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Shatter

Sick, Old Man

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"Ah. Brief. He was early; I passed back out. I hadn't recovered enough from the last time I put myself to sleep."

He had spoken of The Masked Conjurer, causing Lucas' brow to lift as he rose up from the stool and motioned them both along. "I am sure the dangers we will face will not be so life-threatening, but where is your adventurer's spirit Avaerus? We may very well bleed together." And he had headed out the door, into the city with the strangest trio in town. It was incomprehensible. Some mundane human, a swell dressed black beast of the dark, and a golden dragonkin all walked out of a bar together. In the dangerous streets of Hell's Gate, they stood out like a beacon that said 'Kill me.'

'He is not to be trusted.'

Unheard, unseen. He couldn't speak of it. But as they traveled, he looked distracted from conversation or even their surroundings. He requested Farren lead to where she needed to go first. His storage unit could be visited on the way out, towards the Shawnee Glaciers. "It's where I live, after-all. I am sure that I won't have a problem fending off the usual dangers, but..."

He didn't really want to say it. But it would weigh on him if he didn't warn them. Those who willingly got involved.

"...There is a lot to be considered, going forward. At all times, being in my company is cause for concern," He explained with a visible frown as they traversed the city streets. "You can't believe that you're the only one who noticed me, Avaerus." A glance at the human woman he was suggesting he was endangering suddenly. "Expect the unexpected, I suppose is all I'm trying to say."

'You can only depend on us.'

He was, after-all, a beacon of darkness in the darkness. A creature so filled with compacted energies from ages of soul-drinking predation on past realms, on their denizens.

'Look only within for guidance. This dragon-man is the one who will endanger you and the woman.'

And more than that, he was like a ghost-ship of evil or chaotic powers. At least four different auras exuded the dark corruption of The Shade that lives inside Lucas.

"I do hope we can enjoy each other's company despite all that, though," He said after a while.

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JJV3wJs.pngThey had done the deed, going about getting their standard supplies to properly prep for their wild journey through the Shawnee. Along the way, they had lost their dragon-kin friend, but Farren believes they will eventually meet up along the way, so she did not fret. She and Lucas were left to fend for themselves for a time, a situation she isn't entirely sure she should be so comfortable with.

So comfortable, she had fallen asleep the instant she laid herself down in the back of the trudging caravan. The last few days her hands have been temperamental, making walking a less than enjoyable process, especially through forests and mountains. She attributed the sudden events to the change in weather that's slowly slipping from spring into summer; the fresh air is gradually changing to humid and heavy, and the sun is becoming merciless with its ever welcoming warmth. They were lucky to have run into the travel band of merry men and women searching for work and a home somewhere in the wilds of Terrenus.

Turning on her side, she reached over with the expectation she'd find Lucas relaxing nearby. What her eager fingers found was emptiness.

"Ouch!"

Her panic made her hands freeze up, straining the tendons and nerves that are already frazzled near to death. Having Lucas around has made her painfully aware that she has missed company; Lentil being on his own made her sad, but she understood he had his journies to finish. Nonetheless, Lucas has wiggled his way into her consciousness, leaving the woman somewhat bereft at the idea he too would disappear. Not immediately feeling him next to her made her mind wonder if he had been some specter haunting her dreams, or if he was indeed a real ghost living in the daylight.

Slowly the arms of sleep begin to release her. You're a bit foolish, ain't ya?, she chided herself. Who panics when a stranger isn't near? Lucas is his own person, the last thing he needs is her to worry about his health - as terrible as it is.

Awake now, she notices that they had stopped moving and that there is a faint whiff of smoke trailing in between the torn curtains of the mock entrance. The sound of people moving around about told her the time and why Lucas was outside smoking - break time. To stay along with the caravan, the two had agreed to help with the hunting and such to pay for their way. The afternoon has already crept by, and in another bout of panic, she hurriedly grabs her bow and arrows; dinner needs to be acquired, and she's undoubtedly slept away most of the active hours for catching anything reputable.

"Lucas! Why didn't you wake me up?!"

She whined while tripping out the wagon.

 

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A burning fire seemed to draw him from his rest. He couldn't quite place what it meant, and as he donned his snow gear, he tried to ignore the literal campfire he immediately saw upon parting the cover for the halted caravan he was in. He hadn't quite considered it, but he knew from the taste of the air when he awoke it was time to dress up warmer. He brought his hood up in the face of the cold morning wind, framing his face with the fluffy, gray and white fur that collared the cloak and lined the hood and ends of the sleeves. His particularly stoic attitude was held stronger in the face of people's reactions to his attire this day, a necessity as he drew more stares to his cloak. His plain attire, black shirt, light gray pants, and heavy looking black leather boots did nothing to draw attention away from the silver colored star pattern adorning the cloak. The spread and density of the snowflakes seemed to depict a light snow barely beginning, with unrealistic, but intricate snowflakes frozen in place as they seemed to have been falling down the fabric. It was nothing short of a masterpiece in the eye of a master tailor. It avoided excess in the design, the amount of snowflakes seeming just withdrawn enough to be worn by so solemn a creature, and  it also favored utility and the capacity for stealth, effectively justifying it to be worn by the pragmatist.

