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I scoff as I add my fifteenth comma to a sentence; I do not remember the last time I used a period, nor do I want to - my only focus is on my work, and the ghost of Oscar Wilde there in the corner, looking disdainfully upon the inferior peasants who keep their sentence structure at a reasonable length; a mocking titter escaping his lips every so often as he, too, realizes that no man will ever aspire to the heights of intellect that I am nearing - no, they will wallow in the slums of proper punctuation like dogs - stupid, filthy dogs - while I ascend to another plane, one where I shall write rambling, endless musings with the very gods themselves.

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"Why thank you," Teken preened as Zahra complemented him, "See, Kho? She thinks I'm smart and handsome."

Kho ignored the bird at the risk of inflating its ego, instead focusing on the girl's explanation. His haughty impassivity loosened just a tad with a hint of genuine curiosity. Some retained tribal belief no doubt, though it was an interesting coincidence that a sorcerer with the supposed guardianship of a snake spirit managed to summon a snake. An indication of merit in the belief, perhaps, but it was more likely the snake was simply a reflection of its summoner's beliefs on the Aether.

"I suppose that's possible," Kho mused noncommitally, not quite willing to start arguing Aetheric theory with a little girl at the moment, "But I've never heard of anything like that before. Are you sure the guardians of your people are equally attentive to everyone else?"

The boy broke off the conversation as the novitiate in question approached - jeez, he was even bigger up close. Given they were on equal footing as collegues, Kho's first thought was to follow his family's wishes and posture a bit for this 'Radaam' character. Though, given the way his sister was dressed, the redhead didn't think much of a display was necessary to get the point across. He wasn't even sure he wanted to; lineage alone was a weak basis for a reputation among sorcerers.

"Oh, it's fine. She was just enlightening me on the finer points of your family's superstitions." Kho extended a hand toward Radaam, deliberately exposing his father's armlet as he did so. Obligation fulfilled, one less piece of decorum he needed to be conscious about. "Sorcerer-Novitiate Khotanebre Bekenamun, Cult of the Phoenix." That sounded... proper enough. He'd have to ask Magus Xavier about terms of address when he finally spoke to the man, lest he be unknowingly embarrassing himself in front of every sorcerer he introduced himself to.


@Obscene Symphony


Kho turned his head downward at the tug on his cloak, only stagger backward a half-step at the sight of the figure that had accosted him. He kept his face politely neutral for a moment as he waited for his mind to catch up with his eyes before realizing the figure speaking to him was just a little peasant girl - albeit a disfigured one - and not some Sybaris-infected goblinoid.

Tekenkhasut, in the meantime, had no such hesitations. The falcon puffed its feathers up predatorially as it eyed the offered piece of meat, then shifted to the equally-appetizing snake that coiled around the girl. He offered his fellow tutelary a coy wink as he spread his wings and hopped off his perch on Khotanebre's shoulder. On his descent, Teken snatched the offered meat with his beak and listlessly glided to the ground, where he began ripping his meal into sinewy ribbons for consumption.

"Am I a... what now?" Kho asked, belatedly registering what the girl had said. What on Ea was a 'hawk family'? Was that some kind of code for people with avian tutelaries? The girl didn't look old enough to be a sorcerer, and definitely wasn't dressed finely enough, so he doubted she was privy to any secret cabals of bird summoners. Other than feeding Teken, Kho couldn't fathom what the girl could want - at least, that meat better have been intended for the falcon; if the flying rat was stealing food now, that'd be a whole other issue he wasn't confident he could deal with. "Um, that was for my bird, right? He didn't just steal it?"

"Yes, Khota, she whistled and everything," Teken interjected in feigned offense between bites.

"I didn't ask you, go back to your lunch," Kho chided before offering the girl a polite bow of his head, "Sorry about that."


@Obscene Symphony


Max's confusion only deepened along with his frown. Eris was being so hot and cold here; if it was pure pragmatism motivating him, he could throw Ryner's 'get along' sentiment out the window. But Eris also apparently wasn't 'nice'. Whatever his game was here, the mage didn't get it. A stream of consciousness approach was his best bet; the vampire desperately grasped for material leverage to hold over him, realized pretentious magic tutors were a poor way to buy loyalty in the information age, dropped that idea out of futility, and stooped to weird emotional blackmail. Which... the vampire should know better than to try. So... the only alternative was this was a giant cope after Eris tried to be nice and failed.

But Eris apparently wasn't 'nice'.

And honestly? Max believed him, but that still left the question of what the fuck was happening here open.

