Nekyia

Title: Nekyia
Time Period: April 19, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Mariah's and Beisdean's usual game is interrupted by a ghostly visitor that gives more obscure warnings regarding the safety of the townspeople.

Mariah keeps ending up with Beisdean’s clothes. Only sometimes on purpose. She really should learn to be more prompt in giving them back, but for now, it’s a matter of when it tickles her to head to the Albatross to see him. Given that he was having something of a bad day last time she saw him, she comes not only with his coat— which she’s wearing— but with a box of sweeties as well. Probably something a client paid with, but also something she doesn’t mind parting with.

There’s a knock to Beisdean’s door, and Mariah leans against the door frame, nestled into his coat and a crooked smile on her face. Perhaps she’s just anticipating the handsome face that tends to be on the other side of this particular door.

When the door opens, Beisdean’s head peeks out first — the rest of his body somewhat hidden behind the door. He grins when he sees Mariah, opening it wider to let her in and stepping aside. He is apparently in the midst of dressing, pants and not much else on — his feet and chest are bare. The injured shoulder is mostly healed, the mottled blue and purple he’d borne earlier now faded to a somewhat sickly but paler yellow and green that shows the mending is well on its way.

“Larkie,” he says warmly, gesturing into the room that’s not very tidy yet — the bed is still unmade and a plate and mug rest upon a table, waiting to be taken downstairs. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Mariah leans back just for a moment when he opens the door wider, a moment taken to appreciate the view. She’s not shy about it, either. But she looks back up to his face as she steps in, her hand moving to shut the door behind her. “I see you were ready for me to visit,” she comments, her smile tilting crooked.

“I just came by to return your coat,” she says, tugging a little at its collar, but not quite moving to actually take it off yet. “And I thought you might like something sweet,” she adds, presenting the box before moving to set it down on the table as well. She doesn’t seem to mind the lack of tidiness, if she notices at all.

“I like it on you, though I’d like you without it on better,” Beisdean quips, then looks at the sweets and smiles. “Well, that’s kind of you. I thought I was the one supposed to be bringing you tokens of affection. Are you trying to woo me? I’m easier had than that.”

His eyes sparkle with merriment and teasing, and he gestures to the room for her to sit where she’d like as he moves to one chair where a shirt has been hung from the back. This he pulls over his thin frame, wincing just a little as mending muscles and tendons pull; he doesn’t move to button it yet.

And it’s not a sweater.

“Well, I suppose you’ll just have to come take it off then, aye?” Mariah teases, too, opting to lean a hip against the table instead of sitting just yet. She laughs as he goes on, head turning to the side as if she were trying to hide that reaction. But there’s still a smile when she looks back to him. “I thought you might need some training on how it’s done. You seem to have forgotten,” she says, tone still playful, though.

Her smile only dims at the wince, and she furrows her brow instead. But concern is covered with a regretful tsk at his covering up. Even if it’s only partially. “Ah, well. There goes my good morning,” she says, smile sliding back into place with the tease.

Beisdean chuckles and moves closer to remove the coat, much like a gentleman would take the coat of a lady, even if it’s his own coat. Less gentlemanly is the hand that trails down her back upon the garment’s removal and a dip of head to brush lips along the curve of neck.

“And what would such a token buy me if we were in your room instead of mine?” he teases, lips moving against skin. “I’m unclear on the prices these days, maybe. Inflation and all, you know, since I last lived in the Dovetail.”

He steps back, lips quirked in the playful smile. “Not that I’m buying.”

Gentlemanly behavior might have disappointed Mariah, but the deviation from proper manners gets a smile from her and a lean toward him. She may be indulging a bit, but who could blame her.

The question gets a breathy laugh, and she tilts her head as if in thought instead of invitation, but it works both ways. “Might go a little further for you than most people,” she comments slyly, “Not that you’re buying.” The echo comes with a smirk as she turns around to face him, her hands coming to settle on his arms. “But I like to think most customers don’t mind a little inflation now and then, frankly.” That may just be an entendre, given that her smirk deepens in its wake.

