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...to the anterior aspect of the pituitary gland by Transsphenoidal surgery through the nasal cavity and sphenoidal sinus. This method of surgery is relatively safe for the aspirant as no other portion of the recipient’s brain tissue is touched. Most complications from this organ arise after the surgery and are hormone related; however, strokes or blindness can occur as a complication of surgery. 

Glancing from one text to another, the Outsider wrote an anecdote in his journal and sighed at the memory. It was not a pleasant one. The organ, gene-wrought in the Lore-Spire, had lethal complications in nearly thirty-percent of the inductees. Cancerous ossification had happened, the greatly increased osteoblast activity imperfectly executed. In other words, aggressive osteosarcoma. He had watched the aspirant writhe much like the others a slow and painful death march as his bones - like some cancerous malignancy - crushed and impaled him from within over the course of several months. 

Roen cleaned the head of his pen on an ink-stained napkin with some solvent and cleaning alcohol, and leaned back in his seat. He was in his study, deep in the heart of his manse in the capital of the Summer Isles. He was dressed simply and plainly, having nowhere to go in this place and no expectation of company, and had by his side the two things he needed to see through the long hours of study he performed in the dead of night: a bottle of dry Orisian Red, a seven year old vintage he found as the particular best, and his tutelary. An androgynous blemish of light that floated near a bookshelf, looking much like a Will O’Wisp of faen folklore, it served at the Outsider’s discretion, much like all of its innumerable kin throughout the manse. 

Gesturing vaguely, the Lord of the Black City indicated the book that lay beside his journal, a thick tome of dusty parchment that was either antediluvian or advanced beyond all mortal ken, pending one’s particular perspective. ‘Take this one back,’ he said in his tired, mellifluous voice. He impressed the book’s origin unto the tutelary: the door of burnished copper, in the hall of ochre glass. It came over without delay, the ball of pale light, and with unseen hands, lifted the tome from the Outsider’s desk and leaving. Another one of its siblings moved up through the floor to take its vacated position. There it floated, humming tunelessly while the Outsider finished cleaning his instruments. 

Turning his head, Roen cast his gaze to the cradle at his side, where Philippe slept soundlessly. The boy’s lullaby had been and always seemed to be the scratching of pen against paper, and the quiet humming of the fiend and his tutelaries. The chair creaked beneath the Outsider’s weight as he leaned over, peering more inquisitively down at his son. ‘I think that’s enough for one night, don’t you think?’ He sighs then, resting against the cradle’s edge. He had dragged it to his side, kept it there while he worked, through it was incongruous to the room itself. The fiend didn’t care. After a moment, Roen nods sagely. Silent though his son is, the boy was nonetheless a firm influence on his father. ‘Oh, I suppose you’re right..’ He says, dragging his gaze away. It flicked over his desk, where there were other, equally large tomes waiting for his attention. 

‘I should get back to work.’ 

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She stood outside the doors of the villa, having walked through the gardens alone after leaving her small retinue of vampyric guards beyond the walls that protected the privacy of a charming courtyard like setting. There were potted fruit trees, in keeping with the Orisian aesthetic, and neatly paved paths for strolling about for those who enjoyed examining the wide array of night flowers. She of course cut straight through, although she did take her time so as to better take in and admire the morning-glories, primroses, and star-jasmines that had come into bloom since she had last been out with Philippe.

 

It had been nearly a week since her last visit, and nearly a month in all since she had last seen Roen after their disastrous last encounter. Although she had imagined it would be painful to return to the devils adobe after their fight, she found that her worries, fears, and heartache all melted away at the sight of her growing son. The small and juvelant child, who managed always to smile big and bright for his mother, was a most spectacular balm for the bruises and cuts that marred the Black Queen’s heart. And of course, it was for that reason that she was terribly disappointed, once she was let into the large and familiar foyer, when she was informed that the small prince was keeping his father company this particular evening.

