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Artificer

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Artificer last won the day on October 10

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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. “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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 600TH POST WOO -- PARTY WOLF TIME

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    1. Show previous comments  5 more
    2. Artificer

      Artificer

      Hopefully?

    3. Artificer

      Artificer

      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

      Artificer

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

  8. ÉTIENNE LENOIR Étienne was not one to concern himself with the dangers of the night. He was as well-practiced in self-defense as any risk-loving mage ought to be. A being of precaution, Étienne had installed several layers of wards radiating outward from him in concentric spheres. Should anyone or anything pass through them, he would be alerted. Seven layers would have been enough to deal with most, be it bandit, mountain lion, s— One layer — two layers — no three layers were crossed in an instant. He could sense it — something quick — something fast was approaching. There was a light crackle of pine needles and twigs. He didn’t even have the time to react — the figure was already in front of him. Darkness clung to its form like a shroud. Two piercing eyes focused in on him, as if appraising quarry. Clouds completed their pass overhead, the moon’s revealed light illuminating what seemed to be the form of a man. — But there wasn’t any evidence nor trace of magic. No possible method that could have assisted him in this feat of speed. This creature was just naturally quick. Étienne maintained his calmness, but was clearly on guard. The mage was curious, yes, but even he had a sense for danger. Whatever was in front of him was not human — not fully at least. Words came out from the man’s mouth, rough and forced. It was clear it wasn’t used to speaking. While the being fumbled with language, Étienne’s mind raced, trying to recall information from the bestiaries he read of the area. When no description matched, he recollected The Curses of Man. Too tangible to be a geist, he thought, Too human to be a werewolf — perhaps a bloodsucker? Demihuman? Demon? Before he could ponder more, the man finished his question. There was a silence which hung on the air as the predator regarded him. Any other night and this crossing might not have fared well…. Neither moved their spots. Étienne would have to respond. “I study magic, and… I like dogs,” he managed. Gods, was that the best he could do? He was nervous, as any in the right mind would be. His awkwardness was coming out in its full. He could barely talk to his local florist — what more some preternatural creature of the night? Perhaps actions would speak better for him than words. “Uh— one moment!” Hand fumbled around in his satchel for a bit — he dared not look up. He moved aside the jars, phials, and other tools of trade. There was a crinkling of paper to which the mage’s expression lightened. Out from his bag came the same parchment he had taken out earlier, except this time, notably smaller. Two of the dogs that should have been on watch that night had not come, leaving two small steaks in his possession. They were probably on break from some injury, most likely. Protecting the city was no easy task. “I like to feed the animals out here — mage’s habit I guess. Best be on the side of nature when you work with her, you know? Ha, ha, ha…” The man’s expression was unreadable. Laughter died shortly. The pause was heavy and prolonged. “Uh— did you want these?” he said, holding out the wrapped meats hesitantly. Hell, he didn’t know what this man wanted. The creature smelled the meat, did he? Smelled the magic — smelled the dogs he pet earlier? Étienne dared not prepare any more spells. If this creature was attuned, it might provoke it. “Not that I'm calling you an animal! No, no, far from that!” He stepped back, extended arm retracting. He was fearful that he may have crossed a line. Face flushed red. By the gods was the man nude?! The boy swallowed nervously. Who was this person? @L E V I A T H A N
  9. ZIHAYR His tracks through the snow were deep. The weight of every step crushed that which was beneath him. Gradually, the monsters began to scatter, and soon, the only ones left were the ones dead at his feet. The wolves were gone now, having chosen to run with their dignity intact. — But they would be back. This much was certain. Blood ran down his arms as drops of crimson fell. The path he left as he went towards the prone figure was now dotted with beads of his own scarlet. Strange, how he added his own reds to the mix. He too was a wolf. His blood was the same as theirs. As he approached Valarys, he could feel his own mind starting to go blank. Zihayr’s expression had not lessened from what it was when he was fighting the wolves. No, his face was still locked in a permanent snarl — throat reverberating with a deep, menacing growl. Valarys was at his feet now — wounded, weakened — vulnerable. There was this itch — this urge welling up in his chest. There was a wave heat which spread throughout his body as his