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Artificer

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Artificer last won the day on January 26

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About Artificer

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    Hey! I'm a Computer Science / Math Double Major @ UC Berkeley, and am interested in ML, algebra, music, and more. 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. MARCELLUS L.H. The wolf’s words resounded in his mind, over and over and over. Formless command, the Ebonvine had uttered — a beckoning towards a seed which dared break soil. Sweet, sweet temptations among the biting grit of his rebuke. Yes, the wolf was right — there was an evil planted long ago within the hunter. Not a day had gone by where Marcellus couldn’t feel it growing and wrapping its roots around whatever it could. The teeth of its thorns gnawed at whatever rationality he had, reminding him of the extent of his sins. Yes, he was no longer that innocent man he once was. He had indeed tasted human flesh. Marcel stepped back, a dribble of saliva falling from his lips. That insatiable hunger settled in once more, and for a moment — after that blood mist dispersed — he almost let himself loose. Take that ferality which burned in his chest and direct it towards those he enlisted. The spirits of the wolves were high, and the mania which gripped them began affecting him too. No, it wasn’t Haft’s spell, but rather the sheer energy of it all. Their yaps — barks — snarls. It was chaos, wild and free. Watching them gave him the putrid urge to let go. Go back to them. Go back to serve the mastermind behind it all. A faithful servant.... Gah! he yelled, hands clutching his head. Marcellus would not let the madness take hold. Not there, and not then. He shook his head madly as if to shake those urges from his mind. There was a promise he made to himself that he intended to keep; he could not afford to succumb to those wolves. He refused. He wasn't one of then. With his wrist, Marcellus wiped the corners of his lips using the cloth of his cloak. Yes, he had promises to keep — there was no failing to be done here. Bow strung, he took aim once more. What could he do? He needed to analyze the situation in its entirety. Marcel was the leader of this party, after all. He needed to lead. His companions had been staving off the mounting threat; however, with one howl, the great direwolf heralded the beginning of the end. The warpack had arrived. “We need to run," "We need to run now!" Sikkoran’s words barely registered. How — how did they arrive so quickly?! Had the storm masked their sounds — their scents? Regardless, there was no way the four of them could fight a pack that large. Thoughts raced for a solution, until suddenly, one appeared right in front of him: While Haft and The Witch kept the wolves at bay, the mage had fashioned a great sleigh of ice and frost. It was crude — large — but thick and durable. Perfect. Quickly, the hunter unslung his bag and bow, throwing the latter onto the slab of ice. From the side of his rucksack, he grabbed a coil of rope which was roughly fifty feet in length. He smiled — thank the gods he listened to the shopkeeper. How could one questing ever live without cordage? He relented at what he was about to do, but after seeing the suspicious glance of Kassandra, he knew that there was no point in hiding it anymore. He untied that thread of red from his wrist, the glamour disappearing in naught but an instant. Where there was once the image of a man, there was now a large, slavering, monstrous werewolf. His true visage. Gods — he hoped they didn’t shoot him. Threading the rope through the frozen vehicle, he grabbed the two ends and barked at the party, “Get on if you don’t want to die — I’ll pull!” Ropes now clamped between his teeth, he was ready to run like hell. @TheElementHunter @Fierach @The Hummingbird
  2. Even from the space he resided, he could hear her — hear her cries. He could see it clearly then as the Raven wept rivers and shook against her bindings. She was chained not merely by the words of a simple spell, but chained by those who she led — those who she fought for — those who she loved with that bottomless well within her heart. Chained by herself to a world which, quite frankly, didn’t care. Her efforts repaid with what — a slap to the face? So similar was her pain to his, and yet so too was it different. Both wore shackles, but both of a different nature. Over their many encounters, he had caught glimpses of that infinite, unfathomable void of suffering she aimlessly wandered, but he did not believe he could comprehend the sheer extent of her wounds and scars. It was no way to live, roaming those plains alone. So terrible and awing was the woman who bore the weight of it all. No normal person could carry the weights of a kingdom, a world — its past and its future — all on their own. His drop of hardships was enough to crush any man. Her ocean though — eventually, that would crush her and those who loved her. — But she didn’t have to be alone anymore. Neither did he. — Could she not sense him in the room? Had grief blinded her? Perhaps she needed more than just his presence. The air in the room grew heavy with an almost palpable weight — moisture gathering on every smooth and slick surface. Droplets of water formed as glass frosted with small webs of ice and fog. Temperature dropped; nurses and guards went on edge. It was only when the shadows in the room grew larger — darker — did that cruel woman who struck his love realize who had arrived. Or rather those who arrived. Wisps of black smoke danced around his woman’s wrist, spinning and spinning, coalescing from free, nebulous strands to the solid contours of an outstretched hand. One adorned in silver. An interplay of light between the sheen of his armor and the softest shadows of his cloak grew prominent. The very air itself painted him into that room. Forming — stretching — building from that single hand into an arm, then a shoulder, then a torso — then himself. He stroked her back as he leaned in closer to Raven's face, blowing a soft breath over her — tickling those tear-dusted lashes. Open those eyes. Kirena — who had all but backed away from Raven after witnessing her outburst — looked on with horror. She moved forward carefully before that fear suddenly and harshly turned to anger, and from anger to hatred; however, as more and more silhouettes materialized around the Empress, she stopped and froze. He glanced her way for second — gave a mocking look — a contemptuous sneer. Don’t come any closer if you know what’s good for you, and she didn’t. He and his brothers knew she wouldn't. All livestock acted the same, thought the same: If I move, they will kill Lady Raveena, Was what was probably going on in that woman's mind. And so the guards stood — pensive, waiting, tense. Their hands gripped the pommels of their weapons, some half-drawn, bows half-strung. Some covered the mouths of nurses who were trying hard to stifle their screams. Their fear. But they mattered not anymore. Perhaps, in a time long past, he would have raged against such responses. Now though, there really was only a single person whose thoughts he cared for. Once more, he drew closer to Raven — rubbed her shoulder fondly. The rest of the shadowbeasts huddled too, each drawing close to the one who had saved them. Now, they wished to pay her back with something more than others had prior, but for now, they would comfort. Some sat on the side while some stretched on the bed around her. Some stood over on the floor — stood watch of the guards. Each wondered if she would recognize them as individuals. Would she know? They were no longer parts in that sewn up beast. Each had a heart, a mind, a spirit. Each would give it all to her. Still, despite their appearance, she shivered and convulsed with phantom pains. Blind, she was to them and the rest of the world. Damn The Hunter. What could they do? What could he do? Her pain was his pain, and not just in a metaphorical sense. Her empathy was overwhelming, weighing on their hearts in tandem with their own guilt. He needed to do something for her — something which would reach her. Then thought arose with the newfound clarity. She was blind, numbed, yes — But perhaps not deaf. While he was no longer linked so intimately with his siblings, he knew they would know it if he began, so he began: He hummed — a single note at first, before splitting into a slow, drawn out melody. Soon, his brothers joined in, each contributing their own voice to the ethereal chord. Some may have likened it to a howl, but it was far too soft for a howl. It was a sound only shadowbeasts could make, much like the whispering of winds through the trees. A lullaby — a song: Ah, it was a song for longing; a song for remembering — A song of darkness and dreams of those it harbors — A song for kin; A song for strangers — A song for sons, their lovers and their fathers — A song for rest; a song for sleeping — A song for healing and for mending — A song for broken beasts and broken things — To remind them of hope unending. Yes — there was no truth in feeling lonesome. For the kind Raven who wept and wept has never been — and was no longer — alone, some. @Malintzin
