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Dearly Departed

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Dearly Departed

((This is the first of many entries in this story to come. Thanks for reading!))

Nicolas could not remember when he had last eaten. It, obviously, had been somewhat recently, for the pangs of hunger that plagued the Cassian were not all that severe. It was all the same to him, for he cared little about whether or not he remained alive.

Alive. What a strange term that word is, he thought to himself. It meant that one was living, that their heart repeatedly pumped blood into their organs, but not much else. He supposed to better term for his state was rather ‘surviving’, for he was neither truly living, nor was he dead. He existed. The Cassian took up space, surely, but not much else.

Softly, Nicolas ran a hand along the burn marks; the fresh scars, a gift from his former lover. He knew he should feel pain, but strangely enough, the Cassian felt only an ache for something long since lost to him. With a sigh, he reached across his desk, hand grasping the crystalline bottle awaiting him.
----

A cruel smirk danced across Aparicia’s lips as she calmly raised a glass to her lips. A journal lay strewn across her desk, penned in messy handwriting, detailing the notes of a lost lover. She turned it slightly, allowing herself to read it, before speaking to herself.

“Men are far too easy to control. They are driven, quite simply, by a desire to have all that interests them."

She turned the page.

“It makes them weak. Easy to manipulate, to control. They are like chess pieces, awaiting a move that has been decided by the gods that be.”

Another sip.

“I refuse to be a chess piece. I am the gods that be,” Aparicia’s voice was haunting; stark and cold. There was no emotion in it, for she had no need to maintain any sort of veneer any longer. She had taken what she had needed, and now that she was done, she had no more use for the idle prattling of a lordling.
----

Nicolas’s espernetics coalesced all over his arm. The Cassian, in his bleary drunken state, had shattered a bottle of vodka, and had only just now noticed the blood streaming down his arm. The magic softly settled into each of the thin slices raking his right arm, and slowly, began to stitch them together. Strangely enough, the espernetics did next to nothing to heal the burns, though they had begun to recede to scars.

Once he had finished healing his wounds, time had begun to fade back into the strange routine it always did. Nicolas had no idea how many days had past since he had fallen from grace, how many days since his lover had left him for dead, how many days since he had used his own magic to fight and maim the only woman he had ever truly cared for, aside from his sister.

Aparicia had left him. It had been his fault, looking back upon it. He was simply ignorant, and had said the entirely wrong thing at the worst time possible. She had blown up, as was expected. It was not her fault.

Not her fault.

Nicolas choked back a dark laugh; nothing was ever Aparicia’s fault. She was untouchable. No Cassian noble would ever raise a hand against her, whether out of fear, or respect. Nicolas was a simple heir, but Aparicia was a powerhouse in the courts of Cassus. Nobody knew where she had truly come from, though she had obviously inherited her late father’s mantle of House Mercer.

It was not as if House Valesus didn’t wield power in the courts, for it most certainly did. His father commanded great respect, both within the political machinations of Meridia, and outside of it. Nicolas was seen as lesser; he was a simple heir, with no admirable qualities to speak of. He was…plain.

Perhaps that had been what had drawn the young Cassian noble to Aparicia in the first place. She was an enigma, elusive and fleeting in appearances. Her beauty, at least to Nicolas, was unparalleled; he had never set eyes upon a woman who could sway men to their knees with a simple glace as Aparicia could. Her eyes were as beautiful as the rest of her, dark golden rings set around a void of pure black. They reflected the fire she wielded in secret, the fire that had earned her a seat and a title within the politics and schemes of Cassus.
Posted Jul 7, 17 · OP · Last edited Jul 8, 17
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----

“Guide me into death, that I may truly live.”

Nicolas sighed, tracing his fingertips along the writing. The quote, ripped from a poem that he had written many years before, had become something of a personal motto for the downtrodden Cassian. He had returned to the comfortable numbness of before, not bothering to eat more than was absolutely necessary, drinking water only when he was practically dying of thirst.

He looked down at his form. Nicolas had changed only once in this state, at least, as far as he could remember. His clothes had been ripped and burned until they were practically unrecognizable in his final encounter with Aparicia, and he had been forced to change, if only to keep up appearances. He wore a jacket of somber maroon, with the symbol of House Valesus inscribed in the rightmost corner. It was a fitting symbol, he thought, for it bore a wyvern, black as night, coiled up around an orb of glowing white, swallowing its own tail.

