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The Hummingbird

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The Hummingbird last won the day on October 3

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About The Hummingbird

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    Penguin Overlord

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    raze.arein

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    Oregon
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    Writing, drawing, reading, sleeping
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    Expert Charcoal Wielder, Conte Crayon Adept, Surveyor of Acrylics

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  1. Frustration and disappointment were the first things Kassandra felt as the handsome man pushed aside the tree, not a mark or bruise on him. What was he? Inwardly, Kassandra was starting to get worried, wondering if perhaps it was a foolish choice she had made. It was far too late to change anything, though, and she wasn’t one to give up… but there was Pyrrah to consider now. Kassandra quickly ran through her choices, and decided to run, gather her resources, and possibly escape through guile than by force. That was when the demon vanished and appeared right in front of her. She jerked back, unable to hold back the gasp or any telltale sign that she was caught completely off guard. The barriers she usually kept tight and firm about her mind cracked and fell away, and the man’s attack consumed her. It was as if the world had turned to glass and shattered, each piece piercing every inch of her body. Kassandra screamed as the pain in her skull began and reached excruciating levels, distorting her perception of time and space until nothing was left but a void of agony. The amulet she held dropped from her hand, and she fell with it, unconscious, to the ground.
  2. [Black Room] Indeed, the Empress was beautiful. The golden gown she wore shimmered brightly even in the violet-blackness of the room, the elegantly crafted bodice hugging her slender body in subtly sensuous curves, with the bottom flaring out like the flame of a lit candle. Many eyes that fell upon her were in awe, with no small number hiding their lust or want. She even radiated confidence and control, a charismatic force that was so necessary for a true Queen to catch and maintain rulership over such a people as this. Perhaps it was only Rafael and Zenahriel who knew her true identity. Zenahriel’s eyes were carefully neutral as he observed the doppelganger, knowing who it must be. Only Dollya, who looked so much like her mother, could pull off this kind of farce. He was glad for the mask covering his face, for just for a moment, a flicker of contempt ran across his features. This sort of trickery, of deceit, disgusted him. As if by rote, the clone of the Black Queen rose and moved steadily into the thrumming crowd. Those before her moved aside, bowing in her presence. Zenahriel stepped back and away with them, making sure to keep his power and any hint to name him well concealed. Though she might recognize him anyway, but he decided it would make no difference. She belonged to Rafael, no matter what face she donned. He watched her as she disappeared into the throngs of men and women, fading away. The other Lady waiting with Zenahriel bided the time with a question, and Zenahriel grinned at his partner. “Oh, I daresay my preferred room was the Blue Room, and now the Black Room. Any space with such a beauty as you would have to be favored, don’t you think?” Their turn with the King was close approaching and Zenahriel straightened, knowing Rafael would recognize him the instant their eyes met, though no doubt the King would not spoil the surprise. Not until the moment he announced the time for all masks to be officially discarded at the whim of their wearers.
  3. You’re the one who treated me unfairly and passed judgment on me. I did a lot for you, and you turned your back on me. You’re the toxic one, and I should have listened to what people have said about you.

    1. Velindrel

      Velindrel

      hope you feel better buddy!

