WHO Dan Torrance, Serefin Meleski, and an appearance by Velyos WHERE Snooze Room at the Chakrabarti Clinic & psychic mental plains WHEN Tuesday, November 17, late evening WHAT It's finally time to for Dan to lockbox everyone's favorite elder banished god inside Serefin's head. STATUS Complete! WARNINGS Eye horror, blood, generalized spookiness
To say Serefin was nervous was an understatement. He was good at managing stress, excellent at navigating pressure—though the copious amount of wine he drank during the nights in the middle of enemy territory would beg to differ. But the real fear was taking place inside of his head, relentless and unforgiving. He couldn't hide from Velyos, no matter how hard he tried, and once the old god was privy to what Serefin and Dan planned to do, it was a constant, sleepless struggle to not give up control.
Soon, it would all be over soon.
For you, Velyos said, as that sharp pain stabbed through the back of his skull. Serefin managed to stay conscious during that one, but the pressure was building on his mind, under his skin, like Velyos was sinking every hook into every piece of him.
His fingers had curled helplessly against his pant leg, digging bruises into his skin instead of clawing at his face. The blood running from his god-eye down his cheek was a near-constant thing since this morning. He had not slept much the night before either; the brief cool darkness only supplied nightmare after harrowing nightmare of forests, cloaked figures, haunting words of the grisly details Velyos planned to do when he finally took Serefin's other eye.
He squeezed his eye closed, and laid back on the bed in the snooze room. He missed the pumpkin pillows. He missed not drinking before this. He tried not to think about how he would miss the people waiting for him outside this room if this didn't work. If he somehow would not be so lucky from death a second time, a third time.
"Do not be a hero, Dan," Serefin said, attempting to look as casual and calm as possible as he reached one trembling hand up to his eyepatch to remove it. "If you find it more difficult than anticipated, I promise you it will not be worth your life. And I have already made arrangements for a back up plan."
The Snooze Room was quiet, save for the two of them - Dan in there with Serefin, right now, and they were actually doing this. So it was quiet, and the perfect temperature conducive to sleep (on purpose), the air silky and cool. He could handle Velyos though, he was certain of it - he remembered what it was like to make the heavy metal lockboxes, trapping ghosts inside. The same ghosts who hungered for his Shine. Dick taught him how, his spirit shimmering into existence and looking real as anything to a young Danny, there in front of his and his mother’s shabby apartment building in the Florida heat which was muggy and breathing outside was like drinking bath water.
Better than the cold, however. He’d take most anything over the wintry chill of ice and snow.
“I’ll be okay - but I’ll get out if I need to,” he promised Serefin, because no, he wasn’t looking to die again. He’d just married Allison, after all, and had no plans to leave her with everything he’d accumulated in Vallo. “Right now, try to relax - “ It wasn’t a nosebleed, as was often the case with psychic-related messes, but an eyebleed, and Dan was ready with a towel. He dabbed at Serefin’s face and gave him one of those pumpkin pillows to curl up with (he wouldn’t tell anyone, really). “Think of a happy memory for me now, okay? Pull it to the forefront of your mind.” Velyos could fuck off for a second - Dan would see him soon enough.
Try to relax was a monumental task. Serefin was certain he didn't know how to anymore, simply forgotten all those techniques for soothing his brain. Because relaxing meant putting his guard down, and Serefin hadn't, couldn't. Too much risk involved. But all of this was full of inherent danger, and if Serefin didn't push back, then he was going to die from indecision and weakness. Dan wiping away the blood from his face, providing him with a pillow to hold, was a nice reminder that he didn't have to do this alone.
"There are so many, how am I to choose?" Serefin asked, still grasping for sarcasm even on the edge of doing something terrifying. But he searched—home was complicated, most of his happy memories were now tinged with the knowledge that made them retroactively bad. But he had happy ones in Vallo, precious ones of the people he cared about. Anything with Jacob felt solidly good.
He dragged it to the forefront of his mind, settled in it the memory, as he removed the eyepatch and allowed the god-eye out. It was such a brief moment of bliss with one eye closed the other refusing to. "I would like to apologize for anything in advance. Know that I do not mean the things I say or do once you put me to sleep."
If those were going to be his last words, they felt incredibly responsible. Someone would be proud.
“I know,” Dan replied, and he did. He wouldn’t hold anything against Serefin anyway - this had to be terrifying on so many levels, and all Dan wanted to do was help him so he wasn’t having to walk on eggshells with life itself in Vallo, out of fear of a pissy god deciding to push into the driver’s seat and exert dominance. “Just sleep,” his voice was a murmur, a black velvet cloak - he wasn’t surprised that the happy memory involved Jacob, who was right outside the room.