Nicolas looked towards his scattered journals. In the beginning, he had taken to writing them, if only to make some sense of the ceaseless voices plaguing his every waking moment. The writing had stopped shortly thereafter. It had simply become too much effort to write anything more than a few scattered thoughts at once, and while he preferred traditional writing to datapads, he had almost turned to writing his thoughts down digitally. That had not worked either, and so, he had decided to forego it altogether.

The Cassian had written notebooks before; one of them had detailed his entire relationship and infatuation with Aparicia, but that one seemed to have gone missing, and the Cassian no longer cared to bother finding it.

Slowly, he gathered himself to his knees, and focused intently on the three notebooks, each with half-complete notes written in them. He began to laugh hysterically, and slowly, blue hands, formed of his own espernetics, coalesced all around him.

His laughter continued as the hands gripped the notebooks, and slowly, took them over to the fireplace. Nicolas had kept a fire going since his self-inflicted imprisonment in his room of the manor; whether to remind himself of the past, or of all that he had lost, he did not know. The hands began to meticulously tear out the pages, tossing them into the fire, until all that was left were the burning corpses of long-dead poetry.

The Cassian’s maniacal laughter continued for quite some time afterwards, before the laughter turned to quiet sobs and coughs, with intermittent bouts of giggles.
----

Aparicia calmly flipped another page, before noticing it was blank.

“He could not be bothered to fill up the entire book? How…boring.” She casually discarded the book, drawing her eyes over towards the two chess pieces she had rested upon her desk. Calmly, she took one of the pieces; a white-colored pawn, and slowly, set it ablaze.

The Cassian slowly removed a datapad from one of the drawers on her desk, and typed in a message.

Valesus is useless to me now. Consider my protection lifted. She sent the message off to an encrypted source. The reply was equally brief.

Very well. You will receive an update with our decision.

With that, Aparicia very calmly placed the datapad back within the drawer, locking it as she did so. She had not ascended to her place on Cassus by being nice. She was unsure if she was even capable of such paltry emotions.

She had, perhaps, felt something akin to affection for the strange lordling known as Nicolas. But she had never truly wanted him for anything more than the completion of her plans. He was knowledgeable in sciences, his espernetics were strangely potent, and he had been infatuated with her. Aparicia knew not to disregard such a valuable resource; his infatuation could quickly be turned into unwitting loyalty.

That is, until he had betrayed her. She had been so close, so very close, to finally achieving vengeance, and in doing so, great power, when he had gotten in the way. All things considered, Aparicia could have done much more vile things to Nicolas than leave him to die.

Of course, she had now, unknowingly, allowed him to be subjected to equally vile things, with her protection gone.

Her father had groomed her for the role she had taken; House Mercer had always had a reputation for working with the darker aspects of Cassus, and while none suspected Aparicia of continuing her father’s dirty work, no one believed her to be completely innocent. There were many who would gladly see her killed, if only they were able to do so without causing violent ripples in the machinations of Cassus.
Posted Jul 7, 17 · OP
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----

The Mechari woman didn’t particularly care one way or the other how this mission went; only that it succeeded. She was under orders not to kill the subject, and with her supervisors watching, she would take extra care not to.

“Remember, Vizia. You are not to make any dangerous moves if not entirely necessary.” The agent could scarcely hear the cold, monotonous Cassian voice over the purr of her uniblade.

“I understand, Raziel. This will not be hard.” The Mechari’s arrogance would have been irritating, if Vizia were not known to be so successful in the field. House Orinis only accepted the best, after all, and she was that.

----

Aparicia heard the slight vibration that denoted an incoming holochron call. Calmly, she removed the holochron from the drawer it was housed in, selecting a button to turn it on. A masked figure greeted her, but she knew it was the elusive Betroln Orinis; Lord of House Orinis, and at the moment, her greatest ally.

“It is always a pleasure, Betroln.”

“As to you, Aparicia, but I’m afraid I’ve no time for pleasantries. I have made my decision.”

Aparicia didn’t dare allow her face to betray any of the eagerness she had to learn, and instead, replied with a bored tone, “Oh? And what is it?”

Betroln chuckles, and to Aparicia, it sounds like the most despicable thing she has ever heard.

“You said Valesus was useless to you, and so, my decision is none of your business. Our partnership has come to fruition. You will have your vengeance soon enough.”

Her eyes flew open, and she couldn’t stop the faint trace of flame that coiled up her arm as he spoke.

