Wszyscy Święci


eileen_icon.gif kazimir_icon.gif

Scene Title Wszyscy Święci
Synopsis To know is a burden.
Date July 23, 2018

In a mirror, Eileen Ruskin looks like a well-painted corpse.

Blue eyes have a coldness to them that no amount of makeup can mask, not like the dark and icy depths of a winter river, but the boundless azure of a blue sky. It is infinite, but it is also empty and lonely. Her lips, each a painted shade of pomegranate, contrast her cadaveresque pallor like open wounds. There are creases at the corners of her eyes, lines of age that aren’t from laughter. Between her brows too, and down in the lower corners of her mouth. It’s subtle, but she always assumed age would be for her. The few strands of gray against chestnut brown are new. Easily hidden enough. As meticulously crafted as it is, her reflection is a lonely and isolated one cast to her on a varnish of tin or silver.

There is a smell of woodsmoke and dust in the air around the dressing mirror, a scent of old linens and wallpaper glue, the musty smells of a building older than she is. It is familiar; heartbreakingly so. Why is it always this memory?

Over her shoulder, Eileen can see a dark form approaching her from across the room, reflected as a black silhouette in the mirror through the sheer fabric of a tall dressing screen. The rhythmic thump, thump, tap of two feet and a cane make her chest tense, send a chill down her spine. When she focuses on herself in the mirror again, it is not an adult that stares back at her, but the darker-eyed face of a young woman.

Kazimir Volken slowly approaches from the far shadows of the room, his cane thudding against the floor between each nearing step. Diverting towards the window, Kazimir leans his cane up against the wall, then turns back to Eileen, approaching her with one gray brow raised higher than the other. "Did my Conscience tell you what type of dinner it is we will be attending tonight? Aside from that you must be on your best behavior, and dressed like a proper lady?" Both of which things he seems to subtly imply are dubiously possible in a teasing manner. "It's a ball."

Eileen is in the process of pulling a dress over her head when the word 'ball' so succinctly leaves Kazimir's lips. There's a brief pause that doesn't last any longer than the time it takes her suck in a sharp breath. In the next instant, she's zipping the dress up the back and poking her head around the side of the dressing screen to look at the old man askance. She's still wearing the tortoiseshell reading glasses, though her hair lays in such a way as to veil one half of her face. The other has adopted an expression of apparent surprise, lips pursed and one shapely black brow arched.

"I'm sorry?" she asks, then ducks behind the screen again. "I thought you said we were going to a ball." Her leggings join Ethan's shirt, discarded with a flourish of her arm. "I couldn't have heard you correctly, because balls have music and waltzing and things, and all I know is ballet."

There's a grumble of a laugh that stirs from deep in Kazimir, a pleased smile crossing his face as he rest his hands on his hips and regards Eileen’s silhouette behind the screen with an amused sigh. "Exactly why I came up to get you myself an hour early." There's something of a patient cast to the smile he offers Munin, brows furrowing together. "Come on out," he makes in rumbling demand, holding out a gloved hand towards the screen. "You've plenty of time to worry about your hair later, you're the only woman coming to the ball with us to meet Mister DeLuca, and I would prefer if you were able to entertain him with a dance."

But there's the confusion again, because Sierra is somewhere in the city, somewhere nearby, and yet she's not attending the ball. "You, Amato, Ethan and I will be the only ones in attendance, I want to make a good impression to him… This will be the first time he's met anyone outside of myself and Ethan." A moment's pause, and then something even more unlikely, a moment of lightheartedness. "Otherwise I'll have no choice but to ask Amato to dance with him."

Eileen steps out from behind the screen and takes Kazimir's gloved hand, smoothing the wrinkles from her dress with the other. A nomadic lifestyle restricts the size and variety of the young woman's wardrobe, allowing her two steamer trunks worth of belongings. She owns only two dresses, one in red and one in black, and the one she's wearing now is the latter of the two, sewn from silk and chiffon with a low neckline designed to emphasize the shape of her throat rather than her bust. Provided she takes his advice and does something nice with her hair, it's more than appropriate for a formal function if paired with the right shoes.

"You ought to ask him anyway," she says, giving Kazimir's hand a playful squeeze. "I'd like to see the look on his face."

"Were I not worried he'd hole himself up in his room praying for the evening, I might just entertain that idea to see the smile on your face." Kazimir's eyes drift up and down the dark dress, fingers winding around Munin's tiny fingers as he guides her over. "The key to a good waltz, when you don't know how, is to be mindful of the one taking the lead. Knowing DeLuca as well as I do, he'll wish to lead the dance…" Kazimir's hand raises up with Eileen’s to shoulder height, his other hand coming down to rest against the small of her back. "Put your hand," he nods towards one of hers, "on my shoulder, and be mindful of my collar." Or less carefully worded, don't kill yourself.

