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Everything posted by Valentine

  1. Blood & Scale

    Once again, Vaedwyn was forced to change direction as she realised she'd taken the wrong route. At this rate, Agron would be in town while she was lost in the middle of nowhere. She reigned in her horse and looked around, she'd lost sight of Agron, and she was having trouble holding the link strong between her and Auriel. Where is he?! She asked. He's a few minutes ahead of you, he's following the road! Auriel replied, though she sounded distant. Vaedwyn cursed and set off once more, encouraging her horse into a gallop. She wasn't sure she'd ever catch up to Agron now. They'd been riding for hours and he had been consistently ahead of her. There has to be a way to get to Babbleridge faster! Vaedwyn called back to her partner. She rode in silence for a few minutes while Auriel scanned from above. It looked as though Agron had won, until suddenly Vaedwyn was forced to bring her horse to an immediate stop. An image flashed before her eyes. What was that...? Vaedwyn asked, trying to make sense of the image, even as it faded. Turn right, off the road, you can cut through and make it to town before Agron! Auriel replied, and hearing that, Vaedwyn didn't hesitate. She immediately turned her horse from the path and realised then just how muddy it was. But she was still making good ground, and if Auriel was right, then in a few minutes she would be ahead of Agron, and they'd only be minutes from the town after that. A few nail-biting minutes later, and she burst out of the brush and saw Babbleridge up ahead. Vaedwyn couldn't help herself, she let out a cheer as she came to the last stretch, she tried to tell Auriel, but she was too far away. Likely because of their proximity to the town. She brought her horse to a stop and let out the breath she'd been holding then waited. Vaedwyn dismounted and looked back down the road, but there was no sign of Agron. Then she heard footsteps behind her, and before she as much as turned, she knew it was him. "You're so fast..." Vaedwyn held onto her horse for support. "Well I did know the way." Agron said with a smirk, patting Vaedwyn on the shoulder a little too roughly. "But ye'd have still beaten me if ye'd worked together." "We were." Vaedwyn replied, a little annoyed. She wasn't sure what went wrong, whether Auriel had explained it poorly, or more likely, she'd turned off the road too early or too late. It didn't matter now. "What are we doing here, anyway?" Vaedwyn looked at the town ahead of her. It didn't look like much, even by her village's standards. "I told ye already." Agron said, folding his arms. "We're stoppin' here tae resupply, rest up and wait for Turiel." He turned back to Babbleridge. The small town was a human settlement. The buildings were comprised of wood, with thatched roofs, and no real roads to speak of. The ground was a dark, sloppy mud, constantly trodden over by the people of the town, stopping any grass from growing. In the distance there were a few small farms, but the town mostly dealt in trade from passing merchants, and so the market square was the main focus. "Folks from all o'er the place pass through here. It might not look like much, but ye can learn a lot from such places. Elven folks have their own way o' doin' things, but ye never know, maybe ye'll learn to appreciate different people, and different customs." "If you say so..." Vaedwyn muttered, looking around, "How do people feel about the riders? I know what its like in my village, and I think for a lot of Elves, they value what the riders were, but now...? I don't know. I heard stories growing up, but the Elders never spoke of them much. Maybe they were trying to bury painful memories." "Hmm...well, tae most folks the riders are just legends." Agron explained. "Yer people make a point of rememberin' history, but most folks are too busy just tryin' tae survive tae bother pickin' up a book. That's just the way things are, and probably for the best, eh?" "Why do you say that?" Vaedwyn asked, "I know the riders aren't popular with everyone, but... they brought peace and prosperity to Suros, didn't they?" "Aye, once upon a time." Agron nodded. "But that was a millenia ago. Bear in mind, with the exception o' the Elven, most folks feel pretty lucky tae reach 80 years old, but in the King's wake times have become tougher. Disease an' famine are rife. If a farmer has a bad winter, he might no see it through to the next year. An' poor crops effect the merchants tae, and with taxes bein' so high it's difficult for people tae save their coin. People are too focused on keepin' themselves alive tae worry about old heroes. Especially ones that are'nae here tae help them any more." "But we're here now, right? We both have dragons, can't we just... announce ourselves? Wouldn't that give people hope?" Vaedwyn looked out across the village, it seemed such a small, simple place. Yet the people seemed happy, at least on the surface. It reminded her of her home. "Maybe." Agron replied. "Or...we could terrify 'em. People have'nae seen dragons in years, lass. Only the King and his Lieutenants are known tae ride them, an' people fear them. Besides, the King has an army at his disposal, including a bunch o' spies and informants. If we reveal ourselves like that, King Aemon would move in and slaughter us, and then what good would that hope be, eh?" "I guess I was quick to forget how everyone reacted at my village when they saw Turiel..." Vaedwyn chewed her lip in thought. "It's a smart reaction." Agron said. "Fear can save yer life. For all yer village knew, I could have been one of the King's Lieutenants. I'd rather they feared me than welcomed me, in that regard." "I never looked at it that way," Vaedwyn sighed, "I've a lot to learn." She muttered irritably. "The world I knew is a lot smaller than I realised." "Aye, true." Agron nodded. "But dinnae be so hard on yersel', I wisnae much different when I was yer age. Probably worse, really." Agron took the reigns of Vaedwyn's horse and began to lead it into the town. "Come on, we'll get yer horse in the stable then head for the inn. We'll have a bit o' lunch an' then we can have a wander. Ye need some new clothes." "Alright." As they walked, a thought occurred to Vaedwyn as she mulled over Agron's comment about being worse than she was at that age, "Agron, do people change a lot when they become riders?" Agron didn't answer immediately. He thought about the question and sucked in his breath, humming as he thought. Eventually he spoke, and his voice was careful, and a little guarded. "People change a lot throughout their lives, even the ones that only live half a century. Bein' a rider means ye see a lot more of the world, both the good and the bad, ken? How that affects ye depends on who ye are as a person. Sometimes it changes ye for the worse, sometimes for the better. But change ye will, in one way or another." "Alright..." That was probably the best answer she was going to get out of him, for now. Vaedwyn turned her attention to the matter at hand. With their horses stabled, it was time for food, and she was starving. Who knew saving the world would work up such an appetite? When they arrived at the inn it was, surprisingly to Agron, rather empty. A couple of people were sitting at tables alone, while a pot-bellied gentleman with a balding head and a bushy, brown mustache was cleaning the tables. "Greetin's." Agron said as they entered. and he nodded at the balding man. "Are ye the owner?" "I am that." The man replied, not looking up or continuing what he was doing. "What can I do for you?" "A couple o' hot meals, and a couple o' rooms, if that's awright?" Agron asked. "Mm, really?" The owner said, and he looked up at them. "Sorry, haven't had a lot of travellers lately. Two rooms isn't a problem, and my wife is just making some stew and potatoes if you're willing to wait. If not I think we have some rolls left, and some Ardwin cheddar." "Cannae say naw tae stew an' tatties." Agron said with a grin. He reached for his belt and retrieved a hefty pouch of coins. He placed it on the table and opened it, retrieving some of the gold inside and handing it to the owner. "That enough?" He asked "Uh...yes." The owner said with a soft smile. "Take a seat, I'll fetch you something to drink. We've got wine or...?" "Could murder a pint if ye've got yin." Agron said. "Just the local piss water, it's not very good." The owner admitted. "That'll dae." Agron replied. "And...for the young miss?" The owner asked, turning to look at Vaedwyn. Vaedwyn hesitated, having been unable to follow half of the conversation, "I... I would also kill a pint." "Mhm..." The owner nodded slowly, frowning at her, then walked off to see to their menu. As she sat, Vaedwyn looked around the inn, it was small and grotty but there wasn't another option on the table, "Not all humans speak like you, do they, Agron?" "Heh. barely any." Agron replied. "For starters, I'm no human, lass. I'm a Nord. We're similar, I'll grant ye, but Nords are a bit taller, a bit hardier. We share a common ancestry, though. But I'm from the North of Suros, a land called Skovaer." "Oh..." Vaedwyn nodded at his sword, "So we must stand out then? An Elf and a Nord, carrying weapons..." "Weapons are fairly commonplace among travellers, the roads are dangerous after all." Agron said. "No that ye'll see many like mine, I suppose." Agron patted his sword as he spoke. "A Claymore's typically a Nord's weapon, a bit too big for anyone else. And this one is a bit special, but I'll tell ye more about that another time." The owner returned with their drinks, and as he laid them down Agron took his own, and then quickly took Vaedwyn's and drained half of the contents before handing it back to her. "A half pint will dae you, lass." He said with a smirk. "I've seen an Elf shoot a man off he's horse fae a quarter mile away, in that sense yer just superior. But when it comes tae the drink...well, ye've nae stomach for it." "I'll thank you not to underestimate me," Vaedwyn snatched the half-drunk pint off the table and took a swig, then shot a 'See?' look at Agron, before looking back into her cup, "What's in this?" She asked, licking her lips and taking another swig, "Tastes like bitter berries..." She muttered, taking another long draw. By the time she'd reached the bottom of her cup, she was holding her head upright with her arm, elbow to table. Staring lazily into the bottom of her cup, while pushing lumps of stew around in the bowl. She would pause to tear a piece of bread off and dunk it in her soup, but each time she left it too long and it fell apart in her hands and incorporated into the stew. "I am jusht as good ash anyone they tell you..." She muttered, eating a mouthful of stew. Just then, she heard a distant voice, calling out to her. --aren't you listening to me?! Auriel yelled, and Vaedwyn jumped in her skin, sitting bolt upright. I'm drinking berries with Agron, Vaedwyn replied, yawning. You're drunk! Auriel snapped in disbelief, I can't believe that... You're really great... y'know? Vaedwyn said quietly. Auriel failed to suppress a little chuckle.
  2. Blood & Scale

    "He's just like everyone else!" Vaedwyn muttered, stepping over a rotten tree stump as she walked through the wood. "He tells me i'm not a child, then treats me like one anyway!" She spoke with exasperation, looking to her dragon for support, but she simply walked alongside her and stared up at her silently. Vaedwyn sighed. She knew it wasn't her fault, but she wanted to speak to her dragon directly, she was tired of their indirect, broken messages to one another. She was desperate to make a connection, and she could feel that her dragon was too, but neither of them were there yet. They'd been walking for nearly an hour and seen little more than squirrels and small birds. If things went on like this, it looked like squirrel was going to be on the menu. Vaedwyn adjusted the quiver on her back and tightened the tension on the bowstring. "It's rubbish." Vaedwyn explained, when her dragon looked at what she was doing, "Look at this, just look..." She held the bow in front of her dragon's face, "Humans don't understand archery at all." She said, scowling at the bow in her hands. They walked in silence for a few minutes until something made her flinch. Then it hit her again, and she realised what it was. It was beginning to rain. Within minutes the wood was hit with a light rain that although seemed inoffensive, had actually soaked her through to her skin. She shivered, feeling entirely unhappy as they trudged through the fallen leaves and debris which were quickly turning into a stodgy mud. "Do you have a name? Am I supposed to give you a name?" Vaedwyn asked suddenly, "I mean, what else am I supposed to call you..." She looked to her dragon for advice, but she only stared back at her quizzically, "Don't give me that look. I can't keep referring to you as 'dragon', y'know." She shook her head, looking up at the clouds with a frown. Up ahead, a twig snapped. Vaedwyn's dragon froze as still as a statue, and she knelt down beside her. She looked at her dragon's line of sight and followed it back until she saw it also. A deer moving through the wood maybe a hundred yards ahead. Slowly, quietly, Vaedwyn reached over her shoulder and pulled an arrow from the quiver, and nocked it carefully. She raised the bow, took aim and loosed the arrow. The projectile flew true towards its intended target, but something startled it and it bolted before the arrow could find it's mark. Vaedwyn was about to complain when she saw what had spooked the deer. An enormous brown bear chased after the deer but at the pivotal moment, the deer managed to zigzag and throw the bear off it's path. The deer pranced away into the wood, leaving the bear panting and chuffing. Fear gripped her. She looked to her dragon who remained frozen, staring at the bear. Vaedwyn touched her on the back and silently tried to move backwards, her dragon slowly began stepping back but as they moved, something must have alerted the bear to their presence. Whether it was noise, or smell or perhaps the bear simply caught sight of them, she wasn't sure. Panic washed over her in great waves, and she felt her dragon trying to calm her, but it wasn't working. The bear turned, roared and charged. Vaedwyn fumbled for the arrows in her quiver, she pulled two out at the same time, and they both fell to the ground. She quickly grabbed one and tried nocking the arrow, but her hands were shaking. She looked up, the bear was a lot faster than she'd realised. It was too late. It was almost here. Vaedwyn screamed as she felt the bear's hot breath on her face and leapt back in surprise as her dragon collided with the bear at full force. The bear was larger and stronger than her dragon, but it wasn't as fast, and she had to admit, her dragon's ferocity made the bear seem passive by comparison. The huge bundle of fur and scales rolled back and forth, as mud and rainwater sprayed everywhere. Vaedwyn nocked her arrow and took aim, but she couldn't loose the arrow. What if she hit her dragon?! She stood there frozen, screaming in her mind, wishing that Agron and Turiel were here, or anyone. She could feel the tears flowing down her cheeks and the knots in her stomach as she fought with the contrasting sensations of being rooted to the spot by fear, and yet desperately wanting to rush into the fray and save her dragon. She heard a terrible wail as the bear's enormous maw clamped down on her dragon's shoulder and Vaedwyn screamed and ran at them, dropping the bow in the process. She reached for her skinning knife but as she ran towards them, bellowing a battle cry, the bear changed priorities. It dropped her dragon to the ground and charged her, it's tongue lolling about as great globs of spittle trailed. Up close, she saw it's matted fur, wild yet focused eyes and the dozens of wounds it had suffered from her dragon. Something was boiling up from deep inside her. As Vaedwyn charged the bear, she gripped her dagger tightly, she only had one shot. She couldn't get anywhere near the bear, it would tear her apart in the first swipe. She had once chance. One. She threw the dagger with all the force she could muster, with a single word resounding in her mind, over and over. Kill. As the dagger left her hand, she felt a chill run up her spine and suddenly all her energy was drained from her body. Her legs were weak, her knees shaking. She felt them buckle beneath her, and she was falling. The bear was charging her, the dagger was glowing white hot. And then she hit the ground, and her temple struck a stone. Darkness. "Stop..." Vaedwyn muttered. A long tongue lapped the side of her face a second time. "Stop it..." She muttered, pushing out with her hand and touching something rough. Like a lightning bolt, images flashed through her mind, reminding her of what had just happened. The bear. Vaedwyn's eyes shot open in surprise and she started to panic, looking around frantically. She was freezing cold, covered in mud and soaked to the bone. Her hair clung to her face, and her dragon licked her face again, cleaning it of the mud and blood that was caked to it. "Yeuch..." She groaned, but smiled. Then she saw the wound on her dragon. Most of it was superfluous, where the bear's teeth had scraped along the surface of her scales, but it's canines had punctured them. Thick, dark blood oozed from the wounds. "No no no..." Vaedwyn tried to pull herself to her feet and almost collapsed again. Why was she so tired? It felt like she'd been training with Agron for days, not hours. "I-I don't..." She gingerly pressed her hand against her dragon's wounds, "I don't know what to do..." She looked around desperately and that was when she saw it. The bear. The bear was dead. It's enormous body lay still. But what killed it? At first it wasn't immediately obvious. It was covered in deep scratches and bite marks but nothing that would have stopped it. Then she realised. There was something wrong with the bear's right eye. It wasn't looking at anything. And it was the wrong colour. The orb in it's socket was not its eye at all. It was the pommel of her hunting knife. Vaedwyn gasped. Had she done that? The knife was buried so deep only the pommel remained visible. There was no way she was going to be able to pull that out, she thought. She shook her head in disbelief, but then the matter at hand refocused her. She tore off the ends of her sleeves and split the cloth into four small pieces then took the first, and slowly bundled it up and pushed it into her dragon's wound to staunch the bleeding. Ouch! Be careful! I'm sorry! Vaedwyn thought, then grabbed the second piece of cloth. She bundled it up, then froze. Her eyebrows raised as it dawned on her that she had just heard her dragon. Slowly, Vaedwyn followed the long line of her dragon's neck until she was looking up at her head and into her large amber eyes. I can hear you... Apparently, she replied. I can hear you! Vaedwyn laughed, more tears streaming down her face. She leapt forwards and hugged her dragon tightly. Oof! She recoiled in discomfort, Be careful... She chided delicately, but lowered her head to press against Vaedwyn's cheek. A-are you okay? She asked, across their link. It hurts, actually. Her dragon replied, matter-of-factly. There was a level of mirth in her voice she hadn't expected, and a nobility in her tone. Vaedwyn found herself smiling like an idiot and burst out laughing, hugging her dragon once again. This time, a little more carefully. You asked me my name? Her dragon reminded her. Yes... Vaedwyn nodded. The black-scaled dragon rose to her full height, spreading out her wings, before resettling them. I am Auriel. I'm so happy to hear you at last, Vaedwyn was smiling from ear-to-ear as she felt warm feelings of love blanket her. But, how did... She looked at the bear. That is a question I think best left to Agron. We set out to find food, and that is what we have done. "I hope he likes bear..." Vaedwyn muttered aloud, grinning. There seemed no signs of the rain coming to a stop any time soon, but that didn't bother her. Vaedwyn walked up to the mouth of the cave and nodded to Agron, who was stood just inside. She was covered in mud, blood and soaked through. Missing her bow, hunting knife, her sleeves were torn and she looked like she'd been through hell, but a grin was plastered on her face. "Hey..." She said, giving him a nod. "Crivvens, lass!" Agron exclaimed as he got a look at her. "I said tae go catch dinner, no go for a swim in the mud! Look at the state o' ye!" "What are you complaining for? Aren't you hungry?" She asked with a grin, then there was a triumphant trumpet from the skies above and a howling whistle as something descended from the clouds at speed. Vaedwyn quickly stepped out of the rain, and a couple of seconds later an enormous body crashed into the ground and a moment later Vaedwyn's dragon landed beside it. The body belonged to an enormous brown bear. It was covered in wounds and the pommel of a hunting knife was stuck deep in the socket of it's right eye. "My my..." Agron said with a bewildered expression. He stood over the corpse of the bear and examined it for a moment. "You know usually we hunt dear and rabbits, lass. But... I'll gie ye points for effort." Agron couldn't help but crack a smile. "So, dare I ask what happened?" "I... i'm not sure." Vaedwyn confessed, "We found a deer, and then this bear attacked us, Auriel fought it but then it charged me and I don't really understand what happened, somehow I did this..." She knelt over the bear and pointed at the pommel stuck in it's eye socket. "I can't even get it out. I've tried. Anyway... I passed out, and when I came to, well..." "I see..." Agron replied, stroking the braid of his beard, he seemed deep in thought. Eventually he clapped his hands together and rubbed them. "Well, let's get this big bastard skinned and gutted, and I'll tell ye all about it." He walked up to the bear and gripped the hunting knife in it's eye socket. He put his boot on the bear, and with a single, firm pull the knife finally came away. He moved around the side of the bear, and as he passed Auriel, he bowed to her. "Auriel, nice tae finally meet yer acquaintance." Auriel bowed her head slightly and asked Vaedwyn to speak for her, "And you, Rider." "Well done." Agron said with a nod. He got to work on skinning the bear with Vaedwyn's help. During the process he decided to teach her some more about being a Rider. "What happened wi' ye, well, apparently it used tae happen sometimes with elven riders. Y'see it's yer common tongue, so it's all the more easy for ye to do it by accident." "Do what by accident?" Vaedwyn asked, frowning. "Magic, lass." Agron said, and he was beaming as he spoke, clearly a little proud of her. "The Elvish tongue, as ye might know, is essentially the root language of Suros. Yer entire history is steeped in the art o' magic. What I was taught, and what I'm quite inclined tae believe is the truth, is that the Elven language uses the 'true' names for things. There's magic in these true names, ye know the name, ye have power over the thing, see?" "That's what I was taught, but..." Vaedwyn shook her head, that wasn't possible. She'd never used magic before. You're a Rider, Vaedwyn. Vaedwyn turned to look to her dragon. There are a great many things no longer out of your reach. "It's been a long day..." She muttered, running her hands down her face. "Aye, it has." Agron agreed. "But it'll feel better when ye get some food in yer belly. But Vaedwyn, we need to have a chat about this. Yer gonnae have tae be more careful usin' yer common tongue from now on. Magic is very dangerous, and if ye use magic beyond yer own abilities, well, ye could kill yerself, lass. Worse yet, ye could accidentally hurt someone ye didn't intend tae." "Is that why I passed out?" Vaedwyn asked. "Aye, most likely." Agron nodded. "Magic takes a bit out of ye each time ye use it. It takes time for that strength tae come back, and it's up tae you to realise what yer limits are. I can teach ye the rules, and ye ken the words yerself, but only ye can know yer limits." You'll have to learn where your limits lie, Auriel added. "I was only thinking one word though?" Vaedwyn looked from Auriel to Agron, "All I could think when the bear attacked me was 'Kill'." "Mm..." Agron nodded. "A dangerous habit, and one that's hard tae kick. When ye use magic, ye cannae deal in absolutes, lass. Ye've nae idea how it could backfire on ye. Take the word 'kill' for example. Did ye stipulate how? Did ye say who by? Or when, even? A direct command like that, one so certain and final, it's hard tae predict how it will work." "I'm going to have to be a lot more careful from now on." Vaedwyn sighed, looking down at the bear carcass. Yes, Auriel added, brushing her cheek against Vaedwyn's. We both will. "Well ye know now, and that's what matters." Agron said. "Ye know, yer learnin' dead quick. Took me 6 months tae learn how tae use magic. Didnae speak tae Turiel for a full fortnight, either. Ye've got a long way tae go... but ye'll get there, lass." And still, i'm afraid it won't be fast enough, Vaedwyn thought. Auriel craned her neck down and picked up a large chunk of bear meat and swallowed it before walking deeper into the cave to find a place to rest. Some things we can prevent, Vaedwyn. Others we cannot, it is not good to dwell on such things. Get some rest while you can. The forest was on fire. Flames surrounded the village. There was nowhere to run. Mogwé stared in astonishment as the horror unfolded in front of her. Villagers ran to and fro, trying to stop the spread of the fire. Children were crying in the street. Animals scattering into the darkness of the forest. The full moon cast it's light down upon the village until a great shadow eclipsed it. It grew, and grew until the shadow covered the village. Mogwé looked up, gripping her staff. Her knuckles were white under tension. Again, the horn of their village sounded. But she knew already, it was too late. The great red dragon crashed into the centre of the town, snapping at the nearest villager and missing them by inches, but as a woman darted around to it's side it whipped it's head around and managed to grab her by the leg. Its fangs sunk into her leg and she screeched at the top of her lungs in horrifying pain and then fell silent as the dragon bit down on her head. It grabbed her by the torso, and swallowed the body whole. The dragon tucked its wings into its back and the rider sat upon the saddle dismounted. He was dressed in black armour with the red sigil of the King emblazoned on his chest. A sword, wreathed in flame. The rider rubbed his hands together, warming them after the long, cold flight. He stretched and looked around, his face obscured by his helmet, a great helm that matched his armour. On his hip was a single sword. He scanned the village, then his eyes fell upon Mogwé. "She-Elf!" He called to her, but did not approach. He held out his hand for her to come to him instead. He did not chase people, that was unnecessary. Mogwé considered running for a moment, every instinct told her to run. Her legs wanted to carry her in the opposite direction, even as she approached the man. But she knew that running was pointless. When she was just a couple of feet from the rider he looked her up and down. "You are an Elder, are you not?" He asked, nodding at her staff. "I am." Mogwé replied, speaking through teeth clenched so firmly together she thought they might shatter. "My name is Kardran. I am an emissary for the King." Kardran bowed his head ever so slightly. "It would seem so." Mogwé replied insolently, taking her chances. Kardran remained silent and still. His lack of anger or response chilled her and suddenly she realised that it was not the rampaging dragon, attacking and eating people behind Kardran, that the villagers should be afraid of, but Kardran himself. The rider let the silence go on for a few minutes, meanwhile the roar of his dragon mutilating her villagers went on unchallenged. Eventually, he cleared his throat, then grabbed his helmet and pulled it off. Kardran was a man that appeared to be in his forties. He had short scruffy black hair, a short black beard and a scar running horizontally through his nose and across his cheeks. He might have been handsome once upon a time, but now his face was scarred, and his eyes were sunken and dark. "Tell me, Elder," Kardran sniffed as he put his helmet to his waist and then indicated their surroundings, "Do you enjoy this, hm?" "What do you think!?" Mogwé spat, trying to keep her tears in check. "I think you must enjoy it, just a little, hm? Else, when I arrived, on a mission for which the objective must surely be clear, you would have told me immediately and thus saved your village this discomfort." Kardran looked around and noticed a child crying in the street. "Boy!" He called, the child did not answer, "Boy!!" He yelled, and the boy looked up. "Come here, boy." He commanded, and the child did so. "Don't." Mogwé growled, her hands shaking. "I--" "I know." Kardran nodded, as he took the child's shoulder and then lifted the boy up so they were face-to-face, "But you see, what I want is irrelevant, Elder. This must be done, so I offer you a choice, hm? You can tell me what I want to know now, or I can find out eventually," He looked back over his shoulder, watching as his dragon collided with the nearest tree-house, splintering it to pieces and killing everyone inside. "After Uruk has vented his frustrations." "I will never tell you any--" "LIAR!!" Kardran screamed at the top of his lungs, shaking with rage. He continued shaking, his breaths shallow. Eventually he calmed down enough that he took a deep breath and repeated it, "Liar." He clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth and then placed his helmet back upon his head. "You will tell me, or they will die, hm?" He replied, his voice tinny within his helmet. Then he put the child back down, stroked the boy's cheek and promptly snapped his neck. "NNNNOOOOOOOooooo!!!" Mogwé wailed, abandoning her staff and falling to her knees to catch the lifeless body of the child. "It was a rider." Kardran turned his attention from Mogwé, looking to the girl with the voice so quiet he almost hadn't heard her speak. He walked up to her, and she recoiled. "It's alright girl, it's alright. I won't hurt you." Kardran put a hand on her shoulder comfortingly, and nodded. "Tell me, and this can all be over." "Tell him nothing, Torenth!" Mogwé wailed, amidst her cries of anguish, "NOTHING!!" She screamed. "You can end this, Torenth. You know you can." Kardran reassured her, "I will take my dragon, hm? I will take him, and leave this place. All you need to do is tell me where they are. Where did they go? What direction? North, hm? Yes? North? South, perhaps? West, East. Spit it out, girl, hm?" Torenth hesitated, but slowly she leant in. Kardran removed his helmet and inclined his head as she whispered into his ear. "Mm, mm." He nodded, putting his helmet back on. "Thank you, Torenth. Thank you, hm?" She nodded quietly, then Kardran looked to his dragon, Uruk. There was a period of long silence. An exchange. Kardran turned back to face Mogwé, still knelt upon the ground, cradling the dead child in her arms. Tears streaming down her face in abject horror of the man stood in front of her. "You think me evil, hm? Elder? Do you?" Kardran asked, frowning. "You think me evil - for this?" He waved at the chaos, death and destruction surrounding them. "No." He shook his head, "I am the King's rage, sheathed. You will never have the honour of knowing it drawn." Then Kardran grabbed the hilt of his blade, and as Torenth loosed an ear-splitting scream, he drew the blade. The metal a bright crimson, just as the scales of his dragon. He whirled the sword around, pressed the tip to Mogwé's sternum, and drove the blade into her body. She gasped, as though stung. Then her eyes rolled into the back of her head, and Kardran yanked his blade free, wiped it on her dress, and sheathed it. Torenth was still screaming as he replaced his helm and grabbed her by the wrist and started pulling her back to Uruk. "Be you all blessed, for your ignorance of the King." He muttered. Kardran reached out with his mind, Uruk? He asked. What answered was an unintelligible white noise. A screaming roar of pain and hatred and anguish, washing over Kardran in unrelenting waves. Burn it. Burn it all! Kardran quickly withdrew from his link to Uruk, unable to stand it for a second longer. He threw Torenth onto Uruk's saddle, climbing on himself. Uruk took an unfathomably deep breath and when he opened his mouth again, he retched liquid flame across the entire village. Killing hundreds in seconds, leaving none alive. Uruk bellowed before lifting into the air with a single beat from his wings, and disappeared into the inky blackness of the sky.
  3. Blood & Scale