  3. WELFRICK ERHARD JAGDHUNDE Everything seemed to meld into one. The voices on the outside were barely audible as they competed in waves of their own, washed-out sounds. It was as if his head were dunked underwater as a war raged above — senses dulled and blunted by a force unknown, holding him in those eldritch depths. What were these sounds — these emotions he grasped from the world above? Why did those on the outside seem so worried — so frantic? Even in the haze, he could hear their yells. There was an occasional jerk of the cart which carried him, but aside from that, there was nothing else of particular note. Just screams and unstable transport. His consciousness had ebbed and flowed between that limbo and reality many times by the time they placed him underneath the harsh, fluorescent lights of the operating table. There was a sharp stab in his side, and then a numbness. Where was he? Darkness, all-consuming, began growing along the edges of his vision. What was happening? What was this cold wind he felt on this shoulder, this otherworldly coolness which gripped his body? More pain — more yelling — more panic on the outside. Was he dying? It was the only conclusion which made sense in those moments. Still, it was strange that he could not remember what brought him to such a state. Multiple lacerations — severe exsanguination? He could have sworn he wasn’t hurt on the hunt that morning. He was just walking with his cart, bringing a bountiful haul back to his abode — ah, he hoped he didn’t leave the thing out in the sun. What good was rotten meat for his business? Gah, he was distracted! He needed to switch focus back onto the matter at hand. He was dying — that much was clear. Why?— he didn’t know. Was there something — anything he could do? He tried moving his fingers, but to no avail. The numbness had paralyzed him enough so that he could not move, but not enough as to spare him the pain of the surgeon’s blade. Golden Eyes, he remembered. Why — why was Welfrick thinking back to that woman again? He needed to focus! It was so strange how his thoughts drifted back to the mundane, as if to escape the reality he was in. He figured his mind had to play tricks on him — fool him into staying awake for just a little while longer. The futility of fighting against one’s fate was indeed a boring one. Linger too long on it, and you might just wish to sleep through it. — Sleep forever, actually, if one really thought about it. He paused. Is this what death felt like to everyone? A denial of all the things which were happening at the given moment? Vision faded a bit more, until he saw nothing but the shadows in his head. He wondered: do the dying always depart with the taste of apples on their tongue? So sweet, yet sour, yet fulfilling all at once? Welfrick had lived a full life, to his memory. His only regret would be never seeing the wider world outside of Port Kyros — that forest of his dreams. Pillars of pine, where someday, he would return to. * * * * * It all assaulted him at once. Everything. Information — images — memories of the menial, of the impactful, of every event in his life, playing in the highest resolution with details down to the last blade of grass. To say it was overwhelming would be an understatement. Blood, triumph, light, steel, screams, pain, a kiss — at any second, he felt that his head would simply burst from the sheer load of it all. Questions. He had so many questions. Each and every picture which played out of order made no sense to him. He had to ask — needed time to ponder —but as every memory flew at him, he could barely register which ones mattered anymore. Within the confines of his mind, he curled into a ball, hoping that these things he saw weren’t true. Knowledge is power, but it also is a curse. He was the reason for his father’s death. He was the reason for the deaths of so many! And now — now he’d have to live with it. Live through it all again. Bloodshot eyes flew open — wrist rattled the side of the bed as he tried breaking the handcuffs which chained him. The guards surrounding him held him down, but they could not hold down the tears which fled from the hunter's eyes. He screamed and screamed and screamed. Screamed until his throat was raw. Too many — far too many emotions. A life laden with tragedy had finally revealed itself to him. Perhaps it would have been better if he had never remembered anything at all. @Malintzin
  4. LAYELIA ASTRAPÉ LEUCETIUS Something about the ship just wasn’t right. Layelia had been wandering what she thought to be the periphery of the outer corridors, looking for a room for quite some time now. It hadn’t taken long for her eyes to pick up the discrepancies of the vehicle. If she had truly been walking along the inside of the walls which faced the outside world, she figured that things would be smaller — not bigger! She couldn’t help but take these subconscious measurements. It was just how her mind worked. How wide was this interior as opposed to the exterior — almost twice? If so, it would have taken an expert or two in spacial geometry and manipulation to achieve this feat — especially for a region which was not anchored to any point in particular. That inner scholar of hers began bursting with questions. When she got back from the journey, she would have to ask Lady Raveena for the name of the shipwright. There was much to learn from such a fellow. The maths and magic which went into such a spell was a true testament to his or her skill. What secrets could she glean from a master of their craft? Yawn. Perhaps it was time to retire. When she finally arrived at a suitable room — one not so far from the stairwell, but not too close either —, she twisted the brass knob and entered. She could use a nice bed to get some much needed rest. Despite her appearance, Layelia couldn’t help but feel the need to undress and relax. The dragon’s dip in the ocean left her feeling soaked even if there was no water clinging to her coat. The joys of sympathetic bonds. Kicking off her boots, the woman plopped onto the large, luxurious mattress and closed her eyes. She didn’t even bother taking off her trench coat or thick slacks — the metaphorical lead weighing her body was far too heavy. What a night. FRAENIR OF SIGURTHYR GASP — the dragon sucked in a large breath of air when he reemerged to the surface. Sea foam and waves assaulted him from all angles as he craned his neck high above the waters. He had been rather enjoying his time swimming. His cousins sure knew what they were talking about — even if he found them a bit dull. How free he felt when he plunged deep into those waves — into the waters on his own. Free to be on his own. — But a sudden fatigue alerted him of his distance from the ship, reminding him that he did not have such freedoms anymore. Those wings were clipped when he fell to Slaver’s Enclave. Amber eyes scanned the horizon. He needed to find The Peregrine, and quickly. That tether between both him and the girl was drawing taut, and if the space between them widened... well he didn’t want to think about what would happen. There it is, he thought, seeing the ship’s mast beneath the rising moon. A shame it was that he didn’t get to enjoy his time in the ocean... ... Then again, he wasn’t that tired. Steadily he paddled in the direction of the ship. No need to fly this time — Fraenir would take his time swimming back. He’d let the girl introduce them to the rest of the crew. * * * * * When he finally arrived at the port beam of The Peregrine, he was thoroughly and utterly sore. He saw now why he was a land dragon and not a sea dragon — damned limbs. The webbed feet of his cousins must have been far more useful for such excursions as opposed to his long, clawed digits. Grabbing onto the boat’s side, he shifted back into his human form before hoisting himself up. He hated this form much, but Layelia had insisted on maintaining decorum in front of Lady Raveena’s associate’s companions. He chose short dark brown hair and a well-sculpted body to accompany his golden eyes this time, not willing to indulge in anymore modesty. He was already lowering himself to the appearance of such inferior creatures — why not choose something that was at least a tiny bit appealing? If he couldn’t rock the boat with his majestic, draconic visage, he would with beauty unparalleled. — That is, if one could even consider any human beautiful. Up, up, and up — he climbed some loose netting which hung off the side. Fraenir pulled himself up and over the side rails, bare feet leaving a wet puddle where he stood. He saw the orange-eyed fellow once more, this time examining the rigging of the ship beneath the moonlight. Perhaps now would be as good a time as any to introduce himself. “Greetings, human!” he said with hand raised out. “Have you seen a short, blonde, awkward woman by any chance? I’m looking for her.” The dragon smiled with a genial expression, not realizing that he himself was completely and utterly nude. @Voldemort
  5. JAGDHUNDE Eyes melted at the sight of hers. Kindness — Warmth — Spring — she was the thaw to their ice. The way her fingers laced around theirs — the way she handled them so gently. The way she looked into their eyes, past all their mistakes — there was no flaw to her. Could it even be real? It couldn’t be true, it just couldn’t. They didn’t deserve her — not after all they had done —, and yet after everything, she was there, facing them with an expression they had never seen before. What was she thinking? She seemed confused at first, but soon, her expression shifted to something unknowable. It was warm and comforting, something new that they did not recognize. What was this emotion she had? What was she feeling? The two stood there for a moment like that just looking at each other, wearing the same faces, frozen in time. Could they not stay like that forever, or was this just another fabrication of their fading mind? Had they already died? Could this be what life after death was? They wouldn’t mind if it was. Then, the moment passed, showing that this indeed was not eternity. Without even realizing it, they found something beating next to their chest — something smooth which was fully enclosed in their hands. They wished to look, but didn’t. They didn’t want to look away from her — didn’t want to risk letting the dream disappear. How human. As she turned, they held that precious, tiny thing in their hands. It was pressed tightly above their beating heart — cushioned in soft tufts of black fur. Such care was needed; it was Raven’s gift. With slow, deliberate movement, they gingerly brought their cupped hands close to their face, cracking open the clasp of fingers to peek into the enclosure. The corners of their lips rose. To think so simple a fruit could bring such happiness. In their hands was proof that all of those hopes — all of those promises — weren’t fake or gone or wilted. It was proof that she regarded them as something more than a monster. More than just some beast. — And that — that was enough for them. Wistful thoughts drifted back to the night of their first encounter. So this was the end to that promised hunt. It was funny. Perhaps they didn’t really need her love. They just needed her. Her validation was worth more than the world. Nothing could truly ruin this moment, not even The Hunter. Even as she frantically tried fixing Welfrick, the Beast couldn’t help but smile. All her actions served as further proof that this indeed was not a dream. She was too kind to leave even the most grotesque to suffer; she had saved the Jagdhunde once. No, what she did with Welfrick didn’t matter. She was there. Actually there. She was with them. It was as good an ending as they could have asked for. They wouldn’t have to be alone as they died. Ch-crunch, ch-crunch. The faint scent of apples rode the gale. When she turned, they basked in her countenance once more. Ah — that worry she had on her face. It was truly, truly human of her. That selfishness and greed — did she truly believe in her heart that she could save them both? Pitiful songbird. She was much like them after all. The Jagdhunde found themselves doting after her as one did after a lost lover. It seemed that she too fostered impossible hopes for impossible wishes. They were dying — both the hunter and the beast — this was truth. It was as inevitable as the sunrise. A night of life must always end. The desperate blues in the sea of her gaze reached for the greens of theirs. A tide searching for some direction out in a disorienting ocean. A soul grasping out for something to hold on to. Her kindness was infectious. For once, she needed them like they needed her. Forward, forward, they tread forward. The apple in their hand dropped back into her basket as they knelt down and wrapped their arms around her. Had she always been this short compared to them — so skinny? So small like the bird they had always likened her to? They ran their claws through her long hair, combing those tresses of lacquer with affection. No need to kiss nor anything else. To hold her in their arms was more than enough. They’d let her know they were there. Be there for her this time. Reassure her when they knew her hopes would fail her. They knew she loved all without reason. It was what brought her towards all manner of broken things like them. She was just that kind of person. A mender, a healer, though it was unrealistic to think that one could save everyone. A smile. They were glad that she had taken the time to save them. Muzzle tilted down, throat resting on the crown of her head. There she was — their Raven tucked between chin and chest. Two figures in snow, one shielding the other from the cold beneath the ash tree. Her skin against their fur. Her smell tangling with theirs. They held her close like they had so long ago, without bars or chains this time. If only — if only they could stay that way forever. How human. Pieces of him were let go — fell from the mismatched seams. Cracks began to spread on skin, scales, and coat as they began drifting away bit by bit. Their physical form was finally dissolving; their old friend had finally arrived. His truth would cut away at their lies. How human it was to think that they could fix themselves by grasping at parts they tore from another. What use was there to hold onto those shards which could never truly replace the missing pieces they had lost? They would never be whole again. Never be the same as they were before. Death takes a part of you so that if you ever leave him, you remember you do not belong. First a scale, then a finger. Stitchings in memories, ripped and torn. Piece by piece, drifting away. Things muddied in those moments, and yet never was a time before where their intentions and emotions were so shockingly clear. It was an overwhelming, incurable love. As they held Raven close, they wondered if these feelings were theirs or The Hunter’s. The line between themselves and him became blurred as of late. His memories sustained them and became a part of them. As much as they hated to say, he was there too. Welfrick always had been. — But they didn’t need him anymore. They could learn to let go. His glue was no longer required. After all, they had her to fill in those missing pieces now. Yes — these feelings were entirely their own, not Welfrick’s. No longer did they need the mask of man to hide behind. No longer did they need to hold onto each other for fear of revealing their individual, tattered remains. Raven could see through that regardless. They would be true to themselves in those final moments they existed together as The Jagdhunde. Their ending was here: The Shattered Beast’s conclusion. They finally caught up to her. Thank you, they said in tandem, twelve voices ringing as one. And goodbye. With a gust snow, they disappeared, leaving naught but a silhouette which still embraced her. The echoes of their voices could be heard from a distance. Goodbye — Goodbye — sweet Raven. The hunt is over. Wake up. @Malintzin
