Disclaimer: I do not own Magic: The Gathering or any other works that may inevitably be mentioned in this story.

The Art of Losing Oneself

Or Magikē (Tekhnē): '(Art of) a Magus'

Chapter 1

Ardenter

Posted on July 18, 2019

Updated on August 13, 2012

"Ardenter- Eating food too eagerly"

-Summa Theologica (Part 2-2, Question 148, Article 4), St. Thomas Aquinas

It is July of the year 1887 when Delora wakes with drool escaping her mouth and the thought of an amorphous chocolaty thing sitting warmly in her hollow stomach. Harsh pants unwittingly escape her as she futilely tells herself that everything was okay. That whatever the disgusting thing was it would probably taste weird even as her instincts tell her the total opposite.

Inhale

The scent of books, binding glue, the starch used in the cloth coverings and cardboard-covers reaches her nose, the smell of home allowing her harsh breathing to slow. Basking in the scent and memories that come to mind, she slowly opens her eyes, a strained smile the only evidence of trying to avoid the issue of her instincts and how tempting her hunger makes it to eat those things-like chocolate-seem at the moment. That's right, wasn't she supposed to be reading Arthur's book today? Never mind about weird dreams, the details of which were lost in the depths of her mind.

Exhale

What was it called again? Sher-something or other, wasn't it? He told me this one was about a detective and his adventures, saying it was trash and going on a rant as if his words alone could somehow erase the story from existence. Honestly, the man could have a bit more enthusiasm when he tries to sell a book even if I am his friend.

Inhale

And publishing it because he was in dire straits even when it causes him to be so angsty, really? The man could just borrow money if he was so against publishing it, but no, apparently he needs to earn it for himself no matter how bad his situation gets. A quick puff of air escaped her lips at her friend's stubbornness, but she acknowledged that he wouldn't be himself if he did accept money and it wasn't like he was too proud to accept food.

Before she could push the sheets encasing her in their silken folds away a clear ring burst through the usual cacophony of the streets of London as it was coming alive. The scent of chocolate had her jumping up before she reigned herself in like the beast she was becoming. The difficulty increased however at the scent of that thing she wanted becoming clearer, like a cookie with burnt edges. She could see it now. The stark white with black tinging the edges like white chocolate at the center of a cookie with the edges burnt just right.

Exhale

The deep vibration, the calming notes, and hidden inquiry. It came all at once, the realization of what she was listening to.

"Mistress Delora? Mistress?"

Taking one more gulp of air like a drowning man, she held onto the necklace on her neck, limitless seals spanning each chain link even as her hand wore them down further with her constant touch for reassurance. Deep breaths, she's survived this long, one more day shouldn't change things no matter how good anything may smell.

"Mistress?" The boy's ringing voice reached her ears, kicking her back into the moment and causing her to grab a random dress to put on. She pushed her hair back, trying to make herself focus on the sensation of nails scratching her scalp when she flinched away from a particularly sensitive raised patch of skin. That wasn't there earlier, was it? Oh well, probably from when she thrashed in her sleep as she was wont to do.

"Mistress?!"

Flinching at the volume of the shout, she hurriedly heads down the staircase. Not surprised at all when she sees the young boy who read like it was going out of style. "Yes, Ray?"

"Oh, 'el-," his cheeks lit up as his voice cracked but continued on at her encouraging look,"-lo Mistress Delora! I'm here today to exchange this." He passed the package he was carrying.

Quickly but casually, she reached for the book, gaze unerringly pulled towards him even as he moved around the shop browsing, something sitting oh so temptingly right there looking just as she imagined it would. What the hell is that?! And why does it look so tasty? No! He was a customer and what's more, a friend, she couldn't eat whatever that was floating in him! Besides, she had no way of even getting it. Whipping her face away, she turned her gaze over to the package in her hands and opened it to distract herself.

The book was certainly a tiny thing, thin as it was but handsome nevertheless. It's cloth covering a royal blue and the title embossed in gold. It was "Uncle Vanya" by Anton Chekov. Ah yes, now she remembers, the-

"Me Ma told me that I shoulda stopped readin' and I'm supposed to focus on me work. That I ain't some mutton shunter(policeman) or aristocrat with gold falling from every orifice. " Ray spoke, his back turned to her even as he turned her attention, however unfortunately, on himself. Really, she couldn't blame the boy for it. After all, even she didn't know what kind of monster she was becoming at this point and to the boy she was merely human.

