Recent Statuses

22 hrs ago
Current @Frenzy I have a 10 page term paper worth 35% of my mark due this Tuesday which I have not started. Should be fun!
3 days ago
@mixcoatl oxymoron? XD
3 days ago
1 like
5 days ago
insufficient pylons
6 days ago
You alright there underworld?


Wouldn't it be a cool RP idea to have a character who isn't really possessed, but has a ghost who follows them and talks to them? Could be Ava's Demon on the bad end, and that one scene from Friends on the good end, haha!

Current RPs:
- Of Blood and Magic - playing Aaron
- 1x1 Sword and Thorns [hiatus]
- 1x1 What Dwells in the Deep [hiatus]
- 1x1x1 Kingdom of Miradele with Hero and Denny [hiatus]
- 1x1 Anastasia Ripoff with Hero <3 playing Feliks

A now-less-stressed university student who loves to write. Timezone: Atlantic, GMT-4

My memory sucks! Don't be afraid to ping/repeatedly PM me if I’m holding you up.

If you've RP'd with me before, you'll notice that I have a collection of stock characters that I tend to adapt to different universes when needed. You'll also know that I'm not opposed to making new characters; there are just a few stock ones that I love to play ^_^

As for me:
- Since I'll never remember to update this, my birth year is 1998. Figure out my age from there XD (TL;DR I'm not a minor)
- As you can see from the symbol by my name, I'm one of the ladyfolk
- I'm from Canada, specifically Nova Scotia (home of the world's largest non-nuclear explosion, baby!)
- I'm a university student, and will remain so for the foreseeable future (even longer now since I've decided to shoot for law school)
- Huge fan of classic literature, fountain pens, fancy stationery and anything that can be done by hand
- Seriously, anything that can be done by hand. Knitting, embroidery, cross-stitch, anything. My current vice is quilting.

RP wise:
- I have weaknesses for gladiators, mythical creatures and status/class differences
- I'm comfortable playing whatever gender/orientation and a wide range of personality types
- LOVE character and world building
- Wish I could find a 1x1 that I wouldn't lose interest in (ayy I think I did it)
- Active in the OOC - I like to know the people I write with! (add me on Discord Obscene#1925)
- My scratchpad in the character sheet section is where I put my WIPs and reference content. You’re welcome to lurk, but don’t expect it to make sense.

Most Recent Posts

Interacting with: @Trainerblue192 and @Apoalo

Aaron watched curiously as Salem made a face at the paper, scratching something out before he wrote his reply. Did he say something wrong? The next launch of the note cleared things up, Aaron managing to catch it after it passed between his fingers. Salem had scratched out the word ‘Master’, as if he couldn’t stand to even look at it. It seemed a little extreme, but Aaron could admit that he wasn’t enormously happy about it either. His question wasn’t one Aaron was too thrilled to answer, but given Salem’s earlier complaints about him hiding things made him think a little honesty would put the man more at ease.

He he did his best to draw the little smiley face at the end and folded the note back up, more easily this time, and aimed a little better when he launched the triangle back. He still didn’t get it between Salem’s fingers, instead hitting one of his hands and sending it ricocheting off onto the table. He actually did let out a quiet chuckle at that, shaking his head at his own difficulty.

Just as Salem opened the note, Aaron felt a buzz both on his wrist and in his pocket. His watch displayed a text notification from… Lucan! Speak of lycans! Aaron cracked a wide smile as he fished his phone out of his pocket.

> Hey, It’s been a crazy few days but I’m fine and back at the Academy. Too much to say over text, can you meet me at any point this week? How was the dinner?

Aaron was thrilled to hear from Lucan, quelling some of the worry that had been flooding his mind, but his question made the mage’s face fall a tick. Dinner again. Why was everyone so damn interested?

Shelving his annoyance, he waited until Salem had read the note before tapping him on the shoulder and showing him the message, waiting long enough for him to read it before tapping out his reply.

> Glad to hear it!
> Dinner was certainly something, a little too much to explain over text as well. I don’t know when I’ll be free this week but I’ll look into that ASAP. Maybe we can work on Gloria?

He almost put his phone back before remembering something fairly important, rushing out another message before tucking his phone back in his pocket.

> By the way, apparently there’s a rumour going around that I got some girl sent to the mines? I have no idea where that came from or what that’s about, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how ridiculous it is, but you should know before you hear it somewhere else.
Interacting with: @Trainerblue192

It took a second for Aaron to catch on with what Salem wanted to do, but soon enough he figured it out, mirroring Salem’s position. He almost laughed when Salem flicked the note back at him, having to fumble a bit to catch it before it fell into his lap. It was a game! Not one Aaron had ever seen before, but it was charming nonetheless. He felt like they’d probably get a few funny looks from the TAs carrying on like this, but honestly, the idea of bothering Ralph a little more was not an unwelcome one.

Aaron inwardly groaned, however, at the new note, asking who he was going to town with. He had hoped it would have been obvious. Did Salem really want him to have to write out that word every time? He supposed it was probably an honest question, but he still wasn’t thrilled about it. Even in your messages.

Smiling faintly at a memory stirred up, Aaron re-folded the paper the way he’d seen Salem to it, having a bit more success this time, and motioned for Salem to hold up his hands like before. Balancing the triangle on its point as Salem had done, he flicked it back; however, Salem’s aim was a lot better than his, and instead of going between Salem’s hands, the note veered off to the side and bounced off the crystal, coming to rest on the table.
Interacting with: @Trainerblue192

Salem’s sigh and facepalm earned him a quizzical look from Aaron, moreso as he opted to write another note instead of replying. What was that about? Wasn’t he trying to make amends? Aaron was left wondering what he’d done wrong - a feeling that was growing more familiar than he’d like so far - until Salem folded up the new note and flicked it at him again, the little paper triangle this time hitting him in the chest. Aaron managed to catch it, a smirk threatening on his lips at the antics.

