Jaxen swings his legs over the edge of the couch

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Jaxen swings his legs over the edge of the couch. He inhales sharply. Moving faster did not make his injuries anymore bearable. Using the arm of the couch to prop himself up, he places his weight on his good leg. Doing an odd one legged limping hop, Jaxen makes his way down the hallway.

Paper faded yellow with age, depicting drawings and sketches of people line the walls, covering the peeling wallpaper underneath. Pausing, Jaxen catches his breath and takes a moment to study the pictures. It reminds him, in a way, of the portrait gallery in his own home. Though he had to admit; he likes this better. The smiling faces had a homey feel, whereas giant paintings tend to feel kind of smothering. Jaxen looked closer at a few of the images. They had been rendered with such care that, even though he had only seen them once, he could recognise the faces of Ebba and Sylvie. He spots Aeris, but there was only one of her.

The clanging of metal from the end of hallway lures him in. Pushing himself from the wall, he continues to limp down the hall. He passes two doors, one on his left and one to his right before he stops. Movement out of the corner of his eye has him looking to his left. A small mirror hangs crookedly on the wall.

Slowly, Jaxen brings a hand to his face. He had never seen it before. Right from birth, Aetherians wore their mask, different pieces added and extended as they grew. There had never been a moment in his life he had been without it. With a start, he realises the faces of those three girls were the first he had ever seen. Sweeping back the hair that hung in dark waves around his shoulders, a sore point with his aunt, out of his way, Jaxen takes in his dark eyes set under heavy brows, the long nose and point of his chin, and decides; he rather likes his face.

"You done preening yet, Aetherian?"

Jaxen turns at the voice and finds Aeris leaning against the doorway, watching him with raised eyebrows.

Heat warms his cheeks as he mumbles, "I found something to trade."

"Well, when you're done admiring yourself, come through," Aeris says, heading into the room behind her.

Jaxen steals one last quick glance in the mirror. As his eyes travel down his face, he notices a white marking on his chest, poking through his shirt. Pushing his coat out of the way, he can now see a singed hole in the shirt. Pulling down on the neckline, an oddly shaped burn mark appears the stark white in contrast with his dark skin. The shape of the burn seems familiar to him, and he looks at the stone pendant around his neck. Its shape matches perfectly to the burn.

"Aetherian! You coming through or what?"

Putting the thought of the burn from his mind, Jaxen limps into the next room. There would be time to figure out what happened, once he had secured his mask. The second room was larger than the first, but if anything, in a worse state of disrepair. Along the right side of the wall curving onto the wall in front of him was a long workbench, at which Aeris was seated. A door between two lengths of material was on the left, and another table faces it.

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