Orpheus gave a sharp gasp as something rushed over him, calming the anger that was burning close to the surface, ready to ignite with even the slightest word out of place. He breathed out, eyes closing for a long moment as he revelled in its absence. He didn’t know if it was gone for good – he thought he felt it there, still lurking closer to the surface than it ever had been before, but for now it had been extinguished. “Thank you,” Orpheus murmured, sinking down to the ground and letting his head hang as he caught his breath. He knew it wasn’t intentional, but it had still been… well, he had the wherewithal to be frightened by it now, but while it was happening, he couldn’t feel anything other than the immobilizing, petrifying anger. It had felt like it was consuming him, and though it had been put out now… he was worried what might happen if it were ignited again. “Yes, it’s a good thing,” Orpheus confirmed, giving a bit of a weary smile. “It’s… not how I would have chosen for you to learn, but learning is learning, and… and you can use that information not to do the same thing next time. Please,” he murmured, hating how small the last word sounded. “I’m feeling better,” he managed after another moment, raising his head to look at Elpis. “I think… I’m alright to continue, if you’d like. I don’t know how much time we have before the House finds us, and I don’t… want to waste time.”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on May 23, 2021 18:03:52 GMT -5
Elpis breathed out as Orpheus spoke, relaxing a little. He was okay. Maybe this wasn’t permanent. Then, maybe they could fix it. They hated that they were the reason this had happened in the first place, but it was trial and error, and they’d learn from it. Orpheus had given them permission to try things, right? They were only doing what they had permission to do. “Is the anger gone?” The asked, watching him closely. They didn’t know how bad it felt, but they could tell the anger wasn’t exactly...gone. Not completely. Not permanently. “I won’t do that again,” they added, eyes serious. “I’m trying to learn how to control my powers, not mess up. But I guess messing them up is part of it, too, isn’t it?” They nodded a little, mostly to themself. If he was ready to continue, then they were ready to think of the next thing they wanted to try. Best to start relatively small...they weren’t sure they wanted to go for emotions again, just yet, so maybe… They concentrated, trying to make Orpheus see a dog in the middle of the room. It would be a fairly nondescript dog, since they weren’t thinking of too many specifics, if it worked.
Orpheus looked up at Elpis, frowning just a little bit as he considered their question. He let his eyes close as he probed around in his mind, the anger still at the forefront in spite of the fact that he had tried to push it back. The fact that Elpis had tried to drown it. It didn’t seem to want to go away… he took a deep breath in, opening his eyes again and holding Elpis’ gaze. “Not gone,” he said after a moment, the words accompanied by a firm shake of his head. “Better, but… not gone. It’s… manageable. And I’m sure it’ll go away on its own.” He sounded more nervous about that than he meant to. He wanted to believe his mind would just reset, but the truth was that he had no idea. “It’s alright if you mess up,” he added, wanting to make that as clear as he could. “Messing up is part of life, and it’s part of learning. I don’t have to like the consequences when you mess up to know that learning from your mistakes is a good thing, and… and I won’t hold those mistakes against you, okay?” He had to hope that would make Elpis feel a little bit better about what they had done, even though Orpheus’ thoughts were still trying to rearrange themselves to make room for the anger he didn’t think he quite had room for. His thoughts petered off as he looked towards the center of the room, eyes widening at the appearance of an animal. “It’s a little bit… blurry,” he informed Elpis, taking a step to look at the creature. It was dog-shaped, but it was hard to tell much else about it.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on May 28, 2021 17:39:01 GMT -5
Manageable wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. It meant there was something there to manage, and there hadn’t been before. They didn’t like the idea that it met be permanent. Would he reset? Would he have to deal with this for a while? Elpis wished they could tell that foe sure, but they were as lost as he was, this time. They were just trying things for lack of a better option. “I’m sure,” they repeated, trying to sound like they meant it. They managed to stop their voice from going up in a question mark, at least. They knew he meant what he said about messing up, they knew he wouldn’t lie, but they still couldn’t help but feel that they hadn’t gotten off to a very good start. They couldn’t just stop though, could they? They couldn’t abandon Orpheus, even if they weren’t sure whether they were going to be able to do much. They wanted to help more than anything, and they’d only hurt him. No. They couldn’t give up. They couldn’t stop. They grit their teeth and looked at the dog, eyes narrow a little. And then they concentrated on trying to bring it to life. They thought about details, spots and a nicked ear and brown eyes. They tried to make the dog approach Orpheus, slowly. “Is that...better?”
