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Dreams of Decay [closed, ooc comments welcome]


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Loose pebbles underfoot and the reassuring weight of stone overhead. The babble of an underground stream. The faint green glow of bioluminescent algae. Michaux knows these caverns and corridors as if he has walked them a thousand times. And so he has, in his dreams, for when the bittersweet influence of somnus finally pulls him under, his sleep rarely goes undisturbed.


There is a shadow in this green twilight. A figure standing beside the black waters of the river, head bowed as if in prayer, and tangled black tresses like cobwebs falling forward to obscure her features. He is grateful that he cannot see her face. He has seen it too often in nightmares and memories.


“Stealing comfort from madness again, brother?” comes the sweet voice that seems to issue not from the woman before him, but from the very walls of stone and the babbling water, echoing and reechoing around the chamber until the air vibrates with it.


He keeps his distance, noting how his sister’s shredded garments hang from her body like dripping strands of kelp. How like a creature of legend she is, brought back to life by the combined powers of somnus and remembrance. Did he mean to summon her? He’s never sure. He only knows that part of him rejoices at the sound of her voice, while another part recoils at what she has become. What this ancient palace of stone has made of her.


“I know not if this is comfort or madness,” he replies, his voice but a wisp in the haunted silence. “I rather think it is neither. It is merely… penance.”


The creature that was once his sister tilts her head to one side. A clump of matted hair falls to one side, revealing a ghastly sunken cheek and an empty eye socket. The beasts that rule this remnant of Gelmorra fed upon her eyes first before partaking of her other flesh.


“Do you weep for me, my twin?” she whispers.


“Every day, in my heart.”


“In your heart…” A touch of bitterness mars the beauty of that silken voice. “Heartless one. You who still have eyes cannot shed a tear for your lost sister?”


The words are like arrows, pointed and cruel. He shed many tears when he found her body in this very cavern years ago. He held her in his arms and screamed out his grief in an uncharacteristic storm of emotion. And then he grew calm and quiet as death itself, and buried her there in the city that had once belonged to their ancestors, for what tomb could possibly be more fitting?


When loneliness seeps in through the cracks in his shields and he forgets everything but loss, he still cries for her. Wrapped in a blanket of darkness within his cave, he whimpers her name and begs her to return, to save him from his solitude.


She never heeds him. It is she who is heartless, for his heart still knows how to break.


His life’s work is the preservation of the old ways, the lingering memories of a lost civilization where his people once ruled. He has sacrificed himself on the altar of Gelmorra all his life, and he’s never counted the costs to his health, his happiness, or his sanity. But he never meant to sacrifice Anavelle. When, for the sake of his dream, she joined a team of adventurers and archaeologists seeking to delve into the dark caverns under the Shroud to uncover Gelmorran artifacts, he offered her nothing but encouragement. He didn’t suspect for a moment that she would never emerge into daylight again. He didn’t foresee himself searching through that decaying underworld for her body after one of the few surviving members of her expedition delivered the news of her death.


The guilt is with him always, flowing through his veins like poison. Perhaps if he had cared less about his work, he would still have his sister. Perhaps if she had cared less about pleasing him, she would never have risked her life for his cause.


Yet the very obsession that took her from him is still his solace. He hasn’t given up his life’s work. He has only allowed it to consume him more fully, until he is not so much a man as he is a walking library of histories, epics, poems, and songs of a forgotten realm. And he is happy in this existence. He is happy in this state of separation from all his most tender emotions. He is not heartless. His heart has merely been misplaced.


He gazes at the wreck of a face that once belonged to Anavelle and slowly shakes his head. “I can offer you no tears at the moment. Only a brother’s love.”


She turns away then, stepping into the shallow waters near the bank of the dark stream. “It is not love that brings you here,” is her only reply. And then she walks into the deepest part of the water until she disappears from view.


And he is alone.

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