 

The woman who had opened the door stood by dutifully, waiting to see what Gabriela would do -- ready to take the vampyre’s coat and scarf if she decided to stay or to see her back out into the gardens if she didn’t. She was pleasant in both manner and appearance, but vacant somehow. Of course, Gabriela remembered the stuff that these manifestations were made of, and she could only assume that Roen was not feeling up to creating another being with so much an intricate background as his last servant. The memory of the butler and his awful demise caused her to avert her weighed gaze from the servant. It was best not to think about such things less her mind wander to what other sort of unkind and unsavory things the devil did to his toys.

 

“If you could inform him that I would like to see my son,” Gabriela said, shimming her slender shoulders out of her knee length coat (leaving her standing in a simple off-white shirt, which was neatly tucked into a worn gray pair of breeches), and handing it to the woman who took it graciously and with a smile, “--perhaps he may be willing to grant me an hour or two with Philippe. I am happy to wait if they are very busy, and if not, well…” she felt the muscles in her jaw tighten and a lump of emotion form in her throat. It was thick and hard to swallow back, but she managed it, for she did not want to convey her pain to this poor creature who could in turn remark on it to the devil. It was best to keep a calm and even disposition when she visited the lion’s den. “Well, I’ll just have to come another night.”

 

“Certainly, your Majesty. Please, make yourself comfortable in the sitting room,” a gentle curtsy, a smile, and a cheerful swing of her short brown hair followed as the servant turned and disappeared into the awful, endless halls of the mansion. Gabriela stood there and watched the woman go, feeling a terrible stab in her heart that she had not been asked to wait in Philippe’s room. Even just his toys, his bed, and the walls that housed him could have provided some semblance of relief to the mounting anxiety she felt. But there was nothing to do but sit and wait, and so with a trembling breath, she went into the sitting room to sit and wait.

Edited by Pasion Pasiva

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'Do you know what a wise woman once told me?' Roen asked. 

Standing at the threshold with sleeping Philippe in safe embrace, he cut a fine if not regal figure in his waistcoat trimmed with gold and tucked trousers in high boots. As some of the surest signs of progress, change, and perhaps even flattery, he had seemingly discarded the scarlet raiments that so endeared the masses into calling him the king in crimson, and chose instead to wear what he considered the Orisian palette. All that remained of the ostentatious red was the color of his gaze, and it was on Irene, now. A soft smolder, his eyes were the color of embers, lively and dancing beneath the shadow of his brow. His humours, such as they were, were equally sanguine; there was less of the choleric Outsider in him tonight, and more of the Gentleman Sage, the scholar. Engrossed as he was in his pursuits of the academic, esoteric or otherwise, there was little and less time to whet his ire on brooding.

Stepping into the room, the hard heels of his boots clicking on the hardwood floor, Roen approached the Black Queen of Orisia, and with his approach came the scent of him, mingled with that of the baby's;  a newborn's cleanliness, a fiend's spice, the fragrance of citrus and quenching iron, and the hint of peat. Subtle scents, peculiar, but not unfamiliar, no, never that. To where Gabriela sat Roen went - a supple chair of leather and armrests - and to her waiting arms did he place Philippe, relinquishing his hold gingerly, with a gentleness unheard of, save for in the privacy of familial moments. He let go of the baby with no reluctance. Sighing through his nose, he looked at fondly at Philippe, less fondly so at Irene, then away, his gaze moving through the comfortable sitting room. 

'People are like houses, she said. The more experiences you have, the more memories, the more rooms you have in your house. Some of these rooms are worth revisiting,' Roen mused quietly, his thin lips quirking into the frown wholly suited to his unhappy, aged face. There was more gray at his temples, more lines of worry and laughter at the edges of his mouth and eyes. Simulacrum though he was, he retained the years, it could be said, to mark the passage of time. What a thing it is, it could be said, to be sobered and anchored to life at every mirror's passing. He turned slightly, the frown on his face deepening and the heavy set of his brows furrowing. 'Others.. others are better left locked, boarded up, and bricked over.' He sighed at this, a breathy little gust of air that escaped his nose, as if he was half-amused, half-mocking. He was enamored with this place, this construct of walls and halls and means and wills. More than a home, more than a refuge, he had fashioned this villa of brick and mortar into something far more substantial, yet so far less real. 