heart pounded with the beat of a wild drummer. One moment, he was standing over the man, and the next, he was pinning him down. His grip tightened like a vices around Valarys’s shoulders. His jaw cracked open, clouds of steam smoking out in slow, heavy breaths. He could feel as his claws dug into the man’s coat, penetrating layers upon layers before finally piercing skin. Closer… closer… his maw drew ever so closer. A fleck of drool dripped down. The man’s face was a blur now — everything was a blur. All Zihayr could see was red. Electricity jolted through his spine — several runes on his collar flashed green. Pupils relaxed — manic smile snuffed out. Two blinks, and his countenance shifted to that of horror. He released Valarys and stumbled backwards in the snow. Zihayr looked towards his hands. They were shaking violently, claws tipped with fresh blood. His body was still innervated with unholy bloodlust; however, he regained his lucidity and conscious choice. He pulled down at the scruff of his own neck. Now was not the time for this. Zihayr refocused all attention towards Valarys. The man looked just as injured as he himself looked earlier. Bite marks — claw slashes — Valarys’s body was riddled with gashes of all shapes and sizes. Worse off, the man was pale and shivering, chest heaving. If he didn’t die of his wounds first, he would die of the cold. Quickly, the werewolf untied the wolf skins from around his neck and knelt by Valarys. He rolled the man onto the fleshy-side of the hides, and wrapped all three tightly around him — caring not for being gentle. One arm went under the man’s knees, and another under the man’s back. He would carry him back to the cave. As he stood up with Valarys in tow, he stumbled down to one knee. Teeth grit as waves of pain and exhaustion began washing over Zihayr. He wasn’t going to be able to do it — not when he himself was just as injured as the man he carried. Eyes darted around the drifts for a solution. He didn’t know where the next shelter was, nor did he remember where he was. A wave of nausea came over him, forcing him to drop Valarys as he keeled over and vomited the contents of his stomach in the other direction. Chunks of half-digested flesh and blackened blood spilled out first — waves upon waves of it — before the final remnants of bile cued that nothing else remained. God, he didn’t know if he would be able to walk further than around the bend. His energy was near depleted. Raising his head up, eyes settled on the corpses once more. On the opposite side was a ravine wall which slanted over them. A sickening idea came into mind — one which might save them from the cold at least. Practically crawling now, he dragged Valarys to the other side. Using the flat of his axe as a shovel, Zihayr began to dig snow out from the foot of the wall. He dug down and diagonally such that the stone would act like the roof like of a lean-to. He kept digging and digging until his body began to shiver as muscles cramped up. The hole was just large enough to fit a handful of people laying on their sides. Its size made their previous abode look like a luxury Dairutian resort. Leaving Valarys, he went back into the snow and dragged a few of the wolves’ massive bodies towards the dugout. He touched each slit neck and smiled. Still warm. Their flesh would provide insulation. One had a steel dagger embedded deep in its eye-socket to which Zihayr was grateful. The wolf-man grabbed its blood-slicked hilt, and pulled it out with a crack. The blade had been embedded skull-deep. Vision began to tease spots of black. Any moment now, he was going to pass out. Deftly, he moved each corpse into the mini-trench, slitting each belly so that their warmth would leak out towards the men when they rested. Next, he threw in their bags and belongings. When he was finished with the task, he tried to lift Valarys, but didn’t have the strength. Everything was numb even though his blood raced with feral vitality. Still, he had to do what he could. With both feet, he kicked forward, shoving the boy in, making him roll down into the mound of corpses at the bottom with a splat. The glimpse of radiance which came after the blizzard vanished. Dusk was gone, and night was upon them. With the remaining power he had left, he built up the sides of the snow so that the entrance would be smaller. Then, as he was about to slide down, everything went black. Zihayr tumbled down into that dark, steaming pit on top of Valarys, the glowing orange rune on his collar serving as but a pittance of light in the umbra. His nostrils were filled with the scent of blood. Hopefully, come morning, they would not be corpses as well. @The Hummingbird
