Closed Reunion [Eosi]

A man wanders through Riverfall, looking for the missing half of his heart...

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Built into the cliffs overlooking the Suvan Sea, Riverfall resides on the edge of grasslands of Cyphrus where the Bluevein River plunges off the plain and cascades down to the inland sea below. Home of the Akalak, Riverfall is a self-supporting city populated by devoted warriors. [Riverfall Codex]

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Reunion [Eosi]

Postby Leo Varniak on April 10th, 2016, 3:49 pm

1st day of Spring, 516 AV - Valterrian Survival festival

Step, pain, step, pain. The rhythm was something you could get used to and reach a point where you could even be mostly functional, but it was never going to be something you could just shrug off and ignore. It wasn’t going anywhere. It had been a full year since Leo had broken his left tibia; ironically, not during any major life-threatening moments or heated battles, but foolishly, at night, having let his guard down for just five seconds and tumbled down a steep but concealed slope. He had set the bone as best he could; not nearly well enough, judging by the results.

The parade of talking faces and moving bodies was making him feel sick to his stomach as he limped through the streets of Riverfall, his clothes torn and dirty with long dried blood and filth. The sounds of the city at work, the chatter of its inhabitants, it was too much to take in. It all merged into one single lump of utter nonsense. Leo Zaital grimaced at the overwhelming response from every one of his senses, but none more so than his spiritual ones. Dissatisfaction; desire; envy; anger; resentment. The raw emotions from everyone in town fed directly into his gnosis like a banquet serving sweet and salty and savory and sour dishes without a care. Once, he had been able to filter it all out with some conscious effort; but the years spent off-world had dampened that mental muscle through the power of solitude. Now that the sensation was returning in full force, his shield struggled to protect him.

It did not escape him how people were dodging him, walking in wide arcs around him with concerned gazes, unsettled by his essence even before his damaged looks registered with them. He seemed to be able to part the crowd in two as he passed, the tides of people receding to let him through. Certainly, there were more people out in the streets than he remembered. As he allowed himself to focus on his surroundings, it appeared to him that many of them were dressed for a celebration of sorts. They gathered in small groups, some talking, others admiring the scenery, some even reciting poetry in front of a small audience.

Thinking about it rationally, it was only natural they would avoid him. His shirt and trousers were ripped and worn to the point of looking like they could disintegrate any time now. The entire right sleeve was missing past the elbow, courtesy of that time when he had used it to bandage a wound. He had washed his clothing and himself as often as his surroundings would let him, but some of the dirt and filth just would not come off no matter what. Leo’s black hair was long, very long now, reaching slightly past his shoulders in a messy, knotty tangle. He sported a thick, unkempt beard from his cheekbone to the bottom of his throat. At first he had tried to groom himself, cut his hair and shave his beard with Earth blades, mostly in an attempt to keep some civility from escaping his being. The proposition hadn’t lasted long. Soon he realized he needed all the Res he could muster, and this was a luxury he could not afford. Even worse, one day he’d found himself simply not caring anymore.

Leo frowned, wishing he could remember more. It all seemed so far away in the past. He wondered if he’d ever feel at home among people again, then he wondered if he’d ever felt at home among people to begin with. He walked slowly, his march punctuated by the regular lances of pain from his left leg as he placed his weight on it. It took him a long while to realize he had no idea where he was going, and that essentially meant he was lost. Was he looking for Eosi here? Was she to be found here? For all he knew she may have long left the city, disappointed and disillusioned, to carve a new life for herself. Or - the more worrisome thought - she may have left on a hopeless quest to find him, one who could not possibly be found. A quest that could only end in death.

A part of him wanted to pray, but strangely, no words came out. Still numb in his heart, Leo stopped to take a break, hand resting against a wall. He wanted to throw down the walking stick and set it on fire, but he could do neither. He had never felt so powerless and frustrated. As the champion of Ivak, he knew how dangerous these emotions were to one such as himself, but he struggled to keep them in check nevertheless. A young child passed him by and stared at him with big deer eyes. Leo stared back, and the child ran away, startled. He gave a deep sigh and resumed his walk around town.