The man laughs and tips his head to kiss her, one hand coming up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. “Well, I’m not buying,” he reminds her. “The inflation can get a bit steep, aye, and I’m but a poor lad and all.”

He raises his head and a brow at once. “But you’re the one bringing me gifts. Perhaps you’re looking to be the buyer. If only I knew what you were trying to buy…” he says, voice low as he finds the hem of her sleeve to toy with.

“Such a shame, too,” Mariah says at the reminder, “but I have this feeling you wouldn’t be buying even if you were swimming in a pool of golden trinkets.” She can’t help but smile, though, not just for the kissing, but likely because that thread of ego is one of the things she likes about him.

She lifts an eyebrow as his voice lowers, her smile only fading enough to tilt crooked again. “Is it so hard to believe I would come bearing gifts out of the kindness of my heart? Hmm? But if I’d known you were putting yourself up on the auction block, I would have brought something better,” she teases, before she looks up at him, stepping in a bit closer. “Perhaps I only had in mind a little of your time. Although, I admit, I’ll take the fact that you’re hardly dressed as a bonus.”

Her words draw another chuckle from him and he shakes his head, fingers curling along her her jaw while the other hand traces the seam of her sleeve to where it curves in to meet her torso. “My rates are rather low. Time is all I need. The sweets could be a tip, as it were.”

He bends again to graze lips against her hair. “Quite a lot of time,” he adds. “We’d need to stop for sustenance. You’ve thought ahead, aye?”

It’s the work of his hands that has her eyes sliding closed, but his words bull a lazy sort of smile out of her. “I pride myself on being prepared,” she says, her tone a little lazy, as well.

Her eyes open to look up at him again, but narrow playfully before she goes on, “I do believe at some point I mentioned that you’re not allowed to seduce me? Well, I take it back, because it’s fantastic.” She’s kidding. Sort of. There’s a laugh on her words either way, and her hands shift to slide along his sides under that open shirt, and around to his back.

He may take that as a yes, or maybe he just hopes it will become one by the time he gets her there, because Beisdean curls fingers around her waist and begins to walk her backwards toward the bed, his bare feet padding softly on the hardwood floor.

“You’re the one at my door. I think it might be you seducing me,” he points out between kisses, then adds, “not that I’m complaining.”

“Well, of course I’m trying to seduce you, Beisdean,” Mariah says with a gentle laugh as she takes those backwards steps, getting words out around those kisses she lingers in just a bit too long, “Have you seen you?” Her legs hit the edge of the bed, and she glances back a moment before looking up at him with a crooked smile. “We just have different definitions of success, I’m afraid.”

Which is why she doesn’t sit, for all that she stays close. “I do have my integrity as a businesswoman, after all. As much as you tempt one to set aside such things.” It isn’t just an idle compliment, either, because he is plenty tempting.

“We do have different definitions,” Beisdean agrees, one bare foot rising to rest on the bed, his leg resting against her hip as she stands before her. “And here I thought you’d figured out a way around it all.”

If she pays him, no one loses, right?

“Since that’s not the case,” he says, a slight, exaggerated sigh dramatically illustrating his disappointment, “thank you for the return of my coat, and for the goodies that come with no strings attached.”

He grins, and glances at the treats now set aside. “It’s not to late to toss some strings on them, you know.”

His leg goes up and her gaze inevitably slides downward, but at least it’s only a brief moment before she corrects her attention. “Oh, don’t be silly,” she says with a chuckle, “I don’t pay for it, either. They’re a disappointingly agendaless gift.”

That doesn’t stop her from leaning in when he turns to look that direction, lips pressing against the crook of his jaw. That the rest of her presses against him, too, is a mere side effect. Truly. But his words get her to lean back again, so she can look up at him. “Here I am, trying to behave and you’re being a scoundrel,” she says, but seems to mean it as a compliment, given the curve of her lips and the way her hands brush against his skin. Perhaps because there’s no sweater.

