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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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