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Artificer last won the day on October 10 2020

Artificer had the most liked content!

About Artificer

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    Hey! I'm a (Graduated) Computer Science Major @ UC Berkeley, and am interested in ML, algebra, music, and more (now searching for a job). With regards to roleplay, I'm into anything as long as its a kick-ass adventure with lots of action and lots of story. I come with the seasons, but I think Valucre is a place where I'm going to settle and make a name for myself with regards to writing. Interweaving a net to trap your characters in some convoluted plot is just one of my specialties; however, I'm still trying to improve my narrative ability! Definitely interested in your feedback, and again, hope to see you on the threads ~!
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  1. FENGÁRI Valarys spoke — perhaps out of necessity as opposed to willingness. Fen saw the hesitation that cracked under expression, but she assumed things ought to go their way. Logically speaking, the slave had no better options. They were his ticket out; information was the payment. He must have realized this by now. Choosing wisely, he recounted his trek thusfar, marking beginning, middle, and abrupt end. Stjärn was not likely to take notes, so Fengári kept open an open ear in his stead. Anything that seemed important was mentally marked. Most information was deemed irrelevant. For the majority of the retelling, Fen looked kindly, but remained apathetic. It was important to don a mask in these types of things. Those with temptestous, internal strife required careful, constructed sympathy. After all, most slaves had unresolved issues. To get what she wanted required social precision. There was an end outcome in sight which would be favorable to all parties — if her assumptions were valid. Despite this training, little could hide her visible dismay upon hearing details of Zihayr’s change. Fen had known about it, but personally, she had never witnessed it. The masters sent concubines like her to visit The Champion after brackets. They were the prize — a privilege — that the winner of The Pits was afforded; however, Zihayr never touched them, a quality she admired about the werewolf. They were supposed to be a luxury devised for the purpose of incentivizing the violence for lust, but how could they be effective when the fights were so one-sided? All they were were bored women sitting with a creature which ignored them. Fen was lucky out of the few that visited regularly — she was afforded on several occasions to see him whilst human. Other times, like the others, she saw him as a wolf. Witness to see that both sides were not much different. Zihayr, at the end of the day, was still Zihayr. There was a third side though — the side Valarys witnessed — that she knew of. A side which Ashe had seen — a side that most did not survive to tell. Hearing the details of the pure malevolence from a second source left Fen perturbed. Was it really the best that they sought the wolf out? She had been taught to question things recently, so now she questioned. Was he really necessary to free Ashe? Thoughts drew back to the woman’s stubbornness. No — they would need Zihayr if they were to proceed in the plan. It wasn’t like Stjärn would give up on the idea of saving her. Sigh. Zihayr’s shift had birthed undue complications. He was now the biggest unknown factor to their success — not Fen. While she could control the aspects which revolved around her to some extent, she needed more information about the werewolf’s condition before proceeding. Uncertainty merited disaster much like Ashe's recent failure, and Fen was a creature who required certainty. There was still hope, though. From Valarys’s description, the spell on Zihayr’s collar just showed signs of weakening. If they could just reestablish the core of the complex curse, they might have a chance at assuaging the beast from a distance. Her background mandated at least rudimentary knowledge of curses’ inner workings should she ever the need to escape lock and key herself. Would it be too hard to recreate it? Yes, this was a real possibility. A solution. “What’s that rock he has?” “That’s a twin to a tracking spell on Zihayr,” she answered immediately, regaining composure. There was a plan now. “All the slavers currently searching for him have one — we poached this one from a few slavers back in Mezthaluen. “It pays to say you’ve seen the person on their wanted poster.” Acquire their tools at no cost to you. “Anything can be procured with a little wit after all — you just need to know where to look. Any weapon, any item, any secret. That stone points directly to his collar — you must have seen it glowing, right?” Wait — she said something. Words which didn’t fit. Something wasn’t right. More pieces fell into place. No…. Immediately, Fen rushed up grabbed the stone from Stjärn’s hand. With haste, she began searching among the dead bodies. Hands deftly went through their articles, shoving snow aside at those which were now buried beside pillar. Her plan was shy of coming undone. * * * STJÄRN With little to no idea why the stone had failed him once more, Stjärn grumbled as he hopped off the pillar. Now that Fen stole the stone, there was nothing left to do. The werewolf was gone, and there would be no fight that night. Unstrapping the polearm from his back, he set it on the side of the rock. Hmmm — he might as well polish his halberd now. While the poor weapon would not clash against sword and axe, there was still a chance that the wolf-man would return. If so, he had to ensure his weapon was in pristine, fighting condition. Eyes drew to the scattered goods. His bag was one of the rucksacks on the floor, right? He needed his whetstone and a cloth. There were things left above, but he was too lazy to check. Knowing he had just missed Zihayr killed all excess energy. “So you fought monster in complete darkness — and Zihayr had to save you?” the dragon said absentmindedly. “That was pretty stupid,” he blurted, rummaged through their belongings. “Why would you want to kill yourself?” Such thoughts didn’t make sense, after all. It was was waste without reason — loss without gain. To Stjärn, the boy was completely and utterly illogical. Did humans not think? Balance was the way of all creatures — no point in going against it. Throwing what one had away was ridiculous. Nostrils flared as scales shuddered. Food… medicine… clothes… by the gods, where was his bag?! Frustration mounted as voice grew with irritation. He really didn’t want to think about how much more walking needed to be done. The stone was so green… so bright…. “GRAH!” he yelled. With a flip, he tossed a bag to the other side of the room, a week’s worth of garments scattering across the floor. Women's garments. “I can’t fight him if he won’t even remember it!” he yelled. “I want to fight him — not some… whatever he is now! Grah!” Stjärn retreated to Thál. The dragon needed to feel something soft. He threw himself into leopard’s side as he buried his sorrows in the creature’s fur. If he had the muscles to pout, he would have. “This sucks.” @The Hummingbird
  2. FENGÁRI Thálassa was nimble in cities, but she did not have the grace of her snow-born cousins. In her eagerness to join in, the big cat bounded up and on, squeezing halfway through the crevice whilst also knocking down the barricade of piled snow. A plume of white showered inward toward the once-roaring fire, snuffing the latter out and leaving the denizens with a sudden draft. Worse off, the leopard was stuck between pillar and ceiling. Fengári turned sharply, eyes squinting at the beast. In one fluid motion, she tapped the top of the cat’s nose with the flat of her palm. “Thál!” she scolded. Her companion turned towards Fen with tilted head, hand-contact unbroken. The two stared at each other down for quite some time before the cat withdrew and yawned. Fen scoffed. What a conversation. Despite the numerous bags fixed to her back, the lumbering creature would continue trying to fit through. With a sigh, Fen retreated her hand, instead opting to unlatch the straps on her partner. Unsurprisingly, there was a large clatter as the cat slowly but surely moved in. One by one, the bags fell — some onto the pillar, some on the floor —, and Thál, by the end of it, had managed to squeeze into the rather small space. Fen shook her head. At least Shaldano and Astrasa got what they needed. “Stjärn, could you get the fire started again?” She hopped down from the pillar, taking a look back just to see the dragon still above. “Stjärn?” He was waving around the stone, rapping it against the boulder a few times. Ugh — why do I even bother. Fen wandered around the cavern, letting Shal and Astra tend to the mysterious slave. She’d listen in to their exchange, but would let the boy talk first. A slip of words was where information would be found. Remnants of the massacre might yield more. As she circled, her fingers traced the deep grooves left in hard granite. Polished nails caught on the dried blood which cracked off in thin flakes. Old blood. Frosted and caked. Single layer. Large area. This was his work alright. Kill fast, kill surely, kill many. It was one of many sure signs that the wolf they sought — or a beast of equivalent, monstrous potential — had been there. Eyes didn't fail to catch an almost insignificant detail on the wall. Among the chaotic carvings