Orpheus turned his full attention towards the dog, trying to ignore the anger still pressing at the back of his thoughts. It didn’t matter. He would learn how to deal with it, or Elpis would figure out how to push it away. Or maybe the House would fix it, when it eventually came to reclaim him. He wasn’t under any delusion that he was free. The House would find him again, and it would probably make his experience that much worse for agreeing to work with Elpis. For taking sides against it… but how could it blame him, honestly? The dog was much better, in his eyes. He could see details, he could see where it had gotten hurt, could see a pattern in its fur… it was an odd sensation, knowing that there had been a blurry dog before. His mind seemed like it was trying to convince him that this dog had always been there, that it had always looked like this, even though he knew it hadn’t. He didn’t know if that was Elpis messing with how he saw things, or if that was his mind trying to make sense of powers that likely weren’t even possible on his world. The human brain wasn’t built for this, he thought, especially since Elpis had significantly less experience than the House. “Much,” he told Elpis softly, kneeling down so he was at about the same level as the dog. He held his hand out, a soft smile touching his features as he waited to see if the dog was interested in coming forward to sniff him and say hello.
Elpis wasn’t sure whether creating a better dog was also the erasing of the other dog, but they thought it might be. It was hard to change reality while remembering the way it had been a moment ago. They could see the slight confusion in Orpheus’ eyes, the way he seemed bent on trying to see the dog the way it was now, not before. Did that mean they were doing it right, or wrong? They wished they had any way of knowing that for sure. Trial and error was fine. They’d figure it out. The dog stepped closer, expression wary as she approached Orpheus. She didn’t seem aggressive, just...unsure. Like she wasn’t sure how close was acceptable and how close would cause unspeakably horrible things to happen. Elpis didn’t move as she finally made it to Orpheus and sniffed his hand. They stayed still as she licked it carefully, then backed off a little, head lowered. “She likes you,” they told him, their surprise leaking into their tone. They hadn’t thought to specifically make her like or dislike Orpheus. They didn’t think they were really surprised that the dog had decided on like, though. That was the sort of effect Orpheus had.
The dog was sweet. Orpheus wasn’t sure if that had been Elpis’ intent, but he couldn’t help the smile that came over his face as she approached, couldn’t help the way he knelt down to be at her level so he wouldn’t scare her. He didn’t know how he could tell that she was a little bit skittish, but he didn’t want to frighten her off. He held a hand out, making sure she could sniff him before she came much closer. Dogs could be volatile and unpredictable, but he didn’t think to worry about that now. He just tried to make himself as nonthreatening as possible. A small smile crossed his face as the dog risked licking his hand, and he didn’t pull away, just very gently reached out to scratch behind her ears. He found he wanted to win her over, wanted to make her feel safe, even if she wasn’t a real dog. She was real for right now, as real as he and Elpis were. “I like her, too,” he admitted, glancing up at Elpis for a long moment. “You didn’t need to create a nice dog, but you did. I’m not… one for trying to psychoanalyze, but I think that probably says something about you. Something good, I mean.” Orpheus leaned back on his heels, turning his attention back towards the dog. “She’s beautiful,” he added, focusing on all of the little details. “Honestly, she’s… she’s a work of art. In the way all life is.”
The dog didn’t move away as Orpheus went to scratch behind her ears, though she kept her watchful eyes on him at all times, like she could see his intentions only if she didn’t look away. She waved her tail slightly after a moment, the low, shy wave that was intended to be friendly, but was far from overbearing. She was ready to bolt, but she didn’t, not yet...and after a minute she edged closer and sat down next to him, leaning lightly against his leg. Elpis watched without moving, watched as their own creation seemed immediately to take on a mind of her own own. They hadn’t specifically told her to approach Orpheus. They’d made her with the idea of gentleness, but they hadn’t been specific about it. Could they control her now? Could they make her attack if they tried? The poked her brain, feeling around a little, then stopped as Orpheus’ words registered. And leaned on the wall, looking away. Something bothered them about that. Something they weren’t sure they could explain. “I don’t know that she’s a nice dog,” they managed after a moment, biting their lip. “I don’t know that I made her that way, if she is. I just...made a dog. If she bit you, would that be my fault?” There was another question in their voice, but they tried not to ask it. They were tempted to erase the dog, but they refrained for the moment.
Orpheus gave a tiny smile as the dog settled next to him, his petting slowing to something a little bit gentler. He let his fingertips trace her fur, something about the softness under his hands making him ache for the feeling of being alive again. He had never had dogs, in life, but he had interacted with them a few times. He breathed out, looking at Elpis for a long moment while his fingers continued to gently stroke the scruffy fur at the dog’s neck. “Oh,” he murmured, pursing his lips as he tried to think what the implication behind that was. “Still, you must have had intentions when you made her, even if those aren’t known to you. You could easily have made her aggressive, even without intending to.” Secretly, he thought that Elpis creating a kind dog without even meaning to was more of an indication of who they were as a person than if they had specifically intended to create a nice dog. You could do something nice with malicious intent and be a very bad person. He didn’t think you could do something nice with no intent whatsoever and still be a bad person. The actions you took when you weren’t thinking… those were what defined who you were on the inside. Orpheus believed it was possible to change, of course, but it would take practice to make a formerly bad person’s gut reaction be to do something good. “I guess it depends on how much you control her,” Orpheus murmured after a moment. “And if she’s real. I mean… is she in my head, is she just something that I’m seeing, or if someone were to blink in here and you didn’t touch their minds, would they see her, too? Are you telling her to sit down next to me right now? Because if I did something that startled her and she bit me without you telling her to, I don’t think it would be your fault.”
