The sun was lighting his sketchbook from over his shoulder. He had chosen a window seat that gave him a good view of the brightly dressed crowds that moved by blind and oblivious to his gaze. Rich scents of coffee and tea filled his noes as other patrons moved about the shop with their drinks, taking seats of their own for a brief time out or continuing on with the busy lives. Through it all Sam watched them for splashes of color, unusual patterns or anything that caught his eye.
His hand guided his charcoal over the page effortlessly as he took the inspiration from the flow of people around him to come up with something new. There were clients in Noria who would pay top dollar for an unusual piece of clothing and more still for it to be woven with the magic of House Draper. Sam smiled when he thought about that. His family's name was so simple, yet over the years that they had built their success it had become something more. But to him it was still just a commoner name that carried more weight--in certain circles of course--than it had any right to.
His hand paused and he gazed critically at his drawing. It was of a woman, tall and slender, her body veiled in what would be bright fabric, cut and pleated so that the sunburst pattern would seem to radiate from one side of her to across the other. He had the bright blue, yellow and gold earlier on a trader caravan from the south as it passed his window. He blurred out the darts he had added under the bust, smoothing the flow to suggest light and air rather than structure and rigidity. Taking a sip of his coffee, he wondered if maybe the pattern lent itself better to something with a touch more construction to it.
Remius stood, gaze set to the light filtering into the cafe; trickles of smoke, translucent and tinged a fragrant blue, wafted about the floor. Rose from decanters and incense burners, thick and heavy. They curled beneath tables, churlish and giddy, steady streams broken by the passing of boots. The click of heels, the split of voices. A raucous chorus of remorse slinking through the shadows of the day.
Conversation rang in the air. The chatter of men and women—artisans and imperials, nobles and commoners, ilk both foreign and native—frittered away the afternoon. They sipped at coffee, cast aromatics about them with haphazard grins, and mingled in fashions too resplendent for nonchalance. Marionettes dangling from wires, backs taut and jaws slackened. Throats working wide to fit a casual grace.
Tawdry tinctures embellished the room. Sat at tables, shifted back chairs; outstretched arms and limp shaken hands, all the demure aficion wont of leisure. Remius indulged it.
Velvet and silk swirled about him. Pooled at his calves, at his wrists. Once well-tailored cloth weighed impishly over him, scrapes of flesh sagging from a nascent emaciation. Purple ringed his eyes; a murder of crows wore their weary tracks beneath those half-lidded things. All the coffee, the tea, the forced exertion of this social outing, and none of it could mitigate the fatigue clawing the wan smile from his lips. His shoulders sagged, slouched deep and inward, bony arms crossed over a chest that quavered with shallow breath.
He found himself staring, an idleness leeching from his eyes. He stared, watched, drawn to the skritch of charcoal across parchment, to the figures that crystallized beneath.
"I'm not sure," Sam said without really realizing that someone had been watching him. He was still partially absorbed in thought. "I feel like it needs a bit more structure but when I take it there, it's a bit much. So who knows."
He shrugged and blew the dust off his drawing before turning to see who had commented and nothing could have prepared him for what he saw. It was if death was walking. Emaciated and shriveled, the man looked like he had developed a serious eating disorder then left himself to dehydrate in the sun. However, once Sam got past his initial shock that someone so ill could be moving around, let alone commenting on art, he saw something more.
A silver gleam game to Sam's eyes as he peered deeper, not saying anything, distracted by what he saw. Threads that ran off into nothing spun from the man's body in all directions. The sickening feel they left on Sam's magic meant only one thing...the Shroud had tied itself to this man. Why or how, Sam had no idea, he had never seen or even heard of such a thing.
"Sorry," he said, finding his voice finally. "It's good to know you like the concept! Hopefully the noble lady will find it pleasing as well. There's so much to draw inspiration from in Noria..." Sam spoke things of no importance, simply to fill the necessities of interaction. All while he spoke however, his eyes darted around the man taking in the full scope of what the Shroud was doing to him. The entire time the look in Sam's eyes said one thing...Who are you.
It was a miracle that he was even still standing. Sam guessed that unless something was done the man's life would be fully consumed by the Shroud in a matter of weeks, if not days. Idly, more curious than anything, he plucked at one of the threads with his own magic, willing it to unravel and unspin itself back into raw fiber and away from the man.
The veneer of power unraveled itself from his shoulders; his regalia, his confidence, it came unbound, raw threads dangling about. Sounds came to him, muted and muffled, the sickening din and chorus of remorse both soft and hoarse coursed through the tangles of his existence. Meandered across sinew, crawled beneath flesh, under knuckles that skittered and cracked in vanity as he clung to the effervescent twang of the Shroud.
Remius blanched. His eyes darted, widened. The narrow seams of color, so pale and thin about him came flush, red. A heat saturated his belly, his throat, his cheeks. It drew him tall, up from the slouch that so afflicted him prior. Lent voice to the skritching croon that sought to envelop him. To plunge him into abyssal depths far from the sphere of his control.
A hand shot out. Found purchase on the lip of a table. He quavered there. Shook. Unsteady on his feet. Breathlessly, he tripped headlong after his voice, after the crawling mess of disquiet that threatened to overtake him.
"What," he said, pale lips mouthing the words, a whisper, "have you done?"