"You have to write back. That's how note passing works silly. But no, I havent heard anything about my ettiquite classes...but I thought could give me a head start? Come over my place?

Right. Note passing. Aaron recalled seeing something like this in a movie once, though he’d never actually had any classmates to pass notes to. The closest thing he remembered doing was playing telephone with his aunt Clara as a child, though that consisted of them whispering to each other from different parts of the mages’ wing and Clara using her sound magic to carry their voices. Aaron also remembered Sariel blowing paper airplanes around to amuse herself while he worked on his control exercises, but that wasn’t quite the same, either.

Mood lifted significantly by the memories, Aaron kept quiet this time, instead writing his reply in elegant cursive. Slower on the upstrokes of the loops, like he’d been told. Salem's handwriting was clearly traditional as well, but the consistent loops and perfect, parallel slant of Aaron's contrasted with the organic wavering of Salem's, Aaron's looking like it could have been lifted from a cursive exercise book whereas Salem's looked more like it was pulled out of a field journal.

He was going to slide it across the table flat, but paused for a moment, deciding to see if he could emulate what Salem had done. He tried his best to re-fold the note along Salem's fold lines, but it only resulted in a vaguely triangular shape that kept popping back open. Suppressing a chuckle at his own difficulty, Aaron conceded, flicking it gently across the table to slide in front of Salem.
Interacting with: @Trainerblue192

While Salem thought, Aaron seethed, slowly writing his loops and lines and glaring down at the paper. He surprised himself with how irritated he was getting, never having been much for anger. But then again, until now he’d never had to deal with so many direct affronts to everything he believed in; something he’d have to get used to, apparently, between Salem, Ralph, Varis and whoever else would have a problem with his family name.

And Salem, with his damn comment about him serving the Sinnenodels… Aaron could have choked him. “How elated were you to be forced off to another family?” Surely he could guess. Surely he could surmise that Aaron hadn’t slept a solid day for weeks, lying awake sick to his stomach wondering what he’d done, how he’d failed, why he wasn’t good enough to serve the family that he loved. As much as he’d tried to convince himself it was part of some broader plan, some diplomatic move on Princess Ryner’s part, just has he had almost come to peace with it, he kept coming back to the same gut-wrenching, life-ruining conclusion: They simply didn’t want him, they were throwing him away and he’d go down in history as the first and only Starag to become someone else’s problem. Dozens of generations of good and worthy mages, all leading up to the spectacular failure that was Aaron Starag. And he didn’t even know why.

Such was the poison Aaron brewed in as the class time ticked by, deaf and blind to anything around him. He was briefly interrupted by a screech from Salem’s chair, which earned him little more than a sidelong glare, and Aaron returned to his writing until something fell onto his notebook, finally snapping him out of his toxic reverie.

Aaron blinked a few times, coming back to the present, and narrowed his eyes at the thing. A little triangle of folded paper. What was the point of that? Was Salem actively trying to irritate him? He picked the thing up and turned it, and was about to throw it away when he saw the ghosting of writing through one side of the paper. Curiously, he unfolded it - with only a little bit of difficulty finding the opening - and found a note written inside.

"Hi, I'm Salem Spellman. I have a knack for putting my foot into my mouth when I speak and I often use the wrong tone. It's a good thing that notes carry no tone and require you to think about what you say. I hope to meet your acquaintance soon, I hear you're real good with etiquette."

Aaron read the note over a few times, anger slowly yielding until he simply felt drained. It may not have been worded as such, but Salem’s note sounded like an apology. Rubbing a hand down his face, Aaron inwardly scolded himself. What was wrong with him? It wasn’t like him to get so incensed, and he couldn’t just sit there and sulk like a child. At the very least, he had a job to do; he glanced up at the balcony again, seeing that Varis had left. Great. He couldn’t be sure, but he suspected he’d be hearing about that little argument later.

Aaron let out a breath, folding the note in half and tucking it between the pages of his notebook. Salem was making an effort, and so should he. Duty or not, it was only fair, and Salem clearly needed his help with something.

“...Do you know who your etiquette teacher is going to be yet?” Aaron asked, once again longing for the familiar people and protocols back home as he struggled for something to say, “If it’s one of the Noila instructors, I might know them.”

“Have at it,” Felikes replied unenthusiastically, looking back down at the table and moving to clear some of the clutter away. Good, she’d get out of his hair for a while. Good thing too, he needed to focus. It was lucky that he had a blank passport ready, but his forged visa stamp had seen better days - precisely the reason he had gone to the stationery. He needed to carve a new one, and it would take up the bulk of the day’s estimate he’d given Katya to do. It had to be perfect, after all; he inwardly groaned at the prospect, already dreading hours of testing and tweaking that lay ahead of him.

“Oh, word of warning,” he mentioned before Katya was gone, “The building isn’t always stable. And I can’t finish this until you get your picture taken, so make sure you come back and get the photographer’s address before you leave. And try not to get lost.” There was more boredom in his voice than actual concern, and he barely looked up from unpacking his purchases. But it was an important warning nonetheless; he wasn’t a complete jackass, and he also didn’t want to lose a paying customer. Besides, he didn’t need to come across a corpse on his way through the place anytime soon.

Jesus, she was chatty. Feliks had been expecting some simple, unrevealing “I’m an orphan” answer, not a life story. Not to mention the sickening optimism. He would have envied her her naivete if he didn’t think it was so foolish. Of course, as he listened, admittedly intrigued by Katya’s memory loss, his mind couldn’t help but wander to the possibility…

“A lot of children were lost in the siege,” he said absently, eyes on the fire. Nearly frozen to death in an alley, huh? He supposed he could relate, though his circumstances immediately after the siege had also involved a pile of corpses and a gunshot wound.

