Messiah

Glitter and Gold

Started by Atenra Lancaster at Apr 05, 2019 10:40 pm
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Atenra knew and understood why Regillus had sent him here. And, of course, he would admit Reggie's logic was sound. If he was here, Titus couldn't hurt him. If he was here, then he was relatively safe. Livia liked him, and he knew how to mind his manners in a way that wasn't going to change that any time soon. Here hidden among Livia's slaves he could avoid his mother's - or Sepheres' - fate. But it still felt like running away. Atenra didn't terribly like the feeling of running away.

On the other hand, being dead or worse wasn't really helpful to anyone either. So... here he was. At the Asheron estate. Atenra didn't really know his way around yet. He knew where the important stuff was, but... he hadn't grasped where everything else was. And he could have asked someone to show him, really. It wouldn't have been hard. Any one of the slaves would likely have been happy to if he'd asked nicely. But instead he was wandering around by himself.

Atenra figured he had a higher chance of remembering where things were if he got there under his own power anyway. On the other hand, it meant that while he was in a part of the estate he hadn't been to before, he wasn't actually sure what he was closest to. There was supposed to be a library around somewhere, he knew. He just, uh, wasn't really sure where it was. And of course, Atenra had a good idea of how to get back to his room from here, but beyond that he wasn't entirely sure where he was. That would come with practice. But at the moment he was still getting around from landmark to landmark.

... Yes, the library was sort-of his current goal. Atenra enjoyed reading sometimes, and at least knowing where it was seemed prudent for the time he would inevitably want something to do that would keep him out of the way.

Atenra turned this corner here and stopped, frowning to himself. Okay, well, he didn't really want to start popping open doors on a random hallway so maybe he was going to need to think this through a little better before he went any further. ... Damn. Okay, um.

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There is strength in standing alone, but there is much more in admitting when you can't.

"That was probably the most underwhelming sparring session I've ever seen," Tihaan grumbled, as the two made their way up the stairs. Gannicus shook his head, a small smirk on his face, amused.
"There is more to battle than offense," the taller fighter answered. He and Tihaan were really just security, and neither truly operated as a blood fighter, anymore. Tihaan wasn't terribly suited to it, anyway, at least Gannicus didn't think so, and when Livia had asked, he'd taken the chance and was honest about it. Incidentally, Livia discovered he was an ice affinity mage, and had the few ilim in the house begin teaching him to control it. Gannicus hadn't used sorcery in a long time; he'd nigh forgotten how. He could fire a good solid aura bolt, though.
"That sounds oddly cryptic, somehow," Tihaan replied, making a face, mostly befuddled.
Ah, he was young and impetuous. He'd have learned sooner or later, but Gannicus would rather he didn't. In truth, Tihaan was not a fighter. He was a lover and a healer, albeit, he did not know this. It wasn't as if Dalmasca left room for self-discovery, and that was a good deal of what damaged so many. They came here too early, or were born here, and lost who they were before they even knew who that was. Gannicus used to be someone else, once, too. He'd forgotten.

As they reached the top of the stairs, though, Gannicus slowed, breathing in. Tihaan stopped there, on the landing, tilting his head at the older Saqqaran. "What?" he asked. "Trouble?"
Gannicus shook his head, white hair currently slicked in coconut oil and braided in rows. "Familiar unfamiliar scent," he answered.
"What?" Tihaan asked, looking confused.
"Never mind," he replied. "Go on without this one. Will catch up later."
The blue-haired younger man looked even more perplexed, but he knew better than to argue with Gannicus. It was just frustrating, and rarely did Tihaan ever get anywhere. He shrugged, and shuffled down the hall, toward his room. He and Gannicus were set next door to one another, as the Saqqaran was highly against separating from him, and Livia had recognized that early. That she had, and heeded it, made Gannicus more comfortable around her, than he was around most.