was a region with smaller, precise scratches, much unlike the others. Cut by a blade surely and not claw. Tallies — seven of them to be exact. Attention drifted to the small knife at the base. So he’s been here for a week. The neatly stacked bodies at the entrance further strengthened her claim. Signs of degradation in the bodies were just settling, and with the slave's injuries, it would have taken time for him to move things around. She would need to examine the corpses later, assuming the boy hadn’t tampered with them already. Things didn’t line up though. The wounds of the slave were bite marks. Gashes from claws. If Zihayr attacked the boy so savagely, why leave him alive? Zihayr was not the type to pity his enemies. Also, why did the slave speak as if he knew the werewolf with familiarity? Speak as if he was genuinely concerned? “Valarys…,” Fen muttered to herself. Had she heard that name before? A commotion rang out — footsteps followed by a crash. Fen turned, only to see the boy on the ground with Astra locking him in place. Shaldrano looked a bit shocked, and from that, Fen could take a guess at what happened. Lips thinned to a line. Why is it that men always come to the wrong conclusions? “Astra! Be gentle — the kid’s injured,” she snapped. She knew of the woman’s worry, but Fen doubted that one man could take on the four of them. Fleeing into the blizzard would be suicide as well. The slave was stuck with them in either case. Fengári paced over to just in front of Valarys, each step a stacatto in the otherwise silent room. She put down the lantern she held onto the floor, letting the light illuminate both his face and hers. “Valarys, I think you are mistaken if you think we’re here to take you back to Dairut — that's where you're from right?” She turned her head profile, still keeping Val in the corner of her eye. “We're from there too,” she said, “Look.” With practiced grace, she lifted her flowing hair up, revealing a small brand on her nape. It was a ornate flower, along with letters in small print. Its inked symbol would be recognizable to anyone from Dairut — especially those who frequented the Jovial Flats. “Unlike those men you’ve placed over there, we’re not slavers,” she continued, leading her hair back down over her shoulder. “Each of us left Dairut — cut ties with it, if you want to know. “— And yes, for a lack of better words, I’m a friend of Zihayr, and we’re looking for him,” she sighed. “How do you know him?” @The Hummingbird
  3. STJÄRN Westward did the winds whip. A crop of cold lashed against all those who were coast-bound. Those seeking asylum, those seeking new opportunities — new trade, new life —, would face it. Kin who differed greatly from the common ilk would go there to Port Caelum should the winds favor their journey. It was a haven for unnaturals such as such as Stjärn. It was a place of equality. A place to be free. Caelum, though, was a place where he had already arrived at and soon departed. His goal, unlike others, was not freedom. The small gem in his hand pointed to his true goal. Onward he trekked, the wind at his back. Cloak swayed as tail whisked from side to side. Phosphorescent eyes peeked out with hues of yellows, blues, and greens, surveying through ice and snow. Through the glimpse of form beneath the cloak, one could make out the large, nacreous scales of turquoise which shelled the outside of his hands and body. Its beauty provoked a fortune per piece, unlike the soft flakes of brown which covered the inside, and he knew the price of each personally. A few blues could be sold for five merlins to a jeweler, and when properly haggled, fifty. To think, his armor — a part of his body — could be sold. Disgusting. It was sickening that the hide of his kind was a commodity poached and purchased by humans. Claws, teeth — whatever they could get their greedy hands on; mankind was shameless. Two horns peeked out, unable to be hidden by hood. Maybe one day they would cut those off too. While his companions shivered, the ice and cold could not bother Stjärn. He, unlike Fengári and the lot, was warmed by the pulsing core within his chest. His willed resistance to winter was as natural as breathing. Still, he was jealous of them. Their ability to hide the circumstances of their birth was much easier. Be it pointed ears or strange markings — those could be hidden. Unlike them, he did not have the luxury of hiding anything. His bloodline was obvious to anyone who had eyes. Stjärn was a dragon after all. — At least partly. Unlike his brothers, although he had the same face, he was much smaller, and stood on two legs. A bastard born from dragon-father and unknown mother. Belonging to both worlds and neither at the same time. The glow of the stone within his hand grew brighter as they descended from the crags, and soon, the group had reached the wind-carved passages. Strange, these shattered mountains were — far different from the Summit from which he hailed. He felt an energy well within him as he looked at the stone’s green shimmer. They would soon find one of hundreds of so-called ‘Lodges’ they were told about, and within one of them, he knew his goal would be waiting. Fist clenched around the magic tool. His face didn’t move, but scales shuddered with excitement. He would find him, and he would have the fight he was so long denied. * * * FENGÁRI Fengári followed pace behind Stjärn down into the ravines, her feline companion and the two others trailing at her rear. No one wasted breath talking, save for the dragon-man on occasion. Those times he did speak seldom carried anything new, save for his usual ramblings: “Ah— I can’t wait to challenge Zihayr. That wolf has it in for him! I’ll have him cowering like a dog with his tail between his legs. “Fen, it’s getting brighter! He has to be closer now. “Good thing we got on airship, right? I can taste victory already. He won’t be getting out easy like last time. He’s cornered! “Ah, yes, the stone, look! —And…. “… fight!… “…Zihayr… “Zihayr.” Hours and hours he would just pop out to break the noise with that same ecstatic glee. Even though Stjärn was admittably cute when he did, Fen was slightly annoyed at the situation. She and the two others were tough, yes, but their kind was used to, how you say, warmer climates. Stjärn, however, was completely oblivious to his companions’ incompatibility with the weather. Dragons were very much dense creatures. “Why are you so slow,” he’d ask. “Please walk faster,” he’d say. “We can go a few more miles! We’re close, I swear!” Sigh. She supposed this was a part of that purity which enticed her so — a part of that which made her decide to follow him. Some days she wondered how she could be so captivated by someone so one-dimensional. There had to be more to that dogged simple mind of his aside from strength and honor. His existence was an enigma that she had to pry open — perhaps surgically should things go that far. … No, she couldn’t do that. Stjärn was different. He was one of a kind. He challenged her beliefs in full — gave fresh life to her breath. He was a sole presence that brought color to her monotonous world of indifference. That uniqueness — that novelty — was something she had never experienced before. Manual disassembly through known methods was not an option. She would learn of him genuinely, and without tricks. Perhaps one day, she thought, he may become something more than an experiment. — So every time he’d speak, she’d give a polite smile from beneath her scarf. It was a gesture visible to no one, but it was an involuntary habit. It may have owed origin to prior employment, but Fen liked to think she was different than those times. In her vocation, it was a tool for gaining trust. Now, she simply wanted to try acting as others did. Perhaps she would find if there was any truth to the little actions of little people. Routinely, she looked back to Shaldano and Astrasa — two other companions they had picked up upon leaving Dairut. Through the flurries of snow, she caught their expressions in the lanternlight, their haggard eyes and scrunched up faces. The dragonborn moved on, but the rest were slower than when they first began that morning. Now would be a good time to rest, she thought. In the distance, eyes caught firelight. Had they already arrived at a Wayfarer’s Lodge? Stjärn was practically jumping up and down about how the stone was “vibrating” with vigor in hand, but Fen was more cautious. There were people up ahead, no doubt. The question was whether or not they were friendly. “Fight me Zihayr!” Stjärn proclaimed loudly, “I know you’re in there!” She wanted to investigate, but soft fur brushed up against her gloved hands. A jolt arced through her skin. Fen’s green gaze met the sapphires of her companion’s. Thálassa’s fur was thick and strange and bristled — a dark gray with even darker rosettes. Her size was twice that of the average big cat, nearing that of a horse. A companion since birth, she was. The large leopard motioned towards the Lodge entrance, and Fen could feel her arms grow bumpy. Something was amiss. Fen approached first, and Stjärn, Shaldano and Astrasa, followed. In the front of the cave lied a fallen pillar of stone, one which covered half of the shelter’s mouth. From above, the dancing lights of fire emanated — but so too did a strange odor. Fen’s sense of smell was dulled, but the scent was as nauseating as it was familiar. She and Stjärn climbed on top, and peeked in. It was a shocking scene which would have fazed