Looking up at his back she realized he was trying to be nonchalant about asking for her opinion. "Well," she pondered whether she shouldn't undermine his parents' authority but thinking of the boy who she taught to read she continued," reading could help you get a better job. As you are now you could probably be a chef in a noble's house with a bit more reading and practice." His exuberant turn in happy shock, as if disbelieving that the one who taught him to read wouldn't tell him to give it up, made her lips twitch up and a twinkle appear in her eye, weird condition put on the backburner. Really, this boy. "So, what book would it be today?"

Shooting up as if hit by thunder, the boy practically zapped his way to the desk across her seated form. "Do you got the book you mentioned last time, the rare one you said you had in stock?"

"Do you have the book you mentioned last time, you mean."

At his multiple energetic nods and the dutiful repeating of her words, her smile took over her lips before freezing as another chime of the bell rang out.

Inhale

Immediately, she tried to hold her breath but having already smelt it her imagination ran away from her. Dark, like sinful chocolate, not a single piece of innocence or purity left. And how did she know that? Never mind, what mattered was that it would be bitter the moment it touched her tongue. Opposing that though, it would settle warmly in her tummy like hot chocolate on a cold day.

Turning woodenly the man's way, she saw a black so dark it could rival the night. Looking closely for specks of light like stars within, she realized it was so black there really was nothing else in it. It was vantablack to be precise, eating the light around him as if trying to taint it. She couldn't stop looking at it like a moth to candlelight as her mouth began to water.

Exhale

Enough! Focus on the customer, not how chocolaty it would taste and smoothly it would go do- Catching herself, she watches as the man faces her, dismissing the young man she was talking to as if he was but a speck on his shoe before he starts his request," Good morning Mis-," he scanned her from top to bottom," tress(Miss was what you'd call prostitutes during that time.), I'd like to see your husband?"

"I'm sorry Sir, but I am the owner." Great, another chauvinistic pig of a man. Could she not go a day without dealing with such difficult customers?

"I see, well do you have any grimoires then?

Aborting the move her eyes made to look behind her, she answered the man's query with nary a thought. "In the matter of grimoires, I'm afraid we do not have any."

"What low-class shop doesn't have any grimoires?" Leering at her he opened his mouth as if the first sentence wasn't insult enough," Perhaps you have just remembered your registry wrong? Why don't you check?"

She was speechless, no words would exit her mouth. Her silence was not like a rat cowering before a cat, but it was a predator's silence before a strike. She being the cat in this situation. Her muscles began to tense as she stared at his mesmerizing floating thing within the man and imagined the taste in her mouth. A shout took her out of her trance.

"Do you have a lick of sense, woman? Or are you as empty-headed as you look?"

Her muscles feeling as taut as a string made her eyes dart around to avoid looking at him. "Let me check," she blurted out before making a run for the door to the backroom.

"Fine establishment indeed! Maria was an idiot for-"

His voice cut off as the door shut behind her shaking figure. She needed to get him out! But what- The grimoire! Give him what he wants and get him outoutout. Yes, that should work.

Grabbing the book, she hastened her footsteps, practically throwing the book at the man. Ignoring his insults, she quickly rings in the purchase, handing him a receipt.

Seeing that she was ignoring him and just smiling falsely, the man huffed before turning around. "Incompetent," he began muttering," irresponsible, brainless, halfwit-"

"Hey! That woman is-" She hears Ray start and looks up to see the boy had blocked the richly dressed man. He seemed like a dog, a puppy actually , guarding his master.

"Out of my way, street rat!" And like anyone with a soul that dark would, the man did not hesitate to smack the boy and bodycheck him out of his way.

Unwittingly looking at the man, she thinks one taste shouldn't be too bad. After all, the man deserved it for being so heartless. And like a moth to a flame, she surged forward to grab the back of his shirt and pull him close in a mockery of a passionate embrace. She inhaled deeply, a throaty rumble descending from her lips like the death sentence from a judge before all at once she grabbed for that ephemeral thing and swallowed it.