  4. [Blue Room – Black Room] It was much like offering an eager child a reward of chocolate. Only this child was a Lady, and the chocolate was something of much higher value. Zenahriel laughed and smiled as he felt the excited tension in her fingers and the energy it gave to her movements. It was amusing, and he would have escorted her to the library then and there had she asked, but even then propriety took the fore. The King must be seen first. “Of course,” he said with dignity to the Lady’s request. “I will be pleased to accompany you. Hmm, but where is His Majesty, I wonder?” He pretended to think as he searched along the intangible thread that bound him to the King. It was strong and firm, and easy to follow. “Ah… if I were him, I would probably be in the Black Room. The first of all of these rooms, and probably the grandest, wouldn’t you agree?” With her allowing, Zenahriel led the way with easy steps. He wove his way through the Blue Room, past the patrons and offerings alike. He kept his hand on hers as they entered the hallway, which was lined with refreshments for those who did not partake in blood. Set on mahogany tables there were tantalizing foods and drinks; delicate portions of meat, bits of fruit and pastries, and sweet delicacies from lands far beyond the realm; there were wines, red and white, dry and sweet, and hard ciders, as well as water and softer liquids for the more sensitive palate. Deftly, Zenahriel picked up an elegant, long-stemmed glass of Orisian red, a hearty vintage aged in dark oak, with hints of cherries and dark chocolate. He offered this to the Lady as he led her over the Black Room, passing by the other doors that led to the parallel chambers until he came to their destination. The door was ajar, and he led her inside. Here the revelry was even greater, with men and women together, some feeding and others not. They were lively and drunken on pleasure and high moods, and they came from all lands, regions and races. They varied in all appearances and blood. But they were unified, as most sought, in some way or other, the attention of a jackal-faced god. @Raptor
  5. [Blue Room] There was no suspicion in the Lady’s eyes, only a curiosity and a readiness Zenahriel appreciated. He had doubted if she would really give up such a thing as a home, or anything equal in value, but that skepticism quickly faded as he looked into her eyes with a startling intensity. Yes, she was ready to hand over much for the secrets hidden in the library, much and more. He had only to ask. If she had anything he desired, it would be easy to get it from her now. “A cost,” he echoed, very thoughtfully. “Is it not true that everything comes with a price? Even those things you call gifts, comes with a price – the price of acknowledgement, gratitude, and of reciprocation. But should they? Those feelings are naturally human, creations of man in his curious existence. Why not rise above them, my Lady, and accept a gift simply because I want to give it?” He never ceased dancing as he spoke, and even then his steps did not falter. His grace and easy movements went on untouched by exhaustion or awkwardness. Not once did he even bump or touch anyone, despite the crowd around them. Even the great expanse of his wings did nothing to impede him or the other patrons of the celebration, not even when one of those great limbs spread and curved around them both, covering them in a deep shadow. “You ask, what would I gain? That is the same as asking my price, is it not?” he laughed. “But if you insist, so be it. I stand to gain all that you learn. Should you find anything of importance, you will tell me. I like knowledge, and I like those who hunger for knowledge. Not all thirst for it as greatly as others, though, but you do. You have the drive, the hunger, the thirst. I can see it. With my love of the same, how can I not aid you in any way I can? And if it helps those who suffer because of the Whispernight… why, all the better. And even if you find nothing of it, and gain only bits and pieces of wisdom from the ancient texts… why, wisdom is the most enviable power of all. And I may hear all of it, from you.” @Raptor