most; however, both’s expressions were unmoved. One's reaction from inability, and the other stemmed from years of desensitizing. In the room, there were emaciated corpses piled at the base of the entrance — some bearing familiar clothes — Dairutian clothes. The faces which remained were faces she knew — faces from The Pits. It was deeply unsettling to recognize them in that manner — their bodies rigid and bisected. The walls were painted with dried blood, and most of the cavern was a mess. There was even what seemed to be a dead body on the other side of the room. This had to be the work of Zihayr; however, had he always been this savage? “Zihayr — is that you?” Stjärn said, pointing at the corpse. Fen peered again. The dragon was on to something. That so-called corpse was breathing. Eyes narrowed. She did not recognize the person inside. The woman tugged on the dragonborn’s cloak. “That’s not Zihayr. Zihayr doesn’t look like that when he is human.” Fen was the only one in the group who had seen the werewolf unshifted. There was a loud groan, and while incapable of making expressions, Stjärn had clearly lost interest. Pity that they didn’t find Zihayr, but strange how the Slaver’s spell led them here. There were clear signs that the werewolf had been there in the cave; however, the man behind the carnage was not present. Eyes drew to the wounded boy and caught the scar around his neck. A slave, and too injured to be a threat. She removed her hood and scarf, letting her long, dark tresses of hair cascade. Tanned skin now facing the roaring fire, she would warm herself from a distance. “Shal, Astra — can you get the medical supplies? It's safe, but we have a kid in here and he's in pretty bad shape. Lots of dead at the entrance, so watch your step. Don’t want to trip.” Fen would need the boy alive. She couldn’t question a corpse after all. @The Hummingbird
  4. “You don’t need us?,” he scoffed, “Very well.” Fingers curled one by one into clenched fist. Eyes narrowed. He despised contrarians. “My gift is not a curse, child. You decide to remain a lamb for slaughter — I thought you were smarter. One should not anger their benefactors. “If I hadn’t made a deal with Zihayr, I would have no hesitations of adding your body to the count of corpses in my wake. You, as you are, are insignificant. I find myself lucky it is just your life traded for my freedom. Anymore, and I likely would not be able to restrain myself… I've been starved enough as is. “—But Zihayr is a lost cause. You think I would give him up so easily? He came to me knowing full well what it meant. He even accepted my gift with thanks — begged for it. “I will warn you once since I am so merciful.” Claws swiped at the boy by the rags, pulling in Valarys by the little that remained of his clothing. Lips curled into a snarl as the mask of civility cracked. “One does not tell a wolf what to do. One does not command he who stands above. One does not have the right to bargain with the likes of me.” Smoke began streaming from the gaps between his teeth. Words shook as composure waned. “Yet… you dare…” His nose and forehead butted against Valarys’s face as flecks of saliva flew from his shaking maw. Lungs heaved — cloth began to tear — pupils thinned to slits. Gone was the calm. Gone was the facade. His voice resonated with stone as demonic growl thundered out of throat. “YOU CAN’T HAVE HIM — HE’S MINE!” He shoved Valarys down into a pile of guts. The Wolf was done being nice. All this boy had done was waste The Wolf’s time. “Know your place, human.” His face twitched incessantly. There was a subtle wince as that itch came back. Eyes drew to his shoulder, still pierced. Ah, that’s what it was. He let go of Valarys, and stood up, looking down at the boy with odium. With a yank, he dropped two bloody bolts onto the floor. Where there was a wound, there was flesh which began to knit itself. A boon this boy could not have. Tsk— too slow. He needed more kills if he was to heal faster — heal fully. From there, he stalked around the room searching — looking —, and while he perused, he continued speaking. “We’re a pair, but my partner has been allowed more time than allotted. Not of his own volition, of course… he would have let me out sooner or later — I would not accept if he made me wait any longer. “Infernal humans and their infernal magics," he muttered under his breath. Predatory eyes caught it first. Fingers brushed against the blood-soaked binding of not one, but two journals. “Twenty years since I’ve breathed free air for myself unfiltered. I’m not giving up this body, child. Zihayr has a debt to pay to me, and I will collect.” Paging through both, he smiled. That’s where the cities are. “You can see him — see us — after I finish what I must — if you survive.” He was at the mouth of the cave now, standing front of the fallen pillar. He thumbed through Valarys’s journal as well. “Pray next time we meet you make a wiser decision because I will not be so kind as I was this moon. “Remember that it was my claws — my teeth — that saved you, toy. “— And I will come back to collect when your debt is due.” With a toss, both books were thrown into the fire. Only those who were weak needed a record of their miseries. — And with that, the cruel wolf leaped, vanishing into the wastes outside. @The Hummingbird
  5. Fresh, metallic — new blood split as a boy broke his claws. Invigorating — scintillating — unreachable nectar. Lips thinned as a declaration made was one soon recanted. Valarys’s new oath was one which elicited both disappointment and intrigue. On one hand, there was regret for not snatching the chance at another meal; however, this did not mean Valarys could not be his. The boy was bold, playing with The Wolf’s expectations. For the first time, a smile rose from the creature — sharp teeth bared and all. His stride towards Valarys was one of leisure — one of anticipation. He knew the honey which would catch this fly. Roof of mouth was wet with tongue. Perhaps things wouldn’t be so boring after all. There, he sat in front of Valarys, leveling those defiant violet eyes with his own amber. The more he thought about it, the more he wanted him. His greed encompassed more than simple hunger. —But Valarys was a treat he couldn’t have just yet. Thin wisps of light smoke began rising from the dead hearth. Ice dissipated as the snow willed itself away; a strange warmth filled the room. The pads of the werewolf’s thumb and middle met as iris hue shifted from gold to that of brilliant blue. The boy’s rudeness was not forgotten. The wolf-man would need to educate Valarys. "Why would I go back so soon?" His fingers snapped, and the pit behind him revived — ruptured. Pillars of brimstone flame erupted, scorching the ceiling above black with soot. The fire streamed, moving, then bending, then twisting and coiling around the two like slithering serpents. A shroud of inferno circled thickly until nothing could be seen by those inside. All that was left within the harsh backdrop of azure was the Wolf and Valarys. The hunter and the prey. This fire, however, was different from normal magic. Burning became screaming as a face suddenly burst from the flames. Its jaw was unhinged — its face marred with a shifting scar. Fakhri — his most recent harvest. Then came another — one with no cheeks but eyes full of pain. Amsu. Two became three and three became five, and soon, the pair was no longer surrounded by silence. Around them came the wailing howls of dead slavers. Their souls? Now fuel set aflame. Jealous hands tried reaching out to grab Valarys, but dissipated upon touch. They wanted a body, didn't they? Want a chance at something they had lost privilege to? Did they not accept what they were now? They earned their fates, so by now, they should know: the dead were not allowed to touch the living. Their warden, however, was an exception. The werewolf held out his hand and reached into the maelstrom, plucking out an ember which writhed in grip. He guided it towards Valarys, cupping it in his palm. Its light was no larger than a candle, but it pulsated in his hand like a beating heart. “Pity you can’t join them, but rest assured, they won't get the mercy of being sent to Hell. “They’ll be my toys for as long as I like. It’s a punishment they deserve, wouldn’t you agree? “Ironic. Our captors are our playthings now,” he purred, bringing the flame to his open mouth before swallowing it whole. The blue glow traced down his throat before its light died altogether. “Delicious.” With a flourish of his hand, the torrent of soulfire vanished, leaving only the relit firepit in the center of the cave. The werewolf inched closer to the boy. “You did not choose death, so something must keep you tied to this world.” “I know you desire strength — obsess over it. You remind me of Zihayr, in many ways. “Both fucktoys of people who fooled you — abused you — defiled you — tossed you around like trash. The women in The Bazaar were treated with gentler hands than either of you. “I am generous, and I pity you like I do Zihayr. Lost children — lambs to this cruel world. Wouldn’t you like to be the wolf for once? “Wouldn’t you like closure? Revenge? I can give you strength to break your bonds. Strength to leave these mountains. I gave Zihayr power, and I could give the same to you. He killed his master. Wouldn’t you like to do the same? You don't have to break your little promise with my thrall.” He held his hand out. “Join us.” Be mine. @The Hummingbird
  6. Hey Kaya,