There was a silence between them for a moment, Feliks turning his options over in his mind. He knew it was foolish, and impossible, but he simply couldn’t keep Katya’s eerie resemblance to Katerina from his mind. But Katerina was dead, he was sure of it. So why did he keep wondering if it was possible?

He supposed the ten million rubles might be part of it.

But it was ridiculous! What, was he meant to believe that God happened to smile upon him today, inform him of the reward offered by the Dowager Empress and then just drop a reincarnated Katerina in his lap? Preposterous. She was dead, long dead, along with the rest of the Vasilievs. Along with his mother, and every other innocent soul the Bolsheviks thought deserved to die that night. That reward was just the last remnant of desperate hope from a heartsick old woman in Paris.

“...I’ll see about those papers,” Feliks said finally, grasping the arm of the chair by the fire and using it to hoist himself painfully back to his feet. He clenched his jaw with the effort, but held in his usual groan, not one to complain around company. Already stiff from having been kneeling, his limp was a bit more pronounced than normal as he made his way over to his shelf, pulling out a folder and flipping through some delicate-looking documents within. Feliks stared intently at them, thinking. She needed a permanent exit visa to Paris, fine, but that meant she needed a passport to attach it to, which meant she needed a picture and a full name, information on her date and place of birth, occupation, marital status, all manner of overbearing government-required personal details. From someone who remembered none of it. Excellent.

They were just going to have to get creative.

He fingered through some other documents on his shelf, grateful to find a blank copy of a passport document ready to go. “I’ll need some more information from you - we might need to fabricate a lot of it - and you’ll need to get your picture taken,” he explained, not looking over. He pulled a few more things from the shelf and crossed over to the document-strewn table, sitting gratefully at it. “I know someone who can do that for you, though he doesn’t work for free. Once that’s done, I can have your documents completed in about a day.”

Finally he looked up, over his shoulder at the girl by the fire. “Are you living nearby? You won’t want to go too far.”

Aaron raised his eyebrows at Salem’s question, a little surprised that that was the part of the greeting he’d stuck on. Well, it was as good a conversation starter as anything, he supposed.

“Great. The guy whose family enslaved us.” Aaron repeated Ralph’s words, making air quotes around them and leaning back a little in his seat. He shrugged, doing his best to laugh off that little flash of irritation. “I mean, I know I’m not all that well-versed in meeting new people, but I don’t think that’s meant to be a compliment.”

Salem stared at Aaron confused for a moment. He kept opening and closing his mouth, as if he was going to speak but would stop himself short of any words, finally leaning forward and saying “You are aware the Spellmans have never enslaved anyone right? And what does that have to do with why you think the TA dislikes you?”

Aaron stared at Salem for a second, equally confused, until it dawned on him that there had been a miscommunication and a laugh escaped him. “Oh, no, that’s what the TA said to me, he clarified, chuckling. “When he handed me my paper in the lineup. I suppose I should expect a little hostility, I know my family isn’t popular with everyone, but I wasn’t quite expecting it from someone working here.

Salem flipped through his pad as Aaron spoke, making sure to give clues that he was listening but also working on something else, writing out of Aaron's view ‘Paid off employees? Thinks school will be a breeze?’ He flipped back to another page, touching the crystal briefly and having it give off a soft glow with one hand as he drew it with the other. ”That's definitely not something I'd expect from an employee of the school, towards anyone. However, much like Varis, they are still students. I am curious though…” Salem brightened the crystal up while it was underneath his face, giving him a gaunt under lighting. ”During Treaty Law will he be your Teacher...or Master.” The glow dimmed back down as Salem passed the crystal to Aaron.

Aaron watched Salem as he drew, noting that his control seemed good if the crystal was any indication, though the question deflated him a bit. Was Salem making fun of him? What was the point of that? As much as he chided himself for it, this whole ‘Master’ business wasn’t exactly a comfortable topic. Aaron took the crystal, face falling a tick and humour dissipating as he slid it toward himself.

“All signs point to ‘Master’,” Aaron admitted, placing a hand on the crystal. He took a second to savour the feeling as the crystal made its connection with his magic, an uncanny sensation, but a pleasant one. The crystal began to glow much brighter than it had for Salem, bathing the table in pale golden light. “Truth be told, I’ve been forbidden from using his name,” he continued quietly, watching the crystal absently as he let it dim and brighten slightly with his breathing. After a moment, he looked over to Salem. “Maybe keep that under your hat, though, if you wouldn’t mind.”

”That's rough buddy.” Salem tried to mimic a line from a show he watched growing up. Though his guess was Aaron had never seen it. Clearing his throat for a moment before speaking again, "That's fine, I was just trying to...forewarn you...of how class may be for Treaty Law with him as our TA.” Salem searched around for a brighter topic, Lilie? No, that would only end badly. His relationship with Varis was clearly out of the question, and they couldn't very well speak of last night here. ”So, when you don’t have a chunk of crystal before you, what do you use as a focus?” Salem’s eyes kept looking down onto his pad, now on a new page as he began to illustrate something, to avert his gaze from the blinding light.

Aaron kept his eyes on the crystal, focusing on dimming the glow as much as he could before fizzling it out, then brightening it as much as he could without doing the same. “This,” he replied to Salem’s question, holding out his left hand. The light from the crystal glittered off the ring on his finger, which itself was made from a pale yellow crystal with many facets cut into the surface. “It’s actually made from my Awakening crystal,” he explained, finally taking his hand off the crystal and sliding it back to Salem. Hands now free, he patted the pommel of his sword, turning a bit in his seat so Salem could see it. “However, I’m also working on using Dawn as a focus as well. How about you?”

