger up to touch the wasp for a bare moment. "It is beautiful," she agreed. Taking it off, she opted to set it back where it originally rested for now, though she might return for it if she decided to buy it after all.

Interested by the brooches and the hairpins, Argia glanced again at the man as she drifted through the shop. "Are you part of Auris Domniir?" Might as well inquire a little about the faction. She had, in all honesty, nearly forgotten about the decree of the posters that Auris Domniir had plastered about the city and their 48 hour window. As well as the fact that the mortals under her care were staunchly against joining. Briefly, she glanced towards Xaal to check what she was doing and to ensure she wasn't missing any sign language. Inspecting one of the hairpins and setting it down once she realized how it was to be worn, she continued the trail of conversation she was hoping to maintain. "By the way, what's your name? I am Argia."

 

Next, she held up a small brooch, this one consisting of a flower with the wasp, designed by much of the same dark silver metal. This one had stones consisting more of pink and red shades. "What brought you here, to start a shop and all?" It was kind of a nebulous question, she realized, but it came to her nonetheless. That same curiosity, that had risen when the man mentioned the wasps were his branding motif, lingered in her thoughts and urged her to find his story. He wasn't mortal, that much she knew by the buzz-like feeling of his lifeline, so she couldn't interact with his soul in the same manner as she could with mortals. 

 

Though, it did make her pause when she realized the same bloom of curiosity hadn't conjured itself upon meeting Vaz, Jorath, or Xaal. No, that was a lie; sort of. She did have her curiosities and interest in knowing their stories, but it had taken time to come to her notice. By then, Argia had already made the decision not to pry; it wasn't all that difficult to see how each wanted to keep something or other in the past. She pushed the thought away. All she was doing was conflating two unrelated matters. If she wanted to find out what she could about Auris Domniir, she needed to ask questions. And a demon working within the faction's territory was a good place to start looking for answers.

Edited by ValidEmotions
Spelling/grammar tweaks and added more for Argia :U

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Posted (edited)

Vaz & Lucy

 

Vaz could sense Jorath’s rising aggravation for the pair as they walked, and so started to trace small circles with their thumb into the fabric of his sleeve in the hopes of soothing him. They knew Zoe, at least, was relatively harmless despite their current annoyance for her. And while they couldn’t be certain about Gigi they at least weren’t picking up on any signs of potential conflict from the being. Vaz decided to just go with the flow and allow the two to tag along with them, their disinterest apparent in the way that they semi-detached themselves from the conversation between them and Jorath. Amber eyes shifted to the sign for Paradise Found upon approach, a slight twitch of a smile finding its way onto their face for the name choice. They wondered if the store owner was an avid reader as well, or if the name was merely just an unbound declaration of reassurance for them. The fact that they appeared to be a fire-born when introduced suggested to Vaz that it was the former. They greeted her with a polite ‘Draal’ but refrained from asking about the store name, on the grounds that Zoe was now attempting to charm her way through an explanation as to where her borrowed dress was and it distracted her from the rest of the party.

 

Vaz was quick to slink out of her sight-range, briefly glancing back at Jorath to confirm that he had decided to wait on a bench for them before continuing. The scribe, not wanting to bore him, planned on making the browse a short one and at this stage was more concerned with avoiding Zoe or Gigi’s attention. Their hands traced along a series of dress-shirts in contemplation, occasionally lifting them out for closer inspection, before Vaz moved on to the coats. At one point they ventured back towards the bench to vouch for Jorath’s opinion on whether they could pull off the colour red, only to discover he had wandered elsewhere in the store. Gigi waved and winked at Vaz as they caught their eye, but mercifully chose to remain seated at the bench for now.

 

The scribe began to relax a little, the joy of deciding on their next potential outfit in peace starting to ease away some of their earlier stress.  Vaz naturally began to drift towards the section of suits that had caught their eye, only for Fi’Faltuun to suddenly zip into view and motion in an excited manner for them to follow her back around the corner instead. Vaz obliged without protest, ambling along after her until she came to a section on evening-wear dresses.

 

‘I believe I have found a suitable style of garment. We should strive to make a professional impression, if we are to linger in this place.’

 

Vaz whole-heartedly agreed with their quill, soon finding a few options in a deep, navy blue and pulling out an elegant gown from the rack. Even in stores that accommodated for winged beings dresses could sometimes be a tricky thing for Vaz to find, as they often left a gap that went too far down Vaz’s back for their liking. This particular style of gown however had some cleverly placed buttons that pulled the fabric together around the wings and helped to minimise the amount of skin exposed. There was even, to Vaz’s delight, a variant that catered to a secondary pair of wings. 

 

Grabbing a pair of heels in the same colour along the way, the scribe headed for the changing rooms nearby.  Neatly they folded Argia’s shawl and placed it on the bench within the stall before hanging up their coat beside it. Though their shoulder protested from the movements, the pain was bearable enough that Vaz was able to wriggle out of the rest of their current choice of apparel and slip into the dress and shoes they had found. They posed, thoughtful, at the mirror before them and a satisfied smile soon started to creep into their expression. The scribe immediately admired Arachne on both her eye for fashion and her practicality. The dress even had pockets, with a sigil sewn into each that was charged and ready to be linked with its owner’s realm.

 

’Jorath is searching for you.’

 

Vaz glanced away from the mirror and thanked Fi for notifying them, pulling back the curtain to go track him down. Or, more specifically, stand somewhere outside of the changing rooms for a few seconds until Jorath honed in on their aura. Just before he arrived in their line of vision Vaz finally picked up on his shifting, silver letterforms and called out to him from behind the row he was hidden behind.

 

“Ah, L’antiira, darling, what do think of this for our next Contract- oh!”

 

Vaz’s eyes bulged as he rounded the corner, first in confusion as to who the strange man masquerading as Jorath’s aura was and then a second, slightly-delayed reaction of shock as they realised they hadn’t been mistaken. Vaz stepped towards him, a teasing remark for the unusual choice of clothing floating about somewhere in their head but not quite finding its way to their tongue. Instead they cleared their throat and shook their head to reset their thoughts, quirking an eyebrow over at him.

 

“It’s certainly a different look for you my dear. I’m not used to seeing you look so...suave.”

 

Vaz’s hands hovered between them, seemingly wanting to rest somewhere about his person but dumbfounded as to where. Briefly they placed the back of their hand against his forehead, as if testing his temperature to make sure that he hadn’t contracted something that was making him feverish and delirious. Their eyes then flickered towards his unbuttoned collar, a fond grin and that, annoyingly persistent, sensation of warmth creeping into the back of their neck and cheeks once more at the sight of it. Vaz rubbed at their cheek in an attempt to quell it and then reached for the collar with a small tutting sound. Their immediate instinct was to fetch him a nice cravat or bow-tie, but they soon realised with a pang of sympathy why Jorath had opted not to add one. Vaz nudged the pair of them back towards a space where the counter was visible and called out to the store owner.

 

“Let’s see...what can do with this...Arachne, dear, would you have anything for adjusting an open collar?”

 

Arachne, back still turned, motioned to a small selection of pins and fashion tape that had been left on the counter for visitor use. Vaz briefly swished away from Jorath and thanked the store owner for the supplies, taking a few strips of fashion tape back to their companion. With two of the strips temporarily pinched between their lips they removed the wrapping on a third and ripped off a small square from its end. They then placed the double-sided piece of tape onto a section of his collar and folded over the top of it, properly positioning it and flattening it out to make sure it avoided any wrinkles. Vaz continued to smooth out the fabric and apply little squares of tape until the collar was pinned neatly in place in an open manner by their handiwork. Vaz then took a step back and beamed at the sight in response, before grasping hold of his hands and pulling him back a few steps to pose in front of a nearby mirror.

 

“How is that? Is it comfortable?”

 

Questioned Vaz, providing Jorath with a moment to soak in the overall affect as they stood beside him. Idly they coiled a hand into his sleeve again as they starred into the mirror, admiring the pleasing manner in which the colour of their dress matched the dark blue of his vest.

 

“Personally I think it’s rather charming, I’ve always thought you were rather dashing in blues. Now you look the part of a pride demon-“

 

“Ooooh a pride demon, is it? You know I had you picked for one of those.”

 

Vaz lifted their head, mildly startled, and turned to find that Lucy was now approaching the pair of them. Evidentially the demon in question was doing some shopping of her own, currently decked out in a gown with rich shades of blues and turquoise. Vaz took note of the single pair of unfamiliar peafowl wings now unfurled and the fact that, most importantly, they were in pristine condition. Their brow furrowed as Lucy picked up on the fact they were starring at her wings, and flared them out to properly display them in kind. Something about the shape of them was...odd. 

 

“Lovely, aren’t they? I’m rather fortunate to have fledged a peacock. It was much easier to quietly defect away to the Hell plane.”

 

Vaz nodded in understanding, a distant ache settling in their core and lower back the longer their eyes took in the sight of the beautiful patterns of blues and greens and, especially, the golden tips to her wings. In a self-conscious manoeuvre they tucked their bandaged, mangled limb further behind Jorath’s back while the other wing pressed itself as tightly inwards as possible. Lucy, understanding the gesture, went wide-eyed and quickly folded her wings back to a less noticeable position at her back.

 

“Sorry, uh, yours are nice too, though! Sleek ebony, like a raven. I always thought you’d have made a handsome raven. It’s nice to see you out in public with them for once. Right, Jingles?”

 

Urged Lucy, looking slightly flustered as she quickly tried to goad the other demon into backing her up in the matter before Vaz had time to let the sting of their loss properly soak in. Again, Vaz tried to place the woman that was obviously familiar with them, but their mind drew a blank on any peafowl that they had personally known. They made a drained, lack-lustre sort of hum in response to this. The idea that someone knew more about them then they knew in kind was never a comforting one to Vaz.

 

“I don’t particularly have a choice in the matter at the moment, I’m afraid. Not until I get the bandages off at least anyway.”