Maybe.

However, not a moment later, behind Mariah on the bed pops in a wholly unwelcome female. Of the ghost persuasion. “Is that all it takes to get your undivided attention? If I’d know that from the beginning…” The familiar ghost whistles a bit, and by her tone, she’s quite clearly being a jerk. But she seems to think it funny, at least.

There are few things more mood-breaking than a ghost — though it’s possible that Beisdean’s managed in the past despite their presence. Still, when she pops up, his eyes close in exasperation, and when he opens them, his brow is raised, his gaze a little off center as far as Mariah’s perspective goes.

“She’s prettier than you, what can I say,” he murmurs to the ghost, then steps around Mariah to sink into his mattress. “Company,” he adds. “Persistent bint, this one.”

His shift makes her glance behind her, and Mariah lets out a sigh of her own as he explains. “Can you tell her she’s completely ruining my attempt to cheer you up after last time,” she says, dropping onto the bed with less hesitation this time. But she stays perched on the edge, because she’s not entirely sure she wants to touch ghost.

“You wouldn’t be saying that if I were alive,” the ghost says, a finger pressing against the bed for emphasis. “I could have popped in ten minutes later, then you’d really be upset, aye? I could have been singing Row Your Boat or something.” She’s very considerate.

Beisdean rolls his eyes. “You’ve more optimism than I do, lass,” he tells the ghost — Mariah is more stubborn in her resolve than he gave her credit for, and he’ll credit it to her stubbornness rather than to any fault in his own charm or physique.

One arm drapes lazily around Mariah’s shoulder. “She can hear you well enough,” he tells the less vitally-challenged of the two women, then nods to the ghost. “Is there anything important, or are you just spoiling fun since you’ve so little of your own?”

“Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself,” the ghost says, coming to drape over Beisdean’s shoulders from behind as he drapes over Mariah’s. “It looked pretty good from here. Used to have to pay for entertainment like that.”

Mariah, though, slides an arm around Beisdean’s waist, probably sliding right through the ghost, but she gives him an encouraging squeeze all the same. Supportive, even. “Can she now? I don’t suppose I could offend her into leaving you be, ‘ey?” The ghost laughs one dismissive guffaw at that notion, shaking her head. “But,” the less alive woman says, “I just had a bit of a question. I can wait if you’d like to go on. I can just sit by the window. It wouldn’t be a bother, would it?”

The man brings a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose, brow furrowing and head shaking as he chuckles. “Voyeuristic ghost. Usually they look the part more than you do, lass,” he tells the dead woman and he shakes his head at Mariah. “It rarely works for me, but it’s nice of you to want to try.”

He reaches for the mug of cool tea from the nearby table to take a swallow, then looks back to the ghost and gestures for her to continue. “No free shows today, love. Go ahead and ask your question, but I can’t promise I’ll be able to answer it,” he tells the spirit.

Mariah lifts her eyebrows at that note, like she hadn’t really thought about the idea of a ghost wanting to watch. Or how often something like that would come up in the life of someone like Beisdean. As he seems to be getting to the point, though, she doesn’t interrupt, but she keeps a hand on his leg.

The ghost glances between the two, quiet for a moment like she’s testing that theory, that there’ll be nothing for her to watch. But, seeing as they’re behaving, she leans her unnaturally tilted head around him so she can look at him while she gets her question out. “Have they taken anyone yet?”

The ghost’s words sober Beisdean immediately, and he tips his head to scowl at her. “Taken? The dragons killed a couple of people, and from what it sounds like the kelpies would’ve,” he says. “Which ‘they’ are you talking about?” He assumes ‘taken’ is synonymous with ‘killed.’

An apologetic glance is thrown Mariah’s way as Beisdean rises and goes to the drawer where he keeps his whiskey flask, uncapping it to take a swig before handing it to his guest. “Sorry. Never a dull moment, aye?”

