• Mature • Tracing Back Roots

The shallow bay Egilrun is situated upon is used, these trials, for crafts and crafting. From boatmakers to weaponsmiths, glassblowers to metalworkers, the sound of hammers and saws can be heard almost every break of the trial, with crews working in shifts to produce the beautiful craftsmanship which they might, one trial, become famous for.

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Carver
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Tracing Back Roots

19th Break, 1 Cylus, Arc 720
Residential District, Egilrun, Scalvoris
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secrets here
Carver remembered his shoes this time. Bundled up in coat and scarf, he returned to the main area with a couple buckets of water and a pale look to his face. Around his darkened eyes, the skin looked reddened and swollen as if he’d been crying. He set the buckets on the table, pulled off his gloves, then tucked them into the pocket of his coat.

It’d been over an entire break since he threw Laures onto the table (romantically). He stared at the spot, for several trills, quiet other than his ragged breath. If it weren’t for his dry skin, it might have seemed like he’d sprinted back to the cottage from wherever the well or cistern had been located. These buckets were the third round of collected water, the rest used to scrub at the blood on the floor and walls while they cleaned up the petite redhead’s corpse. This time, though, Carver didn’t move to grab a rag and start to help like he had the previous two times. He didn’t look over at his lover, but sharply inhaled and then he said, “Stop. We don’t have to clean so closely anymore. I have a place for us to go... it might have a bath, too.”

“We’ll lock them up,” he referred to Master Arkwright and Eleanor and the chest in the bedroom. “Place the rugs over the marks,” he refenced the gouged axe marks on the floor where he’d chop the bodies apart. “Try to cover the smell with whatever we can find. Clean ourselves up, change clothes, there’s some in the wardrobe that should fit, then leave.”

He didn’t know how to explain to his partner what had happened on his third lonely trip to the well…

…but while he crouched near the area rug to check for obvious bloodstains, he did his best to explain anyway:

Carver had decided to stay at the cottage, thus why they were tidying the place. After he’d given a last few kisses, of an almost apologetic nature due to the abrupt change in the focus of their mutual attention, he got dressed again. Without delay, he started with the task. He knew his insistent husband felt disappointed about this, but one of them had to be the practical one, right? Focused on the fact that he didn’t want to lose the other so quickly after their mysterious reincarnation, he had bundled himself up and taken to the Cylus cold to find water for them to clean with.

It’d only taken a few bits before he’d discovered the well out back, several paces from the cottage’s side door. A simple stone circle that descended deep into the ground. If it weren’t for the roofed structure stilted above it, he might’ve fallen right in. The sky remained as dark as the moment they’d woken up, and other than the slightest glimmer of stars behind gray clouds, there was no sunlight and there was no warmth. He half-expected the well to be frozen over, but luck had it that the water remained gatherable.

On his third trip, however, he’d been in the midst of drawing up the last bucket when a man approached from the neighboring field. The man was tall, far taller than him, and broad in build and as unusual as the people they’d seen while on their way from the docks to the bridge, but the stranger approached with familiarity and a name quick on his tongue: Antoni…

“…I’ve been looking all over the place for you. You left a mess behind with that stunt you pulled. Your aunt’s still wailing on about it.” The stranger settled a hand on the hilt of a sword and stopped close to Carver. “What are you doing hiding all the way out here? Where’s that troublemaker, eh? He hasn’t got you drunk again, has he?”

Carver lifted the bucket of water, untying it from the rope and holding onto the length. He cleared his throat, then tried, “Fresh air? Needed some.”

“You feeling okay, Antoni? You look…”

“Look?” he set the bucket aside. “Where… am I supposed to be?”

“Where do you think? Everyone’s expecting you back at the lodge and I’m not about to cover for you again. Not after last time.”

“The… lodge? Which lodge is that?”

“North End Lodge, what’re you playing at? I don’t have time for your games. Now, whatever you’re doing with… that water can wait… and…” the man’s beady eyes squinted downward as he surveyed Carver.

“Is that where I live?” asked Carver, with little care for how bizarre it must have sounded. “Where in the lodge exactly?”

“…where you… your suite… I don’t understand- is that blood? Antoni, what on Idalos have you been getting up to?”

“I lost my key, do you have a spare?” Carver waved a dismissive hand to distract from the other man looking at the dark spattered stains on his coat.

The man set a hand against a satchel on his belt, in gesture that something was within it and he nodded. “You feeling alright? You don’t seem yourself.”

“That’s an understatement,” muttered Carver. He stepped forward, and settled his hands on the stranger’s belt (and here, he didn’t describe much of what else he did – for Laures’s sake) and in result, he set the belt aside with the satchel safely on the ground.

It’d been simple after that, though. Just one push, which took most of his remaining strength and a great deal of momentum, but once that broad weight toppled over the stone edge… gravity accomplished the rest. The water within the well splashed loud, but not before he heard a few cracks of bone against stone on the stranger’s way down. Soon after, Carver had hurried back to the cottage, returned to the main area and now, stood where he was, telling the very story to Laures.


--“So...” he undid his coat, and took off the belt to lay it next to the water buckets. He opened the satchel, then took out a long spindly key. “It sounds as if we have ourselves a proper place.”

