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The Blade and the Grindstone  PV 

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How could he be strong? Eris wasn’t sure what strength was, anymore. But, she was sure why everyone needed to be strong. In a place like Hogwarts, in a world as dangerous and painful as the one they lived in, personal strength was all that they had. Friends could and would be ripped away from you, just as Dorian had been taken permanently from Eris. Getting hurt was common. There was always an influx of things that could go wrong, in this world of theirs. Without strength to get through, there was no reason to get out of bed and face the next day.

We have to be strong. Because without strength, we aren’t anything but scared kids with no purpose, just trying to survive.” Eris said softly, falling silent as Kaegen asked more questions, the pain in his eyes startling enough that Eris was silenced for a long while.

“Whatever you do, I’ll help you with it,” Eris vowed then, a sombre infliction in her words, as she looked at Kaegen. She tucked a strand of matted hair behind her ear, the dirt from having smashed at the walls making her hair look even more tangled than usual. Relishing the ache in her hand as she moved it to tuck hair behind her ear, Eris turned to fully face Kaegen.

Leadership wasn’t always her forte. When it came to Kaegen, however, it seemed that Eris was the one in the front seat. She was the fire, and Kaegen was usually the cooling ice to her fire. Now that his spark was diminished, Eris realized she had no opposition to whatever crazy ideas she suggested. She had no voice of strange reason to contemplate her actions and add to conversations with bizarre comments about magical creatures and the sage wisdom that could be achieved through staring intently at bizarre beasts. Everything was up to her. Which, was an impossible amount of power. Helping someone she had inadvertently broken was a terrifying process, so Eris tried to proceed with care. To look back was to be lost in her own guilt. All Eris could do was trust herself, and the slim chance that she still knew Kaegen enough to aid him.

She spoke firmly, trying to make her words sound like they were rehearsed and well thought out, even if she was making things up as she went. “We’ll go to Hogsmeade. See if we can get you blood lollipops. Then we can go to the Three broomsticks and ask them for their steak blood. When do you want to go?” She was willing to get up and sneak out, whenever. If he chose to go now, Eris would gladly leave the school to help a friend. She’d do anything to help regain Kaegen’s former spark, even with the insanity that encompassed that. Not just for him, but also to alleviate the still fresh mental image of him lunging towards her, fangs and inhibitions bared.

Once again, Eris was not correct about how one got a bloody steak. But, she was trying her best to help. She didn’t get up, even if she wanted nothing more than to grab her map and tug Kaegen straight to Hogsmeade to try and solve his problems. She hated seeing him suffering. She hated seeing anyone suffering if it wasn’t justified in her own brain. Eris had a very black and white pattern of thinking. Those who were kind to her deserved nothing but good tidings in their own life, and those who were bad deserved the same kind of pain Eris had been through. This pattern of thinking, while inadvertently wrong, had never been corrected. And, it was this thinking that led to Eris’s one-sided determination to”fix” Kaegen’s emotions.

Seeing Kaegen in such a pathetic place took Eris back to her own second year and how miserable it had been. It made her hands turn to fists in her robe pockets, her body reacting to the memories of her own helplessness. What she had really wanted was someone to support her, then. It was a shot in the dark, because Eris had no idea what Kaegen wanted-- ever. In her first year, she’d had faint guesses about what Kaegen wanted or was feeling. But, now that distance had rusted away at their friendship, Kaegen felt miles away from her. It didn’t help that he seemed so utterly betrayed by her. Yet, support was still support. Even if came from someone who was a horrid friend.

Instead of sitting, Eris pushed herself upwards, putting her weight on her knees, feet flat against the ground. Now in an ideal position, Eris gingerly opened her sore arms in a universal gesture that could easily be acknowledged as an open invitation for Kaegen to come forward and receive a hug.

The blood on her hands had dried, which she assumed was enough to stop the hunger pains that Kaegen was referring to. She didn’t really know how being half-vampire worked, but Eris knew that hugs were splendid distractions. Eris hadn’t been hugged very many times in her short life, but knew that it was helpful when someone was sad.

If he didn’t accept the offer for a hug, then Eris would just make a fool of herself by holding her arms out. Though, looking like a fool around Kaegen wasn’t a new thing. Eris was sure he wasn’t going to judge her that much. She was sure, wasn’t she? A faint part of her, a part that Eris refused to acknowledge, was worried that she was putting more strain on their friendship by even bothering to try and hug him. Eris wasn’t sure what to do to help him.