It was lonely here, it had to be said. Even with Philippe. So when he was informed that the Black Queen had come calling for her son, he had met the revelation with something of a mixture of dread and excitement, and he did not quite know which sentiment bothered him more. He avoided looking at her, unwilling or perhaps unable to meet her eye or the fullness of her expression. It was enough to glance out of his peripherals, to feel the coolness of her, even here, at arm's length, and smell the quality of her skin beneath the layers of her clothes; all these things so familiar, so utterly, inescapably familiar, they couldn't help but gladden his heart, though he willed it to steel and stone. What were academics, what was ambition and striving, what was the pursuit of vanity in the face of such visceral prompt? Love, and he could hardly call it anything else, so unavoidable was the sentiment, was a dreadful, crippling thing. Just breathing the same air as her was -- terrible, absolutely terrible. 

It was hard thing to do, to loathed and despise, and he found nothing of the furnace fire of disdain that sent her away from him a month ago. It galled him, truly. He had changed over the years. She had changed him. He had, somewhere along the path from then to now, forgotten what it was to hate and how to do it. He had lost his vindicta. It was why she was allowed in these sacred, hallowed halls. It was why she could sit in his presence, unmolested and safe. It was why he didn't chase her from that room with their son. He cleared his throat, shook his head, and found a seat opposite the Black Queen of Orisia. Stretching his long legs out beneath a table that served as a bulwark between he and his family, Roen crossed his ankles, adjusted to accommodate the length and width of his tail, which coiled on the floor beside him, and lifted his gaze to, at last, seek out Gabriela's own. He wanted, after a month, to see the molten flash of sunset. While he had her portrait in his study, and while he captured her beauty in the stroke of a brush and an artist's care, it was imitation and nothing but. 

'It is good to see you,' he said simply, and honestly. He was many things, Roen. He was not a liar. Soft, sweet, his storyteller's voice was modulated low and conversational, just shy of a whisper. The sitting room was a quiet place of waiting, and it, much like libraries and churches, somewhat demanded the lowered tones. 'I'm sorry we haven't talked in sometime. I've been..,' he trailed off, groping for something more substantial than busy. His thoughts went towards Yhi'mi, to the dark forests of Eastern Terrenus, to his foul undertakings of flesh-smithing and techno-advancements in the Lore-Spire. Oh, he was busy, this graying fiend. The alternative was remaining here, grinding the edge of his malice and ill-intent on the stone of dissatisfaction and resentment, or otherwise brooding, as some were wont to whisper concerning his whereabouts. So long as he kept his hands and mind busy, he didn't needlessly dwell on -- he canted his head, the movement sharp, like an errant twitch. He closed his eyes briefly. 

'Mmm, busy. Our aid to the Shadowlands of Yhi'mi are due any day now. I've sent a brave soul to shepherd those men and women.'  He looked at her again, sober. 'What.. have you been doing?' He asks, hesitant. Small talk, this was. He was no adept at small talk. The awkwardness of it all was not lost on him, but more than see her, he wanted to hear her speak. 

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“Do you know what a wise woman once told me?”

 

His words, and the carefully selected ensemble that adorned his figure, were all finely crafted details that were lost on her. Not the calm and sultry quality of his voice -- thick, dark, and sweet like molasses, nor the cleverness of his sentiment, or it’s sincerity for that matter, could steal away her attention from the sleeping babe in his arms. What had happened between them years ago or week ago, mattered so little after having been starved of her child’s soothing presence. He was a chunk of her heart that had been cruelly ripped out and was currently being housed far from her. Whenever she was away, she felt like half a person, or a spirit without a body, or a shade without it’s source of light. But no sooner had the devil passed through the threshold of the study, no sooner was he cutting his way towards her, no sooner could she see the first soft horizon of pale, baby-soft cheek, nuzzled against a cream colored receiving blanket -- no sooner all of that and more -- than she felt herself finally able to breathe. It was a long exhale, a long and slow breath that had been caught in her lungs since the last moment she had laid eyes on her sweet prince.

 

“People are like houses, she said. The more experiences you have, the more memories, the more rooms you have in your house. Some of these rooms are worth revisiting. Others.. Others are better left locked, boarded up, and bricked over.”