Before long, he found himself standing on the bridge overlooking the majestic Bluvein waterfalls. He spent what felt like a long time looking down at the crashing water, the noise drowning the chatter and revelry. Ironic that a man of fire should find water soothing, but the foaming water, so blue and white, did comfort him. He was starting to recall details about the city, which was also good. Maybe what was lost could still be regained after all. Names, layouts, dynamics, they were resurfacing from the bubbling surface of his mind. Later on he would check Godiva’s Refuge for Eosi’s presence. First he might even show up at the medical center to get looked at by a healer. He did not want to show that kind of weakness in front of Eosi, should she still be residing there.

For now, though, he crossed the bridge and moved past the bustling Zhongjie Warrens to seek the peace and quiet of Semele park. It was here that he had petitioned the Council to let him raise a monument to the victims of the Djed Storm, something he’d never gotten around to, as his time in Riverfall had been cut short. It was a nice park, filled with statues and artistry, just about to be reborn after the hardships of winter. Leo sat down on a bench and set his improvised walking stick aside. He moved his mouth quietly to get accustomed to the motions of talking again. His own voice had come across as alien to his ears.

A group of people laughing nearby set him on edge instantly. He tensed, his body hair standing on end, practically on the verge of forming Res for self-defense. He caught himself holding his breath. Exhaling softly, he turned his attention to the assembled throng, a maniple of maybe twenty or thirty citizens - Akalak, Konti and others - listening on as a jovial-sounding man gave them an impassioned speech. ”Yes, my friends,” said the man, who looked to be in his middle age but had still had an amused twinkle in his eye, ”let us take this chance to make a resolution or three for the coming year. A resolution you’d like to keep through four seasons, or one you’d like to break in four days. Anyone? Don’t be shy!”

”Drink every day!” yelled one Akalak, eliciting one more round of laughter from the audience. ”I want to catch a fish this big,” a burly-looking human spread his arms, delighted at the thought. ”I… I can’t even tell you without getting in trouble,” another Akalak confessed, causing more hilarity. ”What about you, Master Davin?” a Konti smiled at the speaker, finding unanimous agreement in the small crowd. ”Do you have a resolution for the coming year?” The man seemed to blush, took a bow and cleared his throat. Still, Leo had the distinct impression his reaction was far from spontaneous and that the whole speech so far had been a ruse to get his audience to ask him that very question.

”Well, my dear lady, my resolution for the coming year is to make sure I am even with the world. You see, there’s a time in a man’s life when he wants to owe nothing, and be owed nothing. When you sit at the gambling table we call life, it doesn’t even matter if you win or you lose. Being a good sport is what matters in the end… You lose, you pay up. You win, next round of drinks is on you. I realize there have been certain… situations in my life where things haven’t always gone according to that ideal. This year I’d like to fix that. I’d like that very much.”

”You speak in riddles, Master Davin,” the Konti protested with a smile.

”Riddles make life interesting, my lady. No-one’s interested in a straight answer these days, for what’s left to fill the silence afterwards?” Before anyone could reply, the man excused himself from the small crowd and slipped away; Leo realized the man was coming his way. The champion watched him approach with unblinking eyes, hardened by his recent ordeals.

”Mind if I sit here for a moment, kind sir?” the man known as Davin asked. Leo squinted at him.

”I’m not into men.”

Davin sucked in a little air and tapped his finger on his lips. ”I see… so sarcasm it is for you. Interesting.” The tone was soft, as if he was taking notes to himself.

The Azenth frowned, registering that something was… off about the entire encounter. Had he really just delivered that line to a perfect stranger? Had he always been like this? He couldn’t remember. He hadn’t a real conversation in ages, at least not with someone not trying to kill him. He said nothing.

”The name’s Straif Davin. I saw you sitting there, all alone, and couldn’t help but come over and ask if you, too, have a resolution for the coming year,” Davin continued, flashing his teeth.

”Well, Mr. Davin, my name is Leo Zaital and you are being very disrespectful to my friend here.” Leo picked up his gnarly stick and held it out to the other man. ”He may not be very talkative, but he’ll always support you in times of need, which is more than you could say of most people. As for my first resolution, I wish to spread awareness that when I am sitting alone, or with select friends such as in this case, I am perfectly content with sitting in the aforementioned state. I mean, I don’t exactly look like someone seeking company, do I?”

David stroked his chin, pensively. ”So, THE Leo Zaital, eh?”