“I am afraid that does not work, Betroln. I wish to know what you plan to do with Nicolas.”

“The white pawn, as you called him, is no longer your concern.” The holochron shut off, and Aparicia shrieked at it. She threw it against the wall, cracking the glass. Events were spiraling out of her grip, and the feeling was foreign to her.

The Cassian had never not been in charge of all that surrounded her.

She was growing to discover she did not care for; not one bit.
Posted Jul 8, 17 · OP · Last edited Jul 8, 17
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----

Aparicia had bedded another lover last night; some Legionnaire whose name she didn’t bother trying to remember. He would likely die before he became interesting to her again, and he simply represented a release, and an aspect of control.

She had spent much of the day plotting and scheming, which was not unusual for her, being as involved with politics as she was. Most of her plots revolved around Betroln, and the myriad ways she could have him killed without her implication.

Then again, Betroln had nearly as much, or perhaps more, political influence as she, and his death would cause rifts indeed. So, she bided her time. Vengeance would come to her, one way or the other, and Aparicia was infinitely patient.

As she settled on this fact, she heard the soft ring that denoted a message coming through on her datapad.

She opened it, and audibly gasped.
----

Nicolas began to wonder why the Mechari servant was still in his quarters. It was a bit annoying, he thought, and he would have to see about having her dismissed, or relocated to another aspect of the house. She had been dusting and drying for so long that he was beginning to grow bored of her presence.

Just as he was about to stand and dismiss her, he heard the tell-tale sound of metal sliding on metal; a blade swinging free of a holster. He whirled, and immediately saw the Mechari standing over him, one of her wristblades poised to slice his neck.

“You have made a fatal mistake, Nicolas.” The way she purred his name made him feel sick to his stomach, and he could barely wrench out the words necessary to respond.

“D-Don’t say my name.”

A cruel grin danced across her mechanical features, and her strangely mellifluous voice whispered another sentence.

“Your fear is practically nauseating. You’re going to silently stand, and then, you’re going to allow me to place handcuffs upon you. Are we clear?’

Nicolas nodded, and slowly got to his feet. As he did so, the Mechari grinned again, and the Cassian felt something primal roar up within him. The man’s dark skin began to crackle with golden light, each droplet looking like the tears of a god. Slowly, the espernetics began to flow from his body, magic consuming the blackness before him, rending it open like the maw of some unholy creature.

Before the Mechari could react, the golden spears surged into her chest, sending her staggering backwards. She growled, and immediately leaped into the air, wristblades soaring towards Nicolas with startling accuracy.

Nicolas’s face showed no signs of emotion, and his eyes were glimmering with a haunting, golden light that made him seem more akin to some sort of vengeful angel than a mortal. His magic flared up once more, and the Mechari was stopped in mid-air by a glowing espernetic hand. Nicolas’s lips draw upwards in a cruel smirk, and he pushes his hand forward.

The espernetic hand mimics his motion, sending the Mechari flying back into the wall. Before Nicolas can further react, however, there’s a slight teal glow in her eyes. With deadly speed, the Mechari skids towards Nicolas, and although he surges a hand forward, the Mechari’s blade creates a massive cut along his left cheekbone, and his focus is dropped.

A cold, metallic hand snaps to his neck, and he begins to panic. His magic dies on his hands, and the glow gradually evanesces from his gaze, and he is suddenly reduced to what he was when the Mechari first showed up; a babbling seventeen year old.

“Let me go!” The Cassian screamed at the woman, and she simply let out a harsh laugh.

“Your showmanship is admirable, but you’re just as pitiful as Aparicia said you would be.”

Nicolas’s resolve crumbled as she said that, and though he blinked them away, he felt tears form in his eyes.

“She sent you?”

“She didn’t send me. That was another, she simply gave us…an opening.”

Nicolas felt even more betrayed than he ever had. His hands balled into fists, and he slammed them against the metallic armor of the Mechari. She roared at him, and he saw a fist go up.

And then, the world went black.
Posted Jul 8, 17 · OP · Last edited Jul 8, 17
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----

Aparicia clicked on the image sent to her, trying to inspect it closer.

The photo was quite simple, it showed Nicolas laying against a wall, his hands bound to it. His lip was swollen and bruised, and his right browbone, as well as his left cheekbone had open, bleeding cuts on them. The photo was accompanied by a message, and she could practically hear Betroln’s smirk through the text.