  6. [Blue Room] Foul creatures they were, banshees. While not as hardy or lethal as other Whispernight beings, they were nonetheless harbingers of death and desolation. Their voices alone could kill, and they were not creatures to be toyed with. Even Zenahriel knew this. Looking anew at the Lady, suffice to say he was impressed she had faced such monsters – more than one at that – and lived to tell about it. Mindful of his words, he said nothing, but hoped she would remember the experience. Such memories saved lives. The shudder that ran through her suggested she would remember, but that didn’t stop her from an excited curiosity for new discovers and unsolved mysteries. Zenahriel smiled. As time passed and the land changed, there would be an endless flow of new knowledge to be gained. Even he did not know everything, what is or what was to come. The lady’s excitement was not only palpable, but contagious. For the first time in quite a while, he felt eager for the future, where before there only an unsettling apprehension. The Lady made mention of her gift to the mysterious Zenahriel and the Empress. Scarves, which seemed a curious and humble gift, but no less charming for all that. Again he smiled. As busy as the servants had been preparing for the Feeding, they had not yet had time to deliver packages or offerings. Of course, such gifts of any kind were always delivered promptly as possible, with appreciation and gratitude given in turn. It was improper to show anything else. “I’m sure the High Lord and Empress will be pleased,” he assured her, and listened carefully to her answer. “I would give up the very home he has given me.” Profound. Zenahriel mused for a moment, knowing what importance a home married, what they held and meant for humans and even immortal beings. Everyone and everything wanted to belong somewhere, and a true home was just such a thing, a place of comfort and acceptance. To give such a thing up was no small feat. Soon, it would be time to discard the masks, and reveal their faces. Zenahriel found himself fervently wondering what sort of face this Lady bore. Not so much ugly or striking, but the other things. Would it be a face full of virtue and wonder, as her words seemed to imply? Or would it be the face of exhausted apathy and disgrace, the expression of deceit? He chose his words carefully, speaking slowly and thoughtfully, with just the right hint of hesitation and uncertainty. “The library belongs to Lord Zenahriel as much as the Lord Father. I have… his ear, in certain matters more than others. I am certain that with your gift, he may allow you a short excursion into the library.” Another smile. “Shall I speak to him?” @Raptor
  7. Again. Astra paused, looking at Shaldano, who pointed at the marks, the lesions, the old scars that had not come from wolves or wild beasts. Fine lines, puncture marks, healed but forever there – these had not come from the teeth or claws but tools made for pain. Knives, whips, even clubs and vices. Only Valarys’ face escaped unmarred, but even now a line of red over his cheek would ensure that no part of his body would remain untouched. Valarys watched as Fen suddenly moved to snatch the tracking stone from Stjärn. She dashed over to the bodies he had managed to move to one side of the lodge, delving among the corpses, tossing aside useless articles and the odd bits and pieces in search of something. What was she looking for? Inwardly he shrugged. He didn’t really care, and if it was so important she could find it herself. “Kid?” Shaldano asked. “Who was your, uh, your master again?” “Restaros,” Valarys growled. He winced as a sharp pain passed through him – not his body, though. Something deeper, more profound. I still miss him. Why do I still miss him? Shal’s face darkened at the name, but said nothing as he continued tending to and wrapping the wounds. Beyond, near the huge cat and the cave entrance, Stjärn was having a fit, and it didn’t take long to deduce why. Valarys glared at the lizard-man as he continued having a stroke. If the overgrown gecko thought he was going to fight Zihayr and live through it, well… good luck with that. Again Valarys looked around, taking in the shambled surroundings and the splatters of blood, the occasional disembodied arm or leg or rib bone. Nobody escaped the Wolf. “Ignore him,” Astra said brusquely as she helped Shaldano. “Although I’m curious too. Why go kill yourself?” Valarys was silent for a moment. Then, “Don’t have much to live for. But you should know,” he accused Shal. “You know my master’s name. I don’t know how, but you know.” “Anyone would know,” Shal replies shortly. “He’s not exactly your basic slaver. He’s… well, anyway, I’m done. You’re set, kid, try sitting up. Not too fast, now.” Slowly, with Astra’s sturdy arm, Valarys managed to sit up. He breathed out, carefully, finding he was grimacing more from the expected pain than actual pain. Most of it, while still tender and sore, was now abated. Mentally he checked off sections of his body, and was grateful to find that everything seemed in place. Only his left arm seemed stiff and weak… “Be careful with that,” Astra suggested. “Your fighting days might be over.” “The fuck they are,” Valarys snapped. He is face flushed, his cheeks and ears turning slightly red. “Sorry… ah… thank you.” “Can’t leave a kid to die,” Shaldano said with false cheer. “Fen, what are you looking for over there? Stjärn, quit