The ghost narrows her eyes at that answer, and her hands shift to push her head back into a position closer to normal. Just don’t look at her neck. “That’s it, huh? Huh.” When he asks his question in return, she lets go of her head to gesture vaguely in the air as her broken neck lets her head hang awkwardly. But instead of an actual answer, the ghost pops out again, out of sight if not out of mind right away.

But Mariah, while this is going on, gives his leg a squeeze at the look, but looks a little amused as he goes to get his flask. When she takes it herself, she gives him a crooked smile, “It’s like you read my mind.” She tips back the flask just as the ghost disappears, and she hands it back to him. “I mean, really read it,” she comments, as she hikes up her skirts on one side, to where her garter holds her own flask against her leg. She doesn’t pull it out yet, but lets her skirts fall back into place, leaving it in reserve.

The ghost’s retreat has Beisdean frowning. “Wait, come back. What do you mean?” he asks, for the first time wanting the spirit’s presence. “Please,” he adds, the word a forceful, deliberate thing, something that comes at some cost to him, and he does something he hasn’t done deliberately in years, and willingly tries to bring the ghost back to him.

For the ghosts in the area, it’s like he grows brighter, harder to resist. For the particular ghost, as he concentrates on her presence, on pulling her closer, it is like the wake of a wave dragging sand beneath one’s toes, pulling everything else away but him.

Mariah lifts an eyebrow at that bit of force, her brow furrowing a bit. Possibly with concern. But it’s his department, and she sits back to let him at it.

When the ghost is dragged back in, she looks surprised, and maybe a little freaked out, given the way that tilted head looks at him. “What— hey, that’s not how this is supposed to go,” she protests, frowning a bit. He can see a few others fading in, too, drawn into that glow and materializing there in the room. The recently dead looking particularly gruesome. But it isn’t just them, but some other faces as well, curious peeks toward the strange mage.

No, it isn’t how it’s supposed to go; Christopher was better at bringing back just the one spirit, and promised the young Beisdean that such specialization was possible with more practice that the then-teen didn’t want to take. His eyes narrow at the crowd suddenly in the room, but he focuses on the girl.

“What did you mean — did who or what take anyone, where? Tell me where you came from, tell me what you know,” Beisdean says, tone a little demanding before he softens both expression and voice. “I need to help keep the people here safe. Help me, like someone should’ve helped you.”

The ghost lifts her eyebrows at the way his tone begins, and her arms cross in a bit of kneejerk stubbornness. Mariah, too, reacts to the tone, as she slides over behind him, her hand moving to his arm. But as he goes on, the prostitute holds onto him a bit tighter. “Beisdean…”

But it’s the ghost that has the floor, really, and she lets out a sigh and lifts a shoulder. “I don’t know where. To get eaten, I assume. But they came just like this. Some sort of creature upheaval. You want to help, you’d best convince your loved ones to be careful.” She glances to the other ghosts in the room before leaning closer to whisper, “They took my sister. I tried to stop them and this happened. I don’t know much about where she went after. I was a bit— “

The mention of her sister seems to have alerted the other ghosts as to what they’re dealing with, and Beisdean can feel more hands on him than just Mariah’s, grasping and pulling to try to get his attention. “Please, my son— “ “You have to tell me what’s happened to— “ “My wife!” the voices cut in over his chosen ghost, some shouting or crying or otherwise demanding a piece of his attention over the others, which ends in a mess of noise, voices melting one into another.

“Creature upheaval,” Beisdean repeats, worried eyes sliding to Mariah, but then he’s up, moving away from the ghosts, something unseen to the prostitute causing him to trip and sprawl on the floor.

“I can’t help you.” That refrain returns as Beisdean closes his eyes, focusing again on shoving away the ghosts until they fade one by one. His breaths come quick and shallow through his nose, as if he’d just sprinted. He finally chuckles, though it is a mirthless sound. “That was daft of me. How old d’you think I need to be before I quit being afraid of ghosts?”