Elpis looked at the dog, eyes thoughtful. She was friendly now, yes...but nice was a state of being, not a permanent quality. She could easily become aggressive under other circumstances, right? They weren’t positive how much say over her they had. If she decided to do something, could they stop her? If she resisted their influence, could she succeed? If so...why had the House allowed them to talk to Orpheus in that very first room? They were the creator, now, but they were also the created. The House must have been able to control them. Couldn’t it have stopped them from sacrificing themself for L? Am I interesting to you, House? Then why won’t you talk to me? They glanced at Orpheus. Had he seen what they had? “I don’t...know,” they admitted quietly. “Whether she exists. We’re the only ones here. Does she exist in our heads? Or outside of them? If no one could see her or think about her, would she still be there?” They studied the dog. She seemed real. She was even panting lightly now, though they hadn’t intended for her to. She’s like me. “Did the House tell me to talk to you?” They wondered. “Did it want me to sacrifice myself? It’s proven it can control anyone in its power, with you. Why didn’t it stop me? Did it want this?” They looked at their hands. They were aware that they could probably make the dog do anything they chose, and they guessed she wouldn’t be able to stop them. They didn’t say it, though.
Orpheus didn’t stop petting the dog. She was friendly in a way very few people had been since Orpheus had been taken by the House. It was odd, sharing this moment with another living being, knowing that she had no knowledge of who he was or what he had done. Knowing that she had no way to process that, no way to hold it against him. It was almost enough to make him cry, but he managed to hold back the emotion. “In which case… I’d like to think she exists,” Orpheus murmured, knowing full well that he was getting attached to her, and she might not even exist. He knew it would be easy for Elpis to erase her, to pretend that she had never been there, but he couldn’t help hoping that they would let her stay. He let his hand lay still on her back, feeling the rise and fall of her flank as she panted. “I can’t tell you what the House was thinking,” Orpheus said, looking up to meet Elpis’ eyes. “I’ve tried to talk to it before and it’s… never really been willing to answer me. But I don’t think it was controlling you. I think… I think it likes to watch how people interact, and it’s not as fun when it’s in complete control. I don’t think it could have foreseen everything you’ve done, and… and you’re your own person, Elpis. You should be proud of everything you’ve accomplished, everything you’ve done that’s beyond the House’s influence. I know that it matters that it could control you, but… but I think it matters more what you do now that you have complete control over yourself.”
That added up. The House never answered Elpis, either. “It did answer you, once,” they pointed out quietly. “It broke its own rules. I just don’t know why.” They stared at the dog, who seemed to have decided this was relatively safe and was watching the conversation unfold with mild interest. Whether she could understand what they were talking about or not, Elpis didn’t know for sure, which bothered them a little...she was a being they’d created. They could make life, in some sense of the word. Once they had...they didn’t really know what they were allowed to do then. “Maybe,” they admitted quietly, frowning a little. “I never thought I’d be...like this. I never thought I’d get out at all, and now, I’m...whatever the House is. Is there a name for us? I don’t know. Am I a god?” They chewed their lip a little as the dog yawned. “I’m not...better than it is,” they managed finally, sliding down the wall and hugging their knees close to their chest. “I mean, she doesn’t even have a name. Just like I didn’t. Maybe the House didn’t even consider giving me a name.” They sighed. “Sorry,” they offered after a moment. “This isn’t helpful.”
“Maybe we won’t ever find out why,” Orpheus murmured after a long moment, looking up from the dog so they could meet Elpis’ eyes. “But maybe that has to be okay. There are a lot of other mysteries in the world, I think… if there are a couple that we can’t be expected to solve, that’s probably okay. And I don’t think either of us will ever find out this one unless we talk to the House face to face… and even if we do, we don’t know for sure that it will tell us the truth.” Orpheus knew they were a lot more okay with leaving mysteries unsolved than Elpis was. Elpis and L were similar that way… but there were things that they could encourage Elpis to focus on for the moment that weren’t quite so impossible. Hopefully. “God…” Orpheus repeated the word, tasting it for a long moment before they looked back up at Elpis. “I might be the wrong person to ask about that. But I would caution you against thinking of yourself as a god, if only because it could make you believe that you’re better than everyone else. That you have the right to mess with their lives simply because you’re a god and they’re not. Something a lot of gods don’t seem to realize is they’re just as fallible as anyone else. The mistakes they make… they can cost a lot of lives, though. Gods are willing to waste those lives to further their agenda, and excuse me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that’s the kind of person you want to be.” Orpheus took a breath in, glancing over in surprise as the dog yawned. It seemed she was getting comfortable here. “You could give her a name,” they commented after a moment, their hand coming to rest at the top of the dog’s head. “But only if you want to.”