 

“Ah, yes, I suppose sheathing is a bit out of the question at the moment.”

 

Lucy flipped a coil of curly hair over her shoulder and pondered the both of them standing there, a smirk soon tugging at the corner of her mouth.

 

“Soooo...what have you two got planned for yourselves tonight, all dressed up like this? I was thinking of inviting you and your companions out to a fancy dinner this evening, my treat. Properly introduce ourselves and such. You poor things look like you could use it. How does that sound to the both of you?”

 

 

Xaal

 

The angel drifted from the pair as Argia greeted the store owner, partially distracted from the conversation by the assortment of game pieces and other, similar trinkets before her. Her gaze drifted in particular to a collection of dice sitting in a container, each one of a varying number of sides. She was reminded of the set of dice that Jorath had produced while traversing Takut’s lair, and wondered whether he was in need of some replacements. Delicate fingers graced the edge of the small, silver box and she lifted it for closer inspection. Her eyes and fingertips graced over its surface and each of the dice, sensing nothing nefarious about any of them.

 

< Are these normal dice? Any magic? >

 

Questioned Xaal, after she had wandered back towards Argia and the store owner and placed the tin onto the counter to enquire about it. Out of growing habit she directed her question more towards Argia in hopes of the harbinger translating on her behalf, her attention now honing in on the necklace. When asked for her opinion Xaal shrugged and sent a tremor through her hand in an uncertain motion.

 

< Looks nice. Not practical for fighting. >

 

Though, granted that was mostly an explanation for why Xaal had little interest in purchasing one for herself. So as not to discourage Argia though she motioned instead towards one of the broaches as a suggestion before her attention switched over to the store owner. Xaal could at least admit that the craftsmanship behind the the pieces of jewellery was admirable. She had always held a soft spot for the artists and crafters of the world, even if they came from an infernal origin. Alongside of Argia’s greeting she briefly fished out one of her business cards with the name ‘Xaal’Razuul’ and held it out for him to read, before quickly whisking it away back out of sight. Argia had then begun to ask questions of the demon, to which Xaal had to admit was of interest to her as well and so decided to tack on her own.

 

< Yes, can you tell us anything about Auris Domniir? Do you have information about the leader for us? >

 

Xaal, given the ties they supposedly had to Argia, was admittedly curious about Taathiir the most. Perhaps asking around the stores would shed some light on the matter? Or, at least, give them some indication as to what their motivations were. 

Edited by Lycanious

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Jorath
He'd been prepared for Vaz's surprise, something he'd intentionally anticipated. What Jorath wasn't prepared for, was for his mind to stop working and his mouth to slacken slightly from his own surprise at seeing the dress upon Vaz's figure. It'd been awhile since they'd last worn something of the sort and he'd grown used to the more business-oriented attire of suits and nice coats. When, at last, his mind sputtered back into motion, Vaz was already responding to his change in clothing.

Suave was a pleasant word that Jorath hadn't realized till then he enjoyed hearing as a compliment from the Scribe.

A smile broke across his features, gaze unabashedly sweeping to examine Vaz's entire appearance. "And you look stunning," he replied, heat filling his neck and chest. "What are you doing?" Silent laughter tugged at the corner of his eyes as Vaz pressed the backside of their hand against his forehead. Jorath reached up to take hold of their hand, bringing it down to his lips where he proceeded to kiss the back before gently rotating their hand and kissing their palm. He let go then, which gave Vaz the opportunity to start fiddling with the collar of his shirt. They were blushing again and Jorath determined that he definitely enjoyed the sight now that it had happened twice.

Being nudged into a more open space, Jorath watched and waited while Vaz retrieved supplies for something he wasn't knowledgeable about. Once more, they worked at his shirt collar, his gaze focused on their fingers. Interestingly, the contact sent a vague ripple through the nerves at the back of his neck and shoulders, a ticklish and pleasant sort of sensation that Jorath wouldn't mind feeling for as long as possible. "It's unfamiliar," he started, replying to their questions. "Something to get used to, but not uncomfortable."

Presented before the mirror, Jorath realized that their outfits matched and he started to grin at that fact. Vaz's hand found his arm again, words drifting from their mouth to remark about his appearance. The paired outfits seemed like a voiceless declaration of--

"Now--"

"--everyone else will understand clearly that you are mine, and mine alone, Songbird."


He stiffened as the memory invaded his thoughts, drowning out the rest of Vaz's voice and momentarily concealing the approach of someone else. The air caught in his throat until he remembered to breathe. When he managed to shake off the tainted memory, Jorath dragged his focus to what was happening before him. "Dirzarok, right?" His voice almost rumbled under-breath as he rubbed at the bridge of his nose. It was all he could do to conceal the momentary lapse in his attentions, feigning an attempt to remember the winged woman's name.

He told himself that the matching attire was just an odd stroke of coincidence, nothing more. The Scribe liked the colors; that wasn't a claim of... other things. Besides, Jorath had picked blue shades, recalling that it was some of their favorite colors. Hadn't he?

Vaz's wing pressed against his back and he glanced at them sideways, frowning faintly as he registered their growing discomfort. "That's twice now you've called me 'Jingles'," he said. Carefully, Jorath slid a hand along Vaz's arm in an attempt to reassure and comfort them. Reflexively, he edged a step forward, creating a subtle sort of barrier between the security coordinator and the scribe. "But," he went on, addressing the rest of Dirzarok's hurried words. "Yes, it is good to see them, so long as Vaz is comfortable about it."

The 'and such' of the dinner invitation sounded like the beginnings of a business proposal. It reminded Jorath of her earlier mention that, in time, the two sides would discuss questions, answers, and returned favors. "I was only trying something on. However, dinner is likely a decent idea," he said, glancing at Vaz as an old familiarity of navigating potential contracts started to settle within his mind. Only, this time, he didn't have the outward appearance that often encouraged others to disregard or underestimate him. It was workable, though, so long as he could fall back on other tactics to bring about the same results. Jorath deferred to Vaz, one hand finding its way into the pocket of the slacks he wore while the other raked through his hair. "Hopefully there'll only be one fork; I still don't understand why the last place needed two forks in a setting, let alone how to tell them apart."

Gigi approached then, their slick aura slithering through Jorath's senses as if to announce their arrival before they spoke. "My, you both clean up quite nicely, don't you? I mean, I could already tell that about Vaz but you, dear boy? Fascinating switch-up. What's this about a dinner?" they inquired, coming to a stop near Dirzarok's side and idly rocked back and forth on their feet as their gaze swept between the three.

"A meet and greet," Jorath replied. "Mostly."

"Oh," they said, lengthening the sound as if Jorath's answer was far more interesting than it actually was. "Marvelous. I'm sure you'll be wanting a lot of answers tonight."

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Bug boi Dynasty

 

     He hummed for a second before he came up with an answer. “I suppose it was just the easiest to incorporate. Wasps are flexible and already have a brilliant quality to their exoskeletons…” He let the tip of his finger caress the pendant of another necklace. “…not unlike other gems.” His gaze snapped to the other angel as she made some quick gestures his brain didn’t register at first. It took a second for the thought to connect that she was signing. He hadn’t interacted with anyone outside of one of his cult members using such a language. Frantically searching for the information in his mindscape he re-ran her sentence through his mind, meaning finally connecting to her handshapes. He quickly fashioned a reply.

 

< No magic unfortunately. I am merely a craftsman not an enchanter haha >

 

He shrugged and smiled, turning his attention back to the angel in front of him. “Well then we will have to make you a style! That is, if you’ll let me?” He winked at her teasingly. “I haven’t got the chance to dress an angel like you before, you are unlike any I have seen.” He tiled his head to inspect her more closely. She seemed like an angel, but her wings were completely absent. Or perhaps they were hidden exceptionally well. His gaze returned to this wingless angel as she asked yet another fascinating question. He thought about it for a second. “An offer. I had only dabbled in metalcraft here and there, but upon joining this organization, I was offered space here. It allowed me to expand my craft and meet interesting people.” He giggled a bit. “like yourselves.”

 

     “Ah, sorry, yes. Got a little ahead of myself there. I am Dynasty.” He performed a short bow. “But you may simply call me Dyna.” The other angel quickly flashed a business card. He smiled and fingerspelled his name to her along with a < nice to meet you >.

 

     The next question took him by surprise. Investigators of the organization? How fascinating. Wonder what they’re looking for. “I do indeed work for Auris Domniir. I can tell you a great many things about the organization.” The side of his mouth turned upwards in a grin. “But I only give as much as I get. An information exchange you could say. So for every question I receive, I have one answered in return. And if you want truthful information, you must give truthful information.” After a second he added. “Sound fair?”

Edited by DustyStar

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Vaz & Lucy

 

Vaz chortled a little at the claim they were stunning, finding it a little difficult to believe still given how exhausted they felt. They were fairly certain the bags under their eyes were the heaviest they’d ever been, and while they had combed out their hair with their fingernails as best as possible they suspected it was still matted in parts from dried ikaar towards the back. They managed a tired but appreciative little smile all the same though as Jorath took hold of their hand. His word, somehow, felt genuine. They weren’t completely certain what Jorath was trying to further indicate, given that a greeting didn’t make sense, but Vaz found it to be a charming little gesture all the same.

 

Something went awry, however, as Vaz eyed the two of them in the mirror.  They could feel Jorath stiffen suddenly beneath their hold on his arm, their eyes flickering to stare into the reflection of his own for a hint as to what had caused the change in his demeanour. Vaz was suddenly torn between gripping at his arm for reassurance and taking a step back to give him some breathing room. Had Vaz been too familiar with him? It was possible. Perhaps that was what the hand gesture was indicative of, nudging the two of them back towards a friendly, but ultimately platonic sort of situation. Lucy approached the pair of them before they had time to properly contemplate this or directly ask Jorath though, so they filed away the question for perhaps a more private setting. The gentle hold on Vaz’s own arm he shifted towards, as Lucy began to bother them, only raised further confusion over the entire matter.

