83rd of Ashan - Later that Night
Jonathan knew he'd made some mistakes with Alistair. He'd rushed forward into a Fracture, which was a foolish decision. Even as a self-professed Academic he'd known better than to do something that foolish. He could have gotten himself killed, and he understood if Alistair was angry at him. In fact he almost bet on it. He'd been an over-excited child, too concerned about study to do anything else than flit from one subject to the next gathering up information. Alistair was tired of him, exhausted, and Jon felt guilty about it. He slept outside of his lover's clinic; he needed to sleep under the stars, and the night was too warm this late in Ashan to sleep in a bed. He laid on his back near the pond just outside of the building, watching the willow's arms sweep back and forth with the breeze. He had to restrain himself next time; if he was going to go into Fractures he had to have some sort of self-imposed balance. He couldn't run through it like a child through a corn field but he couldn't be as paranoid and judgemental as Alistair either. He was convinced that the only reason he'd survived his encounter crashing into the cunicular Harvester was that he'd spoken to him and not attacked.
He thought of it as he drifted off to sleep, and in sleep he was in Emea. Emea, the land he loved and the land he wanted to study. He could remember so piteously little of it when he woke it was like grasping at soap bubbles, but he enjoyed it every time he dreamed. Jon, more than anything, wanted to understand Emea. He wanted to travel it, more than just while he was asleep. He wanted to sketch it and take samples, and be able to bring those back into the real world with him. Hopefully one day that could be a reality. He wanted every sleep session a study session. His body may rest, but his mind never did.
Emea had a strange way of spitting someone out in random locations within the dream world. Jonathan was back in a familiar field this time; the grass grew upside down, the water flowed as thick as mucus, and the sky swirled like oil. He stood up; he'd been here with Daeva before. It was a common hunting ground for Harvesters, but while he'd felt safe with Daeva at his side now he was nervous. He didn't know if someone could die in a dream and he really didn't want to be the first to find out. He made his way toward the trees, which moved up and down in the wind. They flexed and squirmed against one another like living things. When Jon looked closely, the leaves were mouths. He shuddered and decided to skirt around the outside of the forest. He didn't trust the stream that flowed disturbingly slowly, or the way rocks kept drifting upward, but he had little choice in the matter. It was either stay near the...water...or stay near the forest of mouthed plants. At least he could be fairly sure the first wasn't going to kill him.
Crouched next to the river when he approached was someone quite familiar; the Harvester he'd run into in the fracture. He still felt he owed the creature an apology; the first time it had vanished it had dropped its worm-like fur. Jonathan had gathered it with the intention of taking it out of the fracture, something the Harvester had taken offense to. Jon closed the distance between them slowly, clearing his throat so the Harvester knew he was there this time. He also, finally, got a good look at the creature.
It was like some combination of human and rabbit, and yet neither at the same time. It stood like a man, yet its muscles were never still and seemed to wander into places impossible by normal standards. It was as if it was a nest of snakes or eels in a rabbit costume and they were constantly writhing to hold it up. Even its fur had a mind of its own, looking more like white pinworms than actual hairs. Its ears were impossibly large, hanging down by its thighs and unquestionably cunicular. They brushed the ground as he crouched by the water. However the similarities with rabbits ended at the creature's face. It's face split halfway down into a pair of flaps protecting a huge fanged mouth. It had four arms; a large pair of primary arms and two smaller, more delicate arms situated more toward its spine. Its legs were powerful, ending in large paws that looked disturbingly like elongated, clawed toes. It looked up when Jon made a little louder of a noise and sighed.
'Oh gods its you again. I hope you don't have a straight razor on you this time.' The Harvester muttered and continued washing its hands in the water. That was certainly an odd process; Jon watched it scoop up globules of the strange water, roll them over its hands and arms, and shove the slightly dirtier globs back into the stream. They folded into strange streaks of dirty slime that floated on their merry way downstream. 'What do you want? I have better things to do with my time than waste it on dreamers.'