Pleasure doing business with you, my lady.

Aparicia waits a good twenty minutes to reply, keeping it rather short.

And what do you plan to do with my noble prince?

I will put this as eloquently as I can, my dearest. It is none of your business, so please keep your obnoxious nose out of it.

What are you up to, Betroln?

The message bounces back, along with an error message, stating that the receiver cannot be identified.

While Aparicia cared very little for Nicolas’s safety, and his ability to draw breath, she was curious as to what Betroln had planned for the boy. She stood, and summoned her guard captain.
----

Nicolas woke to the cold sound of mechanical whirring. His face burned with pain, and he attempted to move a hand to touch it, and to soothe the pain.

Instead, however, the Cassian discovered that both of his arms had been bound. He was also shirtless, and he could dimly see what appeared to be a sort of holding cell door before him. It was dark in the room, but it looked rather…small.

Am I, perhaps, dead? It was not what Nicolas had pictured when he dreamt of death, but then again, it wasn’t entirely unlikely.

Although, if he were dead, one would think he would be cured of the pain inflicted upon him by that dreadful Mechari woman. He had never gotten her name, or her reasons for capturing him, only that Aparicia had, somehow, had a hand in it.

That was what hurt him the most. Physical wounds could heal, would heal, in fact, but Aparicia had caused deep, psychological wounds that even Nicolas himself would never heal in total.

He curled himself in, or at least, as much as he could, trying to preserve warmth. His shirt had been removed, and so, his exposed back pressed against the cold metal of the wall. He shut his eyes, and for once, his mind seemed to be working properly.

Just as sleep began to take him, his holding cell door creeped open. Two figures stood in the doorway; one of which was quite obviously the Mechari who had captured him, whilst the other was unknown to him. It was only once the light from the room outside the cell illuminated his face that Nicolas could tell who it was: Betroln Orinis.

Betroln stepped forward, an indisputable swagger to him, and the woman fell into step five paces behind him.

She was a guard, then, he surmised. Not many Mechari deigned to serve as bodyguards, but given the way she had handled herself in the fight against Nicolas, he highly doubted she was only a bodyguard.

”Vizia. Restrain him.”

“It would be a pleasure.” She stepped forward, unlocking the chains holding him. Before he could even think about reacting, she had one hand around his neck, and the other with a holding a blade poised for his gut.

“Do not move.”

“Vizia, huh? Nice name.” Nicolas looked over at the Mechari with a sleepy grin, and she growled at him. He simply flashed her another grin, and began to purposely drag his feet. She pressed the blade slightly into his flesh; not enough to cause severe damage, but he winced, and felt blood bubble up at the point of contact.

“I would not recommend continuing your petulant behavior, lordling. Know your place.”

While Nicolas was more than happy to continue down his self-destructive path, the little voice in his head convinced him not to, and he righted his stride, gazing around the building.

It was obviously a laboratory of some sort; the walls were cold and metallic, lined with green tubes. They were approaching two large doors, and Betroln walked directly up to the keypad at the side. He keyed in two separate codes, and then, began to scan his palm, as well as his retina.

Nicolas wondered what they were hiding behind so many passcodes. Unfortunately for the young Cassian, he would soon find out.
Posted Jul 8, 17 · OP · Last edited Jul 8, 17
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((this chapter is a bit shorter, but don't worry! there's plenty of ground to cover))

----

Aparicia calmly folded her hands on the desk, reading over the report from her guard captain.

My Lady,

It would appear that Betroln has outdone himself with the resources he’s using. The only lead I could find led me directly to a heavily guarded facility; I was almost shot at just looking at it. It appears to have several gates, and nobody passes through the main entrance. I saw a uniblade approaching only once when I was there; the driver was a Cassian woman. She did not come out again, and I saw only a fleeting glance of her. That is all.


- L

Useless. Laenor could not be trusted to complete even the simplest of tasks.

Oh well, she thought to herself, it seems if you want anything done around here, you simply must do it yourself.

Aparicia did not like things being hidden from her.

Nicolas was no exception.
----

Nicolas felt the cold grip of Vizia’s hands upon his chin, heard her soft cackle as she brought his face up to meet hers. She locked eyes with him, and slowly, planted a kiss directly on his lips, before biting hard enough to draw blood.

The Cassian winced, tried to pull away, but her grip was iron.