Instead of following Tihaan, Gannicus followed his nose. Somewhere on this floor was someone that smelled like Lucain. Incidentally, there was a hint of almond, snow, and pine. He wasn't sure where the snow and pine had come from, probably, that was the scent of whoever that was, but, Victoria smelled like almonds and honey. Eventually, he turned a corner, and stopped, blinking once at the young man not far away. Dusky skin tone, dark hair and eyes, but he could almost resemble Victoria. A breath in, told him, this was the one. The one that smelled like Lucain and Allendale. What was he supposed to say? Gannicus knew Victoria had birthed a son, sixteen or so years ago now, was it? He looked about sixteen or seventeen, maybe, not into his twenties yet. Atenra, he knew, that was what Victoria had named him.

"You seem lost," he decided on. "Perhaps this one could be of assistance?" Most likely, at least. Gannicus hadn't been here but a week or so, but he'd mostly figured out where everything was.

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Atenra turned at the sound of movement down the hall from him, and stood frozen partway through that turn, looking at the man a few feet away. There was something familiar about him that Atenra couldn't quite place. He was, of course, distinctive - with white hair and extremely dark skin. That distinctive look meant he could have seen him almost anywhere, practically and still felt the same sense of familiarity. It did not, however, help him figure out where he remembered the guy from.

It was going to bother him, for certain. If only because it felt oddly important.

Oh uh, well. Atenra shrugged a little. "I was... just exploring a little. Cousin sent me to stay with Miss Livia while things calm down at home." It was a shallow explanation, which he didn't owe the slave, but it felt right all the same. "I was sort of trying to find the library but I didn't want to bother anyone so..." He hadn't asked. But he supposed he might qualify as lost.

And yet. "But I seem to have disturbed you anyway. I'm sorry." A shallow dip of his head in apology. It was usually better not to draw attention to himself, so it was just a little uncomfortable to have managed to do just that while trying very hard not to. He did wonder, really what it was that had gotten the guy's attention anyway. Maybe... maybe he'd just been coming this same way and they happened to cross paths. It happened sometimes.

Not everything was some conspiracy set up by Titus to get him in trouble. They weren't even in his reach. That was why he was here in the first place. "I'm Atenra." It seemed polite to introduce himself - and he was sort of curious what this one's name was. ... 'This one'. What an odd way to refer to oneself.

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There is strength in standing alone, but there is much more in admitting when you can't.

Cousin? Ah, he must have meant Regillus, but, Regillus would be his half-brother, not his cousin. There was a reason, of course, that Victoria, Umbrius, and Aurelia, hadn't mentioned that detail. Regillus knew, as far as Gannicus was aware, but everyone else were kept in the dark. He only knew, because he could smell it. Regillus smelled like paper, petrichor, and honey. He'd gotten the paper scent from Umbrius, the honey from Victoria. Interesting, though, that Regillus had gotten the sweet hint of honey, instead of the almond scent, like Atenra had. It was a science thing for the science guys to be concerned with, not Gannicus. He wasn't sure what House Lancaster was like, now, if it'd be safe to tell him... mm, well, he had no reason to believe him, anyway.

"This one's aware," he answered. "The lady Livia mentioned you would be staying with us, all the slaves know. No one minds helping, if you get lost." House Asheron was a decent-sized place, at least. Quite the estate, luxurious without being overdone, the house built around a central courtyard, filled to brim with plant life and a fountain in the center, that doubled as a pool. On hot days, Livia allowed the slaves to take breaks in the pool, to cool down. After so long in House Lancaster, House Asheron were a trip.

Ah, he was right. Atenra. Did Victoria know what that name meant? Of course she did. She must've chosen it on purpose, really. "You are no bother at all. This one is called Gannicus," he answered, nodding in greeting. "Yes, that Gannicus, everyone asks," he added, a hair amused. "This one does remember where the library is. If you'd like, this one can show you the way, master Atenra." Of course, Gannicus was aware, this was his son he was talking to. Atenra likely did not know this; it was safer for them all, if he didn't know, if Titus never had a way to find out. It was better, if he kept his respectful distance. Atenra was, as Titus claimed him, a Lancaster, and thereby a warlord class noble. Gannicus was just a stupid blood fighter. Livia may have been determined to break those habits out of her slaves, but Gannicus knew better. One wanted to be called by their name, the next wanted absolute submission. He never forgot his manners.

Even with his own son, apparently.

