Nyson sat in silence in the tiny, sky blue carriage, occasionally turning to stare out of the window. He often tried to start conversations throughout the carriage ride, but he was either met with silence or a sarcastic comment. Neither of his two colleagues, Vago and Scaevus, seemed interested in socializing with him.

It was their first time working together as a group, as representatives of the Neo-Tellurian Order. They had interacted with each other multiple times since they had all gathered, but there hadn’t been a time where they had to work together until now. Their group’s goal was to reunite the country after the Gods that used to preserve it had begun to die off. The fruits of their efforts had yet to bloom, as the group was still in its infancy, having only been founded not even a year ago.

Nyson wasn’t sure how to feel about sitting in silence among his comrades. He liked both of his colleagues, though they were both grim and silent. Vago, though not a leader to them by title, held seniority over both him and Scaevus. He was in his forties, more than twenty years older than Nyson. He wasn’t aging very gracefully, as dark circles had long claimed the space under his eyes, and there were fine creases in his jowls.

Scaevus, however, didn’t look a day past thirty. He was almost forty himself, but he was a God, the Fire God. He only aged as he willed it. With his bronze skin and unruly mane of white hair, he certainly looked the part of a Fire God. However, he was quiet, mellow. Nyson wasn’t very sure about the technicalities of becoming a God, but from what little he’d been told by Scaevus, it was apparent that the Gods of the country were simply fortified corpses controlled by an element. They could die, but their essences were everlasting and were to be passed on to someone else after death. No one ever seemed to know why it was this way.

Nyson took up more space in the carriage than they imagined, as he needed to stretch his legs across the cabin. He was half-Dasir, a race of people that towered over most others and had hair the color of autumn leaves – though he had inherited hair as white as snow. The Dasir had been blessed with the ability to detect the presence of Gods. They all had sharp fangs, which earned them the slur of “vampire”, comparing them to vicious, ravenous beasts. Most Dasir hid their teeth to avoid persecution.

Nyson was too proud of his smile. So he did not.

Their boss, Cella, had heard rumors of a man who had the ability to alter dreams and wanted to employ him. Nyson couldn’t imagine that there was someone with such powers, but the rumors turned out to be true, and their journeying had led them to a small town, one that hadn’t been marked on any map. Once they had gotten out of the carriage, Nyson watched as Vago immediately began asking around for directions.

The townspeople were very eager to help and dropped praise whenever the dreamweaver was mentioned. They all had different ways of saying how great this man was, but one word that seemed to constantly spring amongst the people was “mysterious”. Apparently, he never seemed to leave his home, so Nyson wondered if this would end up being an issue.

The three of them walked, clad in all blue, like a wave. They wandered past a square, where a statue stood, bold and awkwardly placed among the flowers. Vago stopped in front of it, so Nyson and Scaevus paused as well. Nyson couldn’t tell what the statue was of. He squinted, grimaced, hummed to himself. There was an eye where no eye should have been, a disproportionate, out of place arm. It was a disaster to try to figure out what it was.

“A statue of the Illusion God.” Vago’s eyes dropped down to the plaque before the statue. “This is fairly new. Erected two years ago.”

Nyson chuckled. “You know what they say when it lasts longer than four hours.”

He grinned, waiting for some kind of reaction from Vago. The older man stared at him with his tired, bagged eyes, blinked once, then walked ahead. When Nyson turned to Scaevus, he noticed that he at least smirked.

Scaevus’s smirk faded when Nyson started speaking to him directly.

“Did you ever meet the Illusion God?”

Scaevus paced after Vago. “I’ve only ever met the Water God.”

Nyson followed behind Scaevus and cocked his eyebrow curiously. He had always imagined that the Gods mingled with one another. To hear that Scaevus only knew one other God was baffling.

“Really? Just him? Where is he now?”

Scaevus tucked his hands into his pockets. “Don’t know or care.”

Nyson’s questions stopped there, at least until they approached a small house, covered in vines. There was a garden in the front, lined with yellow and orange flowers. Fresh drops of water still lingered on the petals and leaves. A trail of stones and pebbles led the way from the main road to the front door.

He felt a strange aura radiating from the house. It felt so similar to Scaevus’s own aura, but it was diluted. For a moment, Nyson wondered if his senses were getting muddled, so he bumped Scaevus’s shoulder gently for a second opinion.

“Do you sense that?” Nyson asked. “It’s not you, is it?”

