When Caleb Segal first met Erythreus Ailward, he’d been a different person. Not physically, but mentally. Three years ago when the human had wandered into Evermore, his heart had been completely shattered by the death of his fiance. Now, things were different. So much had changed. The changes in Caleb were not obvious at first - but upon observing him it was clear that time had made many strides. He smiled more and laughed among friends. His shoulders were not so heavy with nightmares or a lack of sleep. The invisible burden that he’d always carried had begun to lift. His life in Evermore was as free as he remembered being as a child, long before death had begun haunting his footsteps and reaping the people that he loved. Caleb still carried his mother, his son, and his past love in his heart, and the tattoos on his left arm reminded him everyday of how far that he had come. It was not that there was a lack of pain, now, but simply that the good (most days) outshined it. 

Caleb had a lot of fondness for the gazebo on the Ailwards lake. It had been his place to think ever since he’d first found it and after that it became a meeting place for himself and a certain Octavia Ivakov who both confused and delighted him. Today, the young man walked towards the lake with his pet labrador in tow. The sun was high in the sky, but there was a bitter wind that nipped at his hands. “Heel, Chasse.” He commanded the dog to stop at the dock, taking in his surroundings. The trees had lost their leaves by now and their tall branches extended into the sky with barren and crotchety fingers. 

The dog panted happily by his side and Caleb bent down to give his faithful companion a scratch between the ears. As he did this, he couldn’t help but eye a familiar figure pacing on the other side of the lake -- tall, blonde, and stiff in the shoulders, wearing a black cloak and heavy boots. The artist watched as the aspect reached for a set of stones and skipped them across the water. He’d done the same himself many times. It seemed that the amount of stones by the edge of the pool always regenerated, despite the habit of many to throw them back inside. Perhaps, there was some type of magical charm that did that. The human knew better than to underestimate the power of magic around this place. It had a certain stillness that even if he hadn’t known magic was real would have set it apart from the world. 

Caleb guided the dog off the dock and around the bend towards where one of his former guardians was standing. He wasn’t sure what to say to someone who’d seen him in such darkness, after so long, with miscommunication and silence in between them. Luckily, Chasse did not care and bounded towards the other man with enthusiasm and a great big woof. It had been the two of them that had rescued his former puppy self, after all.  As he was caught interrupting, Caleb scratched his ear and attempted to smile. “Salut. Long time no see.”

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People say that time heals all wounds, and maybe that saying is true. However it wasn’t something Erythreus had experienced yet. Perhaps not enough time had gone by, but who had more time than him an aspect who didn’t age. A lot of things had changed since he’d left isle of sky with the rest of the aliward family. Summer had turned to fall and fall to winter several times. He’d fallen in and out of love with different blondes. Lost and gained new friends. Still his appearance was just the same as it had been the day he was named Aspect of death. Not a single wrinkle had added to his face since then. The gift of immortality. Forever frozen in time. 

What had changed was his mood. The aspect of death had never been described as a cheerful guy. Sure he could be but being surrounded by death and dark magic wasn’t very compatible with a good mood. He didn’t know what had changed. Why the burden felt so much heavier now, which made him back away from his duties spending more and more time away drunk in a bar. I couldn’t bear being around the other aliwards being their concerned faces knowing that he destroyed their happiness causing him to isolate himself even more, pondering what decisions had lead him to this.

This day the broody aspect had for once awakened before noon, dreams and memories haunting his sleep. It was dawn and the rest of the mansion was sleeping. Erythreus knew he was supposed to notify one of the guards if he meant to leave the mansion, a role he never followed. Actually it was almost a hobby for him sneaking out of the house unnoticed. It was a silly rule really, as if he a giant mortal creature would need a baby sitter pfft. Sure things had been strained between them and the celestials a while and therefore also with their allies the valkyries. Another cause for his depression. Another decision that haunted him. 

Ery took his cloak and snuck out before anyone could stop him, not knowing exactly where to go. After wandering aimlessly a while he arrived at the lake. The sound of the waves gave a soothing noice. The aspect of death picked up a rock and skipped it across the lake watching it bounce on the transparent surface, when his supernatural hearing picked up on someone approaching. The dog reached him first jumping excitedly around his legs. ”Hey there Boy” the giant greeted bending down to pet the furry dog. His eyes then landed on Caleb a human he´d come to see as his friend, but somewhere along the way they had drifted apart. The brown haired man didn’t look quite as well as the last time he’d seen him with tousled hair and dark shadows under his eyes, as if he too was having a hard time. ”Yes it certainly has been C, here for a late night lovers meeting?” the blunt aspect couldn’t help but ask.

Caleb was not surprised as his dog bounded off to greet his old friend. They were best buds, after all. It had been quite a cathartic and strange adventure to rescue Chasse from the pound during those first few weeks in Evermore. Overtime, he had fallen out of touch with the older aspect. He was surprised that his old friend still new some of the details of his life, but they shared small circles and within small circles news traveled fast. He was still happily adjusting to his new relationship status with Octavia. It all seemed to fall together. Piece by piece.

He liked the things that he saw on the horizon. For once, they made him smile. It was difficult to hide that. He supposed that the shadows under his eyes were from the many nights spent awake, but they were no longer plagued with nightmares. If anything, he would have been worried that it was laughter which would have woken the rest of Evermore. 

"Uh," Caleb flushed at Ery's blunt observation. He should have remembered. "No, actually. Just a walk. As I remember, we both seem to have the age old preference for night to day."

That hadn't changed. 

Caleb placed his hands in his pockets, walking forwards. "It's been a long time."

He looked away before meeting his friend's eyes. "I'm sure being alone is nice with the burden of your work. It cannot be easy."

Even as a human, he had tried to carry the burden of the deaths of three. It had broken him to the core. Only upon letting go had he finally seen the importance of life. 

A lot had changed, but the basics of the world still spun around them. People were born and people died. Sometimes, far too closely together. The man standing in front of him was the one who cared for every soul who had finished their journey.

Caleb felt comfort in knowing that the three whom he'd lost had been taken by familiar hands. 

The pair walked in silence along the shore of the lake. "It's been nearly two years. Tell me -- what have you been up to?"

Erythreus had always been fond of animals, especially dogs. There was something about their unlimited happiness and loyalty towards their owner that spoke to him. In his experience that was rare in humans, such blind loyalty and altruism. Betrayal for personal gain almost the humans trade mark. The aspect had seen his fair share of that over the years. He’d encountered many angry souls deprived of living for such behaviour.

The blond giant had considered getting a dog of his own several times. Someone to call his own that wouldn’t leave him no matter what flaws it discovered. However the aspect had always come to the conclusion that he couldn’t care for one if he couldn’t even care for himself. The dangerous life he lived he couldn’t expose an innocent creature to that. Also the lifespan of a dog was so short compared to his endless which would lead to heart break every decade or so. Was it worth it? Erythreus had decided it wasn’t but still at his most solemn moments he wished he had a loyal companion cherishing him whatever horrible decision he made. 

The aspect of death wasn’t known for keeping up with the gossip. It was the more characteristic and outgoing  aspects like Viridideus and Aurantias specially. The dead souls haunting him gave some intel but this had just been a lucky guess, which the slight blush on Calebs face confirmed. ”Really not a  walk of shame from a disastrous date?” The blunt male couldn’t help but mock jockingly. It had been a while since he had teased someone.

”I was a valkyr in my previous life, you get used to nights” It had been an easier time but none he was proud of. ”Not exactly” being had alone had been a choice to spare those around him. 

The passed years had gone by in a blur Ery he couldn’t remember any major events happening. ”Nothing much, what about yours” was his simple reply. 

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