moping and help make some dinner. I bet…what was it? Valarys? I bet Valarys here is starving for some real food.” He nodded at the ration bars and crushed bits of food salvaged from the ruined cave. Astra began packing up the remaining bandages and salves, tying the back shut with a series of secure knots. Standing, she walked over to Thálassa, who was tolerating Stjärn’s pouting with well-trained patience. She smacked the dragon’s shoulder with her hand. “Can’t you think of anything but fighting the Wolf?” she demanded impatiently. “You call Valarys stupid but you’re trying to hunt the monster that did this?” She waved a hand at the wreckage. “Seems pretty stupid too, wouldn’t you say?” She remarked as she began picking up her smallclothes that had been strewn across the ground. How disgusting. “Zihayr is not a monster,” Valarys said furiously. “And you’re not fighting him. He’ll just slaughter you at best, Stja… Stjä… Stjärn? Well, anyway, he’s been through enough… you skink.”
  8. [Blue Room] Around them, the scents of vampires, humans, and other races had changed. Their normal, natural body odors, simmering with anticipation and excitement but moments before, now seemed afire. A combination of fear and exultation, desire and delight, flowed through the air, and Zenahriel could sense the heat of risen internal temperatures, the salty smell of sweat – but most of all, the danger. If at all, the frenzied festivities were no particular threat to Zenahriel. A single surge of power, retracted and concealed at the moment, were enough to send any danger here away in pieces. But he was not sure about the safety of others, not even that of his humble partner still dancing with him. So his sharp senses heightened, until his raptor-sharp eyes could see every outline of all, defined every detail with precision, and took note of all that fell within his scope. It was only fortune that he could only be in one place at a time at the moment; the Blue Room. There was some sort of commotion in another room – perhaps the Violet Room, by the estimated distance and faint reverberations running through the walls. But that was for others closer to the source to deal with. Zenahriel was not the only one stationed to guard, after all. Plus, he was entertaining someone. It seemed the Lady held an adventurer’s blood somewhere in her, and made of at least sterner stuff than most. Many boastful heroes never would step foot in the Whispernight’s haunted ruins, and for good reason. The monsters of many of those defiled places-turned-cemeteries were dangers that proved fatal to more than a few brave warriors, and even Zenahriel had taken a painful strike one or twice from the more… mature abominations. He peered more closely at the Lady, and sensed a core of uncanny strength in her. She wasn’t as mousy as she seemed, he decided. He liked that. “Ah, yes,” he said empathetically. “The Whispernight has slain many, but I have no doubt Genesaris will remain strong despite it all.” He took a sharp turn, matching the drive of the music while drawing her into the rare, secluded space he’d spotted. “Hmm… I agree with you, there is a tranquility and mood to libraries that I have already found intriguing. I read very much myself, you know. As for life… why, there is not much meaning to it at all without the pursuit of knowledge. Though I must say, life would be utterly boring if one knew everything, so I find mysteries and secrets hold a great sanctity in and of themselves.” His voice dropped to secretive whisper, teasing, testing. “Btu I daresay you may not have been to the castle’s personal library, have you? The library of the Lord Father and his An’She, Zenahriel? What would you do to have access to that?” @Raptor
  9. Muttering in annoyance, Astrasa, with Shaldano’s help, pulled Valarys back to the lie at the fire, returning to tending his wounds. Though he allowed them to clean the injuries and dress him in fresh bandages, the fear in his eyes did not completely fade. But when Fengári revealed her tattoo, an elegant art that held loathsome secrets, a tint of hope joined the fear. “How do you know him?” she asked. He looked away. How was he to respond? What did they want? So far, his life had been filled with betrayal and deceit, violence and hostility. Were these people the same? They came from Dairut, likely raised surrounded by such things. Did the nature of their environment infect them too? How could he trust them, to tell them his story? Astra tapped his shoulder. “Tell her, kid. If we were going to hurt you we would’ve done so already,” she said as she tightened a knot and moved on to another cut. Shaldano said nothing, but nodded in confirmation. Valarys swallowed, again looking at Fengári. “He’s…” he closed his eyes, the words sticking in his throat. Could