Watching the young woman with those tired eyes, Kazimir can't help but smile. "The things we do, often lead us away from a normal and fulfilling life. At times, I wonder if I made the right decision in bringing you to us, but then when I see you like this—see the smile on your face, see how contented you are—I know in the end I made the right decision. No matter how short lived it may be."

Eileen’s smile wavers at that, and Kazimir may detect the faintest flinch shudder through her slim frame as she follows his instructions and places her hand on his shoulder. When she speaks, however, her voice is as clear as the air in the winter and as smooth as glass, vibrant and unfaltering. "You've done wonderful things for my life, Dziadzio," she tells him, "and now you're going to do wonderful things for the world."

She glances down at her bare feet, red lacquered toenails a stark contrast against the plush carpet beneath her soles, then back up at Kazimir. "I'll take all the time I can get. This family is my heart."

Brows tense as Kazimir watches Eileen, listening to her in a manner that indicates surprise, his lips hesitating before creeping up into a more reluctant smile than should be. But by now the only thing he's showing that hesitant show of affection to is the wall over her shoulder. "Follow my lead…" is all he can say to those words, slowly and carefully moving his feet apart and drifting to his left in a graceful gait, "and pay attention to where my feet are. When you dance with mister DeLuca, don't look at your feet, look at him… It's important we sell this moment."

Tension comes in Kazimir as he looks down to Eileen, smiling faintly. For all the paternal affection that he tries to hide, it still exists somewhere down inside of him. But for all the paternal affection he would want to afford her, there can never truly be any. For in the end, no matter how long the dance is drawn out, the song will always come to an end, applause will rise, and the ball will draw to a close. Some people will make their way home, others will be forgotten as faces in the crowd.

And what makes it hardest of all on Kazimir, is that he knows the two of them can never have a happy ending.

Which is why after a blink of her eyes, her dreams have brought her somewhere else, somewhere that she knows is between asleep and awake, somewhere that she can feel both the certainty of unreality, and the uncertainty of the unknown. Her meandering subconscious brought her to the one place she can always find her family.

To the middle of a cemetery.

Pitch black trees rise up at the edges of fog banks, stickbare and gnarled like the kind at an orchard or ones that grow near salt water. Twisted branches grasp for the sky in clawing shapes, blurry and indistinct because of the mist. Headstones are tiny, rounded silhouettes that spread out in staggered procession as far as the eye can see in every direction. Most of them are ancient, crumbling and forgotten moss-encrusted things that have had their names scored away too long ago. Some look like mere slabs of rock with crude shapes etched into them, all alike in the tar-like soot that clings to their damp forms.

The only thing that's different, here, are the monuments. Like all cemeteries, there are monuments to the wealthy, or the powerful, or the famous. Here, the monuments are less obvious things. Each of them tall, ostentatiously capped by a different stone statue of a robed figure in unusual posture or pose. There are only ten that Eileen can clearly make out, the others stretch back further into the fog.

The closest statue to her is of a regal woman seated on a stone plinth with one leg crossed over the other, one hand raised palm up, the other lowered with palm down. Her round face is downcast, eyes closed and full lips pulled into a frown. She bears a heavy, ornate crown atop her hooded head. At the base of her plinth it is inscribed in Polish, “Święta Jadwiga Śląska”, beneath that on the monument base is etched, “Nathalie LeRoux” and the date, “2010.”

Adjacent to that monument is another, of a bearded man with wild hair seated upon a cloth-shrouded granite plinth, his robe is open at the chest and he holds a knife to his own breast, just beginning to pierce his flesh. In his other hand he holds a simple cup below the wound to collect his blood. At the base of that plinth, in English, is written “Saint Jude the Apostle.” Below that there is a name, carved plainly, “Francois Allegre” and the date, “2010.”

Standing beside the statue of Saint Jude is a third monument, the furthest to where she stands and the last that isn’t concealed by the dense fog. It depicts a balding man with a trimmed goatee in a long priests' vestments, cradling a lifeless body in his arms. The platform upon which he stands is inscribed with the name "Saint Camillus de Lellis", beneath that on the monument base is etched, "Peter Petrelli," and below his name, just a single date, "2009."

Crows call loudly in the distance, from the ink blank trees beyond the fog of memory.

Eileen reaches out to graze fingertips along the stone woman’s jawline, following its curve from the base of her ear to the point of her chin, which she cradles in the seat of her palm as though she could lift it and coax eyes to meet her own.

When her hand falls away again, she holds it poised at her side as she moves between the monuments, bare feet as silent as an owl’s open wings. The silk material of her dress clings damp to her thighs and pale, naked legs rather than billowing out gracefully behind her, and emphasizes all the things that she isn’t.