 

“Well of course, it’s your nickname sweetie. I give them to all my favourites.”

 

Lucy trilled, resting her chin in her hand with an amused little twinkle in her eye. Vaz frowned at her reply, their own eyes growing distant for a second as an old memory flickered into their consciousness. They remembered someone saying that to them before, in a boisterous voice that commanded respect from their peers. The scribe tilted their head and squinted as pages flipped through their mind, a single word forming in their tongue as they contemplated the woman before them.

 

“Scribbles...”

 

Lucy let a more genuine smile tug at the corner of her mouth as she heard the murmur, but said nothing else in response to it. It faded as she realised the recognition that had flickered into Vaz’s eyes was dying once more, but she chose not to press on the matter for now. No matter. She planned on introducing herself properly to the old scribe soon enough.

 

“Do you not like it the name? I thought it was rather fitting. Gigi was just telling me you were doing a lot of clowning around with our water fountain after all.”

 

Head tilting, Lucy noted that Jorath had edged forward to come between her and the scribe. It was a subtle manoeuvre, yet one that had an odd tinge of familiarity about it as she inspected the man from head to toe. There was something about the colours, she eventually realised. A shifting storm of blue and black moving to shield the owner of The Archives.

 

“Don’t get me wrong dearie we’re all friends here, promise. I’m just pleased to see them with some decent company once again.”

 

Lucy meant that too, even though she doubted that either of the beings before her would believe her at this stage in time. She nodded with further enthusiastic agreement when Jorath expressed that it was good to see Vaz with their wings out, her attention mostly honed in on Vaz’s face to see if she had successfully avoiding causing them any further stress.

 

“...I did say the second one was a dessert fork, dear. You were supposed to save it for the tiramisu we ordered.”

 

At least the memory of Jorath puzzling over an excessive amount of utensils was one that prompted a tiny, stifled smirk from Vaz. That night as a whole had turned out to be a rather enjoyable one, despite starting with the fact that their potential new Contractor hadn’t even bothered to show up. A warmer expression briefly settled into Vaz’s appearance as they acknowledged this. Dinner with both old and new friends would perhaps be a nice change of pace.

 

“Dinner would be lovely, in my opinion. Thank you for your hospitality. I’ll be certain to extend the invitation to the rest of my associates on your behalf.”

 

Sighed Vaz, opting for the diplomatic route as Gigi slithered back into the conversation. The green-haired individual wasn’t wrong, Vaz was practically starved for answers at this point. To the point where it was starting to give them a headache trying to keep under wraps all the eyeballs that wanted to spawn and search the pair for all their secrets. Lucy beamed and clapped her hands together in delight at the response, taking it as an accepted invite for the duo.

 

“Excellent! Ah it’ll be nice to have some new faces at the dining table, Dennis does so adore showing off his cooking skills to visitors. Gigi darling you’re welcome to bring a plus one, just make sure it’s someone with opposable thumbs and basic table manners this time please.”

 

Lucy spoke at a lighting pace, now starting to withdraw from the pair as she focused her attention more upon Gneni and Zoe now watching them from her spot at the counter.

 

“Anyway, places to go and people to see I’m afraid. I’ll get these two to leave you two cuties with some alone time, hm? Gigi darling I’m in the market for a bracelet to match this wonderful necklace you’ve given me. Would you and Zoe come and help me find something nice? You both have such good eyes for these things.”

 

And with that Lucy blew a kiss from her lips and turned to leave as quickly as she had arrived. Vaz watched as she beckoned Gigi and Zoe to her sides and headed for the exit, before turning towards Jorath with a wrinkle-nosed expression.

 

“And that kiss means...?”

 

Ventured Vaz, due to the fact their head was pounding too much to properly focus on any questions for the man that seemed more relevant. Eventually the soreness in their eyes and dizzying sensation subsided once more and they were able to focus more on what had been said in the conversation just presented to them.

 

“...Do you think I could pass for a raven?”

 

Vaz asked, a tone to their voice that suggested they were trying to unsuccessfully pass it off as a casual, rhetorical question for Jorath. They had entertained the thought before of just that in their life, mostly in their earlier years after being barred from the heaven plane. Ravens, after all, had been always been a favourite of the old scribe. But the shape of their wings was all wrong for it, and even if Vaz could convince themself that the ebony colouring was a natural one their feathers still did not hold the glossy, beautiful sheen that they knew ravens to have. Vaz shifted to stare over their shoulder for a moment longer, then sighed and shook their head. They removed their hand from Jorath’s arm to clench at their wrist once more. They needed a change of subject.

 

“It really is a lovely suit, L’antiira. Perhaps Arachne will permit us just to rent our current attire for this dinner tonight?”

 

Questioned Vaz, now directing Jorath towards the counter with a glance. They sadly doubted either of them had the funds on them to outright purchase what they were wearing, but they found themselves far too attached to the combined affect to toss it aside complete.

 

“Assuming you wish to attend with me, of course. I suspect there will be at least three types of fork this time. He seemed a very refined imp.”

 

 

Xaal

 

It took Xaal a moment to recognise that he was actually signing back to her, her attention having of been focused more towards Argia as she awaited a translation on her behalf. Xaal blinked in surprise upon realising it, though the expression was soon replaced with a thankful one as she lingered at the counter. At his statement that the dice were a mere ordinary set Xaal picked one up again and squinted at it, rolling it about in the palm of her hand as if to test his claim. With only one notable exception in her life, Xaal had little reason to believe that demons ever told the complete truth on such matters.

 

Still, the dice held no hints of a sinister aura or secret to glean from them. She supposed as long as Jorath was informed of where she got them from, the purchase would be fine and he could make his own decision over whether to replace his arsenal with them or not. Xaal wanted to make sure her new-found team was well equipped, after all. Though she did wonder if the varying number of sides would make any difference to the demon.

 

< Okay. What is the price? >

 

She asked of the store owner, followed by an indication that she was still able to hear him if he preferred to speak in response. Golden eyes flickered between Argia and the demon as he spoke of setting her up with a specific style, somewhat doubtful that the demon would choose something that suited her friend as opposed to whichever item of jewellery was the most expensive piece to offer her. Xaal felt a wrinkle increase in her brow as she realised he was yet another being to have mistake Argia for an angel, coupled by the fact that she didn’t think either of the two had any significant traits that made them stand out as such. Perhaps there was something in their auras, from his perspective?

 

Ah. There it was. Xaal crossed an arm under her elbow and rested her chin upon her knuckles in thought, inspecting the man who had now introduced himself as Dynasty. Now that she studied him further and had heard his offer, she decided he had the unmistakable underlying smugness of someone who thought they knew much more about the world than any of their surrounding peers.

 

< A knowledge demon, yes? >

 

Mused Xaal, half questioning him on the matter and half trying to warn Argia about the sort of being she could be dealing with. Xaal tapped her foot in an irate manner at his offer, not certain she wanted to be navigating through this conversation with such little indication of what Dynasty might find to be useful information. She glanced briefly towards the door of the store, wondering if Jorath and Vaz were likely to be skulking about somewhere nearby yet. A sigh followed, the angel turning her head back towards Dynasty and squinting in reply.

 

< That seems fair. But I do not want to answer questions that could endanger someone else. I will pay and leave if you ask them. >

Edited by Lycanious

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Jorath
"I think I'm going to ignore the fact that you just called me a clown," he mumbled, the frown playing at his lip and causing his eyes to squint with displeasure. Jorath wasn't exactly comfortable with being on someone's list of 'favorites' before he even knew them. His verdict was still out on whether he even fully liked having nicknames, given only two that he was aware of so far. One was a nauseating knot in his gut but the other....

Dirzarok was attempting to make assurances of good company as Jorath redirected his thoughts, preventing the wash of warm color from edging his ears. At Vaz's remark to Jorath's fork lamentation, he snorted. "Right, you did; I didn't listen well enough." He grinned sideways at them. "I just don't see the point to having so many when one works fine." With the scribe's acceptance of the invitation, Dirzarok guided Gigi and Zoe out of the shop, parting remarks drifting through the space. Gigi said something, sounding a little indignant. Probably related to Dirzarok's rules for their potential plus-one. "'Opposable thumbs and basic table manners'?" Jorath repeated, giving Vaz a curious and thoughtfully confused glance. Maybe Gigi had brought a pet to dinner one time.

Now that blush broke through as Vaz wrinkled their nose at him, questioning the kiss upon their hand. Chuckling, Jorath rubbed at the back of his neck and turned his gaze to the ground. "Well, uh... that was... um..." How was he supposed to inform them of what the gesture meant when he didn't know the words to describe it? "Impulse," Jorath said eventually, finding a word to at least start with. "I'm sorry, maybe I should have asked first. It was, well... more intimate than a greeting...." His gaze found Vaz again, lips quirking at the corner. "Not sure how else to explain in words. It's more just a feeling. Ah." A hum rumbled at his throat. Then, with a tinge of hesitancy, "Nasth mennaelo dottopyia. A phrase in Sahthlua that, roughly, means 'warm feeling without form'."

He fell silent, hands returning to his pockets for lack of certainty. Vaz asked their question about ravens and Jorath blinked. "Wait. I thought you were one?" His brow furrowed with confusion. He thought their wings might have been oddly shaped for a raven's, but he was never a bird expert so he'd written the idle observation off as pure ignorance and went based upon feather coloration alone. Gaze starting to focus upon their wings, Jorath started to wonder if Vaz was associated with some other type of black bird. Suddenly reminded of Mag'than's line of inquiry before heading for Takut's underground tunnels that night, Jorath realized the questions had never been resolved. Just brushed aside and ignored. Both raven and crow had been asked after, neither receiving exploration. Jorath, himself, had set it aside because he'd been more concerned with other things at the time.

Vaz was clutching at their wrist.