Morning meals were being served and Farren was still asleep. It confirmed a few suspicions at this point, one being her condition clearly required more rest, and that the desirable smelling food wouldn't wake her if he didn't. He sniffed at the air, turning with closed eyes as he envisioned a fire, far off. He put out the smell of firewood burning nearby, and began to wander away from the smoke. He sought something more diluted, the image holding steady for a long while as he slowly traveled the expanse of their morning camp towards the front of the caravan. It was a rather long walk, and just as he thought he had found the smell, it vanished with the image in his mind. He opened his eyes, and found that he was staring at a clear sky and the road before with the caravans behind him. He didn't really wander how long he had been slowly trekking around obstacles with his taste for the space around him, nor about how many people were staring at the half-elf with his closed eyes. He merely frowned, as it seemed he didn't quite keep a grasp on whatever Justice was dreaming about. With a deep sigh, he went back to the gathering outside of his designated wagon at no hurried pace.

By the time he returned, and began chain-smoking cigarettes of an exotic variety he traded a few drinks of some well-aged wine to acquire, the morning was just about ruined. Yes, ruined. He knew that if fate had any say, she would be waking up and-

"Lucas! Why didn't you wake me up?!"

He watched her, freshly lit cigarette pressed between his lips as she fell, losing her half-on shoe in the process. The culprit of her current travesty stood tall and mocked her from its perch over the side of the wagon where it waited for her. He couldn't help but frown. Exhaling, he put out the cigarette on the wood of the neighboring wagon he was leaning against and placed it away safely in the pack. He moved from his lazy position, isolated from the warm fire and company of their fellow passengers to join her as she collected herself, his warmly gloved hand silently offered to support her weight as she stood up and put her shoe on. Once she was done straightening herself out, he worked his frown out into something more impassive and then stood closer to her so he could soften his voice and still be heard.

With his view re-orientated to see the road beyond again, he said with a quite casual regard for his grasp on time, "I didn't want to miss it if the scouts came back. I think I smelled smoke, and they're currently thirty-two minutes late to report in."

His tone seemed to suggest she stay calm despite the ominous nature of his statement. All around them, life went on with a cheery atmosphere, beyond the reach of the cold emotions he seemed to invite into his space. None of the families knew, but number of armed guards on-watch with spear or sword, and always a shield was slowly growing. "It doesn't always mean bandits, out this way," He added quietly as he nodded towards the grim looking guardsmen. "Sometimes, setting your own caravan on fire can help you scare off the dangerous snow predators once you've killed enough. So..." He eyed her bow briefly. "We might still go hunting."

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JJV3wJs.png"You're a brat."

She huffed and puffed, struggling to put her shoe on while willingly taking his offered hand; how unfortunate such a necessary appendage is attached to a man such as himself. There have been a few times during their travels that she has mentioned he should frown less, or maybe stop looking like he has sucked on lemons - his face is perpetually in a state of distaste. His responses are quips, putting her in her place, and him keeping his pace as the community frowner.

Finally situated, she looks up towards his looming figure. Gods, he knows how to make a person feel small.

"Why do you look so pretty?"

Reaching forward with a shivering hand, the woman broke open his cloak and quickly made herself at home. The cold was bothersome in many ways, it makes her hands stiff, and her want for chocolate heady. This kind of weather would oft bring back some scrupulous memories, but those are for another time when they have the time. For now, she is too busy getting comfortable inside his cloak and getting her mind to cooperate. The realm of sleep still has a slight hold on her thinking, and the cold is making it very difficult for her to let dreams fade.

"Did a woman buy this for you?"

From her position, Farren had to tip her head back to look up at him. Her free hand kept the cloak wrapped around them both, and her shoulders pressed against his chest, creating some space to keep their connection casual.

"She had wonderful taste! It's so warm and fluffy."

A very intermediate distraction. For her sanity, she had to pick through what he had told her and assess the situation on her own. Being snuggled up in his cloak and speaking normally helped her wade through the ebb of her dreams. There was something outside this entire situation that was worrying her, but she doesn't have enough information to air her problems at this very moment.

"I wanna go over here."

She tugged him and all his moaning and groaning towards the road that shoots right through the minor forest. Not so blessed with magical properties, Fa makes up for being able to look at the earth with a keen eye. The earth is, after all, a manuscript being written and unwritten every day. Every mountain, river, creek, and barren are tracks; the earth's reaction to time passing over it. Farren is an eager reader.

Once at the road (much to his annoyance, she is sure), she steps out from his cloak and quickly drops to one knee. Pressing her palm against the ground, she closes her eyes and begins to listen around them. Off in the distance, she picked through the buzz of insects to focus more on the rustling of rodents and their ilk. They've been very successful in finding rabbits and deer; healthy signs that the habitat here is valuable to preditors, despite the cold.

Nothing is common in Valucre. No manner of beast is simply that - a beast, they're always some cultivation of magic and their surroundings.

"We've waited too long, making it too late to run. I can go ahead and see what I can do, though."

With a sigh, the woman stands up and puts a hand on her hip. There are no clear tracks, just some minor disruption to the area that could mean that the dangers they are facing off against her predators of the worst kind: hunters and scavengers. They patiently wait before attacking their prey, and attempting to outrun them is a hassle.

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Raggedy old books. A pile of which spills from a leather case sitting on a jostled seat. For the moment only one from the small collection is missing. Sprawled openly across a petulantly frail lap. Aged is the fragrance its leather binding and pages scent of. Enveloping their owner in an invisible cloud of studious airs. 

Whatever is being read, soon has notes attached by the tip of a pen as it scritches against the corners and edges of missing text. Outlining previously adorned knowledge with little effort. It's not so much about the text within them-most remaining blank to foreign eyes-as the potential knowledge they can eventually provide. Puzzles to be unraveled at a later date. How long the note taker had been enamored by their work, one cannot define. But it is now that every attention it paid to that which it held in its lap breaks. The tip of the pen is the first to stop moving. An aching twitch from the knuckles to the fingertips a fair warning that it is an unintentional action. 