He didn’t linger on observing the memory, just latched on to it and the way it felt - the positivity, the warmth, the way most new relationships felt. That sensation of being at the very tippy-top of a roller coaster at night, close enough to touch the stars, and then that heart-stopping, free-falling descent; you felt like nothing could touch you. That this was all there was, would ever be.
Sleep, he added, psychic tone comforting as a long soak in a hot bath after being caught in freezing rain. Heating up a slice of holiday pie, blankets fresh from the dryer - the memory and Dan’s gentle nudging into slumber was everywhere, and everything, before he reached in with mental fingers and pulled the blinds closed. Sleep.
When he was sure Serefin was out, that’s when he went in - giving a little push; his eyes fogged over, pupils and irises clouded with white, as he jumped and landed. Into the psychic landscape of Serefin’s mind, the organization of his thoughts and memories.
This was a familiar sensation, being nudged into unconsciousness by Dan. He might have enjoyed it more if his first initial reaction wasn't always to resist it. But he had to push past it, give up control, sink into that deep, terrifying darkness. Serefin knew what was waiting there, and just as he knew he was asleep—in that split second between being under and Dan joining him—a hand reached out from that inky abyss, and dragged him down, down, down.
Serefin didn't even get a say, not even a single warning to Dan before his mind felt empty and crowded. So many presences, and out of the three, Serefin was the weakest. Easily overtaken by Velyos, he couldn't fight him, not when the god had been biding his time for this.
It wasn't just Serefin's thoughts and memories Dan stepped into, but an amalgamation of both his and an old malevolent energy. There in the mind's landscape spread a thick dark forest with trees that bled blood instead of sap, working like a wall to keep them closed in. No one could leave.
Within that, a clearing with a stone platform surrounded by statues of gods—the death ones, the chaos ones, the vengeful ones. In the center stood a cloaked figure, dragging the physical manifestation of Serefin's consciousness beside him, like a rag doll.
"Hello, Dan," Velyos said, his voice rough as gravel and bone-chilling. "I believe I am the one you are here for." Velyos extended his free hand as if to say go on, plead your case.
Dan rolled his shoulders, standing straight and tall. “Hello, Velyos,” he greeted smoothly; a stark contrast from the god, whose rumble reminded Dan of crackling coals. The presence of the ancient being, a very old god (and Dan knew there was power in age, in enduring - the evil of the Overlook, that pulsed within its walls, had been ancient too) was ominous - as much as their surroundings, and the way the trees with their dark shadows had become the very backbone of this forest. Or a cage, in this case.
“What’s it going to take, for you to give that up - “ he motioned toward the consciousness Velyos held in his hand, “...and leave him alone?”
Not that Dan had any intention of bargaining with a god. But he could act as if he was open to the idea, just to see what the ‘price’ would actually be.
"See, now that is the problem, is it not?" Velyos stepped closer to Dan, his facial features still hidden by the oversized hood. His head tilted from one side to the other, considering Dan, assessing him. It was slow, the movements jerky and unnatural. The ground around Velyos shimmered and rippled like waves off hot asphalt but space around them spoke of cold, bleak emptiness. The air thrummed with clashing power sources, one from an old god and one from Serefin's blood magic.
"What I want, who I want, is not here. The High King—" Velyos shook Serefin, who stirred only briefly, "—was the next best solution. But he has been quite stubborn for someone so weak. He does not seem to want to let go of this body, a vessel full of magic completely wasted."
Velyos made a sound somewhere around tired and exasperated. It was obvious he did not want to have this conversation any longer. Dan was buying time. "But yours is also wasted here," Velyos said, his hand snapping out from his robe and wrapping around Dan's throat, pulling him in close. His wicked smile was all bones and sharp teeth, inhuman under the hood.
"You are not capable of locking me away."
The hand around his throat was chilly, squeezing like his larynx was nothing more than a rotten banana, easily squished - and for a god, perhaps it was that way. “I’m not?” Dan asked, raspy, and then the scenery around them changed, morphed, shifted - trees dripping with blood became high-walled hedges, the statues joined with them to form a labyrinth that went on for infinity, twisting and turning and on and on and on. Snow covered the green, and crunched on the ground, a mental recreation of the maze that surrounded the Overlook - this was Dan’s psychic landscape.