Maybe there was more troubling him than just this conversation. There was more that was wrong besides his hunger for blood, if Kaegen’s comments about not being strong enough from earlier were to be believed. “But, what’s going on for you? What have I missed over the past year? Clearly, I’ve missed a lot.” Eris remarked, managing a muted smile. “We can catch up now if you want. Or go to get some b-blood” She stuttered over the words, finally realizing how strange it was to be attempting to buy blood for a friend. “Or, I can leave you alone.” Eris finished, sheepishly.

sorry not sorry bout' what i said
STA: 6 EVA: 7 STR: 1 WIS: 8 ACC 9 ACC: 9
abilities: transfig DC -5

The Blade and the Grindstone  PV 

So, strength was purpose? Just being strong was purpose? Did that work, was that a thing? Kaegen blinked confusedly at Soap-Eris. No, that wasn't what she meant. She meant that they had to be strong because they had no purpose. They had to be strong because if they didn't stay strong then that was it, they were doomed. Kaegen didn't want to be doomed, and he felt so very, very tired. Too tired to do much about it. He would follow along with what his friend wanted, and give up.

"No you won't. But, that's okay."

He had heard her say that she was going to be there before. And realistically, all he wanted was someone that was there. It was a dream so big that he didn't even consider it a dream. The little ravenclaw didn't want to try and find someone, didn't want to try to find a friend like that because he knew what would happen. Somewhere deep in the little twisted brambly passages of his mind he remembered perfectly what had happened the last time he had a friend. He wasn't doing that again, and he didn't want to believe he was.

"Thank you"

The thanks was more of a backpedal. Kaegen was realistically deaf to most social norms and cues but he was aware that he had just said that soap-eris wasn't going to help, and he did want help, he just didn't want to rely on it, or depend on it, or even think that it was coming. The lower your expectations were, the harder it was to get hurt. But if she thought he didn't want help, she might just leave. So he had to carefully use his words to find a middle ground, and the little ravenclaw was struggling.

"I mean... thank you for help..."

His voice gradually got quieter as he realized just how much he was messing up, trailing off as he collected his thoughts, hands clenching as he dug his fingernails into the pads of his hands, not enough to break the skin, but enough to hurt. He was much too tired, and it helped to stay awake and think.

"No, I can't eat... that. It's something else in me, a part of me that's not me and it's hungry. If you feed a wolf it gets stronger. I don't want this to get stronger, I can't feed it, I refuse to feed it. If I don't eat, I starve, and then get dizzy, and shaky, and weak. After that comes death. I can kill this, I just need to last a little longer."

We was wrong, he was utterly entirely irrevocably wrong, but the little ravenclaw had never really been told how what he was actually worked. He was working off of assumptions and reasoning that had never really been the best to begin with. For Kaegen, it was a hungry part of him that was different enough to be starved separately. It could die and he would be fine. Or at least that was his theory. His flawed theory, to be sure. But it was the best he had.

He accepted the hug, because it was a hug. Hugs were one of his favorite things, hugs usually came once a year, more when people offered them. And soap-eris was offering one. It didn't matter if she was a bit different, she was still a friend, and he was still going to get a wonderful, wonderful hug. He dropped down forward on his knees, scooting forward a bit and carefully wrapping his arms around her as best he could. He tried to only touch her back with his palms, lifting spidery fingers up enough to not tear the nice fabric any more than it already had been. She smelled of dust, and laundry. Of old books and things he associated with house elves. And of course, of blood. Not not so much the last one. Only faint lingering traces.

He buried his nose in her shoulder to block out anything but the dusty clean sort of smell that came from her robe, and set about trying to put together adequate sentences

"Spent a lot of time on a useless book, and then gave up and made my castle. I can't really remember a lot. I guess I almost killed one or two... or four people. But you probably already know about that. it made the newspapers, after all. People avoid me now, for the most part. It's probably a good thing. I'm a little tired, now. But not bad."

Kaegen paused to catch his breath before going on. It was hard to make sense, his brain felt muddled and foggy and gross.

"Stay, please. For as long as you c- well, as long as you'd like."