    Vaedwyn and Agron had been riding throughout the day and all through the night, at a brisk pace, and there was no sign to the end of the forest. For a long time, Vaedwyn was content to remain uncharacteristically silent and pensive. She let Agron lead their horses onwards, while she spent much of her time playing with the little dragon perched on the edge of her saddle. Every now and then she would leap away, playfully trying to avoid Vaedwyn's grasp. However as she leapt into the air, and beat her wings, she was unable to find enough lift and tumbled to the ground. Unperturbed by the fall, she would catch up to the horse and leap back on, and so it went until the rising sun of the next morning. "What do dragons eat?" Vaedwyn asked, encouraging her horse to catch up and ride beside Agron. "Whatever they like." Agron replied with a soft smirk. "Dinnae worry about the wee yin. She was born ready tae hunt. She'll know when she sees somethin' she wants, and she'll have nae bother catchin' it herself." "Oh... how do dragons know how to hunt and understand us from birth? You said it knew I was her rider, how is that possible?" Vaedwyn looked down into the dark amber eyes of her dragon, the hue strangely matched her own. She saw innocence, but intelligence also. What did a dragon think about? "Well, tae answer that I'll have tae tell ye a bit o' history." Agron said, before letting out a little cough, clearing his throat. "If there is a beginning tae the dragons, then naebody kens what it is. More likely, the dragons have always been here, they're linked wi' our world, in a much more profound way than any other race, even yer own." Agron stopped for a moment, gathering his thoughts. "See, dragons are immortal. As long as they dinnae fall tae injury, o' course. This applies tae their eggs as well. Tougher than diamonds, I've never seen anybody manage to crack a dragon egg. Naw, they only open when they find their rider, and until then they are nigh on indestructable." Agron turned his head to look at the little dragon sitting with Vaedwyn. "Now, as ye know, there aren't many dragons left. So, how long do ye think that wee yin's been laying dormant, waiting in her egg, just for you to come along, hm?" "I don't know..." Vaedwyn muttered in awe, looking down at her. She looked up in response and they held their gaze for a long moment, "Have you always carried her egg?" "Naw, not always." Agron replied. "But for the last millenia, certainly. An' the dragon that laid her did so long before then. Aye, make no mistake, she may be a wee thing, but that there is an ancient beastie. In fact, that egg was laid around the same time that Turiel was, the only difference is he hatched about 1300 years ago." "Elo..." Vaedwyn gasped in elvish, and then her grin returned, "When can I ride her?" She asked excitedly. "Well, first she needs to learn tae fly herself, and she needs tae get big enough tae hold ye, and even then, well..." Agron let out a soft chuckle. "Riding isnae as easy as it might first appear, lass. If ye hope to ride her, then ye must ride as one." "What does that mean?" Vaedwyn asked, paying no heed as the trees around them began to space further and further apart until they emerged from the forest altogether. "Dragons can move at blinding speeds, lass." Agron explained, "One wrong move and ye could slip right off her back and plummet tae yer death. She'll know where she needs tae go, when she needs to turn, when she needs to climb, and tae dive. Even wi the best reflexes in the world ye cannae anticipate how she'll move, ye need to just..." He struggled to find words to describe it. "...Ye need to just know, dae ye understand? Yer minds, yer hearts...they have tae be one." "Oh..." Vaedwyn said feebly. Her mind was a torrent of thoughts, each one fighting to the surface. She thought of her family and friends back home, she hoped they were safe from the King and his riders, she wondered how long it would be before she was a rider. When was she even considered a rider? Was she a rider now? That was unlikely. Was it when she was first able to fly with her dragon? That seemed the most likely assumption. Suddenly she looked up, realising at last that they'd left the forest. "This is the furthest i've ever been from home..." She muttered, looking around, "I've never seen outside our forest. It's very... open." "Aye?" Agron said, and he looked around. "I was born on a mountain, lass. This place is downright cramped by comparison." "It's not..." Vaedwyn looked around, considering the hills and valleys stretching out before them, "It's not what I expected." She said at last, but after a moment's consideration she perked up, "I think it's better. Sometimes the Draduin share stories with us about the outside world, but to see it with my own eyes..." "Aye, well I can only imagine." Agron said. "Once ye fly, and ye will, all o' this." He cast his arm out, indicating to everything on the horizon. "It's tiny, lass. Just a crumb compared to what ye'll see. I envy ye, really. I mind when I first traveled the world. It was a different time. I rode with my fellow riders, and oh did we have some adventures in our youth... aye, different times." "Tell me about the riders!" Vaedwyn grew excited once more, and even the little dragon perked up and looked at Agron. "I can tell ye many tales, lass." Agron said with a warm smile. "When I was a wee lad, back in Luftjall, the riders were the pride and joy of the land. There were many of them, and they had strongholds all over Suros. Up in the north there was one rider in particular. Magar was his name. He rode with Ethanriel, she was one of the most famous dragons that ever lived. Strong of will, and of heart. She was the pride of our people, and she was one of the oldest of her kind." Agron took a deep breath and sighed, looking a little misty. "When I was a young lad, during my seventeenth winter, I was called to the rider's stronghold in Luftjall, along with all the other folk my age. Ethanriel had laid eggs, seven of them. There must have been twenty of us that entered that day, hoping tae pass the trial, tae be chosen. But even with seven eggs, only myself and another, Jona, were chosen." Agron looked up at the sky for a moment, watching for Turiel's small image flying high above them. "Of course, that was when I met Turiel. He hatched on the same day as Jona's dragon, Sariel. The two were twins, brothers of a champion's stock. In the years that came the other eggs were hatched, of course. All males. All brothers." Agron looked down for a moment. "We rode with Magar and Ethanriel, seven Gardwyn tied to seven Gardiel brothers. The north had never seen such a magnificent family. Of course... now only Turiel remains." Agron sighed, and suddenly went very quiet, staring off down the road ahead. Vaedwyn let the silence hang in the air, until a thought occurred to her, and she smiled, "Not any more." Before Agron could answer, a long dull sound echoed from the distant forest. A horn. Immediately, Vaedwyn looked back over her shoulder, her eyes darting for signs of activity. "No... no no no no..." Vaedwyn turned her horse around, and then she saw it. A great black plume of smoke rising out of the forest. "NOOO!!" She screamed, tears filling her eyes. She urged her horse into action and took off before Agron could stop her, the little dragon on her lap snapped at her hands and arms, trying to stop her, but she wouldn't stop. Failing that, the dragon leapt from the horse and took off into the darkness of the forest ahead of her. Vaedwyn could see a light up ahead, it looked like fire or... The horse let out a surprised scream as it bucked onto it's hind-legs, throwing Vaedwyn from the horse. She fell to the ground and as she pulled herself back up, ready to run towards the smoke plume, she realised where the light had come from. From out of the shadows of the forest, a black form stalked towards her. It was her dragon, but it was far larger than a cat. It was closer to the size of a lion now, and was snarling menacingly, frightening the horse so much that it bolted towards Agron. Vaedwyn's face scrunched up in anger and she tried to run past her dragon, her despair and rage at seeing her village burning had overwhelmed her surprise at seeing the sudden shift in size of her dragon. Every time she tried to get closer to the smoke, the dragon blocked her path until at last it let out a snarling roar that echoed through her mind until she heard... NO! Vaedwyn jumped and staggered back in surprise. Her heart was beating out of her chest, as her dragon snarled in defiance. "Vaedwyn!" Agron cried as his horse slammed to a halt nearby. He immediately leapt from the horse and came to her, grabbing her firmly. "Lass...we need to go, now!" He said with urgency. "Right now!" He added, and he looked up pleadingly at the sky. "But my village is burning!" Vaedwyn screamed, her eyes darting to the sky above. She imagined she could hear the sound of thumping, howling sound of enormous wings. Dragon-fire spraying through the village as they descended upon it. She desperately tried to break free of Agron, but he was far too strong. "I know, lass, I know..." He said softly. "But we have to keep going." There was a beating of wings and Turiel descended from the sky at speed. As he neared his wings caught the air, and he slowed, crashing down to ground with a low, grumbling snarl. She must come with me, Turiel said to Agron, and he turned his neck to look at Vaedwyn's dragon. You must fly. "Come on!" Agron said as he picked up Vaedwyn, carrying her with relative ease despite her protests. He heaved her on to the front of his horse, and got on after her. He gave a whistle and Vaedwyn's horse came to him. He grabbed it's reigns so it could ride alongside him. "Turiel, keep hidden!" Agron said. "Stay with her, and just... please be careful." Just you worry about Vaedwyn, Turiel replied. He turned back to the other dragon, his amber eyes filled with a piercing, righteous fury. You must fly. Vaedwyn's dragon, while as large as a lion, was still minuscule next to Turiel. She looked back at her wings and flexed them to the extent of their wingspan. For a few seconds, she was immobile, but then suddenly, she burst forwards into a full sprint. She opened her wings, and began flapping them and she lifted from the ground for a moment before falling back. She kept running, flapping and getting bursts of lift and then as a wind caught her wings, she lifted off from the world below and soared into the sky. Vaedwyn found herself transfixed by the spectacle, and she was gripped by a gnawing desire she'd never realised she'd had before. She wanted to fly. She needed to fly. Turiel let out an approving growl, and with much less effort, he took off after the young dragon, quickly gaining on her and moving past her, slowing for her to follow him, leading her away from the road, flying low and behind cover. "Don't worry." Agron said. "They won't stray far. Now come on, HYA!" He dug his heels in to the horse and rapped it's reigns, and the beast of burden took off like an arrow being loosed from a bow, speeding down the road, and away from the approaching smell of ash.
  4. Pulse

    OOC: Private RP between myself and Kyo PULSE The morning started like any other for Rose Walker. She woke up, feeling groggy and tired. It took a shower, two cups of coffee and a cigarette before she'd woken up enough to realise she was late for school. She pulled on a pair of plain black jeans and a white tank top, over which she wore a black leather jacket. She grabbed her bag, brushing her long red hair out of her pale-skinned face and slung a pair of headphones around her neck as she left the apartment. The walk to school was quiet, the rain kept most people indoors. She could hear the thrum of the downpour as a distant background noise next to the music blasting from her headphones. She walked in, and the first person she saw was the headmaster. He tapped his watch and shook his head at her, and she shrugged with a smile and quickly put on her aviator sunglasses. The corridors of the school were quiet, except for the sound of her boots clacking off the linoleum. Then at last, she turned into the classroom and silence fell over the entire room. "Good morning, Miss Walker!" The class called. "Mm, morning." She muttered back, falling into her chair and wiping the sleep from her eyes. "Okay, so, I want everyone to turn to page three hundred and ninety four, we're picking up from where we last left off, on the ancient history of the Romans..." After the morning classes were through, she'd perked up a little. The bell rang for lunch and she dismissed the class. She heard the doors of a dozen different classrooms down the hall opening, and suddenly there was a cacophony of noise. It was soon muted however, as the last student in her class left the room and she was alone at last. Rose let out a sigh and rubbed her temples, then she pulled out a key and unlocked her desk drawer. Inside there was a small cooler, she pulled out one of a dozen small Thermos just as the door to her classroom opened. "Hey!" A woman in her mid-thirties with long blonde hair stepped into the room, "Oh, another packed lunch, I see." "Yep." Rose replied, smiling politely at the blonde. Her name was Kate Jones. She was a maths teacher, and had an obsessive nature. Everything had to be 'just right'. Kate opened a small lunch box and pulled out a sandwich - cut diagonally, with the crusts cut off. It looked like some kind of Bologna with cheese. She had a packet of crisps - plain. She once explained she'd seen the factory where they apply flavours to crisps and it disgusted her, and a chocolate biscuit. Not any chocolate biscuit. It was a Royals chocolate biscuit. It had to be, or she wouldn't eat it. "Juice?" Rose asked, after taking a large gulp from her Thermos, offering the container to Kate who eyed it warily. "What is it?" Kate asked, trying to see the contents. "Beetroot." Rose replied, with a smile to show her bloody teeth, "Stains everything, but it's delicious." "Stains?" Kate parroted the word nervously, "Oh, no no." She shook her head. "Didn't think so," Rose replied, grinning. "Hows your class?" "It's alright." Kate lied. Rose could tell when Kate was lying. She could tell when anyone was lying. It was a gift. "That bad, huh?" She raised an eyebrow with a smile as she took another swig of her beetroot juice. "It's Shaun Meyer." Kate said the name with a hint of frustration in her voice. "Shaun again, huh?" Rose took another swig of juice and studied Kate through the tint of her sunglasses. This wasn't the first time she'd heard Shaun's name mentioned. There were a number of students in Kate's class that were struggling with maths. This wasn't uncommon. Rose had to admit, she wasn't a fan of maths either. However, sometimes students are just matched to the wrong teacher. She pondered this thought for a little while, trying to listen to the bare bones of Kate's afternoon gossip session, until the bell rang once again. Afternoon lessons. The rest of the day was uneventful. There was a fight outside school between two seniors, she had no idea what it had been over, but it was usually about a girl. She spent the rest of her last lesson reading a newspaper while the class watched an instructional video. Blessed relief! She was reading in silence, listening with one ear to the video, while the other was trained on her class. She could hear their whispers even at the very back of the class, despite the volume of the video. Then something caught her eye, and all her other senses became dull, as her eyes flew over the article. Rose whispered the article aloud, "Police are searching for a man in his mid-thirties, he is believed to have been witness to a stabbing that took place on the thirteenth of January." That was just two days ago, "The victim, a homeless woman known only by her friends as 'Doris' was found dead, her neck was covered in puncture wounds." Any colour that might have been on Rose's chalky skin, soon drained. "Officers present believed it was an animal attack, but one officer, Malcolm Kind, was quoted as saying, 'In twenty years, i've never seen anything like it. I don't know anything that leaves a bite like that'." Rose heard a whisper in the class and she looked up, pulling her sunglasses off she picked up a piece of chalk and held it between her thumb and middle finger, then casually flicked it across the class where it smacked the young man in the side of his head. He promptly faced the front once more. Slowly, hoping it was just a dream, Rose looked back at the article. Sure enough, it was still there. The article finished by saying that the victim had died of severe anaemia. "Shit..." There was a quiet gasp and for a moment Rose looked up in confusion, then realised it was because of her. "Alright, like you haven't heard that word before, eyes on the video, boys and girls." She growled, then leant back in her chair. So, there goes the neighbourhood, she thought. It seemed there was a dangerous beast on the prowl, and in a place as small as Willow Creek, it was only a matter of time before the entire town would be talking about the 'animal attack'. It was time to move on. That didn't really bother her, Rose was always moving from one place to another, but she'd grown accustomed to Willow Creek. Even if it was only a podunk Maine town surrounded by forest, she'd grown to love it. Now she was going to have to move again, and the thought left a bitter taste in her mouth. That story would bring them, and then it was game over. She'd pack up tonight, and be gone in the morning. If she stayed any later than that, she'd be putting herself in danger. Rose had to remind herself to act normal. Go through your day as usual, she told herself, work until sundown, pack up your things and get out. Before it was too late.
  5. Pulse

    The drive home was in silence. Usually, Rose was fine with silence. Relished it, even. But this evening was a different case. She pulled into their driveway, they got out and walked inside. It was only when Rose closed the door behind her and locked it that she felt a measure of peace settle over her. She took a deep breath - which she reminded herself she no longer needed to do, yet was satisfying all the same - and walked into the kitchen. She opened her jacket pocket and pulled out a dozen or so small vials of blood, placing them in the fridge behind the remnants of the food that the young thief had stashed. "So, what do you want to know?" Rose said at last, then changed her mind and re-opened the fridge to pull one of the vials out. She took a sip and then held it between her fingers like the neck of a wine glass and collapsed into her chair in the main living room. "I don't know." Shaun said, as he took a seat opposite her. "You tell me. I don't even know enough about this life to know what questions to ask." "Alright." Rose sat up in her chair, drained the vial of it's contents and placed it to one side and then focused on Shaun, "You wanted to know everything, so that's what you'll get." She thought for a long moment, considering what to first impart. The most important piece of information she could give him. "Vampires are just people, Shaun." She shrugged, smiling, "We're not bloodthirsty monsters, and-- well... we're not monsters. We have morals. Killing unnecessarily is wrong. Vampires have a code of ethics that we don't cross." "Oh good, glad I'm not a monster, I was worried for a minute there." Shaun replied, rolling his eyes. "So I get it, vampires can be nice, I think I've gathered as much by now. So if we're all just stand up citizens, then why are we hunted? I'm not saying those guys are right, but I know that groups like that don't rise up against people who just have a little sip and move on quietly." "Don't they?" Rose asked, frowning. "Do you think the innocent men and women of Salem deserved being drowned and hung? Some of them were witches, yes. But they were good people. They healed the sick, protected the town and saw to it that nobody would go hungry. Do you think they were to blame for their attackers?" "Yeah, it's just the humans that are bad." Shaun said sarcastically. "I don't believe for a second that every vampire is a saint. Like I said, I'm not saying what these hunters do is right, but are you honestly telling me there aren't some vampires that deserve that?" Shaun shrugged. "If you're saying vampires are just people, then they have to share some of the blame, some of the responsibility, just like humans do. Maybe a lot of those witches were doing good, and..." Shaun stopped to hold his hand up, "We'll save the talk about witches being real for another time I think. But I'm pretty sure some of them were bad people too, just like anyone can be bad." "You asked to know everything. So be patient." Rose shifted in her chair to alleviate her irritation, "Now, I never said that vampires weren't saints. No, I said most vampires are just like people. They have hopes and dreams, they suffer and they push on. Most." That word left her lips like it was rotten. "Hunters are a mixed bag, Shaun. Some are people who have been wronged and they take matters into their own hands when human laws fail them. You might think it understandable, I would even applaud them for having the bravery to do such a thing. But some of those hunters don't see the distinction. They simply want to kill all vampires. However..." Rose shifted in her chair once more, but this was more from her own discomfort on the subject at hand. "A number of them are turned to that way of life because of the Umbra." "Ah, yeah, the Umbra." Shaun said, nodding enthusiastically. "Are you gonna elaborate on that there, teach?" "I asked for your patience. I won't ask again!" Rose snapped uncharacteristically. After a long minute's silence, Rose straightened up in her chair and apologised, "I'm sorry, Shaun. But you have to understand something..." She thought for a moment, trying to draw a comparison. "Groups throughout history have tortured, maimed and killed... all because of their beliefs. They feel they are justified in doing so. They don't consider themselves to be morally wrong, unfair or unjust. They believe it is simply the way of things. The Umbra are vampires who believe that the act of feeding is sacred. That in killing someone during the process of feeding, they absorb a part of who that person was, and so they become stronger. They kill humans and vampires for any reason they see fit and there's nothing we can do to interfere. So I ask you to forgive me for my outburst, as this is a sore subject for most vampires." "...Okay." Shaun said after a moment. "Maybe save the heavy topics for another time. Let's talk about something more close to home." He leaned forward in his chair. "Me and you. That's all that matters right? You said we're bound, because you made me. So what do we do, Rose? How can I make sure I'm doing the best thing to keep us safe and happy?" Rose watched Shaun as he spoke, listening quietly and expressionlessly. She let out a long sigh when he asked her a question she felt like she could finally answer. Some of the tension in her shoulders left as she answered, "I'm going to do for you, what my Maker did for me." She paused, a grin spreading across her face, "I'm going to train you." "Now we're talking." Shaun said with a soft smile. He leaned back in his chair. "So what first? You going to have me paint a fence and that'll somehow, inexplicably, make me a kung fu master?" "I think we'll try for something a little more... direct." Rose stood up and walked towards the back of the house, "Come on!" She called, and slid open the glass back door which led out into a large garage. There were no cars, no tools or indeed anything that you might normally find in a garage. However, aligning every wall, there were hundreds of different weapons. From short swords, to pole-arms. Katanas to clubs. It was a veritable armoury of melee combat. Rose watched Shaun walk into the garage and grinned at his expression, then turned around and picked up a katana with a black sheath and then took a side door out into the back garden. The garden had a high fence, enough to keep nosy passers-by from peering in. "Well choose something, then." She walked out into the middle of the garden and turned back to face the house and waited. Shaun examined the wall of deadly weapons and let out a short whistle. He'd never handled a weapon before, and he reached out to a few different ones, but hesitated each time. Weapons required training, and finesse to varied and entirely different degrees. He'd only seen katana wielded in TV shows and martial arts movies, and from what he knew of them, they were especially good at dismemberment. Fearing for his limbs, he opted for the long spear. He took it off the wall and carried it outside. "I thought you said these were our weapons." Shaun said as he wiggled his fingers to indicate his sharp claws. "Vampires have an uncanny ability to adapt better than most other creatures. Maybe it's because we challenge ourselves constantly and weed out the weak of us..." Rose considered this for a moment, then held her katana horizontally in front of her, displaying it to Shaun, "Claws and fangs are weapons, of course. But they are used for duels between vampires, as a mark of honour. Or as a way to hinder yourself in a challenge that with a martial weapon you would overwhelm your opponents. However, I need to train you to win at any cost, with any weapon. Think of it less as weapons training, and more of endurance. You are going to fight me, and you are going to experience pain. Some vampires learn to manipulate their instincts and adapt to any weapon, any situation, in years. Some in months. Some learn in days. A few have even been born with it. I would like to see which bracket you fall under..." "I'm... suddenly not so sure about this." Shaun said a little nervously. "You sure you wouldn't rather I paint a fence?" "Maybe later." Rose replied, walking towards him, "I want you to stop me from striking you. Don't worry, i'll keep the blade sheathed. Remember that a blade should never be drawn from it's sheath unless you intend to use it. If a vampire sees you draw a blade on them, they will kill you. There will be no discussion, no misunderstanding and apology. You will be dead. Now guard yourself!" Rose took a sudden step forwards, closing the gap between them dramatically. She raised her sheathed katana and brought it down towards Shaun's shoulder. Shaun had barely made a move by the time Rose's saya connected with his shoulder. As she drew it back he backed off, pacing with his jaw tightened as he fought the pain pulsing through his arm and upper chest from the point where she had struck him. "Son of a..." He growled through clenched teeth as he flexed his shoulder, moving it to ease away the pain. "All right.... all right." He said as he continued pacing. "All right.... again." He said finally, and nodded at Rose. "Traditionally, a saya is made from wood." Rose held up the weapon and rested it on her shoulder, "But this one is made from metal. So you might want to be a little faster there, kiddo. Broken bones take more than a few seconds to heal." With that, she darted forwards a second time and jabbed forwards so quickly that she smashed the end of the katana into Shaun's stomach and then quickly brought the hilt up to uppercut him. Shaun gasped reflexively as the first hit caught his stomach and he fought the urge to lean forward. The pain spread across his body, and it took every ounce of his will not to fall to his knees and double over in pain. Then something in the back of his head, something that operated above his pain, told him to move, no, it demanded that he move. His hands clenched the pole of the spear. He brought it up in front of him, holding it horizontally, and pushed out, connecting with Rose's katana and forcing it back, and he pushed himself away from her and his form changed to a wide footed crouch, as he swung the spear in his right hand so that it's length was at his back. He snarled and gnashed at the air, his fangs popping out with an audible 'snikt' sound. He let out a frustrated growl and unhinged his jaw, and the fangs disappeared again. "Again." He said angrily. "I'm sure that looks scary to a human, Shaun. But to a vampire its simply telling me you're not in control." Rose studied Shaun for a few seconds, "Your opponent will be in control, will you?" She raised her katana once more, "Well come on then," She grinned, "If you're coming." Shaun sprinted forward, swinging the spear in a wide arc back to his front, before gripping it in both hands and bringing it down from left to right in a diagonal slash at Rose's shoulder. Shaun's training went on for several hours in silence until Rose twirled around and effortlessly deflected Shaun's next attack, striking him in the elbow as he passed her. "Don't let your opponent dictate the flow of the battle." She said at last, breaking the silence, "Force them to make a move you can anticipate, and then you've won. Would you like to stop?" Rose asked, raising an eyebrow with a smile. She saw a number of nasty looking bruises that were slowly healing, but there were so many of them now that he was struggling to heal. He was coming to his limit. "Why?" Shaun asked, his voice trembling slightly. He was standing in a poised position, ready to move, but his posture was off, he was tiring. He looked at Rose, his eyes filled with fire, the only spark of life in his otherwise failing body. "Getting tired?" He said with a toothy grin. Rose lowered her sword and started walking back into the house. "Yeah, let's get a drink." Rose replied. She was content with how far she'd pushed him, yet a memory from her past reminded her that he would have disagreed. "Well, what'cha starin' at girl? Ah ain't done wit' yeh. Pick up yer blade." Rose shook her head, shaking off the fog of her past. She opened the fridge and pulled out a couple of vials. "So, you wanted to know how we can be happy, Shaun." She handed him one of the vials and then sat back down in her chair, she seemed untouched by their training. "We have to fit in, become a part of the town, become valued. I might take a job... something that would give me a greater degree of freedom..." She mused on this for a while, "What about yourself? What would make you happy?" "I don't even know any more." Shaun replied, opening the vial and draining it's contents ravenously. He licked his lips and sat down next to Rose. "The old me would have been happy with a car and a girlfriend." He said. "Well, I have the car, and the girlfriend thing doesn't seem quite so important any more. My mother organised my whole life, I had no idea where I wanted to go, or who I wanted to be." He shrugged his shoulders and inspected the bruises on his arms. "But a lot of stuff that didn't interest me before is interesting me now. Never thought I'd actually enjoy fighting, or books." "That's just the start." Rose smirked, "But look, I know i've been hard on you, but you gotta bear with it. I'm pushing you and guiding you right now because I won't always be with you. Things happen, so you gotta look after yourself. But for now, you do as I say when I ask it, and i'll train you up right and soon enough, well..." Rose trailed off as a wry smile spread across her face, "Anyway, take another vial and drain it. You need to sort those out," She nodded at his bruises, "You're starting to look like an eggplant." Rose let her thoughts carry her away, as she drained her vial in one gulp. Eventually, she pulled herself out of her thoughts, she'd been absent-mindedly clicking her claw off the edge of the vial. "Law enforcement..." She nodded to herself. "Yeah."
  6. Konoha Gaiden [Private]