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Right. Atenra shrank just a hair. Of course they knew. That was a silly thing to say. The only reason they were tolerating him at all was because Livia liked Regillus as a person. Atenra was an awkward imposition, and nothing more - he was strikingly aware of that fact. "I'll keep that in mind." But slaves were supposed to say that. Of course they would pretend they didn't mind helping him. But they certainly had better things to do than show him around. He wasn't Titus, they didn't hate him on sight, but that was the best he could ask for, and he knew that.

Atenra was upset, a little, of course. ... Maybe a lot, if he was being honest. His mom was gone, the forever kind of gone. He didn't know what had happened. He didn't know why she'd jumped - but she had. Victoria wasn't coming back, no matter how much he wished she would. And that was... hard. It was incredibly hard to grasp, the idea that there would be no more quiet moments where he sat and let her braid his hair. There would be no more being gently encouraged to pursue whatever it was he was interested in this time. Losing Umbrius had been just as hard, before, but at least Victoria had been there to help him through it. And then... this. Titus sold his brother into slavery, just completely made him disappear to. Atenra was upset, and if he was honest with himself, a little angry.

Because he'd lost his mother, and then he'd lost his brother too. And now he was here. And Livia was nice, of course. Oh so incredibly nice to let him stay. But the fact that he even had to was - it didn't matter. Being upset about it wasn't going to change things, he reminded himself. Maybe all he wanted was familiarity, but that wasn't possible. He'd just have to live with the hand he'd been dealt.

Oh. Gannicus. The Gannicus. "That must be why you're so familiar." The words came out before Atenra had entirely thought them through, but he made no effort to rephrase, or anything of the sort. It hadn't come out wrong exactly, just in hindsight he wasn't sure he should have said it.

He did grimace at the title though. "Just Atenra's fine." Rather immediately after Gannicus had finished talking. Atenra tried not to fidget in discomfort. "But I would appreciate you showing me, if you would be so kind."

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There is strength in standing alone, but there is much more in admitting when you can't.

For a moment, Gannicus was confused. Ah, but then, he was accustomed to House Lancaster. Things were different, here. The were shook his head, just so. "It is meant," he said. "None mind. Just ask nicely." Most slaves wouldn't mind their masters near as much, if they took a leaf from the Asherons and, from what he heard, the Essairs, and asked nicely, had some common courtesy and basic hume decency. Not to say that humes were known for their decency, to begin with. Weres, even, were created specifically because they weren't. One of history's greatest ironies.

The first being that prophecy that made itself come true, merely by being said.

Yes, he supposed he might be familiar. Most likely, Atenra had seen him at some point. Gannicus and Spartacus, of course, were the stars of House Lancaster, and Titus liked to make them come up and mingle when they had company, much to their aggravation, but such was life with Dalmascans. Both tried not to think about it too hard, because really, it was easier in the long run.

Gannicus wanted to ask. He wasn't sure if it was rude to, but it'd been a while, since he'd been at House Lancaster, a few weeks at least, and things could change relatively quickly. And, after catching it for a few minutes now, he was fairly sure there was something bothering Atenra. He was here at all, though, Regillus wouldn't send him here if he didn't have a good reason to. He wanted to ask, but honestly, he was afraid to. Spartacus was stupid when it came to him; he wouldn't be surprised if he'd gone and done something moronic.

And yet, Gannicus had done something moronic first, hadn't he.

"If you insist," he answered, nodding for him to follow, as he started toward the library. "This one had been in House Lancaster a long time. Would it be rude if this one asked how things are going for them?" He had friends there, if nothing else. Regillus was a friend, almost all the blood fighters in the stable could be considered frends of his, friendly, if nothing else. And Victoria. He hoped she hadn't taken it too hard, when he'd come here.

He'd always wished she'd run to the Allendales. But he knew why she never had.

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Atenra nodded at that. Ask nicely, which he could do. But he didn't... mm. He'd remember that. He may as well, honestly, since there was no telling how long he'd be here. And he imagined it was irritating for the slaves to have to keep an eye on him to make sure things were ok. They had their own problems. ... Atenra did wonder why Gannicus had stopped to talk to him though. Had he looked that lost? Maybe he had, in more ways than one.