“Laures, I feel tired,” he admitted, then added, “Maybe this place will have food and drink and a bath... and a proper bed?”
Last edited by Carver on Fri May 01, 2020 5:13 am, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1097
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Re: Tracing Back Roots

19th Break, Cylus 1st, Arc 720

Residential District, Egilrun, Scalvoris
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Laures was on his knees when Carver returned to the warm, humble cottage. Leaned forward with a blood-soaked rag, he did not pause when he heard the side door open and close, nor did he glance up from his scrubbing of the stained wooden floor, focused entirely on his task. Much of the mess had been dealt with already, but he worked ceaselessly, his scarred hands rubbed red and raw. His knees, too, bore the marks of his incessant movement, pink and scraped but free from bruise. It seemed that the newfound endurance of his physical form (compared to his previous) had been quickly put to use, as the former servant used it only to push himself further, move faster, or - not even that. Rather, the blond almost seemed intent on abusing this form, now that he had discovered its tolerance.

He did not fully register any change in the younger until he heard him inhale, sharp and loud against the repetitive sound of scrubbing beneath him. An order to stop, and Laures did so without question, pausing mid-scrub and letting his gaze finally land upon Carver. Holding his bloodied rag in one hand, he leaned back, sitting on the backs of his ankles and taking a moment to breathe as he listened. Carver looked… upset? Bothered? Laures could not tell, not quite, not from this distance. His lover had not looked at him yet, and he had to remind his features not to melt into what must have been a habitual frown, for… Iver. Whoever Iver was.

The mention of a place to go, though, now that was interesting. Laures’ expression did not shift, remaining that of his usual, neutral countenance, but endlessly curious was he. Little things like that - like the sudden attainment of another home in a place neither man knew - only stoked this questioning nature, but he left his inquiries on the tip of his pointed tongue, where they might not disturb his lover’s already-uncertain mood. When the other blond crouched down nearby, and lifted the rug to inspect the floor, Laures set down his dampened rag, and drew his weary hands to his uncovered knees. He had not dressed completely, not desiring to wear the blood-soaked breeches from before, but he had allowed himself his undergarments and the strange socks that ended just below his knees. His shirt was yet to be grabbed from where it had been tossed originally, near the hearth.

Listening dutifully, he lifted a hand, pushing dirty blond hair up and out of his eyes. Although Carver offered explanation for his latest absence, the older did not care to fill him in on the little that had occurred during his leave:

Laures had accepted Carver’s decision (and the previous mention to set their affections aside for the time being) gracefully, though he could not help but be slightly disappointed. His relative silence after that had not been wholly because of that fact, as it had always been easy enough for him to ignore conflicting desires within himself in favor of following a more practical order. Some of the quiet might have been related, but only because he did not trust himself not to attempt to persuade his husband into changing his mind yet - and he had not wished to delay him further.

He had pulled on his undergarments and socks, given one last look to his healed shoulder, and then set about cleaning things up once he heard the side door open and close. With a job to focus on, Carver’s departure from the cottage had not immediately disturbed him as it had the first time. Rather than dwell on the strangeness of the feelings collected within him, Laures had put his mind entirely into his work, clearing away bits and pieces of Eleanor Rolfe. He had shoved what he could back where it belonged, and then clumsily carried her corpse to the bedroom to clear a space to clean the main room. The longer his lover was gone, though, the less focus he had been able to allocate to the matter of cleaning. The dreadful feelings had started creeping in, as he had suspected they might.

Carver came back before it overwhelmed him. Carrying the first buckets of water from the well, Laures had compared him to some sort of deity, for how easily his very presence quelled the rising anxieties in his heart. He had not breathed a word of this, unsure that he would have been able to articulate it as nicely as he had wished, but he had felt certain that it shone through his admiring blue gaze.

The second time was the same. He had paused upon hearing his husband’s return, and glanced eagerly toward the hall, waiting for the reappearance of reason. That was what Carver was for him, after all, among so many other things - he was a reasoning voice in his mind, for one, but not only that. He was reason itself; he was the point at which Laures began and ended each map, he was the light in his seemingly endless darkness, he was the reason for his existence in more ways than one. And as silly as it might have seemed, he could not bear to take his eyes off of him until he had exited the room again.

So devoted was he, to brave such colds for him.

The third time was different.

It had been easier, though, to keep working rather than dwell entirely on the wave of emotion that crashed over him. Instead of crawling his way to the table to linger on the chair in contemplation, Laures had dropped to the floor, so quickly that his knees made the faintest little cracking sounds from within. Instead of rinsing the sweat from his feverish face, he had scrubbed harder at the floor, his rough fingernails scratching against the wood to remove stains that weren’t there. Instead of taking a moment to calm down like any reasonable adult might have, he had worked himself into a frenzy, and still failed to distract himself from his emotional distress.

And in spite of it all, in spite of the things that would have always bothered them so, the others had remained silent still. Laures had not verbalized his questions, though he had wished to. He knew, in the end, that they were not there to hear them. He just didn’t know why. So he scrubbed, and he scratched, and he had just been fortunate enough to have drawn himself into some semblance of composure before Carver returned.


"Oh,” acknowledged Laures, his voice as soft and unrevealing as ever, as he watched his husband retrieve a key from the newly-acquired satchel, "yes, of course.”

What he was agreeing to, or accepting, was not as clear. Carefully, he lifted himself from his knees, standing up with a little upward stretch of his arms. As seemed normal in his adjusting body, the movement of his arms was accompanied by little pops, and he breathed out a sigh as they fell back to his sides. Not a disapproving sigh, by any means - just a tired one, and he offered the other man a little, weary smile.

"Maybe this place of yours isn’t too far,” he said with a shrug, "and… hopefully there won’t be too many people there around it.”

From the explanation he had been provided, it was difficult to tell, harder to guess. Laures stepped across the rug, approaching the younger blond to set a hand against his shoulder. With a glance over his face, he said, "I’ll find what I can to cover the smell. You should sit for a bit, love.”