Before he reached for the crystal again, Salem held his hand up showing Aaron the back of his hand and forearm. He concentrated for a moment, making his tattoos glow an aetheric blue for a moment before dulling it back down and taking the crystal. ”My tattoos. Every Spellman mage gets them after their awakening if they're found to be a mage. We do, of course, have other focuses, but this is my main one.” Having seen how Aaron took the exercise, and thinking back to other training hed done, Salem decided the best test of this control would indeed be to match it with one’s breathing. After all, magic should be as natural as breathing to a mage. Salem let out a long drawn out breath through his mouth. The light dimming gradually with each bit of air that escaped his lungs. After a moment’s pause, he inhaled slowly through his nose, the light beginning to gradually brighten up. He repeated this twice more before letting Aaron have a go.

Watching Salem use the crystal, Aaron found himself impressed with his control. Then again, he recalled Lady Sinnenodel’s mage saying that Salem was 21, so he supposed it made sense for someone three years out of their Awakening - he realized he was almost three years out too, good lord how time could fly - to have had some measure of training.

Taking the crystal back, he put his hand on it again, watching as it glowed, casting light over the table once more. Like before, he took a moment to really feel the flow of magic between himself and the crystal. It was a circular flow, through him and the crystal and back again; if he simply let the channel be and didn’t try to stem it, the glow was steady, its brightness similar to the lightbulb in a lamp. Slower this time, he inhaled, holding the magic back in his own body much like his breath. He could feel the crystal tug a little more insistently as the glow faded, the flow of magic trying to reach equilibrium once more, but held on, forcing the glow dimmer and dimmer until it was barely there. The anticipation of the magic he was holding back felt very much like pulling the tempo in an orchestral piece, everything in him anticipating when that energy would at last be released and the rhythm would pick up again.

Carefully, be began to exhale, gradually loosening his ‘grip’ on the flow of magic as he did so. He let the glow slowly go back to its former brightness, feeling the circulation reach equilibrium again, and then began to push, the crystal brightening as he did. Now he could feel resistance in the other direction, the glow of the crystal growing uncomfortably bright. He pushed it as far as he could, right up until he could feel that any more would blow the connection, and finally released his hold, letting the glow go back to normal before taking his hand off and snuffing it out completely.

“It’s been a while since I’ve done this,” he told Salem, leaning back in his seat and taking another breath, smiling. Something about working with magic always put him at ease, a happy calm washing over him. “How about you? What sort of training did you have before now?”

Salem continued to scribble into his pad while Aaron used the focus. His glance only looking up during the periods of dim lighting. Once the connection stopped and the light was no longer present, he placed his pencil down with a small clatter as he closed his pad so that Aaron couldn't see what he was working on. As Salem continued his breathing exercises he responded

"I assume you're referring to my magical training as opposed to medicinal? It was a lot of meditation. Breathing exercises, Tai Chi, and feeling the magic flowing within me. As I said, I have these tattoos which act as my focus, and when we would practice-” Salem removed his hand from the crystal and pressed both of his palms together, almost as if praying (not that he, nor anyone knew what that was), "- the goal was to control to flow of our energy within ourselves. I must say, it's easier to do these breathing ones you've got me doing.” Once both palms were together, a glow could be seen on Salem’s right shoulder. It flowed downwards to his bicep, then forearm, and then from his right hand onto his left, finding its way to his left shoulder before breaking the connection. ”It was just a lot of breathing, meditation, and Tai Chi to help with natural flow.” he reiterated, placing his hand back onto the crystal.

Aaron watched Salem’s demonstration, paying rapt attention to the glow of his tattoos as it traveled over his arms. He listened absently, more focused on the demonstration until it was done. By the sounds of it, Salem’s training had been… well, it was a little hard for Aaron to place it in comparison to his own. He’d definitely done a lot of breathing, but he hadn’t been sure if that was a typical technique or if Sariel had used it because he was already used to controlling his breathing from his combat training. He’d never heard of Tai Chi, though, and Sariel had only attempted meditating once before realizing that he wasn’t exactly skilled in the art of sitting still. Magic training had been marginally less painful than combat training or his other education, notably lacking swords and rods and buckets of pebbles, but he’d still managed to hurt himself a few times at first, so eager to start casting that he’d tried to use magic before he’d actually fully connected with his casting focus. That had always been the way for him, though; ever since childhood, he never could quite grasp his boundaries until he felt the consequences of crossing them. But he never did make the same mistake twice.

“I see it was effective,” he commented, though he paused to watch Salem go back to the crystal. “And that’s your family tradition? Are you all self-taught?”

”I don't understand your question. We are taught by the generations before us, we pass down our knowledge like legacies and ensure that the next generation will be able to take the pasts lessons and adapt them to the ever changing world in the same way that the we must all adapt to fit the future.” Salem looked around the room for a moment, watching as some students couldn't quite get their focuses to work properly, a few fizzling out from too much exposure, and then looked back at Aaron. ”Care to try something? Clearly we have control beyond those of our peers, how's about putting yours against mine. See whose magic can stay in control over this focus?”

Aaron shrugged, leaning back in his seat. “I was more wondering if you’ve always been taught by your own family, or if anyone had ever gone to a school like this one. My family were all taught by royal tutors, of course, but since we tend to have unique affinities rather than all sharing one, we can’t usually teach each other much more than basic control.”

He looked around as Salem did, interested to see that many of their classmates were having some difficulty. He supposed that made sense, though. Most of these students were probably fresh out of their Awakenings; he was willing to bet that for a lot of them, this was their first time using their magic. Salem’s suggestion brought a grin to his face, though. The crystal exercise was getting old, and he had to admit, he’d always been competitive.