Jon jerked his attention back to the Harvester. "Well I think you and I could benefit one another." he said. "I'm an Aberrant, after all. I...um...recently lost the one I was bonded to."
'Daeva.' The rabbit looked up at him and cocked an eyebrow.
Jon blinked. "Well um...yes." he sat down on the grass, pushing away pebbles that floated up and into the sky. "Did you know her?"
'I courted her for a little while. Stuck up. She had a talent for turning mages into decent monsters, though. She liked messing with people but would have borne decent spawn.' the rabbit shrugged. 'Heard she finally met her match with you. Your mate killed her. Tricked her into trying to flay the undead. You'd think she would have noticed but eh...that's the price the bitch paid for arrogance.' Jon decided he didn't like the way the rabbit's face twisted into a strange, almost sadistic grin. 'I'm not that stupid. What, did your mate send you here to find another Emean to butcher?'
Jon shook his head. "No!" he protested. "I'm here to try and learn from it. Not to hurt them. What Alistair did to Daeva was unfair to both of us. I never would have had it turn out that way. I'm just...I dont know. I found you interesting, and you didn't kill me when we first met. I thought we could make a deal together. The same deal I had with Daeva. I'm stronger now, and I won't let Alistair hurt you."
'I'm also not stupid enough to appear in front of a jealous fool who wields magic.' The rabbit snorted derisively, and eyed Jon. 'You really want to do this? I haven't had a mage in a very long time. If we do this, it's going to be equal. Don't steal my fur again, and don't get any ideas petting me. You flay, I gather, we both hold up our heads.'
Jon smiled. "I have to study you at least a little bit. There were so many questions I didn't get to ask Daeva." he said, standing up and gingerly stepping over the stream. "What's your name, at least? Mine's Jonathan."
'Hob.' The Harvester stood up and faced him, and Jonathan was mildly surprised at how tall he was. At least as tall as Alistair, if not a little taller. It was hard to focus on him; he just didn't stop moving. Even the muscles in his neck squirmed and dived under one another in a constant war to keep his head up. 'Listen to me when I tell you this. We will flay a man together, to solidify the bond. Daeva's mistake was allowing you to go so long without it. I'm not as idiotic. When you wake from this, you're going to be in pain. It's going to feel like a horse kicked you in the chest with hooves the size of a dragon's balls. But you're going to get up, and you're going to kill. I don't care who it is, or where it is. I want someone dead. Fed to me. I do not wait. I am not patient. I don't play fucking games.'
Jon took a deep breath, looking up at the Harvester. He chewed his lip, and nodded. "Deal." he said quietly. He didn't know what he'd do...but he knew he wanted Hob. He wanted to feel that connection again. He awkwardly extended his hand toward the spirit. He barely remembered his intiation with Daeva. He just remembered the pain. Hob ignored his hand. One of his gigantic, black-tipped primary hands lunged forward...and through...Jon's chest. The scar tissue left over from his bond with Daeva burst into purple flame, burning black as pitch. Hob reached into his heart, into his soul. The agony was incredible. Emea started to fade and Jon had to fight to stay asleep. On the grass his body was writhing and pitching, the skin on his chest was split open and blood was soaking through his shirt.
When Hob withdrew his arm, Jon stared blankly at the hole in his chest. The rift closed, crawled shut with black worms that seethed on either side of the wound, found their brothers, and latched each side of Jon's chest tight. He tried to speak and he couldn't; his throat worked uselessly. He couldn't even scream in pain. A fiery ball of pain was developing in his brain. The dead connection with Daeva was being consumed and ripped apart by Hob, and a new one forged in its place. He fell to his hands and knees. He tried to vomit, anything to come out of his throat. He retched uselessly, his face dangerously close to the strange water of the Emean stream.
'Wake up. Or you're going to bleed to death.' Hob snarled in his ear, and the dream shattered.