The idea of unsolved mysteries burned Elpis. They frowned, uncomfortable with the thought of impossible knowledge...they wanted to know. They felt like they needed to know. Was it possible Orpheus was okay with not knowing? Did they not feel the same need Elpis did? The same desire to know everything they possibly could? They looked up, losing their train of thought as Orpheus continued, green eyes wide and searching. “Oh,” they murmured, a small frown touching their face. “That sounds like the House. Maybe it thinks of itself as a god, then. Able to do whatever it wants just because it can. It has power. It’s stronger than you are.” They genuinely didn’t know whether it was stronger than they were. They wondered if it knew that. It seemed possible that it was as nervous about them as they were about it. The fact remained that they didn’t have a name for what they were. They looked up, searching Orpheus’ eyes. They wanted to talk to the House, more than they were willing to admit, but they also trusted Orpheus completely, and if they would prefer they didn’t call themself a god? Their frown deepened. “The only one who might have any answers won’t talk to me,” they said quietly. “I’ve searched and studied and asked famous people from different worlds, and the problem is that no one actually seems to agree on anything, and no one is even talking about what I am in the first place.” They sighed deeply, and looked at the dog, who was watching them with mistrustful eyes. They stared at each other for a long moment. Elpis blinked first. “You could name her,” they replied, waving a hand. “She likes you.”
“Yes, the House is stronger than I am,” Orpheus agreed, lifting their gaze up to meet Elpis’. “Do you think that makes it worth more than me? Do you think its life should be prioritized over mine, or that it should be allowed to hurt me because I’m weaker?” It wasn’t an accusation, just a genuine question. Orpheus knew they were supposed to be helping Elpis with morality, but they didn’t actually know where he was starting from. Did Elpis have a basic understanding of morals? Orpheus knew the questions they had posed were difficult. People could debate them for years without ever reaching an agreement, but Orpheus’ chance wasn’t going to change. If you had power, it was your responsibility to help the people who didn’t, not hurt them. They didn’t want to make Elpis a carbon copy of their own ideals, but they also knew that Elpis could be very dangerous if ever they decided that they could hurt humans with no consequences because they were powerful enough to do that. They just needed to establish that having power didn’t make you better than anyone else. It didn’t give you the right to hurt people unless they had given consent first, and people very rarely gave consent to be hurt. This situation was a little bit unique. “Maybe one day the House will answer you,” Orpheus murmured, shaking their head a little bit. “But even then, you don’t know if it will tell you the truth. And… the House may not be right about things. Just like humans might not be right about things. Morality is complicated, and people always have different opinions. Actually… people have different opinions on almost everything. I’m sorry there aren’t easier answers. I wish… I wish there were. I wish I could promise that there were answers at all.” Orpheus turned their attention back to the dog, gently resuming his soft strokes along her neck. “Eiar,” they whispered, looking up at Elpis. “Spring. She’s spring. The beginning of… of something new. For both of us.”
Elpis frowned, taking the questions to heart. They didn’t have an immediate answer to them, and they didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Surely it was a good thing that they didn’t make assumptions...surely it was better to figure it out than to never wonder at all. Or maybe it wasn’t. That was what they were trying to figure out, wasn’t it? “Maybe,” they answered doubtfully, staring at the dog. Their own creation. A life, by some definition. They weren’t sure whether that was the right definition, but they had personal reasons for hoping it was, “if...if the House can do whatever it wants...then why shouldn’t it? If the House is stronger, then what else is stopping it from doing what it wants?” They chewed their lip. “I don’t know about being worth more,” they added after a moment. “Do people have worth in the first place? To whom? If it has more worth, I’d want to know why, I think. But does it really need more worth? If it can do whatever it wants, it’s probably not worried about worth in the first place. It probably just does things because it wants to. I don’t know what it thinks, but...but that’s the impression I have. Which adds up.” They fell silent, thinking. It was a difficult question. They couldn’t tell whether they were even on the right track or not, and they didn’t know how Orpheus might reply. “That’s the problem with it. I can’t just look in its head to see if it’s lying to me,” they added, frowning. “It’s not as simple as that. It could tell me whatever it wanted, and wouldn’t know the difference.” They sighed a little. “There have to be answers,” they added firmly. “There have to be. Every question has an answer. You just...have to find it.” The dog caught their attention again. They looked at her - Eiar - and managed a small, genuine smile. “Eiar,” they repeated, tasting it. “It suits her, I think. Even if I don’t know what this is the start of.”