Stuffing down the sound of concern he almost made from beginning to recognize their distressed gesture, Jorath shifted gears with their change of subject. "Yes, I wish to go with you," he said, firming his voice as if it was a fact never to be in doubt. He looked down at both their outfits, reminded again of the matching colors. Vaz had seemed happy about that discovery. "If there's a fork for the entree and one for dessert, are you going to tell me there's a fork for the side dish?

"And the clothes," Jorath went on. "I said I could buy. No renting required. I think I might want to wear this suit a bit more often." He reached for their hand, thumb gently brushing against the backside in what he hoped was a soothing gesture. "There are scarves here; I want you to have a look and pick out something you like so we can replace your old one. If you can't find one here, we can look at the other stores." Again, his features softened with a faint smile.

Releasing Vaz's hand, he motioned for them to follow him back to the fitting rooms. "Speaking of accessories...." He trailed off, locating the room Vaz had used and reaching in for Argia's shawl. "I've always wondered what I might look like in one of these." Briefly, he draped it across his shoulders, slightly sweeping his arms out so that Vaz could take a look. A few seconds later, he brought it up to lay over his head, carefully tugging the ends close beneath his chin. He batted his eyes at Vaz. "Looks good, right?" he asked, already knowing the chances of him looking ridiculous were rather high.

---
Argia
He was flattering her, Argia realized, and she smiled in response. "Charming," she murmured, thoughts immediately drifting to the number of mortals she had encountered with similar mannerisms. It almost distracted her from Dyna's incorrect assessment of what she was. "I would be grateful for the help," she said to his offer of finding a style that suited her. "But, I'm afraid, you have me wrong; I am not an angel." And, before he could swing the other way, she added, "Nor am I a demon. Simply a Harbinger." At the back of her mind, Vaz's voice suggesting that she might have some celestial influence briefly intruded her thoughts.

When he began talk of exchanging honest information for honest information, Argia's smile waned just a fraction. It was, however, a fair thing to request. Oddly, though, it came with yet another reminder of Vaz's words to not assume so much trust in others of this world. Sound advice, yet she kept forgetting it. Habit apparently, and a mildly distressing thought at that, for her to trust blindly in most cases. Argia spotted Xaal's signing, registering 'Knowledge' and how it was being applied to Dyna.

"Alright, we both agree that this is a fair concept," Argia said, following Xaal's condition to the terms. "And I do second the desire to not endanger anyone. As that is our condition, it can be yours as well." Gaze drifting to a brooch, she gently lifted and inspected its features. "Since we are guests to your shop, and since I have already made an inquiry, I believe you have the space to ask the next question or directly answer Xaal's in whichever order you choose."

She clipped the brooch to her shirt, studying how it looked against the burgundy in the mirror. It seemed larger than she was comfortable with so she removed it and carefully set it back.

Edited by ValidEmotions

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Vaz

 

“It’s fine, my dear. I promise if I am uncomfortable I will let you know.”

 

Announced Vaz as Jorath started to fret over whether he should have opted for the impromptu display with their hand. Thoughts returned to the way he had stiffened in the mirror, prompting Vaz to scratch at the back of their neck in thought and then offer him an uncertain smile. They hoped, in a way, it was somewhat reassuring for him to see despite having little idea what had prompted the reaction.

 

“And you can do the same, yes? Should you feel the need?”

 

They listened as he stumbled over an explanation for the gesture with their hand, a warmth settling in the core as they heard more of his native tongue slip out into the conversation and the subsequent translation. It was a rare treat to hear him use it in casual conversation. Not to mention Vaz now had three new words absorbed into their consciousness for future reference. 

 

“A lovely sentiment, L’antiira. Though ah...I was actually referring to the motion that Dirzarok made upon leaving.”

 

A slight titter followed their correction though, Vaz briefly patting at Jorath’s arm as he slid both of his hands into his pockets. It was a pleasant discovery of Jorath’s mindset, at least. Vaz found that they had little regret for the mistake.

 

“You flatter me, my dear. I did perhaps hope to fledge as one once but...alas, no. My deity had other plans for me, I’m afraid.”

 

Still, his comment did make Vaz momentarily entertain the idea that perhaps, at a glance, someone could mistake them for one. That they would see the crafty intelligence of a raven instead of the disgraced and mangled remains of a traitor to their own kind. Vaz faltered from such thoughts once more, grip on their wrist tightening.

 

“They once had a very different appearance. Light, warm tones. Soft to touch. If I held them out to the sunlight they would-“

 

Vaz paused, shaking their head once more to dismiss their own reminiscing thoughts about them. They knew it was fruitless to dwell on what their wings had once looked like. It was an unfortunate side affect of having them out on display in such a public setting - the longer Vaz had to stare at their wings the harder it was to ignore the loathing for them that simmered in their core and the voice that hissed in their ear to encourage it.

 

Jorath’s voice sounded once more and pierced through the haze of hollowness. Vaz flexed the feathered limbs back until they were no longer noticeable in their peripherals and forced themself to hone back in on his words.

 

“Depends on the side dish. Salad, fruit, fish. There’s just a few options for you to contemplate.”

 

In a strange way, despite the assumption that such information was utterly useless to Jorath the inane rambling over fork etiquette did help to ease their mind by a fraction once more. Jorath reached for their hand, breaking Vaz from the clawing grip they still had on it in favour of a far softer brush over the indents they had made in it with his thumb. Vaz glanced down at their hands, then back up at Jorath with an uncertain expression as the subject turned to scarves.

 

“Oh...ah I don’t...I mean...surely there’s more important things you’d like to spend your coinage on?”

 

Questioned Vaz as he lead them back towards the changing rooms. They watched Jorath as he moved away for a second then emerged once more with the shawl now in his hands. Vaz rolled their eyes and shook their head in response, though their following question was broken up by a warm chuckle at the ridiculous sight of him.

 

“I’m not used to seeing you so invested in your appearance all of a sudden. Is there a chance you bumped your head on something with your little fountain disruption?”

 

Vaz then shuffled past him to gather up their old clothes. As they did they held out the garments out at arm’s length with a disgruntled expression, not wanting to stain anything else with the ink and charcoal coating them. Mercifully they spotted a selection of large cloth bags lingering near the changing room and proceeded to fold up their clothes to stash away inside of it.

 

“What...exactly did happen at the fountain? Were you shrouded? Teleported? I wasn’t aware you were capable of either.”

 

Added Vaz as they picked up the bag and started a slow wander back towards the counter. Despite their earlier insistence that it wasn’t necessary they found themselves making a detour so that they drifted past a selection of scarves, ascots and ties as they spotted them. There was one style in particular that caught their attention, the scribe pausing in their stride to glance at a set of scarves in varying hues with numerous passages or poems written across them. Vaz recognised several works of literature from the collection, some in Commonspeak and others in Oldspeak, and soon found themselves lost in absorbing all the different options.

 

Nestled further towards the back, was the scarf that Vaz fell in love with upon sight. It was the colour of old, wisened parchment, and one end was decorated with a quill poised beside an inkwell. From the tip of the quill was a swirl of ink that morphed into the lyrics of a poem, written all along the scarf in an elegant cursive that reminded Vaz very much of their own style of handwriting. Upon the other end of the scarf, relating to the subject manner of the poem, was an illustration of some daffodils. Vaz brought the scarf closer for inspection, scanning over the first verse as a look of contentment settled into their features. They turned to Jorath, holding up the new-found accessory to vouch for his opinion on wearing it.

 

“Are...you certain you want to pay for all this my dear...? Can you afford it? I’m sure I can come to an arrangement with the lovely Arachne here for my own things at least.”

 

Continued the scribe, their eyes trailing across his suit once more. They couldn’t deny that they wanted to keep the dress, heels and scarf, but the prospect of it costing Jorath the funds for a suit he was actually considering keeping was enough to hold them back on the matter. 

Edited by Lycanious

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Jorath
He balked at Vaz's correction that they were asking about Dirzarok's gesture. Jorath made a sound, caught somewhere between acknowledgement and sputtering embarrassment for his misunderstanding. Unable to put actual words to his thoughts, he opted to just snort at his own mistake. "Oh, well, that was a form of farewell. More of a friendly type of gesture, though you'll have to ask Dirzarok how much familiarity exactly she wanted to imply with it."

Thoughts drifted back to Vaz's statement about informing him when they were uncomfortable with something, their question of him doing the same in turn hanging without much response. The uncertainty of their smile made Jorath suspect they had noticed something. Maybe his reaction at the mirror? Or perhaps it was just more in general? His gaze drifted back to their reflections, thoughts trailing somewhere beyond the store. "There's... a lot, that I'm uncomfortable with, in all honesty," he murmured. Jorath frowned faintly. Turning to Vaz once more, he ran a hand through his hair. "But, yes, I--I'll let you know if I can."

When it was revealed that Vaz's wings used to look completely different from even the color they were now, Jorath's brow wrinkled before his features softened with sympathy. "I'm sorry," he said, unable to determine what else to say or do for Vaz's loss. At least they appeared to ease when shifting into fork lessons before addressing the matter of scarves and his antics.

Folding Argia's shawl back up, Jorath reached over to rest his hand upon Vaz's head, fingers sliding through their hair. Briefly, he ruffled the lightly colored strands, a bewildered grin to his features. "How is it that you can see and uncover all these truths in the world but yet--" His hand trailed down to gently tuck a lock of hair behind their ear. "You don't see the truth that you're important, too?" Jorath's fingers brushed Vaz's cheek at the end of the motion, bewilderment edging into something more somber. "You're important, Vaz.... Far more than you give yourself credit for."

Letting his hand fall away from their cheek, Jorath smiled once more. "I want to spend coin on you." He pretended to look indignant as Vaz suggested he had hit his head at the fountain. "Maybe I'm just interested in making you smile," he replied, tilting his head and winking at Vaz with a slight chuckle. "I meant what I said: you're a lovely sight for sore eyes. A smile is worth every bit of foolishness."