Patient eyes lift with the rise of a freckled face. Turning in unison to look out the carriage window as if expecting something to come crashing into it as they do. The calm of the outside world is met with her equivalent silence. Hmm. Nothing moves; the entire caravan has come to a stop. A rumbling snore emits from the slumbering gentleman crumpled in the seat across from her own. I forgot I’m sharing a ride with you…

Who he is or what he’s about she neither knows nor cares. Strangers trapped together by way of ticketed fare. Enclosed in what may be their tomb. Suddenly their ride jolts, causing the man to knock his head against the interiors frame. Waking him quite rudely to the clear onslaught taking place outside. Wild neighing, no doubt the horses’ terror causing them to free themselves from their reins...followed by angry shouts and curses. Then…

Familiar sounds. Dangerous sounds. Wet, crunching, bloody, deathly sounds. Screaming. Both in fear and pain. A single brow heightens as the eyes gaze at crimson stained snow just beyond the carriage steps. More intrigued than bothered, she’s reminded yet again by the company she holds. The frantic human man clawing at the window pain with widened eyes. Fog coming and going by way of trembling heated, panicked breaths against the clear glass. So desperately afraid. Whatever it is he sees isn’t meant for her eyes. Glass shatters, the carriage quakes...and the man along with a shredding coat and body is ripped from his seat. Leaving her once again to her own thoughts whilst the carriage rocks back into stillness. Carefully-thoughtfully-the books scattered around more so than before, are picked up and put away. Priorities of course.
 

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Potential danger and his capacity for counting seconds cast aside as she whined with a comment or two whilst forcing her way into his cloak. He groaned quietly, she called him pretty, he huffed in annoyance. It was like a morning routine for them at this point with his frown deepening to its limit every time. She really didn't seem to mind that much, and in truth, he appreciated that she was so optimistic. He considered it a convenient benefit, but her positive energy was helpful in waking him back up. He would be on his way back to the Shawnee Glaciers to go to sleep already had their paths not crossed. The eternal depression from ages that had, perhaps, been forgotten now to even the history books of an old, dying world. At least he wasn't the thing killing it. He tried to tell himself that's what mattered, but he couldn't ever ignore a word, pretending not to listen as she touched her shoulders to his chest and said, "Did a woman buy this for you?"

'Now don't get mad, Lucas. She just wants to get to know you better.'

The voice of a damn flirt. He couldn't escape this man as long as he was in the company of women. His teeth grit, but he found his angry reply died on its way up. He curled his nose, looking away from Farren in annoyed, perhaps for the moment forgiving her forward nature and allowing her this comfort.

"She had wonderful taste! It's so warm and fluffy."

He stiffened, and finding her prodding to be too much for the memories they evoked, he lifted his hands and put them on her shoulders, grasping her firmly. "Farren," He said as he removed her from his coat, by force if she had anything to say about it, and closing it off tightly around himself. Without looking at her, he growled quietly, "You talk too much." Then, he leaned off the caravan and moved to follow her as she started off, him sulking the whole way.

'You really need to pay attention to what matters.'

He didn't want to say he was right. He tried not to even think about it, but he knew the thought was going to lead him anyway. But there was a certain joy he felt in correcting her from time to time or saving a hunt when her hands failed her. He had done this since he was a young boy, and hundreds of years between then and now hadn't changed anything. He preferred his meat to come from a fresh kill and that required a certain degree of finesse he had never lost touch with despite himself. It was a core part of him that he found calming him as he quietly observed her while she picked up the lost trail of the scouts, and then something worse. He hadn't expected her to tell him anything else, really, and he trusted her eyes quite a bit. She was admittedly better than even him at this, and his own skill as a tracker failed when he came up against someone or something just a little competent. He might not know where to go from here if he didn't have Farren. Follow the scent of blood in the air? He could miss it by miles. He needed to be close enough to feel the death and taste of it, but he could not perceive what the Wolf did with its huge net of black mana that slowly robbed the land of minute amounts of energy all around him.

Power that would never be his, kept out of reach unless he gave into the well of power inside.

She concluded as they got closer that this had been the work of what was most likely humans due to the skilled work with the cover up, but she also discovered quickly that something rather large had been doing this. "Does it mean the bandits have beasts...?" He wondered aloud as they neared their quarry. They couldn't find any human tracks, and soon, smears of blood. At this point, he began to feel it. The dying moans, the pain, the screaming, the suffering, and that something else was feeding on it already. He took Farren by the arm firmly, stopping her in place. "Farren..." He said quietly, pulling her to his side, and taking her eyes briefly. "Stay behind me. Don't be risky." Coming out of his cloak, he had unhooked the straight-blade that had been hanging from his belt in its sheath, now carrying said sheath from the middle and resting his left-hand on the handle of the blade.

They followed blood stains and saw bodies, scouts from their own caravan hidden in the underbrush of the woods they traversed through. They could see the clearing ahead from a while before, and before they exited it, they saw the horror show before them.

"Shadow beasts," He muttered grimly as realization dawned on him. He could feel his connection with this beings. He had made them, and they knew. Creatures began to turn, the spearman guards barely holding a line on the survivors while others of the creatures had been piling up both the dead and wounded, seeming to be intentionally dragging out the suffering of the creatures around them. It seemed a disturbing sort of evolution had overtaken these predator species, and they had become black furred monstrosities with the thick bodies of bears and agile limbs of wolves, maw slightly shorter, but more imposing than a dire bears. The creatures dripped black mist and had no eyes, with small, inky black appendages hanging off of them, seeming amorphous in nature and capable of being manipulated to the extent of various tasks, mimicking even human behavior. 