“No.” Scaevus pulled his hands from his pockets. “I sense it too.”

So Nyson wasn’t alone. Gods could sense each others’ auras as well, but he wondered why Scaevus didn’t bring up the divine aura first.

Vago glanced back to them. “You two look deep in thought. For once.”

They both turned to Vago, but Scaevus was the first to speak up. “If this is his home, there’s a Godly presence there.”

Nyson nodded. “Yeah, it’s really faint though. I can just barely smell it.”

“That is interesting. He could be a God? Perhaps the God we saw the statue of?”

Scaevus shook his head. “It’s not that strong of a presence. It’s more likely that he’s the child of one.”

“I see,” Vago walked ahead of them to the door. “That would explain the stories about his magic.”

Vago knocked on the door while Nyson and Scaevus stood idly behind him. The door went unanswered, so he knocked once more.

Still, no answer.

“Someone’s in there,” Scaevus mumbled and rolled a rock under his boot. “Three people.”

“It might be a bad time,” Nyson shrugged. “We could come back later. Get settled into an inn, eat.”

Vago sighed. “I suppose. We have been traveling for a while now.”

The three turned to leave, but before they had gotten too far from the house, they heard a very meek “hello.” They turned to see a woman standing at the door. Her dark hair was liken unto a bird’s nest, strewn all over her head, each tress winding into another. Her eyes were bloodshot and her makeup ran down her face. Ugly, black ribbons curled from her eyes to her cheeks and to her chin.

She looked like she had been crying, but neither of them asked what was wrong. They wouldn’t have known how to address it. Nyson definitely didn’t.

Vago cleared his throat. “We apologize if we’ve disturbed you.”

The woman’s eyes met with Vago’s before falling to the ground. “No, it’s fine. What can I help you with?”

“Is this the residence of Estren Astrophel?”

“Yes. If you’re looking to schedule an appointment with him, he’s completely booked for the next two weeks.”

One of Nyson’s eyebrows cocked upwards and he muttered, “Booked?”

Vago shook his head. “We would just like to speak with him. Is he available?”

“Yes.” She turned and called back into the house. “Ren, darling! You have guests.”

They heard another voice from up the stairs. “I’ll be right down, Mother.”

She opened the door wide and gestured with her hand for them to come in. “Please, have a seat in the parlor.”

They walked into the house. It was a cozy living space, clear of dust and grime. The curtains had been drawn, but just a sliver of light peeked through them. There were a few shelves by one of the windows in the parlor, and on each shelf was a row of jars, carefully lined up so that the labels on them were easily read.

The three of them sat on a plush, white couch in the middle of the parlor. Nyson took up the most space, forcing Vago and Scaevus to squirm in their seats. Eventually, Scaevus settled for standing and leaned against the back of the couch.

A young man walked into the room moments later, completely unannounced. He was dressed in many layers of clothing, so many that it almost looked uncomfortable. His hair was white, much like their own, but it was styled in a ridiculously long braid, that was wrapped around his neck and draped over his figure like a fashionable scarf. Had his hair been unraveled from his throat, it likely would have swept the floor.

The man was tall – certainly shorter than Nyson, but taller than Scaevus and Vago. His skin was a ghostly pale, as if not a single beam of sunlight had ever graced him. An overall ethereal aura was radiating from him, almost as if he’d waltzed directly out of a daydream.

“You are… Estren Astrophel?” Vago asked.

“I am.” Estren bowed once. “I’m so very sorry. I never schedule my own clientele personally, so I’m not familiar with who you are.”

“They aren’t clients.”

Their heads turned to the doorway leading to the kitchen to see another man standing there. Much like the woman, he had dark hair, but instead of carrying a distinct lack of composure, this man looked about as stern as Vago did.

Vago nodded, “That is correct. We’d just like to discuss some things with you.”

The man ignored Vago and his eyes quickly shifted to Nyson and he stared hard. At first, Nyson wasn’t sure what to say or do, but eventually he smiled widely and was immediately met with a groan of disgust.

“This guy’s a fucking vampire.”

Nyson’s grin quickly shifted into a taut frown as, for once, he hid his sharp bicuspids behind his lips. Vago’s eyebrows furrowed a little more than usual and he appeared to want to say something, but he held his tongue and held it tight.

“You’re one of the ones that like to change their hair to fit in,” the gruff man said. “But those teeth aren’t fooling anyone.”