    [Evening] The smell of tobacco and cheap rice wine carried on the breeze as Yuri followed Jin across Konoha's rooftops. He veered off and she followed him down to street level, where a notable fog of smoke drifting up separated the bar from the other businesses surrounding it. Yuri took a deep breath, but crinkled her nose from the smell. "And this is where your sensei is...?" She asked, raising an eyebrow in disbelief. "Well, I think so." Jin replied, scratching his head. He walked over to a couple of older men who were quietly playing cards at a bench. "Oi, old guys!" He said, and they turned and frowned at him. "I'm looking for an old lady. Likes sake, and gambling?" "Heh, sounds like my ex wife." One of the old men replied, chuckling. "But there's also someone like that inside. She's currently losing all her Ryo to the owner, hehe." "And you learnt from her?" Yuri asked sceptically. As a drunk reveller walked out, Yuri walked into the bar, pushing the large man aside as though he weighed little at all. Inside the bar, it was warm, smoky and the lighting was dimmed. Yuri saw a group of people sat at a table and crossed the room, weaving through tables and patrons to get there just as the man at the table threw down his cards and grinned. "Well, how 'bout that then?!" He cheered, and a couple of people watching over his shoulder chuckled at the old woman. "Oi, old lady, you're Jin's sensei?" Yuri asked, examining the stakes on the table. Sorano tilted her grass hat up so she could look at Yuri, and smirked. "That's right, princess." She said. "Now bars aren't for the youth, so run along." She turned back to her hand and focused her gaze, pondering her next move. "We came looking for you, old lady." Jin said as he stood next to Yuri, "We were wondering if you could help us with something." "Bite your tongue, punk." Sorano growled. "Leave you on your own for a few days and that presumptuous attitude comes out again. Don't you forget who the boss is here." She turned back to her hand and Jin stood silently, giving Yuri a look that said she should do the same. Sorano placed the last few notes she had on the table. "Alright, I'm all in." She said confidently. The owner of the bar smirked and licked his lips, eyeing his own hands. "Alright, Sorano. I'll pay to see 'em." He said, and he matched her bet. Sorano smirked and placed her cards on the table. "Full house." She said, and she immediately went to take her winnings. "Uh-uh, Sorano." The owner said. He placed his own hand down. "Straight flush." He added with a grin. "Ah, snap!" Sorano cursed. She sighed and leaned back in her chair, turning to the two kids. "Alright you two. I'm in a bad mood, and flat broke. What exactly have you come to bother me with, hm?" "We want information on stage two of the Chuunin exams." Yuri glanced at the man who had just taken the last of the old lady's money, then turned her attention back to Sorano as he gathered up the notes and coins. "You know something, don't you?" She asked. "What makes you say that?" Sorano said, shrugging. "I'm just an old relic. You think they tell me what's up?" "Well if you don't know, you could find out right?" Jin suggested. "There's no way they could stop you. You're the best ninja in Konoha." "Not a ninja, boy." Sorano said. "Now... maybe I could do that. But why should I?" "You used to be a ninja though, didn't you?" Yuri replied, "Can't you see the value in our knowing this information? Both Jin and myself want to change Konoha for the better. Would you stand in the way of our progress?" She looked over the table and the other gamblers who had fallen silent, "Or would you like to go back to your cards?" "Oh, I see." Sorano nodded. "So you think a spiffy flak jacket will be the key to bettering Konoha?" Sorano smirked. "Genin, Chuunin, Jounin.... none of those titles really reflect how capable a person can be. Not to mention the kind of trouble I could get in for helping you, and if anyone found out that you two were involved... well, you'd be disqualified, for sure." [Survival Examination] "Alright." Yuri looked across the table, "A wager, then." Yuri grabbed the man sat beside Sorano and pulled him out of his seat, then sat down and looked across the table. "If I beat you with the next hand, then i'll also win back your money for you, and you help us. If you beat me, then you can have this," Yuri reached inside her collar and pulled out a gold chain necklace with a pendant on the end of it, "It's worth a lot. So if you win, maybe you can win back what you've lost already. Either way, you win something. You're a betting woman, think you can beat me?" She asked, her face expressionless. "Interesting." Sorano said, a sly grin spreading across her face. "It seems the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Although.... Masa was always a very confident gambler, because she knew the game better than almost anyone." Sorano took a deep breath and leaned forward on the table. "But you've misunderstood your opponent. I don't gamble for money, It's not difficult to get money when you're capable like myself. It's the risk that I enjoy, kid." Sorano swiped the deck of cards from the table and began to shuffle them expertly in her hands. "Let me propose another wager. If you win, I'll dig up some information to give you kids an edge. But, if I win..." Sorano's hands moved like a blur, dealing the cards to each of them in an instant. "... Both of you will agree to forfeit the Chuunin exams." "Wh-what!?" Jin spat. "We're not doing that!" "Then you'll just have to go in blind like the rest of them." Sorano replied. "A ninja must be able to weigh out the value associated with a risk. And no risk is really a risk at all, without a hefty price for failure." Sorano turned her head back to Yuri. "On the other hand, if you're anything like Masa, then there is really no risk at all, hm?" Yuri considered the old woman for a long while, then let out a sigh and nodded, "Alright. It's a deal." She picked up her cards and studied them in silence, then placed them face down on the table, "So...?" She leant back and waited for Sorano. "So... let's get started." Sorano said, and she flipped the first of three cards placed on the table. "King of Hearts." She said. "Now, Sayuri, at this point I'll offer you a chance to concede, and walk away with no consequences. What would you like to do?" "I would like you to turn another card." Yuri replied, placing her hands on her lap patiently. Sorano turned another card. "4 of Spades." She declared, and looked at her own cards. "Mmm... interesting. This time I'll give you the same offer once more, you may concede now and the wager will be forgotten, but, if you do so then you must also agree to be my ward for two weeks, where you will do whatever I tell you." Yuri checked her cards a second time, committing them to memory. She looked at the other two cards presented to her and paused in quiet thought, "I'd like to see another card. I'd rather be disqualified than end up rubbing your toes and carrying your bags." A small smile spread across her lips. "Oh I think you'll find being my ward can be a very rewarding opportunity." Sorano said with a grin. "Isn't that right, boy?" She turned to Jin. "...It was a tough year." Jin said, his eyes staring off in to the void as he pictured the arduous tasks he had been made to perform during his training. "Ah, well, it can't be helped." Sorano said with a shrug. She flipped the last card and smirked. "Ace of spades..." She said. "Well, Sayuri, you know the drill. Carry on and risk your future as a ninja, or concede, and this time... if you quit then Jin will leave Konoha for another year, and train with me." "Wait, I don't agree to that." Jin said. "You are a team." Sorano said. "The consequences affect you both. That is part of being a ninja." "Then you force me to continue regardless." Yuri replied. "Perhaps your principles do that." Sorano replied. "Plenty of ruthless ninja out there, quite a valuable trait to a lot of people." Sorano drew in a long breath and sighed. "Hmm... well, that's some poker face you've got, Satomi Sayuri. If I had more to lose I'd maybe be a little worried right now. Well, it can't be helped. I guess I concede." She said, laying her hand face down on the table. "As much as I'd enjoy seeing if you lost, I'm much more keen to see what you do in the next stage of the exam. Seeing the Kage's collective heads roll is worth more than anything you can offer me." [Rainy Day] A long sigh of relief escaped from Yuri and she leant back in her seat. She took her cards and Sorano's, and for a moment, considered checking them, but thought better of it and placed them all back in the deck. She didn't need to see Sorano's hand to know now. It had all been a test. She stood up, put her pendant back on and walked out into the cool night air and waited for Jin and Sorano to join her. "Not sure what kind of lesson that was supposed to be, old lady." Jin said as he shoved his hands in his pockets and went outside. "Well that's because the lesson wasn't for you." Sorano replied. "Sometimes even a mature woman like myself needs to learn a thing or two." "So, how are you going to help us?" Jin asked. "Hmm..." Sorano put her hand to her chin, thoughtfully. "Why don't you leave it with me. You have a few days to prepare. Do what you need to do, and when the time comes I'll have something for you, deal?" "There doesn't seem to be another option." Yuri replied, but bowed politely to Sorano, "My mother always spoke highly of you, God Step." Then she turned and made to leave. "Heh, that is surprising..." Sorano said in response. "Masa was a great Kunoichi, and a great leader. Naturally, we rarely saw eye to eye. It's nice to know she never took it to heart. Good luck, both of you." "Yeah, thanks, old lady." Jin said with a smirk. "I'll be sure to become a chuunin, and make you proud." "You'll need more than a flak jacket to make me proud, boy." Sorano said sternly. "But it's a good first step, at least." "I see why she's your sensei," Yuri nodded to Jin, gave Sorano one last bow and then leapt up to the rooftops. A few moments later, Jin joined her, "So, i'm going to bed. Let's do something tomorrow, nothing serious just... let's enjoy a day together, we don't know when we might be able to do that again." "Sure, sounds good." Jin said with a nod. "We should take a tour of Konoha. It's been a whole year, it'd be nice to see what's changed." "Mm," Yuri nodded, and then vanished. As she darted across the rooftops to return to her home, she wondered what was in store for them in the next stage of the Chuunin exams. She would not fear her dreams, not tonight. For the first time in a long while, she was happy.
  7. Playstation 4

    Does anyone have one? I picked up my PS4 today, got it all hooked up. The graphics on the games blow my mind, but I only know a couple of people who have a PS4 and it'd be really cool to game with anyone who has one on here. I'm ready to go online, but my router is old and shit apparently, which means my wireless signal isn't good enough for the PS4 - but we're getting an 'N' wireless router in a few days time, so hopefully then i'll be able to go online properly. Anyway, if you are on the PSN please hit me up, I don't know if you'll be able to add me right this second until I link my console to my account, but I DO have a PSN account set up. My ID is The_Kiriyama I hope to chat and play with you guys soon! :3
  8. Pulse

    It didn't take long to get the cars back to the house. After parking her car in the driveway, she took a leisurely stroll back into town, enjoying the scenery as she went. She picked up Shaun's car and drove back, and all in the space of less than a half hour. Rose opened the front door to her old home, Rose walked in and took a deep breath, smelling the air. She smiled to herself and then let out the air with a sigh and closed the door behind her. She could hear movement inside and knew Shaun was about, but she also knew he would have heard her open the door. After all, she wasn't trying to hide from him. She put her coat to one side and walked into her study. She noticed Shaun sat in her armchair in nothing but a towel, then she looked at the wall of books laid out before her. Her eyes scanned over them and she picked one out. It was more a personal favourite, than a classic. A novel called Shogun, by James Clavell. Historical fiction. Strangely, one of her favourite genres, despite working to further the advancement of factual historical information. "So, thinking of putting some clothes on?" Rose asked, opening her book. Then she started to walk towards the nearest wall, as she reached it, she put one foot out and touched it to the wall and began walking up it horizontally, then she reached the ceiling, and walked across it until at last she sat down upon it and continued to read. "I..." Shaun paused with his mouth slightly agape for a moment. "I... uh... can I do that?" "Eventually. Give or take a few hundred years." Rose replied, turning a page. "I think the first time I was able to control my centre of gravity was around the 80's." "Which 80's?" Shaun said, rolling his eyes. "The only one that mattered, obviously." Rose shook her head, turning another page and letting out a wistful sigh, "The 1880's." "Right." Shaun said. "So, speaking of clothes, I might be able to put some on if you actually brought any with you? If you'll recall my clothes are in an overnight bag, in the back of your mini.... four states away." "Duffel bag in the hall," Rose replied, her eyes not leaving her book. "Oh, I got you a car..." She muttered, semi-distracted. "Really?" Shaun said, brightening up a little. "Where is it?" "On the moon," Rose replied sarcastically, pulling the keys from her back pocket. "Where do you think it is?" She threw the keys to Shaun. Shaun grabbed the keys and got up from the chair quickly. He went for the door, but stopped short of it and backed off down the haul and grabbed the duffle bag. He took a moment to change in to a fresh pair of jeans and a slim fitted grey hooded sweater. He went back to the door and opened it, and he marvelled at the silver Mercedes sitting in the driveway. "Are you kidding me!?" He yelled back in to the house. "You bought me a merc!?" Rose bookmarked her page and pushed off from the ceiling and she drifted down to the bottom, and with a soft tap she landed on the floor. Putting her book to one side, she walked outside and studied the Mercedes for a moment, then smiled at Shaun. "Just let me..." She leant forwards and grabbed his head between her hands and gently redirected it a little to the right. "There." Shaun looked at the other car, further back in the driveway. The blue Jeep Wrangler might not have looked like much to most people, but Shaun stepped out in to the garden and walked towards it. He ran his hand over the hood and inspected the interior, and then he turned to Rose with a smile on his face. "This is.... so cool!" He said, grinning from ear to ear. "Thank you... like, seriously. Thank you so much." "Well you can make it up to me by behaving yourself." Rose replied with a frustrated sigh, "I probably could have told you this sooner, but Darkpine is something of a magnet for the supernatural. A witch once told me why, but it was so long ago, I don't entirely remember..." She trailed off for a moment, lost in thought, "Anyway, there's a pack of werewolves in town, and despite what the movies say, we don't really have any issues with werewolves, as a whole. That being said, the alpha seemed to have a problem with vampires, it happens, so don't go doing anything you shouldn't. In general. Anywhere." She paused, trying to think, "At all. Ever." She pointed an accusing finger at him. "What do you mean by that?" Shaun asked, "I mean I've never so much as- wait, werewolves are real too!?" "Among other things." Rose muttered, a touch of annoyance in her tone. "But that's not important. What is important is that you behave yourself. I'm not saying you don't, i'm just saying you have to, because you're my responsibility." "Right, I get what you mean." Shaun said. "But I wasn't exactly planning to kill people or, I dunno, steal or something. I mean clearly I don't need to worry about finances. What else is there? Like, do these werewolves have a freaking rulebook or something?" "You're better off avoiding them, is all." Rose replied, and walked back inside the house, "I'd be happy for you to interact with them, enthusiastic, even. However, their alpha has a chip on his shoulder about vampires, and i'd like to avoid worsening that if possible. I'll be honest, werewolves and vampires are considered pretty close, at least for us. Its frustrating and upsetting that I can't open a line of dialogue with him..." Rose rubbed her temples and then shook it off, "So, what do you think of the house?" "It's nice." Shaun said. "Guess those cleaners really earned their pay." "I guess so..." Rose muttered, looking around with a frown on her face. "What's the matter?" Shaun asked. "I don't know..." Rose continued looking for a few moments, "I mean, I just thought there'd be more... I sent a lot of boxes and I don't see a whole lot of clutter." "Well they are cleaners." Shaun said. "It's kind of their job to avoid clutter. Maybe they put most of your stuff in the attic?" "Right..." Rose nodded, that made a lot of sense. She shook her head, it wasn't important right now. "How are you feeling?" Rose asked, looking him up and down, "You look like you could use a meal." Shaun shifted uncomfortably. "Starving, actually." He said. "I...I thought I should wait for you. Sorry...I know you want me to do this on my own I just thought I better not, you's a new place, I was worried I'd get caught." "If you really don't feel comfortable, Shaun, it's alright. You've been through a lot, i've seen a lot of fledglings over the years," She reached into her back pocket and pulled out her keys, "You've nothing to be ashamed of." She walked into the hall and put the keys on the table in front of the front door, "I'm going to get a shower, can you keep an eye out for the cleaner? I'm going to have a word with them once they're done with the house. After they're through, we can get something to eat." "Well, she'd be too tired to clean if we did it before, and too sweaty and covered in dirt after. I'm not keen on either of those situations to be honest." Rose laughed, "Just hold on alright?" She smiled at him and then started up the stairs. Rose got into the shower, and sure enough, within a couple of minutes, she heard the doorbell ring. "Can you get that, Shaun?" She called down to him, letting the hot water run over her head. She wasn't getting out of the shower for anything right now. "Just a minute!" Shaun called. He was in the study, reading one of Rose's books - 1984 by George Orwell. He figured he'd enjoyed Animal Farm, so why not try another by the same author. He put the book down and made his way to the door and opened it. "Oh, okay..." The girl looked at Shaun with mild surprise, yet indifference, "Thought you'd be a bit older, and, y'know... a woman." She picked up a bucket full of cleaning supplies and raised her eyebrow at him, "Well, are you going to let me in?" She asked, speaking with a slight accent. The girl was around the same age as Shaun, maybe a little younger. She had long, dark brown hair and pretty dark-brown almond-shaped eyes, a sign of her Japanese ancestry. Her skin was slightly tan, and though her face had a severity to it, she was very pretty. She zipped up her tattered black hoodie over her plain black t-shirt and then pushed past Shaun. "You're the cleaner?" Shaun asked, raising his brow. " don't look like a cleaner." "You don't look like a woman, but, y'know," She shrugged, and then placed the bucket on the table and looked around the house, "Y'know, i've never seen the owner before, who are you, his daughter?" She turned around and stuck a piece of bubblegum in her mouth and started chewing. "Actually, she is my sister, and she's upstairs." Shaun replied. "So... uniform in the wash or something?" He said, eyeing her tattered clothes. "Or did you just mug a homeless person on the way here?" "Sure, I put my uniform in the wash, and mugged a homeless person on the way over." She replied with a deadpan voice. She walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge, pulling out a half-eaten loaf of bread. Placing her gum on the kitchen counter, she pulled out a chunk of the bread's interior and ate it like she was eating from a bowl of popcorn. Then she sat on one of the stools in front of the kitchen counter and studied Shaun, "Never seen you before. You're not from around here, then." She stuffed another bite of bread into her mouth. Shaun followed her, his brow furrowed into a frown. "Yeah, probably a good idea." Shaun said. "She wants to speak with you anyway." He walked further in to the kitchen and leaned on the counter, staring out of the back window. After a moment he turned, and glanced at her briefly. He could hear her heartbeat, slow and steady, completely unafraid. He thought to himself that this was a good thing, because frightened prey runs. Then he thought about how disturbing that previous thought was. The prickling on his skin was becoming quite intense. "You're weird." She muttered, frowning. She couldn't quite tell why, but something was really 'off' about this boy. "Someone sure likes to get their opinions out." Shaun said, rolling his eyes, but he kept facing the window. He wondered how fast she was. Did it even matter? If what Rose had told him was true, then he should be more than fast enough. Stronger? Most definitely, he thought. He shook his head and kept staring out of the window. But it did little good. He could hear the bread being ground by her teeth, her heart beating, every subtle little gesture or fidget that she made. Not looking only made his other senses more prominent. He wondered why he was even worrying about it. It's not like he would hurt her. She wouldn't even remember, and he'd certainly feel better. "Hey... there was an envelope on the table by the bookcase, in the other room." He said, feeling strangely confident in his lie. "Maybe that's your pay cheque." "Oh, okay." She hopped off the stool and blew a large bubble, popping it with her tongue. She walked into the next room and looked around, then spotted the only table in the room and walked over. There was a lot of things on the table, and her eyes scanned back and forth over it. After a moment, she started moving newspapers and records and a bunch of other things she considered a load of old rubbish. "Where?!" She called back over her shoulder, "I don't see anything!!" She let out a long, audible sigh as she rooted around. "Hang on." Shaun said, walking in to the room and standing next to her, scanning the room with his eyes. A quick movement, that was all it would take. "I swear I saw it here somewhere. Sometimes stuff falls under the armchair, can you have a quick look?" He asked, trying to sound as casual as possible. "Why would you even--" She began to complain, but she wanted to be out of here before the owner came down. She got down on her knees, and pushed her hand under the armchair and started to feel around, "Ugh, it's all dusty under here..." She groaned, feeling blindly. Shaun bit back the urge to point out the irony of the girl's comment. At that point all that mattered was his need. He began to lean down over her, ready to yank her up close, and breath on her, so he could feed. He reached out with his hand, but just as he was about to grab her, he felt a quick but sharp pain in his mouth. He stepped back, and he went to touch his mouth, but then he caught a glimpse of himself in the reflection of the window. His mouth was filled with a set of razor sharp fangs. Without another word, he fled the room quietly, and turned to go up the stairs, only to see Rose coming down them. Casually, Rose walked down the stairs and raised an eyebrow at Shaun, "So, we had a conversation, just minutes before, in which you assured me that you were going to behave yourself," She whispered to him in a harsh tone. "I..." Shaun said, but then he just hung his head in shame. "...I'm sorry. I just...I'm hungry and...and then this..." He pointed at his fangs. "It just happened." "Well, you wouldn't be the first vampire to say that... or boy." She chuckled to herself and then held his chin up with her fingers and studied his mouth for a moment, "Yeah, they're all set. Just relax the muscles in your jaw." She sighed and looked over his shoulder at the girl currently searching under the armchair. Shaun nodded nervously and then took a deep breath. He tried to relax, letting the tension fall away from his jaw. After a brief moment his fangs receded as quickly as they had appeared. He let out a sigh of relief, and looked down at his feet. "...Thank you." He said quietly. "Mm-hm," Rose nodded, and as she passed him, she gave Shaun a light slap on the back of his head. Rose walked into the room and cleared her throat so that the girl would hear her enter. She pulled herself up off the floor, dusting off her jeans and turned around. "Why the hell are you in my house?!" Rose growled, "She's not the cleaner, Shaun." "Yes I am!" The girl argued. "No, you're the little degenerate that stole from the mechanic." Rose turned and started to leave, "Changed my mind, go ahead." She muttered to Shaun. "Hey!" The girl chased after Rose, "I started coming here when the last cleaner left, if it wasn't for me this place--" "--wait." Rose frowned but then suddenly her expression shifted as realisation dawned, "You've been stealing from me, that's why there aren't any boxes out!" The young girl huffed and made an indignant 'how could you say that' face, but then a second later, she bolted for the door. When the girl ran something instinctual flared up in his mind. His impulse to give chase sent him moving before he could think. She was in front of him when he started running, but he closed in on her as she got her hand on the door handle, and just as she pulled it open he reached her and slammed the door shut again, holding his hand firmly against the door. "Shaun..." Rose cautioned, walking up to them. "What?!" The girl mouthed off, "You gonna call the cops on me? You don't have any proof I took anything, so what?" She stood there defiant. Despite the situation, Rose grinned. She could feel the girl's heartbeat had barely changed. She wasn't afraid in the least. In fact, she was convinced that if Shaun as much as touched her, that she'd likely bite and claw like a wildcat. "Rose..." Shaun said in a very controlled and measured tone that suggested he was trying his hardest to restrain himself. "...make a decision...quickly, please." Rose walked up to the girl, kept her gaze for a few seconds, then stepped back, forcing Shaun to take a step out of the way. Then she opened the door. For a few fleeting seconds, the girl wasn't sure what had just happened, but then she smirked and ran off. Rose closed the door behind her and let out a long sigh. "What the hell was that about?" Shaun asked, holding his hands up in disbelief. Then he shook his head and dropped his arms again. "Forget it, I don't even care." He said as he walked away from the door. "I want to go lie down. I don't feel so good." Rose grabbed him by the collar to stop him leaving. "No, you need to eat, come on, we're gonna find a bar." Rose pulled him around and patted him on the back, "You ever heard the phrase 'Don't shit where you eat'?" She smirked with a tired expression, "Well its a little like that." Then she picked up her car keys and they stepped outside. Rose locked the door behind them and together they left to find a meal ticket.
  9. Site Upgrade