She moans sensually as the-The soul? Yes, it was a soul and it tasted exactly like she believed it would, maybe even better. She wanted more. Moremoremore. Breathing deeply, she freezes as she spies Ray looking at her in fear. Smelling the alluring scent of cookies she creeps forward like a black widow in her own web before grabbing the boy's leg. She was coherent enough to think through her actions for but a second. And in that moment all she could think is that she couldn't have witnesses after all.

Feeling the hollowness in her tummy ease off, she stretched like a sated lion. Her eyelids flutter lazily before falling shut as she fell into a slight doze even as her body began getting further soaked by liquid. When a chime rang just before a scream followed in its wake she woke to the scent of something she identified in her animalistic state as human. The smell of another soul nearby assaulting her senses. It was, unlike Ray's or her previous customer's, one that was equally tainted and not. Bringing to mind the taste of vegetables mixed with meat kept together by dough and causing her mouth to water once again. Before the woman could even turn back the taste of spring rolls was already permeating Delora's mouth.

Once again alone but for a chiming bell and several bodies, her eyes cleared bit by bit, gaining a more human light to them. Bodies, why were there bodies on the ground? Why did they all seem so hollow as if they were a campfire without flames to their existence? As her situation dawned on her, she scrambled away from the redredred of the ground.

Her breathing was hastening even as she couldn't stop herself from staring at the scene she made. What does she do in a situation such as this? What does she think she should? She could call the Yard? They'd know what to do to get the redredred awayawayaway. She slapped herself to get her mind to clear.

No! They'd call her a murderer and then she'd be a convict for the rest of her life. She could throw the bodies in a ditch-Nonono, she needed to leave. To escape this place where her greatest shame took place. Instead, she'd clean herself up, fix the bodies so it looks like the cruel man was the killer and that Ray died killing him before finding a body dealer to sell it all to. She'd get a tidy sum and the bodies would be disposed of and then, she would sell her house and leave.(I DID THIS ON PURPOSE She's panicking so being illogical would make sense.) Buy a ticket to somewhere far away from humans until she could control herself. Yes, that should work.

Bloodied, she begins trying to fix the bodies, tummy queasy enough she took a moment to breathe away from the bodies before she started. Putting Ray in front of the woman, protecting her, and the cruel male in front she paused. Staring at the scene, she felt something missing and got a knife, cutting the woman's face so it was unrecognizable enough it could've been her and gutting Ray's dead body before doing the same to the noble with the vantablack soul. Shaking, the queasiness reaches a crescendo like a song and she vomits, having the foresight to vomit beside the bodies. Her tummy convulsed, her eyes watering even as she got shakily to her feet.

That's right, she deserves this. Killing poor Ray, who was always ready to learn more. He had the thirst to rise above his station and he could've if she hadn't killed him. That man ensouled with the vantablack soul deserved it, she didn't have the pity in her heart enough for that, but she would shoulder the burden of her guilt for taking a life with her. And that woman whose only crime was visiting her shop. What kind of monster was she? No! She couldn't let her self-hatred consume her now. Not now when she needed to flee as fast as possible. Because even if she hated herself she wanted to live even more. With a sigh, she focused her senses outside her body when the scent of baked cookies unraveled around her.

It can't be! She ate-Looking beside Ray's body the truth of the matter showed itself in the tiny amorphous piece of Ray's soul in the puddle of vomit. Her situation coming to the fore once again, she couldn't take it and ran to get away from all that redredred and the scent of freshly baked cookies.

As fast mice ran away from cats, she ran up the stairs of her home, straight to her bed and buried herself, bloodsoaked as she was, in the blankets. Her gorge rising at the picture in her mind of the soul fragment, she vomited once again. Pushing back her hair, she winces once again at the bump.

Was that as big as it was earlier? No, it couldn't have been. Who was she kidding with such an inane question? The point of the matter was that she let go today and for that 3 people lost their souls, she didn't have the time or the levity to try to imagine if what happened didn't happen. That said, she felt tired.

This wasn't the tiredness that people commonly felt after the end of the day. No, it was a bone-deep exhaustion, pulling her eyes closed even as she tried to get the nerve to return downstairs and fix the bodies more. But, for just a moment she'd like to forget and as that thought flitted through her head, she lost consciousness.

Exhale