Three of the ten there were turned from the wounded guardsman who were protecting the survivors inside their caravans from these thick limbed monstrosities towards Lucas and Farren, seeming to take to be judging Lucas' intent whilst spreading out and approaching him from a great distance. They were barely at the edge of the clearing, and they were aiming to come from directly in front, the left, and potentially from behind or the right. Lucas didn't move beyond the trees as he drew his katana which seemed to host a gem material around the titanium blade, just as sharp as any metal, and ten times as hard. He brandished a gem-crafted katana with a diamond coating towards the beasts, then drew up a burst of swirling wind in his right-hand while dropping the sheath of his katana in it and elevating it into the air.

The beasts began growling, walking lower to the ground as his intent became clear. He would slay them unless they ate him. A simple conundrum, when viewed that way.

'Want some help?'

Manifesting only to mortal eyes as a disturbance in the leaves on the ground nearby, as if a figure had just fallen into place there, a white-haired dark elf with red-eyes and illustrious, gold and black robes appeared to Lucas, forcing his spiritual form to purchase on the realm they were in. He smiled amicably, his cheek-bones always too sharp for his own good that made his face handsomely trustable in its own, disturbing way. He used that on many a woman in the past, and with a nod from Lucas to the unseen entity, he released control of the winds and let both his hands come to his blade. Rilath smiled far more deviously now, a hungry look in his eyes as he whipped his head around to face the wolves while stealing control of the winds he had conjured before and drawing them away from Lucas and Farren, kicking up their hair, clothes, and leaves all around them as he sent the sheath of Lucas' katana flying square into the forehead of the beast on their right with a pressurized air blast.

Lucas grunted, muttering "Not bad," to no one in particular, then took stock of the beast on his left and in front of him while he let his mana be drained away by Rilath's spirit to deal with the one that had intended on coming from behind them. Neither of the creatures slowed down in their dead-man's rush at the pair, planning on taking a bite of either of them which Lucas was quite ready to block with the whole of his body. This thing didn't matter. It was expendable, and Farren was not.

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JJV3wJs.pngWhen he had taken her by the arm, Farren found herself confused by the action. She was the one that initiated most of the touching - holding hands, poking his hateful face, or prodding his stiff shoulders - to get a reaction out of him. Lucas made it very obvious how much he detested the very thought of her doing all those silly things; for him to go out of his way to grab her made the woman feel awkward and fairly aware of the gentleman that's traveled with her these handful of weeks.

"Stay behind me. Don't be risky."

His unhooked blade spoke volumes. Not one to really disobey orders, she took hold of her compound bow and followed behind him in silence. The sounds of death had reached her ears long ago, painting a picture that she can barely describe and giving her an abundance of strange feelings. Death is not foreign to her, not this kind of death.

A small part of her mind was racing, echoing the rapidness of her own heart. That small part was also making her nerves ache with anxiousness. It was surprising to feel it, but she couldn't wait to see what was beyond the clearing. The smell of death and the wails of those dying from shadowy hands, it all made a sweet symphony to her ears. This weird sensation disgusted her, so unfounded and strange it was to her for she has never felt this way before when confronting an enemy.

Once they laid their eyes upon the beasts, she could not stop the smile spreading across her fair face. A sort of wildness spurred her to do something, yet beyond that fog of blood-thirst was still the real Farren, and thus she was able to pause and watch the shadow beasts do their work. This pause was enough time to cause a bud of fear blossom in her chest; not towards the dangers in front of them, but for the danger that had suddenly risen inside her.

"Don't move!"

It was just reactionary. No thought was put through it, her body knew what to do and that small part of her mind understood something had to be done in order to protect them both. Lucas was willing to put himself in trouble, knowing well enough he could survive or at least make the best out of a bad situation. Farren was not going to allow him to be mindless in this case, they can work together.

Knocking an arrow, she aimed at the wolf rushing towards them in the front, before she shifted her target to the air above them. Once the arrow was released, a minor shield made of electricity flowed over herself and Lucas, an act of magic, something that Farren is supposed to be incapable of. Somewhere in her conscious mind she had done it to protect them, out of fear and out of the want to protect the things most important to her. A selfish reaction when there were others dying in front of them, but they did not matter as much as those meant to rescue the dying.

It felt disgusting to make such a decision.

Swallowing down her fear and discomfort, Farren loaded another arrow and aimed at the wolf to their front once again. Shooting through their electric cover made it shift a bit, but the penetration was covered up quickly after the arrow flew through it to pierce the wolf through its inky skull right between the eyes. In another act of surprise, Farren had to drop her bow to manipulate the embedded arrow, using it as a device to turn the wolf away from them as she manipulated the small spark of electricity flowing through the arrow. It was enough to make the creature flip away from them, though not enough to make it die - she thinks. These creatures are unknown, the arrow to its head could have killed it, but that is poor thinking to assume such.

The wolf to their left was left to do what it may against the shield, giving herself and Lucas enough time to work this thing together.

And give Farren enough time to figure out herself in this random case of ability.

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After the precious belongings are gathered and placed neatly into their bag, its strap is shouldered. Nestled precariously across the body where the thicker padding hugs the nape of her neck. Ready oooor not… Many might find these actions foolish, but allowing fear to rule is not something this being chooses to parle with. If there’s no need for it, she doesn’t have it. One, two, boots in the snow. Every step taken is crunchy. The light and fluffy look of the blinding white precipitation is rather deceiving. Which is both good and bad were one needing to run. Too packed and one can slip, too soft makes one too slow. There’s a fine balance of ‘in between’ that is most preferred, but she doesn’t have the time or motivation to be choosy about it. 