Too short for her strides to carry her with real authority.

Too small to take up the physical space required to effectively command it.

Too rawboned to be taken seriously by the men in her life whose approval she craved the most. Ethan used to call her Princess, and that was flattering — until it wasn’t.

Her eyes move between the inscriptions, then past the monuments to where the crow voices are calling out to her.

Beyond the first three monuments, Eileen’s bare feet quickly pick up the black tar that clings to the cemetery grass, staining the soles of her feet only shades. Through the fog and to the choir of birds, she finds another statue set among the others, this one old and cracked, crumbling and weathered in ways the last three were not. It depicts an elderly man bearing a crown in royal attire with one arm swept over his chest and head dipped in a bow. On the footplate beneath the statue it is inscribed, "Edward the Confessor," and below that a name and a date. "Kazimir Volken, 1914."

Hello Eileen.” Hearing her name — not Munin — come from that voice might as well be a gunshot. Stepping out from beside the statue of Edward the Confessor is Kazimir Volken as Eileen clearly remembers him. In his sleek black suit, full in the middle with age, his gray hair in tangled down to his shoulders, oval glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. That cane, snarling and shiny, resting in one gloved hand.

“I was wondering when you'd find your way here.” In spite of their arrangement, in spite of his exile, Kazimir seems contented and in a way at peace. Then, stop the statue’s head a white raven lands silently, then another. The pair turn red eyes to look down at Kazimir, and crow angrily.

“I've missed you,” Kazimir softly offers with sad eyes. “But you're not supposed to be here.”

The ravens’ anger is reflected in the expression that flashes across Eileen’s face. There’s an accusation on the tip of her tongue, something about how it’s difficult to miss someone when they were your only companion for the better part of two years, but it’s his same choice of words that causes her to hesitate.

Whatever she was about to say turns to ash in her mouth at the same time her attention diverges from the man standing in front of her to the birds chiding him from their perch on the statue.

A person’s soul, their consciousness, their identity, she’d told Eve, is nothing except for a collection of life experiences, assembled into a particular form or shape.

“I don’t know where here is,” she says instead. Then: “You’re not my dziadzio, are you.”

It isn’t a question.

The only answer that Kazimir affords is a raise of his brows and a slow rise of his shoulders, a more relaxed and affable gesture than ever afforded to Eileen in the past. “I don't think so, not in the way our reflections are truly us.” The birds on the monument cry their shrill retort, unintelligible save for their anger.

With a few steady footsteps, Kazimir approaches Eileen much as he had in the mirror of memory. “I don't know how you're here, or what's become of you,” his brows pinch together in an expression of worry, “but you've done something no one since Gabriel has.”

The fog parts, just enough for Eileen to see another row of monuments. These ones cracked and broken, intersecting the line she'd been following and forming a cross. Except that the line from Edward the Confessor progresses to a statue of a shrouded woman with one hand held out as if in offering, the other raised to her throat. At the base of the plinth it reads, “Clare of Assisi” and below that “Eileen Gray” and the date “2014”. Somehow in all of this, Gabriel is absent.

“Patron Saint of goldsmiths and good weather. Laundry, too.” At least Eileen hasn’t lost her sense of humour. Amato would be proud that she remembered some of his teachings, she thinks, gravitating toward the statue and its inscription. She can guess what it is even before she’s flanked it, but she affords it the same muted reverence that she’d initially shown the Polish woman and her solemn, bowed head.

Gabriel’s absence has not escaped her notice, but Gabriel’s absence is something that she’s already had a long time to reflect on.

To grow accustomed to.

To accept, ultimately.

“No,” she tells Kazimir, without looking back over her shoulder at him. Instead of her face, she shows him her shoulder blades and the gentle, rolling ridge of her spine where it stands out beneath her skin. “Gabriel could control it. I can only hold it back. Thirty seconds at a time, on a good day. Others, less.”

Slowly, Kazimir shakes his head and stops his approach close enough to reach out to Eileen, though he doesn't take that level of familiarity. Instead, he rests the end of his cane down in the black-slicked grass and grips the wolf’s head firmly. “I'm not talking about power. I'm talking about…” he searches for the right word, the right notion. “Inheritance.”

His blue eyes level on Eileen with a subtle suggestion of guilt that she never saw in Kazimir in life. A weariness that he showed to no one. “I'm talking about this place. You've…” He motions to the monuments, “changed the landscape. You've tangled things that were one disparate together. You've changed everything.”

But it isn't clear that Kazimir even knows for certain what he's talking about. There's a hesitance in his voice, an uncertainty that belies that position of weakness. The ravens sense it, each crowing loudly at him and spreading its wings as if to pose their superiority. Kazimir pays them a moment’s attention, then looks back to Eileen.