    Welcome to Valucre!

    I was checking out your character when I noticed that the font is white! This isn't really a problem for people who use dark theme, but some people on the site use light theme which makes your writing invisible!




    1. Show previous comments  3 more
    2. Kaya


      Oh sorry hahah, I copied it from Word and it was black so was invisible on dark mode. Will fix that ! Though the secret ink effect is kind of cool ~

    3. Kaya


      Uh but what color should it be? It defaults to black, which you can't read on dark mode either :D

    4. Artificer


      There is a default color option called "automatic" under text. If that doesn't change it, then it is in a rich-text format that can't be edited directly by the editor.

      If possible, you may be able to change some settings in Word so the text isn't white upon copy-paste -- it should end up being visible upon re-pasting.

  7. ÉTIENNE LENOIR It was impossible to hide — a smile, that is. Tension eased with the nude man’s fumble, and what started as a chuckle soon bloomed into laughter. He didn’t know why, but watching the man struggle with his own name bore an entirely new level of comicality. It was endearing to a fault, and gave the probably-monster some humanity. Maybe Étienne was too quick to distrust. Sure — Romulak was suspicious. Sure — Romulak’s eyes were changing color right before his eyes. Sure — Romulak moved with an unnatural, ungodly, unholy fluidity with a body so unbelievably sculpted that Étienne might as well have been drawing a model in his art class…. — But, at least the man hadn’t tried to kill him. Yet. Of course, they had just met, and there was still time for things to go horribly wrong… and Étienne never was the best judge of character…. Things like this usually went wrong for him in the end. Especially with women — he just couldn't understand women. God, where was his sense of danger when he needed it?! No wonder his uncle didn’t let him roam the streets without him. Then again, he did things without his uncle's knowledge on numerous occasions, and he came out alive in the end. No, Étienne trusted his intuition. He still hadn’t deduced what flavor of monster Romulak was, but if he was laughing like a fool, surely something in the instincts bestowed upon him by natural selection let him know that this man wasn’t a threat. This was correct logic, was it not? — Was he being awkward again? Hopefully not. Maybe he should stop laughing. If he just made a good impression, would this man would leave him to his business and let him pick his flowers? That sounded like a plausible sequence of events — give the man his meat, wave goodbye, and both would be on their way. A real monster would have mauled him by then, or something along those lines…. Oh well, Étienne was more of a doer than a thinker — an experimenter of things. His mind was a tool to satisfy his natural impulsivity and thirst for knowledge. What harm could a nude man who couldn’t even speak his name properly be to an experience mage, apprentice to a renowned wizard? Maybe he could even get the man’s help… he did need lots of flowers for what he wanted to do anyways. If he could convince Romulak to help him — Yes! That’s it! He would offer him clothes in return for his services. Fool must be cold. It was the perfect plan! He dropped his wards in an act of goodwill. If Romulak really was a monster, then the man could probably would get passed the defenses with ease. No point in wasting magic on that. Were that the case, though — you know, Romulak being a monoster —, Étienne had some quick tricks to get him out fast. — Not that he would need it. He would probably get by just fine. Luck was always on his side. “I must apologize as well for laughing… it’s just — you’re so awkward!” Étienne was beaming. Would this be an opportunity for him to make a new friend? Scenarios kept forming in his mind. God, it had been a while since someone had instigated a conversation with him on their own volition. Was it wrong to get excited to finally get the opportunity to talk to someone? Should he be getting excited? Why was he getting excited — shouldn’t he be scared?! “Here,” he said holding out the packaged steaks to Romulak. “It’s the least I can do… for laughing at you.” He didn’t care if the man grabbed it — the mage took the initiative. His other hand grasped Romulak's hand and shook it vigorously. “My name’s Étienne — Étienne Lenoir. Apprentice at André’s Artificery. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Romyelak.” It was a practiced introduction, but who cared? Romulak didn't know that. After that, he had no idea what to say. — So he just said the first things that came to mind: “Why are you naked? “Do you like walking out in the woods at night? “Are you fully human? “What did you mean by me ‘growing warm’? “Do you want to go pick some Wolfblossoms with me? I'll pay you with some clothes in return — we can visit my workshop! “— But really, why are you naked?!” Perhaps he wasn’t actually talking to Romulak at all — perhaps he was talking to some idealized version of the man in his head. In fact, who knew what went in the mind of the eccentric mage anyways? @L E V I A T H A N
  8. “Oh, is that right?” Eyes meandered in the direction where the boy pointed, although there was no rush. He had all the time in the world. The scent of blood — the touch of it, sight of it, taste of it — enthralled him. Why hurry when he was still relishing the four? The Slaver could watch. The man was sent because he wanted him back for a show, didn’t he? If so, who was the Wolf not to oblige? A werewolf was always one to entertain. Slowly did he draw back, but not before giving Valarys a playful nip at the ear — not hard enough to pierce skin, but not so gentle either. He wanted to show the boy he too had mastery over sharp things. Playing with knives was a shared interest after all. “What a shame, Valarys,” he parted, “It seems a waste that I won’t even be able to get a taste… I’m sure you would have tasted better than that man over there.” The Wolf grabbed Valarys roughly by the chin and forced the boy’s face to turn towards Fakhri. “—But I was never one to restrain my impulses.” Tongue traced up the boy’s nape to temple — slowly, of course, as he savored the flavor —; however, the werewolf’s eyes never left the slaver on the other side of the room. You can’t have him. His gaze glinted with satisfaction. They were both his toys now. Did The Wolf smile? He could have sworn he saw Fakhri shiver. “Sorry, I couldn’t help myself,” he panted, “I needed to know so I can compare. You were the one who made the suggestion, weren’t you?” The Wolf wiped his lower lip with his thumb. “—That he tasted better than you.” When he was finished, he let go of Valarys and got up. “Now— “Shall we compare?” Every step towards the Slaver ushered a scramble on the side of the downed. The Wolf watched as Fakhri’s bare feet slipped in blood as the man kept trying to push himself away. How like prey he was, backing himself into a corner. How futile. The wrinkles on his prey’s face — the deer-eyes wide and mortified — the sound of struggle — how The Wolf’s instincts beckoned him to lunge at the man. 'Wouldn’t it be fun to tear him apart?' it asked. 'Wouldn’t it be fun to snuff the breath right then and there? In the moonlight? In her music? Her beauty? Her grace?' Dance and revel in savagery? — But the werewolf convinced his urges otherwise; this was a skill that Zihayr did not have. It was a pity. His partner had never learned to tame the monstrous heart which came with their bond for he never had allowed himself to enjoy the mind of a monster as well. Oh how amazing their partnership would be if the man just stopped resisting. What joys they could share together, as was meant to. The Wolf would have to teach Zihayr all he knew. He knew of many ways more satiating than an amateur’s unfocused bloodlust. These next days would be plenty lesson for the novice. Click. What was this? The Slaver managed to get a bolt on his crossbow? TWANG. Like magic — the arrow found itself bent in The Wolf’s hands. Tail swished languidly as he completed the approach. He crouched over his next meal with a tilted head. This man owed him something too. “I think you lost this,” he said before placing the bent bolt onto Fakhri’s lap. “You can try again if you want — oh but you’ll probably need two hands. Here, let me hold that for you.” One hand thrust forward, pressing down onto the bloody wound he tore open earlier. He could feel the pulse of a rebellious soul leaking out. “I’ll let you work with that toy of yours — you can put it back can’t you?” The Slaver grinned as a shot of pain spawned. Eyes blinked twice — a second bolt had somehow found itself lodged in the werewolf’s shoulder. Curious. How strange a bent arrow should find its mark. From what The Wolf knew of hunters, he could have sworn that only the straightest shafts were to be used. Fakhri gave a bloody smile, but the monster looked on without flinching. “Silver is such an outdated trope — now hold still.” SNAP, part of thigh disappeared — SNAP, a few fingers missing — SNAP, one ear removed. Blood bubbled from the throat in what seemed to be an attempt to scream. Limbs flailed about as more red painted the floor. It seemed like Fakhri’s eyes were rolling into the back of his head. When the sampling was finished, the werewolf found himself unimpressed. Bland. Maw forced itself over the Slaver’s mouth in what looked to be a long, drawn-out kiss. Fitting, The Beast thought, having always considered himself to be quite the romantic. There’s some who’d pay a good amount of coin to play with that mangy hide, and here was the seller himself, getting it for free. The man shuddered and struggled and spasmed, but The Wolf would give the man what he deserved. Monsters could be generous too. When The Wolf retreated, his once-jailer was missing lower jaw and tongue. He let go, and Fakhri's disfigured body slid to the floor with the rest. “You were wrong,” the werewolf stated, wiping his mouth with wrist, “He didn’t taste any better.” He turned back to Valarys expectantly. “My offer still stands.” @The Hummingbird