“Sounds like a fun challenge,” he agreed, sitting a little more upright. “I’d make a wager, but I’m afraid I don’t have anything to bet with.” He set his elbow on the table, poising his hand near the crystal, not unlike preparing for an arm wrestling match. “When you’re ready.”

Salem leaned back thinking on what Aaron had said. A wager sounded interesting, though he wasn't much of a betting man. What would they even wager? Salem didn't have access to anything outside of the school, that's when a thought dawned on him. ”A wager then, your noble training versus my family traditions. The forfeit for this is…” Salem leaned in close and whispered to Aaron, "The loser must be forthright about everything for a week. No hiding details, no misleading sentences, and no lying or avoiding subjects. Deal?”

Aaron quirked a brow, considering the proposal and letting his hand fall to drum his fingers against the table. A week of honesty, hm? That had the possibility to end poorly for him, considering Salem asked the right questions. But on the other hand, he could get a lot out of Salem if he won. Maybe determine if he really was a rebel. Of course, perhaps it was naive just to take a man’s word that he’d be honest. And why did Salem want his honesty so badly anyway?

Despite his questions, Aaron found himself grinning. He didn’t usually make bad bets, but… this wasn’t too bad of one, now was it? “Deal,” he replied, holding out his hand to shake on it.

Salem smiled at Aaron's good gesture and held out his hand. Either the Starag mage was very cocky, or he truly had nothing to hide and all his sneaky business with Lilie and this girl in the mines was simply a mistake or misunderstanding. Once they shook on the deal Salem held his hand near the crystal as Aaron had done previously.





Both men touched the crystal at once; immediately it lit up, shining brightly from a quick burst put in by Aaron, met in intensity (if not brightness) by Salem’s glow in return. Soon the green of Salem’s magic started to overtake the gold of Aaron’s, but just just as the advantage became clear, Aaron’s magic pushed back, gaining the upper hand. Salem would not be outdone, however, and rose to the challenge; soon it looked like the two were evenly matched. They grappled like that for a moment, neither ceding to the other and intensity mounting, until both glows rose to an uncomfortable brightness. There was a flash, green or gold one could not tell, and the crystal fizzled out, going dark without revealing a winner.

Aaron fell back against his seat, letting his hand fall to the table and breathing a little heavier. Despite his new exhaustion, though, he couldn't help but laugh, a little giddy from the thrill of it all. “A draw,” he said finally, almost disbelieving.

It was strange, the feeling Salem had as Aaron's magic began to overtake the crystal. He could feel his magic, its intensity, as if he was feeling a part of Aaron's soul. However, Salem knew that this was a bet he couldn't lose, he needed to win this, for Lilie. She deserved to know the truth about what transpired at dinner. In a bright flash it all ended. A draw… Salem couldn't believe it. He'd be sweating if it wasn't for the cold in the room keeping his temperature low. A long, deep exhalation flew out of his lips as he heard Aaron chuckling to himself. ”It would appear it is.” A small guffaw taking over him. ”I suppose neither of us need to fulfill the forfeit then.”

“Good to see the favorite snack is still human.” Ralph said as he approached the table, clapping slowly and clearly unimpressed. “That was a pathetic attempt at the wrong exercise. Just because you sold the rest of us off for your benefit, doesn't mean you can snub our lessons. Do it right or don't bother at all.” Ralph turned from Aaron to Salem, regarding him for a long moment.

“Don't let his cocky attitude ruin you. His control needs work. He's blinding half the class as it is. He could learn a thing or two from you.” Ralph waved his hand towards the crystal. “Go on. Let me see how you're doing.”

Salem now saw what Aaron was speaking about earlier. He was unsure on if he should speak up or keep his head low, after all the last time he spoke up he lost everything. ”Of course.” he said in a low voice. He took a deep breath in and then exhaled it slowly through his mouth, regulating his breathing before beginning to exercise once more. Salem reached for the crystal, eyes closed and concentrating on the feeling of his magic flowing within him, inhale through the nose, it would ebb creating a dim green glow, contrary to before. Exhale slowly, the magic would flow, brightening and glowing a luminescent green, inhale ebb, exhale flow. This continued for 5 cycles until he finally stopped and looked towards the TA.

“Whoopie, a natural.” Ralph deadpanned. “Don’t let it go to your ego. Continue working on it and then try varying the speed of the change. You're up next, turncoat. Let's see if the grass is greener on the other side.”

Ralph’s arrival robbed Aaron of that little bit of joy that always followed practicing magic, that flash of anger from before quickly rising to take its place. He was better trained than to talk back, of course, opting instead to burn a hole into the side of Ralph’s head with a glare as Salem did his demonstration.

When it was his turn, he set his hand on the crystal, it coming to life just as it had before, in a steady, lampike glow. He was a little tired from his little match with Salem, sure, but irritation had always had a way of invigorating him. Instead of tempering the glow, though, he held it for a moment, looking back up to Ralph. “Is this what you mean by ‘blinding half the class’?” He asked, only slightly condescendingly.

“Yes just like that. Considering you're brighter than everyone else, it means you pump out more magic naturally. Also means you'll exhaust yourself with bigger spells if you don't get it under control.” Ralph scoffed. “Apparently, being a blood traitor didn't pay off too much now did it. Now come on, let's go.”

That little jab very nearly made Aaron’s magic spike, but fortunately, unbeknownst to Ralph, he did have more control than that. He had to admit, though; it was satisfying to see that Ralph didn't seem to know what he was talking about.

“Forgive me, but I don't think I'll exhaust myself doing this,” he commented dryly, taking in a breath. The glow dimmed as he did, all the way down as he'd done before, before it spiked back up with his exhale, reaching a far more uncomfortable brightness. Well, to anyone else’s eyes, anyway. “I'll exhaust myself doing this... he added, pushing up to the edge and holding the glow at its peak brightness for a second before letting it blow out with a flash, looking back up to Ralph expectantly. “...But that's not where my equilibrium lies.”