There’s no humor in the joke, and he rises to his feet. “I suppose i should tell someone, not that I know what to say. ‘My ghost friend says there’s a monster upheaval, and that the creatures’ll be taking people soon and to be careful’ sounds a bit foolish, aye?”

When he hits the floor, Mariah slides off the bed and comes over to crouch next to him, not helping him up at first, but her hands smooth back his hair, a distinctly soothing touch in comparison to the others. Her brow furrows as he goes about trying to get rid of them, and his chuckle doesn’t seem to do much for easing her worry.

But her hands move to help him as he gets to his feet, however needless it might bit. “Well, I think you can be forgiven for carrying some fear along, seeing as how they like to show up around you.” Far easier to shake of a fear that isn’t so real. “It helps that this town knows what it is you do. Makes it a little less silly sounding. Are you okay?” Her head tilts a bit, concern showing as she presses her lips together.

Beisdean looks down to button his shirt, his face still lined with worry and flushed with a little embarrassment. “I’m all right,” he says, dusting off his seat though of course the room isn’t too dusty anyway. “Bruised my ego maybe.” He smiles at that.

“I learned, when I was in England, how to pull them to me, when I need to. It’s how my mentor ran his business. People would pay him to talk to their lost ones. I had to learn to do it while he was teaching me, but I never liked it. It’s a bit overwhelming. And the ghosts don’t always like it, either,” he explains. “I’m out of practice but even so, I would need more to get just the one spirit I wanted, and not a mess of them.”

He reaches for his flask to take a long, hard swallow, his eyes gazing off somewhere else. “I called her back, and got more than I expected. That’s all.”

“Oh, can’t be. Your ego’s more solid than that,” Mariah says with a crooked smile. But she brushes his hands away to do the buttoning herself, which brings her attention down for a moment. “It’s just me here, after all.”

Her hands smooth out his shirt a moment later and she looks up at him with a more amused smile this time. “So practice more. Then maybe it won’t be so overwhelming. And maybe it’ll give you a softer touch, ‘ey? They won’t mind so much, then,” she says, seeming perfectly confident in her reasoning.

His hands drop and he watches hers, his brows twitching together again. “Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should,” Beisdean argues. “It’s one thing when they come to me… I don’t like it much, but it is what it is. But to pull someone from whatever respite they have in their death seems a bit…”

His hands turn up, empty, in a shrug. “Presumptuous, maybe… if it’s just to practice for no reason.”

It might be the first time he’s shown any sort of concern for the ghosts themselves.

His eyes return to her and he gives a nod to the door. “I think I need some fresh air. Care for a ride? Iago needs his daily outing.”

“Seems to me, death is probably pretty dull anyway,” Mariah says, but not entirely seriously. No, the seriousness cuts in a moment later when she looks up at him, “I like to think of it more as being prepared. You don’t have to do it always, but when these moments arise where it’s needed, wouldn’t it be better for you and them if you had the finesse your mentor had. Perhaps this ghost that’s been bothering you wouldn’t mind you practicing on her. Since she’s here and all.” That’s a little dry, there, but seems to be a legitimate suggestion anyway.

At his offer, she smiles warmly and nods, “Fresh air sounds like a fantastic idea. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Iago anyway.”

The suggestion of a practice ghost makes him smile, brows raising in surprise. “Not a bad idea, I guess. I suppose it’d be polite to ask her anyway, next time she’s around. And maybe her name, since she seems to be determined to make her presence known. She’s a strong-minded thing. They have to be to get through when I’m on a good day.”

Unlike the days he’s exhausted with sleep deprivation and everything gets through the cracks.

Beisdean loops his arm around hers. “Almost,” he says, opening the door to lead her out, “as stubborn as you.”

“I suppose asking her name would be a decent start,” Mariah says with a light chuckle. Her hand rests on his arm as they loop one another, and she tilts her head to smile slyly up at him.

“What a scourge for you, to have two stubborn women insisting on hanging about.” But, she seems to have taken it as a compliment, as she leaves the room with a rather broad smile.