    (but I love this instant link into image thing)
  10. Pulse

    The coach drove past a large sign partially covered by alpine spruce, which simply read, 'Welcome to Darkpine Valley'. Rose let out a long sigh and rubbed her eyes from under her sunglasses. Vampires didn't exactly need sleep, but being cramped in a coach-load of humans for an extended time, she certainly felt like she needed a rest. For the latter half of their journey a young child had been kicking the back of her head rest. If she had been in a foul mood, she might have given the child a scare when the parent wasn't looking. But with a fresh start, came fresh possibilities. There was something quite satisfying about starting over anew. She had done it many, many times. Lived many lives. She wondered what kind of life she might lead this time around. Darkpine looked like the kind of town that was big enough to attract business, a prestigious college, and plenty of jobs, and yet just small enough so that most folks knew one another. No doubt, news would travel fast. Rose looked over at Shaun for a moment. She'd have to keep an eye on that kid. But she smiled despite her concern, as whatever he thought of himself, he seemed made of stronger stuff than most, which gave her a certain satisfaction. "Alright ladies and gents," The driver called out over the tannoy - only Rose, Shaun, and two others remained on the coach at this point, however - then he cleared his throat and nodded at the town as they passed through it, "Welcome to Darkpine Valley, I hope you have a wonderful time, thank you for choosing our coach service, we'll be stopping in just a moment, please stay seated until the coach has completely come to a stop." "How you feelin'?" Rose asked, looking over to Shaun. She pulled off her aviators and looked at Shaun. Her bright green eyes studied him for signs of fatigue, or more importantly, hunger. "Not as bad as last time." Shaun said. "But we'll probably need to eat soon." "We'll get situated first, and then we'll see about food. I have a house here, but I haven't lived there for nearly two hundred years... should bring back a lot of memories." She mused, as the coach pulled in and everyone got off. Rose looked around with a degree of confusion, "Gimme a minute, everything's changed..." "Couple of centuries will do that." Shaun said, rolling his eyes. "Do me a favour," Rose pulled out a key chain with at least a dozen keys on it, rifled through them and then selected one and freed it from it's ring, "Take this. Ask the locals where Oak Place is, they'll be able to point you in the right direction. Big old house, top of town, nestled on the north edge of the forest. Go in, have a shower, relax, read some books, listen to some music, don't worry it should be in good condition. Well, if not then i'll be asking for a refund for 40 years of cleaning bills..." She grinned. "Sure..." Shaun replied without much enthusiasm. Darkpine might have been a sleepy town, but it wasn't exactly small. "Guess I'm going for a hike." He sighed. "That's the spirit." Rose grinned at Shaun as she watched him leave. Teenagers. Human or vampire, it didn't make a difference. She replaced her aviators. Rose crossed the street and walked down the road until she came to the corner where she had spotted the shop front for a mechanic. The name of the shop read, 'Archer Auto Repair'. She walked up to the shop, but as she did so, something became apparent to her. Humans were not it's only occupants. Rose grinned, it seemed that Darkpine hadn't changed a lot since last she'd been here. She opened the door, hearing the little jingle of a bell, and stepped inside. The front office was clean and well-managed and she could see a door leading out back to the auto repair section, but she decided to wait. She walked up to the front desk and brushed her hair out of her face and pulled her aviators off, her eyes locked on the door, as she could hear footsteps approaching. "Hi" Said a male voice as he stepped through from the back. He was wearing a blue mechanics jumpsuit stained with engine oil, and had a baseball cap on his head facing backwards. He was tall and skinny, and his hair was dark, long, curly and untamed, and looked a little ridiculous sticking out from under his cap. "Welcome to Archer Auto Repair. I'm Danny. If you've got an appointment Justin's on his break right now but he'll be back in an hour. Or is there something I can help you with?" "Hi Danny, i'm Rose, do you sell cars as well as fix them?" She asked, smiling, "Only, i'm new in town and I need one for myself and my younger brother." "Oh, right." Danny said with a nod. "Well I'm just an apprentice, actually." He said, and his awkward shrug showed that he was acutely aware of how odd it was for an apprentice to be about 30. "We do loaners, and we've got a couple of used but the selection is quite small. My boss needs to sign off on them though. Can you hang on?" "Sure, go ahead." Rose nodded, and turned to look around the shop while she waited. Danny went back in to the back area. "Yo, Curtis!" He yelled, "There's a hot girl up front who wants to buy a car!" There was a long pause after that, and the sound of someone else talking quietly. Then footsteps drew closer again and another man emerged from the back. He was in his early thirties, dressed in blue jeans and a black T-shirt, and a pair of brown boots. He had a refined, muscular physique and carried himself confidently. His dark brown hair was down to his shoulders, straight but a little shaggy at the ends, and he had a thick dark stubble. His hazel eyes locked on Rose, and there was a wariness about his expression. "Good day, Miss." He said as he approached the desk. "Name's Curtis Archer. My tactless friend tells me you're here to buy a car, is that right?" "That's alright," Rose replied with a lop-sided smile, "So, I need a couple of cars. Think you can hook me up? My name's Rose, by the way," She held out her hand for Curtis to shake. Curtis took her hand without hesitation, but relinquished it quite quickly. "Follow me." He said and he pulled up the partition that led behind the desk. He led Rose in to the garage, where several cars were waiting for their service. Danny and another man were busy working on one but Curtis led her outside through another door, to an outdoor lot in the back. "Anything in particular you're looking for?" He asked. "We've got a limited stock right now, but I can narrow it down for you." Rose's gaze glanced over a number of cars and then drifted back to Curtis, "Well, i'd like something sporty for myself, money isn't a big issue. Something for the kid, too. Nothing too pricey, if he wants something like that he can work for it himself." She flashed Curtis a toothy grin. "We don't get a lot of high end vehicles." Curtis said. "We've got a blue MX-5 if you're looking for a convertible. Or there's a silver Mercedes SLK we just got in. As for the kid, well, we've got a whole assortment of cheap cars to be honest. There's a Wrangler in the back. Jeep's a good choice in this neck of the woods." "Yeah, that SLK convertible will do nicely, and whatever gives good mileage in the four-wheeler category is fine." Rose took a deep breath and looked around, "Nice place, wasn't here when I was round this way last. Towns gone from strength to strength, nice to see." Rose smiled and looked around Curtis' establishment with a keen eye. "You might want to be careful who you say that to." Curtis said. "My grandfather opened this shop. It's been here for 45 years. Either that or you better consider dying your hair grey and investing in some liver spots." Rose outright laughed and licked the inside of her cheek, "Yeah, well," She chuckled again, still caught with the idea of passing herself off as a senior, "I'll be sure and do that. Though, it wasn't something I had to keep from you now, was it?" Her smile softened as she pulled out her wallet, "So, i'll take both those cars." She held out a credit card. "Right." Curtis said, and he took the card from her. "I'll need you to sign off a few forms, and then I'll get you the keys." He led her back in to the garage and in to a small office room that was filled with filing cabinets, and computer and printer. He sat down at the desk and typed away at the computer for a minute. "I'll need some I.D and your current address." "Oh, here," Rose held out her driver's license, "The house is called Oak Place." She sat down in the chair opposite his desk and looked around the room, "So, a lot of people like us come through this town, then?" She asked, twiddling her thumbs. Curtis took the I.D and checked it, then went back to typing on the computer. "Like us? Sometimes. Like you? Not so much. About 8 years ago there was one who lived here. Not a happy time, to say the least." A couple of pages came off the printer and he picked them up and placed them on the desk and handed rose a pen. "Sign here." Rose signed the papers after checking them and handed them back, "Well, I can't speak for others of my race, but we won't have any issues." "He said the same thing." Curtis replied. He got up and picked up two sets of keys from hooks on the wall behind him and handed them to Rose. "Look, Miss Walker. The two guys out there, they know about our world, but I don't like to involve them. Regardless you can speak freely here. I don't like beating around the bush. If you drive out of here today and I never see you again, then that will be that. But clearly you know what this place is, and you know that it's protected. You may not want trouble, but trouble has a way of finding your kind. Keep it out of my sight, and we won't have a problem." "If trouble finds me, that doesn't make it my fault. I'll try not to seek it out, though." Rose took the two sets of keys and jingled them in her palm, "I'm as much a guardian of this town as your clan might be. I'm glad you're here..." She paused for a moment, content to sit in silence for a while. "Have you ever heard the old tales of what connects us?" "Yes." Curtis said. "I don't much care, to be honest. The past is the past. I've had enough of sacred bonds and curses and senseless, age-long feuds to last me my short lifetime. You're the second vampire I've met that has been keen to inform me of what is and isn't their fault. I don't care about blame, I never blamed him, and I'm not blaming you. I don't care about you, or your life. The people in this town are what matters, and they don't need another guardian. Just keep your head down, there's nothing more to discuss than that." "Alright. I'll skip the history lesson then, and give you the facts." Rose nodded, taking a deep breath as she reigned in her frustration, "I live here, Curtis. I have a great many reasons to protect it, as much as or maybe even more than you. I'm a reasonable person, but nobody dictates to me what I can and cannot do." She stood up and pocketed the keys, "Oh and one last thing," She jerked her head back towards the front room, "I can hear someone opening your till." "Hm, that's too bad." Curtis said. "Because I just heard my cousin's truck pull up." There was a sudden loud crash, followed by the sound of someone yelling angrily. Curtis left the office and made his way to the front desk again. An equally broad shouldered man in ages with Curtis, who had short, blonde hair, was currently holding someone by the scruff of their shirt, up against the wall. "Can't even mind the place for an hour while I have my lunch, eh Curtis?" Justin said, but his eyes were locked on the thief. "Not a bright kid, are you? How many of our customers do you think actually pay in cash these days, hm?" "I don't know what you're talking about!" The young girl growled. She had a clear Japanese heritage, speaking with a slight accent, implying she had likely come to America within the last few years. She was petite and attractive, with dark-brown almond-shaped eyes and long straight hair, but her face had a severity to it. She was dressed in black with a hooded coat and fingerless gloves. Her clothes looked a little tatty and she looked a little under-fed, although that wasn't abnormal for a lot of teenage girls. "Let me go, you big freak!" She yelled, kicking and punching the large man that held her against the wall. Rose followed Curtis through to the front room and went for the exit. "Hey!" The girl yelled, "They're--" "Don't even try." Rose laughed, and glanced back at Curtis one last time before leaving them with the girl. "If you don't let go of me, i'm gonna scream..." She hissed. "Let her go." Curtis said. Justin sighed but released his grip without question, and the girl fell to the floor. Curtis crossed his arms over his chest. "Got something to say?" Curtis asked, folding his arms over his chest. "Like, oh, I don't know... sorry, perhaps?" "Yeah," She nodded at Curtis, then turned her attention to Justin, "You got lucky." She added sassily, a triumphant grin appearing on her face. Then she pushed past Justin and made for the door, as her back hit the door and started to push it open, she flashed Justin the double bird and then left. "Kid's got an attitude." Justin growled. "Should've taught her a lesson, it's clear her parents don't." "It's not our place to discipline someone else's kid." Curtis said. "Besides...did you get a look at her? Looked like she's been sleeping rough." "I'd throw her out on her ass too if she was my kid." Justin said, shaking his head. "I mean, seriously? No excuse for being a thief." "You've been on a students gym membership since you were 18. And you dropped out of college after three months. That's technically theft as well." "That's not the same and you know it." Justin replied. "Anyway, more importantly, you going to tell me who that vampire chick was? Hm?" "A customer." Curtis replied. "Uhuh..." Justin said with a nod. ", though. Easier to look at than Lex, at least." "Shut up, idiot." Curtis said and he punched Justin in the arm. "Put that libido to good use and get yourself a wife for crying out loud. Can't turn a vampire, that ship has sailed for them." "Yeah, look who's talking." Justin said with a grin. "Mister six year dry spell." "Get back to work." Curtis said rolling his eyes. He shoved Justin and the pair went back in to the garage. The young girl turned a corner and disappeared into an alley and pulled out a couple of crumbled notes and some change. It came to less than five dollars. She sighed and held the money in her hand for a few moments, considering it, and then pocketed it once more and walked down the alley through to the other side. She walked with her hood up and her head down until she walked into a sandwich shop and asked for a couple of sandwiches. The moment the clerk turned his back, she pocketed a couple of iced buns and tried to lean over the counter to the till, but she couldn't make it before he turned back. "That's uh, let's see... call it four dollars." The old man rang it through and she reluctantly handed over the money, before taking everything and leaving quickly before he noticed anything was amiss. She walked back down the alleyway she'd come, and then turned to a length of wire mesh fencing and found a gap underneath it. She squeezed through and found herself on the grounds of an old abandoned lumber mill. She quickly ran inside and as she went through the shadow-soaked mill, a couple dozen footsteps joined her. She kept walking, making her way to the far end where there was an old mattress and a barrel producing a warm orange light. Looking into the barrel, she realised the fire was almost out, and added a couple of small logs and then threw herself onto the mattress with a sigh, and pulled out the food. The figures that had followed her through the mill waited patiently, watching, their eyes peering at her from the shadows. She pulled out one of the iced buns and gripped it with her mouth while she opened both packets of sandwiches. "Okay!" She called, and then suddenly a half dozen dogs burst forwards from the shadows and swamped her. She laughed and collapsed as a large German shepherd knocked her to the mattress, "Easy, easy!" She screamed with laughter, and pushed the shepherd away as it licked her. "Here, alright, it's not much..." She gave each of the dogs half a sandwich, and then finished off her bun and put the other one up out of the way of the dogs on a table. The dogs finished the food in a matter of seconds and crowded around her. There was the large German shepherd, a couple of small mutts, a cross-eyed pug and an old golden retriever. "Look after 'em, Austin." She scratched the shepherd under the chin and then addressed the others. "Columbus, go lie down. You need a rest." And the old retriever dutifully obeyed. "Dallas, Houston, sit." Both the mutts obeyed after playing with each other for a moment. "Stay. Good boys..." She turned her attention to the cross-eyed pug, "Boston?" The pug turned it's attention on her, it's little tongue sticking out one corner of it's closed mouth, "Stay beautiful." She clicked her fingers at the dog and it stared blankly back at her, letting out a short burp a moment after. "I'll see what else I can get..." Then she left.
  11. Site Upgrade

    Yuck. You two, not the site. That looks lovely. haha.
  12. 3rd time's the charm?

    Yo! welcome back to the site, Jo
  13. Outcast

    [OOC: Private RP between myself and Kyo] OUTCAST A man clad in black armour walked a white marble floor, the sound of his footsteps resonated through the grandiose corridors of Die'welden, the castle home of the ruler of all the lands of Avalon. He held the hilt of his sheathed longsword in one hand, and a rolled length of parchment in the other. When he finally reached the double doors at the end of the corridor, the two guards waiting upon either side opened the doors and stepped to one side, recognising the Captain of the guard immediately, Jacob Forrester. The corridor opened out into a cavernous main hall, pillars lining the main walkway to the throne which itself was adorned with a crimson carpet, beautiful tapestries hung upon the walls, and an enormous stained glass depiction of Matthew Arturo Villiard - the man known as 'The Immortal King' - made up most of the far wall, the rainbow-coloured light from which illuminated the man himself. "What news, Captain?" The King asked, his furrowed brow showed a wisdom that far exceeded his physical appearance, though that in itself was intimidating. The King was a man that appeared to be in his mid-40's, with a short brown beard and wild hair held in place by his crown. He had piercing dark brown eyes and was muscular like a seasoned blacksmith. When he stood, he cast a shadow that bathed Jacob in darkness. "My King, the news is not as you would have hoped." Jacob knelt before his King, but despite his courage, he feared the King's wrath before anything else. "The Northern lands are taken with plague, nothing grows there any more, and with winter approaching the farmers say they won't be able to provide any additional supplies. Also, there have been two cases of Blight, but as per your instructions, the afflicted were removed and burnt." "Damn this Blight..." The King paced in front of his throne, "... and two cases of it in the same month? It's on the rise." "I fear as much, Sire." Jacob nodded and then remained silent. "My people are starving because of that Blight, Captain. I cannot allow this to go on. The only reason those desert savages in the east haven't invaded is because I united the clans. I led our people against the Walkers in a hundred different campaigns and it is only the perceived strength of our nation that holds them at bay. This cannot be allowed to go on..." The King stopped pacing and faced the Captain, "Did you dispatch our soldiers?" "Yes, Sire." "And?" The King asked impatiently. "They've not returned, Sire. I fear they must have perished, from the elements, the Blight, or perhaps monsters..." "Enough!" The King growled, his fists trembling, "Put out a Royal Decree - Any hunter, capable of killing any monster, and bringing me it's head, will received one thousand gold coins. I want this Blight, and it's monstrosities, destroyed." The heavy beat of hooves crashed through the forest. Her horse heaved from exhaustion, she had ridden it too hard, for too long. But the ones chasing her were gaining ground. She couldn't let them catch her, no matter what. She heard the sound of an arrow whistling past her head, and the dull thud of the arrow striking a tree just ahead of her. "She's right there!!" One of them yelled. "Shoot her!" "Hya!" She whipped the reins of her steed and her horse redoubled his efforts, but he was tiring. She took a quick look over her shoulder and cursed as an arrow sliced through the heavy black hood of her cloak, missing her face by inches. Watching the road ahead, she saw her chance. There was a long rope bridge, if she could cross it, she could cut it and gain hours, if not days, on her pursuers. "One more push!" She asked of the horse, whipping the reins once more. Her voice was feminine, yet it sounded off. A little shrill, and croaky, as though she was speaking in a language her throat was unaccustomed to. As the horse's hooves met the wooden boards of the bridge, the dull thumping turned into a roaring clatter. She was almost a third of the way across the bridge, she glanced over the edge and saw a steep plummet into a river far below. Suddenly, she heard several more arrows slicing through the air. Several missed her, but one struck her horse in his hindquarters and he loosed a terrible scream as his legs buckled and she was thrown forwards across the bridge. "No!!" She yelled, tumbling forwards and whirling around in an instant, but she was too late. The horse fell over the side of the bridge and disappeared into the inky blackness below. She couldn't outrun them now, she had to stand her ground. Looking over her shoulder, she could see the end of the bridge in the distance, but she was too far away to jump, and she'd never make it if she tried to run. She pulled a long, lethal-looking dagger from a sheath on her lower back and raised it, ready to defend herself. Moments later, three men on horseback exploded out of the forest and charged down the bridge towards her. The first man raised his bow, nocked an arrow and let it fly. She heard the arrow screaming towards her, she readied herself, and at the last possible moment she plucked it from the air. The rider gasped in surprise, opened his mouth to speak, but before he could say anything, she flipped the arrow around so she was holding it between her thumb and forefinger and fired it like a dart. The arrow screamed back towards the rider, struck him in the elbow, and took the lower half of his arm clean off. The man howled with pain and fell from his horse. "Demon!!" One of the two riders yelled, and drew his blade. "Hardly." She replied, in her croaking voice. Then dived to one side as the rider tried to cleave her in two upon passing her, as she dove she sliced through the legs of the horse and both horse and rider plummeted towards the river below. "That's fine, more for me..." The rider grinned, dismounting and pulling a longsword from it's sheath. "Who sent you?!" She screeched. "By royal request!!" The man jeered, "There's a bounty on anything non-human, and i'd say you about fit the description, even if you do talk." "This one did not wish to harm your comrades, nor did she wish harm upon you." She replied. "Well that's too bad," He raised his blade, "Because I need the coin, so i'll take my chances." "As you wish." She screeched, and charged. Her dagger clashed against the man's blade, and to her surprise he was a competent fighter. Yet she was the more skilled of the two. She pushed him back, her footwork as well as her blade skills had both finesse and strength, yet she was unable to predict the man's next move. Their blades clashed once more, and suddenly the man pushed himself into her, locking their blades together. Then he yanked a dagger from his boot and plunged it into her thigh. Loosing a terrible screech of pain, the man clutched his ears in discomfort as she stumbled backwards. Unable to hold onto her blade, she dropped it and tried to grab hold of the rope bridge, but failed and fell over the side. She felt the rush of the wind around her, but then cried out in pain as her arm was grabbed at the last moment. Swinging over the side of the bridge, she looked up to see her attacker had managed to catch her. "You're not going anywhere!" He yelled, "I need your head!!" He started to pull her up, and she quickly looked below her, to the river. "This one is no hairless ape's trophy!" She yanked the dagger from her thigh, screaming in pain as she plunged it into the man's arm. He reflexively let go of her, and she plummeted into the darkness. She hit the water at speed, pain flushed her body, but she was alive. She turned to try and orient herself, but the water was moving so fast, then suddenly as she surfaced, her head collided with a rock, and then darkness. "Mummy! Mummy, look!!" She opened her eyes, but the light was so bright it was blinding her. She held her hand out over her face and realised she was on her back, looking up at the sun. It was only then that she realised that her clothes were soaking wet, she was drifting on the edge of a river bank. "Mummy!!" The girl's voice was insistent, pleading. She groaned, remember the pain in her leg. She opened the tear in her pants just enough to see the dark green blood trickling from her yellow-gold chitinous skin. She needed time to heal, but she couldn't stay here. It was only a matter of time before she was found once more. She tried to stand but her head felt fuzzy, and as she pulled herself up, she fell forwards and collapsed once more. "Mummy!!" "For goodness sake, Claire, what?" The mother of the young child wandered over from hanging her laundry and saw the body of the young woman. "Oh my Gods, Claire, get away from that... it could spread the Blight!" She ushered her child away but as they were about to leave, she groaned. The mother stopped in her tracks and turned back to look at the stranger. "Oh... Gods protect me, go on back home now, and get sheets and clean water ready." As her daughter rushed off - though not after looking back longingly at the stranger one last time - the mother approached the half-drowned woman. "Hello? Are you hurt bad...?" She knelt down beside her, and pushed on her shoulder to turn her onto her back, "Gods!!" She jumped in fear and surprise upon seeing the young woman's face. It was monstrous. She had hard, cool skin. From the corners of her lips, her jaw seemed segmented. Her eyes were nothing but black, and her teeth were sharp and serrated. She was, in every aspect, a monster. And yet, kneeling over her, she was not as afraid of her as she'd once thought. Lifting the strange woman to her feet, she helped carry her back to her home. She'd have to keep her secret from the other townsfolk, but with enough time her wounds would heal, and then she could be on her way. No harm, no foul. Perhaps it was even a sign from the Gods? While she carried the stranger, she mused on this, unaware that she was being watched.
  14. Pulse

    "I know." Rose replied, sitting on the end of the bed. She had turned the television off, and then she stood up, crossed the room and turned the lights off. "Be quiet." Rose instructed, and sat back on the bed. She turned her head and listened. There was two of them. They walked quickly and quietly, saying nothing to one another. They knew what they were doing. They had to be using signals, aware of the acute hearing of a vampire. "Shaun, I want you to go into the bathroom and lock the door." Shaun thought to protest, but as he opened his mouth he stopped himself. They might have heard him. Slowly he rose up and walked to the bathroom, gently closing the door behind him, and there was a soft click of the lock a moment later. Taking a deep breath, Rose stood up and waited. She heard footsteps passing along the front of the motel rooms. At each doorway, they paused for a moment. Then they moved on, and so it went. Getting closer and closer. She could hear their hearts beating, and to her dismay, they seemed calm. At least, calm for what they were getting ready to do. She could smell cigarette smoke from one of them. Lucky 8's, a local brand with a distinctive smell she knew well as one of her colleagues used to smoke them until she decided to quit. One was a man, the other a woman. The pace of their movement and the difference in their gait gave it away. Rose walked up to the door and waited patiently. The footsteps of the hunters moved onto the room beside their own, and they paused once again. "Reading is a little low..." A woman whispered. The man's heart began beating slightly faster, there was silence, but Rose could tell he was likely chastising her for speaking. It seemed the woman wasn't as experienced a hunter as he was. Maybe an apprentice? Either way, taking some of Bill's blood had rattled them, made her second guess. They had to be using something to detect heat signatures. Quick as a flash, Rose ran to the little kitchen segment of their motel room. Though it was little more than a counter with a microwave and a kettle on it. She turned the kettle on and listened, but the two hunters weren't moving. They had to be assessing the likelihood that Bill was their vampire. Rose looked at the kettle, as it began to hiss into action. "Come on..." Rose muttered, listening for signs of movement. Suddenly an almighty crash sounded as the door was caved in. But as luck had it, it was not theirs. Bill yelped in surprise as the hunters charged in, weapons readied. They got into a heated argument with Bill, and then suddenly Rose jumped as though she'd been struck. A near-silent thwip petrified her to the spot. Some kind of silenced weapon. The hunters had killed Bill. It was far worse than she'd thought. Hunters, like anyone, human or vampire, came from many different backgrounds and held many different views. Some would only hunt the creatures of the night that killed humans. Some would hunt them all regardless. Then there were those that killed anything that got in their way or risked their way of life. They were the worst kind. The sort that would kill their own without a second thought. These were the people they were dealing with. She heard the pair of hunters leave Bill's motel room and then start walking towards their own. Click. The kettle! Rose ran to it and grabbed it from it's holster, and not sparing a moment, she poured the kettle of boiling water over her head and body, suppressing a scream as she did so, then she cast the empty kettle aside and waited. The footsteps tracked across to the front of their door, and she turned and walked over to the bed as best she could, and sat down, staring at the television. Shivering with pain and dripping wet, steam coming off her body. There was a long pause, and she could hear their hearts beating on the other side of the door. Then moments later, they moved on down to the next apartment. Her skin was pink, but healing quickly before the blisters could set in. Her limbs felt numb as she stood and ran to the bathroom, she quietly knocked on the door and waited, the moment the door opened, Rose grabbed Shaun by the hand and ran for the front door. "Come on, we have to go..." She whispered, then waited behind their front door, listening for the hunters moving down the line of rooms. "Wait- what just happened?" Shaun asked, staring at Rose. "What did you do to yourself?" "What I had to," Rose wiped her mop of red hair out of her eyes and pressed the side of her head to the door. She heard the hunters moving down, further and further, and finally they were far enough away that she felt safe in opening the door. As she did so, she instructed Shaun to walk slowly, not to panic. They would likely see them as they left, but as long as they were calm, they would likely assume after the little stunt she'd just pulled, that they were just residents going out for the night. As the door opened, Rose put Shaun's arm around her shoulder as though they were a couple, and then they walked out and closed the door behind them. Taking the time to lock the door as they should, and then slowly they began to cross the car park. Rose could feel the eyes of the hunters on them, or at least it felt that way. "Are you alright?" Rose asked. "...Terrfied." Shaun only just managed to say. His hand was trembling at her waist. "Fear will keep you focused." She muttered back to him. They were almost out of the car park when Rose heard something. "How many signatures were in that room?" The female hunter asked. "One." The male hunter replied. Rose grabbed Shaun tightly, "Hold onto your butt!" She yelled. She tensed the muscles in her legs and burst forwards, within seconds the world around them turned to a blur, the thwock of a crossbow bolt, followed by the howl of it's approach was drowned out by the wind screeching past them. Buildings and objects flicked by as little more than indistinct blurs and then suddenly Rose came to a screeching halt and dropped Shaun in front of her. "Alright, we're about a mile from the motel..." She looked around and considered their situation for a moment, "Okay. Forget the car, we can't go back for it. We're going to have to find some other means of travel." Shaun froze on the spot. For a moment he looked fine, and as he stood still, he felt fine. But as he went to step forward he felt a sudden wave of inertia and fell to his knees. He felt like the word was spinning around him uncontrollably. His body swayed from side to side like he was trying to balance himself, and then he fell on to his side and lay on the ground, hoping it would steady him, but the world kept spinning on. "Pull yourself together, kid." Rose looked down at him, "Come on, ain't nobody gonna help you but yourself." "I think I might throw up." Shaun replied, staring dead-eyed in to the dirt. "What do you think you're gonna throw up?" Rose asked, a slight grin spreading across her face, "I suggest you re-think that." "Just once..." Shaun said as he pushed himself up off the ground. "Just once It'd be nice if you didn't have an answer for every little thing I say." "If I did that, I wouldn't be much of a teacher." Rose replied, "Nevermind much of a Maker. Come on, get up. We're wasting time. I'd rather not have to go through that again. What's the point in having beautiful, pale skin if you keep pouring boiling water over it." She studied the back of her arm and saw the redness was almost gone. "Feeling better yet?" She asked expectantly. "Better is a stretch." Shaun replied. "But I'm good to go, if that's what you mean." "I'll take it." She nodded with a smile. "Come on, i've got an idea." They had been walking for a while now. Rose chose to remain quiet, instead focusing on keeping her eye out. Eventually, she saw a bus stop and walked up to it, and read a number of the pamphlets. She spoke to Shaun, but kept her gaze on her reading material. "So, I want to apologise, Shaun. This isn't exactly the easiest transition for you. I don't know if i'd have been able to survive if I had gone through what you are now, hunters can be... well, they're hunters. But usually they're not that bad. These people are... they're not right. I'm sorry you've had to lose so much in so short a space of time." "Yeah, we're a couple of undead blood suckers, and it turns out the humans are the evil ones." Shaun said with a smirk. "Not exactly worthyn of Shyamalan, but I guess it'll do." But after a moment his smirk softened. "Thanks, though. It's...better, just knowing you acknowledge how weird this is for me, you know?" "There are bad vampires, too. I don't want to claim we're better just because we're vampires, but I guess hunting attracts certain types... Aha!" She exclaimed, and pulled one of the pamphlets out from the rest. "This will do nicely." She held the pamphlet up and read it aloud, "Come live in an idyllic logging town, with it's own prestigious college, access to fishing on a beautiful lake, with festivals all year round. A hidden gem, with a big community..." "Sounds...boring." Shaun said, crossing his arms. "Can we go to L.A? Or New York?" Rose outright laughed, "You haven't been here before, you're going to wish for somewhere like New York. Besides, I have contacts there, they can set us up right, and help us lose those hunters hopefully, plus it's kind of a magnet for people like us." "Great." Shaun grumbled. "Chin up." Rose smirked. Ten minutes later they were queued for the bus to take them on the long journey. They were the last on the stop. Rose stepped up the stairs and the driver gave her a quick look up and down and frowned. "Going quite a ways, no luggage?" He asked. "No, not this time. Just what we have on us. Here, can I get two tickets please. Here." She pointed at the pamphlet and the driver nodded, accepted payment and Rose and Shaun got on board. The bus began to fill the remaining free seats as they sat down together. Rose took the window seat and sighed as she sat down, feeling relaxed for the first time in days. "Evening ladies and gents..." The driver's voice came over a tannoy system, "This coach service is going through Boulder, Fort Collins, Aurora, Durango, Lakewood, Breckenridge and final stop..." He closed the doors of the coach and started the engine, "Darkpine Valley."
  15. Outcast