“I’m not too fond of the cold you know…” Soft words from a mirthless face, spoken to the first of many fresh corpses to be come across. I’m...hungry. Air is expelled, but not a hint of warmth touches in front of her. No fog from her lips. A simple nod, then another as she mulls things over momentarily before speaking again. “I suppose it’s only fair. Has been...a while hasn’t it?” Everything needs to feed off of something, why not take the chance to nom on the newly departed before they drift back to Gaia. A sort of snack pack before having to hit the road again….on foot it would seem. 

They’re pale, those fragile wisps. They glitter in the amber of her eyes. A world beyond the living that none too many can see. It isn’t a blessing, it isn’t a curse, not a gift, a want, a need… It just is. When choices are made they lead to varying roads and somehow each of her own turns along them brought her here. Again. 

Carnage is bloody, grotesque, and yet a beautifully splattered painting on the canvas of life. She finds death unavoidable for these beings. The stench of darkness trailing their souls very telling, verrrry telling. “Just don’t take too long. I’d like to get some sleep later on.” Not that she really sleeps. But something about laying under the darkness of night and staring up into a sea of stars has a tremendously lulling effect. It breeds clarity. 

They separate, her and her inner thoughts. That crimson monologue that haunts her every whim and memory. Like a sentient leech it spills out from her shadow in inky puddles; melding together and molding into something else. Another wolf, but smaller, lithe and alive and different from those attacking the caravan. That she can tell by watching one tear one of the drivers apart as she stands there waiting. The steam from the gentleman’s entrails exploding into the atmosphere as readily as his innards. Her comrade, the black dog wolf looking creature with rippling fur and blood for eyes excuses itself. Taking pride in its work to not only consume those four lost souls, but add them to the calamity of her collection. Always growing, because people are always dying.

Woman and beast, stare one another down. One moving closer to the other, the other watching its stalker with intrigue. Your turn. “Fine, fine.” It smells of the death it created. Somber and so very full of threat and rage. Her reply is to lift her arms. Not in surrender, to pull back her hair; twisting and knotting it. Making sure most of it stays out of her face. There’s something to be said about the eyes of any being, the stories and memories, gods and demons...those trickling little details that so many try so hard to dig out of the ones they want so deeply to know. But how well does anyone really know...anyone? 

They can both smell one another, one is instinctually beastly, the other more ethereal in its approach to the scent. Signs of preternatural prejudice wavering between them as the shadow closes in. “Do you think she would like this one for a present…?” By now she’s turned to face the threat coming for her. Possibly. At her back her partner crouches over one dead and broken frame after the next, slowly sucking in those smoky little wisps like spaghetti. Why not try? “Fair enough. Gift it is, then.”

They crouch at the same time, the beast preparing to lunge and she...bleeding copper into the snow. On the way down she nicked her wrist, and once there it was a matter of drawing it in the snow. A snare of sorts. Once the bounding beast crossed over it was already to late. Sucked down into the snow and held in place by the quickly written markings. “I’m sorry, but shadows of any sort just don’t frighten me.” In the hem of her boot she pulls free a knife and tends to the work at hand. Cutting the howling creatures heart from its chest. No easy task for someone unskilled, but for those with the talent-in some cases strength-its menial work. 
 

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Posted (edited)

In the distance, something else was happening. Perhaps a grim realization evidencing the undying nature of these creatures. Truly, one could say they were brimming with life, so much so that when Lilium carved out the thrashing beast's heart, it grew more emboldened and filled with fervor. She was not to be alone with her company for long, though. The shadow beasts knew when their grand meal was being siphoned off. It was why three were worth Lucas Black. The invisible shadow he cast over the battlefield, a blanket of black mist so thin that even magical sight found it hard to discern, more comparable to a pixelation in the graphics of an image. Something that never mattered on a computer, meaning the connection was being affected. Every bit of energy that attended to ascend from the battlefield, that which the wolves were not able to soak in, was flowing towards the forest clearing where the other three had gone to deal with the foe stealing their meal. So, it was only expected that when whole souls were being kept from the siphoning pull of Lucas Black and the shadow beasts, a second spared itself away from the full caravan assault. The numbers were quickly changing, and the caravan's guards, although reduced to less than half their number, were starting to push back. Perhaps there was a certain sort of irony here, seeing these plotting beasts cornering sentient beings, but forgetting a rule every hunter know: A cornered beast is the most dangerous.

When that one split suddenly from the assault, it couldn't get away without a spear to the thigh. However, this did not seem to slow the creature in the slightest, even as it trailed crimson in its wake, speeding towards the howling, dying screams of its heartless companion.

Back with Lilium, its death howls were not the end. It was clear, this creature was actually going to bleed out and had been weakening rapidly, but somehow the heart being removed simply didn't stop it. Instead, as it raged about, the shadow appendage that had been pinned to the ground crept out from both sides of its body, splitting into two shadow, flesh-like lumps that moved under its skin, even beneath the black fur trailing a dark fog. As it came together, hands far too humanoid sprouted from both of the lumps, trying to take ahold of Lilium as she finished her part in its execution. It intended to see her hurt more, suffer somehow, try to break whatever it could get ahold of while turning those fingers into claws as sharp as steel. It delighted, like no animal could, as it witnessed its companion beast leaping high above, off the top of a caravan.

