Immortalis Venatio: The Immortal Game
Eric hesitates before crossing the street to enter the red door hidden within the shadows. He isn't sure of the kind of reception waiting for him; too much time has passed, the life he has lived while away has taken much from him. Here, things never change; only through leaving and returning does change happen. Even then the changes are devoured and integrated to seem as if only a pause in the timelessness of the French Quarter.
He frowns and shifts his weight, slowly moving his gig bag to the other hand. The smallness of the Quarter sometimes harbors the illusion of closeness, an illusion that some people don't notice until leaving; they return only to find that the illusion has shattered to reveal past friends becoming unknown people. It is within these illusions Eric found his home, and now returning, he knows that if things are different it is not a factor of change happening here, or of shifting perceptions; it is because of his silent absence.
He sighs heavily as he steps across the street, quickly opening the door and closing it with a slam. "Carpe Noctum."
"Hello, Eric." Christian's voice drifts across the smoky room, his words tinged with the deserved arrogance that accompanies a deep southern drawl.
Eric shrugs, running his hand through his hair as he walks towards the back of the bar. Absently he nods to the bartender as he passes, ignoring the scores of hellos coming from the scattered regulars; same faces, same music, same dusky smell of liquor and cigar smoke.
"Now Eric," Christian says slyly, "Have you forgotten your manners? Say hello to Asp and Adder."
Eric slowly looks over to the girls standing behind Christian, their hands resting on his shoulders, and meets their green eyes that stare back unflinching.
They were never beautiful in the classical sense, their bodies too athletic, too powerful, and their features too cold and icy. The leather dog collars are fully visible beneath their short, buzz cut blond hair, their manner of dress feminine, but industrial: leather, velvet, chains, fishnets, and boots. Eric waits, standing patiently under the weight of their gaze.
Asp steps up to the table and presents Christian with a bottle of bourbon and two glasses before moving back against the shadows, watching; Christian suddenly smiles as he motions for Eric to sit.
"Well, Eric. Where in this hell have you been?"
"Places without plumbing, my friend." Eric says, his green eyes sparkling; he is perfectly willing to lose himself in the timelessness of New Orleans, the warmth of the bourbon, and the coldness of Christian.
Christian slides an envelope across the table, smiling as Eric picks it up and sticks in his jacket.
"Trust me; you didn't miss a damned thing."
"I see." Christian's eyes narrow. "We appreciate you sending notice of your change of address."
"Would you have mailed me anything?"
"There, you see?" Eric shakes his head, lighting a cigarette. "Of all the people I know there's only one who bothers to mail me anything. Shit, she even used to write something on the pages."
"Come again?" Christian studies him, half expecting him to reveal a punch line. "Perhaps someone I know?"
"As offensive as that comment is," Eric glares, “I'm going to let it slide because I really have no idea what Aeriel has done, or would do for that matter. She's a friend of mine. Roommate actually."
Christian leans back, listening as Asp whispers in his ear. "I see."
"She doesn't talk." Eric adds.
"Doesn't, or can't?"
"I'm not sure about that either." Eric says quietly. "It's not as odd as it sounds, I swear."
"Right." Christian leans back as Adder lights his pipe, puffing thoughtfully.
"Will ya listen for a moment? Back in Charlotte, you know how I used to go to Joseph's coffeehouse all the time?"
"Go on." Christian replies, pointedly ignoring Eric's impatience.
"Well, when I was there, I met this crazy little girl who always sat in the corner. Like I told you, she never said anything, and the way we met, well.... I was sitting in the corner, her corner as it turned out. I was playing something, I don't remember what, it was total shit. Something I wrote when I was hung over, just complete crap, y'know? So she walks up to the table, puts her cup down, and just slides in beside me.
"So anyway, I'm thinking to myself, 'hey, the chicks dig me' right? She grabs my fretting hand and slides it like this, see?""Before I know it I'm playing this." Eric picks up his guitar and motions to Christian.
"Why Eric, that's not half bad." Christian muses.
"It turned out that room for rent I was checking out, the house was hers. Worked out great. The conversations were kind of one sided, but somehow that was ok, you know?
"That was, oh, I'm guessing almost a year ago now. We kept in touch." He sighs. "The letters kept coming, but they started getting weird, I mean like David Lynch meets Felinni weird, then it was nothing, just blanks. The only way I knew they were from her is the handwriting on the outside of the envelopes."
"And then I got the last one two weeks ago, just before I left for Denver. No return address, seven sheets of paper, and the words Immortalis Venatio on the last page."
"Oh, come now." Christian rolls his golden eyes into a glare.
"I swear all of this is true, here," Eric rumples through his gig bag and comes up with the letter."In fact, that's why I'm here; I'm heading back to Charlotte."
Christian glances down at the pages, frowning as he turns to confer with Asp and Adder who are whispering excitedly to him. He sends them off and turns back to his friend.
"By the way," Christian says with a mischievous smirk as Eric stands and grabs his bag. "Since you were so kind to ask, I've been quite bored here lately. I would love to join you, but I wouldn't think of coming without your permission."
Eric hesitates slightly as he meets his steady gaze. "My flight is out in an hour."
"Now Eric, you know I don't fly, it gives me such bad memories. I'll just take my car and meet you there, that is, if you might permit me to join you." Christian's southern drawl purrs through the smoke and music, as he leans forward, waiting.
Eric shrugs. "Sure, Christian."
Christian smiles as he stands and receives his jacket and cane from Asp as Adder re-appears with keys. "Why thank you. Just like old times. Funny thing, that."
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