“Okay, mark you down for delusions of grandeur. Try working on that upper limit. Maybe spend some time with us plebs; might teach you a thing or two.” Ralph said, dismissing Aaron's display. “I'll expect some improvement when I come back around, turncoat.” Ralph moved to the next table and the area warmed up again.

”That just happened.” Salem watched in almost disbelief. It's true that Aaron's light was brighter than all the rest but did that truly mean that he didn't have good control? ”I'm sorry about that, maybe this will cheer you up?” Salem ripped out a page from his notepad that he had been scribbling on the whole class. It had an illustrated sketch of Aaron using the crystal, the glow from it given him almost angelic tones. He slid the image face down to Aaron, both wanting to look away embarrassed as well as see his reaction to the image.

Aaron glared at Ralph as he left. “Don’t worry about that,” he reassured Salem, only looking back over once Ralph had diverted his attention first. “If I didn't have control I would never--oh,” he interrupted himself when he finally looked down to see that Salem had handed him something, sliding the paper toward him and turning it over.

His eyes widened slightly at what he saw, and he stared for a moment. Salem had drawn him using the crystal, in shocking detail despite how quickly he must have done it. It was impressive to say the very least, not to mention flattering, and for a moment Aaron simply looked at it, a little amazed. What do you even say to that?

“That's incredible,” he remarked finally, smiling despite himself. “You’re very talented, thank you.” He chuckled a bit, tapping the drawing. “But what are you doing wasting your talent on me?”

”It's not a waste, typically I use it to help with recipes, or information on certain plant life and what not. It helps to have an illustration of a Conium maculatum rather than just hoping that someone knows what it looks like to avoid it.” Salem looked towards the crystal and then back at Aaron, speaking shyly as he began to smell a hint of post rain weather, chamomile tea, and the scent of an old book. ”I don’t mean to sound rude but...have you...have you tried to change the brightness?”

Aaron quirked a brow at Salem’s sudden shyness, noticing the scent of wood polish and rosin. “Oh, this?” He clarified, placing his hand back on the crystal and letting it glow at its regular brightness for a moment before releasing it again.

He shrugged, leaning back in his seat. “I’m a Light mage,” he explained simply, “It was like that on my Awakening day too. I suppose it might be possible to adjust the brightness beyond just altering the flow of magic, but Sariel never seemed too concerned. As far as I know, for my affinity, this is normal.” He didn't seem too concerned. “I can tell when I'm overdoing it, and I know I wasn't, so I'm inclined to think it's just an aesthetic difference.” He let out a laugh, though it was a little cold as his eyes fell briefly on Ralph across the room. “I think he was just looking for someone to pick on, honestly. Either that or he doesn't know what he's talking about.”

He sighed, tearing his eyes away and back to Salem and letting his anger subside. Without it, he began to notice that he was feeling a little spent, the exercises and his little match with Salem catching up to him. “Anyway, yes, it looks like neither of us is bound to honesty for the week,” he continued, shrugging again. “Though, I see no reason to use that as an excuse to lie, right? No need.” He laughed a little, eyeing Salem with a touch of humour coming back. “We get enough subterfuge with the nobles without lying amongst ourselves, don't you think?”

”I suppose so, but he is going to return to our table and check on our progress. So I figured I would ask to see if it was actually possible.” Salem thought on the words Aaron had said, There's no need to Lie, there's enough subterfuge with the nobles. But wasn't he a noble? A Starag of the Noilas now passed to the Sinnenodels. Two Noble families, twice the subterfuge.

Salem placed his hand onto the crystal once more to continue the exercises, taking into account what Ralph said about changing the intervals. He began to breathe rhythmically but faster, like a pregnant woman given birth. The exercise alone was straining, having not been used to such rapid changes, on top of the exhaustion from his wager. After a few breaths Salem stopped, tiredness taking over as he laid back into his chair. ”That was not fun.” Salem tried to sit up, using his elbows to keep him upright against the table. ”It’s not just the presence of lies Aaron, it's the absence of truth. I spoke to Lilie, she seemed to think dinner was a delight last night.”

“Why don’t you take a break,” Aaron suggested, noticing Salem’s exhaustion. His next words gave him pause though, Aaron lifting a hand to tug at his ear. So Salem had gotten ahold of Lilie. After a moment he sighed again, looking to Salem a little bashfully.

“I didn’t want to scare her,” he reasoned, inwardly groaning. Briefly he rubbed his hand across his neck, before forcing his hand to drop once more into his lap, not wanting to linger on the memory. He lowered his voice, less than excited at the prospect of anyone - especially Ralph - hearing him.

“Besides, I was embarrassed, okay?” He admitted, perfectly sincere. “I trained my whole life for this only to utterly fail on night one. If possible, I’d rather not advertise that.” He gave Salem a sidelong look, suddenly a little concerned. “Why, what did you tell her?”

”Everything.” Salem gave out a tired and weak chuckle as he waved his hand lazily in the air. ”I'm kidding of course. I told her everything that pertained to me. I left out your half of the story, as it's not mine to tell. Only mentioning that you and I had varying opinions, one we both said we'd work on together as opposed to animosity. But I'll warn you Aaron.” Salem's voice entered extremely hushed tones as he leaned towards Aaron. ”Withholding such things tends to drive a wedge between people, Lilie seems very pure and unsure of herself and I will not see you hurt her.”

Aaron raised an eyebrow at Salem’s remark, grateful he hadn’t said too much, but a little confused with his warning. Hurt her? Aaron could have laughed out loud. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt Lilie. He’d only known the girl for barely a night, and already he found himself looking forward to seeing her again.