  9. ZIHAYR Sleeping was not for the likes of him. He couldn’t, not after that. Not after what Valarys had said, and most certainly not after the events that happened that day. The boy’s impassioned words hung over him, haunting him. There he was, opening up, and what did the boy do? Go and hide in his shell — cradled by those careful, selfish walls he’d built. Zihayr’s fists clenched, and he could feel beads of blood forming where claws pierced palm. Did Zihayr really pity himself? Hadn’t he done the most he could do? What choice was there but to go back? Couldn’t Valarys see that? Words don’t reach him. The werewolf closed his eyes. He wanted to stop thinking about the boy — stop thinking about the things he said. Valarys was incorrect. Valarys knew not what he was talking about. Zihayr wasn’t be pitying himself, he wasn’t. The boy didn’t get it. Zihayr knew those horrors personally and was going forth with honesty. Every word he said he meant. Ungrateful bastard. He let his form slump. He wasn’t trying to say he had experienced more pain than Valarys. He wasn’t trying to invalidate that. He wanted to let Valarys know that he wasn’t alone. One didn’t have to be in The Circuit to experience the methods they practiced, after all. To be passed around by common hands and strange slavers was cruelty known to that system in specific, but it was no different than being passed among a circle of elites — a private order — a group of the powerful — a group of those you know. Monsters will do as monsters do, for that is their nature. Clothes, titles, environments don’t matter. They lie and cheat and abuse where ever they dwell. They teach you it is love, only for the fragile feeling to be twisted, tangled, and torn. Used like a tissue before being tossed away warped and discolored. To turn one’s heart to stone — that is what they do. Their chains are many, and the know how to break even the most stalwart of souls. They had broken a monster like Zihayr, after all. “Thinking of escaping, Val? Talk a little softer with your puppy so your betters can’t hear.” His blood ran cold. Were Zihayr and Valarys not whispering in the end? Did the winds not hide their words prior? Zihayr remembered the look on Valarys’s face — the emotion rising along with voice. Their conversation was a long one — no doubt a guard had listened in. He opened his eyes as head snapped towards the Lodge entrance. The guard wasn’t even looking at him… the man was staring into the mouth of cave. It was strange — he didn’t hold dice, cards, nor weapons, but his hands were hidden in his pocket as he leered towards an unknown scene. The fire inside was alight, blazing with a roaring radiance. Zihayr could see the shadows of men shifting and moving, clearly not asleep. Imagination shifted towards the worst outcomes. They’re awake. They know. Then Zihayr’s wolf ears caught the next sentences, although he wasn’t prepared for what came. What he heard made his cold blood freeze. The world for him stopped in place. He didn’t breath — he didn’t move. The clatter of steel buckles on stone came after — he knew that sound well. Respiration slowed and began to quicken — ragged, struggling breaths. “You’ve forgotten yourself, my boy” Everything seemed to spin. “It’s time I remind you who you are.” This couldn’t be right. “What you are.” Memories came clearly cut as crystal. “Time we did.” A servant in the doorway; a man on the stairwell. “—And by the time we’re done, you’ll wish your wolf had tried to escape.” ‘Give father a kiss, Z’ayr.’ — The brace around the werewolf’s neck unlocked and fell into the snow, it’s dying rune-light finally snuffed out. The final bit of Key he had within him was used up. Zihayr had finally released the last locks he had left in place. There was no choice — there was never a choice for him. He would not allow what was about to transpire. The wolf-man would honor his word. Sensing the change, a foreign presence made itself known, and Zihayr grimaced. Intangible, invisible tendrils of shade between wrapping itself around him. A darker voice began laughing in his mind. It knew this day was coming; however, it did not realize how sweet it was to be free — truly free. Its low, viscous growl came with a gravel human throats were not capable of. This was the voice of a real monster. One for every moon, it reminded him. Then you can be human — until the next. Just keep your damn promise, Wolf. Of course — I can spare one, but no other. Think of this as a kindness for so generously removing the walls of my prison — foul magic that kept us from each other, My Partner. Unlike you, I repay my debts. Now, you will to repay yours in blood. …. I am patient and merciful, so I forgive you for taking so long to remove the spell after That Girl gave you The Key. Us being separated wasn’t your fault in the first place… but you must forgive me if I take more than specified in our contract. You did make me wait, after all, and it’s been sooo long since I have been free… — Animals do not sate my hunger, as you know, and I have been starving. His arms moved on their own; wrists wringing the bands of steel around his hands as they turned in contrary motion. Manacles made as temporary pair to the collar held no power without the conduit they were meant to be bound to — an oversight of the artificer who created them. Who would expect a Dairutian slave to have a Master’s Key? Intangible — untouchable — one that can only be given by oath and word. Haze began settling. Zihayr could feel himself drift further and further back into the recesses of his consciousness. Another being swelled within him — consuming him. He was no longer the driver; he was just a passenger now swaddled in darkness. I know. The metal around his hands silently groaned and twisted before they broke off with sharp, loud snap. The guard at the entrance looked at him suddenly. The chains around Zihayr’s torso shattered at the links. Those which weren’t were yanked as he lunged at the man prey, dragging whatever was behind him in tow. With a fading sense of self, Zihayr prayed he’d remember Valarys. Sleep now. It’s my turn to play. It was time for Zihayr to pay all that he owed. * * * With wives that didn’t love him, children who didn’t care for him, and an employer — not Fakhri — who didn’t like his cooking, Amsu needed this more than anything. It seemed wrong to him that the young man was so injured. A slave meant for this kind of work should be pristine and without flaw. Still, the stresses of life were often too great. To be sent out into a frosted hell to find some flea-ridden mongrel and cook for men who lacked any decorum — this was far from the dream he had for himself. To think, a cook for one of The Council could reduced to such a lowly position? His talents were wasted here. Leaning over the pinned man, he looked at Valarys with lust — ate his face with his eyes. Now was not the time to think of such stressors. Now was the time for pleasure. The wounds made Valarys look unappealing; however, he could not deny that that the eyes were as exotic as they were mesmerizing. He would be visiting this one once they returned to Dairut. While Valarys wasn’t a perfect meal then, Amsu was a chef, and as one, he couldn’t be too picky. Unripened fruit was still fruit after all. Sour could be just as savory as sweet. He would be the first to taste, thankfully — it was the least these ungrateful bastards who called themselves slavers could offer him anyways. He wasn’t a fan of leftovers. A real slaver takes what is theirs, and Amsu was soon to take what was his. He was a cut above these men — even Fakhri. “You said the man went through The Circuit, Fakhri?” he laughed, “You reared him like the rest? I’ve met your products, and they are so-so. “This one must be experienced then, right? Broken like the rest? Is he really as delectable as you claim?” Fakhri gave a smug nod. “Fantastic — I can’t wait then t—” CRASSH — Went the entrance, and out went the fire. The air was misted with snow thrown up in plumes. First came confusion, then came realization, and finally, came the screaming. “Get the weapons!” Fakhri’s voice echoed. The jailer was trying to gain control of his men, but to no avail. Words alone could not quell the common thought on everyone’s mind. What was to be a pleasant night was now reduced to pandemonium. There was a sharp pain in his stomach as something kicked him down, winding him. Everything was murky, but he swore he could hear that same tearing of flesh — that same snapping of bones. Everyone was yelling, things clattered on the floor — swords, bows, and people who fumbled in the dark. Nothing could be seen save for silhouettes cast by the glow of a dying aurora’s light. The Wolf, he thought immediately. The Wolf. Fear and panic gripped him like a vice. He crawled on the floor, looking for something — anything to shield him. He could hear the voices go out one by one, and Amsu knew that soon, if he did nothing, he would be next. His hand groped around for something — anything. Some tripped over his prone form, while others’ blood splattered onto him. In his terror, he felt what seemed to be damp gauze — bandages by the texture. As he drew closer, he realized who he had found: The leg he was holding belonged to the slave he was standing over earlier: Valarys. “Come here, you filthy curr,” he hissed, pulling the slave by the leg. Quickly, he backed up to the wall, dragging the man with him to use as a meat-shield. When his back hit the jagged, carved stone. His free hand felt around the corner of the cavern for anything he could use as a weapon. Fingers found the smooth-leather of a grip — a sword. “How do you have a Ke—!” went Fakhri, somewhere in the chaos. His voice went out as well. Valarys squirmed in his grasp, but the fat man held him by the shoulder. A faint glimmer of hope rose for Amsu — he had leverage. Maybe he could use the slave as a hostage. At least he might be able to make it out alive himself. “I will slit your throat if you move,” he whispered into Valarys’s ear, “Don’t move a muscle!” He held the silvered blade to the man’s throat. Amsu was going to make it out alive — he was going to make it out al— He felt the sword