But it didn't care about Lilium, and regrettably, these surprisingly tactical creatures could not communicate beyond their normal capacity. So, it really didn't matter the other shadow beast might have made Lilium vulnerable, it was trying to slam into her black wolf-dog with its huge, bear-wolf like paws, intending to try and pin it and then maul it. After-all, it was stealing their food, not Lilium.


"Farren..." His voice could normally be described as mostly stoic, but complimented by a surprisingly emotive variety of expressions, always frowning. But when he said her name, his voice was cold, guarded. He stood with his back to her, having witnessed everything, particularly focused on the wolf in front she should have killed, were it not a creature fueled by his hungry, dark essence. Yes, as long as it acquired flesh to feast on from a living target, it could heal that wound in a timely manner. The active ingestion of essence that could be turned into what equates to the source of their black life-force. It wasn't done yet, twitching on the ground with its legs up in the air. It wouldn't be long before it turned over and stumbled to its feet, but she had given its nervous system the kind of shock that would cripple most anyone and leave them with lethal heart problems. Truthfully, it was barely a threat to them thanks to the pinpoint accuracy of her attack, though it might try to spring a sneak attack left unattended. And it was going to be, for the moment. Just like the one on their left, as Lucas turned from his examination of the wolf she shot, to look her in the eyes.

And then he realized the other shadow beast was also unattended.


Rilath was a careless creature in life. Money and power didn't mean much to him, and eventually when he almost got married, he almost freed himself of his own past full of debauchery as the bandit Lust. He was notorious for releasing each and every single women The Seven Deadly Sins ever captured before they could find their way to the immolation chambers, offering them to stay and enjoy the comforts of his many piles of pillows after escorting them outside the fortress as a show of good faith. He was always a problem bandit, he was always a problem Archmage, and even now, he was Lucas' problematic best-friend who would never let him go. So, when he sensed the flows of magic shifting and saw it was Farren, in an instant, the ghost had left the location he was in and reappeared beside Farren, tilting his head and smiling at her, even if she couldn't see or hear him.

'I knew there was something interesting about this one! You did too! You sneaky bastard, Lulu.'

The Shade was smiling at him now, grinning from ear to ear at him as he turned to speak to Farren. Lucas, who was now pausing with an angry look at the air beside Farren where Rilath stood, looked as the first beast rammed into their shield violently from his right, then to the left, the one Rilath entirely abandoned dealing with, rammed into the shield from the other side, clawing and snarling at the shield, then backing off momentarily and shuddering as the electricity pulsed through them. Yes, they had left one amalgam monster unattended. And both of the beasts, deciding to restore their bodies after taking too much of a shock, charged their recovering companion and begin ripping its flesh off and gulping it down. Their victim, crying out with pained whines and snarls, could barely struggle thanks to Farren.


Lucas worked his jaw while silently watching this display, seemingly unmoved by the act of these shadow beasts cannibalizing each other. Worse yet, as blood spattered and sprayed out onto trees and the grass, it quickly became clear the sheer well of blood pouring out of this thing now was entirely impossible, as though dying unleashed a storage of spare blood from a pocket space. Looking, perhaps even a little distracted momentarily with a peckish expression, he turned from the scene before them and stepped into the way of it, blocking Farren's view. He sniffed, staring at her with a contemplative expression, considering Rilath's words. He was right. He wouldn't have even bothered with Farren if he didn't sense there was something more going on here. Grand or not, the mysteries of magical curses were never something he ignored. So he waited for its hand to be played. He pondered though, whether 'it' was just a curse or the manifestations of what people simply 'call' curses like the shadow that composed him.

Tilting his head, he seemed to relax his shoulders, far more than he should in their temporary bubble of comfort, protected from the terrifying world around them. He directed the point of his blade down, then impaled it in the ground and exhaled a deep breath. He never looked at her like this. It reminded him too much that she looked like Lothiriel.

"It's okay, Farren," He finally said, speaking to her with surprising gentleness. Even though he frowned all while he took in each of her features, the look in his eyes was soft. A first for the hard glances he gave her, and a first, for all the time he refused to even look at her directly while speaking to her. "I hate this..." He suddenly said, averting his eyes, only briefly, then sighing. "You look like someone I used to know. I can barely stand it, but...you're not them. So, after this, we're going to have a real conversation about your hands. Alright?"

It would be mere moments later the two shadow beasts he had been ignoring would be ramming their bloody maws into the barrier again.

 

Edited by Shatter

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JJV3wJs.pngFarren had been horrified at the scene of the beasts taking advantage of the weak, even though it had been one of their own. It had been because of her that the creature was being shredded to pieces, her fault that its blood was soaking the earth, watering it with its very essence. It was an enemy; there was no reason to feel remorse towards a creature that certainly did not deserve these kinds of emotions.

She couldn't help herself though, ever gnash of snarling teeth, every stream of blood relentlessly stabbed her heart. Green eyes were wide with the horror of the scene and the emotions she had felt prior. She had felt proud, almost thirsty for more, and now that feeling is burned into her senses. Farren felt the shame wash over her, twisting her features into a fearful and confused mask. What had she done? Why had she enjoyed it? How did this happen, and why? Was she becoming some kind of monster?

Spiraling down a dangerous path of thinking, Lucas grabbed her before she hit rock bottom.

"How?!" She was able to squeak out a pained response, both from the overwhelming ache in her hands and the pulse of her emotional state. "How is this okay?!" Farren held up her hands to show him how they shook, now more than they ever had. Small particles of magic - or whatever you want to call it - jumped from her quivering fingers before she curled them into fists.