You,” Kazimir emphasizes, “shouldn't be here.

“I don’t know where here is,” Eileen says again, firmer in her convictions, although her own hesitance suggests that she might have an educated guess or two.

“Nathalie LeRoux was the girl on the beach.” Dark hair, dark eyes, a strong and stubborn mouth. Her face is as clear in Eileen’s memory as it was when she was staring it down from on top of a horse.

There’s another name here that isn’t as intimately familiar to her in the same way that Kazimir’s is. “Peter Petrelli,” she continues, steady, “never held your ability. Not where I’ve come from.”

Now she does turn to look back at Kazimir: the sorrow in his eyes, noticeable lack of tension in his mouth, and wolf’s head cane trapped in the knit of his large, callused hands. “Not my dziadzio. Hers. You’re this world’s conduit.”

There's a ghost of a smile that haunts Kazimir’s mouth. “Conduit,” he mumbles back, but leaves the term aside for now. “I'm what sits down the end of a different road that diverged in the wood, it seems. I know your heart, your sacrifices. In this world, they were mine.” Kazimir’s brows furrow together, slowly lifting a hand as if to reach out for Eileen, but stops himself.

“Each and every person from the Vanguard, the family I’d built with my own two hands, I strangled to death with them. Because here, I recognized the error of my vision. I saw the failure of my calculus, because of you.” Kazimir’s pale eyes regard Eileen side long, and he turns away from her with shoulders slacked and defeat in his visage. The ravens do not seem pleased, cawing louder now.

“Just as it seems you did for your life, for Gabriel,” Kazimir looks back up to her, that sadness clearer now. It's empathy. “I mourned your death, from behind new eyes. I felt you die, but I could do nothing to save you. Helpless, in the face of mankind’s greatest cruelty, and your soul carried aloft on the wings of psychopomps.” His wandering blue eyes find hers, but briefly, before settling back down to the black grass.

“But this,” Kazimir says in a hushed tone of voice, “isn't heaven. If such a thing exists.”

Eileen takes in their surroundings: skeletal trees stripped of their leaves and a placid ocean of fog that rises all the way to her hip. The air is cold in the way that her skin was cold on the one occasion she convinced Iago to touch it.

“No,” she agrees, “it isn’t. And you—” This part she addresses to the raucous pair of ravens, hunched and bristling from beneath their cloaks of white feathers. “Be quiet.

She circles around Kazimir, refusing him the luxury of not having to look her in the eye. Like the spectre, she’s a slave to the compulsion to reach out and touch, even if she’s also able to initially resist it. Whether or not it wants to, she forces her hand to remain at her side.

“You said my being here changed this place,” she insists. “How? The girl, LeRoux?”

The birds scatter angrily to the sky, eliciting a look from Kazimir to the air and then down again. He considers their parting, then as he looks back down to Eileen it is with something more like worry in his eyes. “As you called this place, that power, it is a conduit.”

The tone of Kazimir’s stare takes on something more fragile, a vulnerability Eileen has never seen in his eyes. “A conduit produces nothing, it is exactly what it says it is.” His brows furrow slowly, regarding her in that way he once did when he let her stand at the table and listen to he and Amato make plans.

“Have you ever stopped to wonder,” he asks her, “what we are a conduit for?”

The Pine Barrens


With a rush of air sucked into her lungs, Eileen sees the world around her for the first time. Trees rise up in every direction, silhouettes cast against moonlight barely visible through thin clouds. Drizzling rain falls cold on her shoulders, runs down the back of her neck and makes her shirt cling to her body. Her bare feet are caked in mud, dirt smudges her knees.

Two white ravens caw angrily at her from a high branch.

She has no memory of how she got here.

“Oh fuck no.”

Eileen tangles her fingers in her hair and peels it away from her face, blinking away rainwater. She wheels around all three hundred and sixty degrees. “Fuck,” she says again. Even at the height of summer, temperatures in the Pines plummet, transforming her breath into a dense fog that leaks from her nose and mouth as she folds her arms and hugs them close to her body for additional warmth.

Kazimir’s ability provides her no protection against the cold.

“Some help you are,” she croaks at the ravens scolding her in the tree. “If you were trying to wake me up, next time just say so.”

The ravens say nothing, save for a haunting caw that pierces the night. Eileen feels nothing in them, not the touch of an avian mind, not Kazimir, not anything. All she feels is the empty cold of the pine barrens and a voice whispering through the trees.

My child.

A cacophony of voices, enough to make distinguishing one from the other impossible.

I see you.

The wind dies down, and Eileen can feel the mind of birds again, can feel Kazimir’s presence in the back of her mind like so many other whispers.

They will keep her company on the short walk back through the cold.

In the dark.

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