    Ash, Dieter, Marcus and Krios left the castle together. The sun was shining, though dark clouds loomed in the distance. Marcus was content to whistle a tune as they walked, but Dieter growled in irritation. He was confused as to why he had changed duties suddenly. From monster hunter, to runner, and now he was a babysitter. He looked over his shoulder, glancing at Ash and Krios and then turned back to Marcus. "What are we doing here, Marcus?" He asked. "What do you mean?" Marcus frowned and then looked back at Krios and nodded with a smile at the man, "They seem alright, if a little odd." "We're supposed to be monster hunters." Dieter replied, "But instead the King ordered us to find them quarters and get their equipment readied." "If the King says it is important, Dieter, then we shall do it." Marcus patted his large stomach, "Although, I think a meal will be in order before we set off. And I fancy another crack at the Captain. I'm sure I can solve her today." "You're going to get another bruise..." Dieter muttered, then they both slowed to let Ash and Krios catch up, "So, you want a Magisteel weapon? I need to know what kind of weapon. Give me the details. But hurry up, will you? I've got better things to be doing than pandering to your sorry hide." "I'll talk to the craftsmen directly." Krios replied. "No sense in rushing the forging of a fine weapon. It would be wasteful." "I'll waste you--" Dieter snapped, but Marcus patted him on the shoulder. "Come on then, let's see him. He's a funny fellow, but i'm sure you'll all get along swimmingly." Marcus took the lead and the group followed. They walked down to the bottom of the noble quarter and saw a large building without walls, the roof supported by wooden pillars. Equipment of all shapes and sizes scattered across the working space, including an anvil and a furnace. Ash ran up to the tools and picked one out of the pile at once. "Tongs." She said, examining it with a curious gaze. "Know your tools, do ya?" A man asked, he pulled himself out of his chair from beside the furnace. He was smoking from a long pipe, exhaling clouds of wispy purple smoke. "So, my name's Grant. I'm the King's blacksmith. I take it you want something, else you'd not be here. Mornin' Dieter, Marcus." "Good morning!" Marcus replied, Dieter just nodded. "And who are these folk then?" Grant asked, raising an eyebrow at the odd-looking pair. "New recruits, I suppose." Krios said to Grant, "Only the best is suitable for a King, and so I am to assume that you are the best at your craft." Krios removed his sword from his belt and laid it down on one of the work tables. "Been a long time since I've been to a smith in the city, and never a smith worthy to craft the King's weapons. My blade..." He removed it from it's sheathe and laid it back on the table. "Rhaegalian steel, forged in Elisee. It's seen it's share of battles, but I've made sure it has seen good care in return. Recent events, however, inform me that the weapon has become quite obsolete, in many ways." "Oh, well..." Grant picked up Krios' weapon and studied it for a moment, "Well kept. Forged by an expert..." He practised with the blade a little, thrusting it forwards and slashing it through the air, and judged it's handling and weight. "Well, I could make you something with Magisteel, as I imagine that's what the King would want for ye, but honestly, your weapon is in fine condition. What are you planning on fighting exactly? Beg your pardon, but I don't know your faces, nor know a Royal Captain from a White Wolf. What are you gonna use your blade on? Much of what you hunt will affect what I should make." "Monsters." Krios replied. "A fairly diverse opponent, as it happens." He added. "At first I simply wanted a new sword, much like this one, but..." Krios looked at Ash as he spoke. "Recently I've found myself involuntarily separated from my blade... twice." He turned back towards Grant. "This sword was forged to fight men, and I will keep it to serve that purpose. What I need is a weapon to fight monsters... do you understand?" Grant looked from Krios to Ash, and back to the hunter, "Alright. So you want a weapon that you can't lose. Something powerful, that protects your grip." He paused and looked at Ash, "And what about you, funny-lookin'?" Ash turned her head in confusion at the blacksmith, "Well what weapon do you want?" "We do not require one." Ash replied, looking from the blacksmith to Krios, "Metal stick is weak. We are stronger." To punctuate this, Ash released her stinging limbs from her back and stretched them, showing they could jab further than any sword. Grant recoiled, but though wary, remained rooted. "Good as those things might be, they're still a part of ye," Grant studied them for a few moments, "Harder'n steel, but I reckon there are monsters out there that could slice through 'em, plus Magisteel is stronger than they are. Are you sure you don't want them?" "If metal stick is stronger, then we use." Ash replied, intrigued. "Alright then, well we're getting somewhere then. Do you want a sword, or dagger, or a bow or--" Ash walked past Grant and grabbed his anvil and lifted it clear off the ground, "Huh... alright. Then a mace, or a greatsword should suffice. Well that should be interesting, aren't many wielders of the great blades any more." "When is ready?" Ash asked. "Mornin', come back for them then." Grant smiled to Krios and Ash, "Oh," He lifted Krios' sword, "Shall I keep this and use it for the base, or do you want to keep it?" "Keep it for now, and make any necessary repairs, please." Krios said. "But I'd like it back as is. Like I said, it was forged to fight men, and men can be just as troublesome from time to time in my line of work." "When you're in the city, you can bunk here." Dieter stopped in front of an enormous building. It looked like some kind of mansion. Ash stared up at the height of the building, it was several stories high and dwarfed most of the surrounding architecture. "This is the commons for the Wolves." Dieter explained, leading them inside. The interior was fairly sparse, but a lot was going on. Two people were having a fist fight in one corner, while a group of the Wolves cheered them on, placing bets and drinking. A couple were stood near the fireplace, warming themselves and talking in hushed voices. One man was reading a book on a comfortable looking chair at the far end of the room, and a dozen more were dotted around, talking amongst themselves. When Dieter and Marcus entered, there was a general shift in the tone of the room. They acknowledged them both, but it was more the two new recruits that brought silence to the room. But only for a few moments. "Your room is on the second floor. First door on the left." Marcus patted Ash and Krios on the back, "Welcome to the Wolves." He added, and then walked into the throng of men and women. Dieter looked at them both for a long moment and then rolled his eyes and walked over to the fireplace. "What now?" Ash asked, looking to Krios. "Now...we get acquainted with our new... friends." Krios said, and he looked around the room. His attention lingered a little too long on the bare knuckle brawl going on in the room. He watched them for a moment, gauging their form and technique, and observing the bets being placed. "...Hm... I like a challenge." He said to himself. Ash followed Krios over to the group of onlookers and tried to get a better viewpoint, but as they got closer, one of the Wolves stepped out of the pack and pushed them both back. She was a short, petite woman with a scruffy mop of fiery red hair, but from the tank top she wore, they could easily see her defined muscles. "Hey!" She growled, pushing Krios, "If you want a turn, you get in line, pal. And you put the coin down first. Them's the rules." "Just observing, for now." Krios said. "Besides, I'm a little light on coin. So, what are the rules?" He asked, looking past the woman at the group that were quickly getting back to their business. "Rules, tch," The woman scoffed, "Don't pass out, newbie." She turned around and as if on queue, one of the fighters managed to land a solid hit on the underside of his opponent's jaw. The man was knocked to the ground in an instant, and there he stayed. "We have a winner!" She cried, clapping and everyone else joined in. "Where's the money, Ruby?" The victor asked. "Here, Michael." She replied, handing the bald-headed muscular man his share of the winnings. "Who's he?" Michael asked, nodding at Krios, "He my next fighter?" "No, he doesn't have the coin, he's--" "He's fighting me. Come on, I don't care. Come on, newbie, get in the ring." Michael lifted his blood-soaked, skin-cracked fists. "I'm waiting on ye now, come on. Show me what you got, everyone takes a turn when they join. That's my rule." Krios eyed the man, Michael, for a moment. A wry smirk appeared on his face, and he began removing his regalia. After a short moment he was stood bare chested, the scars over his arms, back and chest all on show. His armor had been folded neatly on the floor next to him. Then he stepped in to the circle of watchers, and took his place facing Michael. He lifted his hands in front of his, guarding his face, and he stood with his legs apart, giving himself more balance. "When you're ready." He said to Michael, and he smirked again, but his eyes were focused on his opponent with a fierce intensity. Michael smiled back keenly, and then he came at Krios. He swung his fist in a wide arc, and Krios weaved away from it's trajectory, causing a soft wave of excitement from the crowd of Wolves. Michael moved quickly to keep on top of him, clever, Krios thought. He brought his fist in from the other direction, and Krios waited. At the lost moment he stepped to the side, letting the fist graze past his chin, feeling it breeze against his beard hair. He jabbed with his right, hammering his fist in to Michael's exposed ribcage. Michael recoiled from the blow and back off, bringing his guard up again. Despite his momentary whince, the man was smiling when he looked back at Krios again. "So, you're not completely shite then, are ye?" He said. "Aye, not completely." Krios replied. "Now stop fucking around, or the next time I'll put you on the floor.""Your funeral." Michael said confidently. He charged at Krios again, this time he was quicker. Gone were his predictable, wild swings. He struck with precision, and it was no longer enough for Krios to merely side step him. Krios brought his arms right up, letting them take the brunt of the onslaught. He waited, taking the hits again and again, until finally he saw an opening. He ducked low, as Michael's fist flew over his heat, and he held his arms out and barged forward. His shoulder slammed in to Michael's waist, and he grabbed his upper legs in his arms, and heaved, lifting the man up off the ground, and slammed him hard on the floor. Krios stood up and turned his back on the man. He went to leave the ring, but he had taken two steps before he heard a soft thump, and turned back around to see that Michael had vaulted back on to his feet. "You're not done, newbie." Michael said. "Not until one of us is out for the count." "We understand this." Ash muttered."Hmm?" Ruby turned to look at Ash."Fight for dominance. One called 'Michael' will fall.""I know Michael, and he's strong. What makes you think that he's gonna fall to that guy?" Ruby asked, nodding at Krios."We are strong." Ash replied, "We kill Michael, if we wish. Krios stronger." "Hm..." Ruby turned her gaze from Ash to Krios, and quietly added an additional wager in Krios' favour. As the fight continued, the onlooker's wagered coin grew into a pile. "Good." Krios said with a grin. "I was beginning to doubt the effectiveness of you Wolves.""Don't act like you haven't bent knee and presented arse to the King like the rest of us." Michael said with a laugh. "That overconfidence will soon get beaten out of ye in here.""Had that beaten out of me before I had hairs on my bollocks." Krios snarled. "Now, if you've finished presenting yourself, let's finish this.""With pleasure, newbie." Michael said. The two men came to blows again. They were a flurry of punches and kicks, each of them matching each other perfectly. Every strike dodged, blocked, and countered with knowing precision. Then Michael suddenly got the upper hand, as his fist connected with Krios' jaw, sending him backwards, swaying from side to side. He hit him again with a right hook, and blood splattered from Krios' mouth, across the dirty floor beneath them. Then he grabbed Krios by his hair and held the strands tight in his fist. "See what I mean?" Michael taunted. "Fucking newbie thinks he's hot shit. I warned ye, didn't I?" Michael held his free hand in the air, gaining a round of raucous cheering from the crowd. Then he made a fist with his raised hand, and began to bring it down on Krios. But Krios suddenly rose, ignoring the pain of Michael's grip on his hair. He caught Michael's descending arm in his hand, and then he swung his right fist into Michael's ribcage once more, in the same spot, and there was a sickening crack, and Michael let go of him, howling in pain. Krios grabbed him by the shoulders and dragged him back, bringing up his knee and driving it in to Michael's stomach, before hringing his elbow down on his back, right on his spine, causing Michael to cry out again, before slumping to the floor. Krios breathed for a moment, and then he bent down and grabbed Michael by the hair on the back of his head. "Might have had me there..." He said breathlessly. "If you hadn't been a fucking showboat." He added, and then he brought Michael's head up, and then slammed it back down on the floor again, leaving Michael out cold, and with a broken nose. Krios stood up and wiped his arm across his sweating brow and took another deep breath. "...Fun." He said with a grin. "Think I prefer Kabak, though...""Fuck your cards," Ruby sneered, "That's not the last time you're fighting." She held up a large bag of gold and then poured a fair amount into a second pouch and handed it to Krios, "Just be careful not to challenge Michael for rank. Because nobody is going to showboat when they might die." Krios took the gold and placed it on the floor, as he began putting his armor back on. He couldn't help but smirk as Ruby mentioned the ranking system that he'd heard about from the King. "I couldn't give a shit about some arbitrary number." He said as he fixed his leather chest piece. "That's not to say I won't stick a sword in the sorry bastard who tries to cross me." He began putting on the chainmail shoulder guards. "To be honest, it's her you have to worry about." He said as he nodded to Ash. "Ash isn't content being a humble nobody like me." Ruby turned her attention to Ash, who gave her approximation of a 'smile', baring her fangs. Ruby frowned at her and shook her head, "Well anyway, welcome to the Wolves, both of you. And listen, whatever you do, don't bother him." She nodded at the man sat at the far side of the room, reading a book in a comfortable-looking armchair. He had dark blue hair tied back into a ponytail and wore spectacles. He looked harmless. "Just leave him alone, alright?" She glanced at the man sat in the chair and then walked away, leaving Ash and Krios with their winnings. "We can get food with yellow metal?" Ash picked up the bag and shook it expectantly. "We are hungry..."
  16. Pulse

    The music on the car radio kept the silence comfortable. Rose had been driving for an hour or so now, occasionally glancing over to look at Shaun who seemed more interested with the scenery passing them by. She kept to herself for a little while, content to let things settle for a little while. She was driving down an old road, framed by pine trees on either side. She could smell the pine, even with the windows rolled up. A little light rain danced across the windscreen and she turned on the wipers as a light shower started. Then something caught her eye. She looked up to her rear view mirror, and beyond the rain-speckled glass, she saw a dazzling white light. A car was driving up behind them, at speed. It's engine roared as it closed the gap between them. Rose checked the mirror again, this time she made note of the details of the vehicle. It was black, the plates were either missing or obscured and the windows were heavily tinted. "We've got company." Rose said, through clenched teeth. "Company?" Shaun frowned. "What do you mean?" "I mean we're--" As Rose tried to speak the car shunted forwards, the black car behind them knocking their rear bumper. Rose quickly increased their speed, but the car behind them was matching pace and gaining ground. "Dammit..." She checked her rear view mirror once again, she saw an arm holding something emerge from the driver's side window. A loud crack made them jump and they looked back to see a bolt with a deadly-looking tip stuck mid-way through the rear window. "What the fuck!" Shaun yelled as he recoiled in his seat. "They shot at us! Who the fuck are they!?" "Come on, Shaun," Rose growled, a touch of irritation in her voice, "Use your head! What do you think is chasing a couple of vampires, and shooting god-damn crossbow bolts at us!?" She shook her head, and pushed the car to over 90mph. She could feel the wheels of her little car skidding against the wet road, she had to be extremely careful or they would be in a ditch in seconds. "Oh well sorry, clearly I should have watched more Buffy the Vampire Slayer!" Shaun bit back, but then his temper quickly subdued as fear gripped him. "What do we do?" "Okay, we're going to have to come back to that Buffy comment, but for now..." She looked ahead and saw a large truck coming towards them, "Take the wheel." Rose wound down her window and leant out the side of her car as Shaun took the wheel. The car swerved erratically as they were hit once more and the hunter aimed the crossbow and fired once more. The bolt cut through the air and made a sickening thuck as it embedded in the back of Rose's left shoulder. "Argh!!" She growled in pain, turning to look back at the driver behind them. She bared her fangs and then as the truck passed, she leant over the side and swept her claws across it's wheels. Loud pops, followed by the flopping sound of rubber whirling around the wheels, heralded the truck driver losing control of his vehicle. Moments later the truck swerved to try and correct itself, but the rain-slick road made him over-compensate and suddenly the truck turned onto it's side and screeched across the road behind them. The hunter was forced to break suddenly and found themselves on the other side of the truck, blocked by the large overturned vehicle. Slowly, Rose pulled herself back inside her car and gingerly rested her shoulder against the seat, "We're going to have to stop soon, i've got to take this out..." She took a deep breath and tried to focus on the road but the pain was mind-numbing. Silver-plated, no doubt. "Uh... Where?" Shaun asked. "It's not like I know where we are..." He cautiously glanced at Rose, taking his eyes off the road momentarily. "You're okay... right? "That's a stupid question to ask anyone with a crossbow bolt stickin' out their shoulder," Rose muttered, and gingerly raised her other arm and took the wheel. "Okay. We're a few miles from Oakfield. You know Oakfield, its that little town with the dinosaur diner? We'll stop, i'll get this frickin' thing out my shoulder, and then we'll move on. Hopefully we can lose them from there. Don't know how they found us so quick..." "Okay..." Shaun said with a sigh, and then he fell in to silence. Rose shook her head but glanced at Shaun for a moment and let out a long breath. Now wasn't the time for an apology, though he might have deserved one. They drove in silence, as she had turned the radio off. After what seemed like an eternity, they pulled into a motel parking lot and Rose leant forwards, wincing as the bolt shifted in her shoulder. She opened the glove box and pulled out a thick stack of notes, "Here," She pulled a couple of fifties out, "Pay for a room, and get me some food. Like chocolate or something, and a cola. I better wait in the car..." She inclined her head to her injury. It wasn't exactly the easiest thing to explain away. A few minutes passed, Rose checked her shoulder and cautiously touched the barbed point of the crossbow. She suppressed a howl and immediately withdrew her finger. Yep, definitely silver. To a vampire, touching silver was like holding your skin to a focused flame. It was excruciating. The driver side door opened and Shaun gave her the key and her food in the bag. Then she carefully pulled herself out of the car, and they walked to the motel room. Inside, the room was dark and grotty. She could hear the sound of cockroaches scuttling under the floorboards and in the walls, but that didn't matter much. She hobbled over to the bed and sat down and opened a can of cola and drained the contents with a ravenous thirst. "So, I hate to do this to you, Shaun. But the other end of the bolt fans out, so the only way I can take this out, is if I pull the head of the bolt out. Only problem is, it's covered in silver. So i'm probably going to pass out when I do." She leant over and opened a chocolate bar with one hand and then took a large bite and started chewing, "So... I need you... to move the car to somewhere nearby... out of sight. And keep watch over me. I'm going to need a few hours..." "Great." Shaun replied, sounding less than enthused by the idea. He took the keys off the dresser and went for the door. "See you when you wake up, I guess." He said as he opened the door. "Hey," Rose nodded at him, "You okay?" "Yeah, just peaches." Shaun said, and he left, slamming the door behind him. Sighing, Rose pulled herself up from the bed and paced the room. For a few minutes she contemplated everything that had happened. Trying not to focus on what she was about to do. Then she walked into the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. She looked tired, though she did not sleep. Blood had caked her clothes, but that didn't matter. She tore off the corner of her shirt, exposing her bare shoulder. Then gently touched the tip of the barb against the wall and took a couple of deep, bracing breaths. Suddenly Rose smashed her shoulder into the wall and let out a scream as the crossbow bolt's barb plunged back into her wound, opening it once more and planting the silver-plated object within her flesh. She then scrambled to grab hold of the shaft at her back with her other arm. It took a few seconds, and the pain was making her see spots, she felt like someone had set a blow torch to her insides. She managed a claw to catch the shaft of the bolt, and then pulled it into her hand and swiftly she yanked the entire thing free from her shoulder. Blood flowed freely, and she could feel the wound trying to heal, but she knew that with it being caused by silver, it would be hours before it was healed entirely. She staggered over to the bed and collapsed into it, not caring about the trail of blood she led to it. Her head hit the pillow, and she drifted into a dreamless unconscious state. On his return Shaun took stock of the mess that lay before him. He sat on the old armchair by the bed for a while, contemplating what had just happened. He couldn't speak to Rose about it for now, and he wasn't even sure if that would help. About an hour passed by and he had almost finished cleaning up the blood. The sheets Rose lay on were a lost cause, though. He sat back on the armchair and gave a long sigh. "What the hell am I doing?" He said quietly to himself. "Cleaning, I hope." Rose muttered, rousing from her unconsciousness. She turned over in bed and pulled herself up until she was comfortable. "That's a little better." She sighed, and looked down at her wound. It had stopped bleeding and the muscle and tissue were knitting together nicely, but it would be a while longer before she was healed. "Well done out there, Shaun. Not everyone can deal with something like that. Especially not one so... well," She trailed off with a smile, "Well done." "I didn't do anything." Shaun replied. "Except panic." "Oh, did you?" Rose raised an eyebrow, "See I thought I saw a young vampire hold a wheel steady, while we were driving at a frankly insane speed, in the rain, while we were being shot at. Then you got me supplies, hid the car, and cleaned up the blood." She looked down at the sheets, "Well, most of the blood." She grinned, "You're not so bad." "Yeah? Great." Shaun said sarcastically. "I don't think I'm wrong in thinking that I don't want to be good at that. I don't want to deal with anything like that ever again, if I can help it." "I keep forgetting... you're such a human..." Rose sighed, rubbing her temples."You expecting me to apologise for that?" Shaun said with a scowl."No," Rose replied, shaking her head, "You should never apologise for what you are. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't strive to be something more." She gave him a little smile and then looked down the end of the bed, but saw there was nothing left of her small horde of food. "Well how are you feeling?" She asked, looking him up and down, "You must be getting... thirsty?" She chose the word delicately."A little." Shaun replied, looking down at his feet."Well, we can't be letting you get weak. Much as i'd like to leave this, we can't put this off. Plus, I don't have any blood packs left.""Leave what off?" Shaun asked.A wry smile spread across Rose's face, "Your first feeding of course. On a living human."
  17. Outcast