tug in his hand; and in his surprise, Valarys scrambled out from reach. A clawed hand gripped Amsu’s shoulder — a weight pinned him down at his waist. The snow began to settle, and Amsu met two, golden eyes. They shimmered and shined like coins — no hint of silver left. Pure, unadulterated, molten gold. The canine’s nose practically pressed into his cheek. The Beast really did live up to his moniker — a vicious monster, it was. He could smell the foul breath of the creature who’s maw was clearly ajar, teeth slicked with fresh crimson. “I always save the fattest pigs for last,” came a smooth, cooing growl — the kind made by predators who took time with their food. He tried moving, but the werewolf just pushed him down harder. Someone — anyone — save me please… Gaze darted around the cavern, but what he saw filled him with despair. Men-now-corpses were torn apart — their limbs strewn around in the snow. Guts were spilled like sausages dropped at a butchery, some sliced thin while others not at all. Organs lay like sweetmeats on a table — necks missing pieces — heads torn off. Amsu felt faint. Outside, the tall, thin, stone outcropping and wooden markers which once stood now laid fallen, blocking the half of the entrance. The guard who was supposed to be watching now rest in several pieces, eyes wide open. He could see Fakhri leaning against the debris, clutching his neck, blood gurgling from his mouth. At his side was an unloaded crossbow. He kept looking around, not wanting to confront the monster that was in front of him Then, something wet and rough touched his face. It was the beast’s foul tongue. “You taste as good as the things you cook?” it asked with cruel smile. “Surely sitting over a cauldron means you steam in the same spices you use.” Amsu tried to move his sword, but he saw the beast’s bloodied hand holding onto the blade like a toy. The wolf devoured his fear gladly. “Please don’t kill m—” The wolf’s face tilted, and he heard the loud clack of teeth. Pain exploded across his face as something tore. Seconds later, it drew back, and in the wolf’s mouth was a flap of flesh — Amsu’s cheek. The chef screamed and screamed as he watched in horror as the wolf chewed, chewed, and finally swallowed. “Pig’s cheek is a delicacy in Dairut. You must know that, Chef.” The werewolf lapped at the exposed muscle — its sandpaper-like tongue stinging the exposed flesh. He kicked and struggled, but couldn’t move. Then without warning, it took another bite — this time tearing off the other side of his face. Amsu’s throat gave out — voice having giving all it could have given. Claws raked across his chest and abdomen, tracing out more slices of flesh. Then, he watched in horror as the wolf’s hand impaled itself into his side. “I’m not usually so talkative, but he asked me to do this.” It was too much — far too much. Vision began ebbing away. A surplus of pain soon turned to a complete lack of sensation. His body felt as light as a feather. “Thank you for the meal, Chef.” — And those were the last words Amsu heard. * * * As the last life flickered — or rather, gurgled — out, the werewolf, unsatisfied with leaving food wasted, began his grisly work. He walked over to a corpse, dove both hands into the chest, and tore it open. With a pull, he plucked out one heart. As any connoisseur, he held it up in a beam of moonlight, inspecting it, before dangling it above his mouth with two fingers. Claws opened up, and one offering fell down his gullet with a single swallow. One more soul for me ~ — Then came a stir, and his eyes drew back to the only other living thing in the room. Ah, yes — the purple-eyed one. The werewolf, covered in blood and viscera, turned, revealing a crossbow bolt stuck in his shoulder. Such trivialities could be dealt with later. He sauntered over to the prone, still-living, human with a gaze of nonchalance. He rested his elbows on his knees as he squatted, looming high above the one called Valarys. “Oh — I’m not Zihayr just so we get that out of the way first. He doesn’t have the spine to do as I do — embrace his nature — like that wolf in your story. “I’m more like Fenrar, if that makes you more comfortable, and I won’t lie — it’s hard to hold back my nature with warm flesh such as yours… “He did ask me not to kill you, though, but I think I need a better reason. You, after all, are in charge of your own life.” He brought his face dangerously close to Valarys, eyes never leaving his prey. His pupils were narrow and shaped like that of a snake. The wolf’s head passed over the boy’s right shoulder while the claws of one hand rested on the left. “Tell me, do you really want to die?” he whispered into the boy's ear. “I can grant you that mercy — I know you want it. I can smell it on you, your desire for it. I can grant you that wish right here and now. Just say the word — I honor my pacts. “I’ll free you if that is what you wish.” @The Hummingbird
  10. ZIHAYR “I think you presume to know how I feel, but you don’t know,” Zihayr replied coldly, “You don’t know anything about me.” He turned slightly, only so far as to catch violet from the corner of his eyes. No more, no less. He wouldn’t look directly at him. The man to his side was treading on thin ice. “If you think my nature is that of a simplistic beast, then you are mistaken. Unlike Fenrar, my nature is not the same as those fictional creatures you may have idolized as a child. Those who could turn against their captors with strength and vengeance? Righteous winners who persevered over all trials? It isn’t that simple. I’m not that kind of person. I’m not a character in some story. “I wasn't made a slave because of what I am. I was born into it. “My curse isn’t strength, it is surrender. I kill and eat for forces I can not control — whether by magic or by whip. Yes, I believe some people truly do deserve death; however, I seldom have a choice in the matter,” he stated bitterly. “Don't try to absolve me by implying it's not a sin, because it is. You have no idea what it is like to wake up with someone’s pinky stuck between your teeth. You have no idea what it is like to worry about who or what they fed you when you were out.” Eyes turned up towards the foreign sky. At times, he didn't know whose blood it was in front of him until much later. Sometimes he didn't know who it was at all. Sometimes he didn't want to know. He wondered if they were there now, among the stars and heavenly lights. He wondered if they were free. “You called me lucky for going to The Pits, but I disagree. You don’t know what they made me do. The people I’ve had to kill — people I would have given my life for. “— But when Master tells you to fight, what choice is there? Refuse them? With what power? Do you have any leverage against the things they hold above your head? — And after you’re forced to fight, when your friend on the other side of The Pit is struggling just as hard as you are to live, do you disgrace them? Do you disgrace their honor by laying down your weapon and refusing them? You may think self-sacrifice might be a mercy to the one you care about, but it isn't. Not to the person on the other side of the ring. The Pits are gruesome, but we all had respect for each other regardless of outward appearance. We all had to live through the same thing — die for the same thing. Fight — for the same thing. “I won’t disgrace my friends. “Never.” Gaze drifted downwards to the bloody mess at his feet. Lips curled into a frown. “My first years, I was naive, made many companions. They’re dead now, by my hand or some other. After that, you try not to get close to people. It’s why the strongest are the most distant. They know what awaits them if they open up. Dare to be close to someone — anyone. “—But even if you don’t ask, there is always someone who can read you like a book — quench that hell you’ve been bearing alone and make you forget about your pain. Then you come back only for them to disappear soon after.” He paused. “Twenty years, the same thing, over and over,” he stated, brows raised as if in disbelief at the words he just said. His voice now was just a whisper. “—And you have no idea what I sacrificed to escape…” The wolf-man's head shook as he looked back up, nose pointing towards the moon. The source and solace of his madness. “Now?” he sighed, “Now I am going back. I am going to have to do everything again… do you know what that feels like? What it’s like to wait and know what’s to come? Can you honestly imagine how I'm feeling right now? “My life isn’t a fable you’d read in some book, Valarys. I'm real, and so are the people around me. People I might one day kill. Watch die.” The winds were starting to pick up outside, and the werewolf couldn’t help but shiver. The slavers weren’t generous enough to give him a blanket to keep warm. It took a while, but as he turned to Valarys, his expression softened, as if to say, There — now you have it. Pity me, if you have to. There’s nothing I can do about it now. Why had he shared his story with Valarys anyways? He guessed he had intended to tell him after being told about the boy’s master, but was it the right time? … Could he continue with the rest? The beginning? Recounting his miseries had made him all the more aware of the collar on his neck. It itched madly. He couldn’t bear to wear it, but couldn’t live without it. Either a slave or a monster — choose your poison. It was a shame really. With his hands behind his back, Zihayr could not even scratch at it. “I’m not sure if this is the last time we’ll be able to speak come morning. When Fahkri realizes you can move, he’s going to keep a closer eye on you. Might even assign a few guards to you. Because of this, I need to tell you some things, so just keep listening. It’s important. “I won’t fault you if you still don't understand. I’ve scarcely told you a thing about me. Still, for you to come to me with kindness after what you just witnessed? It means a lot to me. It means so much more than you can ever imagine, so thank you. “Now, you need to understand this. I’ve lived your life, Valarys… I know what that hell’s like. I saw your journal, saw it written in your own words. I know how that feels. I was like you before I went to The Pits; although, I was never freed by—” Zihayr stopped, words catching in his throat. “He’s dead now,” he finished, eyes drawing away as he struggled with the words. There was more to be said, but he couldn’t continue with it. It was too painful. “Know that I’m going back because I wanted you to live. For you to die so shortly after freedom was something I couldn’t watch.” He turned back to Valarys, expression resolute. “You are the first person I’ve ever had the power to save. “I promise you I will not let them kill you — I promise —, but once I’m back in a cage, there is likely little I can do. Once I’m fully restrained by their magic, I’ll lose my bargaining power. They might kill you just to spite me. Fakhri is a petty man and has no honor. “I saw the runes on these cuffs when they put them on me and recognize the handiwork. I may be able to put up a fight, but I don’t think I can escape. Fakhri is paranoid though, so he likely believes I can break free whenever I choose. He was the most careful of those who presided as warden over me. It is as much a strength for him as it is a weakness. “You’ll need to plan on running before that happens. I won’t be able to go with you, but I can distract them when the time comes. “I need you to be free Valarys — I need you to promise me that you’ll live.” The wolf’s eyes glimmered strangely as he focused intently on the boy. Zihayr's stare bore a lurid intensity. “Swear it. Swear it now.” @The Hummingbird