He hummed, waiting a beat before answering the scribe's inquiry. "Um, no. I can't do either of those." Gathering his own set of battered clothes, Jorath dumped them into a separate cloth bag. He hesitated, staring at the tote. "I needed to visit my Realm. It, uh--I needed to make sure everything was okay after Er'anir's... failure." Jorath pinched at his nose, attempting a reassuring smile in the next moment. "Fountains are the strongest places for me to set an Anchor and enter my Realm, even if it's just a temporary thing. Think it has to do with all the people making wishes at them." He shrugged a shoulder.

Following Vaz, he worked to stifle the smirk toying at his lip as the scribe drifted to the scarves despite their words. He stood to the side as they browsed the accessories, noticing eventually how they drifted towards one scarf in particular. When they showed it to him for his feedback, Jorath reached out to idly feel the fabric and nodded once. He smiled wide. "It suits you. I've saved up a fair bit of winnings over the centuries; just been waiting for something worth spending it on," he said, edging into a reply for their questions. Then he smirked. "I also get a lot of tips, so don't worry about the price of everything."

Gently coaxing the scar from their hands before Vaz could opt to put it back on the shelves, Jorath started for the counter. Arachne moved to meet them, leaving her displays. Finally able to see her face, Jorath noticed that her front two eyes were a normal hazel instead of a beady black. "Do you happen to restore clothing, too?" he asked, nudging his chin towards the cloth bags.

"Depends on the kind of damage," Arachne replied, gesturing with her hand for the bags to be handed over. Taking a peek inside each, she ran her fingers across the ruined articles. The way her features wrinkled wasn't very reassuring. "Sorry, loves. I can make, mend, and protect against pretty much any type of damage but this? Unfortunately, the damage to these have already settled into the threads. Maybe if I'd gotten to see them sooner, right after the damage was done?" She shook her head slowly. "You'll have to consider these a loss or make them your new junk wear for anything that could ruin other clothes."

"Bummer," Jorath sighed, nodding to acknowledge the fact and continue on. As Arachne rang up the purchases for both sets of clothes, shoes, and Vaz's new scarf, the demon also went through a quick rundown of the protections weaved into the fabric. Stains would be non-existent. Tears would mend as long as something wasn't in the way (though Arachne advised against shifting into alternate forms bigger than the outfits as there was only room for a slight stretching and going beyond that limit might result in complete shredding which couldn't repair itself). And the pockets were enchanted for convenience. There were more little secrets of various benefits woven into the clothing but Arachne simply grinned without further explanation of what they were. She just moved onto providing a total price and Jorath brought out his coin pouch to withdraw a palm-sized lump of gold coins.

Arachne hummed a note. "Archaic choice, but I can make do with that." She swept the coins closer, taking a count and then pulling a calculator out from within the counter drawer. Jorath watched idly as she keyed away at the device, running a set of calculations and conversions before eventually nodding. "That'll do." Cash register pinging open, she withdrew a couple one-dollar bills and quarters, passing the change over to Jorath for him to stash away. "Thank you for your purchase," Arachne said. "If, for whatever reason, the clothing ends up unsatisfactory or suffering damage that isn't being fixed by the sigils, you're guaranteed a free repair or exchange for it."

The glint to her gaze, however, made Jorath suspect that the chances of such dissatisfaction or damage were slim to none. He nodded anyways, voicing his gratitude, and started to drift out of the shop. "Anywhere else you want to go?" he asked Vaz. Jorath had in mind that he would stop at any store where he might be able to find Fi an inkwell but, since he couldn't guarantee one such store existed here, he wanted to know if Vaz had other ideas.

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Vaz

 

A soft touch graced across the top of Vaz’s head, prompting the scribe to pause what they were doing in favour of absorbing the sensation. Their core lurched as he spoke, torn between an instinctive urge to brush aside his statement and what Vaz knew to be a selfish, undeserved desire to agree with him. Jorath certainly had a way with making them feel like they were important at least, in the way he would listen to their irrelevant musings and stand between them and their foes.

 

“I...suppose that...”

 

Listen not to the braying of a mindless beast, Veritas. You are a traitorous worm, and nothing more.

 

The voice was right. It always was, always would be. It was easy for Jorath to say such sweet things when he didn’t know what Vaz had done. Movement across their cheek drew Vaz from their glazed expression in order to hear the man reaffirm that they were, indeed, more important than they believed themself to be. The contrast between him and the echoing remnants of The Voice was becoming a dizzying sensation, one that was bringing on another headache for Vaz the more they wavered between the two.

 

“I suppose if it makes you happy, then. It really is a lovely combination we wear...”

 

That was easier to focus on. It wasn’t selfish to let Jorath indulge in something that brought him joy after all, wasn’t it? More compliments flowed from his mouth and Vaz now found themself caught in a daze by them as they drowned out the further rumblings of The Voice too much to know what it had said. A bashful smile started to answer him, even though they were still struggling with the notion that every syllable felt like it rang true.

 

“I do enjoy the laughs, my dear. They’re one of my favourite things about you.”

 

The topic eventually drifted to one of Realms, which prompted a slow nod of comprehension form the scribe as he spoke. The connection with fountains at first seemed a strange choice for Jorath, though the more Vaz thought about it the more it made sense when coupled with Jorath’s reference to coins and wishes. Vaz hummed in response, unable to hide their concern over what he needed to check in his Realm but not knowing enough about the location to fathom what it could be. Eventually though they reasoned that he had returned in enough of a chipper mood that things were, hopefully, fine for him.

 

“Hm, very well. As long as everything is alright? I must admit, I am curious as to the nature of your realm but know little of it.”

 

As Arachne rang up their purchases and inspected their old getups Vaz emitted a small sound of disappointment upon realising that their lovely coat was unsalvageable. Hearing her speak of the myriad of useful qualities to the fabric she wove however soon soothed them. She made sure to mention to Vaz as a side note that charcoal stains would not be an issue with the dress, as it was a common affliction among the Fallen she catered towards. The scribe complimented her on both the consideration and ingenuity behind her craft, promptly taking one of her own business cards and pocketing it for later. If all she claimed about the garments was true, Vaz may have very well found their new go-to store for formalwear.

 

“Hmn, no nowhere in particular. Though a do spy a sign for a bookstore further down that I wouldn’t mind perusing.”

 

They admitted as the two of them exited the store. Vaz hung their bag from their own arm and moved to coil their hands around Jorath’s once more, finding it a rather comfortable pose to be in as of late. A soft hum of thought emitted from the scribe as they manoeuvred them both towards the bookstore, followed by a feathered wing drifting forward in a manner that let it gently settle against his lower back once more.

 

“Is this alright...?”

 

Vaz inquired a moment after, dipping into a quiet hush that was reminiscent of the tone their voice took upon while wandering the winding pathways of the The Archives. One of their hands briefly unravelled to gesture vaguely between the pair of them to clarify what they meant. ‘Lots of things’ as an indication of what made Jorath uncomfortable was rather a vague description. Now that Vaz had been given a moment to think about Jorath’s various flinches and avoided expressions, it was something they wanted to be certain about before continuing.

 

Regardless of his answer, Vaz soon extracted themself afterwards so that they could properly squeeze their wings through the door to the bookstore and begin to explore. The scribe pondered the rows of books before them, a hum issuing from them as titles and content summaries danced before their eyes without needing to pull them from their spot on the shelves. As Vaz ventured further into the shop books began to twitch and move about on their own accord, those which had been placed into the wrong section by careless patrons now drifting back to their appropriate places. The store owner, a rather gruff looking fellow with ram-like horns and eyes to match, watched a book sail dreamily over his head to nestle into the shelf behind him before squinting over the counter at the pair of them.

 

“Do you accept books in exchange, dear?”

 

The ram-horned demon shrugged, but then ended the motion with an airy sort of nod.

 

“If you have something interesting to exchange. Sure.”

 

“Ah! Excellent! This should be rather an easy arrangement, then.”

 

Vaz beamed in response, clasping their hands together in celebration and diving further into the rows of books. The store owner grunted in a doubtful manner as their eyes trailed up and down Jorath’s form to confirm that he had no books to trade about his person.

 

“Are you and your partner over there looking for anything in particular?”

 

He eventually enquired, before a call from Vaz in the distance broke his concentration.

 

“Is there anything that catches your eye, L’antiira? Something you would recommend?”

 

Questioned Vaz, gesturing as a suggestion towards a selection of books to the side of them that dabbled in the Adventure genre. A few of them drifted out of the shelf in response to hover beside them, awaiting for Jorath’s attention to be drawn to them. Vaz’s own gaze meanwhile was focused firmly across the Mystery section beside it, one of the few genres that Vaz occasionally allowed themself to indulge in reading without feeling guilty about the waste of time afterwards. One had to keep their detective skills sharp, after all. 

 

In the corner of their eye they noticed Fi’Faltuun float out before Jorath and start to skim over the titles of books available to her, tapping at the ones she both recognised and thought he might like to engage with.

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Jorath
Something was making Vaz hesitate, he could see it in the distant look to their gaze. He just wished he knew what it was and why. Whatever it was, however, seemed to pass by and Vaz returned to more assured mannerisms. And then it was Jorath's turn to feel shy. Again. He gently nudged the floor with his shoe. "The laughs?" Of all things? Briefly, he started wondering when, exactly, he had started laughing around Vaz. He remembered it had been very unexpected, no matter how small it was.

Distracted by the switch of focus, Jorath considered his next reply. It wasn't that he wanted to keep Vaz in the dark about his Realm. He just... didn't know what their response might be. And things tended to react differently. Eventually, "It's easy to get lost in my Realm. Not--not in the same way as someone could get lost in yours. At least, I don't think? There's no maze." Jorath shook his head. A moment after, a weary smile crept through his features. Maybe....