He kept his face buried in her shoulder, but made sure not to cry. He was going to be strong, or at least as strong as he could manage.

Shade-Beacon, Master of the Castle of Avarice

The Blade and the Grindstone  PV 

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A vow meant something to Eris. Whilst she wasn’t a Hufflepuff, a promise was a promise. With such in mind, the silent pledge Eris had made to herself to present for Kaegen was still fresh in her head. Fresh enough that she winced when Kaegen expressed that Eris wouldn’t be able to be there for him. It was already failure enough that Kaegen had been so upset and alone last year because of her own actions. A kind person would be able to help him or do better in terms of comforting.

But then again, Eris was not kind. That much was discernible to any who knew even the slightest bit of information about Eris’s personality. From punching people to the more recent infraction of not speaking to Kaegen for a year, it was exceedingly obvious that Eris was no Badger. She was far too meanspirited and selfish to be in the house of the just. However, there was one trait that did put Eris on par with those clad in the colours of yellow and black.

She was, decisively speaking, extremely loyal to what she believed in.No matter how skewed the cause was, Eris would be loyal to it. For a good few months during her first year, Eris had assumed that loyalty was a trait found exclusively in Gryffindors and given, in hindsight, a rather cringy speech about the loyalty of Gryffindors during her first year at Hogwarts. Hence, loyalty being something that Eris valued. Having been unloyal and atrociously absent in Kaegen’s life while dealing with her own issues, it was more than easy to uphold the promise to be present in his life again. This simplicity was only achieved because of the bloody tears Kaegen had cried, and the chasm of empty space metaphorically between them.

Kaegen had once been one of Eris’s best friends, and it was all very harsh to deal with the stark reality that her absence in his life had brought such pain. The guilt would stay with Eris for a while, but she gutted it out. Or tried to, as her brows mushed together in evident confusion. Not really understanding why Kaegen had said thank you twice, she listened as his voice got quieter by the moment. Once again needing a distraction from the emotional turmoil and vulnerability in the room, Eris began to use her nails to rip at the threads of loose fabric inside the pockets of her robes.

Having the physical distraction to ground her thoughts, Eris stopped tugging at her robe pockets to stare at Kaegen. She wasn’t an expert in vampires, but it sounded like Kaegen was casually talking about plans to kill himself. Eris’s brow furrowed, as she tried to articulate the correct words to say. Again, being no expert upon vampires, Eris wasn’t sure if Kaegen’s logic was somehow sensible in the world of otherworldly creatures. Deciding to spend time researching dhampirs and vampires in the library later, Eris chewed on her bottom lip in careful thought before finally responding.

“I don’t know much about vampires, but.. I think that part of you is, well, a part of you. If you kill it by starving yourself, you also kill yourself.” Eris fretted, each word slow and thoughtful. She felt almost sheepish, waiting for Kaegen to hastily correct her with some random tidbit of knowledge Eris wasn’t aware of. Still, though. “I wouldn’t want you to die.” Eris remarked, voice even softer.

Hopefully, Kaegen didn’t want to die. He was currently hugging Eris, which was nice. She was delighted that he had actually accepted the offer of a hug. It would have been awkward otherwise, and just knowing that Kaegen was still willing to trust Eris enough to hug her filled Eris with unprecedented joy in such a dire circumstance.

He was very cold though, and Eris spent a few minutes trying not to shiver from the unexpected chill that was the pallor of Kaegen’s skin. She tried to give a good hug. Eris was similar to Kaegen in that she had not received very many hugs in her life. But, this hug was nice. Just because it meant something.

“What useless book and what castle?” Eris questioned. “I’m sorry that people avoid you, though. I don’t think you should be avoided. Although, almost killing people is pretty bad. Why’d you do that?” In most situations, Eris would be horrified if someone discussed homicide so casually. But, the person in question being Kaegen.. Eris wasn’t all that surprised.