  6. JAGDHUNDE Their lips pressed firmly against hers — tender kiss steeped in that scarlet red —, but when their eyes opened, she was gone. A mere fantasy. A drunken daydream. Sweet to bittersweet in less than a moment. If only it was real. Knees deep in snow, they stood as their fur rippled in the winter winds. Now, the only company they had left was the roaring static of the white blizzard. It was so bright and yet not blinding — a familiar place they had been to only once before. A space within their mind. Nostalgia, not fear. How sweet to think that they left the gentle caress of one to the embrace of another — one whose grip so cold yet truthful without lie. An old friend they likened it — or rather him — to. It was infidelity with an acquaintance at least. There was certainty in his words unlike the words of man. He was one who never misled — never misguided. Spoke only truths with sure finality. Their first encounter with him was much like every experience when one met a stranger: apprehension, discomfort — that burgeoning need to run and escape. But they knew him this time, and were unafraid. There was no need to let go of these feelings they held for the sake of another. Fear was not the last thing they wanted to feel. No — they would hold tight onto that kiss, even if it wasn’t real. His light shone bright, and towards him they walked. Cold breaths smoked from their mouth as they spoke towards Death with that lingering smile: Ah yes, we are dying again, aren’t we? Yes, yes — they were dying. The shadows of twelve continued onward towards that bright illumination, walking as one, single being. They were ready to leave that darkness they lived in. Too long had they stayed, brewing in the shadows. It was time to go. A sigh escaped their lips, silvered hand tracing circles in the other. They could still feel the warmth of her skin against the scales of their palms. If only they could bring that feeling with them into oblivion. Sshk-Crunch... Sshk-Crunch. Ears perked. They stopped in their tracks. Sshk-Crunch... Sshk-Crunch... Sshk-Crunch... Sshk-Crunch... Regularity within the otherwise randomness of the storm. An impossibility at the final pass. Body swung around as head snapped towards the steady rhythm of crunching snow. In the distance, they saw what looked to be a tree’s silhouette which accompanied two smaller figures. The first they knew — it was the hunter they chained, but the second.... Feet trudged through the ever-deepening drifts. The second — they knew the second — knew it in their soul. Knew by the way she pried. They kept their distance, stalking close behind. She did not turn nor waver as she moved forward with her ever-present grace. Closer — closer — they let her scent pull them in. Eyes followed the porcelain of her petite hand as she perched herself in front of The Hunter. The back of her carmine cloak draped across the white expanse — her ebony hair flowing like a river down the curves of her frame. Innocence lost in this virgin white which suffused the scene. Her arm reached into the wicker vessel of frost-dusted, scarlet orbs, her delicate fingers pulling out a single fruit. For a brief moment, they thought she would turn around. Look at them and not at him. Vague hopes were planted, and vague hopes wilted. Bittersweet turned bitter in less than a moment. They came from behind, kneeling in the snow behind her — took in the smell. How quaint of her not to notice them as she oft did. What hopes did she hold holding that apple out to the broken man — that empty husk? What did she see in him and not them? Jealousy was an ugly feeling, much like The Jagdhunde themselves. So natural was it that they wore it with ease. Jealous creatures, they were. Was it so wrong to the world for beasts like them to love a woman like her? Was it so terrible? They had pretended to not hear her concerns for The Hunter when she encountered them on the seawall, but every word she spent on Welfrick and not them was a knife in the back. After all the world has taken from them, it couldn’t let them have this one woman? The one and only thing they wanted? Why give her to The Hunter and not them? Their hand reached past and grabbed her wrist while the other covered her eyes. Fingers trembled at first touch; the steam of their breath rolled across her nape as they tried hard to hold back those ugly emotions welling inside. She liked hurting them, didn't she? Did she enjoy the taste of their sadness? Did she savor their longing for a precious songbird their clawed hands could never cherish? The cold wind froze the tears before they even had a chance to fall from their face. How cruel her indifference was to them. Was it even right to sob? Her choice in the matter was clear — the hunter, not the beast. — And yet they didn’t want to let go. “Please don’t, Raven.” Don’t leave for another man. Don't let our story end with this. @Malintzin
  7. EBONVINE Calm, calculating eyes fell upon the five that were his quarry. Fresh, crisp breaths steamed from between his bared teeth, whistling away as white streaks in the howling winds against the blackness of his coat. As he stood atop the powdered dune of ice and snow, the long hairs which hung from his back waved like shadowy tassels — the silhouette of a demon in the backdrop of a frigid hell. There was a scent in the air — one unlike the others. The Ebonvine did not gaze hatefully at the three humans — No — there was no reason to hate those beneath him. Instead, scarlet gaze focused in on the one in between — the one who did not belong. The wolves behind him stirred behind with impatience. They smelled it too. Stillness did not bode well for these children. One look — a piercing glance — one silent command: Stop — and they no longer fidgeted. His attention was not towards feeding the new bloods — No. His business was strictly with the traitor in front of him. As an alpha of the packs, it was his job to deal with the dissidents and rogues who ran away. Still, for one who smelled so strongly of The Kin... he wondered. Fanged maw opened, revealing a set of brilliant ivory daggers. Fluid tongue rolled as he spoke, voice tinged with guttural intonation. His words were growls among barks among throaty whispers — a language only one of The Refashioned would understand. Those hounds who were molded by The Kin would know it. It was a language spoken only by one who ordered, and heard only by those who obeyed. Several words uttered, and the cloaked man shivered like prey. Ebonvine’s eyes narrowed in disgust. This was indeed a traitor. In a single motion, the wolves all moved in tandem — an uncanny synchronicity gifted by the one who led. Soon, the thirteen who followed him encircled the three men and two beasts — keeping their distance while being wary of their movements. The great direwolf stood above them all, watching from the back. He would not let the stray escape — No. He would hand deliver this one back to The Kin. The Ebonvine knew that death was not the cruelest fate that could befall a traitor. No... no... there were worse fates than death. A sickening grin rose to his scowling face — one warped with malevolent delight. His emotions had long been twisted from that fateful night, but still, some things never changed. His sadism, for one, still lingered. Oh how he would enjoy watching those fighting eyes be extinguished. How he would enjoy watching the man be turned. Watch those faint hopes of false rebellion turn to ashes and dust. He wondered how the man was doing fighting it. Surely, the wolf was struggling now. Perhaps temptation would beget that sweet, sweet release that all wolves sought. Sweet satiation to that never-ending hunger. Ears perked — another wolf-howl came from the distance. His earlier call had been answered. If a wolf could snicker, The Ebonvine did snicker. Soon, these humans would have exactly what they were searching for. A warpack was to arrive shortly. @The Hummingbird @Fierach @TheElementHunter
  8. *Cracks Fingers*