The boy followed obediently, a hair behind Gannicus. Yes, he did insist - but he didn't say that. Gannicus seemed to have gotten the idea, he'd be happy for that. The idea of being called Master bothered him, a bit. He'd rather be like Umbrius than Titus. "It wouldn't be rude." Atenra said immediately. "But I don't have any good news from them." No, he didn't. His mere presence here probably made that clear. Reggie wouldn't have sent him here if things were going well at home, after all.

"Some time after you were sold mom jumped off the back cliff. No one's entirely sure why, as far as I'm aware, if anyone knows they didn't share. They didn't manage to recover her body." But maybe it was for the best. "With her influence gone, my brother Sepheres was sold. No one's sure where to exactly. He was just gone. Regillus is probably trying to find him but well. We'll see." Something like that. "Spartacus got into the house and chased Titus around a bit, ended up trapping him in his own room. I have no idea how that ended because Reggie used the distraction to send me here." Atenra tried to keep his tone relatively flat, but flickers of upset here and there made their way into it.

Apparently Reggie had been afraid Atenra would be next. Maybe he would have been, it was hard to say. Certainly he couldn't pretend there wasn't a risk. He'd had little idea just how much Victoria had been protecting them. "... Like I said, nothing good." It occurred to him, that maybe he should have... put it differently. More gently.

At any rate, the words were out now, and it was a little late to consider if it should have been done differently. "That might have been more than you wanted." His tone was almost apologetic, but not quite.

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There is strength in standing alone, but there is much more in admitting when you can't.

He'd figured as much. Gannicus didn't mention that. When, of course, did House Lancaster have any good news, anyway? Particularly recently. That fire that ripped through the blood stables, Gannicus was almost absolutely certain it was Canius that set it. He, of course, couldn't prove it, and even if he could, it wasn't as if Regillus could do anything with it, nor would Titus care. Umbrius had died saving a couple of the younger fighters, shoved them out just in time for a ceiling beam to fall and trap him. And then he was gone. Aurelia disappeared a day or two later, and while Regillus didn't, and he still breathed, Gannicus had to wonder for how much longer he would. Because ultimately, Regillus was the last obstacle standing in Titus' way.

And yet, how long would that last? None of the fighters in Lancaster's stable held any care for Titus or Canius. They stayed their swords only because Regillus was there, and he was the light they followed. If he was gone... nothing would be stopping them from ripping House Lancaster down. Even if, by some miracle, the fighters didn't revolt, Titus had precious few friends, unlike Regillus, and Canius had even fewer. House Lancaster would be doomed, either way. Regillus was smart enough. He may well have known that, already, thought ahead that far, and decided to get Atenra out of harm's way, before it was too late. If Spartacus had already turned on Titus, it was a matter of time before the glass castle came down.

He wouldn't say that. Atenra seemed upset enough.

As Atenra relayed the news, however, the blood fighter slowed his pace, and eventually stopped. The grief was obvious, in his eyes, in the way he almost seemed to fold into himself. Victoria was gone. Victoria was gone, and, she was hume. He knew she was bound to leave him, someday, but just once... just one more time, he'd hoped to see her one more time, before she did, and now she was gone forever. He hadn't seen her in fourteen years now. Sepheres... that was a familiar name. His father's name, just a different form of it. Sepheres was his, too? He remembered the tales the house slaves told. None had ever said names, none had ever said anything identifying, but Titus had a new bedslave and left Victoria mostly alone. Gannicus wasn't stupid.

He wished he was.

"This one's not surprised," he said, softly. Of course Spartacus gave Titus hell. He wouldn't be him, if he didn't. "And this one is very, very sorry. Victoria was a strong woman, and this one loved her, very much, for a very long time. We hadn't seen one another in fourteen years, now." And now she was gone. "This one is were. A lion. You are sixteen, now, if this one remembers. If you inherited it, you will shift the first time, within a few years." He needed a minute. Now wasn't the time to end up crippled by his feelings. He could deal with them later, and no doubt Atenra was just as upset as he was, if not moreso, in some ways. He didn't need Gannicus' feelings, too.

He took a breath in, held it for a few seconds, exhaling very slow. And then, continued on down the hall, toward the library. Victoria had loved to read. Perhaps she'd imparted this love to their son. Gannicus hoped it gave him some balance. His world had just flipped entirely upside down, and House Asheron was, while peaceful, far beyond any sort of peace House Lancaster had ever achieved, was unfamiliar.