Leo blinked. ”Proper nouns don’t rightfully take articles, but yes. I am he.”

”I’ve read your account of Ivak’s liberation at the library, actually.” The man did not seem to mind Leo’s ruined state at all. ”A tale of passion and suspense! Epic fights! Mystery! Betrayal!”

”Are you making fun of me?” Leo asked in a low voice.

”No, not at all!” the man cheered up, ”it’s just great to know you’re in this city. It opens up so many possibilities. Maybe I’ll see you around sometime before the season’s over. You and your friend, that is. Have yourself a wonderful day!” And with that, he gave the slightest hint of a bow, turned around and went back to mingling with the group.

Leo gave another sigh, now thoroughly fed with sitting in that bench. He stood, took his stick and ventured deeper into the park, away from that bothersome presence and into the quiet. Something about the man truly rubbed him the wrong way; there were things he could not quite put a finger on, not the least of which was the fact that Leo himself felt… strange. Had felt strange since walking past the gates, actually. Different, changed somehow, but he did not understand how or why, or whether the feeling was even justified. It was all very odd. Maybe he just needed some silence to collect his thoughts.

Last edited by Leo Varniak on April 11th, 2016, 10:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Reunion [Eosi]

Postby Eosi on April 11th, 2016, 1:43 am

Image

The gazing pond of Semele Park was womb-quiet despite the early afternoon. Eosi strained to hear for any extraneous sounds but found none, save for occasional lilt of birdsong and the thrumming of thumb-plump honeybees as they flitted from flower to flower. The pastel blue sky was slashed overhead like the negligent sweep of a painter’s brush, devoid of cloud. There was a light breeze sweeping over the ground and it indeed carried a chill, but the generous sunlight did much to mitigate that end. It was the first day of 516 and Eosi did in fact, feel different. But the differences were quite unexpected.

First, her mind was elsewhere. No matter how she tried to simply be, it was as if her thoughts were attached to a string of bells, clamoring to be attended to. Ivak willing, if she could simply disengage from them, she might even have a moment’s peace. But for some reason, she kept revisiting the snatches of whispers she’d heard in the stalls that morning. The routine gossip of grooms and their assistants suddenly had appeal. Over and over again, she picked the details apart. But these were other people’s affairs! Eosi felt like a voyeur. The sudden interest was abrupt and unnatural. Then again, that could be said of many things happening recently in the city.

There were other, deeper matters of consideration. Those were the thoughts that drove her to solitude on this day. Idly her eyes traced the shape of a nearby wildflower. There was no real way to measure it, but she what she found was through the appearance of that superhuman, emotional lightning rod and the recent misadventure out on the Sea of Grass, she’d gained some scar tissue, both in the literal and figurative sense. Vaguely, she ran a hand over the bandages at her forearm where a Yukmen had bitten down to the bone. It gave her a chill to think how close she’d come to death, or how she’d been directly responsible for the deaths of so many others.

A particularly crisp breeze rolled past. She huddled deeper into her cape.

’Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.’

The dull wooden sound was so low, she barely registered it as a sound. Yet in the incredible quiet of the park, it was astonishingly hard to miss. Eosi did not turn to see. Instead, she used the divine connection between her and the sun to expand her sight. The tiny sun caught fire at the base of her neck and suddenly, the world was a panorama. There were birds building a nest on the other side of the lake. At the entrance to the park, a stray cat lolled in the sun. There were people within the mile of her eyeline, but they were well away, not close enough to be audible. No, this particular noise was caused by a long, dark figure as he shambled his way past the trees. It was impossible to discern any details about the man from above, but if she had to guess, he must’ve had a wooden leg or a walking stick that was causing the noise.

Nothing to be alarmed by. She did not recognize this person, but the Spring usually brought a sea of new faces. Perhaps a caravan had recently arrived. Still, he was coming from behind. Before long, she’d turn to face him.

Eosi allowed her connection to Syna to fade. The absence was met with a sigh, then a frown.

Set against the blue expanse of the pond, she looked like another gemstone flower. Her unmistakeable auburn hair was left unchecked in its usual fashion with the occasional corkscrew curl caught by the breeze. In response to the lingering cold, she wore her dark full cape today, framing an emerald dress, dark boots and hosiery. There was a blow slung over her back, complete with a quiver full of arrows. Eosi wore her gloves. As ever, she could never be accused of leaving home unprepared.

