there is advantage in the wisdom won from pain [tw]

Trigger Warning: death themes


The spirit’s edges blur now that she is near him, the darker planes of his face merging into her shadow, his extremities shifting in and out of focus. He is as gray as smoke. His voice is both clear and far away, as if she were hearing him underwater. None of this surprises Electra – she has encountered visions of the dead, before. The only thing extraordinary about the circumstances is the river, which was extraordinary before he arrived, and the sunlight, which makes him seem like a shadow being cast by some absent being. She tilts her head minutely, listening.

“It is always possible to improve our circumstances,” she murmurs in her own language, forgetting herself a moment, then sighs. What was the word for “possible?” And “circumstances?” He looks up at her, probably confused by the tumble of vowels and fluid consonants, and she offers him her softest, most diplomatic smile. “Let me try.” It is not a request – requests did not come naturally to her. But he still seems reluctant, fearful; she surmises that he must be alone in the realm of death, somehow lost in a place removed from other souls. He curls in on himself, more like a frightened child than the warrior he obviously was, in life.

Electra is not known for her sympathy, but this man awakens something like it, in her. He is weakened, despairing, lost, and slow to accept her assistance…but why? Her brows pinch together, listening to his concerns. He uses simple language, perhaps assuming she cannot understand, or maybe even his mother tongue is slipping through his fingers with the rest of his memories. It is too simple – she struggles to place the subtext, the motivation. His body language is deceptive. You should go while you can. She detects a note of…protectiveness, maybe. Self-sacrifice. She does not know if it is meant for her, or merely an echo of his last moments, but the futility of it makes her feel an unexpected pang of sadness.

She moves closer, dips down to one knee. (The people of her court would have gasped in shock to see her do it, to see her kneel before a soldier, dead or no). The light reflecting off the river spider-webs across her clothes and face, flashes brightly in her eyes, like golden coins. The drape of her clothing pools around her. She ducks her head into his line of sight.

“There is no danger, psihi mu. I have walked here many times.” She uses the soothing voice reserved for skittish animals and tempestuous men, has to resist an unfamiliar instinct to reach out and caress his cheek. “What do you remember?” But he is not looking at her – not at her face, at least. She thinks maybe he has disassociated, stopped seeing her, but then he unspools suddenly, emerges from his shell. She follows the line of his eyes with hers, lifts a fold of her robes with graceful fingers. “This? My chiton?” When he continues to stare at it fixedly, a tremor of frustration working over his jaw, she guesses: “The color?”

It is blind intuition. “Green,” she whispers reverently, grateful to have learned the word. In a world drained of vibrance, where hue was tethered to memory and both faded, leeching away into the void, it seemed that green would be more precious than silk. Her eyes were soft with pity. “I am Electra,” she tells him after a protracted moment, laying her hand over her heart. “Do you remember your name?”


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