  11. ZIHAYR His hands were weighted in chains, but his head hung lower. This cold cut different. Frost he could not shiver away. His leaden eyes could only see the sobering blood on the ground — eyes which could not fathom the horror he had inflicted. What he looked like in those moments — what he did then, before, and would do in the future — it was a shame that he carried with him. One he would carry with him until the end of time. It was different when others were present when he wasn’t himself. Alone, he could bear it — justify it perhaps. In front of others? Impossible. Most guards kept their distance, idly wasting time while ignoring the aberration they were forced to monitor. Sure, they may have regained their composure, but Zihayr could smell it — smell it in their sweat. The first time, years ago, his recognition of the scent was just a curious observation, but now, it was a tell he was an expert at identifying. Fear is what it was, and they reeked of it. Zihayr turned his head away from them, resting his head on the fissure’s slate walls. Occasionally, he would look up — curtains of flame dancing above-head. It was his first aurora as a matter of fact. Awe-inspiring to any other set of eyes. If events hadn’t transpired the way they had, he might have enjoyed it. Might have. Ears picked up faint whispers and gossip. They were talking about him, the ones switching off shifts. Speaking at what they thought to be out of earshot. Cowards. Who could blame them though? After people see him in that light, they can’t unsee it. The looks on their faces post-madness — terror, shock, disgust…. Teeth grit. He hated it. He hated being looked at like a monster. Granted, he didn’t give a damn about what the guards thought. He hated them equally so. Served the slavers right for the hell they put people through. He’d be glad if he showed up in in their nightmares — maul them to death instead of a defenseless corpse. No — Zihayr just hated the look. Out of the entire crowd which now surrounded him, there was only one he worried about, though. One who’s opinion had some weight to him personally. “Zihayr…” Instinctively, the werewolf turned away further, head tucking into shoulder. His mouth was no doubt still stained. Before when he hunted the three wolves, he could have made an excuse — say that it was self-defense —, but there was no explaining this away. He saw it, didn’t he. Behind him was Valarys. Silence ensued, as per custom. Then — almost on cue —, the laugh. It was despicable really — the similarities Zihayr found in Valarys. It was the reason why he felt kinship — the reason why Valarys’s opinion about the werewolf’s curse mattered. He feared that someone so similar would not be able to understand. — And after giving up freedom for Valarys? Would Valarys look at him with those same eyes? Rejection would be the worst news. Despite Zihayr's compassion for him, would Valarys have that same capacity? He only knew the man through the words written. Talking now would be like meeting for the first time. Meet honestly, without lies. Zihayr was too scared of what Valarys thought. He couldn't turn. What if Valarys had the same face? The wind howled through the ravine — one which deafened laughter. When it stopped, Zihayr spoke, voice dead, hollow, and without mirth. “You must be feeling better now if you’re laughing like that. Hit your head too hard? You looked pretty fucked up back there, you know? God, you were pretty fucked up. “Going on to take on all of those wolves was a stupid idea, but I have to hand it to you though, you made quite a mess out of them. Got yourself some souvenirs from them too… heh, serves you right… “I almost didn't have a guide; it looked like you were going to die…” Zihayr's words died off as another gust howled, ending with a sigh of his own. “…I’m glad you’re okay, you know? I really am.” He couldn’t find the energy to speak more. He meant to talk, but he just couldn't. Too tired, too distracted. He couldn't stop thinking about how Valarys must have been looking at him. Judging him. Melancholy washed over Zihayr as the gravity of his newfound position dawned on him. Was he really going back? Back to Dairut? It was inevitability, he reasoned. Karma for his sins. For all of his mistakes, he was going back to being some slave — some sideshow — going back to being some pervert’s literal lapdog. His muzzle buried itself deeper into the trough of his clavicle. Everything was hitting him at the same time. For once, he felt despair. “God, don’t look at me Valarys,” he pleaded quietly, “Don’t look at me….” @The Hummingbird
  12. ZIHAYR The werewolf, far too large and injured to be put on the mule, was instead relegated to sitting upright on a makeshift sled. Beasts of burden — or rather, Fahkri’s men — took turns pulling Zihayr by cord. To the wolf, it was uncomfortable, splintery, and prone to hitting every bump under the ice. The wolf-man's only solace came from knowing that the boxes of supplies he displaced were now on the backs of other men. Judging by their pained expressions, the few unfortunate slavers must have found their cargo heavy. Serves them right. Hell, they even brought some of the wolf-corpses too — trophies for the fake accomplishments they would flaunt back to their wives back home no doubt. They had no shame, these men. The werewolf doubted Fakhri's group was capable of taking down a pack like he and Valarys. Perhaps they were taking on more than they could carry. The sled hit a rock, and Zihayr’s face twitched. Pain, obviously, but pain well-concealed. He wasn't going to show weakness. Their most recent encounter with the wolves had added to Zihayr’s collection of injuries. Where there were new wounds from the day before, there were now large, hideous scabs. His cuts had always sealed faster than most, but the bits of skin visible at the borders of flesh and fur were an angry, puffy red. Left untended, they would definitely scar. — And he would leave them untended for the duration of the trip. The slaver who tended to Valarys came hesitantly with salve, but Zihayr growled. With a jump, the man backed away immediately. Zihayr hurt all over, but he didn't care. Anything was better than being touched by the hands of a filthy slaver. The wolf-man had already removed the bolt from his leg and bandaged it himself prior to being restrained. Fahkri had granted him that most at least. His old-wounds — the ones from the scout-ambush — he trusted to Valarys’s earlier work. Irritation settled in. His hands were cuffed tightly. Zihayr was starting to remember what it was like being a slave. Then came an itch he could not scratch. * * * Time passed, and when the group made it to a Lodge, a few slavers had aired their concerns about Zihayr. He was different from how he was earlier. Fahkri brushed it off — convinced of his men’s cowardice from their earlier display —, and continued moving forward. Listening to them anymore would just embarrass him further. Still, a single look at the werewolf was all it took to tell that something was off. Every few seconds, the wolf’s throat undulated as the beast swallowed air, over and over, not stopping once. With it, his tail hit the sled regularly ‘a tempo’. A trickle of blood dripped from his lip as he bit the corner — cheeks and nose twitching. If one could liken it, it was if the wolf was on the fringe of madness. He kept blinking. Eyes open, eyes closed — pupils, dangerous dots. Soon, twitching gave way to spasms, and the muscles on his face soon rippled with the characteristic snarl of a feral beast. Despite this, the only noise to come from him were his low, hard breaths. When the group stopped moving, Fahkri's cocksure voice resounded: “All right, give the two prisoners some water. Give some of that gruel to Val, too, I suppose. I’m sure the dog isn’t hungry, though, are you, Zihayr?” Fahkri turned and looked at the hound. Zihayr’s mouth was frothing. The jailer’s face paled. He must have remembered how Tartarus’s Hound got when it got into a mood. Green eyes looked towards the collar around the beast’s neck. The runes had not activated yet. “—Give him one of the corpses,” he blurted suddenly, his mask of bravado fading. He looked towards the slaver next to him. “NOW, give him one of the corpses,” he spoke, an urgency laced in his voice that was not present earlier. Fahkri knew well enough that their deal only stood while Zihayr could restrain himself. He knew what the beast was like uncollared — faced it first-hand —, and although he could not recall a single time where the binding had failed its job of repression, he knew that face the wolf made. Fahkri reached up to touch the faint, light scars on his face. Better to be save then sorry, was a saying to follow. Soon, one of the corpses was thrown at Zihayr. The jailer turned forward, hands shoved into his coat as he went into the cave. The sounds of sharp cracking and wet squelching noises could be heard loudly from behind. One of his men vomited. “The dog sleeps outside,” he said to the rest of his troupe, voice a bit calmer. “No less than five on watch in the night — on hourly rotations.” Pride and money were on the line. That, and his tarnished reputation as well. He wasn't going to let the werewolf get away again. @The Hummingbird