    Her stride was as strong as it had been when she first set out. Her legs carried her ceaselessly towards a destination of uncertainty. Ash looked at the road ahead of her, it swept up the side of a hill and what lay on the other side she had no idea, but she couldn't go back to that village. To the hunter. Despite feeling certain of her actions, Krios had left a measure of doubt in her mind. Her thoughts were clouded, so much so that she barely took notice of the thundering sound of hooves in the distance. She reached the top of the hill and looked out across the next valley. It was beautiful, idyllic even. Yet alien to her. Mountains rose up on the horizon, while great hills and valleys dotted across the landscape. The early morning sun shone down, while clouds dotted across the sky cast shadows that slithered over the land. Then down the winding path, she saw the source of the noise. Two men on horseback were riding towards her, one seemed a lot larger than the other, as his shadow cast itself over the rider in front, and his horse looked laboured from the weight. Ash pulled the black hood over her head and held it far enough that it cast a shadow over her face. She stepped to one side to allow the riders passage. A few seconds later they charged past her, ignoring her completely. Or so she'd thought. The riders commanded their steeds to halt and they turned, trotting back to her. "You there, woman, why do you hide your face?" The rider asked. Ash dared not look up. "I asked you a question." The large man dismounted from his horse and walked up to her, each step left a large boot imprint in the mud. He must have been seven feet tall, and built like a wall. She saw an arm reach out and the man's forefinger touched the underside of her jaw, and she tensed. "Let me see your face, woman." The man pressed below her jaw and forcibly raised her head until she looked upon them, and they on her. The large man took a step back in surprise, Ash readied to defend herself, "I told you it was her!" The large man roared back at his comrade. "How was I to know?" The smaller man replied, his voice cool and neutral compared to his large, fiery friend. "Thank the Gods, you're the other half of the duo that killed the monster in this region, are you not?" The large man asked. Ash examined him properly. He had a mane of yellow hair and a beard of similar colour. He was in his forties, and was the largest ape she had ever seen. He was so muscular he looked as though he might have difficulty moving. Her gaze wandered to the other man who remained sat upon his horse. He was small, and sickly thin. He had a mop of greasy black hair that he occasionally brushed back out of his face, and a short black goatee. Unlike the large man, who's eyes were soft and and seemingly warm, this man's eyes were thin, and piercing. They studied her as intently as she did him. "Well?" The large man asked, "You are, aren't you? The report said you have an odd look about you, and black eyes. I can't think there are too many like you matching that description. Won't you tell me your name? You're the slayer of the beast, aren't you?" He asked, frowning. "My name's--" Ash ran. She ran as quickly as she could. She didn't really know why she was running, but she felt threatened by the two men. Her instincts were right, at least in part. She heard the large man yell behind her, and she felt glee for a moment in escaping them. She was just about to turn off the main road and dart into the forest when suddenly there was a hazy blue mist in front of her, and the small, black-haired man appeared in front of her. Ash leapt over the man to avoid him, but as she cleared his head, she felt his hand grab her by the ankle, and then she was quickly slammed into the ground. She tried turning onto her back to attack, but just as quickly the man pressed her into the mud, stopping her from moving. She'd never felt so helpless and defeated, so quickly. "Marcus, restrain her." The black-haired man waited until Marcus - the lion-haired individual - stomped over to them and promptly sat down on her back. She heaved as the air was forced out of her lungs by the large man's weight. "Alright, let's try that again. His name's Marcus." "Sorry," Marcus patted her on the shoulder. "My name is Dieter." He knelt down in front of her so she could see him, "Now, why were you trying to run?" "Let us go, apes!" Ash shrieked, and struggled to break free. "She has quite a voice on her," Marcus grumbled. "You've done nothing wrong, have you? Why did you run?" Dieter asked again. "We do nothing wrong, we do as we wish." Ash growled. "A fair response." Dieter replied, glancing at Marcus, "But we can't let you go. The King was notified of your successful beast kill, and your partner, Krios, has a long history of much the same. It's our duty to bring you both to him, alive and well. I would appreciate your cooperation." Ash snarled at them, trying to push herself up from the ground, but despite her strength, she found she couldn't do it. With the immense weight on her back, and the soft, slippery mud below her, she was pinned. "Well if you're going to be like that," Marcus sighed, and pulled out a pair of metal thick metal cuffs. Isabella finished clearing up after the hunter's breakfast. She thanked him for his service to the town and returned to the kitchens, when she heard the tavern door open. She smiled at the thought of new customers, although it was likely just Johan asking if he'd left something behind the night before, as he was likely to do the nights he took to drink. But when she came back into the main room, she saw two men dressed entirely differently, and yet both wore a long white jacket with navy blue trim. The colours of the King. Sure enough, on their right breast, there lay the sigil of the King. The head of a lion, with a crown of thorns atop it's head. "Oh, good evening, Sirs!" She called to the pair. One man was tall like a tower, with a beard and a mane of golden hair. The other was thin and rakish, with a mop of greasy black hair and a short goatee. They strode inside and ignored her completely, their eyes fixed on Krios, the hunter. "Sirs?" Isabella asked, "My tavern has wonderful food, and local ales, we have beds and--" The smaller of the two men held his hand up, silencing her, "We're here on business, innkeep. You there, hunter, what is your name?" "You'd think being dogs of the King would have at least imparted you with some manners." Krios replied, not bothering to look at the men. "Dear Isabella greeted you courteously into her establishment, her home. The least you could do is greet her cordially, don't you think?" "Do you mind us, Isabella?" The man asked, raising his brow at the innkeep. "I-I..." Isabella laughed nervously. "We're sorry, Isabella." The larger of the two men apologised, nodding to her, "But we're really very busy, and we don't spend a lot of time around other people, so we're not as social as we should be." "N-No, I don't mind." She smiled at the larger man, and then retreated. "I ask you again, Sir - your name?" The man with the goatee stepped around the table until he faced Krios. "Krios of Elisee." Krios replied, turning to look at the man with the goatee. "It's a lovely place. Have you been there?" "If I have, it was to kill something." He replied. "My name is Marcus," The larger man added, smiling warmly, "This is my comrade, Dieter." "The King has requested your presence," Dieter held out a small roll of parchment with a red wax seal. "Really?" Krios said, he looked at the parchment but did not take it. "That's very kind of him. However I make a point of not dabbling in the affairs of Gods and Kings. I'll pass." "This is not an offer you can refuse," Dieter replied, with a cautionary tone. "Dieter," Marcus scolded his comrade, "Krios, Sir, your services are required, your pay will be far in excess of anything you are normally offered, there are benefits, and the assignment would be your speciality - hunting Blight monsters." Krios was silent for a moment, not so much considering the offer, as considering his next words carefully. "What makes you think that interests me?" He asked. "Are his Majesty's spies so inept? They see a man who exchanges services for coin and they assume it is my primary motivation?" Krios shook his head. "I have no desire to become a conscript, no matter the wage." "To disobey the King is treason," Dieter put his hand to the scabbard of his rapier and started to pull the blade from it's sheathe. Marcus stepped in and pressed his hand down upon Dieter's, then turned to face Krios and bowed. "Krios, if not for the King, then I ask you for yourself, for Dieter and for myself. I do not wish harm upon any of us this day, your beliefs are your own, but our orders are clear, and we will be forced to carry them out. You may not wish to do this, but we cannot always choose the path we must walk. Please?" Krios smirked a little, like he had heard something quite silly. "Free men can always choose." He said as he stood from the table. "...but then again, no man is free while under the shadow of Die'welden. Except for his Majesty, of course, how nice for him." "The King is bound in ways we are not," Dieter replied, scowling at Krios. Marcus walked out, followed by Krios and Dieter. Outside, there were four horses. Three were vacant, but one had a length of black cloth strewn across the back of the horse. "I am glad we could reach an understanding." Marcus replied, bowing to Krios before he pulled himself onto his unlucky horse. Dieter walked over to the horse with the black cloth and pulled the cloth from the horse's back, revealing a savagely angry Ash thrashing beneath it. Despite the cloth gag in her mouth, she screeched at the top of her lungs upon seeing them and bucked against the horse, but she was tied to it, along with manacles binding her hands and feet together. Dieter replaced the black cloth, covering Ash once again. "...What are you doing with her?" Krios asked, before he could even think to stop himself. Dieter looked perplexed by the question. "The King will make that decision, we cannot say." Marcus replied, "However, we had word that she assisted in killing the beast, and so she is in our eyes, a hunter. However unusual she might appear, she is a valuable asset. Though she resisted us greatly, so for her own safety, we bound her." "She is not a creature bound by man's law. She owes no service to the King." Krios said as he walked over to his chestnut mare that the men had retrieved from the stables. "You know, Marcus, I think I prefer your companion. At least he is honest about being a brute." "I'm sorry you feel that way," Marcus replied solemnly, "If I have to exert force, I will. But it gives me no pleasure. I do what I believe will ultimately benefit this land, even if it means I must sacrifice a piece of my happiness." "I may be a brute," Dieter effortlessly pulled himself onto his horse, "But Marcus is a good man. Do not sleight him with your words, for while he has the patience and good humour for your bitter mouth, I do not. Mount up, we ride for the capital." "Good men do not do that." Krios said and he pointed to the thrashing mound of cloth that Ash was under. "Ash is not from our land, she does not know the etiquette expected of meeting a King. Punish her for it... and I'll kill you myself." Krios said it as a statement of fact, more than a threat. Then he dug his heels in to his horse and she sped off through the village of Cambra. "Behold, Vialice. Jewel of Avalon!" Marcus cheered upon seeing the city after their long ride. Vialice was a port city, built around an enormous bay, which gave much of the richest merchants and nobles a fine view of the sea. The city was mostly flat land, however the eastern edge rose up the side of a steep cliff, upon which Die'welden was built into. The grand white castle loomed over the city like a watchful protector. "I need a bath." Dieter muttered, as they descended into the valley. "Tell me, Krios - how many monsters have you slain?" "Leave him be, Dieter!" Marcus cheered, "We can talk business another time!" He laughed, whooping and hollering with excitement. Dieter let Marcus ride on and then turned to face Krios once more, "Well?" He asked, expectantly. "I don't count." Krios replied. "But it's enough that it's rare that I encounter ones that are new to me." The answer didn't seem to satisfy Dieter, but he made no attempt to further the line of questioning. They rode on in silence until they came to the gates of the city. Even in today's dark times, the city gates were open to all. Soldiers lined either side at all times of the day, and the gates could be shut at a moment's notice, giving an air of protection. Their small group rode into the city, exchanging muddy lanes and grassy hills for white stone cobbled streets and an eclectic mixture of architecture. As a port city, business was always in full swing and every manner of item came by on carts. The smell of sweet dates, figs and oranges were most dominant, though at times you could also smell smoked meats and fresh fish. As they rode into the city, many of the villagers whistled and clapped and waved at Dieter and Marcus, elated at their presence. Dieter ignored them, but Marcus smiled and waved as he passed. "We're going to the Nobles District, in the east quadrant," Dieter explained to Krios, "Die'welden is there." It took a few minutes to cross the city, but eventually they came to a long stone wall, and a heavy black gate. In front of it stood two guards. "Passes?" One of them asked. "24th Seat, Dieter, and 32nd Seat, Marcus." Dieter handed the guard a small slip of paper, "We have passage also for Krios of Elisee, and Ash." "Alright, everything's in order." The guard banged on the gate, and it was opened wide, allowing them in, "You can leave your horses at the stable, there. Go on on foot." They thanked the guard and passed him, stabling their horses, and uncovered Ash at last. Marcus helped her down from the horse and the moment her feet found the ground she became quiet still, watching Dieter quietly. "We should move, or we'll be late and--" Dieter moved past Ash, and noticed too late the malice in her gaze. She surged forwards and smashed her forehead into his nose and then collapsed to the cobbled street as she was still bound. Dieter screamed and gurgled as blood trickled down his broken nose and he recoiled in pain, cradling it delicately while Ash released a purring satisfactory growl. "Well, I think you probably deserved that." Krios said to Dieter as he stepped forward and grabbed Ash by her arm and pulled her back up to her feet. "That said..." He added, now talking to Ash. "The people here will not hesitate to kill you. Tread carefully, and keep your pride in check." "Fucking bitch broke my nose!" Dieter spoke through gurgling breaths as blood splattered down onto his white jacket. Ash inclined her head, watching Krios in silence, and then looked away from him, her expression unreadable. "Why are you late?" The voice belonged to a woman, but she spoke with such authority that Marcus and even the wounded Dieter, both snapped to attention. The woman in question was tall and slender, and she wore the armour of a knight, yet it sat on her like a second skin, as though it weighed nothing at all. Over which, she wore the long white jacket identical to Marcus and Dieter's."Sorry, Captain Teresa, we were waylaid, we had difficulty finding--" "I don't want your excuses, Marcus." Teresa replied, her sharp eyes scanning over the motley group. She had long white hair with a fringe cut directly horizontally across her forehead and light blue eyes. She had an otherworldly presence to her. "Clean yourself up, Dieter. Your blood is spoiling your uniform." She turned her gaze to Krios as Dieter and Marcus slunk away, "You must be Krios of Elisee," Then she pulled a key from her jacket pocket and began unlocking Ash's restraints. "I am." Krios replied. "And I have no idea who you are, but I wouldn't let that get you down. I don't visit the Capital much.""Your knowledge of me matters not, only your sword and your wits, neither of which have yet to impress me. I am Captain Teresa, First Seat of the White Wolves." Teresa finished unlocking Ash's restraints and then walked on, "Come. The King awaits your presence. You had best not disappoint him as you have me."
  18. Outcast

    "Blight?" Ash asked, her tone curious. She followed Krios to the entrance of the barn. Ash lifted her head and scented the air, then stepped inside. Blood and entrails were scattered everywhere. A trail of gore led up to a haystack where what was left of Roderick had managed to pull himself away and lie resting against the hay. She was surprised he had managed to survive long enough to move that far. Whatever had attacked him had obviously been interrupted. The guts strewn across the ground were partially consumed, the monster had been forced to flee, maybe it feared numbers, or perhaps it sensed the presence of hunters. Ash walked over to Roderick's body, his glassy eyes staring up at the ceiling in anguish. She bent down and scooped her finger through his guts and smelled it, then she licked the end of her finger and quickly spat it out, "Meat is spoiled." She growled. "A warm day will do that." Krios said, folding his arms across his chest. "Do you notice anything else about this scene? Anything unusual?" "Dead one trusted killer," She replied, scenting the air again. "What makes you think that?" Krios asked, raising his brow with an amused smirk. "We show you," Ash replied, "Stand there. Blade on ground. Hands at back." "Can't say that prospect sounds very inviting." Krios said, but he obliged. He removed his sword from his belt and stood at the spot where Ash suggested, holding his hands loosely behind his back. "Well?" He asked. "Good." Ash nodded, then quickly she raised her clawed hands, bared her teeth in a terrifying snarl, and charged Krios. Stingers exploding from her back, she was at him in mere seconds, ready to gore him before any normal person would be able to react. Krios leapt backwards and rolled to the side, narrowly avoiding the strike. Even for someone as quick as him, had he not already been anticipating it, he might not have been fast enough. Ash came to a stop and sheathed her stingers. "Hunter flees, but is no prey, so readies attack." She nodded at Roderick, "Dead one was prey. Prey flees. Puts back to predator. But no wounds on back, no wounds on arms, like this," She held up her arms defensively, "Did not run, did not defend. Prey knew predator." "Good." Krios said with an approving nod. "I have a hunch on what happened. We need to speak with the Chief." Ash and Krios left the barn together, stepping out into the daylight, only to find a large group waiting for them. Several of the villagers held pitchforks and scythes. The Chief stood amongst them. Ash took a step forwards and one of the jumpy villagers lowered their pitchfork at her, she hissed at them and they immediately took a step back. "Enough of this!" The Chief grunted, "I want to know the truth! What killed Roderick, hunter?!" "Not Ash, I'm certain of that." Krios said as he stepped forward so that he was standing only a few inches from the elderly man. "Need some information. Strange occurrences in Cambra, missing persons, anything at all." "Missing?" The Chief shook his head, "Nobody is missing," He replied, then corrected himself, "No, well, Roderick's wife is visiting family in Duren." "When did she leave?" Krios asked. "Let me guess, a few weeks back? Left quite suddenly I'll bet." "Well... I-I don't know... I..." The Chief struggled to think back, but a dawning realisation was slowly beginning to spread. "She had the Blight." Krios said, and his tone was apologetic. "Roderick knew, I've seen this too many times. Folks can't handle the truth, they think they can nurse their loved ones back to health, or find a cure. But in the end the result is always the same, there is no cure. And they spend their last moments in horror as their love transforms in to a terrifying beast." "No shame in prey becoming predator." Ash added, but the Chief looked at her in disgust as he tried to process everything that Krios had said. "I-I can't..." The Chief tried to focus, "You're telling me that Roderick's wife, Rhea, killed him? T-That's she some kind of... monster?" "Most likely." Krios said with a nod. "She was born in the night, so it's when she'll be more active. We need to prepare quickly, or she'll kill again." "What would you have us do?" The Chief asked. "Not sure yet, need to know what I'm dealing with." Krios said, shaking his head. "What form the Blight shapes people in to... Their emotions, how they feel before they transform, can affect it greatly. This thing, whatever it is, had long claws, and killed savagely. Hard to tell, but it doesn't look like Roderick's been eaten at all. She's killing out of insatiable lust for blood shed. However, the circumstances of her transformation could tell us who she will likely target. There's a good chance men of similar age to Roderick will be in danger. " "Not sure yet, need to know what I'm dealing with." Krios said, shaking his head. "What form the Blight shapes people in to... Their emotions, how they feel before they transform, can affect it greatly. This thing, whatever it is, had long claws, and killed savagely. The circumstances of her transformation could tell us who she will likely target. There's a good chance men of similar age to Roderick will be in danger." Ash watched the interchange between Krios and the Chief, for much of it she had remained silent, watching them talk and debate with one another, and eventually come to an uneasy agreement. It seemed like their differences made them weaker, made it take longer for them to decide on a proper course of action. She was about to speak when she noticed something on the ground behind the Chief and she immediately approached the group. They split and parted to allow her through and she bent over and examined the ground carefully. There in the middle of the muddy road, there was a small yellow flower. On the top of one of it's leaves, there was a small, dark red splash of colour. Ash lifted the leaf up and examined it for a moment, then let it rest back down, "Hunter?" She asked, then nodded at the flower. "Blood." Krios said, his eyes giving a momentary flash of purple. "Good eye. You're not bad at this." "There is more." Ash jerked her head in the direction of the river. "Then we follow it." Krios replied. "Don't know what we're up against yet, so we move on foot. Slower, but can't be too careful." "Good luck." The Chief nodded to Krios, "To both of you." He added, looking to Ash with a tense expression. They had been following the trail of blood for a while now and it had no signs of giving anything away just yet. One or the other of them would notice a drop of blood every few feet, and their search continued in silence until eventually, Ash's curiosity overwhelmed the satisfactory silence of the hunt. "Your culture is strange." Ash said simply, inspecting the next drop of blood on the ground. It was sticky, which was good news for them. Until recently the blood they'd found had been all but dried up, this likely meant they were catching up to the blood-soaked beast. "We do not understand you." "I don't understand you, either." Krios replied. "But I will tell you anything you wish to know that is to my knowledge." "You fear what you do not know." She began, "You are one race, but you stand apart. But you risk life for metal. You are contradiction." "True." Krios said with a nod. "But we do not share one mind, we can't help that. We do what we can, some moreso than others." "You are many minds, fighting each other." Ash replied with a scowl. "Can't be helped." Krios said. "But there are advantages. Sharing one mind sounds effective, but a little boring." "What advantage?" Ash asked as she followed a steadily increasing trail of droplets. "It's... Interesting. Exciting." Krios smiled. "Fun." Ash said nothing in response, but the expression on her face said enough. She was not impressed. As they walked alongside the river, following the trail of blood, Ash changed direction and came to an abrupt halt as she stared at the river. "This one's eyes are strong. But we cannot follow through that." She nodded at the river, and showed Krios the trail of blood that led up to the river bank. "Hunter lead, we follow." "Well, you did well so far." Krios said. "But sometimes to hunt a beast, you must hunt like one." Krios' eyes flashed purple and stayed this time. He went to the river and crouched by it, observing the water. He stayed that way for a few minutes, quiet and focused. "...its faint." He said finally, "But blood flows through the water. She's travelled upstream, attempting to hide her trail. Clever, her instincts are kicking in quickly. She likely knows she is being followed." "Good." Ash replied, "A challenging hunt. Beast knows our scent, so we hide in plain sight." Ash walked down to the river's edge, and sunk her clawed hand into the river, digging up a cloud of mud and silt which she pulled from the river and began rubbing all over herself. When she was finished she scented the air and picked up another clump of river mud and pressed it into Krios' hands, "Great ape makes great stench." She growled, and walked on. "So is that the end of your plan?" Krios said as he began slopping the mud over himself. "She'll likely find a spot with good vantage. She'll hide, and wait for us to come too close. Besides..." Krios looked up at the skies. "Dusk approaches. She'll thrive in the night, low visibility, and we'll be walking in to her chosen field, where she'll have the advantage." "What would you suggest, mighty hunter?" She asked, a twinge of irritation in her voice. "Set a trap of our own." Krios said with a grin. "The creature fled the village, and her tactics change as night falls. Suggests a predator with excellent vision in low light. Shame we didn't think to get supplies, and no mages to help." Krios thought for a moment. "Only option is bait. Make her think one of us has fallen for her trap, while the other gets in position." "What is 'mage'?" Ash asked. "Those who wield magic." Krios explained, and as he saw Ash's expression he added. "Magic is... A strange, unpredictable power. Mages channel it through special gems. Can't say I know a lot about the specifics of it all." Ash listened quietly and nodded, trying to understand everything the human had explained. Magic was a power wielded by humans called mages. But not all humans were mages. A mage was a human that used a gem to create magic. It was a confusing concept, but one she couldn't focus on right now. Ash made a 'click' noise with her tongue to attract Krios' attention. "Who is bait?" She asked. Reading his expression, she added indignantly, "This one is not bait." "Doubt you're her type." Krios said. "She's young in her new form. Memories of her humanity will likely remain, combined with grief and guilt of what she has done. She won't understand it, she's a beast now. However, it's likely she will attack men who remind her of her husband. The guilt, the monster will turn that in to rage." Krios started walking up the stream, taking less care in his stride. "My life will be in your hands, Ash. We do not share a mind, so I don't know if I can trust you. See?" He smirked. "Exciting." "One mind, one voice." Ash slowed her pace, giving a wider gap between them, "This is lonely to us. This is... frightening." "That is why we trust." Krios said. "Ao is a lonely place without it." Ash released a long, low growl. She didn't like the concept of 'trust'. It seemed like an unnecessary filler for something more useful that their species lacked. And yet, she understood why trust gave them comfort.
  19. Outcast

    "Why won't you listen to me!?" The young man thrust his finger at the woman stood before her front door, barring it from access. "She's harbouring a monster, I saw her pull it out of the river!" He turned back to face the small crowd of townsfolk, "It had fangs and black eyes and Lydia is hiding it from all of us!" "I'm not hiding anything from you, Roderick." Lydia replied indignantly, "Monsters do not talk, sleep in a bed, or tolerate my little girl assaulting her with dozens of questions." "Chief?!" Roderick pleaded, turning to the old man with a long grey beard. The elder considered their conversation for a few moments and walked up to Lydia, using a long staff as support. Lifting his free hand as an open gesture, the Chief nodded his head towards her home, "Lydia?" "What?!" She demanded, aggravated, "... what?" She repeated the question with a little more patience. "Well, do you have a monster in your home?" He asked, frowning at her. "I-I don't--" She hesitated, but before she could find her voice, the door behind her opened. Stepping to one side in surprise, Lydia's gasp joined with the rest of the present townsfolk as the accused 'monster' stepped out into the morning light. She was tall and slender, clothed in slim-fitting black cloth, though she had cast aside her cloak. Though humanoid in shape, her skin looked hard and yellowish, segmented in places. Her eyes, lips and claws were black, though her teeth were an off-white, and more akin to fangs. She had no hair, at least in the normal sense, but a thick mane of what looked like black quills. "We are no monster," She added, her tone calm but authoritative. Within seconds, half the people present fled in abject terror, or screamed at her. One man threw his shovel at her which she deftly knocked aside and focused on him with a curious expression on her face. "The clingy grub found us in the water, gave us time to rest and heal." Claire pulled away from her mother and attached herself to the strange woman, smiling up at her. She regarded Claire for a moment with at best, indifference, though at worst little more than mild annoyance. She mimicked the little girls smile though with her fangs, it looked decidedly more sinister. This didn't seem to upset the 'clingy grub' however, who giggled at her new-found friend. "She's not a monster," Lydia added, finding courage at last in the faces of the remaining townsfolk, frozen in fear or confusion or both. Then she marched back inside the house, grabbing Claire's hand as she went, "You could have waited inside, now you've made things difficult." She muttered to the stranger. The door closed behind them and she was left standing in the middle of the muddy street. For a moment she did nothing, unsure of what to do, then she took a step forwards and the people remaining either left in a hurry or stepped to one side, giving her passage. "Our gratitude," She repeated the smile, and strode past them. She wanted to explore the town, she had only been in the land of the hairless apes for a few days, and it was so alien to her. She wanted to learn more, experience more. Perhaps in knowledge, she would find a key to redemption? Two days passed with little incident, though the townsfolk had stopped running from her, she still made them uncomfortable. Once she turned a corner directly into a young woman, and she collapsed to the ground as though she'd just been paralysed and wouldn't move until she had walked on. She entered the blacksmith's home and studied all the tools of a craftsman lining the walls, and hanging from the ceiling. She picked up a pair of tongs and examined them, opening and closing them repeatedly while she studied it, engrossed in it's unusual design and wondering what it was for. "Don't have 'em where ye come from?" The blacksmith asked, stepping into his work space. He was an incredibly muscular man in his thirties with a short brown beard and a mop of brown hair, marred only by a burn scar from his left temple down to his right eyebrow. "Name's Johan, and they're called tongs, I use them to hold the metal as I give it form." "Why?" She asked, frowning at the tongs. "Because i'd burn m'ruddy hands without 'em," He chortled, and she made a clicking, cooing sound that might have been satisfaction or understanding. She reached over to pick up another instrument, "That's a Graver. Use it to cut patterns into metal." And another, "Punch. Ye use it to drive pins, set rivets an' the like and--" Johan trailed off into silence but the expression on his face said it all. "What is this name?" She asked, looking at the object in her hand. "T-That's... an anvil." He replied, staring at the anvil sitting in her open palm. "How the hell're ye liftin' that in one hand?! It's over 200lbs!!" He roared, and reflexively clapped his hands together and started laughing. The sound made her put the anvil back in it's spot and she watched the blacksmith in confusion. "What is noise?" She asked, pointing at him. "What?" Johan frowned at her with a smile, "I laughed... oh come on now, ye might look funny, so i'm willing to explain what a pair of tongs are to ye, but ye tellin' me ye don't laugh where yer from? That's a load o' poppycock." Her blank expression slowly drew his laughter to a close. "Right... well..." "This one will go elsewhere." She replied, and nodded awkwardly at Johan in appreciation, then stepped back out into the sunlight. She looked up at the sun for a moment, enjoying it's warmth, then something cool and wet struck her in the abdomen. She looked down to see a small, compact ball of mud. Then looked up to see a couple of young boys snickering to themselves, but the moment she spotted them they fled in abject terror. She found their mixture of bravado and fear completely perplexing. Were they afraid or weren't they? In truth, she found everything about these people fascinating. Their culture was so different from her own, it was like night and day. The only thing she'd managed to confirm as a shared belief between her people and the 'humans' was that both races believed their world rested on the back of a giant turtle. Her race had a different name for it, but the humans called it 'Baloo'. The fact they both shared this belief gave her comfort. "Hey! Hey, uh... hey!!" Lydia came jogging up to her. "Yes, human Queen?" She asked. "Q-Queen?" Lydia frowned, to which the strange woman pointed at Claire. "Oh... oh, no... i'm not a Queen..." Lydia shook her head and chuckled at her. "I see you're getting along with our youths..." She nodded at the boys who were staring at them from around the corner of a nearby building, "A fair deal better than the rest of the town, anyway..." "We do not understand." She replied, "This one is--" "'This one'?" Lydia asked, holding her hand over her eyes so the sun didn't blind her, "Don't you have a name?" "Why?" She asked. "Everyone's gotta have a name." Lydia smiled at her, "You really aren't a monster, are you?" She shook her head at Lydia. "Huh..." She mused for a short while and then grinned, "We should give you a name." "Why name?" She asked. "Why name. Of course, why name... okay, uhm..." Lydia laughed nervously and thought for a moment, "Because... because you're you, I have to call you something so I can say, 'Hello... well, whatever your name is... instead of 'Hey, you!' y'know?" "Hey... you?" She repeated, confused. "Yeah, y'know..." Lydia was trying not to get frustrated with her when a great idea sprung to mind, "Yew! Oh... what about a plant or a flower?" "We are not flower." She corrected. "No, but... you need a name!" Lydia said at last, exasperated by the woman, "Look, i'll just... Willow, Rose, Cherry, Elm, Plum, Ash--" "Ash...?" "Ash!?" Lydia laughed and took her hand, "You like Ash?" "This will suffice." Ash replied, amused by the woman's excitement. Lydia's good humour didn't last long however, as the blacksmith, Johan, came sprinting up to them moments later, he was out of breath, sweat beading his brow, and he looked panicked. "What is it, Johan?" Lydia asked. "Roderick--" He started, his huge torso heaving with each breath, "--Roderick is dead -- it's a right mess!" He tried to get the information through despite his difficulty breathing, "Worse still--" He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself, "--there's a man asking about the death on the outskirts of town, and someone mentioned you." He nodded at their guest. "We are Ash," She proclaimed to Johan. "What?" He frowned at her, "Look, you have to hide, or leave, I don't know. But Roderick being dead, people are going to think you did it, especially after the little chat you had together, and in front of everyone." "This one has killed no-one." Ash replied indignantly. "Doesn't matter. I think this stranger is taking their story seriously either way. Run or hide, doesn't matter which," With that, Johan was gone, he ran back towards his home and Ash considered what he'd said for a few moments as Lydia began to panic. "We stay." Ash said at last. "But why?!" Lydia gasped at her, "If that man is a Royal guard, or a monster hunter, or who knows what else, he will kill you!!" "This one is no monster." Ash replied, with her approximation of a grin, "So if hunter come... we kill."
  20. Pulse