Leaving Paradise Found, Jorath had barely started to offer his arm for Vaz before they were already moving to latch onto it as they answered his question. He let them lead the way to the next shop. Along the way, he felt their wing shift against his back, a momentary stiffness entering his shoulders before he registered what it was. Their soft voice barely managed to climb above the din of the plaza to reach his ear as he eased. As if to emphasize, they motioned with a hand between the two of them. "Yes, this is alright," Jorath replied, though he wasn't certain if Vaz was specifically meaning the closeness or the wing contact. Either way, he was fine with both.

They approached the bookstore, Vaz detangling themself from his arm so that they could pass through the doorway with ease. Books wriggled faintly upon their shelves and Jorath caught the ram-horned demon's gaze. "They're harmless when it comes to books," he murmured, uncertain if it was unease or irritation in the other's eyes. Maybe just a touch of exasperation. Who knew what kind of demons liked visiting bookstores in a place like Auris Domniir?

Ignoring the demon's faint huff in place of a response, Jorath directed his focus onto Vaz as they called him before he could answer the demon's question. He almost made to correct him about the 'partner' label but, being unable to determine for himself where, exactly, the two of them stood, he couldn't get the words to rise up. More books floated into the air, coming to hover and wait for Jorath's attentions. All of the artwork on the front covers was attractive or curious. One might have caught his particular notice, but Fi pointed out a line of others.

He could tell that Vaz and Fi were probably enthusiastic about helping pick something out for him to enjoy, but all Jorath started to feel was uncertain. It crept across his shoulders and down his spine at the prospect of trying to navigate the various suggestions. "Wait, hold on," he mumbled out, a little quickly. Settling on something to at least start with, he grabbed one of the books drifting through the air and a second from the nearby shelf that Fi indicated. One only had a blank background of color and intricate font, which Vaz read out the title for him. A story about vampires didn't sound very interesting to him, so he put that one back on the shelf.

Jorath also returned the other book back to Vaz's perimeter of floating paperbacks, having found the cover art nice but the summary blurb disinteresting when read aloud. Well, suppose he shouldn't be too picky. It wasn't like he knew what made for good stories or quality writing. His hand landed upon another book that Fi pointed to. As he started to tug the novel off the shelf, his gaze drifted to a spine further on the right. His fingers followed.

Gradually, his hand traveled further down on the shelves, gaze landing upon a book at the bottom. Slipping it free of its kindred, Jorath turned the book to study the front cover. His eyes raked across a wash of blue shades that nearly looked like fire or gemstones or ocean waves. Submerged in the background color was the faded impression of an analog clock face, some of the metal numerals off-kilter and broken as cracks covered the glass. White feathers fell in the foreground of the image, even interacting with the font as they obscured parts of letters or were partially obscured in turn. Some of the feathers burned from embers as they fell.

'Forgotten Between Heaven and Hell' was, Vaz informed him, the first book title in some 'Time Immemorial' series. Though it didn't immediately seem like something he might be interested in, Jorath found himself reluctant to put it back upon the shelf. He rubbed the heel of his palm against his temple. "Found anything you want, Vaz?" Jorath asked, a little more idly than he meant to. Slowly standing from the crouched position he hadn't realized he'd stooped into, he held his selection out to the scribe for a second, and final, inspection.

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Vaz

 

“Just a few things, dear. I’m thinking that it would be wise to freshen up on some of the local history of this city, perhaps even this world in general. I wish to see if I can find out more about this Lady Of Judgement figure.”

 

Trilled Vaz in reply to Jorath’s question, before turning to indicate what they considered to be a perfectly reasonable pile of five books currently floating beside them. A sixth soon joined the collection, although it differed from the encyclopaedias and tales of local legends beneath it by being a Mystery novel that Vaz had pulled from the shelves before them. Vaz then stepped away and shuffled further along the aisles of books at their disposal, now heading for a section on Language as they coaxed Jorath into staying within ear range of their musings. Some shelves either side of Vaz seemed to momentarily warp as they passed on by, appearing to elongate by a few inches in either direction before snapping back to their original dimensions. A contented sigh escaped the scribe in response, taking a moment to bask in the call of their realm and the revitalising spark of energy it brought them.

 

“I am curious, what purpose does your realm serve, dear? I admit I’ve been picturing a sort of...hm...a gambler’s den of some type, perhaps. Warm enough and cosy enough to make even a greed demon lower their guard and put their life’s savings on the line.”

 

That was the sort of atmosphere that made sense to Vaz at least. A lively and vibrant sort of place, one that attracted all sorts of mischief but never ever dull. It seemed a fitting match for its owner. 

 

Vaz realised, a moment later, that they had been starring over at said owner for a while now and abruptly shook themself from their daze. Mumbling an apology they focused back on running their fingers along the spines of the books before them to absorb the titles available. Tucked away in the bottom row, they soon found a series of short-story novels that grabbed their interest by claiming to be ideal material for someone learning to read the Commonspeak language. Vaz coaxed one of the books to their hand and flicked through several pages, noting one that had Commonspeak writing jotted down on one side and the Oldspeak translation for it on the other. It looked to be a cohesive story, rather humorous even. It was a tale that was written with an adult audience in mind, rather than some fledgeling still learning to comprehend the world around them. Ideal, Vaz thought, for what they had in mind.

 

“Is there any particular one you would like to learn first, my dear? I should think Commonspeak would be the most useful, as a recommendation. But there’s several others we could make a start with instead.”

 

Inquired Vaz, their voice still adopting the ethereal hush of The Archives so that the goat demon was unable to properly hear what they were saying. As Jorath moved towards them they held out the translation book in question to swap for his own selection. Vaz had made him a promise, after all, and they intended to soon follow through on it. They gave him a moment to contemplate the book they’d placed in his hands, letting him size up the amount of pages, before continuing in a gentle tone. As they spoke they twiddled their fingers, willing the book to flip itself open in his hands and display a page that started from the very beginning by showing the Commonspeak alphabet.

 

“A bit of light reading to take back with us perhaps? If you’re willing, of course.”

 

Vaz then switched their attention to the book Jorath had handed to them, curious eyes tracing the cover and a small sigh emitting from them as they absorbed once more the sight of the falling, burnt feathers on its cover. Idly they flipped it open to skim the contents of the first page all the same. The corner of their mouth began to twitch as they read through it, the melancholy in their gaze giving way to mild mockery as they read out-loud the opening quote and the bold claims of the narrating character to have been the only demon to ever fall in love.

 

“Oh please. What a ridiculous- Why the nerve of some auth-“

 

Vaz made a loud, dismissive huff at the pages of the book, trying to cover up both their obvious indignation and the tail-end of their complaint. A sheepish glance found its way back over to Jorath, Vaz quickly snapping the book shut and placing it on top of the pile. They didn’t want to be discouraging, after all.

 

“My apologies. Ah. Perhaps it will be worth some laughs, at least?”

 

Vaz coaxed the floating pile of books to their hands and quickly turned to pace back towards the owner to see what they could barter for. The ram-horned demon muttered in Oldspeak to himself as he rang through the selections, briefly quirking an eyebrow when Vaz nervously glanced back towards Jorath and seemed to be debating something internally. He tilted his head as he watched the animated quill that had been hovering between the two suddenly flutter into Jorath’s face and gesture to another book as a final suggestion. Once Jorath looked sufficiently distracted Vaz quickly honed in on a book nestled behind the owner and coaxed it forward, skimming its title only briefly before nudging it into his hands. The demon blinked in disbelief at the choice, soon followed by a snicker before Vaz hissed for him to stop dawdling and jabbed a nail in the direction of the bags sitting beside them.

 

“Yeah, yeah, calm down look I’m packing them away right now. Are you going to show me how you plan on paying for these or not?”

 

“Do you have a list of books you’re currently searching for?”

 

As a matter of fact, the store owner did. Ducking out of sight for a second he re-emerged with a rather hefty looking binder of paper and licked at his thumb before turning through the pages to show dozens and dozens of book titles scrawled onto each. Vaz called Fi back to their hand and began to browse through the list, occasionally marking one of them with an asterisk as they conversed with the quill over what they had available. Once an even amount to the books they were purchasing had been marked Vaz straightened up and excused themself, taking a step back as if to give themself space. The store owner frowned as a golden glow replaced the intelligent amber of Vaz’s eyes, the fallen being now standing motionless and slightly slack-jawed as their mind focused itself on searching through The Archives.

 

“Ahem...are...are they supposed to be doing that?”

 

The demon eventually asked of Jorath, after their watch had shown that a full minute had passed with little response from the scribe. It was at least a few minutes more before Vaz finally snapped back to attention, golden smoke and flames erupting from their hands as several ancient tomes materialised in them. The store owner growled at the sight of a fire in their store, though settled once they realised that the flames had promptly vanished without any harm done to the books around them.

 

“Right! Dreadfully sorry for the delay dear I’m afraid my realm is a bit erm...disorganised, at the moment. Out of sorts, quills are in a right state. Anyway, I’m willing to exchange these books...for...”

 

Vaz trailed off, a golden light replacing the usual amber of their eyes once more as their mind was promptly drawn back into The Archives. A dull thud sounded in the distance for them as the summoned books promptly clattered onto the floor below. A streak of brown darted before their eyes, its movements reminiscent of one of their quills. It thumped into a book upon the shelves across from it, tapping wildly at a large tome in particular. Strange. Vaz didn’t recognise that one. The scribe frowned, leaning forward with a squint as they tried to read the title through the oddly murky haze of their vision. ‘Teachings of The Unsilenced Historian.’ What was-

 

A clicking sound pierced through the confusion, and abruptly Vaz was back in the bookstore. They jumped as the profile of the disgruntled store owner came back into focus, the clicking sound turning out to be the impatient snapping of his fingers to grapple for Vaz’s attention once more. Vaz wasn’t certain how long they had been anchored to their realm, but it had been long enough for the books they had dropped to have been collected by someone, verified by the owner, and placed to the side of the counter to await the return of their consciousness.