“You know what it looks like when the House does whatever it wants,” Orpheus replied, brow raising a little as they looked at Elpis. “Can you honestly say you would wish that on other people just because there’s nobody who can keep the House in check? Just because it’s capable of doing something doesn’t mean that it should.” They weren’t sure if that would make sense to Elpis… they just knew that Elpis had been at the receiving end of an unchecked House, a House that did whatever it wanted because it didn’t matter what other people thought or felt. Orpheus had always wanted to change that. They had always wanted to make the House aware that lives mattered, that other people had feelings… but they supposed it was entirely possible that the House just didn’t know what loss or pain felt like. Maybe, like Elpis, it was trying to learn. Maybe it was just going about that in a way that hurt people because nobody had ever told it that there were other people whose lives mattered. “I believe people have an inherent worth,” Orpheus said after a moment, gaze catching on Elpis’. “Everyone has something to add to the world, but I don’t believe that anyone’s worth eclipses anyone else’s. The most brilliant person in the world is worth just as much as the world’s cruelest criminal… they’re both people. Both of them have things to add and contribute, even if it’s in a negative way. And people are always capable of changing. Well… that’s what I believe, anyway. I know plenty of people would disagree with me.” In fact, they were fairly certain that L would disagree with them on that, and L was better acquainted with the worst of humanity. “You know, Elpis… there are a lot of things that are subjective. Things that may not have factual answers because the answer varies by person. I think… a lot of people ask, at one point or another, why they’re here. Why do they exist? But there may not be a real answer to that. I suppose… for you the House might have those answers, but you may never know them. So you’re a lot like humanity in that you have to decide what your life’s purpose is. You have to decide the meaning behind your own life. Nobody else is capable of doing that for you.” They let their gaze fall back down to the dog, a small smile on their face as they waited to see how she reacted to her new name.
Elpis blinked. Orpheus was right, of course. They’d been powerless for a very, very long time, at the mercy of the House’s whims and desires. They hadn’t been free nearly as long as they’d been trapped, but somehow, it was hard to remember one while living the other. It wasn’t like they had nightmares. They didn’t sleep. They opened their mouth, then closed it again, words failing them. They couldn’t decide whether they understood the point Orpheus was trying to make. “I didn’t say I’d wish that on anyone,” they replied finally. “I wouldn’t. I don’t have any desire to hurt anyone for no reason. I just don’t know if that makes it wrong. Does it?” They didn’t really trust their own (lack of a) sense of morality. It seemed safest to go along with Orpheus’, even if they didn’t quite understand it. They were asking questions, true, but they were going to accept anything Orpheus replied with. Orpheus had had longer (relatively speaking) to figure it out, and they also had the bonus of a moral compass. “Is the House a person?” They added quietly. “Does it have inherent worth? Do you believe it’s capable of change, too?” They wanted to ask more, but they resisted, sliding down slowly until they were laying on the floor and staring at the ceiling. They felt the dog’s eyes on them along with Orpheus’, and they thought her gaze might have been a little more judgmental. “Well...what’s your life’s purpose?” They said finally, turning their head to look at them, even if they were sideways. “Maybe that can be mine, too. Does it work that way? I don’t know what kinds of things are okay to be life purposes.” They didn’t move from their position on the floor as they thought that over. “I just want to know one thing for absolute certain.” The dog stared mistrustfully at Elpis for a long moment, then looked at Orpheus, head tilting. She leaned gently against them and lowered her head a little, unimpressed with the conversation and unaware that she’d been named.
“There aren’t any clear answers in morality,” Orpheus managed after a long moment, staring at the ground. He wanted to tell Elpis there were. He wanted to tell them that what the House did was wrong, full stop, no questions. “I wish there were, but everyone has a slightly different moral compass. For me… and for everyone who’s been affected by the House, I think we all think it’s wrong. I doubt the House thinks that, but we tend to justify our own actions above all else… so you could do something that’s seen as absolutely heinous by the rest of the universe, but it could be fully justified in your head. It’s complicated. I wish I had a better answer than that. But… for me… yes, it’s wrong. It’s very, very wrong. And I guess I’m steering you towards my version of morality… once you learn that, you can make your own decisions about morality, I think. It would be doing you a disservice to tell you there’s only absolute answers, though. And I won’t do that to you.” In Orpheus’ eyes, that would scarcely be better than what the House had done to Elpis, and he couldn’t accept that. “Yes,” he added after a long moment, looking at the floor instead of Elpis. “I believe that the House is a person. I believe that in spite of the things it has done, it has worth, and we shouldn’t pretend it doesn’t. I still… I still think that if I had the right chance, if I were able to talk to it in the right situation… it might be willing to change. But I can’t make it… it has to choose to change on its own. I don’t know if it will ever agree to that.” Orpheus’ expression grew a little more subdued and he turned his entire attention to Eiar, not wanting to admit that his life was over. That he didn’t really have a life purpose now that he was dead. He should have been in the Underworld, either suffering eternal punishment or living in “paradise.” It wouldn’t have been paradise without L, but at least he would have had L to look forward to… “When I was alive,” he managed, voice small as his hand stilled on Eiar’s flank, “My life purpose was to improve other people’s lives with music as much as I could. I thought… if I could make their lives better, then maybe my own would have meaning. I don’t know if I succeeded or not.”