  10. ZIHAYR “Idiot… God-Damned Idiot!” Zihayr was yelling — no, roaring even. The final details were finally coming into place. The wolf-man’s mind raced as he pieced together the man behind those violet eyes. A howl resounded in the distance, and Zihayr remembered Valarys’s last words to him: “I need to take a piss. And for the record? I don’t need you, mutt.” — But this was not the case. Neither statement was true, especially the latter. Valarys lied. None of the man’s belongings were left in that cave save for the part of himself he threw away. That book was precious — probably as important to the man as life itself. Zihayr’s expression darkened as the fire began to dwindle. Valarys was not planning on coming back. The man probably wasn’t even planning on leaving those mountains. That man was sentencing himself to death. The werewolf didn’t even hesitate — didn’t even question. What other decision was there to make? His movements were quicker now, no evidence of the willpower it took to muster them. If there was pain evident on his face, it was only that of echos long past. Regret — disappointment — fear — fear most of all. Zihayr wasn’t going to lose another one. No way he was going to let Valarys slip through his fingers. He could remember the look on their faces when they died. Every single one of them. Valarys was not going to be on that list. Zihayr would not be responsible for another. Zihayr refused it. He didn’t care if he had to drag Valarys back kicking and screaming. That man would come back alive, and that was a promise. He put on what vestiges of clothes he had left — no trace of his cloak save for the makeshift-bandages wrapped around his body. Going out now meant going out practically naked; his Velhatian garbs would provide him no barrier against the storm’s harsh teeth. Eyes darted around the cave, and to his luck, he saw the flayed skins of the wolves he had brought in earlier. Looks like Valarys really did skin them. The hides were bloody, and the insides were still covered in fat and cartilage, but their thick coats would suffice. There was no way he could usefully wear them outside, but perhaps when — or if — everything was over, it would provide some shield or blanket as as they rested. He tied the three around his neck like a layered cape. Whether or not the duo would make it back to their current shelter or break for the next lodge afterwards was uncertain. Seeking refuge directly in the ravines was a likely scenario, but Zihayr considered just getting to Valarys would be a success in itself. He didn’t care if he had to sleep in the cold. The wolf-man shoved the man’s book into his bag before throwing it on. There was a keen sting beneath the bandages on his back, but none of that mattered. The belt of his sword's sheathe was tightened fast around his waist as he slung his axe around and behind. He left the fire burning as he thrust himself forth into the dark blizzard, but he had a feeling there would be no returning to it. * * * How many minutes had he been running? Bounding across the snow on all fours, Zihayr couldn’t tell where he was going, so he raised his nose up to the air once more. Valarys’s scent was still present, although faint and jumbled around. It hinted one direction, so the wolf-man followed it. The pads on his hands and feet were beginning to lose sensation. Everything burned with the same bitter intensity. Still, the icy numb which came with the storm’s battering was very much welcome — he didn’t have time to process different sensations — different types of pain. One kind was enough. His source of energy was that same fever high he felt earlier. That feral sense of survival and starvation began rising, but the werewolf kept his nerve. The curse was his own curse, so it should be Zihayr himself who decided how he’d wield it. Whether he’d keep control was a game he’d have to play. He couldn’t rely on the collar anymore, so he stuck to pure, driving emotions. Too complex, and he would be lost and taken over. Simplicity in thought. Yes — this was how he needed to think. Simplify. Forget. Do. It was difficult to see anything at all, even with his above-average vision. Despite this, the sound of growls and barks became clearer, and soon enough, so too did the traces of Valarys. He had almost tripped on them — the corpses upon corpses of wolves littered the ground like sand in a desert. The werewolf wasn’t shocked when he found himself in the company of the pack that he had been trying to deceive. He expected it. Whoosh — Shing — a flash of silver. He barely had time to react and dodge — there was something which cut through the air. It passed right by his face with a familiar whistle of steel. There, far in the distance, barely visible in the center of it all, was Valarys completely wasting Zihayr’s efforts. Soon enough, the wolves noticed Zihayr, and several surrounded him. They weren't stealthy like the three he encountered before — no, they were in disarray. He could hear them. Seven or so began zig-zagging towards him, but Zihayr made them out clearly. His senses were sharper than than the edge of his blade. They would attack, but they were definitely not going to make it out in once piece. They were just dogs after all — dogs that needed to be put down. Sword and axe withdrew as he began hacking through the hounds that threw themselves at him. Gods, he had no mercy as he split several in two. His anger was unbounded, his voice intermingling with the snarls of the pack — hell, he sounded more like a monster than the monsters themselves. He thundered over the cacophony of it all; four words were all he had to say: “VALARRRRYS— YOU FUCKING IDIOT!” @The Hummingbird
  11. I have a particular proclivity for trying to make every post of mine as aesthetically pleasing as possible. I know this doesn't help the writing, but I can't help it -- Times New Roman, font size, and margins get the best of me every time. Anyone else plagued with this compulsion?