Laures leaned closer, pressing a soft, unassuming kiss to his covered shoulder before beginning to turn away. He stopped himself, though, to look back at him and add, "please. I'd rather not have you passing out on me when I don't even have any of that magic to help you.”

A hint of a smile, and whether Carver did as requested or not, Laures moved away without another word about it. He was hardly the man to argue with him if he did not want to do something.

"Uh… garlic? Right? And...?” he questioned, finding his way back to the kitchenette, turned away from his husband while he looked through the cabinets again. Laures had never had the need to deal with the scent of decay, on his own - it had always been far more convenient to simply leave things alone, but he had not killed anyone in his home before.
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Re: Tracing Back Roots

Carver had noticed the raw reddened knees and hands, though he’d said nothing of it. He noticed how Laures seemed… almost frenetic on his third return, so focused was he on his cleaning. Unlike before, the other man didn’t look up at him with blue eyes of devotion. As if he already knew what had happened outside, but that was impossible. It was far too dark, and far too cold for what little his lover wore, to witness any of it. Not that it had been much of anything but judging from how Laures had looked when he’d merely pressed a teasing kiss to the redhead woman’s cheek, he doubted such discovery would have gone over well.

When the other agreed, he smiled slightly. They were both tired, that much was obvious. It’d been a busy however long it’d been since they came back to life. As he felt the other’s hand rest on his shoulder, he held it there for a moment and gently squeezed the scarred fingers. Carver didn’t want to sit, especially not when Laures kept working on tasks. He stubbornly remained standing and moved to follow-

-“please,” his husband caught him so expertly with the pleading insistence for the request to be accepted. “I’d rather not have you passing out on me when I don’t even have any of that magic to help you.”

He sucked his teeth, then rolled his eyes, and reluctantly stepped back until he flopped into the chair. Carver crossed his arms over his chest, though, and he tapped his foot against the floor with slight impatience. Though he didn’t want to follow the request, he also didn’t want to directly refuse the handsome man…

…except for when he heard the other mention garlic. Carver got to his feet almost immediately. He walked over and started to help look through the cabinets. “Yes, garlic or onions or… spices if there’s enough to put in a bowl. Vinegar, too, and… what the fuck is this?”

He lifted what looked to be a very dark black potato. It squished in his palm slightly, rotten on one side. Carver's upper lip curled and he set whatever it was on the counter with a shake of his head. He rubbed the inky moisture that'd gotten on his hand, on the counter surface. On his tiptoes, he rummaged around a shelf and then lifted down a clay container. The younger blond nodded as he opened it and found a store of salt. “This’ll help. I’ll sprinkle it in the chest and… finish breaking apart the g… hm, the ginger, so she fits.”

“Luckily, she’s quite small and lean,” mentioned Carver with a brilliant smile of cheerfulness. He leaned over and kissed Laures on the cheek, then headed past to attend to the chore in the other room. As he walked past the frame, he added, “Remember to cut open the garlic and onions you find so that they can breathe in the death.”

Carver retrieved the axe, and he sat down on the nearby bed to sharpen the edge some. He felt a little dizzy while he did so, having only eaten a little bit of food before they’d gotten interrupted from the meal. But he wasn’t about to mention that. He wanted to move on, and settle somewhere else that had a nice bath for Laures to enjoy… and a better bed than the utilitarian cot he currently sat on and that reminded him of his own grimy home back in his previous life. For such a nice cottage, couldn’t Master Arkwright had sprung for a proper nice bed? He didn’t understand that. If he had the money for such a home, he would have made sure his bed was exquisite indeed.

The whetstone slid over the axe, and he stared at his own reflection in the tarnished mirror across the way for a moment. He'd still been avoiding looking at himself, but now he couldn't help it as he caught a glimpse of his own eyes. Carver worried on his lower lip until the chapped skin threatened to bleed. How different...
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Re: Tracing Back Roots

Of course - he should have known that asking anything of his hardworking husband would draw him right up and out of that chair again. Laures hummed in quiet disapproval as he heard his strange shoes tap lightly against the floor, but he did not object to the help. Fine, fine. If Carver did not wish to sit (because really, when did he ever want to sit still?), then he would find no further resistance from Laures. He found the aforementioned garlic as the younger strode over. Holding both heads in one hand, one sprouting and strongly-scented and the other half-gone, he glanced to the side to watch as his companion grabbed onto some sort of…

“...what the fuck is this?”

“Ew,” the word left him before he could even consider a proper response. In a near-perfect mirror of his lover’s reaction, his face twisted slightly, the edge of a twisted canine tooth flashed for but a short, disgusted moment. What was that, a potato left to rot for arcs? Laures swallowed, and set both heads of garlic onto the counter beside it. Then onto the other things Carver had said: he had found bits of onion scattered about earlier, as if Master Arkwright had used part of one, forgotten about it, and then gotten another… and that apparently happened a few times, if he was to guess from the amount of half-finished onions to be found.

He gathered them, some well into a state of decay and others fresh, and set them alongside the garlic. And then spices, and vinegar… where would the kindly corpse keep those?

Carver’s voice distracted him, and he let his gaze linger on him for a few trills. Container of salt in hand, his lover smiled, and Laures was dazzled by the sight. And he had looked so morose only bits before… but he supposed he did enjoy throwing that axe around. He certainly seemed to, at least, and the older set his confusion aside. If the necessary work made him happy, then Laures was grateful for it. He did not return the cheerful expression, nor did he try to twist and catch the other’s lips when he was given a kiss to the cheek, but it settled something within him - perhaps that persistent ache in his chest that followed his every departure.