"I can't know what you want me to tell you without you asking, you know," Max grumbled, ignoring his earlier train of thought, "This might be news to you, but there is a pretty significant gray area between annoying the piss out of someone and not interacting with them at all." In all fairness, that gray area probably wasn't very big with Eris involved, and it was even smaller with Max in the picture, but it did exist.

"Unless you want me bothering you with inane bullshit everytime I figure out a new way to levitate a spoon, you're just gonna have to double-check with me before you start whoring me out for favors." Honestly, this guy had the audacity to act like ordering someone else to go work was the more difficult side of the exchange. Not to mention, Max had no idea what magical parlor tricks vampires found useful. Skewering rivals was a no-brainer - Eris should've been well aware he'd figure out that one pretty quick - but that type of thing didn't exactly happen every day, and after that, what was he supposed to do? Fix jewelry? Adjust chandeliers?

"A terrible inconvenience for you, I know," He tacked on drolly with a roll of his eyes.


@Hero
@Dead Cruiser I’m here, just waiting.


Exactly how torturous could the mental program be? Max was convinced that label was slapped on by anxious losers who were scared of introspection. Oh no, he'd have to hear people thinking he was rude, whatever would he do? They might even avoid him out of fear that he'd read all their deepest thoughts - that much peace and quiet would be dreadful. If not for the affinity loss risk, this was actually starting to sound like a great deal. Facing his inability to outwardly express affection was well worth never having to guess at political doublespeak again.

"Careful, the more you try to talk me out of it, the better it sounds," he joked flatly.

He didn't know what to make of Eris' second point. Why would he tell Eris about his magic like that? If the leech needed to know, he'd ask - case in point - and Max didn't even have a concrete answer to give him when he did ask. He wasn't going to walk up and say, 'uh, just wanted to let you know I'm being a fucking dumbass when it comes to deciding my arcane major, okay bye'. This was the first time he'd even heard Eris was interested in his magic; he still wasn't even convinced the vampire was interested.

Max leveled a confused grimace at Eris as the vampire looked away. "Are you being... bashful here?" This was headpatting all over again. Except real. And somehow worse. How bizarre; didn't Eris just get finished laughing like a cartoon villain at the notion of him being 'nice'? The only other option was that the sudden weirdly evasive body language was unrelated to the question and Eris was simply confused as to why his new pet didn't immediately come running to tell him about all the new tricks he learned at doggy school. Either way, it wasn't like it was a secret Max liked to minimize their interaction whenever possible.


@Hero


Gee Eris, thanks for summing up his dilemma. The mention of professional dueling got a raised eyebrow from the mage. Was that what Eris thought he wanted to do? Especially in the top leagues, the contenders there did nothing but train all day and if he didn't follow suit he'd just get murdered on live television. Way too much work. Was a quiet, simple existence free from exertion too much to ask? With Eris in the picture, probably.

"Yeah, I've considered all that, thanks for the narration," Max snapped. Eris didn't express any preferences, at least, so he was probably just thinking out loud. Or fucking with him. "Could go mental magic and put you through another one of those tests everytime you irk me." Though Max didn't think any amount of pettiness could actually get him to sign up for the mental program, let alone their asinine telepathic group chat. He'd probably get banned from PsySpace in a day for rude conduct anyway.

"In any case, I'll pick something eventually, even if I have to flip a coin for it, don't get your panties in a twist." He waved a hand dismissively. Resources on magic were plentiful enough; if he really needed to pick up a spell, he'd just do it, major or otherwise. Was this what being married to your work felt like? He might owe overcommited middle-aged men - and Ismene, probably - a mental apology.

@Hero


Him deciding how his magic worked was weird enough for Eris to comment on it? Mages really were fucking cowards, weren't they? Eris was oddly invested in this, which meant he was either planning something or someone embarrassed him by asking. Probably the latter given the leech hadn't suggested anything specific yet. Or he simply didn't understand magic enough to know what he could suggest.

"Initially? Transmutation, but that sounds like a pain in the ass for something that's only superficially useful. After that I started looking at Protection and Evocation, which would both pretty much cover at least half my bases while my affinity fills in the other half." Banal utility was nice on paper, but the magic he'd have to learn was essentially a neat party trick in all but very niche circumstances. Being confident he could kill anyone in the room with him at any moment was a far better talent to have, in Max's opinion.

"I can't imagine I'd need anything more than a handful of spells from any other schools, and I can pick those up on my own time if it's super necessary." No asinine practicals on them either; turning lead into gold was a poor substitute for explosions, and it'd at least keep Eris on edge if Ryner got any more stupid ideas about roping the vampires into their testing again. Though 'accidentally' transmuting Eris into a golden statue would be poetic.