  13. ZIHAYR His rest was one of peaceful oblivion. No dreams of trauma nor terror. There was no pain, no cold, no fear. It was an unfamiliar nothingness, the likes of which Zihayr had never experienced before. Still, there was an uncanny lucidity. He could hear his thoughts as clear as voice. He was both there, and not there, teetering on the edge of existence. So this is what it’s like to die. Throughout all of his years, never before had he come this close. The wolf-man had sent many to Death’s embrace; however, he had never pushed himself so far as to deliver himself right to the doors. For all his life, he had avoided Death, but now? After all the hardship and pain? Zihayr was so tired. There was a faint glimmer of light in the distance. Yes, the decision was finally before him. The question was, what choice was he going to make? Questions arose in his mind as he pondered: Why did he run out into the blizzard? Was he not concerned for himself? After everything Valarys had put him through, why save the man? In his heart, Zihayr had only met Valarys the day prior, so why risk everything? A thought came to mind: He was the only one who knew the way through the mountains. It would be troublesome if he died out here… — But that was just an excuse. Rationalization for feelings he would not face. Then, there was a tug at him. Zihayr looked back, only to see what looked to be a chain pulling him back — pulling him away from the light. Zihayr found the whole situation comical. Can’t even be granted the freedom of death. His solemnity was shattered as a blinding flash expanded. Reality exploded, blasting away all hopes of the end. Zihayr took too long to make his decision, or at least, that is what he told himself. Death apparently was not for the likes of him. He wanted to live. * * * It wasn’t Valarys that woke him up — no, he was long awake before the boy was conscious. Unlike Valarys, he would be awakened to another sound: soft crunches of freshly laid snow. Zihayr could hear their crisp footsteps — smell that faint odor of perfume and tobacco in the far distance. Without the storm, their movements were no longer hidden. Without the pack, there was no threat left to fear. The orange rune on his collar shined brightly like a burning torch. Their voices were faint, but he could hear everything clearly. “He’s somewhere over here!” “My god, The Mutt — he killed all these wolves?!” “Try pulling some of them out, one of the corpses may be him!” Zihayr closed his eyes. Through the chaos of their voices, one rang out truly — a familiar, despicable voice. “He’s still alive, otherwise the tracker would have gone dark. Quickly! He’s worth nothing to us dead — the Boss will flay us if we don’t get him back! “Find The Hound!” Ah — so he had finally arrived. Then came a stir. To Zihayr's surprise, Valarys woke right then and there, speaking no louder than a whisper. Wow — the boy had actually managed to hold back an insult. Still, now was not the time to comment on it. Zihayr didn’t respond — leaving Valarys in silence as he weighed his options. The reality was staring him right in the face. He was not going to be able to escape — not this time —, not when both he and Valarys were this injured. Escape from the mountain pass was impossible now. No… the option of running had been long since thrown away. Running now meant dying, and Zihayr had given up that opportunity just moments ago. Going with them though… blast it, he didn't want to. Didn't want to waste everyone's efforts. What was sacrificed so he could escape Dairut? What was lost so he could leave? Thoughts lingered back to his companions…. Were their actions futile? Was this really the only option? He could hear the labored respiration of Valarys pinned below. The wolf-man sighed. If he could, he would have taken it all back. The victories, the escape. In his quest for emancipation, he found regrets stronger than any brace, vice, or bond. Only upon leaving Dairut did Zihayr realize that some things were more important than his own freedom. It was their freedom he should have earned. Their lives. That is what was important, and that is what he failed to deliver. — And inexplicably, they now included Valarys, and he would not fail another. “Keep drawing for me, will ya?” he said curtly with what barely could be called a grin. He didn't look at the boy. No, his eyes were fixed longingly on that last glimpse of free sky. With inhuman speed, the werewolf got off and up, grabbing Valarys by the hem of his cloak — wrapped skins sloughing off the boy’s form. Zihayr had not fully recuperated, but that was besides the point. There were more important things than his own injuries. Like a beast rudely woken from hibernation, Zihayr emerged violently from the dug-out, guide in tow. The wolf’s golden eyes settled on the scene. Outside, there were dozens of men all dressed in expensive looking gear. Silver swords — thick garbs — jewelry clearly from Dairut. A band brought together just for the sake of capturing Zihayr, and it looked like their benefactor had spent a fortune prepping them. Still, they didn't look like soldiers, not at that moment at least. The slavers’ shocked faces as Zihayr suddenly entered view were priceless. Both the werewolf and Valarys must have appeared as if they had just risen from the dead. Perhaps they would question how two creatures could even be alive after sustaining such injuries. “Congratulations, you found me,” Zihayr growled coldly as several men with crossbows locked their sights on him. Without sympathy, he threw Valarys like a sack of rocks, the boy’s body landing in a pile of snow in front of the men. He could see some of their knees quivering. Zihayr’s reputation was indeed far-reaching. “Better put down those bows — don’t want to hurt the merchandise, you know? Your boss wouldn’t be too happy with a dead mutt, now would he?” Two of the slavers rushed to Valarys’s side, inspecting his wounds — one with manacles, and another with a sword. The group was murmuring among themselves. “I’ll go peacefully, but know that that man over there — he’s free. Kid was a slave once you know, but a master freed him.” Zihayr eyed the leader of the band with a deadly glare. The slaver, unlike the others, wore several furs on his mantle like trophies. Wolf-pelts, to be precise. He had long black hair, sable skin, and eyes a harsh shade of green. Zihayr recognized the jewelry — the rings — the scar that ran across crooked nose and cheek, one which he gave the man years ago. It was an improvement, to say the least. In front of him was the ugly face of one of his jailers. Zihayr knew why this one would come so far just to bring him back. “Fakhri,” Zihayr spit, “You know the rules. “—And you also know what I’m capable of. “That man is free.” The jailer’s eyes narrowed into slits — the wrinkles of disgust which plagued his face were evident in the daylight. All eyes shifted focus back to Valarys, and the wolf-man regarded the boy with a look of pity. Valarys could not be taken back in chains. Not on a master’s honor. Still, how would this strike the boy’s ego? “Take care of his wounds.” There was a pause, and then the jailer spoke. “— And why would we do that,” Fakhri announced, voice loud and imposing. “He’s a free man — he can take care of himself out here. Failure like him should pick up his own pieces. He's a man, isn't he?” There was a look on the jailer’s face which eluded the wolf-man, as if he knew something Zihayr didn’t. Strange eyes regarded his guide. Why was Fakhri looking at Valarys like that? Anger boiled, but still, the man kept yapping. “I’m sure he’s more than capable of —” SLAM! Zihayr wasn't going to let him finish that sentence. Like a spectre, the werewolf disappeared with a gust of wind and flurry of snow, appearing before the slaver with deadly haste. He grabbed the man by the throat and slammed the man into the cliff, one hand holding him up by the neck. Zihayr had no patience — no tolerance — for this. A few slavers ran to the Fakhri’s aid, but the jailer waved them down. Regardless, an arrow came flying, finding itself a target. One silver shaft, lodged through and through in Zihayr's calf, but the werewolf didn't budge. “I think you misheard me — Take care of his wounds. “Honestly, a few months, and this is the respect I get? My threats aren’t empty, as you know firsthand, Fakhri,” the wolf-man snarled. “I may be wounded, but I am more than capable of slaughtering all of your men like lambs at the table.” “Respect? You lost your privileges when you left!” Fakhri spit. “Maybe if you were still on your Master’s good side, I would be inclined to listen, but you lost those rights, slave.” Bared teeth came dangerously close to the man's face. Zihayr's voice was no more than a whisper as he spoke deathly quiet into the jailer's ear. The man shivered and squirmed in the werewolf's grasp. “Your grand magicians aren’t here to bind me, the vestiges of your magics are tenuous at best, and you’ll need more than iron to hold me down. “Slight me and I’ll show you why The Pits so desperately want me back. “I'm the main event, remember? Don't make me make a show out of you.” @The Hummingbird


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      To be honest this would be the fourth if I am not mistaken. I think I need to completely rethink how I did Valjer previously. Every other time burned me out right before schoolwork kicked in, and despite the amount of posts, we never got past more than the beginning.

    4. Artificer


      (Remembers the 8 pages per thread the first and second times...)

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