Even so, his mind would not be calmed. It would take far too long to adjust to the quiet in his head, he knew, but he wished desperately for it not to feel so hopeless. Until then… he looked to the open doorway when Carver added more, and made himself smile in acknowledgement. Yes, he thought. To breathe in the death.

Far too exhausted to bother looking for something cleaner, Laures grasped the kitchen knife - the same one that had left a little cut in his back, and a whole lot more in Eleanor’s front. More accurately, out of Eleanor’s front, but he did not need to dwell on the details. He did not even bother to wipe the blade free of dried blood, but took it directly to the onions, quickly slicing each one open (or in the case of half-used ones, slicing them further) and setting them onto the table. The garlic was next, and he made even quicker work of it, now that he did not have to worry about slicing his fingers. That is to say, when he set the cut garlic with the onions, and set the knife onto the counter, he left little scarlet drops behind each flick of his tapping fingers.

And then… fuck, what else had he said? Vinegar? Lips drawn into a small pout, Laures tapped his hands against his mostly-bare thighs, and moved to stand in the doorway of the bedroom. Looking in, his curious gaze landed on Carver, and he leaned lightly against the wooden door frame.

“Vinegar,” started Laures, “I should… oh. Soak something in it? Then we can lay it over the chest?”

Admittedly, he could not remember what he was meant to do with the godsdamned vinegar, but hadn’t Carver done something like that before? Something about the smell seemed to remind him of… of his little, dirty sanctuary. Laures had hardly had the eyes to look about properly, but the basement had smelled of vinegar.

Although his fingers were yet to stop moving, he crossed his arms loosely over his bare chest, and allowed his eyes to drift over the room. Softer, he asked, “are you sure that you’re alright to do that right now?”

Not that he expected much of a response. Laures was well aware of his husband’s aversion to showing anything he might’ve perceived as weakness. He only asked to make sure that the younger knew he was there, should he need him - but he added more regardless, beginning to ramble on without notice as he spoke, as if two trains of thought raced his mind at once.

“Oh, I do hope there’s a bed there. I was rather looking forward to a nap in that ornate bed. Perhaps we shall find one more beautiful, here - less purple. More pillows. One that’s all our own. What did you say about the vinegar? I can fetch one of the blankets to soak.”
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Re: Tracing Back Roots

It felt an unusual thing, to look at himself and not see himself. Carver had often struggled with such observation in his previous life, drawn to his eyes because he knew they weren’t him. They couldn’t be. He knew that a person could lose their eyes – get them plucked right out of their skull – and yet keep on living… and so, he always knew he was something more than that. Dying had only confirmed it to him, and when he looked at the dark brown irises, he no longer had to wonder. He knew for a fact that he wasn’t truly the body he inhabited. However, it was his body all the same. Different than before, but his - just like the other one had been his. It wasn’t exact, he supposed, in that he got this body already on its way through life rather than whenever he’d been graced with his previous one. He remembered growing up, though, in the other body. He remembered when his limbs had been gangly and his height short and he’d grown out of his clothes, and had to find new ones, and when people in the city started to treat him as other than just some urchin. The whetstone slid across the razor-sharp edge of the axe. Though the metal didn’t need any further sharpening, he continued regardless while he stared at himself in the mirror.

“Vinegar-”

Shing! Carver slid forward slightly when the momentum of the whetstone went faster than intended. His eyes widened and he looked over to see that Laures had appeared. He hadn’t heard him approach. The surprise quickly transformed into the cheerfulness from before when he realized what it was that his diligent soulmate had come to ask about. Smile bright, he stood with the axe in hand and kicked what little remained of Eleanor to finish up the job of getting it so she’d fit inside the trunk with her master.

About to answer the question about vinegar, he paused when he heard the soft concern that followed. His smile dimmed, faded, then disappeared entirely. He turned away and ran a hand over his face. Yes, he was tired. Downright exhausted. He didn’t need another damn reminder. It didn’t matter how tired he was. The job before them had to be done. Rubbing his fingertips against his eyes, it was slightly unusual how soft it felt rather than the familiar coarseness of his calloused pads.

Laures rambled on, talking about some bed – oh, that bed – and reminding him of why it was Carver was ignoring his exhaustion. Why he had to get things in place so they could go to this lodge. Even if he had to kill every godsdamned person in the whole place, he would find some bed worthy of Laures. The cot, next to him, was so far away from being worthy, even glancing at it felt like an insult. He kicked out, without warning, and the cot slammed into the neighboring wall. The meager frame cracked, then it fell back to where it’d been (slightly askew).

Turning around, Carver rested the blunt-side of the axe against his shoulder and he faced Laures. Despite the kick, he wasn’t angry per say. Not like he could be when he had green in his eyes. It was a different sort of upset, and his face had paled rather than turn ruddy. A wet sheen showed in the dark eyes instead. He forced the thinnest of smiles and then said, “A blanket should do. Maybe, two. You can use the basin and one of the buckets of water to make sure it fully soaks, but best clean yourself up first. We only have so much water and we can’t go into that lodge, whatever it is, looking like we are.”

Carver slid Eleanor to where the heaviest hatchet marks were in the floor, then set his foot over the bulk of flesh and swung the axe down to crack apart the easier joints. The flesh squelched but didn’t spray. Enough time had passed that there was no flow of blood to create the same kind of mess with. He focused, the intensely neutral look of concentration back on his features.

“Did you hurt yourself?” asked Carver suddenly, in a clear voice. He swung the axe down again and shimmied it until rib bones split apart. After a moment, he nodded toward the scarlet droplets that were so very tiny yet had dropped from the tapping fingers. He glanced up and said, “You got blood on the floor.”