He blinked his eyes closed and open, trying to wake himself from whatever horrifying nightmare was taking place, but as the Mechari pulled away, he realized he was in no nightmare. He tried to move, but the chains holding him were even stronger than the Mechari’s hands.

“I would apologize for this, lordling, but I truly do not care.”

Nicolas simply looked up at her; golden eyes large and pleading. Vizia met his gaze, and chuckled softly.

“Things must be broken before they can be remade. Surely even you know that, Valesus.”

The breaking began.

Nicolas screamed.
Posted Jul 9, 17 · OP
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----

The Cassian’s screaming would have continued for quite some time, had he not been gagged shortly thereafter by Vizia. The Mechari woman gazed cruelly into his eyes, and moved to the back of the room that Nicolas was chained in. He gazed around, wildly searching for an exit, or some way to escape whatever she had planned.

He found none.

Nicolas was chained in the middle of a large, black room, with cold tile underneath his knees. His hands remained bound the floor, and his bare chest had numerous small cuts on it. The room was lined with a strange, black tube, and green fluid seemed to be pumping through it.

The only door he could see was a faint outline on the outer edge of the room, and it seemed to have similar authentication keys to the door outside, which meant it would be nigh impossible to break out of.

Not for the first time, the Cassian wondered just what these people had planned for him. His lips still stung with the burn of Vizia’s metal kiss, and silently, he recited ancient prayers to the Scions.

Azrion, give me your strength.

Tristan, give me your courage.

Bronos, bring me justice, that I may see the light in this horror.

Evindra, bring purity to the hellish halls I inhabit.

Korol, devote your holiness to my cause, and free from my bindings.

As Nicolas began to recite the final line, he heard the cold clang of Vizia’s boots upon the tile.

Galen, his mind frantically whispered, gift me your knowledge.
----

Nicolas did not know if he was dreaming or awake.

It had been like this for many days, or perhaps, many weeks. Time passed differently in…wherever he was. It was a small chamber; all of the sides were translucent glass. He was shirtless. There were two metal circles on his chest. They were cold, very cold. He saw something glowing and green in them.

His dark skin was marred by fresh wounds all along his chest, but strangely, they seemed to knit themselves together eerily fast. His hands emitted a faint glow; his espernetics had flared up, attempting to protect Nicolas from…whatever was happening to him.

The crackling blue energy died on his fingertips; he was simply too exhausted to maintain it for longer than that. His vision was hazy, blurred, but he could faintly make out shapes, moving on the outer edges of the glass structure.

One of them raised a finger. Pushed a button.

The green glow in the circles on his chest began to glow even brighter, blinding Nicolas, and moments later, he crumpled to the floor, unconscious.

----

Fire.

There was so much of it; pouring out of every nook and cranny in the marble room. Nicolas couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, but he felt the roaring heat sear his skin and char his hair.

It was everywhere. Inescapable. Infinite.

It kissed his skin, caressed him gently, and he could feel his body recoil at its touch. Strangely, the fire did not hurt, but simply burnt him to the bone. He could see as the skin on his hands begin to wither away, turning first to stark white bone, and gradually becoming charred ash, scattered all around.

A loose scream ripped its way through his lungs, and the fire roared ever higher.


----

Vizia watched from outside the glass-walled room that the lordling was being held in. A dark chuckle escaped her as she watched him writhe around, and she looked to her right, where Betroln Orinis stood.

“How long will this take, Betroln?”

“He is strong,” the lord began, “but not invincible. It will only take a few more days. Patience is a virtue, Vizia.”

“Only when time is on our side. It is not.”

“As I said; patience. Nobody will be looking for him; his father cares little for his safety, so long as he lives to claim the throne. Even if he does perish, he has two brothers fit to take the mantle his sister left.”

“Speaking of his sister,” the Mechari’s tone grew almost mischievous, “where is our pet project?”

“Erya is finishing her training, and then she’ll be given her first field assignment. Why do you ask?”

“Forgive me for being interested in the children. They are my responsibility as well, you know.”

Betroln shot her a glare. “They are not your children, nor are they mine. They are tools, nothing more. They happen to share blood, that is all.”

“Little details. I am simply concerned with their safety, and their usefulness. Does that not make me responsible for them?”

“Responsibility and ownership are two very different things, Vizia. I suggest you learn the difference.”

With that, the lord glided out of the hall, leaving Vizia glaring after him.

----
Posted Jul 29, 17 · OP
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