Or maybe it wasn’t real. Maybe it was all a trick. Hard to say, when it was so wintry, any warmth leaching into the air. It was so cold it stung, a freezing fog rolling in.
“You’re not even on your own turf anymore,” Dan added, flexing telekinetic muscle and with adrenaline whipping through his veins, he pushed - a telekinetic fist punched the god in the chest, in the hopes that he’d drop Dan. The bare bits of air he did manage to breathe seared his lungs, but he wasn’t going to go out this way. He refused to.
If a god could be surprised, the small thoughtful noise from Velyos would have been a good indicator. The change of scenery, the shift in psychic landscape, caused Velyos's grip on Dan's throat to tighten momentarily, but it was the telekinetic punch that made Velyos drop Dan and stumble back one foot, then another. "Useful," Velyos hissed, "But ineffective for what you claim to do."
Irritation, anger, fury radiated out from the old god. Velyos did not bother to change the environment back. He simply recovered from the momentary lapse in judgment and went for Dan again. But as he stepped forward, Velyos came to an abrupt stop. And for one incomplete moment, Velyos wasn't solid in the mental playing field, he flickered.
"Dan," Serefin said from the ground, haggard and breathless, his fist tightly wrapped around the hem of Velyos's cloak. He looked exhausted, bleeding out of both his eyes. His right was no longer a clear blue, it matched the left—black, starry monstrosities. But Serefin fought for control; he needed to help Dan. He wouldn't let other people risk their lives for him. That had been the whole point of this endeavor.
"Tell me what to do."
“It’s okay, you’re okay,” Dan told Serefin, despite the cold that he felt - it wasn't just a chill, it was a cold that burned and made Dan's mouth taste acrid and metallic. But he could do this - he knew that he could.
The Overlook, it was always just pictures to me. But I didn’t shine like you. Nobody shines like you.
He heard Dick’s voice, the raspy southern drawl, sounding like he’d been gargling rocks for breakfast - it bolstered Dan, because Dick had always been there when he needed the comfort and sometimes tough love of his mentor; he was with Dan now. “All you need to do is picture the box,” he added - in the distance, snowflakes falling down, it rattled like it was full of tin cans. “Memorize every corner - “
The lid of the box flew open, and the hedges changed - they grew taller, roots of the trees hugging the earth, forest floor woven with them. Back to the darkness of these woods, the blood that rolled down tree trunks, the clearing in the middle. Stone statues and an ominous, heavy air. “See if it has a smell, know every single thing...” His heartbeat was an echo, it pulsed around them, a cacophonous rhythm that thrummed.
“Because we’re about to lock this bitch inside.”
That lockbox surged forward and Dan pushed back, another telekinetic shove that would have Velyos and the box meeting in the middle - the box collided with him, knocking him asunder, and into the box he went. Dan slammed the lid closed, locking it swiftly with a harsh click.
The lid rattled furiously, an angry god trapped inside - but the lock did not give.
Serefin felt bolstered by Dan's certainty: it's okay, you're okay. If Dan was able to assure him then all of this was not lost. Even as the psychic landscape started to morph back into the Kalyazi forest again, Serefin felt no fear, no resignation to his fate. Not in the same way he had before he started all of this.
He watched from his low vantage point, releasing Velyos as Dan shoved the god back. Serefin hadn't seen the box until Velyos tumbled into it, and then Serefin was scrambling toward it, hoping to help shut the lid in case Dan's brief tussle with the god had exhausted him in some way. But as the whole contraption locked, Serefin felt that looming sense of unbearable dread dissipate behind his chest.
The psychic landscape softly shuttered—no longer bleeding trees or sacrificial altars. The unfathomable dark of the sky settled into twilight and a star, then another, winked into existence. Serefin's mental plane, untainted by Velyos.
If he was going to sob with relief, now would have been the time to do it. Serefin didn't think he could get up, even his psyche was tired. He looked up to Dan, his right eye clear, his left eye cloudy from an old assassination attempt. But to Serefin that was normal.
"Is it done? Is that it?" He hoped, he hoped, he hoped.
The stars came out, and it was beautiful - like sprinkling sugar on a birthday cake, brilliant pearls on black velvet. That the psychic landscape had changed was a positive sign - Velyos was out of the picture, this was what it was supposed to look like. And Dan breathed a sigh of relief.
“It’s done,” he assured, crouching to wrap Serefin’s arm around his shoulders. “Just hang onto me.”
