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A Change
His body felt limber, joints and tendons stretched, limbs like spaghetti, every muscle loose. The tea based oils cool and deep, invigorating.

He had washed many times since the underground, but finally, he felt truly cleansed.


The imagery fit. He had died in Baccarat, his soul delivered into Hades. And he had faced judgement before that stern unforgiving gaze; had faced himself. He had ascended, Eurydice at his side, cleansed of his sin in heart.

And now in body.

The clothing against his skin almost felt constricting, blocking the invigorating coolness that had been kneaded into him.

Curiously, he felt the same peace as when he performed the Chongg Ran. But at the same time it was more, a uniting of body and mind, rather than divorcing.

He would have to do this again.

He sat back in the lobby and let his mind drift, undirected. A noise made him look up. Valeriya. Only more. The tunnels had been washed away from her too, the marble chipped and shaved and ground down until the statue finally had revealed itself.

Armande smiled at her radiance, the mathematical beauty and symmetry, patterns and equations breathed into life. A queen indeed.

"You enjoyed it, I see." The look of luxury on her face said it all, even in her simple clothing. Atharim standard issue at safehouses were functional. But if she were to live in the Above, she would need to fit in.

And Armande missed his Cossack finery. Not that he would don them again. He'd be too noticeable. He needed to avoid attention until they left for the east.

But they would need supplies for the trip.

"Let us eat and discuss our plans."
The girl that gave her the massage waited behind the counter, watching them with wide-eyes. Valeriya bared her teeth in a smile before turning to Armande. “She asked about my scars,” Vale said almost gleefully. “So I told her,” she added. The woman paled. She told Armande the tale of her own Awakening and the marks it left upon her physical body. Illarion’s was worse, really. His face smelled like ash for weeks.

They gave her different clothes to wear as well. She wore black leggings and a black shirt with some sort of slashes across the belly and sleeves that were there on purpose. Her hair fizzed with dampness as it dried in wild wisps. They had her bathe in an enormous tub that bubbled with colors so hot that it scalded her skin pink at first. Soon, however, scents curled with the steam and Valeriya sank lazily upon a pillow.

Her stomach rumbled, now. They tried to feed her strange foods that she absolutely refused to swallow. When they asked what foods she liked best, her answer turned their stomachs.

People everywhere. So many people filled her sights. The street brimmed with pedestrians, bikes, and the thrumming of engines. So many new words to master. When she pointed out one contraption and asked for its word, she tested the syllables carefully on her tongue. Motorcycle.

The buildings were stone structures and covered with ornate facings. Lights, signs, and bustling activity filled her with the need to roam. Valeriya was content to let the wind push her in its direction, but gabled peaks and balconies caught her attention. If only for its strangeness in the surroundings.

“What’s that?” She pointed it out, intrigued.
The Eye of the Khylsty

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