@Hero


”My name is Rose Hadley, by the way. You look familiar. Do we share a class by any chance?”

Ah shit, the million-dollar question. Franc? Pound? Whatever. This girl wasn't sure if Leo was in a class with her either. Though, if Rose thought he looked familiar and he thought she looked familiar, they were probably familiar, right? Besides, he shouldn't assume everyone else was hyperobservant of their classmates if he wasn't. Plus he was usually wearing glasses in class; she might just not recogize him without them.

Either way, he took the offered hand and shook it with a relieved chuckle. "Probably. I was thinking the same thing but wasn't sure. I'm Leo. Uh, Leo Gremminger," He greeted before he turned away and continued on his path to class. In contrast to the 'proper escort' he'd offered, Leo merely waved his hand as an invitation for Rose to join him.



After classes, Leo found his way to the library. An idea for his next painting hit him right in the middle of Business Management, and he didn't want to risk walking all the way home and losing it in his usual scatterbrained daze. It had already taken tremendous self control to not start sketching the preliminary idea right in the middle of class, but Leo didn't think he heard a word the professor said in the meantime anyway.

The boy had been lounging in a less-populated corner of the building for quite some time, slouched down in his chair like a lazy teenager in some boomer newspaper comic as he drummed the side of a pricy tablet with a matching stylus. His eyes slid indolently back and forth across the screen, surveying a loose sketch of an alleyway to no avail. It was missing... something. The banality of it wasn't the problem; he wanted a mundane scene, but he also wanted some part of it to be eyecatching.

A sigh escaped him as he lulled his head backward in a sudden fit of dizziness. This was more exhausting than it should've been. Leo already knew if he winged it, it'd just look like shit, and the headache he was progressively generating was telling him to quit while he was behind. It was a sad day when even his hobby was too much of an obligation for him to follow through on.

Leo tucked his tablet back into his backpack and moved to stand, only for his body to give out as he crumpled back into his seat. Was he sick? It was a fight to keep his eyes open at this point. He wasn't sure if he just blinked or actually nodded off, but when his eyes reopened, the room was a lot darker. The telltale sound of rain was absent, so... ah, fuck, he seriously passed out until sundown.

No, that wasn't quite it. It wasn't just dark, everything was hazy, like somebody decided to start chainsmoking indoors. It didn't smell though - still, his eyesight couldn't be that bad. Leo stood up again - a far easier feat now that the dizzy spell had passed - and rubbed his eyes to try and dispel the fogginess. He needed to head home. Or to a hospital. It was a toss-up, honestly.


@Crimson Flame


"Again, apologies," Kho said as he bowed his head respectfully toward Anakh, just in case she was slighted by him stealing her sister's attention. He looked back to Anatu and hesitated for the briefest of moments. Did she know who he was? An introduction might come off condescending if she did, especially if he kept it as formal as he would've liked. While he couldn't quite say he preferred strict formality, it was rarely accompanied by the nagging voice in the back of his head telling him to mind his manners that made itself known when he spoke to someone casually. Anatu didn't seem to have nearly as many misgivings, and he didn't want to come off as cold - it seemed he'd have to match her introduction.

"You can call me Khotanebre-"

"Or Kho, or Khota, or... really any variation of that you want," Teken interrupted, "He won't stop you. Too much decorum gets him acting all boring."

Kho shot the falcon a sour frown as he unconsciously shuffled his weight from foot to foot. Loosening up was so embarrassing, especially when he got carried away; he didn't need Teken actively encouraging people to help him do that. Still, his tutelary wasn't entirely wrong; he was still being unnecessarily stiff with Anatu. He'd likely be stuck working with her for years, so she was bound to see him at his worst regardless.

"Yeah... that's Tekenkhasut. Don't call him anything because too much attention gets to his head."

The bird squawked indignantly in response, but Khotanebre cleared his throat to cut him off before continuing, "Anyway, I hope you don't mind if I join you. Magus Xavier doesn't seem like the type I'd want to be alone with yet." There was always the possibility the man was a total softie despite looking like a veritable demon, but Kho wasn't eager to find out until he absolutely had to.


@Gisk


He felt so pretentious.