    The ringing in her ears was finally beginning to abate. She had to compartmentalize the pain, and deal with what was laid out in front of her. Shaun Meyer was lying on the ground, bleeding out onto the school car park. The blood lapped at her knees as she pulled her leather jacket off and threw it to one side, then pressed one hand firmly against his wound to staunch the bleeding. Rose didn't have a mobile phone, but she had to admit this was the one time she wished she did. Shaun's phone was dead. She couldn't contact anyone. There would be a phone in the office, but she couldn't leave him to get it. She'd have to do what she could and rush him to hospital. First, she had to treat the wound. Rose reached into her bag and pulled out a bottle of water and placed it on the ground. She grabbed the bottom of her tank top and tore a band of cloth away. She tore Shaun's shirt open, then she held her thumb over the cap of the water bottle - her nails were more like claws - and pressed her claw into the top, easily creating a small hole. Then she slowly pulled her other hand off Shaun's wound. A pool of blood gurgled up, creating bubbles. "Oh, no..." Rose's face became pained as she realised. The bullet had pierced Shaun's lung. He was drowning in his own blood. Grabbing the water bottle, Rose angled the cap just above the wound, "Sorry, kid." She muttered, and squeezed the bottle. Water shot out under pressure and cleaned the entry wound, and Shaun released a low, pained moan. Tearing the cloth into two separate pieces, Rose used one as a bundle to help slow the bleeding, and then used the second as a band to secure the first. With the wound cleaned and bandaged, she pulled Shaun to his feet and then lifted him from the ground and carried him to her car. She reached the crimson Mini and then struggled to get her keys out of her jeans pocket. It was like trying to put your key in the front door when you're carrying four bags of shopping in each hand. When she finally got Shaun into the back seat, Rose swiftly got into the driver's seat and started the car. She looked in the mirror and saw Shaun looked almost as pale as she did. That was bad. The ride in the car was nerve-racking. She kept checking her mirror to see how Shaun was holding up. He was muttering and shivering, but the thing that worried her most was the sound of his slowing heartbeat. She could hear it's dull, irregular thumps, and at times she held her breath, waiting for the next beat. It only took ten minutes to reach the hospital, and when she brought Shaun in it only took a minute or so for a team of doctors and nurses to swarm them. They took Shaun from her and while the main team took him away to work on him, she was assaulted with a barrage of questions that seemed to stretch on forever, along with a never-ending supply of paperwork. "Are you a blood relative?" Rose read the question aloud while she sat in the waiting room with a styrofoam cup of tea that was slowly going cold. If she said no to the question, she might not be able to see him, but if she said yes that might cause problems down the line. She didn't care. "Yes." She wrote down a list of fake details. "Relative's Blood type?" She frowned at that question, then realised she was still matted with his blood. She didn't look up from the clip board on her lap, she could tell there was nobody in the room, or in the hall outside. She pulled her tattered, blood-stained tank top up to her lips and sucked it for a moment. She licked her lips and surprise flecked her face, "AB Negative? Well, you're just full of surprises, aren't you, Mr. Meyer?" She wrote it down, then thought for a moment, and scratched it out. She put 'O' Negative instead. She didn't want to risk them asking her for a blood donation, she had to give an alternate blood type to Shaun's. "There..." She filled out the last few fields and brought them back to the counter. "Hey, when can I see him?" Rose asked, handing the clip board to the nurse. The nurse studied the information for a moment, "Oh, S. Meyer?" She checked the records on her computer, "You're lucky, he's in the recovery room right now. I can't say any more than that, you should ask the doctor." The hall that led into the recovery ward was dead at this time of night. Rose walked in and saw a front desk with a tired-looking receptionist sat behind it, reading a newspaper. When she heard Rose approaching, she looked up and tried to smile. "Hi, i'm related to Shaun Meyer, is he okay?" "He's in the next room. He's sleeping right now, but you can come back in the morning. Okay?" "Sure." Rose nodded, "Thanks. Hey, did you read that story about the animal attack?" The nurse shook her head and then licked her thumb and started flicking through pages trying to find this juicy bit of information she'd somehow missed. A moment later, she looked up to ask the woman what page it was on, but she was gone. Rose closed the curtains surrounding Shaun's bed. As advertised, the young man was asleep. He looked like he had a little more colour in his cheeks. That was something, at least. She sat down in the chair next to his bed and watched him for a while. "Stupid boy..." She whispered, shaking her head. "You're lucky to be alive..." She sucked on her lips and let out a long sigh, letting her shoulders drop with relief. Then she relaxed into the chair and kept vigil over him until about twenty minutes later, she heard hurried footsteps from a group of people. She could hear a hysterical woman asking rapid-fire questions. That had to be Shaun's mother, it was time to leave. "Alright, Shaun, i'm going now. You're going to be just fine, kid." And then she was gone. "Let us commend Shaun Meyer to the mercy of God, a promising young man for whom life was cut short, but--" Rose rolled her eyes at the priest. She didn't need to be near the service to hear him spouting about religion. What a load of rubbish, she thought. He's talking about the mercy of God, and then he's going to bury a child. How merciful. As one can imagine, things had not entirely gone to plan. It had been a week since the shooting had happened. Although the surgery had gone smoothly, Shaun had contracted an infection and died during the night.A quiet pop as Rose blew a bubble with strawberry bubblegum. She was sat up in the high branches of an oak, just a stone's throw from the outdoor service, her legs dangling over one of the highest branches. She let out a long sigh and decided it was probably about time to introduce herself to his mother. She dropped silently to the ground and landed without issue despite the extreme height, threw her gum into a distant trash can and sauntered over. "We therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life." The priest finished, and the coffin began to lower into the ground. Slowly, quietly, the small crowd began to disperse and Rose caught sight of Shaun's mother. She walked up to her and offered a hand on the woman's shoulder, "I'm so sorry, Mrs. Meyer." "Hmm?" She replied, she had been lost in her thoughts. "Oh... you..." She covered her mouth as she gave a feint cough. "My boy was taken too young, but... I suppose he is with the Lord now. Perhaps that is best." "Right..." Rose licked her lips and then slowly reformed her thoughts, "Your son was a hero. He saved my life. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. I just wanted you to know that." She gave a small, weak smile and turned to leave."He isn't here because God chose it, dear." She replied. "Always a troubled boy. Not his fault, it was the way God made him. But we loved him, gave him what he needed. It was never enough, though. Perhaps that is why God took him from us, lifted our burden, you know?"Rose stopped and took a deep breath, slowly blinking once in disbelief. It wasn't worth it, she wasn't going to get pulled into this kind of conversation. She wished her well and left the cemetery. An owl screeched in the distance, Rose checked her watch. It was an ancient-looking pocket watch. She clicked it open and checked the time. It was well past midnight. She was leant up against the trunk of a tree, watching a house with a single light in it. The grounds keeper.She'd come early, hoping to sort everything out in advance, but she found that the cemetery was surprisingly busy until around 10 O'clock, but even then she was unable to really do anything while the grounds keeper was still awake. She had been watching the lights in that little house switch on and off, moving from one room to the next, for the past two hours. Suffice to say, she was bored. She heard the screech of the owl once more, and she bent down to pick up a little pebble. A shadow swept over the cemetery and Rose flicked the pebble into the night sky, a moment later there was a sharp screech and a furious flapping before the owl returned to it's roost. "You've had three mice tonight already," She muttered, "You're just being greedy now..." She scowled at the bird, which seemed to sense it was being watched as it turned it's enormous yellow eyes back on Rose and watched her quizzically. Just then, Rose saw something out of her peripheral vision. The light in the grounds keepers house had just switched off. It was now in total darkness."Oh, at last." She let out a sigh of relief, then leant over and picked up a shovel and trudged over to Shaun Meyer's grave. "Right, rise and shine, Mr. Meyer..." She thrust the shovel into the ground, and began digging.
  21. Hallowed - Private Kyo& Val

    "Aren't you going to... I don't know... suit up?" Dee asked, as they walked through the snow. The blizzard was bad, the streets were all but shut down. Cars were left abandoned, people shut up inside their homes. There wasn't a drop of blue in the sky. Violet moved her legs through the snow like a hot knife through butter, "I don't care. Not today." Violet replied, marching on. The posse walked in silence for a long while. They knew it was the calm before the storm. Though she walked with ease, Violet's steps were heavy. She was weighed down by the thoughts of what Isoleth was doing to her brother. If Vincent was even alive. No, he was. She couldn't let herself think that way. Even though every fibre of her being wouldn't lay it to rest. An hour or so later, Meredith stopped them and led them down a wide alley between an old warehouse and a scummy-looking pizza place. "So, this is it?" Violet asked, looking around with an air of disgust. "Yeah, this is it." Meredith said. She snapped her fingers, and a whispering screech pierced through the wind as the portal between world's cut through reality like a tear, before taking the form of a doorway. "I don't know what to expect. The Fae shifts and changes far more quickly than this world. It won't be exactly how Vincent remembered it." "It won't be exactly how they remember it, when i'm through..." Violet added, stepping through. "Are you alright, Meredith?" Dee asked, as she moved towards the doorway. "Nope." Meredith replied, her jaw visibly tightening. "But that never stopped Vincent." Afterwards she stepped through the portal and emerged on the other side. "Good enough." Dee followed her through, along with Al, Eve, David and Eli. Violet watched the last person step through the Way, and then focused on her surroundings. The fae was nothing as she remembered it. Meredith couldn't have been more right. It was a winter wonderland. The tree were alpine, and rivers and streams had frozen. It was cold, but that didn't bother her. "You have to guide us, Meredith, we're--" Violet stopped mid-sentence, and a ripple of confusion spread through the group. "Something's coming..." Dee whispered. There was a screech of metal as David drew his sword from it's sheathe. The shining metal gleamed in the twilight and a peculiar, comforting warmth spread across the group. David's faith resonated through them, his unwavering resolve prepared for whatever was coming. Meredith steeled herself in response, and Eve looked a little uncomfortable with the sensation, but readied herself all the same.Dee put her palms together, noticing David's reaction, "I'm not doing that." She said simply, a frown on her forehead but a smile on her lips, and then pulled her palms apart from one another. As she parted her hands, a long black pole appeared between them. She brought her arms out as far as they would go and at the last moment grabbed the pole with one hand and yanked the rest of it free of it's holding place. Dee lowered the staff to the ground and as it touched the snow a weighty thrum of energy crackled throughout the staff."Alright, i'm ready." Dee said with a smile, and then lifted her arm and with all her strength she banged the staff off the frozen ground, the air became charged with an indescribable energy and from the length of the staff a heavy, curved blade flicked out, locking into a horizontal position. A scythe. Eli and Al moved themselves in front of the group, the two old wizards scanning the environment with their Sight active. "Looks like were goin' in hot, y'all." Al said as he adjusted his stetson, and then he reached in to the pocket of his long, duster jacket, and retrieved a long staff of dark wood, that looked far more ancient than he was. "Mary Poppins eat your heart out." Eve said with a grin.Despite everyone preparing for combat, Violet remained frozen. She shook her head in confusion. It wasn't approaching them from inside the Fae, it was coming through the doorway behind them. "Meredith... close it. Close it now!!" "I...I can't!" Meredith cried. "Something's keeping it open!""Step back!" Al called as he strode towards the portal, pointing his staff at it like a gun. "Something's coming through!" From out of the portal, an enormous black creature burst forth, leaping over them and casting the group in shadow for a moment as it landed on the other side of them, blocking their advance on the fortress. It towered over them on all fours, panting. It's breaths were rumbling growls, and its fangs each the length of a person's finger. It's enormous paws thumped into the snow, depressing it and leaving great prints behind in it's wake. One of it's limbs were wreathed in purple flame up to it's shoulder. It looked like something out of a child's nightmare, a panther born from the pits of hell. It stalked towards them, it's long tail swishing angrily behind it. Violet pushed through the group, sprinting for the monster until she collided violently with it. "Oof!!" It growled deeply, "Don't do that." "James!!" Violet cried, holding him around the front of his body as he leant back and sat upon the cold ground. "Hello Violet, you're looking different." James replied, his feline face pulling into a grin at the irony of his statement. "I missed you." He pressed his enormous head into her back and Violet realised that the growling was his purr. "Is it just me, or is he bigger?" David asked, giving an awkward smile. "Are you guys for real?" Eve said, frowning. "You got any other pals you want to let me in on? Is Batman waiting over the hill there?""James!" Meredith said, ignoring Eve. "You're alive!"Eli and Al simply exchanged a look with one another. "Is this... normal?" Eli asked"Says the guy who shacked up with a Nagloshi." Al said with a soft chuckle. "Okay, I take your point." Eli said, scratching the back of his head.A sudden surge of energy from the Way stopped the conversation dead. James made an uncomfortable noise that sounded as though he was clearing his throat awkwardly and then suddenly the Way snapped shut. But not before it left one last present in the Fae. "I heard that!" Vael raised an eyebrow with a smug grin, "It's not my fault he couldn't keep his hands off me. Well maybe it was," She corrected herself, "Just a little." Vael scanned the group for a moment, "My aren't we a rogue's gallery of freakazoids?" "V-Vael!?" Meredith gasped, suddenly tensing. "Aw, hell!" Al cursed, waving his fist in the air. "Jus' what in blazes is goin' on here!?""Al, settle down." Eli said, holding his hand up, he turned to Vael. "Hello, dear. What mood are you gracing us with today?""Don't you 'Dear' me, Elias Wolfwood Hallow," Vael cautioned, pointing her forefinger at him, "And here I came bringing gifts, offering assistance, and this is the thanks I get, and after so many years..." She mused for a moment then turned her attention on Al, "Put your stick back in your pocket, nobody wants to see that." Vael clapped her hands together, "So... we're off on an adventure?!" "Ah, yes, the thrill of a fight." Eli said with a nod and a smile. "That makes more sense. Altruism doesn't sit well with you.""Dagnabbit, Eli!" Al barked. "Will ye stop flirtin' with yer ex fer a minute!""That's... flirting?" Eve said, raising her brow. "You guys are seriously weird." "That's what he calls it, anyway." Vael rolled her eyes, "Anyway! Much as I love a good dust-up, and it's true mortals are sort of a waste of time, I mean really..." She turned her attention to David, "Honestly, you're dead in like a second in the grand scale of things. What's it matter, right?" She playfully pushed David on the shoulder, "No, I nursed James back to health and helped him escape the Void, because I wanted to apologise to you, Violet, and to all of you - some of you less than others - and mostly really because he sheds." "I do not... shed." James snarled irritably. "Well..." Violet looked at James with an awkward grin. "Anyway..." Meredith said quite loudly. "If you're done doing what you do best, which is derailing everything, I'm leaving. Not that I don't love a good reunion, but my dad is dying." "Oh, melodrama is one of your new superpowers, is it?" Vael joined the group. "Can you just, for once... be quiet." Violet tried to keep her temper in check, she knew what happened when two Nagloshi fought and she didn't need that to happen right now, they were pressed for time and Meredith was right to push on. "We need to hurry," Dee spoke up, and nodded ahead, "Lead the way, Meredith." "Alright, just look ahead." Meredith said, pointing at the Horizon. "That spire in the valley, that's Isoleth's palace. The mountain path blocks it off from the other side. The road ahead is teeming with Winter Faeries. Trolls and Spiders mostly. Also Pixies, and Sidhe." Meredith scanned the horizon, but paused as she followed the trail outwards past the mountain region. "That... is different from before. The ground has suddenly become flat. No trees, no mountain cover, just Ice. "A battlefield." Al said knowingly. "Winter's lurin' the fight to it's front door.""Summer won't take a fight to the heart of Winter. They'll be at too much of a disadvantage." Eli said. "Prideful sort, The Seelie Fae." Al said. "An' they'll be desperate, fer sure.""Are you telling me this... Isoleth, or whatever. Are you telling me she reshaped the landscape, to suit her own needs?" Asked Eve. "How is that even possible?""Because... she is not some chosen monarch with a crown." Eli explained. "She is air, and darkness. She is the biting, unrelenting cold. She is winter itself. This is her domain, shaping it is no more taxing than a thought for her.""And we're planning to beat her how?" Eve asked."Well, let's see now..." Al said, stroking his beard. "We got a fanger, a demon, two bein's tha' have been killin' powerful wizards for millenia, and we got a couple rulebreakers s'well." Al nodded to Eli and Meredith when he said the last part. "An' we got the White God lending a han' too, don' forget." He nodded at David."Oh yes, i'm sure he'll come sweeping down on a surfboard of angels to the sound of Christian rock and smite the lot of them." Vael crossed her arms and rolled her eyes, though it was more a head motion as it was difficult to tell when a Nagloshi did so as they had no discernible pupil. "We all have our strengths... David has saved my life and is as valuable as anyone here." Violet shoved her mother, and Vael pushed back and the two of them stood off against one another, and for a nervous moment it looked like something would happen. Then suddenly Vael seemed to realise something, and she lost interest and walked ahead. "I'm not arguing with you." She muttered, "You're not my daughter." "Hmph..." James sighed."Arctaeros lies beneath the palace." Meredith explained. "But only a Faerie can access the path leading to it.""Rubbish." Vael muttered. "Quiet, mother." Violet said impatiently, "Mere, how do we find the path? You're not a Fae any more.""We cheat." Meredith said. "That's what Vincent did. I'll show you when we get there."
  22. Hallowed - Private Kyo& Val

    "Alright." Violet stepped into the middle of the room and looked around her. David, Dee, Meredith, and even Eve. They were all relying on her. This was her first real chance to show them all that she was still the same person. Different, but the same. She brought her hands up in front of her and looked down at her palms, watching as the thin membrane of energy that made up her 'skin' burnt away and she felt her hair lift up from her back. She opened her mouth to speak, but blinked and found she was no longer in the apartment. "W-where am I?" She asked, looking around the empty, white space. Then she saw someone approaching her from out of the white. No, she wasn't being approached, she was walking towards a mirror. But the mirror was wrong. She saw herself as she was a year ago. Scarred, tattoos covering her arms, a smug grin on her face looking back at her. She understood now why that annoyed Vincent. Violet brought her hand up to her face and traced the line of her jaw, and the human Violet with the scruffy haircut in front of her mimicked the action perfectly. A perfect mirror. "Huh..." She muttered, and then cautiously reached out to touch the other Violet, just as the other Violet reached out in tandem. But as their fingers were about to meet, the other Violet slapped her hand away. "Alright, enough games, you." She grinned at the Nagloshi part of herself. "You're Zeal?" Violet asked. "That's the name you gave me." She replied. "I was expecting something a little..." "Furrier?" Zeal asked. "Well... you had a tail." Violet muttered. "Like you haven't." Zeal grinned and then took a step back and sat down on thin air, "So, we're going to ask Al for help then..." "Thinking about it, yeah. Can we agree on that, or are you going to try and stop me again?!" Violet growled. "Come on," Zeal replied, brushing hair out of her face, "Al is our friend, our mentor. We need his help. We're not strong enough for this, Vi. You know that, but you're just pushing on through, you think you can handle all this on your own, but you can't. It's alright to ask for help." "So, are we sticking with Zeal?" She asked. "What else am I going to call you?" Violet's question was as much a threat, at least in tone. "Alright. I've been patient with you, because well... you're me, and sometimes i'm an idiot. But here's some tough love, Vi..." Violet looked down at her hands, she saw the apartment stretching out in front of her. She looked up and saw everyone waiting expectantly, but she was shaking. She grit her teeth and screwed up her face and was thankful she didn't have tear ducts for a change. "Violet?" Eve asked in confusion. "I'm fine, i'm just... I need to concentrate." She smiled at them, and then she focused. She knew that Al would have surrounded himself with every ward and guard he had in his considerable bag of tricks. She had to find a way to locate him without triggering anything potentially fatal. Closing her eyes, Violet focused all her will into a circle. She felt Dee step in close beside her and put one hand on her waist and she took a deep breath, and tried to find a measure of peace. Her thoughts were a terrible hurricane, but steadily, one by one, she wrestled them into submission. It took a while, and she could feel movement in the room. She wasn't sure how much time had passed, but when she was ready, it happened very quickly. There was a loud popping noise and she suddenly felt very warm. To say she felt clammy would be wrong, she didn't have skin, but she could feel how hot and moist it was. Violet opened her eyes to see a tropical jungle in front of her. "Well... alright." Violet frowned, but Dee cleared her throat and nodded behind her. Violet turned to see a large pile of wood chippings in the distance. Beside them lay a curved canoe-looking object, though it was a little early to say for sure. Besides which, Al was sat at the height of the beach, looking out across the crystal waters, knife in hand. Violet suppressed a laugh. Dee began laughing hysterically. They walked down through the sand, within seconds Violet clothed herself so she appeared human and Dee flapped her top as if she was hot, and her clothes naturally changed into something a little more comfortable. A plain black bikini. She kicked her feet through the sand and grinned at the ocean waves lapping against the beach. "You look a little too comfortable." Violet muttered, frowning at Dee's childlike abandon. "Does this skin looks like it gets to see the beach very often?" Dee retorted with a wide grin. "Taken to whittling, have you?" Violet asked. "Am retired, darlin', I need a hobby." Al said without looking up, and he continued carving away at the large trunk of wood. He was dressed in a pair of green camo shorts and a white vest, and was barefoot. His dishevelled hair and overgrown beard looked much the same as it always had, despite being a little wet with sweat. "Looks nice." Dee added, admiring his work. "How are you, Alphonse?" "A lil' hot, but can't complain." Al replied, still not looking up. "How 'bout you? Here for a tan? Hardly think that'd be a problem fo' a shifter." "I'm not." Violet replied, "Here for a tan. Or a shifter, that is. I'm neither, i'm moving up in the world. Or maybe sideways?" "Have you two met lately?" Dee asked, sitting on the beach and burying her feet into the sand. "Not since she went all 'Purple Rain' on us." Al said to Dee, finally dropping his tools and standing up to face them. He looked Violet up and down, and his expression was thoroughly unimpressed. "Shifter's a shifter, darlin', you ain't wearing your real face, that makes you a shifter in ma books. An' I couldn't give a spit if yer doin' loop de loops, ain't gonna change how I look at ye." "Thanks, Al." Violet smiled. "Well this is lovely..." Dee added, raising her eyebrows and holding her mouth open awkwardly. "Anyone going to bring up the whole... whole world turning into Narnia or...?" She paused looking at them, "No, I mean, 'Oh look, jellyfish!'" And with that, she stood and ran down to the water's edge. "I'm sorry I didn't come sooner." Violet said finally. "Hey, still managed to beat Vincent." Al said, folding his arms. "Not exactly like I made a map for ye, either." "Right... i've learnt that magic gives off a kind of... I don't know. But I know yours well enough to single you out, at least, with a little help." Violet looked down the beach at Dee who was currently splashing about at the water's edge. "Us mortals just call it an Aura, darlin', but then again we ain't got eyes like yours, maybe we got it wrong." Al said. He looked down the beach at Dee for a moment and then turned back to Violet. "Speakin' a thing beyon' a mortals purview, why is there an Aspect currently chasin' Jellyfish on my beach?" "Would you accept 'It's complicated' as an answer?" She replied, her smile turning into a grin. "Would ye accept 'no shit' as a response?" Al said, running his fingers over his mustache. "Ye know she's millions o' years...hell, more than tha'. They've been aroun' since tha beginnin', Vi." "I..." She looked back at Dee and frowned, "I'm not sure that's how it works. Not for her. Look," Violet cut Al off with a motion of her hand, she was getting annoyed, she didn't need to think about Dee right now. "We came here because we need your help." "Well now, tha' sounds more like it." Al said. "None o' you kids ever come round for a beer an' a chit chat any more." Al sat himself down on the half finished canoe he had been working on, and made one of those hacking, wretched coughs that only old men do, and then he folded his arms again. "So?" "So...?" Violet frowned. "We've got like... a few minutes?" Dee came walking up to them with a couple of beers in each hand and gave one to each of them, then she took her first bottle and necked the entire contents in seconds, and then took a swig of her second beer, "Sláinte!" She exclaimed, "Oh these are on your tab, Al. Thanks." She winked at him. "So he wants you to explain, and I figured the time it takes we might as well have a beer." Violet rolled her eyes, but did just that. She gave Al the condensed version of everything that had happened, but focused on their most recent events. Vincent was in Isoleth's prison, in the fae realm, at the heart of Winter itself. And there was no way they could reach him. Al didn't say anything until he had drained the last of his beer. With a short gasp he wiped his arm across his mustache and turned to Dee. "Good call on' the beer, darlin', a very good call." Al stood up again and took a deep breath, looking out to sea, and for a moment it seemed like he was contemplating swimming out there and never returning. "Tha' damn dragon's been sniffin' aroun' me since the Wise got killed. Sittin' in a dark room judgin' folks ain't my idea of a good time, which is why I've been hidin' ou' here. Sides which, I ain't fightin' no war for him." Al gave another sigh and put his hands on his hips. "But if I go to war for anyone, it's tha' boy." "Damn right." Dee muttered, finishing her beer. Violet set her untouched beer to one side, "Ready to go? We'll go back to the apartment, I think between you, me, Dee, Meredith, David and Eve we might be able to breach into the fae close enough that we'll be within a day's walk to Isoleth's stronghold, without raising the alarm. From there, i'm not really sure, but it's not something we can really plan." "You got tha' right." Al said. "Why don' you go assemble yer war council while I get changed. Then we'll make a plan, back at the apartment." "And I was so fond of the shorts..." Dee mused. Violet smirked, and then they stepped in close to one another, and Violet focused once more, moving back into the apartment was it's own kind of difficult. There wasn't a lot standing in their way that they hadn't personally put up, but it was a compact space, and they didn't know where people were going to be in the room. In an instant, Violet gasped as she found herself standing on the edge of the coffee table, she almost fell over and quickly had to step down and right herself. Dee landed softly into the couch, already changed from her beach attire. "Well that was a fun little jaunt..." Dee stared out the window at the snow packing itself up against the window. "You could call it that." Violet muttered, "Al's on board." She confirmed, addressing everyone in the room. "That's great news." David said, as he brought tea for everyone that he had inexplicably made at just the right time. "Meredith found someone too." Meredith visibly shuddered at her place on the sofa when she heard David speak. She had been sitting quietly, but her face was awash with guilt, and she was on the verge of tears. "I don't like the sound of that..." Violet growled. "I'm sorry!" Meredith practically squeeked. "I just... I wanted to tell you but, there was never a good time. I... I didn't want you to find out like this..." "I suggest dropping a name before we see the lilac Hulk, Meredith." Dee cautioned. "That's not funny, Dee." Violet curled her top lip in a snarl. "Look..." Meredith started, "When I was a baby, Vincent made sure I was hidden somewhere safe. That place was an area of the Wylds known as the Tranquil Vale. Time... it moves differently there. That's why, even though it was only around 6 years ago, for me it's been almost 20. But, I was a baby. I couldn't look out for myself. Vincent... he had someone he trusted look after me. I called that person..." Tears finally began to fall from Meredith's eyes. "I'm so sorry, Violet..." "Oh, please don't say my mother..." Violet crossed an arm, rested her other on it and pressed her knuckles into her forehead as hard as she could as though she was trying to relieve a pressure migraine. "I just really don't want to hear you say that, Meredith." "No.. it's..." Meredith began, but she was interrupted by a knock on the door. Meredith got up and went to the door, and opened it, her head immediately falling, not bearing to look at Violet's reaction. A tall, broad shouldered man stepped through the door. He was wearing black boots, blue jeans, and a red and white plaid shirt. Where his shirt sleeves were pulled up there were clear, deep scars along his arms. The man turned to face the others in the room. He had a head of short, thick, black hair that was going a little silver on the sides. He had a short, trimmed beard, and a particularly large scar above his right eye, and his eyes were a brilliant emerald green. "...Hello, Violet." He said, and there was a joyful look in his eye, yet he dared not smile. Violet's face screwed up in disbelief as she walked up to the stranger in front of her, "D-dad?" "Yes..." said the man, Elias Wolfwood Hallow. "I... I know I have no right to be here, or to say anything, but..." Eli sighed. "I never got to see the woman you have grown to be. You're so beautiful, like your mother." For the briefest of moments, Violet was stunned. Into silence, into stillness. Violet tensed, and she marched towards Eli, closing the gap in a couple of seconds. Her human mask turned to ash and fell away, her hair lifting into the air and her eyes burning with a dangerous light. "Ah shit, i'm gonna be on the clock tonight..." Dee bit her lip and watched. Violet grabbed hold of her father, embracing him and her walls fell away, and she cried. Once she started, she could no longer stop. No tears could leave her eyes, but she wretched with a pain she didn't realise she'd been holding onto. Her face nuzzled into his chest and she wept, her crying echoed into the apartment as her shoulders shook and her fingers clutched onto his shirt. Afraid that if she let him go, he would turn to smoke and embers like so much in her life. To vanish. "You..." Violet tried to speak between her shuddering cries, "... left... me! You... left me... I..." She shook her head, pressing her face into him, "... I thought... I thought i'd... never... see you... again..." She weakly thumped her fist into his chest over and over again until she felt his arms delicately wrap around her, as though she were made of glass.