“Come here, love,” he offered while he settled the axe against his shoulders and gestured with his free hand to beckon Laures close. “Let me look…”

“Did you know that you could remove most everything from a person, and they could keep on living if they don’t lose too much blood in the process?” he inquired the other man while he waited for Laures to comply. “Their eyes. Your tongue. Oh, of course all the limbs. Fingers, toes, all the way up to the shoulders and hips. Could keep on going, even then. Laures, do you know what a person can’t live without?”

It sounded like a sincere question, while he waited for the other man to come close enough so he could examine those scarred fingers that looked to have fresh blood on them. Blood from neither of the corpses that polluted the cottage so they couldn’t stay in it for much longer.
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Re: Tracing Back Roots

Carver had smiled at him again, flashed that cheerful smile from before. It had faded, though, and Laures knew why. He knew, and he had asked regardless. He went on anyway, about the bed - about the vinegar - curious and questioning, like always, but far more vocal. It was not unheard of, for the blond to ramble; especially when in the comfort of his lover’s arms, drifting off to sleep, the older had developed a habit of voicing all of his thoughts. What he thought about during the day, when he was silent and still, what he had not said to him then. It had been hard at first, to let himself speak without expecting judgement, but in their many days of recovery, he had learned - and he had fallen into it quickly after that. He had not gotten the chance to do that, the night they died. He had meant to. He had meant to hold him close, and kiss their stolen rings, and confess all the day’s thoughts in gentle whispers and kisses. He supposed it would not have worked out that way anyhow.

He was speaking again, and he had not even realized it at first. Carver had not answered him yet, and though the gap between his question and his lover’s response was short, he filled it.

“I haven’t checked for spices, but I can. If the salt isn’t enough. I got rid of the biggest stains in the other room, too, and I was thinking I can just move the chair to cover the marks on the floor in there and I can pull the rug in here instead-”

It felt so lonely, without them. He did not feel like himself, not completely, and he had not even thought about looking in a mirror yet. It would only worsen the disconnect, he knew. All the things normally kept inside his head, shared from one voice to another, tumbled out in his own.

”-since the marks in here are more prominent but I don’t think we need to worry about it as much as—”

It took the cot slamming against the wall to silence him again, but it was effective. Laures’ mouth was shut immediately, though he did not jump or seem to otherwise startle at the noise. It snapped him out of whatever trance he had slipped into, and even the tapping of his fingers was stopped as his eyes darted back to Carver. A deep breath was drawn into his lungs, but it barely moved his chest. He felt the cold then, all too well, and he lowered his arms to rest at his sides, movements slowed. Whatever Master Arkwright kept stuffed away in his wardrobe, he hoped that it was warm.

When Carver turned to him, he did not frown like he wanted to. Laures fixed his posture, standing straight, as if he could not bear giving the disrespect of slouching. Making his husband upset had been the last of his intentions, but he was sorry for it all the same. He did not apologize, but the shame burrowed deeper into his heart as he watched Carver give a thin smile, so far from the odd and cheery delight from before. His beloved had not been in the body long, but it was already easy to recognize such differences, to compare (but not judge) it against the reactions he knew.

A blanket was good, then. Maybe two, but he had to deal with himself beforehand. He would not refuse. His skin was of salt and metal, sweat and blood; he could not recall the last true bath he had taken, only that it had been sometime before his death. Though he offered a slow nod and began to turn away, Laures did not leave just yet. Carver had pulled Eleanor’s corpse closer, over the marks he had already made before - a smart move, as always, and one that he had not considered himself - and he simply could not take his eyes away, could not leave when such a sight compelled him to stay. His soulmate, focused and intent, in the heart of one of his many elements. Laures would have let the man kill him again, if only to watch him swing the blade.

The joints, the ribs; the ginger cracked apart like candy. He heard the crunch of blade and bone, and it steadied the beat of his racing heart. By the time Carver’s voice reached his ears again, he did not have it in him to be surprised, calmed by the swiftness with which the younger took control. There was no anger that he could discern, no orders parsed from suggestions - but Laures knew when different behavior was wanted from him. When rambling was to be exchanged again for reason. He did not answer the other’s question, but glanced down to the floor beneath him.

“Shit,” muttered the blond, eyes catching on the little red circles left below him, trailed into the doorway from the kitchen. “I’ll get it.”

It would do no good to leave a little bloody path directly to the bedroom, would it? He cursed himself for not having grabbed his tunic, but it remained near to the hearth. Beginning to kneel down, he had resigned himself to using the extra fabric of his tall socks to clean the floor, but Carver’s request gave him pause. Come over there? But what for? The blood needed to be cleaned while it was wet, before they would have to waste any more water on it.

But he straightened again, and in spite of whatever questioning look might have passed his face, Laures obeyed. Hands drawn up before him, he was mindful of the body on the floor, stepping gracefully over her to come closer to his husband.

Laures would admit that he had not treated his hands well, in the breaks since acquiring them. Already they were scarred, but there was more: splinters and scratches from the table and floor, dirt beneath his fingernails, blood that welled and trickled down from several new slices to the slender fingers. But he did not mind, as he would have once. If anything, he seemed pleased to have tolerated as much, and only felt foolish for having allowed his little tests of strength to interfere with their timeline.

Listening carefully, blue eyes fluttered about the other man’s face, taking in his features in the low light. He was sorry for giving the bruise, but knew that Carver was not sorry for receiving it. Standing close enough to feel his breath, Laures kept his hands between them, scarlet dripping slowly down his wrists.