Maybe it was really best that she was leaving the Antiquities Society. The burden of death was too much to bear. It was her greatest fear, come to fruition. Partnering with Kavala for the renovations of the Sapphire Star would ensure she’d live longer. Maybe she’d even provide some healing for other women, too. Give them some counsel, someone who might sit and listen. But first she’d do well to get a handle on her own suffering.

’Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.’

The sound was now too close for comfort. Eosi turned on her heel, peering defensively over her shoulder.

There she saw a man, if you could call him that. He stood covered in filth and rags, caked in dried blood, some which had matted into his hair and beard. Eosi blinked, her mouth softening. Why was this person so familiar? She turned further and took a step. Then another. She did not speak yet, because she was uncertain. Was this man half-mad from an attack out on the Sea of Grass? His appearance was not fresh enough to denote anything recent. The guard would not let him into the city, if they considered him dangerous. Still, only a fool would let their guard down in a hostile world such as this.

Slowly, carefully, she slid the bow from her shoulder.

”Easy,” she began. ”I don’t mean you any harm. You look like you need some healing,” she said, looking to his leg. It was bent at a sickening angle.

Eosi took another step. Then another. But not too close, or she wouldn’t be able to shoot him down if she had to. There she planted her feet, some short distance away. Her eyes were searching him over and over, for the source of the familiarity. There was something in those dark eyes of his that held the key. They seemed weary and deep, like some lost, ruined well out in the Unforgiving.

”Who are you?” She asked. Her hands were trembling. They gripped the bow more tightly. ”State your name, or I’ll shoot.” But she did not want to shoot. Eosi did not want to hurt this man. Her voice telegraphed much of what she was feeling. She felt her throat tighten at those words.

”I want to help you,” she said, softer this time.
Image
Last edited by Eosi on October 3rd, 2016, 6:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Reunion [Eosi]

Postby Leo Varniak on April 11th, 2016, 9:52 pm

Away from the chatter, from the arbitrary celebration of just another day, Leo felt he could breathe again. As usual, his first instinct when faced with things he could not process was to begin conflict with them. Old habits really died hard, it seemed. His gaze lost itself in the gazing pond for a moment, finding yet something else that he couldn’t fully understand. Water. Cold and fleeting, neutral in every way, fertile but treacherous. As a Reimancer, he had tried to form it countless times, to no avail. The simplest and most uniform of all elements, the source of all life, and he couldn’t wrap his head around it. A mystery locked away in blue crystal.

He resumed walking three-legged, not stopping to admire the flowers but still enjoying their presence as he passed them by. He remembered a time early on in his exile when he’d been forced to eat flowers or starve. He remembered another time when he’d fallen asleep in an alien grassland, utterly exhausted, waking up only to find that incredibly pretty red flowers had taken root into his very skin. He could still appreciate the sight, but he wasn’t going to take up gardening as a hobby anytime soon. Better move on, then. His stick hit the ground like a soft, monotonous drum as he resolved to walk a full lap around the pond and then leave this place to find shelter for the night. No particular reason to it, just a goal to have because being goalless was far worse than being dead.

This part of the garden was practically empty; the majority of Rivarians kept near the entrance, where they could most easily find some company. People liked to think they weren’t alone, after all. The champion was musing over this when he realized he was not, in fact, completely alone; a solitary figure stood some distance ahead, facing away from him. Leo wondered if he should just pick another route and avoid the stranger; both of them obviously wished not to be interrupted. Still, he did not feel like changing his plans now - he never did. Also, something in the stranger’s distant figure caused him to frown. The hair color or the presence of a bow and quiver might not have rung a bell in isolation, but their combination added a certain urgency to Leo’s labored steps.

His suspicions grew steadily as he approached and was able to identify the mysterious figure as a female of just the right height. A voice inside Leo wanted to call out the name he had in his heart, but then again another voice was telling him to leave while he still could, that the price of cowardice was a small one to pay in exchange for not being seen in this pitiful state. He lifted his gaze to the blue sky, as if asking for advice, and then steeled himself amidst all doubts. Maybe it was delusion. Maybe it wasn’t her; plenty of red-haired archers in the world. Maybe he would be disappointed. Or maybe it was her and maybe she would be disappointed. Who was to say she hadn’t found another? Maybe she was waiting for someone who wasn’t him. Three years was a long time in a world at peace; an eternity in a world at war.