Nyson wasn’t sure how to defend himself. He had been met with racist remarks before, but in situations where acting professional wasn’t required. Normally, he would have said something uncouth and immature, but he had to fight back swears and turn the other cheek.

“I do have Dasir blood in me, but this is actually my natural hair color…” A horribly weak reply, but he had nothing else to say.

“Yeah, sure. Nice to know we’ve got a biter in our town.”

“Father, please,” Estren said. “They are my guests. Treat them kindly and with respect.”

Estren’s father glared at the three of them. “Charge them for your time. You could be busy working right now.”

The man left the room and all four of them lingered in an uncomfortable silence. Estren’s eyes wandered to Vago’s, then to Nyson’s before he turned away to the shelf near the window.

“I’m so very sorry about that,” he said as he plucked tea leaves from one of the jars and sealed them in a small, sheer pouch. “Please accept this tea as an apology. It’s really good for sleeping.”

Estren anxiously held the pouch out to Nyson. Nyson never liked tea very much, but he didn’t want to be rude. He accepted the bag of tea leaves with a silent nod, though he’d pass them on to Vago later.

Estren cleared his throat and settled himself down in a chair across from them. He avoided eye contact with them and uttered a few non-fluencies to try to break the silence.

He twiddled with the end of his braid. “You all have white hair. Like me. That’s so neat.”

Ignoring Estren’s comment, Vago spoke up. “I suppose I’ll jump straight to business. I’m Vago, and this is Nyson and Scaevus. We’re representing the Neo-Tellurian Order.”

Estren’s anxiety only seemed to intensify as he shifted in his seat. “I’ve… never heard of that, I’m afraid. I don’t get out much.”

“That’s fine. We’ll explain everything to you, but we’d like to start off by saying we really would like to employ you.”

“You said you weren’t clients.”

“What kind of clients do you usually take?”

“People who have trouble sleeping. Lately, I’ve been helping an old lady down the street. Her husband died and her dreams are filled with sadness over his death. So, I make sure she has sweet dreams.”

“So you’re a therapist?” Nyson asked.

“Something like that.” Estren stopped playing with the end of his braid. “Is this what you seek?”

“The country does need a healing touch,” Vago said. “I’m sure you know how divided we are, especially now that Aeson City’s temple has fallen. It’s a big job, but with your ability to help people through dreams, we could reunite the nation.”

“I would love to go with you. I really would. It would be so nice.” Estren’s excitement subsided as he brought his hands to his mouth and chewed nervously at his fingernails, clicking them between his teeth.

“You look worried,” Vago said, pointing out the obvious.

Estren sighed and stared off in the distance wistfully. “I can’t leave my mother here alone.”

Nyson didn’t see a problem. “Your dad’s here.”

“Y-yes. Exactly. I would love to leave this place, but not if I have to leave her behind.”

Vago and Nyson looked to each other. This certainly explained his mother’s disheveled appearance.

“I’m sorry to learn of this,” Vago said. “We’ll have to think things through, but we should be able to give you an answer concerning your mother tomorrow.”

“But you’re definitely interested, right?” Nyson wrapped one arm around Vago’s shoulders and squeezed him close. “I think we could use someone who isn’t a sourpuss.”

Scaevus cut a glare to Nyson, Vago appeared unmoved by the comment, but Nyson imagined he’d be scolded later on.

Estren’s hands clasped together. He seemed to light up, beaming a bit of excitement through his reclusive shell. “Very! I love using my powers to help people and knowing that my magic can reunite the country… That would be amazing.”

“I have to agree.” Vago lifted from the couch. “But we’re a bit exhausted from our travels. We’ll be in town for a while.”

“I hope to hear from you tomorrow.” Estren nodded. “I’d love to talk more.”

The three lined up to leave, with Scaevus following behind Vago. Nyson shuffled after them, but was stopped when he heard Estren’s soft voice.

“And… Nyson, was it?”

He turned around, his thumb stroking the sheer fabric of the pouch. “Yeah, that’s me.”

Estren bowed before him. “I’m very sorry about how my father treated you. I hope you enjoy the tea. If you want more when you return, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Uh,” Nyson stammered. “Sure, yes. Thanks so much.”

He waved goodbye to Estren and walked after his colleagues. As he walked, he looked down at the pouch of tea in his hand. Nyson wasn’t a fan of tea, but maybe having just a cup of it wouldn’t be so bad.

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