It wasn’t the answer Elpis had wanted, or even the one they’d expected. Admittedly, they’d had no expectations, so they weren’t disappointed so much as they were confused. “So...it’s subjective?” They tried carefully, aware that it would be very easy to misunderstand what they were saying. It seemed more complicated than they’d thought. Less clear cut. They frowned a little, unsure how to feel about that. “I’m asking because even if you don’t want me to think of myself as a god, I’m extremely powerful,” they added, in case an explanation would help. “I’m probably capable of causing a lot of harm if I don’t figure this out. If the House is wrong and doesn’t know it, what’s to stop me from making the same mistakes? I don’t...feel the things you do. I don’t know if it would even be hard or uncomfortable for me to hurt people. I don’t want to hurt anyone, but that’s not the same thing as it making me physically uncomfortable. There are a lot of things I don’t want to do that I may want to do at some point. It’s probably best I know what’s okay and what isn’t before I go down that road.” They fell silent, listening. Orpheus’ answer didn’t surprise them, but it didn’t make them feel any better, either. “You could probably do it. If it would listen to you,” they added finally. “If it has worth, and all people have worth, but that’s just your view of morality, then...wait, but they can’t both have worth and not have worth. Right? So you have to be at either right or wrong about that.” If they were capable of getting a headache, they might have gotten one now. Eiar looked up as Orpheus stopped petting her and gave a tiny yip of protest, or possibly concern. Elpis was relieved that she wasn’t looking at them anymore. For something they’d created, she seemed to have decided to make up her own mind about things. They were a bit proud of her for that, really. “Well,” they murmured at last, sitting up to meet Orpheus’ eyes. “I can’t say whether you succeeded, but...you make my life a lot better. I didn’t even have a life before I met you.”
“Nobody really exists who can confirm whether or not people have worth. It’s up to each individual person to decide what they believe. I mean…” Orpheus trailed off, their brow furrowing as their thoughts flew away from them. It took them a few moments to get back on track, the crease in their brow remaining as they recollected what they had been about to say. “I think that everyone has worth. There are people who think that only people that contribute to society have worth. But contributing to society can have different meanings, and that depends almost entirely on a person’s individual beliefs. I think someone is contributing if they do something as simple as make someone else smile. But plenty of people believe that people who don’t have jobs aren’t contributing. It’s all… well, it’s all sort of a mess. And some people believe that others have to earn their worth in order to be treated with respect. I disagree with those people – they tend to be the people who don’t treat children with respect because they haven’t done anything to deserve respect yet – but that doesn’t mean that we can just discount their point entirely.” Orpheus knew they were rambling, but they wanted to lay it out as clearly as they could for Elpis. Their head felt… odd. It felt… lighter, in a way, though they didn’t quite understand why. Part of them wanted to mention it to Elpis, but Elpis had enough on their plate right now. They didn’t need Orpheus complaining about something they obviously weren’t causing. If it was Elpis, the lightness wouldn’t be quite so subtle. Perhaps it was just the feeling of being free from the House for the first time in so long… “Oh,” Orpheus murmured, shaking out of it enough to resume lightly petting Eiar’s fur. “Sorry, girl. I got a little bit distracted, I think.” They tried to make up for some of the petting Eiar had missed out on by scratching behind her ears, trying to find the sweet spot. “I’m glad you’re free now,” Orpheus commented, their voice loud enough for Elpis to hear, though they didn’t move their gaze from the dog. “I’m glad I was able to help you do that, even though it ended up like this. I need… I need you to know that I wouldn’t undo it, even if I had a chance to. Even if I knew what was coming.”
Morality seemed very subjective for something that mattered so much. Elpis wasn’t sure how they felt about that discovery. Confused, mostly. But they believed Orpheus, and they listened quietly as they spoke, not wanting to interrupt. Their forehead creased a little as Orpheus trailed off, but they didn’t think much of it. Orpheus was doing a lot of thinking at the moment, they were probably just trying to figure out how to word things in a way Elpis would understand. “Well, I’ve never contributed to society,” they pointed out. “So I wouldn’t be worth anything in their view. But you thought I was worth something before I was real...is that what you mean? That I had worth because in a way, I existed?” It was hard, but they wanted to get it right. And Orpheus at least seemed to have some answers, even if they were confusing. They didn’t know anything was wrong. All they knew was that Orpheus was trying to help them and they weren’t sure it was working very well. Eiar seemed to take the scratches as enough of an apology. She panted lightly, relaxing against Orpheus and quietly enjoying the attention. If she’d been wary of them before, it seemed to be completely gone now. The sweet spot was found and she pressed her head into his hand to encourage him to continue. Elpis watched her, then watched Orpheus watch her, their expression softening a little. It was nice to see them happy, and Eiar seemed to bring it out in them. “Are you sure?” They murmured, not looking away. “Because I don’t know if I would let you do it again, after...this. I don’t know. It doesn’t feel fair that you should have to live through this, just because you met me.”