His heart skipped a beat and his stick resumed beating the grass with renewed effort. His dusty boots, the soles long worn out and the leather very nearly torn apart, dragged along the path. A mask of anxiety on his face, he moved as if facing a hurricane. Was this a mirage, an afterimage he couldn’t approach? An omen of incoming madness? A cruel joke? He did not know. He would not know until she turned. He made more noise on purpose, just to get her to sense his presence and face his direction. Eosi was a deeply perceptive woman; if it was indeed her, then why was there no reaction at all? It made him doubt himself even more. He nearly stumbled then, his mouth twisting in a grimace of pain as he caught himself just in time. Gripping the stick tight, he shifted his weight to the good leg again. As if on cue, the woman finally turned to face him. His world froze.

It was her. It was her. It was her. Even with her bow trained on him, arrow ready to fly, she remained the most welcome sight in this world and the others. Leo remembered the first time he’d seen her, practicing her archery not far from here, and all the feelings he had pushed down to make room for simple survival came back to the forefront with the utmost urgency. He wanted to tell her so many things that his mouth opened and nothing came out. She did not immediately recognize him, but then again, right now Leo doubted anyone could. Was she going to accept him now? It is easy enough to fall in love with the strong and the successful, not so much with the broken and lost. Hope and negativity took turns taking over his mind, and if he did not feel fear, it was only because of Ssena’s damnable gnosis mark.

He froze where he stood, searching Eosi’s eyes for a spark of recognition. He thought he saw it flash behind her powerful gaze, and heard it color her voice. It was but a whisper running through her mind, but Leo could read it like an open book. He knew her well. He noticed the oh so slight signs of evolution on her visage, the strength of the draw on her longbow pulling her muscles taut. He drank from the lines in her expression, taking secret delight in the dance of feelings unfolding before his eyes. He saw that deep down she knew. She was simply not allowing herself to accept it.

”It’s me, Eosi,” he said at last, letting the stick drop to his feet amidst the grass. His smile was pained, but sincere; his voice so soft the wind might have vanquished it if only it had tried to. ”I hope you don’t intend to help me with that bow…” His gaze traveled along her arms and stopped at the bandages. ”You’re wounded,” he noted, giving new meaning to the idiom ‘seeing the speck in your neighbor’s eye.’

”Forgive me.”

He did not move any further. Did not speak any further. He might have been one of the statues on display for all practical purposes. Still, it was him without a doubt. The way he stood, the quiet strength of his countenance, his voice… it was Leo Zaital peeking through a curtain of accumulated damage, a fire languishing in the smoking cinders but ready to roar once more if only given fuel and air.

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Leo Varniak
It was a pleasure to burn
 
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Reunion [Eosi]

Postby Eosi on April 12th, 2016, 6:25 am

Image

He stared, unblinking. She felt the tension begin to mount. Why? This was a defenseless man, armed with nothing more than his wits and a walking stick. With a single arrow, she could put him down. But as she’d thought once before, appearances had the power to deceive, if one maintained them well enough. So who was he then? Why did he stare?

The moment hung between them. Then, he spoke.

That voice… The sound that boiled from his throat couldn't possibly be his. She didn't understand. Why was he so familiar? What was this vague notion of knowing that troubled her? It was as if she were trying to recall some long unused word, lost in the depths of her vocabulary. It was right on the tip of her tongue, but she just couldn't reach it.

Until...

Suddenly, all the facts came together. Her eyes grew wide as two twin moons, orbiting a sight that now passed understanding. The clothes, the hair, the eyes. The stick slid from his hand and hit the ground with a clatter. She did not remember how to breathe anymore.

Tears clawed and scrapped their way past the knot in her throat. She struggled to contain them. Eosi lowered her weapon. She allowed the grief to unfurl in her gut. Her body felt weak and her hands were shaking. By contrast, all her thoughts were incoherent expressions of relief and joy, intense beyond measure, more powerful than the rest. Inside, she was screaming, leaping. Her lips parted. Numb fingers loosed, allowing the bow to fall away.

She mouthed his name, over and over again. Her lips made the shape, but she could not find the words. While she certainly heard him, Eosi spared no time to deliver her reply. Instead she ran to him, to touch his face, to soak in his nearness and drown in his sight.