    I am back from my unannounced hiatus -- had to prepare for a convention. Overall results were fantastic. I am going to get back on the writing train now!!

    Sorry for the wait everyone!

    @The Hummingbird @TheElementHunter @Fierach @Malintzin @Voldemort @Twitterpated @Etched In Stone

    1. Malintzin

      Malintzin

      *HAPPY SQUEALING*

    2. TheElementHunter

      TheElementHunter

      LES GOOOOOOOOOOO!

  9. MARCELLUS L.H. Hand in quiver, frostbitten fingers felt for the vanes of an arrow. They were drawing closer now — ever so closer — Marcellus could practically smell the rank stench of dead carrion on their fur. Deftly, he knocked the shaft on bowstring and set position, second and third arrows gripped with riser, eyes scanning the surroundings. Deep breaths. He had done this thousands of times before. Listening for their steps in the snow, the ranger focused outward past the curtain of the storm. Senses guided him through the movements — twenty wolves setting upon the group in that moment. To think he was relying on his otherworldly senses. It was sickening at the thought of using talent bestowed instead of talent earned, but if he was cursed with it, he might as well take advantage of it. "Good! They come to us. Save us the trouble of finding them!" "Yes, let them come to us." The elementalist’s hands thrust outward, and the very winds themselves stopped in a dome around them at his command. Snow which was falling froze in their place, unmoving and suspended midair. The tiny, crystalline, droplets of solidified water shone in the veritable light of the lantern like stars in the sky. Impressive, Marcellus thought. The works of magic never ceased to amaze him. With two arms lifting, Sikkoran bended the snow at their feet into a rampart of ice. Would the mage launch spikes from the wall — freeze the beasts' feet as they try to vault over? Marcellus could only imagine what works would be done. The pack moved next, taking the rear flank from behind. Kassandra was their target, but little did they know that this woman was not as meek as they surmised. Two fanged faces appeared from over the icy wall, vaulting over with eyes locked on the woman that was their quarry. What happened next surprised Marcellus as much as the wolves. With a flourish of the hand, she stopped them — crushed both wolves midair through strength of will alone. Marcellus eyes widened as a splatter of red painted the inside of the perimeter. Never before had he seen such a terrifyingly efficient method of killing. The gore shocked him, but the look on the witch’s face — that smile — that sheer enjoyment from unadulterated cruelty — it bore a pit in his stomach. It lit a fire in his heart. Was it right to take her along? He would have to reconsider telling the group his secret. Tipped ears caught wind of the next attack. Hand tensed on grip as the hunter braced his knees. Five wolves jumped over their defenses with ease, but Marcellus was already looking in their direction. He smirked. “Gotcha.” Time started to slow for the hunter — a rush of adrenaline running through his veins. Fingers relaxed, letting the first arrow fly straight into the chest of one wolf. With inhuman speed, Marcellus knocked a second, drew back, and released, sending another arrow into the side of another wolf’s head. The third and final arrow in his hand had been knocked on the bowstring, but that third wolf was too close. It’s mouth was wide open — clawed paws extending out to rake whatever flesh it could grab. Marcellus would have shot it if it weren’t too close. A split-second decision was made. Bending his knees, he ducked, facing the beast head on. He kept his bow low, and when the moment was right, let his back fall backwards to the snow. The beast must have been surprised — what prey show their bare stomachs to the air? His knees coiled like a spring, he waited until the last moment until — SLAM — both feet caught the flying wolf by the underbelly. Rolling further back, he carried the wolf like a pole on a cart, using the mongrel’s forward momentum to push him up and past. With a final kick, Marcellus sent the wolf flying back up into the air. Vulnerable. Knees now in the snow, he twisted right and to the side, bow still drawn — sights aiming at the dumbstruck animal. What human could lift, let alone toss a grown white wolf? He saw the beasts pupils constrict. Dog must have finally smelled it, Marcellus thought, teeth grit. — Smelled that there was an unnatural in the party. Too late for them. With a twang, the arrow was sent straight down that beast’s open jaws. Seeing it hit sent a surge of energy down the werewolf's spine. There was an odd satisfaction seeing that blooming of blood — those eyes full of surprise. It was almost euphoric. Choke on that. Three dead bodies thumped to the floor. Five wolves down, fifteen to go. Head snapped back towards the action — two more descending upon the axe-man from behind. There was no time to draw another arrow. “HAFT!” Marcellus yelled. @Fierach @The Hummingbird @TheElementHunter
  10. JAGDHUNDE Wake up. A gasp — cold rain pelted them like hail. What left was there to say? What could they say? They were speechless. Struck silent. In the past, she had dug, she had pushed, but never before had she shared. She was a living memoir whose pages turned madly with a story: their story. Of Raven, Welfrick, and The Beasts. They joined through her link — a power they still could not understand —; lived three years spent in a single moment with both of their lives playing side by side. A reel, a record of all they had been through. It was unbelievable. Never once was a day where she had truly forgotten. Never a day without guilt for being unable to save them. Even among the many other trials she bore on her own, she remembered — bore that extra stone. While they chased her — tried to find her —, she searched for them, longed for them, mourned for them — waited for them. To think that she was the same as them... carrying the weight of all those stones on her own. “We never knew...” It had taken many months since that night in the Labyrinth Forest for The Beasts acknowledge how they felt about her — how they felt about loving a human. So long had they been unsure if there was ever a chance for anything between them. So long had they been afraid of her response. They had only met her once, but those brief hours brought warmth to their never-ending night. If Welfrick was their day, then she was their Moon — Their Guiding Light. To finally know that she did not hate them for what they were — what they did — put them at ease. Even if things weren’t perfect, they could be fixed. There was hope. She had truly saved them. The rain above washed their tears from her face — streaks of black fading off into the soil. Cold hands released her throat, and without so much as a second thought, they pulled her in by the shoulders. They cradled her by the nape with silver claws and closed their eyes. They kissed her. — But it wasn’t right. Eyes shot open. That nagging feeling they had — that sense of unease within them — they could practically taste it as it bloomed. They shook her gently. “Sweet Raven?” they spoke, voice raw and worn. She did not answer. “Raven!” they said again, pleading. She did not answer. Padded fingers ran over their own lips — the lips that met hers — and smeared that essence of a kiss onto their digits. They cupped their hand and brought it to their nose. Dread mounted before coming to full realization. That is what was wrong. That is what they sensed. The signs were painted all over her. Her hair, her skin, her hands, her breath, her body, her lips — they smelled of poison — tasted of it. Of bile, of blood, of an unnatural metallicity. Of Death. Lightning arced in the distance. A thunderstorm raged on above; Raven’s naked form lied limp beneath them. How had they not noticed it sooner? Were they so consumed in their own thoughts that they did not see the one they cared for wilting at their feet? Fear swelled within them. Mind unmuddled from anger, they listened closely. Her heartbeat raced — her lungs were labored — each breath a sigh threatening to be the last. Lightning flashed once more, illuminating the horror on the Shadowbeast’s face. It was an absurdity. It was madness. How could she be dying here, right there and then? Tremors set into her body as she began to convulse. No, there was no time for questions. Eyes settled on faint lights in the distance: the