“Believe me, I don’t want that either,” he told Salem, leaning in and matching his tone before returning to his former position. “I just… I don’t see any reason to burden her with my problems. Her or anyone else.” He let out a breath, letting a little wave of fatigue wash over him before he made himself perk up. “Besides, I can handle it. I got thrown off by…” he paused a moment, swallowing his pride, “ Master’s methods, but I’m sure I’ll be fine once I catch on.”

He regarded Salem for another moment, mulling over his words and his apparent urgency. “Was there anything else weighing on you, or was that it?” He asked genuinely, glad for the opportunity to clear things up.

Salem thought for a moment and decided if there was ever a time to clear the air it was now. ”I heard a rumor...that you sent a girl to the mines.” There was a small pause as he searched Aaron's face for any sort of reaction. ”I need to know the truth. I heard there was an arrest last night while we were out and I know it was done by Lucan, whom you hold close it seems. I need to know what happened. Was it another defenseless mage like me who is now under the scrutiny of a family just for potentially mispeaking? Although if i'm being honest with myself, I still believe what I had said the other night. It's just too coincidental.” He spoke low, making sure no one near them could hear the conversation, much like Aaron, Salem didn’t need his dirty laundry aired out.

“What?!” Aaron didn’t bother hiding his shock, though he kept his voice a hushed whisper. There was a rumour going around that he’d somehow sent someone to the mines? “That’s ridiculous,” he dismissed the idea immediately, caught between laughing and having a miniature crisis. How many other people had heard this rumour? How had he managed to tarnish his family’s reputation this quickly?

“Salem, I don’t have that kind of power,” he explained, scoffing at the idea. “Lucan follows orders from the crown, I couldn’t coerce him even if I wanted to. I--ohh…” Suddenly it dawned on him what Salem was talking about. An arrest involving Lucan, of a mage… He recalled Lilie mentioning something like that, and he’d seen the boards on the Marivaldi dorm for himself. Combined with what Varis had said at dinner…

“That must have been the Marivaldi mage,” he concluded, almost to himself. “Remember, how they said at dinner that someone managed to infiltrate the Academy?” He lowered his voice even further, loath to start some kind of rumour or panic.

Salem watched as Aaron seemed to go through several stages of emotion. It was clear that the accusation offended him yet as to why it did he was unsure. Could it be it was false? Or was there truth to it and he was upset to get caught. ”Again I feel that was a cover to shift the blame off of you know who. But seeing as how I was the only one to get probed Salem was racking his brain searching for answer but only coming up with more questions. ”Why would the queen even invite Lucan if she had ordered him elsewhere? It makes no sense. None of this makes sense Aaron.” Salem voice was still low, as he held the crystal, continuing to brighten and dim it but now somewhat sporadically with his emotions, attempting to make it seem like idle chatter as they practiced.

“I don't know,” Aaron hissed, still unsettled from the accusation. “I don't know, it's nobility, nothing ever makes sense, no one ever tells you anything, you just keep your head down and do what you're told and try not to ask questions.” It just about fell out of his mouth, his frustration growing apparent. It was a lesson he'd learned well growing up, to concern himself with doing his job and turn a deaf ear to the rumours. So many flew in Noila castle, it would be impossible to keep up with them anyway.

Salem read Aaron's tone loud and clear. Sitting back into his seat again and keeping silent. He opened up his pad once more and picked up his pencil, using the tip to point towards the crystal before jotting things down. ”You...may want to practice. Get that brightness in check and all.” His tone was almost defeated, sad, like a child who had just been reprimanded by his father.

Aaron's face feel a tick, but he took the hint, letting his eyes fall to the crystal again. “Yeah, we just have to be careful,” he murmured, setting to the exercise again and hoping Salem would understand what he meant.

Feliks made no secret of the glare he leveled on Katya when she beat him to his bag, taking it from her with a bit of a yank and a warning look. He’d never been fond of people trying to do things for him - pity wasn’t something he enjoyed - but he definitely didn’t like this stranger touching his things, especially considering how God damn expensive they were.

Noticing that Katya wasn’t paying any attention to him, he turned back to the makeshift entrance. Holding his bag under one arm, he grabbed a jut-out nail with his free hand and yanked the board back up, pulling on it several times to make sure it was wedged in place. Not exactly intruder-proof, but it closed up enough that people usually didn’t bother with it. Popular opinion was that the palace had been totally looted out years ago anyway; all people used it for now was shelter from the weather. Those who didn’t think it was cursed or haunted, anyway.

Feliks’ entrance opened into one of the smaller ballrooms of the palace, though ‘small’, of course, was a relative concept. Really it was a bigger and more lavish space than most Russians would ever see, a long rectangular expanse of white marble floors covered with large swaths of fading red and gold carpet. The carpet had been torn up and cut away in places, and rotted out in others near the windows, but there was enough of it left for one to imagine how it might have looked when it was new. The room itself was three storeys high, some light streaming in from the upper floor windows, peeking through between tall white pillars dressed at the tops in gold. Reliefs of the imperial crest were everywhere, and every exquisite detail was accented in gold -- at least, that’s how it would have looked in its heyday. Now the paint had chipped, there was water damage trailing down from every window, and everything had lost its gleam under a decade of dust.

Paying mind to none of it, Feliks led Katya to a small, hidden side door, opening into a narrow and much more plainly constructed hallway. A servant’s hallway, the routes of which Feliks still remembered. This one led to the kitchens, and the servants’ quarters beyond that, nearer the interior of the palace. He’d chosen a spot down here so as to be away from the windows and in a small enough room that it wouldn’t be impossible to heat; of course, the fact that there were no stairs along the way was a bonus.

