With a little concentration, he can almost picture it.
This place is not home, but it smells the same: sweat and dust, goat dung and olive trees. And the Mediterranean Sun shines with familiar cruelty, making his scalp burn and his chest binder itch.
There are other, unfamiliar smells as well — harsh spices, sweet incense, the roasted meat of a three-legged mammal that never walked his world. But he’s choosing to focus on what he recognizes, like the scent of fresh pitas and the screams of the carpet vendors. The language they speak is so similar to ancient Greek, he can understand them without the need to turn on his translator.
In his mind, he drapes the bright human souls he perceives with flowing chitons, and paints walkways and columns in the dark spaces between them. He fills the darkness behind his blind eyes with market stalls, colonnades and temples, faded pictures of the agorà where he played as a child. Images of his Thebes. Lost Thebes.
This place is not home, but it’s similar enough.
He sits cross-legged on a carpet, counting the obols he earned in the morning and thinking about how to spend them. A bowl of lentil soup for lunch, perhaps, and then wine. He must find a way to bring to other dimensions as many amphoras of wine as he can; he's sick of the stinking piss they serve in the Urðarbrun—
A pale soul stops in front of his carpet. The figure stands still, but doesn't dare to get nearer.
He lowers his eyelids, offering the stranger a smile. He knows his white eyes can intimidate foreigners — the ones who don't know that blind seers are the ones who can see the farthest.
The inquiring person comes nearer and sits down. Their shiny energetic trace is different than the others in the agorà: a dozen pale images, superimposed, trembling and ever-shifting. A dimensional traveler like him, then. How curious.
“Hey. Can you tell me about my future, diviner?”
A familiar voice, mellifluous and confident like a cat's, speaking Greek words with an incongruous British accent. A memory imposed over the gleaming figure, just for a second: golden eyes, hazel hair, thin lips curled in a mischievous expression.
Of all the people in this Multiverse, him. A casual encounter so improbable it feels artificial, a cruel joke concocted by an offended god. He wonders which one, of the many he pissed off.
"Divining stones or hydromancy?" he asks.
"I know you have tarots."
He sighs, switching the pouch of divining stones in front of him for an anachronistic deck of cards. He mixes it with calculated slowness, savoring each slow, nervous breath of his client.
Three cards between them, face down. He reaches for the one at his left, brushing the braille text with a thumb as he turns it.
“Death: a life of transformations, new beginnings and violent ends. Always changing, never satisfied. But this is in your past: the fight is over now, and you feel... At peace with yourself, for once?”
He didn't mean to make it sound like a question, but this is an answer he struggles to believe. Perhaps his client is not him? Not that version of him, at least. A better one.
His hand jolts to the central card, the one representing the present. He flips it eagerly, holding his breath.
“Bloody fucking hell,” utters his client.
A grim smile.
"The cards are simply a reflection of your life choices. Instead of blaming them, ask yourself why your existence seem to be frozen at the moment just before the fall.” He picks up the card, spinning it between his fingers. “Or else your present will always be the Tower, Damian.”
The client's breath stops. His grin only gets wider.
“So.” Damian starts. Stops. Gulps. “In my last memory of you, we were fighting. I said many horrible things I dare not repeat. I wanted to hurt you. I know it's too late, but... I am sorry.”
“My thread of life is entwined with yours,” he coldly announces. The secret verbal handshake between those who climb the Tree of Life: the confirmation that the Damian in front of him was his Damian — or at least, a variant of him similar enough to the one he once knew.
He slips his hand from under Damian's grasp, clutching it against his chest. “In my last memory of you, we were in Dalith. We went there for the harvest festival, but we separated before the celebrations began. I can finally tell you, after all this time, that the festival was incredibly dull.”
A small chuckle. “My thread of life is entwined with yours,” Damian confirms, bowing his head. “It’s nice to meet you again, Tiresias.”
“I can’t say I reciprocate the sentiment.”
He almost dares to hope, for a second, that Damian will leave him alone. But he knows him too well.
“Want to know what future holds for you?” he asks, his hand already on the last card. But Damian slams a hand over his, pinning it down.
“I'll tell you what I see in my future: you and me sharing a drink.”
He lifts his eyelids again, slowly, only to give Damian an eye roll.
“Look,” Damian says, leaning over his table, “I am not attempting to… Re-establish contact. It's just that I hadn't seen familiar faces in a while, and perhaps you have news of my friends. Can we just try to have a drink together? You are free to leave at any point, if I make you feel uncomfortable.”