As he asked her to stay, Eris patted Kaegen’s head in a reassuring manner. It was meant to be a nice gesture, and she hoped the message was understood. “Don’t worry. I don’t have anywhere else to go.” Eris tried a new way of reassurance that she wasn’t leaving. Kaegen seemed to assume that she as going to leave, but maybe by saying that she had no prior commitments, he might feel more comfortable. It was all very confusing and like Kaegen, Eris was pretty tired.

sorry not sorry bout' what i said
STA: 6 EVA: 7 STR: 1 WIS: 8 ACC 9 ACC: 9
abilities: transfig DC -5

The Blade and the Grindstone  PV 

He couldn't feel his own chill, only the warmth of his friend. He had always found it so bizarre how powerful her heart beat was, when compared to the frail ticking in his own chest. She seemed to be a raging furnace of strength, a powerhouse bonfire that shared it's warmth with the little ravenclaw. And yet, for all that, something was wrong. She felt so full of fire and spirit and life and strength but he knew better now. She was just a person, she was weak, just like everyone else. She was a breakable little match, but so was he. So was everyone. And she was his breakable little match. His friend.

That would probably change, she would find someone more interesting, or run into some troubles along the road, and would vanish from his life. But she would paddle back up the stream and be with him again, eventually. He would just have to wait. He had done it before, and a friend was worth waiting for. You just had to make sure you didn't rely on them coming back, make sure you knew that they didn't care unless they were with you. Maybe you could only have one friend at a time, and she had found so many others that it took a while to get back to him.

But he didn't care about that, not right then. He could worry about how friends worked later, for now he just wanted to hug his friend while he still had her, feel real living warmth seep into his skin, his blood. He trusted the little girl, more than anyone else. He trusted her so completely he had faced a tidal wave of rats based off of a halfhearted shout. As far as he was concerned, most of the warmth in his life had come from eris, and she was the only thing that he would willingly die for. It had kept him up at night for weeks, back in his second year. She wasn't consistent, but neither was fire. He'd be grateful while he had her.

"I don't want it to be a part of me. If I'm to be a monster, I'd like to be my own monster, not the monster that some hunger drives me to be. Why couldn't I just kill it? Everything can die, right? I could survive, I know I could."

He didn't know he could, but that was obvious. Obvious in how he hugged soap-eris tighter as he said it, obvious in how his breath caught no less than twice in the course of that short speech. Kaegen wanted to live, to survive, but somewhere down in the maze of death and dark places he wanted to be a little boy, he wanted to laugh and play and splash in the water. Not this, not whatever he was doing. He hated the constant fear and the constant fighting and the constant struggling to get an edge.

He didn't know it, of course he didn't. How would the little ravenclaw know of a desire to feel something he had never truly felt. He knew hugs were nice, but not necessarily why. Why some things were the way they were was beyond him. He would just enjoy the hug while he could, enjoy the warmth his friend provided.

"Back when I was... wrong. I was crafting a guide to dangers, a guide on how to destroy them. It was going to keep you safe. If I couldn't be with you, then at least you could have the book. So you wouldn't get bur- hurt. So you wouldn't get hurt. When I stopped, I needed something. So I found some hate, and it grew too big. And then it kept growing, and then it started to become real. Real walls, that you can feel. Walls of dark and cold. It keeps me safe, it keeps me alone."

He paused to think about what he had said, and to stop the tears that had been building. That day, the day eris had been burnt, the day he hadn't been there. He had to forget, shove it away forever. He had tried, tried so many times. He had even succeeded, but now eris was back as soap-eris, he remembered again. And it hurt.

"Guess it didn't keep you out, though. I'm glad."

Shade-Beacon, Master of the Castle of Avarice

The Blade and the Grindstone  PV 

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The chill would dissipate. Eris made no attempt to push Kaegen away or to adjust her robes to prevent the chill emulating from his freezer box of a tiny body. Instead, she just sat there. It was a stark change from when she had been throwing things. Eris didn’t like to sit. She hated being still, hated the feeling of the world catching up to her. Keeping in motion was a surefire way to escape thoughts. It was moments of sitting still or lying in bed at night that thwarted Eris’s careful system of escapism. But it seemed her unmoving presence was helping Kaegen, so Eris did nothing to relish her hold upon her friend, finding herself entrapped in the hug. It wasn’t that bad, all things considered.

Eris was no genius, not by a longshot. Then again, she’d never assumed that Kaegen was a genius either. He had seemed knowledgeable about certain things, such as animals. But his line of thinking was colinear when it came to life. Like Eris, Kaegen tended to think about things as black and white. There was no in-between in thought, no grey area. However, he seemed to be thinking of the grey area at the moment. Killing one part of himself would definitely kill the rest of him, in a realistic sense. One couldn’t just cut out half of their heart and go on living. Again, Eris was doubtful she was giving the right advice.