he? “He’s my… friend. He saved my life.” So he told them everything. Everything he knew, everything that happened. From meeting Zihayr in the warmer lands, to their trek through the ravine, to finding the Lodge, to Valarys’s suicide attempt. To the salvers arrival, to Zihayr’s transformation from a noble, desperate man to a savage beast. It was a terrible tale, a horrible one, but he told it, holding nothing back. He had nothing to lose, after all. Nothing to lose, and nothing to gain by lying or keeping secrets. “I don’t know where he is now,” Valarys confessed, his face burning with stress and shame. “But I have to find him. I have to free him.” Shaldano laughed. “Good luck,” he chortled, stopping when Astra slapped him on the shoulder, hard. She gave him a scowl. “Eh... sorry, but the Wolf hasn’t been easy to find,” he said. “He’s the only reason I’m still alive,” Valarys insisted, “I swore to him… but I’m not going to just leave him. I can’t go back to way things were. I… I have to go back to Dairut,” he whispered. “He’ll go there, at some point. I have to meet him there.” “Go back to Dairut. Are you mad?” Astra exclaimed. “You’re slave, you think they’d let you live? Probably send you through the Circuit.” “What, again? I’m not a slave,” Valarys snapped. “I’m free. Master Restaros freed me. He gave me his whip. I can come and go as I wish, and I’m going back.” He looked uneasily at Stjärn, waving around a glowing stone. For some reason, he didn’t like that one much at all. “What’s that rock he has?”
  10. [Blue Room] In their pristine white, those who had chosen to have their blood donated moved freely in the each of the rooms, and already Zenahriel smelled the release of that precious fluid. He wondered how different blood could taste. What made the blood of Umbra citizens different from those of Ursa Madeum? Were the races not all the same, wherever they lived? Did they not eat and drink of the same soil, the same water, all from the same planet? What curious creatures these mortals were, Zenahriel mused. With only a brief pause, the music shifted to another song, slightly faster, changing in energy and pace as if to match the ecstasy of the feasting on blood. Flawlessly Zenahriel moved in time with the tune, spinning and dancing with intricate steps with and around his partner. She was not a bad dancer herself, and he smiled. While not completely disarmed, he felt himself enjoying the celebration a little more than before. “Ah… yes, the architecture here is glorious,” he agreed as the Lady complimented the Red City. “Truly a marvel.” He grinned, thinking of when he had first seen the land unspoiled by human hands. He had chosen this land for Umbra thinking of all that mattered – weather, fertility, protection and benefits of the surrounding environment – and reported it to Rafael before the kingdom was erected. How far they had come since then! “On the contrary, my Lady,” Zenahriel chuckled, “I have lived here since the Red City was first established. I was… quite involved in its creation. Being invited to the Feeding was not a problem. How did you receive an invite?” he queried. He fell silent soon thereafter, and for a moment they danced without words. The music changed yet again, into a slow, romantic lull. Around him, the sighs and relaxed moans the offerings matched the mood. Exquisite bodies were bared, held in the grasp of hungry vampires who had abstained in favor of eating with a whetted appetite. Zenahriel pulled his partner closer. “Libraries,” he finally repeated, speaking close to her ear. “Are you a scholar of some sort, then? I imagine anyone can enjoy the markets, with all their wares, but only a specific sort can enjoy the wealth of knowledge in the city’s libraries. What are you searching for in those books?” he asked interestedly. @Raptor
  11. Powerful and clear, the King’s voice resonated throughout the rooms. For all that Zenahriel had seen him weakened and aged, now Rafael never sounded haler. Although the mention of the Queen’s name stung his heart just slightly, the sound of his King’s strong voice lifted his somber spirits. Perhaps the King’s condition was on the mend; perhaps he had found some peace at last. And if that meant being with Gabriela – Irene – then so be it. Regardless of who precisely Irene was. Yes, he knew – one of his power could not go deceived. But he would think of it no more. It was the King’s business, and Zenahriel was not the king. He was a High Lord. Such trivial matters of regency and righteous inheritance of thrones and crowns were beneath him, or so his kindred claimed. You are a High Lord. Act like it, they said. Let it be. So his attention turned back to the lady who requested a dance. The Lady’s hand was warm, just as his was. She was no vampire, it seemed, eager