mark of Port Kyros. Even in the dark of the forest, there was no inch left untouched by that city’s glow. No matter how dim, their eyes could find it. It was Raven’s city after all. The place they had searched for — clawed their way to. Its light would be their beacon. Another flash. Another warning. A choice to be made. Going back to the city would be the death of them. The travel out to the woods was taxing enough. To go into Tenebrae with so little power left to spare would surely take its toll. Those explosions of light would come like a shower of arrows in the realm of shadows. Ordinarily, they would have a guise of shade surrounding them — protecting them —, but they could not shroud themselves, Raven, and the boy at the same time. Their teeth ground against each other. It would be too late if they took any other way other than that passage of shadow. A sacrifice would have to be made, and The Beasts resolved themselves. Should they even survive the trip — any way they took —, there was nothing but a hateful mob waiting for them at the other end. Guards to slice their throat. It was death either way, so they’d take it by choice — take a little more pain if it meant easing hers. For if they could not save her, what was the point in living? No time to be gentle — they threw Raven over their shoulder — wrapped her torso around their neck like an untied noose. Grabbed her arm — her leg —, secured her fast in a loop. The metaphor, while unintentional, was true. This woman they loved would be their undoing. Lencio stirred and coughed, but The Beasts picked him up roughly. If the storm did not wake him, then the way they handled him would. The Jagdhunde held him firmly to their side, his body beneath an arm which carried him tight. They hoped the cushion of their fur would balance out the sharpness of their scales. One glance, one frown — they looked apologetically at those fearful, young eyes. Stealing the young boy was a mistake they could never take back. Now was the time to pay the price. Feet dug into the mud; claws raked the soil. It was time to run. So strange to have their role reversed with their precious Raven. FLASH, went a bolt from the storm. The Beasts lunged — the silhouette of a great pine stretching out in front. Spanned between the tree and the shadow it cast was a gate which would last only a moment. The darkest shadow born from the brightest light would serve as their entrance to Tenebrae. Dove, they went, straight into that foggy plane. In the black of a storm, all things looked the same. A tiny glimmer above the surface was all there was guiding them. Port Kyros — City of the Swiftlets. Run, they screamed at themselves, RUN! Claws dug into the tenuous black as they sprinted. Onyx smoke danced wildly in turbulence behind the shadow of the Jagdhunde’s step. Light flashed above — blades of white through the pines breaking the umbra beneath. Beams came down mercilessly in that reflection of a realm — breaking Tenebrae — slicing through scale and flesh. Pain jolted while vision ebbed. This was the danger of traversing the plane in a storm. Faster... faster... FASTER! No time to waste! Another flash — blood splashed. A thousand cuts from a thousand arrows. With a grimace of pain, they kept moving. They had experienced death once before, so they were not afraid of it. They welcomed. They were Death incarnate. It was then yellowed eyes caught shine of something. A glimmer of steel shone briefly above the surface like a star — one which The Beasts did not see on their way towards the glade. It was an object that did not belong. Like a sea beast, their head rose above the threshold. That smell hit them hard — it was hers, Raven’s dagger. Maw agape, their teeth came crashing down onto the hilt of the blade. They bit into it — held it in their mouth —, before sinking back into the shadows. Yes, it was as they suspected. The taste was the same. This was the blade whose venom coursed through the woman’s veins. More lightning — more slashes. Blood thinned from both travel and open wounds. Thoughts went muddy as their mind became like the haze their body barreled through. A sole goal repeated in their mind: Save Raven. The city was ever closer now. Out of the forest and into the fields. They just needed to catch — CRASH — came a blinding light from the heavens. That shadow of a realm blinked out in an instant, flattening the Shadow Beast beneath a crushing weight of ten million lumen. They screamed and howled through their teeth as knees nearly buckled. Patches of skin, fur, and even scale peeled off — burned off — exposed flesh seared and blackened. Ears rang, throat dry. Never before had they been caught in the light like this. Never before was there any meaning to rush so recklessly. They looked towards Raven — towards Lencio. One was motionless while the other shook, but neither had been harmed. The cloak of midnight that surrounded the two had protected them from the harshness of the storm. Legs trudged through wet paddies on the coastal periphery of the Kyrosian border. The city was so close. They dared not slow any longer. Once more, they plunged — plunged deep into the depths of Tenebrae. They will save her. They were going to save her. Ignore the pain. Ignore the creep of sleep. Its kind words of solace were nothing like hers! Numb it all out! Blindly they continued, traveling across silhouettes in The Port. They focused their senses — focused solely on that one scent. That scent they had remembered from long ago — from the first night outside of ebony walls. Her scent. The city was painted with thousands of traces of her, but this one was fresh. They had memorized her scent long ago — the memory now etched at the forefront of their conscience. It was a memory which would save Raven. * * * * * With arms extended towards the duo, he lunged forward without delay. His eyes focused in on the mage, fear oozing from her very being. Welfrick enjoyed frightened prey as they were much more fun to toy with. He wondered how much of a struggle she'd put before succumbing to death by crashing jaws. She was so close -- within claws reach, the sweet smell of flesh growing more intense as he drew near. He could practically taste it. He grabbed blindly in front of him before stumbling down, managing to tear a tiny piece of cloth from the mage's clothing. One sniff, and he remembered it for the future. He always caught those he promised to hunt. * * * * * The door to the city barracks was kicked down from its hinges — a thick, reinforced plate of metal. It skid on the floor with sparks, screeching against the smooth tile. Capital Guards and Navy officers came to arms — attention grabbed by the beast standing in the storm. Lights flickered outside as they lumbered into view of those wolves with rifles. That smell of fear rose once more. They must have looked horrifying. Silver arms, mutilated. Face cut — blood smeared across their canine face. Silver scales, ripped off — skin and fur, flayed and singed. A tarlike blood oozed from every orphus — every open open wound. Long tail, once prideful, hung low, dragged along like the two people in The Beast’s tow. Their lupine eyes were dangerously fixed on Dafina. A bolt flew from across the room — a young man with a crossbow shot straight at them. Pain ripped through The Beasts’ side. At the strike, they dropped the dagger from their mouth and Lencio from their hold, but still they continued. Every step gushed forth more agony. The shaft must have lodged itself deep in their stomach, finding its way through some gap in their armor. The marksman was skilled — he had punctured their lung. Another arrow sped past, nipping the corner of their ear. They smirked — sneered even. Humans were so predictable. There was a crash from the back, followed by the clatter of a fallen bow. A grizzled voice yelled out over the commotion, “You fools, look! Don’t shoot it! You might hit the Empress or Prince!” At the command, most shuffled back. The Jagdhunde kept walking forward, indomitable in their will. They had no voice left to waste on roars of agony. She was in front of them now — that enforcer who smelled of deadly lightning. They dropped to their knees, Raven rolling off from their shoulders. Inhuman in reaction, they caught her by the waist, not letting her fevered body fall to stone. They prostrated themselves to Dafina, their woman in arms. “She is poisoned!” they coughed, blood leaking from their lips. “P-please.... SAVE HER!” they howled, shaking the room with a burst of fury — shadows quaking at their voice. Eyes glazed over. Black ink pooled out. Body slumped forward, Raven’s body rolling out of their arms, out to Vera's feet. World faded from view — into that blinding white. Tired, so tired. They sucked in a gasp. They saw her. Through that brilliance of snow, She came back into view. They could see her beautiful face, Unmarred and without flaw. For the second time that night, She reached out to them. They grabbed hers without hesitation this time, — Leaned in, and kissed her once more. Twice stolen in a single day. For the first time in twenty years, There was no lust nor madness — Just peace. They were no longer alone. The Beasts stopped breathing. @Malintzin