“A heart, I imagine,” a quiet response, a return to normalcy. An answer that he was not sure Carver was looking for, but that was sincere nonetheless. Who could live without a heart? Certainly one could not remove that. But he supposed...

A thoughtful look crossed his face, however brief.

“A soul?” he tried next, for they had both lived on, somehow, without the hearts they had known - they had not carried those with them. Laures would venture to say that no part of their bodies, as they existed now, had ever belonged to them before. Was that what Carver meant, what he was looking for when he had asked? But perhaps - perhaps he had an answer already, as he often did, and Laures’ response was but a vessel for his truth to slip into.

He did not ask again, but waited, quiet and calm in breath and thought. His hand twitched, but did not tap, and did not reach to soil his love with his blood.
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Carver
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Re: Tracing Back Roots

Laures continued to ramble, voice soft but unending in its curious mannerisms. Though there were many things to speak about, many subjects in which Laures could have focused on, Carver didn’t mind discussing the logistics of their clean-up of the mess they’d made. What he did mind, was his own exhaustion. He hated how weak his new body was, and though he’d expressed it already in a few different ways, it didn’t ease his frustration. Carver wanted his old strength back, where he could ignore the need for sleep for days at a time and his body could handle a great deal of mistreatment yet continue with what he needed it to accomplish. Instead, he kept feeling his limbs grow heavier as if they were full of sand. Now and then, he’d discover his head bowed and his eyes shut as if to sleep – even amid hatching apart the body. If he were to sit on the bed again, right now, he suspected he might lay down and rest however long he could.

It was unfortunate then, that Laures’ rambling voice often put him to sleep. He’d gotten so used to it – in their days of recovery, back in their previous life when they were still so new to each other (and really, they still were despite however intensely they felt. To him, they’d only married last night. One couldn’t get more newlywed than that and Carver realized in a little flicker of his mind that this place, this afterdeath, hell or heaven or something in-between, was their honeymoon. That realization made him hate the cot next to them a little more). The softness of the various words that spilled off his lover’s sweet tongue, and it hardly mattered what they were when Laures vocally wandered like he did. He’d never rested so well as when he held the whispering man in his arms and drifted to sleep while he absently listened, warm and safe under the occasional kisses that accompanied.

Yet feeling safe and warm, enough to rest, was the last thing he needed at the moment. He needed to allow the tension, so he could get the last few tasks done in the cottage. He didn’t know what the darkness outside was about, but Eleanor had informed them that time did exist, and it did move forward. The corpses confirmed this. Time meant decay. It also meant the possibility of more visitor, of questions, and of getting caught. No, he had gotten his small moment of rest already when he’d nestled with Laures before the redhead woman had stopped by.

In a double standard, however, he didn’t wish for Laures to feel anxious. He could tell the other man also needed rest, that the rambling in the doorway had come from some degree of stress, and Carver wanted to provide a proper respite for him. He gathered and kept a small hope that this lodge would be nice enough, that the pampered skin and the bodyguard he’d shoved down the well were indications that whoever Antoni was… they might be well-off enough to have a bathtub and a nice bed. While he knew there was a great deal of risk: corporeally haunting the life before he’d taken this body, especially in his current state, but his love for Laures made him want to try it anyway. He would simply have to be careful.

When Laures approached, he immediately took hold of the hands and examined the various splinters, and scratches, dirt and dried blood along with fresh red that trickled from thin slices. Carver’s face paled even more visibly, ashen as the color fled from him. He glanced at the other man, but Laures did not seem concerned by this injury. He swallowed dryly. His throat bobbed as if something might’ve gotten stuck in it. He forced a small smile when he heard the quiet response to his inquiry.

A heart, I imagine…

…a soul?

Carver scoffed, in his little laugh of disbelief. He looked at Laures, and a tear droplet escaped along his swollen cheek. He set the axe aside, so he could gather the other’s mistreated hands in both of his. Lifting them, he pressed a kiss to the knuckles. His thumb caressed over the fleshy wedding ring that matched his own.

“Oh, my dearest. How delightfully poetic, you are.” He could not bring himself to dash the other’s answers. While they were not wrong, and he considered them well, they weren’t exactly how he would have answered. Which was more than fine as he appreciated the peek into where his husband’s mind focused.

“Yes, heart and soul…”

He gathered Laures, wrapped into his arm. In a close hug, he kept one hand to clasp Laures’ hands together. Carver kissed the older man’s forehead, then the bridge of his nose, then his lips. Not lingering on the lush taste, he lifted the hands and he pressed his lips against the knuckles again. He slowly guided the fingers to open so he could look at the reddened palm.

“That is why I cannot live without you,” he said in a soft voice. He kissed the palm, dark eyes fluttered and then shut. The air cooled around them. Carver felt the pulse inside of his lover, again, and in some unknown way, he traversed the veins inside. It smelled like rain, pure and perfect and cleansing, with a silent crack of lightning. He quietly breathed while he kept his lips pressed to Laures’s palm. A bit passed, another and another and another and another –

-and then he dragged his tongue along the smoothly healed palm. No new scars appeared, this time, only smooth and uninjured skin over the entire skin of the hand. Surveying it, he flipped the hand over to look at the similarly healed back. He smiled, perfect teeth shown and dimples in his cheeks. His dark eyes had dried. He lifted Laures’s other hand, to perform the same attentive magic, though he heard a faint ringing in his ears and tingled sensations ran through his fingertips and up into his wrists.
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Re: Tracing Back Roots

Neither answer had been anticipated, then. Carver’s characteristic scoff at least broke through the heaviness that had settled over Laures, the crushing weight that had sat upon his shoulders since his lover’s third leave. He did not wish to make the other feel as if he could not ever leave his side, he only felt the emptiness so deeply - and he would learn, in time, to combat it. He would teach himself to stay calm, again, as he had done in his previous life, and he would know how to better hide it when he couldn’t. No scratching, no scraping, no pacing; no bleeding or bruising or visible mark. He had mastered it once. He would master it again. Of this, he was sure.