"What if your entire existence makes me feel uncomfortable?"
"I will try very hard to exist less."
He searches for any anger left in himself, but finds nothing. Just a sense of wary unpleasantness, like wearing a clean suit only to notice an old stain that still clings to the cloth.
“You're paying, of course.”
_ __ ____________________ __ _
He can feel the atmosphere changing as they enter the kapileion — conversations frozen in mid-air, bodies shuffling, murmurs. He counts fifteen glowing souls sitting on the benches of the communal pub, and he bets all their eyes are fixed on them.
They never truly fitted anywhere, he and Damian, but some worlds tolerated them better than others. In this one, his figure — tanned, blonde-haired, blind — is those of a person blessed by the Gods: sometimes respected, sometimes hated, but usually left alone. But if Damian still looks as he remembers him, then no amount of local clothes will hide him from curious glances. Damian with a boy’s body and silky hair as long as a girl’s. Damian who dresses too brightly and always talks too loud.
“How much time has passed for you, Dan?” he asks after they get seated.
“In my timeline we last met... Five years ago, I think? I spent a lot of time near the roots of the Yggdrasil, and time gets all weird down there. I think I should be around thirty, now. At least, I look like I’m thirty.”
“Can I?” He raises a hand towards the glowing figure in front of him. Damian leans over, letting him explore the topology of his face. He runs his fingers over Damian’s hair (still too long), his mouth (still too large), his chin (still unable to grow a proper beard). New wrinkles around his eyes, a nasty scar on the left cheek. A crooked nose.
“Ah. You are not a pretty boy anymore,” he complains, lowering his arm.
“Still pretty. Not a boy. How long has it been for you?”
“At least a decade.”
It’s easy for him to imagine Damian’s flabbergasted expression; less easy for him not to smile.
“One day I'll discover what kind of magical anti-age cream you’re using.”
He coils his fingers around his wine cup. “What have you done those past years? Any good gigs?”
“Some. Got a pretty good internship in Veles, but my boss ended up getting killed.” A sigh. ”A despicable affair, really. You?”
“Same as you: odd jobs here and there, but I never learned anything truly useful. At one point I just said ‘fuck this’ and hung with Tz’siel and Qwerty on some tropical frontier world for a whole year. They're both at the Well right now, by the way, if you want to catch up with them.”
“And why aren't you with them at the Well?"
He shrugs. “Homesickness.”
“So your presence here is not in any way related to the class-B God hiding under the ruined amphitheater? Because I was thinking…”
Ah, that tone of voice. The one that says ‘I’m up for mischief’.
“We’re not teaming up again, Dan.”
“Really? And who are you working with, then? Because I doubt you can tackle a class-B God by yourself.”
“I sent a call for help. I'm waiting for support.”
“And how long have you been waiting?”
He sips his wine. He does not answer.
“Tiresias. This is not a convoluted plan to reconcile with you, I swear. I mean, it’s been over a decade. I…” Damian lowers his voice, “ I don’t have a crush on you anymore. I'm making an offer because I owe you: you can't do this alone.”
“When I do this kind of stuff with you, everything always goes to shit.”
“The cards said I've changed!”
“They also said you're still the same.”
A silent Damian is never a good sign. Silence means Damian is nurturing a thought, instead of spitting it out. Letting it grow in weird shapes.
He hears the shuffle of cloth, and the sound of Damian's chair scraping against the dirt floor.
“I have an important announcement to make!” Damian proudly declares, standing up. “After a long period of self-reflection, I now feel comfortable in publicly admitting that I love being fucked in the ass!”
He clutches his wine cup, trying to ignore the murmurs around them. If he stands very still, perhaps, the chaos around him will simply go away.
“Especially when this extremely manly man here is also involved!” Damian continues, pointing at him.
He leans forward, biting Damian's finger. Hard.
“My friend is very drunk,” he calmly comments while Damian sits down, whimpering. "Please ignore him."
Are people even listening? Who knows. Who cares. What's really important is that this is a low-magical world, so Damian can't use his shiny healing powers in public.
He fakes taking a sip, hiding his smile behind the empty cup of wine. An interesting change, this earnestness.
One that could make Damian's presence almost tolerable.
“Damian. Let’s skip the part where I say ‘we’re not teaming up’ again, and you somehow manage to persuade me with your sad puppy voice and the promise that you're gonna be a better person. Just jump to the part where we discuss the practical details.”
“I haven't said anything ye—"
“I’m a seer. Now fetch me more wine before they throw us out.”
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