 

“Hm?! Oh. Ahem. My apologies. Are the books satisfactory?”

 

The bookshop owner just nodded in a tired manner, now tapping with a pen at two pieces of paper on the counter with his signature scrawled at the bottom. Vaz gawked when the pen was offered to them and shooed it away in favour of summoning Fi’Faltuun back to their hands, now peering over the records of items exchanged.

 

“Shall we put those skills of yours to good use and track down the rest of our little group now, L’antiira? Or do you think it best to leave them to their own devices?”

 

Asked Vaz of Jorath once they had added their own signature to both, thanked the owner, and taken the bag of newly-acquired books from the counter.

Edited by Lycanious

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Jorath
'Lady of Judgement'. Right. He'd almost forgotten about that entire situation. "Do you think we go to far, duping this Order into thinking we're somehow the answers to their prayers? I mean, even Argia feels uncertain about the whole "Lady of the Just" affair, or whatever the title is." Jorath twined his fingers together to mime the connection of their tethers and bridged Realms, trying to indicate where he was getting the emotional insight from. "Did she say anything to you about it earlier in the day?"

Following Vaz into another section of the store, he listened to Vaz's theory about his Realm. Hiding back a wince, Jorath made a small sound. "Well, that exists, it's just not the only area there is." He rubbed at his neck idly, gaze drifting elsewhere. He hadn't noticed Vaz was staring, only returning his attention to them when he heard them mumble an apology for something. "Oh, sure, that makes sense," Jorath replied as Commonspeak was recommended to be the first language he learned to read. There was... one language that he wanted to learn most but he had brushed that desire off as near impossible a long time ago.

Vaz couldn't teach him something they didn't know.

Taking the book they offered him in exchange for the one he'd found, he semi-idly fiddled with the item, letting the pages flip back and forth gently as his eyes drifted over the unknown letterforms. A snicker broke past his lips. "I can hedge a guess, but I'm not sure I'm familiar with what 'light reading' is supposed to be. But yes," Jorath said. "Light reading is fine with me." As Vaz sputtered with budding contempt at the quote they read, his snickering evolved into a short snort-laugh. "Laughs are good but I can always pick something else if you want me to? I just--" He cut himself off with an aimless gesture, a hum starting to voice itself. "I don't know. There's something about the book that caught my attention. A gamble? Maybe?" Jorath had had similar feelings before, a sort of vague nagging that he couldn't quite tell was possibly prickling at his senses. Eventually, he waved it off.

It seemed Vaz had settled on the books they wanted to leave with, taking the lead in heading for the counter and the demon behind it. "What?" Jorath questioned as he noticed the scribe's uncertain glance. They didn't answer him and he glanced over his shoulder briefly, wondering if maybe it was something behind him that caused their hesitation. "Is there something--" Fi interrupted, dancing before his face to direct his attention to a shelf close by. "I think I'm okay with one book," Jorath replied, starting to think that Vaz either wanted them to stall and linger longer in the shop (something they could just openly state and he wouldn't be bothered with doing) or was probably concerned that he was only getting one book while they got several. Still, he humored both Vaz and Fi, following the quill to study the books she pointed him towards.

When he had looked a fill he figured was satisfactory to Fi, Jorath gradually returned his attention back towards the counter. Vaz was already in the process of stepping back, their eyes beginning to glow as a distant expression took hold. He nodded once at the clerk. "Yeah, just give them a moment," he reassured. The demon still gave him a wary glance, fingers lightly drumming the counter. The scribe's focus returned and books filled their hands with a wash of summoning flames. Normal. Their remark, however, caused Jorath pause. "Wait, what's wrong with the--Vaz?" Books clattered upon the ground.

Hurrying forward to gently rest a hand upon their shoulder, Jorath watched their face for a moment with a wrinkled brow before stooping down to pick up the fallen books. Something wasn't right, Jorath pieced that together. But, prior experience told him there wasn't much he could do except ensure that Vaz stayed safe and unharmed while the Archives pulled at them. He could, if needed to, bring them back to the here-and-now. But Vaz's remark about their quills made him hesitate from doing so. Setting the books upon the counter, he caught the clerk's gaze.

"Well?" the demon questioned.

Jorath didn't have an answer, simply turning his back to the other demon and stuffing his hands into his pockets to wait for Vaz's return to awareness. The clerk started snapping his fingers eventually, however, and Jorath shot him a more irritated look than he meant to. "No worries, Vaz," he murmured, responding to their apology even though it seemed mostly directed at the clerk. No one else was in the store so it wasn't like they were holding up a line. Once they finished dealing with the ram-horned demon, Jorath started to walk out of the shop with them, offering his arm to hold when back out in the plaza. He frowned.

"I think we should head back to the lounge," he said eventually, studying Vaz from the corner of his gaze. "What's wrong with the quills? Is it because of--" Jorath's words died, not sure how he wanted to put into words the sight of Vaz battered and in chains. "Because of earlier?" he finished. Despite holding onto him, Jorath noticed the off-balance stagger beginning to enter Vaz's steps as they worked their way through the plaza. He fished out the map card again, ensuring he wouldn't get lost in Auris Domniir's facilities as he kept Vaz from accidentally bumping into another being.

He was more prepared for the subtle shift in the hallway this time, using that as the moment to tuck the map card away so he could free his hand. Only long enough to shift some of the bags from Vaz's to his own grasp. "Is there something I can do to help with your dizziness?" Jorath asked, nudging open the door to the private lounge their group had been given for their stay. Carefully, he set bags upon the coffee table, releasing the steadying hold he'd adopted for Vaz so they could drift to the bathroom.

Originally, Jorath planned to stay in the main part of the lounge while they cleaned up in private, taking out his ruined clothes from their bag and pulling the items free of the endless shirt pocket. The clatter of something hitting tiled flooring changed his mind. Startling, he hurried to the bathroom, hand shooting out to catch Vaz's elbow and provide counter-balance. "Easy. It's me." The words were automatic as Jorath dodged a charcoaled wing. He gradually released Vaz's elbow once he was certain their balance was back to normal for, at least, the present moment. Then he bent to pick up the basket of used towels caught in the crossfire, setting it further to the side and out of the way. "Do you... want me to stay in the bathroom?" he asked.

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Vaz

 

“Personally I think The Order is rather fortunate I’m still entertaining the notion of helping them at all, considering one of them tried to pull a holy weapon on the both of us. There’s the basis for voiding the agreement between all of us right there, I would argue.”

 

Grumbled the Archivist, some time after the duo had left the bookstore and they had the chance to review Jorath’s early statement.

 

“And no, I do not recall Argia speaking directly to me about it. But whose to say we cannot be the answers they need all the same, my dear? Providing they don’t tire our patience with them, of course.”

 

It wouldn’t have been the first time Vaz dealt with mortals that had gotten a few details mixed up on who they were dealing with, after all. Vaz had a long history of having aliases assigned to them by mortals that were, at best, only about half-correct. As long both sides kept their word and got what they agreed to, the scribe failed to see the problem.

 

“The quills are alright, my dear. Just a bit high-strung still.”

 

Unable to deny the connection between the dishevelled state of their realm and the early events or the night, Vaz opted to just exhale in a heavy manner and rest more of their weight on Jorath’s arm at his following question. A haze was edging into their thoughts once more. They didn’t think it was enough to warrant a concern, but it did serve as a reminder that perhaps it was best to put a hold on any abilities that would exert them. Vaz tilted their head and offered their companion a tired smile as he walked them back towards the lounge, trying to reassure him that that they were alright.

 

“They were worried about you, too. Poor little dears could sense that something was wrong earlier. Now that I have confirmed you are okay they are more relaxed.”

 

Continued the scribe, the tinge of a chuckle apparent in their words. As a collective whole the quills had grown rather fond of Jorath over the years, to the point of several bombarding Vaz with questions about his well-being the second they had successfully projected themself into The Archives. With this in mind Vaz mumbled a dazed thank you as Jorath took some of their bags and asked if he could help with their dizziness, unsure of how else to express the sense of gratitude that settled within them.

 

“I think I just need to lie down for a bit. It was foolish of me to anchor my realm while the energy in my core is still focused on healing.”

 

Vaz claimed upon entering the private lounge once more, though they instead first made for the bathroom to splash some water onto their face. Turning the tap at the sink they watched the water run for a moment, before placing their hand beneath it to test the temperature.

 

The freezing sensation from the water sent a jolt up their arm and a shiver of dread down their back. Vaz gasped and flinched as the icy chill seemed to pierce right through their senses, causing feathers to bristle and neck hairs to stand on end. Their wings positioned themself in an unbalanced manner in an attempt to fan out from the perceived threat, but all they succeeded in doing was sending a basket of towels flying as Vaz tried to steady themself. The next few seconds were a blur, but when Vaz’s mind properly kicked back into gear they could hear Jorath’s voice and feel his grip on their elbow. Vaz scrunched their eyes shut and took a deep breath, trying to focus themself once more. The ghostly sensation of ice flooding their form still lingered, threatening to draw them back into memories of their encounter with Er’anir if they didn’t keep powering forward.

 

“Do you...want me to stay in the bathroom?”

 

Eyes still shut, Vaz pondered the question for a moment before a slow nod answered Jorath. Now that he had been made witness to the gashes in their back they found that there really wasn’t anything else that warranted shooing him back out of the bathroom. Regardless of their answer for him a doubt still prickled at the back of their mind though, a gnawing feeling of guilt following it. Vaz opened their eyes again, both hands clutching at the edges of the sink.

 

“Sorry. The water was cold and it just...unexpectedly reminded me of...”

 

Vaz’s jaw clenched as they starred back down at the running water, keeping a hold on the sink but slowly unlatching themself from one side to turn off the tap. Amber eyes drifted to their own reflection in the mirror before them, then up towards the horns that had sprouted from the anxiety spike. Once Jorath was back in view from retrieving the basket of towels those eyes switched over to his reflection instead. Vaz studied his face, the echo of Er’anir’s claims starting to slither through their tired consciousness the more they starred over at him. They shook their head. It did little to quell the lingering feeling that she was somehow still in the room with them, nor the vision of chains that followed after it.