He was less sure of whatever Carver had wanted in response. Laures never minded being wrong, he was far beyond capable of accepting that - but what else was there? The brain? Ah. He wondered if that had been it, if his beloved had meant the brain. But could it function without the heart, and could the opposite do the same? Questions, now, filtering into his mind but not making it past his lips. Controlled again, as they were meant to be, but no less persistent inside. A heart, a soul, a brain… unless he had again meant something else. Laures’ mind seemed intent on picking apart the question, despite the calmness of his outside demeanor, and he almost readied himself to volunteer yet another response…

...before the low light glinted off of a solitary tear, rolling steadily down his soulmate’s soft, injured cheek. It quieted his mind, if only for a moment, and his gaze seemed to soften, as it shifted upward to meet Carver’s expressive brown eyes. Now, Laures was under no delusion, and he was not of the belief that he had suddenly wounded his dear lover’s heart. But he knew, all the same, that his behavior had caused not only the little outburst against the sad cot, but now, also, the shedding of his tears. His pure, divine tears; Laures was certain their moisture could bring life again to those worthy of such display, if only they existed. Yet none, alive or dead or inbetween, would ever match his lover’s worth.

The axe was set aside, his hands pulled into Carver’s, gathered into the gentle kiss of his lips and caress of his soft-padded thumb. As surely as he would find control in his chaos, he knew those hands would not stay soft for long. He would treasure them until then, pamper them to the best of his ability as they were so clearly used to being treated. And when callouses came, and bruises and breaks, he would care for them too, and admire him. His determination, his will, his hard work, his resolve. All things resting beneath soft skin and polished nails, trying so hard to break through. He was sorry, then, for having acquired a body himself that would have been more suitable at the start. He did not even know what to do with it - as evidenced by his haste in ruining his scarred, slender hands.

It was Laures’ turn to scoff, however quietly, when his answers were described as poetic. He had never thought of himself as anything even bordering that, and did not seem to believe that Carver might either, but it was not his place to tell the man what to think. It was appreciated regardless, and he offered the tiniest of smiles of his own.

Pulled closer by an arm around him, Laures leaned into the embrace, wishing to lower his hands and return it but reminding himself not to bloody Carver’s clothes. He did not know if the younger wished to rewear them or not, and did not want to make the task any more difficult on him if he did. But his eyes slipped shut, and a soft humming sounded from his honey-coated throat, and when kisses trailed down from his forehead and nose, he met the press of lips with delicate return. He wanted more, he always did. He did not make it known. Carver carried on, finding his hands again to press a kiss to the older’s sore knuckles.

Blue eyes opened slowly, content, and he opened his injured fingers under the guidance of Carver’s hand. A glint of regret, fleeting and light, flickered through his gaze. So casually had he interrupted Carver’s work yet again, drawing him from his hard task for the sake of what? His hands? His hands could take it, they would be fine without relief. His mind, then? He had sought him out for the sake of his upturned, clouded mind? He could have carried on just fine and left his husband alone, he told himself, and he would not have caused such distress - but he could not be sorry for wanting to see him.

That is why I cannot live without you.

There was no reply from Laures, save for in the contained space of his mind, where it would be sorted away to be whispered in the moments before he slept. Carver did not look to see it, but he was certain that all the love and wondrous grief in his heart was displayed over his face right then. A flag of many colors, passionate reds and sorrowful blues, standing tall in the name of his devotion for him. It did not matter that it was not seen, that it was not heard, so long as it would be felt. And when Carver kissed his open palm, streaked with the bright blood of his carelessness, he was certain that it was.

The feeling was not entirely unknown to him by now, strange and otherworldly though it was. The younger had used his magic on him many times before. To mend his bruises, to heal his head, to repair the work of a careful knife. To remove the many marks of his servitude; the indentations of teeth and nails. He had told him then not to rely upon him - not to expect any more healing the next time it was needed, and yet he had continued its use for his delicate lover’s sake. Laures had felt the strangeness then, the differences in the air around them… and yet this was different. It felt more defined, less… uncertain, and as the bits passed on with a kiss pressed to his palm, he explored the newness of the feeling.

Like before, the air smelled of rain. Calm and cleansing, powerful and sure; his fingers curled slightly, unaccustomed to being held out, and his calloused fingertips touched lightly against Carver’s cheek. He allowed his eyes to close, let a deep breath pass through his lungs, and only opened them again when he felt a tongue glide over his hand.

His healed hand. Unlike his shoulder, no new scars adorned his cool fingers, and he moved them each in sequence. A little test, before his eyes flicked up to meet Carver’s.

And he was smiling again. Luminous and dimpled, Carver’s smile easily outweighed whatever disappointment had come from his wounds being closed. Laures did not tell him that he had been proud of the cuts, that he had been delighted with his own newfound ability to bleed and not worry that the stream would never stop. It had not been intentional, acquiring those cuts, but it had not been entirely accidental either. In spite of this truth, he offered a smile of his own, for no sorrow could survive such perfection as his husband’s delight. His other hand was lifted and brought to Carver’s lips.