“Yes,” Orpheus replied confidently, a small smile touching their lips. “You had worth from the moment the House created you, because you had the potential to touch lives, whether the House was aware of that or not. Eiar has worth too, for the same reason. Even if I’m the only life she ever touches, that’s one person who wouldn’t be the same without her. I wouldn’t be the same without you. You’ve changed me… you’ve changed the House… you’ve changed every single person you’ve interacted with, and the ability to touch lives and exist in that way… that means you have worth. The universe… or… or rather the collection of universes… could never be the same without you. In Orpheus’ eyes, Elpis was real from the first time they had met them. Elpis had stood there and talked to them, they had spoken and had an actual conversation, though Orpheus was fairly certain they hadn’t explained thing as well as they could have now. Love was complicated. Orpheus didn’t know how to describe it even now, but they were getting closer to a song that might be able to just barely touch on the feeling of it. The emotion of love was powerful enough that just a splinter of it could raze a city. Orpheus’ hand moved to their temple, frowning a little bit at a vague, odd feeling in their head. They couldn’t tell what it was, but they were tired and hungry. Should they tell Elpis that? Elpis knew what their favorite food was. They liked… they liked… they couldn’t’ remember what they liked to eat. They frowned, trying not to focus on it. They could get to it when there weren’t other situations to deal with. Orpheus pushed the thought away, instead focusing back on Eiar. They couldn’t help but smile at the way she seemed desperate to be touched as much as humanly possible. Orpheus was more than happy to oblige. “I’m sure,” they said after a long pause. “Fair or not… your freedom is worth a lot. And… in my mind… your friendship is worth more. Now I know that when I see you, you’ll always be yourself. Not what the House wanted you to be.”
“Oh,” Elpis murmured, taking that in. “What about someone who never touched any lives? Someone who no one ever knew existed at all? Would they still have worth?” They looked at Eiar. She seemed to have decided not to worry about Orpheus anymore, ans was enjoying the pets she was receiving, his eyes half shut and he mourn half open in a look of utter contentment. They looked at Orpheus again, searching their eyes. “What if the House had created me in a vacuum and then destroyed me? Or...what if I’d existed and not even the House knew about me?” Truthfully, they still didn’t understand love, either. They knew more than they had, jusr from watching, and they’d figured that Orpheus and L probably loved each other mutually after all, but they didn’t really know what it would feel like. If it was as all encompassing as Orpheus said it was...well, they were curious whether it was possible for a being like themself and the House to feel it. Maybe the House was curious about it too, maybe the House was trying to understand a concept it wasn’t capable of knowing. Maybe that was what Elpis was doing, too. They weren’t paying much attention to Orpheus, but they did notice their frown. They blinked, green eyes alert as they watched, waiting for...something. They weren’t sure what. Maybe something was wrong? “Oh,” they murmured, processing their words. “I...feel like your friendship is worth a lot to me, too. I’m glad we can be friends. And when I free you...we can actually do things, other than fight the House.” They hesitated, watching them closely. “Are you...alright? You seemed fine a minute ago, but now you seem different. Is it the anger? Is it coming back?” They poked in their head a little, trying to see if they could find the problem. Maybe they could help with the anger again? Although they didn’t seem upset so much as they seemed...just off.
“I think existing by definition means that you touch some lives,” Orpheus replied, though they could see why Elpis had pounced on the theoretical. “But… I think that person would still have worth. If nobody knows they existed, though, there’s nobody who refuses to treat them with respect. There’s nobody who might hurt them without thinking about them as a person, because nobody knows they’re there. But… I don’t think it would be possible for you to exist in a vacuum where even the House didn’t know about you. Even if you did, though… your life would still have value. I don’t know how to explain why I believe that, but… but you’re alive. You’re human. Even if you don’t touch lives, you have the potential to, and that’s almost more important, in my mind. You have the potential to make other people’s lives better, and the potential to make them worse. Never meeting anyone else in your life doesn’t erase that potential.” Something was definitely wrong, but Orpheus couldn’t quite place what it was. They wanted to say something, but their mind was loud, raging at them even as Elpis spoke. They winced, one hand going to their temple as they tried to figure out what was causing all of the noise. “I… no, I’m not angry. I don’t think. I…” they frowned, staring at the ground as though trying to understand how they had gotten there. They remembered who they were. They remembered what was happening, but something felt like it was missing. “I don’t know,” they decided eventually, searching Elpis’ gaze. “I think I’m fine. Am… am I fine? Are you doing something else?” This didn’t feel like Elpis. Elpis wasn’t subtle, and this was… this was… understanding hit Orpheus like a brick. “The barrier you put up to protect us from the House… is it still up?”