 

Nothing mattered now that her child was in her arms. Not the unkindness in his father’s crimson eyes, nor the hints of scorn in his voice. As far as she understood this new world, Roen could do little to stomach the sight of her, and of course he had his reasons and she had no justification, but she had not come to see him, and she had not asked to see him. He was here of his own volition, to cause himself discomfort by suffering her presence. She refused to be hurt by it. She had been too long without Philippe to spare even the shortest moment on worrying about devil. So while he worked hard to avoid meeting her gaze, he would never know that her gaze was never intended for him. She didn’t have nearly as hard a time keeping her summerset eyes cast down and set intently upon the sleeping face of her child.

 

When Philippe was left in her arms, and the devil turned to leave, she melted into her seat and drooped forward over her son. It was a rare sight -- Gabriela overcome by joy, it was a rare but invigorating thing to see beauty moved to joy, true and pure. Gone was the stoic cold, the forced uncaring mask that she wore every hour of every day. Her lips easily curled into a delicious smile as her lips found the child’s cherub cheeks. Her nose was in his hair, wispy curls of brown and gold. She willed herself to fold up around the child, to take him back inside of her so that they could never be apart.

 

“My love,” she whispered soft and intimately to the sleeping boy, “my little love.”

 

“It’s good to see you.”

 

Joy, like blood and color, drained from her face. She was looking up, her gaze piercing but confused, set hard on Roen who sat across from her. The question was clearly written across her face -- Why was he still here? Why was he speaking to her? This was her time with Philippe, rare and precious time. Her brows came down into a pinch, and her expression became that same hard thing, a frozen beauty, a hard thing to love. She regarded him blankly, but cold.

 

“I’m sorry we haven’t talked in sometime. I’ve been...mmm, busy.”

 

Slowly her gaze narrowed.

 

“Our aid to the Shadowlands of Yhi’mi are due any day now. I’ve sent a brave soul to shepherd those men and women. What.. have you been doing?”

 

“About that,” she said suddenly, spurred into remembering the unpleasant conversation she had with her cousin by this equally unpleasant conversation. “I made promises of aid when I still held command over Orisia and all that it produced. That is no longer the case. Any and all future support will have to be discussed and approved by…”

 

She had felt so strong going into her explanation. In no small part, she had intended to wound the devil, but had thought better of it as she reasoned that he no longer cared about her. It would be ridiculous to dangle the preparations of a wedding celebration before a man who already saw her as lower than dirt, by reiterating the affair that had broken them. Her sentiments had transitioned to matter-of-fact information sharing, but even that felt unnecessary.

 

“You’ll just have to talk to someone else about it,,” she finished off, dropping her gaze from his thoughtful face and looking back down to Philippe. He slept on, although he had turned more toward her, pressing his face into the cool of her shirt and breast. It made her smile. He stole the world away and demanded all of her attention, and she was glad to give it. “Someone better suited to making decisions of that sort, I can offer recommendations, but I can’t guarantee they’ll get you much” she went on, giving a small shrug.

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'It was I who made the promises, Irene. You were busy in the adjacent room with Raphael and our son. I will always be thankful for that.' 

Smiling, the Outsider looked at the vampyre with hard, glittering eyes, his expression betraying nothing. There was no judgement in his voice, nor any recrimination. There was only sentiment transitioning into the matter-of-fact information sharing, and delivered with the flat, emotionless tones of honesty. He was a creature of truths, this one.   

Crossing one leg over the other and folding his hands across his lap, the Outsider leaned back in his chair and stared at the vampyre. 'Irene, I only wanted to tell you that I have honored our pledges, nothing more. I am not Yhi'mi's ambassador; I cannot petition aid on their behalf, regardless of who sits on the Orisian throne.' He laughed, quiet and sincere. 'I don't have to talk to anyone about it. That is between you, your newest Lord and Master, and the representatives of that Terran body.' 