She was crying, unable to contain the cistern of her emotion. It began to overflow. As she stood before him, she reached out with both hands to touch his cheeks. Her eyes searched his for confirmation, traveling the length of his pitched-colored irises, finding them to be just as she could recall. No copycat, however sophisticated, could hope to replicate such intricate detail. It was really him, beyond a doubt.

He saw her injury. She spared it a downward glance, but refused to acknowledge it any further. It was nothing, nothing compared to him.

She began to assess the damage. She peered to one side and found that he was missing a piece of cartilidge from his upper ear. There was blood everywhere. He was down a sleeve from his shirt. His clothes were scarcely even the same anymore. Wait. With a mix of horror and astonishment, she then realized: they were the same. These were the clothes from before.

She felt sick. Eosi could barely see. Her tears cast a thick film over the world. She kissed his lips with great tenderness, not caring if they were ruined or if he tasted like blood and death. He was there and he was alive. She would carry him until the end of days, if she wanted to. She didn't give a damn if he'd let her or not.

Without revulsion, without self-consciousness she moved her lips against him. The rivulets of her tears began to loosen some of the dirt that lingered on his skin. Leo was the white light of a comet streaking across the her night sky. All else fell into darkness. There were no other stars or distant suns that she cared for.

Eosi slowly drew back, scarcely breathing. Her voice strangled as it passed from her lips.

”What happened?” She rasped. Her body shuddered with suppressed weeping. ”Gods, what happened to you? With one hand, she smoothed the hair from his face. It was longer than it’d ever been.

”Leo,” she managed at long last, relieved as the word broke free. The thought of him being gravely injured, possibly stranded without her was maddening. To think how he suffered while she did nothing to save him was agony. She looked down at his leg and grimaced.

”I should have looked for you,” she despaired. Her voice was thick with emotion, raw with pain. ”I should have gone. Leo, I’m so sorry.”

”So…. sorry…” She breathed, pressing her face to his shoulder.

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Last edited by Eosi on October 3rd, 2016, 6:30 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Eosi
Act first. Teach them to fear you.
 
Posts: 262
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Joined roleplay: November 20th, 2012, 7:42 pm
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Reunion [Eosi]

Postby Leo Varniak on April 13th, 2016, 9:35 pm

What were the odds of the two of them being reunited like this, suddenly pushed back into each other’s life as if they had been separated by an oversight of the higher powers? Minuscule, no doubt. But they had never been about comforting odds in the first place. No, they were the impossible struggling to come true, and they waged their own war against the boundaries of the reasonable. Even now, they were defying reality. Leo could scarcely believe she was standing there, beautiful and frail and overflowing with feeling. Maybe he was just going insane; maybe he’d been going through so much that his mind couldn't really take it anymore. An illusion, a mirage… no, the beauty in those eyes couldn’t possibly be anything of Leo’s own making. He was truly standing in her presence - and it took his breath away.

He watched the recognition spread through her being like wildfire, conquering the last bastions of her doubt; the dance of emotions unfolded on her lips and behind her eyes, reminding him what it was like to be a human being. He had forgotten more than he’d ever thought he knew, and thanks to Eosi he was remembering more than he’d ever understood before. Still, he did not make the first move. He was the one approaching her as a potential stranger, and the choice to welcome him or send him on his way was hers alone. His eyes followed the first tear as it trickled down her cheek, whimsical. There were more tears, but by then she’d already closed the short distance between them.

Leo felt her fingers tracing his face, comparing it to the old memories, taking silent inventory of every scar, each piece of suffering he’d brought home from his journey to the stars. Hesitant at first - it didn’t even seem right to touch her with the same hands that had spilled the blood of the wicked - he still couldn’t resist. He needed to feel her skin once again. His fingertips ran soft lines over Eosi’s face, parting locks of auburn hair. He felt her breath on him, like an infusion of life essence into a shell. He knew how ruined he must look, but her tender kisses made him forget all about it in a heartbeat. He hadn’t dared to believe he would feel Eosi’s lips on his ever again.