Elpis nodded a little, thought Orpheus’ explanation seemed hard to define. Still, the general idea seemed to be that everyone had worth no matter what, and they could work with that. Orpheus seemed sure about it. They didn’t know whether they had some reason to be sure or not, but...they trusted them. Orpheus had a much better sense of these things than they did, and they thought Orpheus probably knew what they were talking about where they explained things. They planned to just go with what they said, for the time being, so they didn’t mess up. It was much easier than trying to figure everything out at once. They looked up as Orpheus winced and tensed, frowning a little. There was no change they could detect in their brain...there was nothing wrong. Orpheus shouldn’t have been feeling anything in that moment, there was no way Elpis could explain what was happening. They couldn’t even tell what exactly was happening. “Orpheus?” They asked, concern heavy on their voice. Was it a side effect? Wouldn’t they be able to feel that I’m their head? What...what was wrong? They froze, Orpheus’ next words sinking in deep. Fear glowed in their green eyes for a long moment as they hesitated, then reached out, feeling for it...it had to be there… It wasn’t there. “House.” It was a greeting, but there was something different in their voice now, somerhing between respect and fear.
Orpheus was more than happy to have Elpis copy their style of morality, try to accept their thoughts on the matter… at least for now. Ideally, Elpis would eventually branch out and come up with their own opinions, but until then… Orpheus was more than happy to help guide them. They thought they had a pretty good handle on right and wrong, though they knew they were more forgiving and more trusting than most people tended to be. Well… it wouldn’t hurt anything if Elpis gave people the benefit of the doubt, at first. They deserved people who were willing to give them that courtesy, especially since they were likely mostly going to be dealing with people who both knew of (and highly disliked) the House. Part of Orpheus hoped that Elpis never had the misfortune of running into Kelsier. They weren’t certain that the Mistborn would be willing to give Elpis a chance before deciding they were in the wrong just because of what they could do. They couldn’t remember where they had gotten their morals, though… their eyes narrowed and they gave a soft gasp, trying to sort it out in their head. It was… why couldn’t they remember… they pressed their palms to their temples, sinking slowly to their knees as they tried to figure out what was happening. What the House was doing, because Elpis wouldn’t have addressed it if it wasn’t here… “I’ll go with you,” they managed, squeezing their eyes shut. “Leave Elpis alone, please.”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jun 16, 2021 16:35:25 GMT -5
Elpis trusted Orpheus completely. They didn’t want to mess this up, they wanted to figure out how to make good choices and not become like the House. They were aware that Orpheus probably worried that they might...it wasn’t much of a leap. They were a being like the House. No one knew what had happened to the House, or where it had come from. It was entirely possible the House had been created and then killed its creator. Or maybe it’s creator was still out there, somewhere. Or maybe the House wasn’t created at all...there were too many possibilities and no information. The House wouldn’t tell them, Elpis had tried. They weren’t thinking much about where the House was from, though. They were thinking of where it was now. Namely, here, with them. They tried not to be afraid of it. Orpheus was afraid, they could tell even without feeling in their head, but Elpis...Elpis was what it was. They didn’t need to fear it, not anymore. They didn’t want to fear it. It was hurting Orpheus. Or...at least changing them. Taking them away. Elpis glanced at them, then closed their eyes, trying to feel where the House was. “House, don’t,” they said it with a little more desperation than they’d intended to. “Don’t...don’t hurt them. Please.” What could they do? What good were these abilities here? They couldn’t make the House listen to them, they couldn’t make it stop this. They couldn’t even tell how to find it unless it wanted to be found.
Orpheus felt themself fading. It would be so easy to sink into it, to let oblivion wash over them at the hands of the House, to just… relax and let the House decide what to do with them. It had taken over so many times before… the sinking was a familiar feeling. Still, Orpheus fought to understand what was happening. He fought to look at Elpis, to move forward, to take their hand. “It’ll… it’ll be okay,” they managed, forcing their lips into a smile. The expression felt foreign, though they didn’t know why. “Come find me…” they winced, something in their head shifting and breaking off their thought. “Hi,” they said, their voice completely changing to something cheerful and unworried. There were no memories left. Nothing to distinguish Orpheus from any House creation. “My name is… is… my name is Nathaniel. It’s a pleasure to meet you. This place feels… wrong.” Orpheus pulled their hand back, taking a few uncertain steps away from Elpis. “I think I’d like to go home.” They didn’t know what ‘home’ was, just that it would get rid of the bad feeling. All they had was a name that wasn’t theirs and a smile that hurt when it pulled at their features. And just like that, the House reclaimed them, whisking them off to its own labyrinth of rooms and doors.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jun 16, 2021 19:46:45 GMT -5
Elpis wanted to fight, to do something to stop this, to make it right, but they couldn’t. There was nothing, nothing they could do but watch as their friend was taking over again, as the House stole them away. They weren’t enough to stop it. They weren’t good enough to make it okay. They squeezed Orpheus’ hand as they took it, breathing in as they met their eyes, “I’ll find you again,” they managed, but it was too late. Orpheus was gone. This was a stranger. They let them pull their hand back. They didn’t try to stop it. There was no point, they couldn’t fix it, they weren’t what they needed to be. “It’s...nice to meet you, Nathaniel,” they murmured, trying to keep the panic out of their voice. They knew they didn’t have much time left. The House was - And Orpheus was gone. “No!” They reached forward, trying to grab for them, but it was too late. They were gone. Elpis turned, staring around the room. “House. Please...just let me talk to you. House, please!”
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