 

“She really is a vile creature. She said some terrible things in your absence and...”

 

Vaz straightened up from the sink. Their hand clenched momentarily at their wrist, before the fallen being glanced down at it, frowned as they realised what they were doing, and stopped.

 

“And those awful, awful chains...”

 

They sighed as they shuffled to face Jorath properly instead of through the mirror. The initial plan was to just be blunt and blurt out their question for him. But instead they abruptly found themself tipping forward and slumping heavily against Jorath. Shaking arms wrapped tightly around his abdomen, settling at his lower back so as to avoid the links of metal they knew to be lurking just beneath his flesh. Vaz tried to speak but first choked out a quiet sob, squeezing him close as their core basked in the warmth and familiarity of him in an attempt to quash the icy remnants of Er’anir’s influence.  

 

“She said she was going to make you happy, again. Now I can not fathom how such a watery old crone could bring anyone even an ounce of joy but...”

 

Their voice started to catch again, the lump in their throat refusing to properly dislodge itself.  

 

“Is...is what she said right at all, Jorath? Any of it? All those failed contracts. All this association as a Guard for some foolish, failure-riddled fallen-filth. Am I just making you more miserable in the long run?”

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Jorath

Watching Vaz as they gripped the sink, Jorath tried to keep the ache out of his features. He nodded once when they mentioned the water. "She's always felt like ice since the beginning, like I could never get warm enough or--" he said, gesturing with his hand at the end as he tried finding the best way to describe the sensation. "Or like I'm constantly drowning, with how her aura washes into my senses." He caught their gaze in the reflection of the mirror for a moment before turning to see the side of their face. 

 

A low rumble would have risen from his throat for the anger of Er'anir getting into their head if not for the strangled sound of a sob coming from them and the pressure around his lower back. Instead, Jorath's own arms came up to wrap about their shoulders, minding their injured wing. "Vaz..." he started, a sigh drifting at the tail-end of their name. "I'm sorry about the chains. If I'd known...." He wouldn't have restrained himself when fighting against Brizran; he would have reached for--Trying to mimic the gentle nudge Vaz had done earlier before they were brought to Auris Domniir, Jorath rested his head against the side of theirs, hoping it would be reassurance. Celestial energy from their horn seemed to buzz near his ear. "I have it on very good authority that you're not filth. You're not failure-ridden. Remember, I f***ed up a good number of our jobs because of some spontaneous decision I made without your consult."

Jorath fell silent. The question of was he happy was... a difficult one, perhaps. An old, long ignored, ache started to rise in his chest. "There was a time when she wasn't an old crone and I--" He struggled to swallow down the lump forming in his throat. "I thought I was happy. Seemed that way until--" He sighed again and pulled away only slightly so he could shake his head and glance at Vaz's face. "A-Anyways, demons the world over have a tendency to make others miserable, and more often on purpose." This time, Jorath shrugged one shoulder before gently extracting himself from their hold just enough to nudge their chin for a proper look at them. "Er'anir is not right; she can't make me happy again. She's wrong about you being foolish or a failure."

There was a pause and Jorath wondered if it was because he wanted to make sure his next words weren't en route for a collision on his tongue. "I don't feel misery because of something you've done. At least, I don't recall a time when you did something that intentionally made me miserable just for the sake of it. Pulling quills out of my back? A necessary, physical kind of misery, and temporary. Making sure you're protected from harm? Doesn't leave me miserable unless I've done a s*** of a job; that's more on my doing than on anything you did. More often, I find myself amused or--or content, by our interactions." Had he not noticed that before? Truly noticed and understood?

The smile at his features was melancholy, unable to twitch his lip high enough to reach his torn gaze before it faded. "You can't listen to her. You have to blot her out. Er'anir wins if she stays in your head over a long period of time. When that happens--" Jorath's nose and brow wrinkled, twisted by an old despair he hadn't quite forgotten. "It becomes very difficult to make her leave you alone completely." He remembered Vaz's earlier mention of a voice in their head.

Despite the risks of the proximity to their horns and the energy within them, Jorath rested his forehead against Vaz's. A frown broke through his expression. "That mental voice of yours.... Is it teaming up with Er'anir's against you?" A beat, perhaps long enough for Vaz to provide a 'yes' or 'no'. Then, "What stops it? Keeps it quiet so it can't hurt you? Is there a way I can help if you can't silence it on your own?"

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Vaz

 

“She is a siren, yes? I know they can have very strong influences but...a sensation of ice seems so detrimental...”

 

Muttered Vaz at his description of Er’anir, unable to completely shake off the drive to categorise the demon in question and try to determine what domain she was part of. Vaz had known several sirens throughout the centuries, Skrul of course being the most noteworthy. But even though they both shared an ocean-born motif Skrul was very, very different in every way. Skrul was the fresh, cool air that filled your sails and helpful waves that rolled your ship straight to its destination. His influence encouraged passion and determination in his crew-mates, not cold, merciless despair.

 

Partially in response to the sigh that trailed after the sound of their name, Vaz responded with one of their own and tried to tear away their thoughts from Er’anir. Their trembling stilled as they felt toned arms drape across their shoulders, drawing them back to Jorath’s words.

 

“It’s...it’s alright, my dear. You didn’t know.”

 

Assured the scribe, though they were uncertain what Jorath’s supposed plan had been if he did know they had been in chains at the time. A small, ambiguous sort of murmur lurked at the base of their throat as the fellow demon rested his temple against their own. Though it felt like they were just being self-absorbed by complaining to him like this, they nonetheless clung to his every word and emitted a tiny, uncertain sniff of acknowledgement when he was done. They felt horrible for bringing up whether he had been happy in the past, recognising the pain of old memories behind his eyes all too well. The feeling only worsened when he stated that Er’anir couldn’t make him happy again, due to what seemed to be an inappropriate little notion from the depths of their mind that suggested this was a good thing for Jorath. Vaz was silent for a while longer, tired from the anchoring of their realm and caught in a mild daze as Jorath’s claims that they weren’t a useless, worthless blemish on his life drifted through their thoughts.

 

“I can tune out The Voice most days. Bury it in some dark, neglected corner of The Archives. I’ve just been too drained to do it properly. Otherwise dear I’m...I’m not really sure if there’s anything else you can do. You name it, there’s a good chance I’ve already tried it.”

 

Vaz eventually announced, a weary expression settling into their features as they edged into a discussion of The Voice. They didn’t want to bore or upset him with the long, dismal list of things Vaz had tried beforehand to truely sever themself from Vox’s hold.

 

“Teaming up?”

 

Their eyes went distant for a moment, honing in on the voice in their head as they wondered whether he was right. A grimace at the corner of their mouth twitched into view as the usual roar of Vox echoed through their mind, prompting them to close their eyes and wrap their arms a little tighter around the demon before them.

 

Selfish. And pathetic. The beast has endured eons of the demon’s torment. And yet you cower and beg for it to comfort you after a single encounter. Do not bother it with your incessant drivel.

 

“They’ve been saying that I shouldn’t bother you with...”

 

Vaz trailed off, a tremor running down their spine and a sharp inhale following it as a memory of golden chains wrapping their form flickered into their mind. A deep rumble of a voice then brought them back to to the present, as they remembered what Skrul had said to them in the infirmary. Vaz hummed in thought. Stalling again. Briefly they searched for where Illstrund was hidden about Jorath’s person, eventually sensing its faint heat wrapped around one of the arms resting on their shoulders.

 

Don’t you dare, Vee-Vee. Don’t you dare bring him down with your whining.

 

“...The fact that I’ve had...a rather unpleasant past involving chains, too.”

 

Began Vaz, shoulders sagging from the admission. Immediately a hiss of disapproval curled into their ear, prompting a slight flinch from the fallen being. 

 

That was a mistake, Veritas. It didn’t even ask for an example.

 

“And...um...It-it likes to call me Veritas, a lot.”

 

Hands twitched, responding to an ancient call as to what one should do to purge themself of their failures. Vaz wrinkled their brow and focused instead on the pressure at their forehead until the urge subsided. The whisper of Vox through their mind was quieter now, and the clamminess of Er’anir’s influence was finally being combatted by the fire of Jorath’s own. Vaz inhaled and exhaled, letting the tension that lingered in their form ebb away enough to start to draw their horns back into their skull.

 

“I’m sorry I...I imagine it’s nothing compared to what you must go through still. I don’t even remember all that much any more just...voices. Feathers everywhere. Too...far too much ink...”

 

With a tongue that suddenly felt like lead and eyes now stinging from a memory that Vaz in no shape or form wanted to delve further into, the scribe shifted gears back towards Jorath’s well-being.

 

“Does that mean she’s in your head too, L’antiira? Whispering lies right into it?”

 

Vaz tilted back their head, allowing for their eyes to stare into his own in search of answers. In the daze from the voices they realised that their arms had travelled higher, now resting more around the middle of his waist. The scribe couldn’t deny it was a wonderfully comfortable position for them to be in. The issue however was that they were now idly tracing small circles with their hands along his back, and Vaz couldn’t tell if it was something that helped to ease the ancient ache in his joints or just reminded him it was there. They paused, lifting their hands so that they instead hovered with uncertainty in the air behind him.

 

“Sorry. I um...I know such contact is difficult for you. I fear I’ve overstayed my welcome. I-I shouldn’t just assume because...er...”

 

Vaz edged slightly backwards, not quite pulling out of the hold but more offering it as a suggestion incase they had outstayed Jorath’s level of tolerance for one day.

 

“Perhaps I should just go and lie down for a few hours? Maybe? I’m not certain I’m making rational decisions at the moment. You’re welcome to return to the plaza with dear Argia and Xaal if you had other plans...?”

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