However, from Kaegan’s haggard appearance, whatever he was doing was not eliminating the evil. It was wearing him out entirely. While death seemed far fetched, even to someone who had been exposed to as much pain as Eris, it seemed entirely viable that Kaegen was going to starve himself and get very sick. It would have been yet another failure on Eris’s part if he ended up in St. Mungos, or kicked out of Hogwarts for being nothing more than a walking corpse.

“Just because you don’t want something, it doesn’t mean you can get rid of it. I think… I think if it dies, you die too.” Eris repeated, with more apprehension in her voice than before. Moving her hand away from his head to itch at her ear, one of many nervous gestures picked up across the years, Eris sighed. Her words rang true, not just in Kaegen’s life, but in her own life. If Eris looked down, she knew the scars from when she had been attacked would be visible. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, Eris was fully prepared to dwell upon her own past.

That was until Kaegen hugged her even more. Eyes opening, bulging nearly, Eris let out a little ‘oomph’. Not having expected to be clung to even tighter, her hand wrapped around again to pat Kaegen. Something unnerved her about the way he was now clinging even tighter as if her words had reached him. Or maybe he understood, like she did, that everything in this castle and in this life was a risk. They weren’t 11 years old again, able to laugh off a salamander burning a hole in their Hogwarts Express Compartment. There was no way to get rid of the scars, invisible and visible alike. There was no way to go back to the kids that they had once been.

Eris knew that most kids her age were happy. Knew that from the way she saw first and second years snogging in the hallways. Noticed it from how people whispered to each other with grins on their faces. And, most of the time, she was happy too. But, there was always a dark cloud hanging over her head. There was always a soft reminder that something could go wrong. A reminder that all the Hogwarts third years were aware of, especially Kaegen and Eris.

Kaegen’s words proved that, as Eris’s eyebrows knitted together into a vision of confusion. Her stomach twisted in a knot, as he almost said burnt. Nobody ever said burnt aloud around her. Not at school. That conversation was always danced around, ignored and unallowed. Not even Kaegen could mention the events of that night. Burnt was a forbidden word. She sighed, looking down at the ground. “Do you have the book?” Eris said nothing, not bothering to ask why he had stopped writing in it. She had a feeling the reasoning was obvious.

However, if there was a book listing what Kaegen considered dangerous in Hogwarts, it was either unfathomably wrong in the observations or exceedingly helpful in protection. There was never an in-between with Kaegen. In emotions, thoughts, and even observations.

But, at the mention of a castle, Eris looked around. Maybe he meant the shadows, which were gone now. Or, in a more amusing train of thought, Eris wondered if he had actually become a woodcarver and built a palace. That seemed unlikely, but as the shadows were gone and it was always good to question when it came to Kaegen, Eris found herself asking. “Where is the castle?”

It would have been smart to state that being alone didn’t make someone safe. But, Eris had spent her whole second year alone. There wasn’t anything she could say that wouldn’t seem like an outright lie. And, her thoughts were still completely focused upon the slip-up Kaegen had almost had.

Burnt. Hurt. What difference did it make? A huge one. Being hurt was part of life. Falling off a broom, tripping on the trick staircase up to the Gryffindor tower, or even being punched by another student. However, burning was different. Being burnt wasn’t something that always happened. That was a rarity, a painful event. Something that lasted.

Shuddering, Eris focused her gaze on the wall and said nothing, slipping into silence. The only sound was her foot tapping against the floor in an attempt to ground herself and find something to focus on that was not her thoughts. The attempt wasn’t quite working, but it was all Eris could do at the moment. She felt distant from Kaegen, from the moment itself. Eris felt like was drowning in the silence of the room, in the lack of motion. Felt like she was slipping under waves of an unwanted memory.

“Yeah. Guess so.” She muttered in response.

sorry not sorry bout' what i said
STA: 6 EVA: 7 STR: 1 WIS: 8 ACC 9 ACC: 9
abilities: transfig DC -5

The Blade and the Grindstone  PV 

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Kaegen did not think everyone else was happy. He thought they were stupid, he thought they lived in some world far beyond his own where things like happiness pretended to exist. They didn't live where he did, they merely occupied the same physical space. That was different, to him. They weren't real, not really. They were blips in the background. Only a few of those blips were monsters, stalking him, pretending to be someone from a different world.