As he embraced her with tired but still willful arms, he realized how much Eosi completed him. He pulled her closer to him, now unafraid to show her his mutilations: these wounds, he would always carry with pride because no matter how much flesh they carved away from him, there would always be more than enough left for him to be who he was. He would never be less. Leo planted a kiss on Eosi’s forehead, her tears having turned into dew on his beard. By now she’d seen pretty much all of his visible injuries, though the scars on his chest, from the very first day, remained out of view. And still there was nothing but love in her gaze.

She asked him what happened. Leo could not help but smile thinly at that. Where to even begin? And that she should feel guilty of not looking for him hard enough… that was so Eosi. ”I was gone, my beloved. Far, far away, where no-one could have followed me.” He did not stop caressing her face, one finger following the line of her cheekbone. His voice was soft - a tone of voice that existed for her and her alone. It wasn’t the champion’s voice, but the man’s. ”Not even you. Not even you. I’m sorry… it was my mistake in the first place. I was arrogant and paid the price.” He shook his head lightly. ”You paid it too. I never wanted for this to happen.”

He was silent for a moment, allowing Eosi a moment of quiet, pressed against his shoulder. ”I’ve loved you every single day. I met an enemy that wanted to break and remake me in its likeness. Day after day, year after year… but the thought of you helped me stay strong.” He enjoyed the next modicum of silence, basking in her warmth. ”Fitting we should meet again on this day. We are survivors to the bone, the two of us.”

Leo Zaital would not cry, because the fire and the cruelty of man had dried his tears as a young child. This leaning into Eosi, this admission that he wanted to rely on her, that he was only human, was his replacement for that. No-one had ever witnessed such an opening as the one that now lay bare in front of his love. He felt in no hurry for the embrace to come to a close; in fact, he wished it would last forever. ”My love for you will keep burning long after my life is reduced to ashes.” He gave a light chuckle. ”Corny thought of the day.”

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Reunion [Eosi]

Postby Eosi on October 3rd, 2016, 7:31 pm

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Their reunion was surreal. The strength of his wasted body seemed unnatural, yet there it was. Above, the sky was impossibly blue. The feeling of a light breeze whispered along her cheek. There were birds chorusing softly in the distance. The sensation of his hands still lingered, long after they moved from her face. In that moment, she'd never felt more grateful to be alive. Eosi never had felt joy in this way; it was not unlike when she'd been marked by the sun.

Gone. Gone, far away. There was a distant remembrance in his eyes as he supplied her with a few scant details, but it was enough. Her eyes traveled the length of his body. Eosi knew there were forces at work beyond her comprehension. Whatever it was that hurt him this way, it had a power so great that it would have destroyed her as negligently as swatting a fly. If she'd been with him, she would have died. Her weakness might've gotten them both killed in the process.

"We've paid, but not with our lives," she offered. She shivered suddenly, feeling the excess heat of his flesh seep past her cloak and into her bones. Being with Leo Zaital was like being with a furnace.

"You're too hard on yourself," Eosi said, reaching up to smooth his hair like she had so many times before. There they were, as if nothing had ever happened. "And you need a haircut," she added. Her eyes crinkled as she laughed, tears streaming down her face.

He would taste her joy. This she knew. There was nothing hidden between them. It was their happiness, their pain, their sorrow.

Leo leaned into her, holding her fast. She traced the space over his heart with two fingers, where she knew the mark of peace to be. Her mouth hurt from smiling. The tears began to dry, though her eyes were still sore. For a long moment, they simply stood together. Their bodies swayed. They simply existed. The sound of a child's laughter reached them, seemingly from far away. The moment was penetrating. Eosi exhaled into his shoulder.

"Yes," she agreed quietly. What more was there to say? Eosi had suffered for years at the very thought of him. His presence now closed those wounds. There was suddenly reason and structure. Eosi felt a stab of shame at all the moments she'd stumbled and lost faith. But there was also pride. Her heart swelled with it, knowing that whenever she fell, it was that same faith that brought her back again.

"I love you too," she mouthed against his shoulder, with new appreciation for being alive. She felt the rising and falling of their chests. The steady tattoo of his heart. Eosi listened to the music of the trees, the buzz of wings, the sound of speeches and laughter all around them.

Eosi pulled back to gaze into the infinity of his eyes. Those dark tunnels led back into a soul yet unbroken. She could see that there was nothing fundamentally different, not really. Leo had aged and he had learned, but nothing would ever take from him. The man she loved was still breathing.