Drawing in a deep breath and sighing it out through his nose, some minor theatricality on his part to speak volumes of a man at comfortable ease and pointed deviation from the topic at hand, the Outsider idly twisted the signet ring on his right hand and flicked his gaze down to Philippe, whom he adored. While he saw Irene as something lower than dirt for her blatant betrayal of his trust and frequent indiscretions with her cousin, his disregard obviously did not extent to the young boy in her arms. Rather, he was enamored with the bundle of joy.

It was unfortunate he did not feel comfortable letting the boy out of his sight, and even more unfortunate that he did not trust his mother with him. He had come to hear her voice, but her words, much like her gaze, was impertinent, and the benefit of the doubt he had been oh-so-willing to give his wayward daughter was forgone, and in its stead just the memory of why a month had passed since last they spoke. She was unwanted, as unwanted and as unnecessary as the conversation at hand. With his queries ignored and her small shrug all the evidence of her lack of care, the Outsider sank into the cushions of his seat and watched her and his son with smoldering, unblinking eyes, and said no more. 

He needn't waste his breath on the unrepentant and unashamed, and was content to supervise her visitation. 

 

Edited by Roen

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“You were busy in the adjacent room with Raphael and our son. I will always be thankful for that...I don’t have to talk to anyone about it. That is between you, your newest Lord and Master, and the representatives of that Terran body.”


 

His hard stare, and the sharp glint within it, were met with a meticulously executed expression of nothing -- disconnect. Her face was a beautiful facade of white stone that revealed nothing of the turmoil and agony that swirled, merely a hair’s width, beneath the surface. The subtle jabs at her betrayal and her not-so-new relationship with Raphael hacked at the frail remnants of her self worth, but she did not give it away. The ache of her broken heart was one of the last things she owned, one of the few precious things that no one could take away. Once upon a time, though she fought it bitterly, Roen had won her and had her -- and she had been inexplicably happy then. The thought of exposing the hurt of having lost it and the more importantly the regret, and being mocked for it, robbed her of her courage and reduced her to a silent, pretty coward.

 

The devil settled down, watching her while the echo of his dead laughter reverberated across the room. Through her blank regard of him, hidden safely away in the depths of her mind, she looked at him closely and tried to imagine him as the strange, magical, and dangerous creature that had visited her when she was freshly crowned. He'd been an irresistible distraction then, and then quickly became a torturous obsession. He'd wanted her the way she wanted fame, glory, and prestige -- and to this day she was still uncertain if she found it frightening or flattering. So she looked at him and imagined that somewhere, beyond the same smug and uncaring expression that he wore that he was also doing the same and reflecting on the same -- who she use to be and what she use to mean to him.

 

She was not the same girl he had fallen in love with…

 

Her gaze flickered from his face, because at this thought her eyes did mist. She had made her peace with the death of their relationship by consoling herself with the knowledge that it had been an unhealthy obsession on both their parts from the very beginning. From the fruits of their many mistakes, and failed attempts to love and hate, they had produced the only good thing that either of them could ever hope for. Philippe was the summation of impossible odds. He was perfect in every way. But it was the loss of her own self that she was struggling to cope with. She had just signed away Orisia’s sovereignty, and because of the small life growing inside of her, she knew that her dream of freedom was nothing more than a distant dream.

 

“I am sorry,” she said -- her voice cutting away at the memory of his previous laugh, which in her head sounded mean and mocking in nature. It was good to chase away the ghost of it, and replace it with idle chatter. “I didn’t answer your question. I have been busy.”

 

She rose from where she sat and rocked the sleeping child in her arms. The soft lul of her arms produced a happy, dreamy smile across the infants lips along with a luxurious stretch of chubby limbs. The babe twisted and turned until he was settled comfortably on his right side, with his face buried against her breast. Though memories of her being his mother were growing distant, he still loved the smell of her.

 

“I am facilitating the transition of power. I am unfit to rule, so…”

 

Though she was pretending not to care what he thought of her or how he viewed her, she found it hard to admit to more while facing him. So to the best of her ability, she moved away and turned her back to him under the guise of swaying the baby across the room.

 

“So that’s been keeping me busy. But it’s nearly all done now. Hopefully, I’ll be coming around more frequently to visit with Philippe.”

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