Warm darkness, slightly damp and poorly lit by low-smoldering torches.
The Ourania altar nearby, thrumming with quiet yet ever-shifting power.
The scratching of a quill. No note left untaken.
A recollection of the day’s events and experiments.
And, a note to himself.
I must do what I can to tame that wretched beast of a νομάς I found in Varrock.
The boy - no, he was very much a man, despite his immaturity and mercuriality - was feral. Wide-eyed, lean, and still more like a stray dog in demeanor than the respectable successor Oreb had tried to create.
Yes, the man was a quick, clever, and determined learner, but the brattiness and pride poisoned it all, forcing Oreb to furiously cross out any permanent House Charron names that he considered giving to the still nameless νομάς.
Disgusting, he thought, pushing his journal back for the night and waiting for the ink to dry. My best chance at leaving a legacy in this world with the time I have left is this...this…
His mind faltered, and he pinched the bridge of his nose, huffing. He was tired, constantly on the brink of wasting away - his hand casted over the hairless, weathered skin stretched across his skull like careless wrappings as if to remind himself of this fact. Most of his days were now spent trying to quell the pervasive aggression of his understudy while simultaneously continuing his own work, and the combination of both was tearing him apart.
Yet, he reminded himself, that near-universal distrust, propensity for violence, and willingness to bend and improvise and disregard certain aspects of human morality had been terribly useful over the past year.
Scrounging for food.
Obtaining and disposing of test subjects.
Though still itches, stains on the νομάς yet to be polished and beaten out, they had proven to be wonderfully and terribly useful propensities. Oreb sometimes found his annoyance and distaste giving way to fascination, even curiosity - a desire to dissect and discover - despite everything.
That was part of the reason why he had taken the man under his proverbial wing, however. He needed a successor. He wanted another test subject - one that could stand up to the sorts of experiments and theories he devised at his most prolific.
Not every soul was as blindingly strong as the νομάς’s, after all.
Before he could plan anything, however, shuffling footsteps approached, carrying with them the stench of blood and soil and sweat, and his fascination was forgotten in the wake of that usual annoyance and disappointment.
The νομάς was back.
“Is it done?” Oreb asked, not bothering to turn and look.
“Yes,” the νομάς replied simply. “Buried over by the nest. If anyone finds it, they’ll think the cave lizards did it in.”
The day’s test subject had died just as its soul energy was being extracted from its crumbling scaffold. A weakling soul, pathetic and shivering, it was hardly a worthy subject, made far less worthy by the fact that it had been brought to him in more than one piece.
“Tell me, νομάς,” Oreb began, stress poisoning his voice. “Was it really necessary to dismember today’s subject before bringing it to me?”
“It fought me. So, I fought back.”
Oreb sighed through clenched teeth.
“Yes, you certainly did,” he began, finally standing and facing the νομάς. The younger man’s hair was caked in still-wet blood and mud, the mixed sludge dripping down his gaunt, perpetually scowling face. “But, did I not say time and time again that you are not to permanently damage what you bring to me? I need subjects intact, νομάς. I need to control for all variables, and dislocated arms and missing fingers are certainly variables!”
Though his voice had risen, the only reaction from the νομάς was a slight cracked and yellowed snarl crossing his face.
“You are an untrainable animal!” Oreb whirled back around to his makeshift desk and shut his journal, feathered cape swirling and kicking up dirt at the motion. “You constantly disobey my orders and disregard my more important lessons, obsessed only with blatant displays of power over the careful collection and interpretation of results! If we were on Teragard, I would have had you thrown into the vanguard of House Aresion for your short-sightedness long ago, and I would have watched you earn your name from Magister Deimos or die trying. Probably the latter.”
“Well, we’re not on Teragard,” the νομάς sneered, his words cavalier and dismissive. “Though what do I know? If you prance around enough waiting for someone to kiss your ass, you might just end up back there in your cushy cathedral-”
Oreb hardly registered himself snatching his staff from the desk, hardly registered firing a spell over his shoulder, and hardly registered the sound of the νομάς screaming and tumbling back from the force of it.
The only thing he truly registered was standing over the prone νομάς, a boot to his chest and the staff aimed threateningly at his head.
Growling, the νομάς kicked and scratched at Oreb’s legs, eyes flashing dangerously, yet Oreb held his ground, speaking over the νομάς’s indignation.
“I might require your volatility for my continued survival - I might even appreciate it. But, you are wasting what little time I have left with these wanton expressions of strength and brutality. You are power-hungry and unnecessarily violent, and at this rate, you will NEVER have a House Charron name!”
“Fine with me,” the νομάς hissed. “Maybe I didn’t want one of your useless, lapdog names anyway!”
Snarling, Oreb drew back, striking the νομάς across the face with the head of his staff with all his might.
Teeth went flying.
The νομάς cried out in pain, clutching his mouth.
“You ungrateful brat,” Oreb spat, grinding his heel into the screaming man’s sternum before stepping back and watching him writhe. “I pulled you from the gutter and saved your life! Sheltered you! Raised you as my own, even! And this is how you repay me, with blatant disrespect to my station. Pah!”
Anger ebbed, a slight pang of regret replacing it. Yet, he tamped it down - indiscretions accumulated consequences, and the νομάς needed to learn that, should he become a viable successor and future bearer of Oreb’s work.
Oreb waited for the νομάς to calm down, until his screams petered out into shaking whimpers, before looming over him again. Bloodied hands fell away from the νομάς’s face, revealing deep gashes tracing across his cheek and mouth where Oreb’s staff had struck him. They would scar, no doubt. Noticing the dislodged teeth, Oreb knelt and seized the νομάς’s jaw, ignoring his pained groan in protest and forcing his mouth open.
Five teeth missing in total, all on the right side. Two from the upper jaw, three from the lower.
“Childish. Pathetic and childish,” he muttered, standing again and turning back toward his desk. He had thought of another note to make, after all.
No note left untaken.
“Clean yourself up and rest, νομάς,” he rumbled, setting his staff against the wall. “We have more work to do tomorrow.”
Harsh wheezing and the occasional curse began to recede into the distance, and Oreb called over his shoulder one last time, a stray thought crossing his mind.
“And cover your mouth when you come back - I’d rather not see the mess you’ve made of yourself.”