He lead the way without thinking, eventually ducking into a door, which he waited to close behind him until Katya was inside. The room was indeed small compared to the rest of the palace, sized to house a few servants at a time. Two bare bed frames were pushed against one wall, mattresses and sheets stripped away, while a third was against the wall nearest the fireplace, mattress old but intact and piled with mismatched sheets and blankets. On closer inspection, the room actually seemed to all be arranged in relation to the fireplace, a plush armchair with only the occasional well-repaired tear pushed up about as close to the hearth as it reasonably could be without catching fire, and a small table and chair not far off.

Farther from the fireplace, along the opposite wall, was a larger, longer table, strewn with documents. Nearby, what looked like a window, popped out of its frame, was sat horizontally across two boards at table-height, a small assortment of kerosene lamps arranged underneath. Finally, a shelf on the same wall as the door bore books and more trappings of document-making, all carefully stored away from the fireplace.

“Welcome,” Feliks grumbled unenthusiastically, pausing only long enough to put his bag on the table before making a beeline to the fireplace. He was delighted to find that while the flame had gone out, the embers were still hot, giving off a merciful heat and ready to be rekindled. Kneeling in front of the hearth with some difficulty, he reached for the poker with one hand, fishing a few chunks of coal out of a bucket with the other. He stirred the embers up, coaxing the lower, hotter ones to the surface and letting the air get to them, before tossing on the new coal.

“So, you don’t know your last name?” He asked, not looking up from his work. He poked and prodded at the fire a little more, arranging and rearranging the embers until the new coal finally caught. “I must say, that’s a new one, but I suppose we can always make one up. You’ll already be using illegal documents, what more is a false name?”

He stared into the fire a moment longer, scooting up as close as he dared on his knees and holding his hands to it, before he finally looked over to Katya. “But, out of sheer morbid curiosity, how do you not know your last name?”

Katya, eh? Another coincidence. “I’ll need your last name too,” Feliks stated, rounding a corner onto a narrow street. There were a few more trash bin fires here and the odd beggar; folks usually preferred to gather away from the main drag, where the communist officers didn’t patrol quite as frequently. Feliks barely noticed them, continuing doggedly on.

That damn wind always found a way to sneak into his coat, even more chilling now that they were no longer directly in the sun. “It better be warm,” he grumbled at Katya’s second question, rolling his eyes at her complaining. He felt the same way, of course, but he wasn’t so naive to think anyone else cared. In any case, if it wasn’t warm when they got back, he’d be quick to fix that if it killed him.

He comforted himself as they trudged on through the cold with the thought of finally being able to sit down by the stove, each little jolt of pain in his hip motivating him to move a little faster. Fortunately the market wasn’t too far from their destination, though the last leg of the trip did involve walking across a large square open to the wind, much to Feliks’ displeasure.

Feliks hardly looked up as they reached their destination, though it really was quite a sight: None other than the imperial Winter Palace, massive and commanding, spreading seemingly endlessly out to either side with the Neva flowing behind it. In the time since the revolution, the Palace Square in front of it had somewhat filled in; a little homeless encampment here, a merchant touting wares there, much of the area in disarray. The palace wasn’t much better; while from a distance it looked impressive - and its size alone was still a marvel - it, too, had fallen into disarray, the gleaming white, green and gold exterior having largely faded and chipped away. Parts of it were either collapsed or burned out, and only a few of the higher windows had escaped smashing from the stones of children and loyal communists.

The doors and windows on the ground floor were all boarded up, but Feliks wasn’t headed there, anyway. He led Katya along the edge of the square to the side of the palace, making a beeline for a window with a larger gap than most between the boards. “This way,” he instructed, placing a hand on the lower board and giving it a few downward jolts until it slammed down, pivoting on a nail on one end as the other moved freely. Leaning in with a muffled groan, he set his bag of purchases inside the gap before following it, bending to slip between the boards. He struggled slightly to lift his left leg inside, but managed, gesturing for Katya to follow before stooping to pick up his bag.

Paris? Jeez, good thing he got that out of her. That was a bit of a bigger deal than Moscow, but luckily it wasn’t anything Feliks hadn’t done before. It certainly was strange, though, to have a peasant girl looking to go to Paris; she didn't look like she had much money to spare, and from what he'd heard it wasn't a cheap city. Maybe she’d scrounged together enough money for a train ticket, but what did she expect to do once she was there? Granted, most of what he knew about Paris was that it was a popular destination for fleeing nobility after the Bolshevik takeover, and he still got the occasional former Imperial court member or miscellaneous aristocrat feeling the pressure and wanting to get out, people who had managed to hide some amount of wealth from the communists and could afford to start a new life somewhere they’d be respected. And they were usually being forced to leave, knowing they’d be executed if the Bolsheviks got wind of who they were, but this girl simply wanted to leave. Curious indeed.

By the sounds of it, this girl was as confused as he was. Searching for someone in Paris, but she didn’t know who…

Feliks almost tsked at himself before he realized how insane that would make him look. Of course, he was crazy even thinking that. She was a paying customer with blonde hair and blue eyes, nothing more.

“Well, that’s certainly something,” he commented finally, turning his gaze to the shopkeep as he finished gathering the items Feliks had requested. They didn’t need to exchange words, quite familiar with the process at this point; Feliks simply slid the money across the counter, trading it for his purchases.

“Anyway, whatever the reason, I can help you,” he continued, shoving off the counter with his paper bag of items in hand. “Come with me, I’ll see if I have any documents for Paris ready. I’ll also need your name.” With that he started out the shop and down the street, not so much as checking to see if she was following as he limped along at the briskest pace he could manage, eager to get the hell out of the cold and wondering if he’d have to re-stoke the fire when he got back.
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