only for a taste of his blood. Or coveter, eager only for his wealth. This revelation eased his mind, just as her nervous laugh and smile did. If she had ulterior motives, she certainly did not seem the type to plot or scheme. Zenahriel smiled more amicably as he led her out to the center floor. There he slid a respectful hand around her waist and began to match his movements with the melody playing through the walls. Despite his words, Zenahriel was in fact a superb dancer, with an inhuman grace and impeccable timing. He swayed back and forth, the extension of his wings never hindering him or her. They only seemed to add to his motions as they spread ever so slightly, the adorning gems glittering in the luminous light and shifting shadows. She questioned him about his wings and he looked down at her and smiled again. “I wish I could say they were, but the red is a special paint. However, the black is indeed natural. I hope it pleases you.” His dark eyes focused on hers. No, definitely not a planner or for that matter, even a flatterer. He extended his arm and spun her in a tight circle before drawing her back close to him as the song heightened for a moment in tune and intensity. “This is the third Feeding I have attended,” Zenahriel said, sounding thoughtful. “Though not to feed on blood, which I’ve no appetite for. Ah, but if I gave too much away, my Lady, that would reveal who I am, and that would not be proper just yet. You will have to guess,” he teased. @Raptor
  12. Thought it shuddered as if in pain, the cross did not dissipate nor vanish as Dauner’s sword cleaved through it. Its image remained as this man, this demon, flew higher up, releasing a shield of air. The dagger Kassandra had thrown collided with it, and though it did manage to cut through a portion of the barrier, fell to the ground soon after, impotent. Kassandra pursed her lips in frustration, looking up at the Demon and his pitch-black sword. She hadn’t expected to fight something like this, and it was quickly becoming irritating. She rolled her eyes as he told her to choose and quickly. Reaching into her cloak, she procured the amulet. Such a little thing that was worth so much. But a debt was a debt. She looked at Pyrrah, who remained steadfast through it all. Bah. It was time to take a risk. She flung back her auburn hair and focused. Her power radiated through her, siphoning from every vein in her body to feed into the amulet. The dark power shattered the ground around her into particles of ice and misted the air around her, so harsh that even the Demon would feel it. In her hand, the amulet began to pulse. She held her breath, then released. FWOOSH Energy and force surged together in a disc from the amulet. Trees cracked and collapsed as the power slammed into them. Several of them burned to ash as the power touched their shapes, anything in its way falling to pieces. The effect was catastrophic, with a sound like thunder and a result ten time as destructive as any bolt of lightning. In the same instant, the cross finally exploded, joining with the amulet’s energy to destroy the Demon. Or at least knock the thing to the ground, hopefully winded.
  13. Standing still and vigilant, Zenahriel watched as the party swelled. People of all race and color, even one that appeared to be animatronic, had arrived, showing no signs of stopping. The colors and lights of the Blue Room increased in vibrancy as it mingled with the display of all those in their finest attire – sequined gowns, embroidered suits, brilliant accessories – everything gathered together. Though it might have been a chaotic mess in any other environment, here all things blended and merged in harmony with the dancing shadows, creating nothing but sensational beauty. Most women, even some men, wore an ostentatious display of their best jewelry. Rubies, emeralds, high-quality diamonds and crystals adorned wrists, necks, and ears, sparkling and glittering with bold declaration of wealth and class. In her own way, this woman who came to a stop in front of the masked High Lord stood out, modestly but elegant clothed in her gold gown with no jewelry to speak of. She asked him to dance. He blinked, one of his wings flicking in restrained surprise. He glanced toward the Lord Father in the jackal mask, who paid him no mind. He hesitated, looked like he was about to refuse – but then, would it not be rude, unseemly even, to decline a dance with a fine lady who seemed so nervous? This was celebration, after all. He tucked his wings in, making a sweeping bow. “I would be most pleased, My Lady,” he said to the woman. He held out his hand as he straightened and smiled. “I cannot say much for my skills in dancing, but I will try my best not to make us look like fools.”
  14. Happy Birfday to me ;-; I'm so old.