He knew the death witches could walk his path, could see his world. He knew some of the professors could, and the others didn't care. He wasn't sure about anyone else. The fog knew, and the monsters knew. But did his friend? Did Soap-Eris still see what he did, or was she turning into some odd blip, some person living off in another world. Maybe that was why she left, maybe she was just... visiting. Saying hello to a place she hadn't set foot in for so long.

Soap-Eris tentatively suggest that if it died, he might die as well, but that was doubtful. He should be able to take out part of himself and not die. It was like taking off an arm or a leg, it might be a part of him, but if that limb outlived it's usefulness, he was fully prepared to remove it from the equation. Kaegen believed that death touched everything. That included thoughts, inanimate objects, and the hunger that roared within him.

But on the other hand, he trusted Soap-Eris, didn't he? Well, he did, mostly. He had never questioned her before, not even when it seemed to mean death for him. But he was feeling doubt creep around the edges of the gilded mental image of his friend. Like diseased moss over a flawless diamond. She
had been gone for so long, a whole year to slowly build that chasm. A whole year changed you, especially when you went from urchin living off of the streets to one of the richest purebloods in wizard society. Some dust and blood and dirt did a very poor job of covering that up.

The little ravenclaw made a split second decision, a decision to either trust his own intuition, or hers. It was close enough to be considered a coin toss, and yet it landed on himself. No, he didn't want to feed the hunger. He would wait it out, and see if it died, he was betting that he was stronger than the hunger, he was betting his sanity, and possibly even his continued existence in hogwarts on a hunch that was entirely and irrevocably incorrect. (flipped a coin)

"I'm going to wait a little longer. I can win."

Kaegen's arms relaxed as he backed away from the hug a little bit, scooting back to sit on his knees, studying this new Eris as closely as he could, intensely staring at her face. She asked if he still had the book, and he nodded. It seemed dumb in retrospect to still hold on to the pointless thing, but he didn't want to get rid of it. So much time had been poured into it's pages, so many hours spent following random students, writing down how he would kill them, writing down the weaknesses he could find, the cracks in every line of defense he could feel out with his dull, pointed claws.

"Yeah, I still have it. Never got a chance to throw it out, or I guess didn't want to."

When she asked about the castle, Kaegen had to take a second to think about what he was going to say, rocking back and forth for a few seconds as he partially closed his eyes. What was his castle? That was a good question. He had named it a castle, and then not bothered to really define that term. Why define a term he had invented, he knew all of it's nuances, just not how to convert those nuances to words.

"The invisible walls that keep everyone away. You can't see them, but they're there. If I walk to class, everyone else get there using a different corridor. They pretend that they wanted to go the other way anyway, sometimes they have an excuse, like an interesting painting. But I know. It's the castle, they don't like it."

He was slowly regaining more and more control, enough to actually contemplate answering her other question, the one he had ignored earlier, the one about why he had done what he had done. But he didn't want to tell Soap-Eris about that, he felt like it would be something she very strongly disproved of. Eris had always been the balance, a chaotic flame to be sure, but just stable enough to reign in Kaegen. But now he had a feeling that the stable side had grown, that she might be a bit harsher on his more savage reactions. It was nonsense, but it was a subconscious fear that had sprung up rather quickly. She smelled more like order than ever before, it was a shifting of energies.

Still, despite all that, right here and now, she was a friend. And she was a friend that looked muted. Her last words didn't sound like she wanted to talk, they sounded like she was cold. Or maybe that she felt small, he wasn't sure which one. He thought about reaching out and hugging her again, to maybe make her feel better, but they had just hugged, and it clearly hadn't helped her. His problems could wait, then. As they always did, and as they always would.

She felt like she was slipping off far away, like she was alone. She had found a different, dark world, or at least that was how he rationalized it. That was what the shudder meant, that was why she stared at nothing and tapped her foot. Turning to face the same wall, and scooting so he was about a foot away from his friend, Kaegen gave his best attempt at a fabricated shiver. He kept his face looking at the boring expanse of the study room's wood paneled walls as he gave reassurance in the only way he knew how.

"I'll join you."

Shade-Beacon, Master of the Castle of Avarice