"You haven't changed," she said finally. Her voice cracked as she spoke. "You're cheesy as ever." Eosi laughed. The sound was almost foreign to her ears.

"We will keep burning together. Even when we're far apart." Distance suddenly seemed like nothing more than an abstraction. What a fool she'd been. But all sages were fools once, before they learned to comprehend. Some would even argue that being a fool was part of the job description.

"Would you like to go home?" She asked. The urge to care for him was overwhelming. To help him reclaim the parts of him he'd long forgotten. They could search for them, together.

"We can," she said, glancing at their surroundings. Small throngs of people here and there had drawn closer, unbeknownst to them. They stared at the two of them unabashedly. Off in the distance she recognized something that almost looked like the silhouette of Straif Davin, though it was likely her imagination.

Eosi grumbled under her breath, though in reality it did little to dampen her happiness.

"To the Sanctuary," she added. It would be good to get out of the public eye, if they could.
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Reunion [Eosi]

Postby Leo Varniak on October 9th, 2016, 7:46 pm

All was not lost then. This went far beyond his wildest dreams, beyond the fantasies he’d played in his mind over and over again - in front of some small campfire, in the sole company of a scrawny, chewy-tasting hare skewered on a stick. He had dreamed then, but only just enough. Enough to last another day, but not so much as to let the thought drive him to despair. This was why he’d rarely dreamed of the past; the past was just too good to ever return.

He had dreamed, though. Of rejoining Eosi, either in this life or the next. Of sharing just one more kiss, one more embrace. Sometimes he would feel shame for the thoughts she may have of him and his betrayal and would excruciate at the thought of her moving on; at other times, though, he would struggle with the opposite thought of her refusing to move on and condemning herself to a life of unhappiness. So he would think of this, but not too long, or too hard - and after the penultimate world Kurtz presented him with, he tried to think of her not at all, for her own good and his.

Her acceptance made him smile, and also made him realize how their roles seemed to have changed subtly. He didn’t have all the answers anymore. Maybe she wasn’t looking for them anymore. He forgot all about his aches and pains as he leaned into her, seeking liberation in her warm lips. Barely aware of the festival, having all but forgotten about the annoying man from before, only faintly existing outside of their own private space, Leo was happy.

”Home,” he whispered back. The thought sounded foreign to his mind. It was not a concept he’d ever grasped very well, and the last three years had pretty much kicked it out of him. Then she specified the Sanctuary, and after a second or two Leo understood. The Sanctuary. ”That’s a good place to go, love.” He allowed himself a moment’s reflection and his eyes seemed to twinkle, if only a little; a mere spark of what they had been, but a sign that maybe, just maybe he could come back from this. ”Some really fine statues to be seen there, for sure.”

He tried to take a step then, as if to guide her in a random direction (in a world where directions actually mattered, unlike the ones he’d been treated to recently), and reality set back in. A sharp lance of pain ran him through as he shifted his weight to his left leg; he’d remembered being a lion, and forgot he wasn’t one anymore. Leo winced, gripping Eosi’s arm to keep himself from just crashing down. His head started swimming from the pain. He had learned how to navigate his environment so as to skirt around the worst of it, but simply stepping outside this tiny set of motions was punishing.

”Sorry,” he forced himself to smile. ”They don’t make champions like they used to.” He jested, but in reality he was reeling from the shame and embarrassment of it all. He could face death without flinching, but not weakness. At least people have glorious words to write on the tombstones of those who die; the weak do not even warrant consideration. ”This walk… could take some time.” He looked up and finally took notice of the small gatherings of citizens staring at them. He instantly felt naked. His breath became faster, more ragged. The heat from his body flared up. His eyes turned hard and unforgiving and he felt acute pressure coming from his gnosis mark.

Leo bit on his lip. ”Eosi…” he murmured, recognizing the symptoms. Once, he would have stomped the signs right into the curb. Now, he was feeling powerless to do so. Eosi would understand now, the true burden of being a champion of Ivak. She had only ever seen him at his best. ”We must get away from them, or they must get away from us. They… won’t have pleasant memories of this night if the power turns on them.” There was something pleading in his gaze as he said so, leaning into Eosi for physical and emotional support alike. Never before had happiness and misery seemed as inseparable in life.

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