  11. JAGDHUNDE Flitting through the air was her scent — that flirting of gardenias — encircling him on wind’s shoulder, dancing around him alongside the taint of blood and sweat and tears. So familiar, yet shockingly different. There was a similarity that the beast could not immediately place. It was terror, exhaustion, despair, desperation. It was a mix of emotions that nagged at them, dragged them through the mud and forward. So powerful was The Empath’s vehemence to have compelled the beasts’ own body to move on its own, child cradled in their arms. There was no denying her call. Twenty years since slain, yet The Jagdhunde recognized it with vivid clarity. It was that same, fearful scent of a parent pleading for their child’s safety. Ears tipped with silver caught words. A hoarse, dry, broken voice crackled through the clattering rain. “Come back, come back, come back....” There she was, collapsed in wet soil. Their Raven. She shivered, she shook, but the downpour did not stop. That shallow rain fell cruelly, caring not but for its own, selfish ways. It was its nature, just as it was The Jagdhunde’s. How selfish were they, the beasts, to have done this — to have stolen her child with no thought of the consequences? In the face of trial and pain, they responded with anger and retaliation. Eyes widened. The realization crushed them like a falling boulder. Thoughts raced back to that fateful night — the night of their deaths: * * * * * Thirteen of them: twelve pups and an elder. Their father. Twelve mouths to feed in a land so barren that even the ravens themselves traveled elsewhere. No carrion to feed on. No bones left unpicked. Others could leave The Cedars, The Dark Forest, in search of sustenance. The shadowbeasts could not. There was nothing to feed on save for the wisps of eldritch spirits. Nothing. Nothing for the warm-blooded, the ones which needed flesh to survive. They could not live in the world of light, and thus dared not migrate elsewhere. There was no home for them save for the damned forest. When they caught whiff of two men, their instincts drove them. The hunt was on — a chance to stave starvation. How were they to know that they were stalking their own deaths? That they’d chew on a grave — choke on blood? As his sons fell one by one, the elderbeast’s roars grew anguished — wild — pleading. The spirits of Tenebrae had forsaken them to this land, and had now had forsaken his sons. His precious litter. By the time the final one’s head was cleaved cleanly off, the father had nothing left but the mistakes he had made. The last son to fall still remembered that look in his father’s eyes as head spun through the air. There were snarls and growls and blind rage uncaged, but the last son saw the truth. Past that violent facade, he saw it: — That the eyes of his father were hollow, devoid, empty. Eyes which spoke of all that was lost — all which would never come back. Bright eyes in mourning. * * * * * — And through her haze, Raveena — a woman of kindness, compassion, strength, and empathy — lied there with that same look in her eyes. She, who they cherished, suffered by their hand. Suffered like their father when The Hunter had taken everything away. Suffered despite all her love. Love for her children. Love for her people. Love unfettered by reason. Even with their monstrous visage, she had saved them against her better judgment. Laid herself in their embrace through the grate. Trusted... a monster. Their voices were in consensus. We are no better than The Hunter. Eyes looked down, a feeble hand reaching out — the delicate, unarmored hand of a human. Of Raven. At first, they thought she was reaching out to her child, but instead, she was reaching out to them — The Jagdhunde — the beast which took and did not give. They wanted to take it. Accept it. Hand drifted forward, one claw nearly touching hers — — But they pulled back — stepped back — a maelstrom of emotions raging once more. Head swirled with conflict, every brother remembering what she had done. Was this another lie? Another trick? She had already shown how she felt — shown that she was afraid of them. There could never be anything between them. Nothing at all! Never in the way they wanted it to be. And the way she pushed him — pushed him away with all her might. She hated them — hated them for what they were — just like all humans hated them. No one knew them — no one tried to know them. All ran. All screamed. It was foolish to think they could be together. Their hands were scaled, clawed, and made for killing. Nails of steel to rend flesh and bone. Hers were for helping, healing, and saving. Callouses which spoke a life's worth of kindness. Kindness that they didn't deserve. Kindness not meant for for the likes of them. That feral anger began rising up, a well of shadow growing in the pit of their throat. Mouth smoked with tendrils of black. They hated it. The Jagdhunde hated The Hunter. The way he locked them up. The way he locked them away to rot at night. The way he made them starve — made them relive that cruel night in their minds. No more! The Jagdhunde were not evil — they were tortured. Twenty years of hiding — twenty years of persecution — twenty years of being feared! Oh how many bastards and brigands searched the forests for their hide to claim their bounty. “The Butcher of the Night,” they screamed. “The Hound of Hell.” Of course — of course they would be driven to the brink of insanity. They were animals, yes, but they were no savages. Even those demons which lurked in the wells of Tenebrae had more heart than those heartless humans. No one tried to understand. No one tried listening. They just came with their swords and axes — bows and chains. NO MORE! Treated as monster, they became one. Became the actor which everyone wanted them to be. Be the beast which men hunted, the monster that preyed on children, women, and families. It wasn’t like humans could know love, anyways. The true meaning of kinship. Their father — their father knew kinship! The Jagdhunde laid the boy on a bed of needles before kneeling on the ground, pinning the fallen woman beneath their weight. Hands moved first, clawed gauntlets wrapping around the woman’s neck. They wanted to kill her. They wanted to erase her. They loved her and yet also hated her. She too was human. Proven to be the same as everyone else. Grip squeezed — a sputtered gasp from her lips. Tears of blackened blood streaked down from their eyes, ink falling onto Raven's face. Hands loosened. Why? Why now, of all times, should they discover sympathy? Why now did they choose to understand? It was far easier to simply cut away all of the problems, like they did with their human — all humans. Why cling to this single woman? It would be so easy to let her go — let these conflicting feelings go. Be free to rage as they wished. Cry as they wish. Curse the moon and the stars and the dark of night for everything. If she died, wouldn’t they be free from this choice? This burden? Were they to kill the only thing which tied them? Lurid eyes searched the gold in her gaze. They brought her face in close, rain dripping of their nose onto her flushed skin. Their breath was uneven — teeth bared, yet shut and grit. A wash of pain painted their face. If they lost themselves, they wouldn’t have to think or feel. There would be no reason to be in a world without her. They needed to know — know how she felt. “Tell me,” their eyes pleaded. “We need to know.” @Malintzin
  12. Hooooooooooooooooooooooly. I have been waiting on this one class to release grades, and I was shaking in my boots (quite literally) for two weeks. I thought I was going to fail -- but the curve bumped me to an A-. Not sandbagging, but I am on Cloud 9 right now. TIME TO PARTY!