He was a solid and sturdy presence, giving Serefin something to lean against as Dan helped him up. The lockbox had been moved out of sight, tucked into the deepest recesses of Serefin’s psyche - he wouldn’t feel it there, it would just be the equivalent to something old and forgotten gathering dust on a shelf someplace. “When I count to three, you’ll wake up,” Dan said, voice low but calm, water flowing over rocks. “One - “ The stars pulsed, glimmering in the night sky, “...two.”
Everything seemed to glow silver, the sun having faded away and the chill and promise of twilight all that remained. “Three.”
Serefin was quick to latch onto Dan when he reached for him. All the mental and physical weight of carrying Velyos along in his mind for so long seemed to come crashing down and Serefin didn't think he could find stability even if he wanted to. He wanted to sleep, he could now.
He counted with him, nodding. One, two, three.
Even though the lights were dim in the snooze room, when Serefin opened his eyes everything felt bright, brighter than before. There was a brief terrifying moment where he wasn't sure if he was truly awake, but seeing Dan in the room brought some semblance of lucidity to the situation. It was the emptiness in his head, that space where something belonged and was now pushed and shoved away—gone—that finally broke Serefin.
Both of his hands came up to cover his face. Relief was overwhelming, and while he wasn't crying, he couldn't trust his own emotions not to betray him.
"I had thought," Serefin said, muffled behind his palms, "that I might never feel like this again." He swallowed hard, continued to keep his face hidden. "You're not—if there is any physical damage done to you, Dan, I can fix it. Just give me a moment, unless it feels urgent."
Dan felt the emotions of others, as clearly as he projected his own - what was rolling off of Serefin right now was relief, yes, but Dan also felt as if he acutely understood his fear and grief now, storm clouds and a void, pulling him in. It must have been terrifying, living like that - living at the mercy of Velyos, who was pitiless and cruel. That made Dan even more glad that the god would rot in a box stronghold for the foreseeable future.
“I’m alright,” he promised, resting a hand on Serefin’s shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. Even if there were tears, Dan wouldn’t say anything about them; he’d only offer tissues. “No physical damage.” His throat was a little sore and might bruise but he had worse injuries - being axed in the groin came to mind immediately. So, right, fine - all things considered. “You want to stay here and rest a little while longer? I can go outside and bring Jacob in.” If they wanted privacy, Dan would leave them alone too. He wasn’t trying to be in the way.
Serefin immediately dropped his hands from his face at the mention of bringing Jacob in. "No, no, do not bring him in. I want to—" Serefin struggled with the right words, trying to sound reasonable and not pathetic at the same time. "I do not want to look like I cannot walk out of here on my own two legs. Allow me to let this new reality settle in first."
It was good, it was too good for him. Serefin had rationalized his death, his resurrection, and everything in between as a balance and price he needed pay. He lucked out somewhere and he was torn between taking the opportunity and running, or taking the moral high ground and yelling at the universe that it made a mistake. Give it all back.
Serefin sat up a little, propping himself up on his elbows. He was staring at Dan now, assessing the non-damage Dan claimed. Serefin would ask again, but not now. "I am terrible at expressing proper gratitude for things I do not deserve, but I owe you many, many favors a hundred times over, Dan." His stare, even half-blind, was intense, serious. He didn't want Dan saying not to worry about it. "You only have to ask."
He really didn’t owe Dan anything, but the feeling of wanting to settle debts was very familiar to him - so he didn’t immediately disagree with Serefin. About paying him back or about the fact that he allegedly didn’t deserve this - not true at all. “Okay,” he promised, taking the pumpkin pillow and giving it a little fluff before placing it back onto the bed. Such a stalwart presence, these pillows - they wouldn’t let him down.
Dan wouldn’t either, he could promise that much at least - while he was here and still kicking, and the magic of Vallo continued to let him live in this world. “I still meant what I said though - you do deserve a chance to make a life here like anyone else. Do me a favor and enjoy it?”
The good and the bad. The ups and the downs. And the fact that there was obviously someone outside the room who really cared about him, and wanted the best for him too.
"You are an absolutely terrible negotiator. You have the favor of a blood mage and you simply ask me to live my life and enjoy it," Serefin said, tiredly teasing Dan, even thought knew what the doctor meant. Sereinf reached out a hand to grab Dan's arm. For grounding, solidarity, a reminder that what Serefin was feeling now was the new reality. Only up from here, right?
"But," Serefin nodded, attempting to hold back an absolutely blinding smile. "I will. I promise, I will."