Unfortunately for herself and him, Lucas held her attention. Though her response had been filled with fear, she could feel herself relax against his reassuring words and his explanations. None of that stilled the pain, but it did calm her enough to think about the now. Against her better judgment, the woman pocketed the fact that she had some kind of power over the man who hadn't been able to look at her until now. Like a cool balm, he soothed her to tears, which now freely fell down her cheeks.

She hadn't realized how much the idea of them having an actual conversation really meant to her. Yes, they have traveled together for a while now, and she had grown accustomed to his moodiness, but she hadn't been aware then how much she was the one carrying this weird relationship along. The burden was lifted from her aching shoulders with him now taking a bit of it away from her.

Blinded by tears, she reached for her bow, guided only by memory and need - fear. "We have to do something, Lucas," she said between distraught sobs. She couldn't see if anyone really survived this attack, and even if they had all died, they still need to do something about the snacking monsters.

Challenged by her raging emotions, the shield she had created around them slowly began to deteriorate. Not knowing what was keeping it there and not knowing how to keep it there, Farren was left to deal with this loss and cry her way to a victory. Knocking an arrow, she shot at the munching beasts, but at their feet. Again she does this, both arrows set side-by-side, she offers a silent prayer for it to happen again. Somehow it does, just this time without all the surprise; she intended to trap the monsters within the shield that was similar to the one disappearing around herself and Lucas.  

"Can you ... kill them?"

Teary eyes looked at Lucas, hopeful that he could because she's sure that whatever is inside her creating the magic was slowly fluttering away.

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Blood… Once again it covers her hands, staining them a glossy red. If the choice to dismantle the creature hadn't been made, a gateway into another realm of possibility could have opened. As it were, this is the path she chooses. Holding the quivering organ up just enough to watch an unnatural amount of crimson spill from its fleshy faucets. A thing most intriguing. 

Even with its heart removed the animal screams, loudly enough to distract her. Attention having been too well paid to the procurement of what rests along her palm. Fingers curled lazily,  albeit naturally in their relaxed state, cupping it. Lilium recognizes a similar feeling erupt from her frame. Were one to squint and tilt their head just so, they might catch a glimpse of those phantom limbs. Similarly to heat waves reflecting off grains of desert sand causing a mirage. This isn't something she needs to do. She sees them well enough, feels them exude from her body and aura to grapple against the shadow hands trying to grab her. An equally rapid response to the threat against her person. 

Not to say it isn't a painful nuisance. The locking twist, the cold burning friction of flesh as they pass through her bones. Now she smiles. A strict curve at the corners of her mouth brings an eerie expression that sparkles in the inky abyss of her eyes. Flickering across her features is excitement, too soon to be dulled. I was wondering when you'd show yourself…

Relatively large, the wolfish bear creature makes an imposing enemy. Even when ensnared and hollowed out. This is not entirely the creature though, something she does not notice right away. Due in part to the arrival of another, possibly this one's kin. Lilium knows her companion is being engaged behind her, but unable to look she focuses on what lies ahead. It is still bleeding... Her hand lowers very little, eyes roving down to the body pinned by spell in the snow. Blood continues to pool.

Something is very wrong here. Her demon's shadow calls to her whilst battling against the brawn and teeth of the dying creatures kin. These are not true shadow wielders. Lilium is getting close enough to find that out herself. Unhappily too. The bloody heart in her hands still relentlessly beats and bleeds. Not undead, not alive, it's as though they are trapped in some form of purgatory. That same sight damns her thoughts, souring the once pleasurable expression on her face. It's in the blood, black tendrils of mist, and like a leech it tries to creep through those red running streams and wrap around her skin. Suddenly, the heart in her hand is crushed under the squeezing ferocity of her white-knuckled hand. Only to toss it back at its owner once it is done.

Nothing happens and it continues to howl, weakly but still noisily. Displeased in realizing she cannot have this creature or the other...she decides the game is done. Whatever they are….they need to die. Stop playing around and kill it. Maybe it's out of pity, possibly irritation she chooses to cleanse it. To the satchel her hands go; one, two, three bombwraps...and then fire. Rather than toss it she snaps the first towards it, igniting and spilling the contents in a rain of flames. Then she tosses the other two, all to watch the creature burn at her feet in fits and starts as the other two ignite then explode.

The obsidian mongrel reapplies its footing to address the black wolf-bear attacking it. Teeth do little as the shadows torn away from it disintegrate within the monsters maw. Intangible, unfeeling, not bleeding. As you wish. Much like it was doing with the carcasses, until it was so rudely interrupted, it approaches this thing with the intent to consume its soul. That is until warned against it. Whatever you do, don’t eat it, it’s spoiled and rotten. And now she feels-smells-another presence, disgustingly matched to that of these two beasts. Hurry it up. 

Unlike its enemy, this demon can change shape, taking on multiple forms. Whatever it as a shadow has touched. But he doesn’t get the chance to finish. Interrupted yet again, but this time by Lilium herself. More fire. She’d thrown a bombwrap at the creature’s back; and together they watch it explode into flames. That was my last one, I hope you’re pleased with yourself. 
 

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Another lightning barrier...

He stared for a moment, wide-eyed. He had been trying to coax her to stop as she fired at the beasts feet, seemingly to no avail. He was never good with crying, so he simply kept his cool and handled things as they came at him. He wasn't sure how she was managing this, but there was something distinctly wrong about the manner in which her magic functioned. "Maybe we can stem the flow to begin with..." A thought for later, a comment aside as he processed information. Her tears didn't seem like they did much other than make him seem distracted. With a few glances between her and the wolves, he growled quietly and picked his straight-blade from out of the dirt again. Inhaling deep, he invoked the burn in his chest. "I can kill them. I was trained in an art made specifically to disrupt the flow of life-force in beings, attacking their whole being in the same moment as it leaves a wound." A spark of energy that caused the hues in the space around him to distort, light, dark, and accents of blue playing into the air and altering how plants and even the monster bear-wolves were perceived through his aura, but not him.