The other travelled to his shoulder, smoothing gently up and down before settling against the side of his neck. Laures waited in silence, listening to the quiet sounds of their breaths. His fingers walked lightly over Carver’s neck until they could thread through waves of dirty blond hair. They remained there as the bits once again passed on, petting his hair and his soft skin affectionately, and did not stop once his other hand was released. Rather, the hand joined his other behind his neck, and as soon as the younger lifted his gaze, Laures pulled him into a kiss.

A deeper kiss, yearning and in love, filled with all the things that he could not say even later. Passionate, but not pushing; he made no move to distract further than he already had. In spite of the lingering desires, the ever-present need that would have ordinarily compelled him to do so - he kept his kisses sweet, and pulled back before either of them could do otherwise.

“Carver,” he started, as his hands continued to gently caress and slide down over his shoulders and arms, “I love you. And we’re going to make it to that lodge, wherever it is, however long it takes - and we’re finally going to get some fucking rest like we deserve. I don’t care how many bodies we have to clean up to get there. I’m here to help if you need me, I’m here if you don’t. But I want to fall asleep beside you again soon, one way or another, and this Scal… voris, place, isn’t going to keep that from me.”
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Carver
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Re: Tracing Back Roots

Within Laures, Carver found meaning he’d lacked all his life. That is what it felt like, to him, and that is why he called the other poetic. It wasn’t necessarily the sentimental thoughts: that his husband considered the heart and soul as his first answers. They were reasonable answers. A person certainly would have a difficult time persisting without a heart to pulse the blood through their veins. Additionally, as they had both come to intimately learn, a soul could be without a born body and continue with an organized consciousness of personality… but could a body continue without a soul? He suspected there might be a way, truth be told, but the reason and logic of these things didn’t bother him. His was not a nihilism born of rationality, but rather from a life of despair and confusion.

In moments like the one before him, while he held the hands of his soulmate, in the awe and wonder that was the chance at a new life that the world had given them… it was difficult to remain stuck in the mire of such despondency. He’d already been struggling with this before their mutual murder-suicide. Already been starting to crawl out from the filthy pit he’d writhed most of his life in. Laures shone like a beacon, and though the other man might not have been too far from where he’d started, he could always tell that there was a certain depth in his lover’s soul that beckoned him to no longer be stuck in the morass of his own perceptions. Or so it felt. At other times, it felt like he’d caught Laures from a very great fall. Caught the man with stars in his eyes, who’d been mercilessly pushed aside by life and fallen into the darkness where Carver resided. So fortunate, he considered himself, to have been the one to hold out his arms and embrace despite the fear and uncertainty and unending confusion and anger… so much anger (anger that he didn’t feel anymore. He didn’t know why. Carver simply didn’t feel the waves crash against his thoughts like he had in his previous life).

When Carver called Laures poetic… he meant the older man’s entire being of existence, not merely his lovable answers. He hadn’t exaggerated in his romantic response, either. Laures gave him meaning, gave him purpose, gave him more than a reason to live: his soulmate was the reason to live. If he’d died on his own, in all the myriad ways one could accomplish such a feat, he doubted he would have woken in a body like he did now. Though he had little to evidence such a belief, he believed the only reason he remained aware was Laures – and he was happy for it because beyond everything the other man had come to mean to him, all the relations that wove them closer and closer and closer, he’d discovered that Laures was both his erato and eros in one beautifully resonant soul.

Thus, Carver healed Laures’s self-abused hands through a magic he didn’t understand but felt all the same. As soon as he finished with the second hand, he felt light-headed and his skin felt like static clung underneath. He leaned against the kiss, nearly falling against Laures when pulled closer. Distracted, but wanting, he returned the depth of their connection with heavy breath and eager tongue. It was impossible for Laures to not distract Carver, but the younger blond hardly minded. It was not Laures’s fault that he felt exhausted nor that his new body was so weak, and he didn’t even think to begrudge the other for having acquired a body so much stronger than his own. Not when it resembled his lover’s previous form in so many ways… unlike his own, which looked so vastly different than the slender vessel he’d filled before.

When Laures pulled away, almost as quick as he’d pulled him into the kiss, Carver groaned with disappointment. He caressed the other’s face, and looked at him while he talked, thumbs brushed against cheekbones as if he still couldn’t believe that his soulmate had survived death – that he was there with him, to say such romantic words and to kiss him and to kill together – and he smiled while another tear droplet thinly rolled its way down. He said only, “Yes, Laures.”

He held him close and kissed him again. When he could no longer breathe, when he felt reinvigorated regardless of the strangeness through his body, he disentangled from the embrace. Carver picked up the axe and he returned to the work ahead of them.
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Re: Tracing Back Roots

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Laures

Experience: 15 no magic xp

Knowledge:

Endurance x3
Resistance x3
Psychology x3

Renown: none

Skill Usage: Appropriate to level

Loot/Losses: none

Injuries/Conditions: none

Consequences: ?
Carver

Experience: 15 Graft magic xp

Knowledge:

Endurance x 4
Deception x 2
Discipline x 2
Graft: Enervations
Graft: Enervations: Energies Inside Living Flesh.

Renown: none

Skill Usage: Appropriate to level.

Loot/Losses: 1 Average Hand Axe

Injuries/Conditions: Mild/Light Overstepping for Carver (due to his exhaustion and doing both hands without a break between) - numbness in fingers/hands and tingling.

Consequences: ?


Comments: Sheesh, Carver and Laures are really racking up a body count between the two of them. Maybe they could space the murders out a bit, if only to let the potential heat to die down?

In any event, this story was rich with emotional resonance between the two characters. And the details of the cover-up of the murders was well described and attended to.

If you have any concerns about this review, please PM me about them.
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