    d6fde9255c07dcb44d923e0539f3a406663efca7

    1. TheElementHunter

      TheElementHunter

      Yayyyyyy, congrats man!!!!

    2. Artificer

      Artificer

      I definitely use this photo way too much.

  13. JAGDHUNDE Mists of black permeated this world — an opposite side to the world of light. One could just barely make out the outline of the shapes outside that cast this plane. It was a cold, emotionless, and empty reflection. Silent — a place to reflect, to lament. Despite their nature, this tenebrous limbo was not their home. The darkness was no place of respite for a weary heart, and after all that has happened, they had found their heart torn ragged. After all this time, to find that she was just the same. Never again would they feel her warm embrace — that kindness once tender. All that was left was the embrace of shadows, and it was never much comfort — not even for beasts of shade. The Jagdhunde drifted — steps weightless. When they had plunged into the shadows, they had raged, oh they had raged, but when their feral frenzy and cold anger burned themselves hollow, there was nothing. Instinct was a powerful force, but in the face of all they had been through, it was nothing. Nothing could compare to the isolation of it all. The stark silence — the absence of light — they showed them how little of life they knew. Seventeen years locked away, and three chasing a mirage. Oh how The Hunter had denied them of freedom. Of solace. There was a feeble punch to their side, to which the shadowbeast looked down. They had almost forgotten about Raven’s child — the one carried beneath their arm, head twisted up towards the monster. Through wisps of shade, the boy’s green gaze was fixed on them — terrified, yet defiant. Brave, yet foolish. Lencio — if the beasts recalled correctly. Perhaps in another time, the Jagdhunde would have silenced the lamb. Cut their throat and let them bleed. But now, they knew better — were more mature than their past selves. They had forced themselves to grow past their monstrous impulses. Forced themselves to change for her sake. Even if it was all for naught, there was no need to lash out on an innocent. They didn’t even like the taste of man anymore. Sad eyes rested upon Lencio. The boy had a different scent from Raven, and yet he was entangled with it all the same. He smelled of fresh fruit, and vegetation — of perfume and cloth. Stale rye, fresh hay — hands laced with the metallic tinge of coin. But this — this was not the smell of Raven. That sweet, nostalgic scent of blooming lavender and plucked mint — of white gardenias in the morning — which encircled him was not his by birth. It was a scent acquired through proximity — by unyielding care and adoration. Something that the beasts would never have. They thought over that question over and over: “Why is she doing this?” Why would someone they cared about so deeply hurt them so much? But they already knew the answer. They were terrifying. They were monstrous. They had killed, and relished in it. No woman — no being — could ever be with something so dangerous. Still, with consensus, they cherished her. Their mind was already as jumbled as it was — a dozen voices trying to speak at once. Children yelling over each other for their turn. It was by no small miracle that they had rediscovered their individualities among the cacophonous wails of confusion and pain. They were fractured, cracked remains, glued together unwillingly. Their father had meant well, but perhaps it would have been better to have just let them die — let his children die. Perhaps then they wouldn’t have had to bear the weight of twenty years of solitude. Instead, they were forced continue living on in the vessel of their murderer. The one who had twisted them hateful. One person. They just needed one person. The beast searched those fearful, mossy eyes once more. Could a child understand? Understand what they went through? With reluctance, they decided to let the boy down. They needed to know. Not a second later, and the child had backed away, nearly tripping on his own shoes. His fear was palpable. Fearful like they themselves were when the arrows flew. The beast watched as the boy curled up, hugged his knees — head buried between them. It was a mistake to steal a child. Grown men shook at the sight of the Jagdhunde, what more this quivering boy? They were a monster after all. They tapped him gently on the shoulder, careful not to cut with silver claw. The boy looked up. “Sorry,” they murmured — barked — , mouth not made for words — R's elongated and throat gravelly. Their hands weren’t made for holding either, but they held one out to the boy anyways with eyes closed. To their shock, they felt the small, soft palm settle in their own. Shaking — yes shaking — but holding fiercely tight. * * * * * When they had exited Tenebrae, Lencio had all but passed out. Expected. The child-knight had held on bravely up to the final stretch. They were in the glade now, the sun finally setting. For hope to have sparked and then died all in a single minute — well, it had been exhausting for them. Sitting cross-legged in the center of the jade tall-grass, they laid the young boy’s head on their lap as he rested. They were hidden from sight, sitting in the center of the open area. Strange though, how that boy’s hand didn’t let go of the Jagdhunde. They pat his head and watched the slow rise and fall of his breath. The restful respiration of a sound sleeper. They wanted to rest too, for they were tired and confused — no emotions left to give. Even their hunger seemed like a dull thrumming in the back of their head — not the fierce drum it was before. It was only a matter of time until — That smell. Mixed in with wet grass, fern, dirt, and rain was that essence of gardenia. Raven. Of course, a mother would always come back for their pup. Nose sniffed the air once more. Was that blood? @Malintzin
  14. JAGDHUNDE Control was a fragile thing — easily broken when drawn so thin and taut. It took everything the Jagdhunde had to maintain some semblance of decorum, some semblance of feigned humanity. After all, what woman of her stature could love a monster so cruel — love in the same way that they loved her — obsessed over her? Without this guise, how could she? How could she love a madness whose madness was love — love one who consumed, but did not give? Love a beast who, in the end, had never really changed? If it hadn’t been for that shallow hope, they would have lost all sanity, if one could even call them sane. Rationality — a better term for their state of mind. It was only the obsession which kept the beasts in check. To act as men would — yes to act as those hated things. To please her — yes they wanted to show her something different — a different side to themselves. Anything — anything for her — anything, so that they could claim her for the rest of time itself. Repay their Raven for all the false hopes she had given them that night in the cell — false hopes they had waited on — false hopes they had clung to for the past three desolate years — false hopes which festered like rot in an open wound. A false hope of finding something which they could claim as theirs. A companion. A friend. But as men oft said: the sweeter the tongue, the sweeter the lies — even for lies unspoken. It had only taken three words to break the beasts’ crafted facade. Three words which cut deeper than any line of steel. Words spoken from her sweet lips — words which screamed terror. “T-take the children!” she had yelled — the rest of her words drowned out by the blood rushing to ears. They couldn’t breath. The way she looked — the way she backed away — back into that blinding white. Disappeared. The scent of Raven’s fear was swirling all around them, strangling them. They did not understand — could not understand. Why was she afraid of them. They thought she knew — thought she was different. Were those brief moments of embrace behind those ebony walls nothing? Did they mean nothing at all? The river? The cell? For three years, had they been mistaken? The tumult which tormented them returned in that moment. There was betrayal. There were lies. There was emotional pain turned physical. Thoughts screaming: Why is she doing this? What did we do wrong? WHY IS SHE DOING THIS? WHY IS SHE DOING THIS? They wanted to show her that things were truly different, but it was the dagger of an Empath to know what words would hurt the most, and her fear — her fear shattered them. Eyes narrowed. Shadows thickened all around. They hadn’t traveled this far to be denied. They thought she understood, but clearly, they were mistaken. All humans, no matter what looks they put on, were the same behind their masks — just as the beasts were behind theirs. Fearful — uncaring — traitorous. It was then that her fear woke something within them. It was a feeling they had so long tried to suppress — their instinct — their true nature. It was something which suited them far more than saccharine words or feeble attempts at communication. That ember of hope still lingered weakly, and they fought to hold on. — And when she pushed him — shoved him — it was over — flame snuffed out. All those false hopes vanished. CRASH. Their body hurled straight into the cart, sending a plume of splinters into the air, limbs tangling into the canvas cover. Bones snapped — skin bruised — nose bled. The Jagdhunde were still in the frail body of a human after all. To think she would prefer seeing them as a beast and not a man. It seems that they would have to shift after all. Air blew in towards the wreckage. Beneath the tarp, one could hear that eldritch squelching and crackling of morphing flesh. Skeleton shattered — refashioned — regrew. Sinew and muscles moved and enlarged — a thick coat of scale and fur coating their frame. Cloak ripped, armor shed, and bowstring snapped. The Jagdhunde gasped as maw extended, teeth replaced with daggers and crushers of ivory. No longer would they walk in sheep’s clothing — their human’s body. They would prowl in their own. Immediately, they dove into the shadows, leaving nothing but empty air beneath the canvas. They slid and slithered along the cracks between the cobblestone, searching, searching, searching.... A silver hand — a gauntlet of scale and claws — thrust out from the boy’s shadow. Lencio’s shadow. There was a shriek from above the murk: “I sar's zi'ars saa suhu! I sar's zi'ars saa suhu, zsuii'aru! Na! Na!” With frenzied grab, the shadowbeast pulled the boy underneath, down into a pool inky darkness. If they couldn’t have Raven, they’d take her child. Then, like a breeze, they were gone. @Malintzin
  15. *Must ride this wave of writing before being swept away by the tides of education*

    *ONWARD FRIENDS~!*

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