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Atenra noticed the other stop moving, and did so himself. He stood still, just to one side and behind the larger blood fighter. If the reaction confused him, it didn't show. Gannicus had said he cared, had cared enough about a former house to ask. And he supposed some of that news was probably a lot worse than what Gannicus would have been expecting by Atenra's warning - depending on which family members Gannicus actually cared about.

He was quiet, allowing the older man to process for a bit. He took the moment to compose himself again, forcing down the upset and reminding himself that it didn't help anyone, even if it was normal. He took several slow, deep breaths. Not surprised? Hm. That was... not the immediate response Atenra was expecting, after what he'd seen of the other. That was alright though, it was probable that he was misunderstanding what that was to, exactly.

Ah. It was the news about Victoria then, that had hit him so hard. That made sense, he supposed, in the sense that it was the worst thing that he'd said, objectively. And it was the catalyst for the rest too, if one thought about it. "I'm sorry too." Atenra responded quietly. "I wish you'd been able to see her again." That was a long time to be away from someone he'd loved. It was normal, perhaps, for slaves to be forced into such separation. But that didn't make it right, and it didn't make it hurt less.

Hadn't seen each other in fourteen years. Since Sepheres then, Atenra realized slowly. "I am." Sixteen, right. Why did Gannicus know that? ... If he'd inherited it? But how- unless. Logic kicked in, of course, it always did. And in quiet gold eyes, realization dawned. "I appreciate the warning." He of course had had no idea there was a chance he'd gained the Were trait, because he hadn't known where his genes had come from.

He wasn't sure the warning would do him all that much good, but it might make the aftermath less confusing. Anyway.

Ah, after only a heart beat or two, he went back to following Gannicus. There were many things Atenra might have liked to ask, but he wasn't sure how to put any of them to words.

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There is strength in standing alone, but there is much more in admitting when you can't.

Loss wasn't something new, to him. Much of his ostensibly prolonged life was loss, and there was nothing new in it, nothing that he hadn't dealt with before, because humes were fleeting and impermanent. In some sense, he figured that was part of what made them sparkle so brightly, while they were there. They had a lot of energy, and they were alive only a short while, and that was a small window in which to shine. Thereby, they did it brighter, for just that short while. Ah, Gannicus would never really know, why and how he kept finding it in him to get attached to humes, because someday they'd all be gone. Even the friends he'd had at Lancaster, before ending up with Asheron, were different than the ones he'd had originally. All of his former friends were gone, now.

A quick glance at Atenra, and Gannicus gave a small, almost smile, not quite. It was sadder. "Fate is never so kind," he answered. And no, it wasn't. He of all people knew that, and there was no sense in being upset over it, because ultimately, life went the way it wanted to. No amount of wishing made anything change. He knew that. Still, he'd wished, too, knowing it was foolish, because hope, you see, never promised anything, and thus was never really a disappointment. Well, wherever she'd gone, Victoria was probably in a better place than here, and Gannicus would just hope she found some peace.

After a bit of processing, Atenra got it, it'd seem. Gannicus heard the light go on, in his voice, as he figured out what he meant. Seemed he got his mother's intelligence. Gannicus wondered what kind of person he and Sepheres turned out to be. Chances were, he may never really know, given Sepheres was not here. He might be able to find him, if Livia was willing to give him the freedom to do so, but, no. He needed to deal with his grief, first. "Your mother loved to read, if this one remembers," he said, gently. "Did she pass this on to you?" It seemed logical, he'd have inherited that from her. She got so excited about books, her eyes lighting up in a way they never did with anything else, and, when she had the opportunity, she told stories Gannicus had heard before, but in such a way as to make it feel like the first time he'd ever heard them, because her excitement and passion breathed a new life into them.

"This one can read, but, older Dalmascan, and very old Saqqaran. The letters in Saqqaran are different now, and Dalmascan has changed in the details." It was all semantic grammar-related things, that had changed in Dalmascan, but Saqqaran had gone from pictographs to... well, to him, they looked like squiggly lines and dots.