    STAR WARS 306 ABY The Galactic Senate has brought about an age of great peaceand prosperity that has lasted for decades.However, unknown to the Senate, the winds of change are coming. The Jedi, a once proud order of guardians tasked withprotecting the galaxy have long-since fallen into obscurity.A new Empire has risen from the ashes of the old,guided by a shadowy force unseen in decades. Meanwhile, a young Mirialan smuggler named Dax Arandel,Captain of the Jade Centurion, carries an illegal cargoin the form of a group of refugees fleeing from the Empire.Unbeknownst to Dax, however, amongst the refugeeshides one of the last remaining Jedi Knights, Riff Suthra. Together, they may be the last hope for the scattered remnants of the rebel alliance... Dax Arandel pulled herself out of the pilot's chair of the Jade Centurion and glared at the shadow drifting over her cockpit. The star-filled inky blackness of space was normally a comforting sight. But as the stars vanished before her crimson eyes, one by one, she swallowed nervously. It was a ship. But no ordinary ship. This was an Imperial Destroyer. It made the Jade look like an bug in comparison. Dax was a Mirialan, a green-skinned race of humanoids, she had the customary geometric black tattoos on her face. A thick black line ran horizontally just beneath her eyes, across her nose. A thick mane of black hair ran over her shoulders and she wore a ragtag mixture of plain clothes with a short dark brown leather jacket over the top. A laser pistol was strapped to a holster on her leg. She looked like she could take care of herself, but right now she wasn't so sure. Smuggling refugees paid well, but crossing the Empire was a bad idea. It was a risk she was willing to take, but as the shadow cast the cockpit in darkness, she wondered if she'd bit off more than she could chew. As Dax left, she heard a voice on the comm. "Unidentified vessel, prepare for inspection, power down engines and ready for boarding. Any resistance will be met with lethal force." "Charming." Dax muttered to herself, she opened the cockpit door and walked down the metal gantry, "I've got a bad feeling about this." She added, as she turned the corner into the central chamber. A dozen or so people, from an assortment of races, turned to look at her. They looked nervous. "An Imperial Destroyer is sending a boarding party--" Before she could finish her sentence the questions and shrieks and panic spread through the group, she tried to calm them but quickly grew irritated, "Hey!!" She snapped, trying to quiet them, "You can hide below the gantry, they shouldn't find you there, you just need to be quiet. They'll be here any minute." Dark eyes peered out from under a dusty, tan robe. The man had tanned skin, and dark, thick hair. He lifted the hood of the robe from his face and revealed long, dark dreadlocks tied back in a ponytail. Despite the news, he did not look fearful, nor did he make any noise of alarm. Instead he just stared at Dax, assessing her. After a moment he stood up, gathering his satchel of possessions, and walked forwards. "Lead the way, Captain." He said, his voice low and gruff. His tone was neutral, with no hint of inflection, and yet just the sound of it seemed to settle the scared people. For a moment, she was taken aback. This man was unlike any of the others. To be honest, he was a little unnerving. She couldn't quite put her finger on why. She nodded to the man, and led the group down a corridor towards the rear of the ship. She pressed a concealed button on a panel along the wall of the ship, and the gantry ahead of her slid back to reveal a large crawl space. "You'll have to go in there, and be quiet. The Empire scans for heat and noise. Heat I can neutralise, down there at least. Noise is another matter, you have to stay quiet or we'll all end up in a cell." She watched as they disappeared down into the hole until only the peculiar robed man remained. As he passed her, she got a good look at his face, and she realised what made her uncomfortable about him. He was unafraid. Hell, even she wasn't stupid enough not to be afraid of the Empire, never mind an Imperial Destroyer. But here was a refugee without fear. Why flee from something you're not afraid of? Dax was unable to explore this thought, as the sound of the hatch opening at the far wall made her quickly reach for the concealed button once more. She watched as the gantry closed over the robed man and seconds later a cloud of coolant vented into the ship and a wave of stormtroopers marched inside. Their laser rifles raised, several of them split out and began to search the ship. Three of them immediately gravitated towards her, their rifles aimed at her head. She slowly raised her hands to show cooperation, and one of them reached forwards and pulled her holstered pistol out and held onto it. Now she was surrounded, and disarmed, and smuggling a cargo that would likely get her executed. The troopers made no signs of nervousness or agitation, they were trained, they were in control. From out of the coolant stepped a stormtrooper, her armour identical to the rest but emblazoned with the sigil of a black bird on her chest. Her helmet looked like it had been damaged, but as she came closer, Dax realised what it was. She had taken a knife to the side of her helmet, there were several dozen cuts gouged into the armour. Dax had an idea what that meant. "What's your name, girl?" The female trooper demanded, looking her over."Dax Arandel." She replied. The trooper pulled out a small info pad and started scanning, "Multiple arrests, 6 years time served in the Bay. Maximum security prison. Petty theft, smuggling..." The trooper began to read out a list of her offences, but she became distracted by the final figure to enter her ship. The man stepped onto the gantry of the Jade as though he had all the time in the world, as if he was surveying a field of wild flowers on a warm summer day. He was clothed in black, with a long black cloak and hood. He wore a mask that obscured his features completely. It looked like a single piece of polished black glass, and she could see nothing in it's reflection. It seemed darker than space. But it was his demeanour that unnerved her the most. He took his time with everything, he was not invasive or demanding. She couldn't even call him threatening, yet he was all the same. "Anything of interest, Captain?" The man asked. The mask muffled his deep voice, but his tone of mild curiosity still came through. He slowly crossed his arms behind his back and strolled down the corridor, inspecting the panels of the ship."No, Lord Baal. Petty infractions, this one's a smuggler. We're searching the ship now." "I see." Baal replied. Dax watched the man, she couldn't tell where he was looking but when his head turned enough to indicate he was looking away. Then he turned and she realised he was looking directly at her. "Mirialan." He stated. "Yeah, and?" Dax muttered. That was about as much venom she dared to spit."Your people are a spiritual lot, are you not?" He asked, his head inclining to one side as though he was contemplating something, "Unusual then, that you isolate yourself to the vast emptiness of space, when you are so much a social species." "I was brought up on ships like these. This is my home." Baal stood in silent reflection for a moment, then without taking his gaze off her, called over his shoulder, "Captain Grell?" He asked, "Have you checked for crawl spaces? Perhaps the gantry? Some smugglers use such places to stow illegal cargo.""I'm not doing anything wrong." Dax replied, clenching her fists. "I believe you." Baal replied, his tone indifferent. A shiver ran up her spine and Dax found herself almost wanting to cry. She couldn't explain the sensation, but she felt like a darkness was closing in on her, and she started to feel claustrophobic. A feeling she had never experienced in her life."Check the gantry!" Captain Grell ordered a pair of troopers. They saluted her and the pair marched down and started checking each of the spaces. Dax waited in silence, she tried to keep her gaze on Baal. But she wanted to look anywhere but the void of his mask. Eventually she couldn't help herself, her eyes darted in the direction of the refugees. If only for an instant."Captain?" Baal called again, and nodded in the same direction. The Captain gave the order and Baal faced Dax once more and waited patiently, as the two troopers changed direction and headed towards the other gantry there was a quiet metal clank. The two troopers froze and looked at one another, then surged forwards and began searching. After a moment, one of the troopers called back. "Got something here." He pressed the button to the secret crawl space. As the passage in to the crawl space opened with a hiss, the trooper went to descend, but the robed man rose to meet him, holding his hand out, making a simple sweeping gesture. "There is no reason to come down here." He said in a calm tone. "The noise was just the ventilation pipes. Move along." His words seemed to resonate with the trooper, and he stood silent for a moment. Then he closed the hatch as the robed man disappeared back in to the crawl space. The trooper turned back to his colleague as he ambled back down the gantry. "There's nothing down there. Probably just the pipes. We should move along." For a moment, Baal broke his gaze on Dax and inclined his head behind him. He had sensed something. Something aboard the ship. He looked at Dax and considered her for a long while, then took a step closer. Dax retreated a step. He continued forwards until she was pressed against the wall and he leant towards her. "Do you know what I am?" He asked. The two troopers walked up to Captain Grell, explained there was nothing in the crawl space, and rejoined the rest of their unit. "The ship is empty, Lord Baal." The Captain informed him. Baal remained silent. Dax was confused as to why the troopers hadn't found the refugees, but she tried not to show it on her face. Baal's question had also thrown her for a loop. What was he? She wasn't sure she wanted to say, but she had a good idea. She'd heard they had all but died out. Yet here was one stood right in front of her. She could sense there was something different about him, that separated him from the others. "You're a Jedi." Dax stated. Baal remained motionless for a few seconds and then pulled back from her, "Tell your men to pack up, Captain. Return her weapon. We're leaving." Baal whirled around and started down the gantry. "But, my Lord, we've only just begun to--" Baal lifted his hand and clenched his fist, one of the troopers he passed stopped what they were doing. His neck snapped in an unusual direction and he crumpled to the floor. He died in an instant. "That was not a request, Captain. Be thankful you are more useful to me alive." The troopers quickly filed out, not wanting to disobey Baal's order, Grell followed in silence, stepping over the body of the dead trooper. Baal stepped into the hatch and looked back at Dax one last time. "I sense the Force is strong in you, Dax Arandel." Baal paused, taking a long breath, "You feel it's pull." He was silent for a long while, Dax was unsure what to do with herself but stand there, with her arms still raised in surrender, "We will meet again. I will make sure of that." Then he closed the hatch behind him and Dax felt her knees give way. Collapsing to the ground, Dax let out a breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding. She clutched her head in her hands and shook in silence. She could hear the ship-to-ship transport detach from the Jade, and return to the Imperial Destroyer. How had she gotten away with that? Whenever she'd encountered an Imperial Destroyer there was only two outcomes. If you ran, you might escape, or you were destroyed. If you surrendered, you were usually arrested and found guilty of something. She wasn't sure what had happened, and she kept replaying the scene in her head, over and over. Yet here she was. Alive, untouched, free. Was Lord Baal really a Jedi? One of the ancient order of guardians. She found that more difficult to believe by the minute. She'd not heard stories of Jedi since she was a child, and even then they were more myth than reality. Besides, what was a Jedi doing with the Empire? She supposed it made sense though. If the Jedi believed in order, and that was all the Empire preached, maybe it was one and the same? She didn't like their kind of 'order' though. Eventually, Dax pulled herself to her feet and opened the hatch. "They're gone now, you can come out." "Nicely handled." Said the robed figure as he pulled himself out of the crawl space. "For a moment there I thought we were in some hot water." "Nicely handled?" Dax repeated, "Listen, pal..." She pointed at him accusingly and then looked back at the hatch as the rest of the refugees pulled themselves up out of the crawl space, "Right... I saw him look right down there. I saw that trooper look right into that crawl space and then tell that kill-counting officer there was nobody there. What in the heck is going on here?!" "Are you sure you really want to know?" He replied. "You're a sharp woman, but you clearly don't want the trouble. Let's just pretend those trooper helmets don't have very good vision." "Dammit..." Dax growled and marched back towards the cockpit and threw herself down into the chair. "I'm taking us into hyperspace, don't need to stay around here any longer than we have to." She started the ignition sequence. "No arguments here." The man said with a nod. "My name's Riff Suthra, by the way." Dax looked over her shoulder at Riff, judging him with a critical eye, before taking them into hyperspace. The stars stretched out before them and in a matter of seconds, a large blue moon loomed before them, scarred with the orange light of a sprawling mega city that seemed to cover most of the planet. Nar Shaddaa. Also known as the Smuggler's Moon. Where else was she going to take them? Dax smiled to herself, set the ship to auto pilot down to the surface and whirled around in her chair to face Riff. "What's your deal?" She asked, "You're not afraid of that Baal character, you're not afraid in general. If I hadn't picked that sorry lot up on a dozen different worlds i'd think you were their leader. There's something strange about you, but I don't know why..." "Fear..." Riff replied, musing on the word, staring out towards the moon that drew ever closer. "Fear is always present. Some choose to suppress it. I chose to master it." He spoke as if he was trying to convince himself, more than anyone else. Then he focused his attention back towards Dax. "Baal... I do not know the man. Yet he seems like the type of person whose attention you do not want to attract. Yet you have gotten his." "No kidding." Dax muttered, rubbing her temples, "Listen, i'm going to drop you all off at the spaceport, you're gonna pay me the rest of what you owe me, and once i've stocked up on supplies i'm leaving this system." She shook her head, "For good." "And where will you go?" Riff asked. "There is no part of the Galaxy that the Empire cannot reach." Dax blinked. Somehow, in that one response, Riff had shut her down. She blinked again, and then slowly shook her head until she reassured herself into speaking, "I'm leaving. I've avoided the Empire in the past, I can do it again. I can hide, if I have to." "From the Empire, perhaps." Riff nodded. "You're crafty enough, there's no doubt. But from Baal?" Riff swayed his head from side to side, gently. "He can sense The Force in you, and you cannot hide it. Should he desire to, in time, he will find you." "I don't believe in space magic." Dax muttered, strapping her blaster back onto her leg. "And that would matter if there was no such thing." Riff replied. "But you know that is not the case. Deep down, perhaps. You knew what Baal was... what I am." He paused for a moment, reconsidering what he was saying. "I apologize. It really is no business of mine. But The Force does not care what you believe. And without the training of a Jedi, you can do nothing to stop it." Her breathing quickened, Dax looked at Riff, studying him. "... you're a Jedi...?" She frowned, "Then Baal?" "Something else." Riff replied simply. "It doesn't surprise me that you have never met a Jedi before, but I assure you it is not as traumatic as what Baal put you through. Intentional, of course. Baal wants you to be afraid. Then he has you just where he wants you." "Why does he want me to be afraid?" Dax asked, "And if he's not a Jedi, then what is he? Because he feels different, like you." "Because fear leads you to him." Riff explained. "It leads you to the dark side. If you let it rule you, at least. Baal... he is an old enemy, one thought long gone. Yet no matter how many times they fall, more rise in time. Sith." He said the last word as if it were profanity. "Sith?" Dax repeated the word in confusion. "I don't understand. Why is he your enemy? What has he done to you? I've heard the tales of Jedi and Sith, half the things people say I sometimes think are pure fantasy, but... I heard many years ago the Jedi started a military coup when they decided that the leader of the Galactic Republic wasn't fit to lead, even though they were supposed to be peacekeepers. Before that, they committed genocide in the Sith Holocaust." Dax shifted uncomfortably in her chair, "I admit, Riff... I like you a lot more than Baal, but Jedi and Sith seem awfully similar to me." "I don't have time to explain our history." Riff said. "The Jedi Order is long gone, and I am not what you would call a poster boy of the Order. Jedi are taught at a young age, far younger than you. I'm not trying to convince you that we're a great people, the few of us that are left, anyway. I'm just trying to make sure you do not become Sith. A sensitive like yourself, with no training, no control. The dark side comes easy to such people." Riff sighed heavily and folded his arms. "Just...tread lightly, for your own sake." "I'm not joining any side but mine." Dax pointed her finger at Riff, "I don't trust him, and I don't trust you." Dax scowled at Riff, "Sometimes i'm able to see things before they happen. Sometimes I get a feeling for a person i've just met. I think you're a good person, Riff, but..." Dax trailed off as the computer beeped and a voice chimed. "Final descent to Nar Shaddaa." "... i've got a ship to pilot." Dax muttered, and turned back to take the controls, leading the ship down to the planet's surface. It had been an eventful day, but 'any landing you can walk away from' she thought to herself. The clouds sped past her as they came within sight of the spaceport. Suddenly a voice barked out over the comm. "Unidentified vessel you are bid welcome to Nar Shaddaa! Now land before our cannons blast you out of the sky, you are welcome guests to the illustrious Veshka the Hutt. You will be escorted to her presence and dine at her table. Resistance will be met--" "--with lethal force." Dax banged her console in anger, "Don't people got any other way of saying 'hi'?!" "--additionally, Veshka is aware you are smuggling precious cargo. His name is Riff, bring him with you, that is not a request." The comm fell silent and Dax turned to look at Riff with an accusatory glare. "You're a piece of work..." Dax growled, "Mind telling me why the de facto leader of an entire planet of thieves and smugglers knows who you are, and that you're on. My. SHIP?!" Dax paused, breathing heavily, her cheeks clenched tight. "Has to be a bug, or a stowaway, or...." She muttered, as the ship came in to land.

    The warehouse seemed to go on forever. Calen, Ami and Shoraddik were busy making preparations, content to leave Dax to her own devices. That was how she liked it. She watched D7 potter about for a little while, helping them pack. When she lost interest, she took one last look over the group and then swiftly and silently walked deeper into a section of the warehouse. Their voices were distant but she could still make out where they were behind her. Dax reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out a small flat metal disc. She swept her thumb over the top of it, and a little blue hologram appeared. The video and audio were badly damaged, and whenever there was motion the video blurred and vibrated to the point that it made it difficult to follow what was happening. "Is it on?" The man asked. "I think so, you should have asked how it worked before he left." She replied. "He'll be back soon." "I know..." The woman started crying, she was holding something. "It's better--" The audio cut out. Dax watched the hologram in silence. "--life." "But we'll--" The video hummed with static and Dax gave the hologram a little shake. But before she could watch any more of it, she heard footsteps. She didn't want anyone to see it, so she deactivated the hologram and turned to see Riff walking up to her. "Oh, it's you. Finished your little meeting, did you?" Dax asked, her tone a little hostile. "Obviously." Riff replied. "So, what's next for you? No credits, no ship." Riff sighed. "I'm sorry for getting you in to this mess..." "I don't know... i'll figure something out." Dax sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "Well, I'll be helping this lot, at least for the time being." Riff said. "But I owe you a debt before I start any of that. How about we start with getting your ship back." "I'd love to have my ship. But it's in that hangar, with probably a thousand bucket heads crawling over it. Or worse... that filthy slug has dismantled it and sold it for scrap." Dax grit her teeth as the image of her ship being torn apart flashed before her eyes. "Doubtful." Riff said. "The Empire won't let that ship get out of reach if they at all suspect that you'll attempt to come back for it. That doesn't mean it can't be done though." Riff removed the robe he had been wearing and tossed it aside. Underneath his trousers and tunic were in equally poor condition. His bare arms were tanned, muscular, and sporting more than a fair share of scars. "The Empire are looking for a Jedi and a Smuggler. A costume change might be in order, but we can attempt it if you're willing." "What, exactly, are you suggesting?" Dax raised an eyebrow accusingly. "I'm suggesting we do something a little more covert." Riff explained. "If you can bear to act like a good soldier of the Empire for a while, then all we need is a few uniforms. I know enough about military protocol, and I'm sure our new friends will have intel we can use. Access codes, updated security protocols, blueprints of the hangar. Do it right and we can walk right in and steal it from under their noses." "It's not stealing when it's my own damn ship!" Dax growled, then shook her head, "I've never played a 'good' anything. But i'll give it a shot." She paused, looking Riff over for a few seconds, "So, back on my ship... why were you running?" "Well I thought about just telling the Empire that I was retired, but somehow I didn't think they'd be up for listening." Riff said. "The Empire fear the Jedi. They aren't interested in where our loyalties are, they just want us exterminated." "But why? I don't understand how they can fear something that is all but wiped out. I don't even understand why the Jedi and Sith fight each other. I thought you were peaceful? Not that i've gotten that impression from you..." "That is a long story..." Riff said, scratching his head. "The Jedi aren't perfect, and our history has it's share of blemishes. We uphold our ideals as best as we can but, well, interpretations vary. I can't say I know how it all began. I've read a great deal of our history, from the New Republic, Order 66, The Clone Wars, The Eternal Empire, The Old Republic, Revan, Malak..." Riff trailed off from his list, realising it probably didn't mean much to Dax. "It goes back over several millenia. I haven't yet reached the beginning, I'm not even sure if such information is out there." "So it's just another war, being fought by people who don't know each other, that can't remember why they were fighting in the first place." Dax laughed bitterly and then sighed, "Well great, I guess Jedi are no different from the rest of us then." "You might have a point there." Riff said. "The Jedi I admire, they did not seek war. War is... ugly. You are perhaps too young to truly remember the extent of it but, if you think things are bad now, they were much worse during the war. I admire the will to fight for something better, like Calen has, however, I've had my fill of war." "I don't really remember my childhood... I was adopted, but I ran away. I grew up on starships and spaceports. I fought all my life to survive, fighting is all I know. But war is different." Dax took a deep breath and let it out, "So," She smiled, "I'm really hungry. You can start paying me back by buying me lunch.""Fair enough." Riff said with a nod. "Just let me see about a change of clothes." He walked off and found Calen, and asked him if there were any spare clothes. Calen directed Riff to another room, and Riff disappeared for a few minutes. When he returned he was dressed in a pair of black leather trousers, and brown boots, and wearing a brown leather jacket and had allowed his deadlocked hair to hang loose. "What do you think?" He asked, "Do I look like a scoundrel?""You..." Dax started to speak but stopped herself, putting a forefinger to her lips, "Yes. Absolutely." She coughed in trying to suppress a laugh. "Alright, let's go find some grub. Oh, on Nar Shaddaa, couple of tips for you - Don't stare at anybody unless you want to attract unwanted attention, and don't order the soup. Ever." Dax shivered in disgust, "Ev-er."
  25. Hallowed - Private Kyo& Val

    One moment, Vincent was there. The next, he was gone. Violet stared with a dumbfounded expression on her face for a few seconds as she tried to comprehend what had happened. She heard Meredith scream her brother's name as she ran to the dropped letter. Violet frowned and almost smiled in trying to understand what had happened. She walked up to Meredith, calmly pulled the letter from Meredith's shaking fingers and looked at the passage in silence. Vincent was gone. This thought bounced around Violet's thoughts as she stood there in confusion. Slowly, the confusion was replaced by indignant anger. How dare someone take her brother? Nobody had that right. She could feel Zeal's voice streaming from her lips, fighting against her, but he was struggling. She knew he was struggling, because he felt the same way she did. So why was he fighting her rage? "I'LL KILL THEM!!" She screeched at the top of her lungs, the letter exploded into ash as a purple fire engulfed her, burning away her human suit and leaving only the purple-bodied Nagloshi behind. The living mass of pink hair spread out behind her as she paced through the apartment. She roared and grabbed hold of the refrigerator door and pulled it from it's hinges with little effort, throwing it across the kitchen in a fit of rage. Still, she could hear Zeal's voice flowing from her lips, but she couldn't hear it. Didn't want to hear it. "Meredith, I can't!" Zeal called to the young woman, "She's too strong! I can't control her like this, not when..." Zeal trailed off as Violet stormed through the apartment, screaming and grabbing anything in her path, and venting her frustration upon it. Meredith moved from her kneeling spot on the floor, quickly pressing her body up against the far wall from Violet, her eyes full of panic and fresh tears. "Vi...Violet?" She whispered. "Please...Auntie Vi...he's gone I...I can't..." Violet screamed once more, but heard noise in the next room. She came flying back in, rushing towards Meredith with nothing but rage and pain in her eyes and grabbed hold of Meredith, "Where is he?!" She screamed at her, and brought her arm back. Her palm began glowing with bright energy, and she tried bringing her arm to bear upon Meredith, but couldn't. Zeal had to stop her, he saw Meredith was terrified, and saw what they were doing, and did everything he could to fight. "Two beings, can't live... in one body!" Zeal cried, pulling back on Violet's arm as she wailed with loss. "I can't...!!" He yelled, through Violet's lips. "Fight any longer..." He could feel himself losing control, Violet was pulling her arm down at last. A little glowing golden orb whipped through the room, casting a golden hue on everything, and in a flash, passed through Violet's chest and out the other side, then fluttered away into the wall and disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. Violet gasped and fell to her knees, wheezing. "I'll..." She shook as though she'd just run a marathon, "I'll kill them, Meredith... i'll kill them." "Vi..." Meredith breathed, trying to get a hold of herself. She tentatively placed her hand on Violet's and caught her gaze. "We'll kill them... okay?" Violet looked upon Meredith with her glowing white eyes and tried taking a deep breath, "What did you do to me..." She felt strange, but found it difficult to describe. Like she'd just been charged with something. Like someone filled her car with the wrong fuel. "Meredith... we have to get... into Arctaeros." She was finding it difficult to breathe, each breath was laboured. But something had to be done, and soon. Or Vincent was likely doomed. "I didn't do anything." Meredith said, and she moved away from Violet, straightening her jacket. "As for cannot be done." Meredith looked back at Violet and her eyes were filled with resolute hopelessness. "Nobody enters or leaves Arctaeros unless the Queen permits it. The only person who's ever done it is..." "Who...?" Violet asked, trying to keep her temper in check. She slowly pulled herself to her feet and clenched her fists. "...Vincent." Meredith said, and tears began to well up in her eyes again. "But it's not how he thinks... his memories have blocked that out too. He..." Meredith lowered her head so that Violet couldn't look at her, and tears dropped down on to the floor. "... I'm sorry I haven't told you... I didn't know how you'd react. I still don't know if..." "Spit it out!" Violet roared, but remained quite still, cautious that moving would encourage her temper. She knew she wasn't angry at Meredith, but she couldn't help it. Every fibre in her being right now was telling her to lash out, and both her and Zeal were doing everything they could to stop it. Meredith pursed her lips, but she did not speak. She was too terrified to speak to Violet in that moment. She couldn't tell her, not right now. Just when she thought Violet was about to yell again, she was saved, when someone rapped loudly on the door. Meredith nearly jumped out of her skin. "Who... there's a storm out." She whispered. "Who'd come here now?" "Someone who is going to be rather upset..." Violet replied, rising off from the floor and reaching out with her hand and made a yanked backwards, the door flew from it's hinges and Violet raised her hands, ready to attack the stranger. But instead, she found herself stalled by surprise. Slowly, she lowered herself to the ground, "D-David?" Violet frowned, unsure at first. "Well..." David began, his eyebrows raised in alarm, and his hand was already clasped on the hilt of the broadsword he was carrying. "Violet... you're back." He said as he stepped inside, bundles of snow falling from his clothes with every step. He strode quickly, and before Violet could react, he had held her hand in a firm, yet gentle way. "I'm... I'm so glad you are with us again." Violet looked down at David's hand clutching her own and she found her breathing beginning to calm. "David..." She smiled, despite her current mood. David had a way with people that nobody else had. There were few who could have dealt with Violet in that moment. At least, peacefully. "What are you doing here...?" Violet asked, looking at the broken door on the ground in mild irritation at her temper, now that she had calmed enough to see what she had done. "Well..." David said. "I... felt I was needed." He said simply. Before he could get another word out he was almost tackled to the floor as Meredith caught him in a tight embrace. "David!" She breathed as she hugged him tighter. "... I've never been so glad to see you.""Well it's wonderful to see you too, dear." David said, gently stroking her hair. "Pink and blue... that's an interesting look." He turned and looked back at Violet. "And you, purple still, I see. Well it does suit you I suppose. Now... where is that moody brother of yours, hm?" "Vincent has been taken. By Isoleth." Violet replied, her jaw clenched as she said the fae's name. "I... see." David's head fell, in sadness. "So... it seems I really was needed. I'm so sorry, both of you." "Don't feel sorry for us, David." Violet said simply, all anger seemed to have drained out of her. She seemed strangely calm. "Feel sorry for Isoleth. Because I will find a way to enter that realm, and when I do, there's no word to describe what i'll do to her." Violet turned and left the room. She walked into Vincent's room and shut the door behind her and almost immediately she collapsed to her knees. Her face screwed up as though she wanted to cry, and her chest heaved with weeping, but no liquid escaped the corners of her ethereal eyes. She shook with grief and pulled herself into a corner, bundling herself up against the wall as tightly as she could. She wanted to escape, she wanted to destroy herself just so she didn't feel like this. She hated it. Why did she feel everything so strongly? She had always had a temper, yet she'd always been able to control her emotions, and now it was like someone had pulled a thread from her jumper and they just kept coming no matter what she did."I can stay, if you want?" Violet heard the voice and looked up in surprise, only to see a familiar face, dressed in black. "I figure you could use all the help you can get right now." Dee smiled and knelt down on the ground beside her, letting Violet rest her head upon her shoulder. "Don't worry, Vi. I'm going to get your brother back... and to hell with the consequences."