    1. Show previous comments  3 more
    2. Witch

      Witch

      I used to use Garamond with earlier versions of the site, but it doesn't seem to be an option anymore.

    3. Artificer

      Artificer

      I USE GARAMOND ALL THE TIME ON FOCUSWRITER!

    4. Witch

      Witch

      Haha, now that you mention it I often write in Garamond when I'm composing my posts in Word. Something about those serifs. 

  12. ZIHAYR — And just like that, Zihayr’s only company was the blaze left burning in the cavern’s center. If it wasn’t clear then, it was clear to him now: that boy was dense. Self-deprecating, cavalier, and unbearably dense. Every time that man spoke, he spoke as if he were a child lashing out. It aggravated Zihayr greatly. Looking at Valarys was like looking at a reflection — one which paralleled how Zihayr was when he was younger. It was uncanny really. His outbursts of rage followed by a mask of indifference — his irritability and lack of sympathy — all of it was the same. The Slavers and The Circuit were to blame for all of it. If Valarys was truly cut from the same stone, then Zihayr knew exactly what was going through that man’s mind. Bitter, sour, dreadful-tasting emotions that one could easily choke on. Whatever chains held Valarys were still holding him fast. Guilt was the most likely of bonds. The werewolf was also once trapped by that bondage which was so carefully planted by his captors. Hell, he was still removing them. A self-sustaining system for keeping slaves from ever being free. It was a sense of distorted worth based on lies and false presumptions, and he sensed this from Valarys. In the way the man walked, talked, acted — held himself. The Slavers had a knack for ruining one’s perspective on the world. It took years for Zihayr to learn this truth. The more he thought about it, the more his blood boiled. He remembered that vow he made to himself — the vow that he would kill all of those damned Slavers where they stood. If Zihayr was sure of one thing, it was that Valarys hated himself. Valarys blamed himself. Zihayr had faith that he and Valarys were indeed the same. Whether it was blame for a friend he condemned or blame for his own traumas — hell, or both —, Valarys exuded self-loathing. It oozed from every pore. Maybe it was just the wolf-man projecting his own emotions on the closest living being, but Valarys had to be feeling the same way. Had to. They both were fucking toys after all. Memories forced their way back up to the surface — breaching into his consciousness without permission. Zihayr remembered his life as a servant back in the Etiquette Bazaar as clear as gin. Personal slave to a relative of one of The Council of Seven, yet shared around like a whore in a brothel. A relationship based on guilt — based on submission. That Zihayr would never amount to anything. All of those mixed feelings he felt then amounted to nothing. He felt like trash — no, he was trash, worse than trash. He remembered the duality of it all: agony and ecstasy felt as he stabbed that man over and over. What was left afterwards? Nothing. Hollow, empty — nothing. So strong a hatred was it that it had quite literally consumed everything within him. If anything, The Pits saved him in a way. Taught him how to get back up. Taught him his worth. Taught him hardship, but gave him times he would cherish forever. Times that, unfortunately, he was forced to kill one by one with his own two hands. Another reason why he hated The Slavers. That, however, was a story for another time. His next actions would most likely prove meaningless, but hopefully they would prove him right. He wanted so desperately to give Valarys’s actions meaning — to be right. To know that he was not alone in his pain. Getting up from sitting, Zihayr limped towards the colder side of the room. On the floor was the sprawled out corpse of a book that was so fervently written in. He sat on his heels with a grimace, both at his own wounds and the situation in general. It was then he realized that his injuries were, in fact, bandaged. Pain arose in his temples. Were his fever dreams not merely dreams after all? His clawed fingers gently picked up the book by the binding before Zihayr flipped it over. He saw the contents of it — Valarys’s journal — diary — logs — whatever. A book penned by Valarys, for Valarys. Zihayr would see if he was right. — And with that, he read. @The Hummingbird