    1. Show previous comments  12 more
    2. King

      King

      If only I wasn't poor. My love will have to do. ;0; Happy Birthday, my raven. ❤️ Have an amazing day!

    3. vielle

      vielle

      Happy birthday! Hope you have a lovely one 💖

    4. Witch

      Witch

      Happy Birthday 🙂

  15. Despite being frozen, the corpses still emitted a noxious smell; Shaldano and Astra took care to move well clear of the bodies. Their eyes took in the disheveled state of the Wayfarer’s Lodge, the blood on the ground, spiking along the walls an even splattered on the ceiling. There were piles of entrails on the floor, too, and Shaldano covered his mouth as nausea hit him, and even Astrasa averted her eyes. Hurriedly, the two rushed to the great leopard, relieving the massive cat of two packs filled with emergency supplies. Although the cave was a mess, nearer to the fire there did seem to be a sort of desperate order. Bloodstained rucksacks, waterbags, and crushed food were arranged in rows, as if they were being counted and rationed. The fireplace, though dead, was still warm and smoking. Astra eyed the limited food, the fire, and even the dried blood. Whatever had happened here, and happened a long time ago. Opening one of the medical packs, she crouched down beside the boy. He had a beard, scraggly, unkempt, messily chopped as if shaving with a knife. Swathed in dirty bandages, he was thin, malnourished and showed signs of dehydration too. How long had he been here? “How is he?” Shaldano stammered as he knelt beside Astrasa as she turned the boy over on his back. “Not good, but with care I think he’ll be alright,” Astra muttered as she examined the boy’s wounds. “If he’s survived a few days already with these injuries, he should be fine-” Her words cut off as the boy stirred and began thrashing. “Please… no, no, don’t touch me, please-!” the boy yelled. His eyes snapped open, and Astra blinked at the sight of gold-flecked violet. “Easy,” Astra said calmly. “We’re here to help you.” The boy stopped struggling. He stared at her, then at Shaldano , Fen, Stjärn, and lastly Thálassa. The last yawned, showcasing large fangs, and he cringed. “I… I don’t…” “You do,” Astrasa said firmly. “I’m Astrasa, this is Shaldano, she’s Fengári, there’s Stjärn, and that’s Thálassa. We’re here to help you,” she repeated. Beside her, Shaldano held up a roll of bandages and a bottle of salve, nodding encouragingly as the boy hesitantly laid back down, relaxing. “Gods,” Shaldano whispered as he began unwrapping the old bandages. “You’re a tough one, kid.” “My name’s Valarys,” the boy winced as Astra poured water over the crusty wounds and Shaldano patted them clean with a fresh cloth. He paused over the boy’s left arm, shook his head, and kept cleaning. He whispered something to Astra, and she nodded as she popped open the balm. She began rubbing the burning ointment over the numerous wounds covering Valarys’s body. Fetching some water, Shaldano gave him a drink. “Man,” Shaldano said with a nervous grin. “I guess Zihayr really fucked you up, huh?” Valarys jerked, nearly causing the water to spill and Astra to lose the bottle. “You know Zihayr? Where is he? Is he all right?” Shaldano and Astrasa looked at each another, alarmed. Astra breathed out quietly. “Fen? Stjärn? I think… I think he might know something.” Valarys stared at the two, his heart thumping hard in his chest as he slowly recalled all that had happened. He looked over the group again, until his eyes fell on Shaldano. Sandy-colored layer clothes. Long robes and sleeves, tight around the forearms, with stitched slacks that ran loose about the thighs and tight at the calves. Gold trimming, long collar. Casual, but fine, Dairutian attire. Valarys’ blood ran cold. He suddenly bolted upright and tried to run, getting only five steps in before Astra tackled his legs, knocking him down.
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