Khotanebre wasn't normally one for excessive jewelry, but his mother insisted he flaunt the wealth of their family at such an event, and the stark-white cloak that completely draped his body was as plain was it was prestigious. Still, as much as he enjoyed the splash of color they provided, he didn't see a reason to be toting his family's entire panoply of gemstones on his person. A string of cylindrical beads - the only piece of the collection he personally owned - adorned his neck, alternating bronze and precious turquoise. Hidden partially beneath his hair, a circlet inlaid with malachite made itself visible in flashes of green between sweaty locks of carmine as the movement of his head and rare breeze displaced his bangs. One of his father's armlets wrapped around his right bicep, a band of gold ornamented with a magnificent lapis of almost violet hue and flecked with golden streaks of pyrite. His mother was especially adamant about showing that one off, but Kho had no idea how he was supposed to accomplish such a feat when his arm was almost constantly veiled by his cloak. Simple gilded loops decorated his wrists and ankles - were it not for his brother's objection and the simple fact that he was running out of room on his person, Kho was certain he'd have been more gold than man by the time his mother was finished with him.

The boy stood attentively among the other novitiates, the folds of his cloak belying the excited fidgeting underneath. A falcon sat perched upon his shoulder, a tiny white scarf wrapped around its neck to match with its master. As was common for the tutelary, Tekenkhasut prodded at the new brooch Kho had been given with one of his talons. Khotanebre wore similar adornments often enough - he was never seen without a cloak, after all - and the bird often liked to critique them on flashiness and hauteur. Needless to say, he wasn't pleased with this new development.

"How long until this thing gets decorated?" Teken inquired in a low voice, despite the ceremony not having officially begun yet.

"Stop it," Kho hissed as he brushed the falcon's claw away, flashing that ever-important armband as he did so, "We don't even know what cults we're in yet. I'm sure it'll be stylized soon enough."

"What're you thinking? Something feathered, I hope."

"Maybe a less obnoxious animal with some nobility, like a scarab or a ram."

"Oh, Khota, that's cold," Tekenkhasut whined as it turned its head away.

Khotanebre silenced the bird with a stern guttural noise as the mages took to the dais. The Vizier's leading of the ceremony elicited a frown from the boy. As far as he knew, His Majesty not being in attendance was highly unusual, if not unprecedented. He hoped nothing bad had happened that drew the Crimson King's attention away so urgently.

Putting his concerns aside for the time being, Kho drew in a sharp breath of anticipation as Amon unrolled the papyrus. He knew he had no reason to worry; the fact that he was even standing here was proof enough that he had been accepted. The only unknown was which cult had sponsored him, and it wasn't as though he had a particularly strong preference to any one cult over the others; he was just happy to be a sorcerer. Still, the pressure of Teken's talons against his shoulder was the only thing keeping him grounded against the unease in his stomach. The tension drained out of him as his sponsor was named, despite the man's terrifying appearance. The Cult of the Phoenix made sense, given his aptitude, and Teken would certainly be happy about it. He gave the bird a quick glance of warning before stepping forward, lest it disrupt the ceremony with cackling as he approached Magus Xavier.

When Vizier Amon approached him after, he bowed his head respectfully in the man's presence. No words he could possibly string together could appropriately express Kho's pride and elation in this honor bestowed upon him, so he simply remained silent. The silence didn't last long, as Tekenkhasut resumed his fidgeting with Kho's brooch as soon as the vizier had dismissed them.

"Look at that, feathers after all," The bird chirped smugly, as if it had personally accomplished something.

Kho ignored the creature in favor of looking around. Energy was buzzing within him now, and he had no idea what to unleash it on. His fellow novitiate under Magus Xavier disappeared into the crowd, and he wasn't quite sure he wanted to be alone with the man himself yet. Plus, Amon had encouraged him to mingle.

"What's the plan? Gonna go beg mommy dearest to let you take your little baubles off?"

"No, she'd never let me do that while we were still in public." In fact, he was rather certain approaching his family would result in an embarrassing assault of his mother trying to 'fix' his outfit while his father offered pointers. Khotanebre perked up on his tiptoes in a quick survey of the crowd. In all the fanfare of the festivities being prepared, he couldn't locate them, though he doubted his family would have any trouble locating him.

Rather than fidget in place until the inevitable, Kho delved into the midst of the celebrants after his fellow Phoenix novitiate. What was her name? An-something... Anat? Damn it, he only remembered her family name. He knew what she looked like, at least; he'd seen her at the Pesedjet before, and thankfully she had foregone the usual modesty with which she dressed. Picking one headscarf out of every woman in attendance would've been a challenge, even with the obvious white cloaks.

"Behave," he chided Teken in a soft voice as he approached Anatu from the rear. He didn't think she was aristocracy, but he erred on the side of caution when addressing her regardless. "Novitiate Taauth?" Kho tilted his head briefly at the similar-looking woman nearby, "Apologies, am I interrupting?"


@Gisk
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