  13. ÉTIENNE LENOIR There were rumors of a ghost roaming in the Eastern District of Mezthaluen. They said that one need not but listen closely an hour past midnight on a clear, autumn’s night. If one payed close attention, they would hear something after the clock’s last strike. Soft and longing, a song — a boy’s song, eerie and pure —, would echo throughout the streets. A wordless tune that both captivated and haunted. If one saw the figure’s crimson cloak, it would be best to turn back. The spectre was said to be merciless. One look, and the soul would be taken. Étienne couldn’t help but chuckle. Ah, if only such rumors were true, Étienne thought. It would make Mezthaluen far more interesting than it truly was. Walking through the streets in the moonlight, clad in his dull red jacket, artichoke slacks, and huge, circular glasses, was none other than Étienne Lenoir — apprentice to his uncle André Lenoir, a famed mage and medicine-man. The boy had a slim face, with eyes of blue, and wavy ebony hair. Like his uncle, Étienne had a warm, ruddy complexion — far distant from the ghastly, hollow, pale faced geist he was described to be. He never intended to become a local legend; however, there was something about the night which captivated him. Made him want to sing as he made his way to the city’s periphery for his routine nightly exploration. He hummed, whistled, and crooned, oblivious to the sleeping world around him. His large leather satchel swung at his side as he strode towards the city gates. To be honest, he disliked the noise of onlookers in the day. The silence that came with darkness was welcome. Étienne could hear his own thoughts and voice much better when no one was around. People couldn't get past his dreamy, half-aware aloofness. Perhaps it was this dislike of normal people that made him into such a night owl, shifting his schedule to that of some nocturnal creature. When he neared the gate, he unlatched the cover to his satchel and took out an object wrapped in packing paper. There was a guard at the checkpoint, but no one who Étienne had not met before. He nodded to the armored woman before proceeding out of the city confines. They knew he had his papers, and trusted him well-enough to skip the formalities of searching him. There was the sound of barking in the distance, to which Étienne smiled warmly. It was the guard dogs employed by the city — first watch and signal against those who would try to infiltrate its armored walls. A few mastiffs, and a large, wild-looking hound. They were more friends to him than any person. Étienne crouched down and gave the beasts their nightly pets. They licked his hand and face with vigor. Friendly creatures, they were, given you were on the right side of the law. A lantern light peeked in the distance. Their owner was nearing. Quickly, Étienne stood up and unwrapped his mysterious package from the parchment. In it, there were several slabs of meat. The dogs must have known because as soon as he began unpacking, all of them began to jump — each trying to snag more than their allotted allowance. With a calm hand, he distributed the treats out them fairly before hurrying his way towards the mountains. He didn’t want to be lectured by the houndmaster again. He had more important manners to attend to. Tonight was the night of a full moon, and more importantly, it was the only time when he could pick a peculiar flower which bloomed briefly in its silver light. It was a curious ingredient he wished to study more, having not been mentioned much in herbology or potion theory. Only the florists and hikers would mention them in passing. They were fabled to be pure white in color with a delicate fragrance from their cluster. It was a species native only to the humid pines near Mezthaluen. Wolfblossoms, as they were so aptly named. The etymology was poor at best, given the stark lack of wolves here in the central plains. Was it just named that for its flowering cycle and the tenuous link between the moon and wolves? Perhaps when Étienne made the plant more well-known, he would give it a more appropriate title. Nightbloom? Silverweed? Noxwood? Gah, he had to find the flowers first before any of that… he was getting ahead of himself. He scarcely knew what the damned things even looked like. With confident step, the young mage-apprentice crossed the forest’s border, the light from the sky being the only thing to guide him. Glassware jangled dully through the leather. Soon, he would have a specimen to begin his experiments. @L E V I A T H A N
  14. ZIHAYR Deserve to be back in Dairut? Zihayr was going to offer Valarys a drink, but it seemed like that wouldn’t be the case anymore. For a moment, he thought he could allow himself to be vulnerable. Open up — have a laugh, share a few stories. He was warming up to this man, not because he felt indebted, but because of their commonalities. Still, there was only so much hypocrisy he could take. Zihayr was understanding, yes, but he was not a monolith. Prod too much, and you would earn his ire. Within moments, the werewolf sat up, ignoring his body’s protests. He wouldn’t complain about the pain — not to Valarys. The man wouldn’t bat an eye for him, so why waste the energy? “Ungrateful?” the wolf-man spat, “That’s rich, coming from you. “Your remarks have always been particularly scathing, but lashing out for not receiving a compliment? That is something I would have never expected. I’m not one to be shallow, but enough is enough. Let me remind you, boy, that you aren’t the only one doing work. “Tell me, who was the one who alerted the other of those monsters closing in on our camp on the first night? Was that you who smelled their stinking hides? “I’ve killed as many monsters as you have during the day — a fact you so graciously seem to ignore. Would you rather waste your bolts on them fighting alone?” “You constantly berate me for slowing you down; however, would you like to know why I am so slow? You may not have realized this, but do you remember that pack I just mentioned — the one that had us surrounded on the first night? The one that we so narrowly evaded? They’ve been following us. For the past several nights since our first encounter, they’ve been on our trail. “Figured it wasn’t worth it to deprive my only guide through these godforsaken mountains of his precious sleep — wouldn’t want him getting lost or disoriented. I led them off our trail — killed the stragglers — didn’t rest until I saw there were no more around us. Did this every night in fact, until that blizzard rolled in. Did I go looking for your thanks? No.” Zihayr picked up his axe from his side as he held it up to the air. “You think those dogs only came during the day — that our only night encounter was the first; however, I’ve been dealing with them for you. You may have shot a few in the day with that pretty little bow of yours, but perhaps I thought you would notice why my weapons were always covered in blood come morning. I make a habit of cleaning them before bed, you know — not that I get any sleep after. You're observant, aren't you? “As for the three wolves I killed tonight? More scouts from the fucking pack. I only ended up like this because I couldn’t see any of them in the damned storm. Brought their corpses back because we were running out of things to eat.” There was another reason too, but he no longer felt inclined to talk about it. “I’m cold, I’m exhausted, and now? I’ve got more wounds on me than hair on your pretty head,” he snarled. “— So you can add getting eaten by wolves on the top of your list of ways we die here. Pray the snow buries us deep before they find us because you have no idea how many of them are following us.” The wolf-man could only hope that the winds would throw off the duo's scent. Perhaps the blizzard would hide their tracks once and for all. It was wishful thinking. “— So do I complain about the weather? Yes. “Do I joke about our situation? Yes. “Do I complain about your treatment of me despite these things I do for you? No. “I do these things so we both have a chance at surviving, so please, watch that god damned tongue of yours because the one time I slip, I get slammed into a wall, and you’ve been slipping this entire journey.” @The Hummingbird
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