The bear-wolves had become quite aware of Farren's actions at this point. At first, they merely turned and growled at her arrows, but when a hot, new lightning barrier shot up, they jumped back in caution. But that didn't last for long, as they were already ramming their bodies into it with a renewed kind of vigor that could only mean consuming their companion had given them its strength, making both of these Dark Beasts far stronger than they were before. The barrier cracked, and he knew her strength was waning. He didn't even know how she managed it twice, but instead focused on himself. The air around them flowed inward, causing every tree and bush nearby to shake and leaves to come loose, descending in a flurry as a pressure filled the space around them. The way the leaves fell made it clear, in a twisting pattern all around him, they fell directly at his feet where the wind flowed towards. The distortion in the air focused as he brought his hand to the flat end of his blade and began to paint it with a blue aura that flickered like fire, lighting the blade up with a deep, depressing feeling energy.

'So you're using that ability. Guess I'm not needed.'

The field of energy that allowed Rilath to manifest in that moment became too unstable to allow him purchase on the spiritual and physical realm, making him blink out of existence just in time with his dejected comment. The black mist that followed Lucas unseen, all flowed inward, no longer defending him, and instead becoming pure energy that turned almost pure white once Lucas brought his hand to the tip of the katana. The blue-white light then grew brighter, and extended in the shape of his blade, now two feet longer. "Moonlight Blade," He uttered as he leveled his gaze on his repeatedly tazed and weakened enemies who in that same instant as he moved forward with his light-blade, they shattered the shield and rushed at him. The monsters roared, trying to invoke fear as they tried to close in on Lucas who instead, proved to be far physically lighter than he was before. He pushed off the ground with much disturbance, soaring overhead as the Dark Beasts rammed into each other where they had tried to instead sandwich him. He twisted, and so did they, but the moment cost them as he closed in on the monster to his left, slicing right through a paw and cutting it off while they advanced backwards. A daring maneuver, but suddenly, the two creatures were between Farren and Lucas.

However, they saw it as a more difficult path to escape a far more imposing predator. The creatures tried to split to the sides, the wounded one stumbling as it did so. Lucas had been keeping pace with them, stepping towards with each movement, so when it failed to bolt and instead suffered for it, he was there, a dark shadow behind a bright shining light that brought destruction. The blue-blade easily rent the monster's head from its body. The other was already sprinting back towards the caravan, and with a brief look at Farren, he began to speak when he paused to cough into his right-hand. The choice then to turn from her, and say "Come on!" while taking the lead was an obvious play to hide something. His steps, shockingly, left almost no impression, seeming to barely brush up against the earth before he was pushing off again and in an instant, slamming the other foot down and pushing forward with even more speed in a dead-man's sprint, practically daring to look like a charging beast himself.

He didn't check if he left Farren behind at this point as he didn't have time to waste. This ability would always begin killing him the moment he activated it. Even if that term meant little to him, it was incredibly dangerous to use it long-term, though it allowed him to push his body into near superhuman displays of speed, the complete opposite to his destructive powers of darkness, instead employing precision. He definitely checked on Farren from time to time, running with just enough of a pace to occasionally glance over his shoulder and make sure a Dark Beast wasn't going to take advantage of the moment.


Freed from the dead Beast's pointless trap, the fire-bomb wielding doctor found herself in a surprisingly convenient position. The giant monster found itself befuddled by the billowing smoke that seemed to compose the creature it had just attacked. Dark like it, but completely different. It seemed to realize in the moment what was off here. It had not just found a creature like itself, no, this being was of an entirely different nature. The Dark Beast existed out of a symbiotic nature, aware it is the victim of a change it did not request and another entity trying to control its every move. It had found itself in a living nightmare, one filled with screaming, raging madness, the same kind that sounded out as Lilium seized the opportunity and set it afire. Flesh and fur smoked and singed, it thrashed in momentary blindness to the source of its pain, trying instead to back away from possible threats first and identify. It stayed focused on her, but she could see past it, a blue-white light break free from the tree-line in pursuit of a single Dark Beast out of three. When the count came down to it, it looked like there were only five left alive. She had killed one, only one returned from the woods, and the spearmen had been fighting relentlessly just nearby while she spent her time idly dissecting one of the creatures.

But Lilium also saw something else. A distant darkness, that flowed inward, trailing after him. It was barely visible until it became near him, requiring great focus to notice the dark, billowing cloud that followed this being. As he drew in on his mark, where the spearmen and Lucas were meant to collide with the Dark Beasts in-between them, she could see the black mist was flowing rapidly into his body like the imprint of black wings trailing his form. But he halted at a distance, watching it regroup with the others. Barks were issued, and position changed as the creatures visibly tried to withdraw in a bloody mess from the mercenary formation. This action cost them. In an instant, the human soldiers were overwhelming the once impossible seeming odds as the disruptions caused by the various fronts of their assault brought them down. The light on the blade flickered out, and the white-haired man with the red-right eye knelt on the ground holding his right-hand to his mouth and his blade in the left as he observed the men.

He tried to hide the blood he coughed up from the red-haired woman who arrived beside him soon after.

What Lilium saw was the darkness that trailed this man stop being pulled inward, but in that moment, a chill struck her being. Horrible, painful to ignore sensations of discomfort and terror inflicted by the very ability to see the formless, twisted darkness that composed Lucas Black. It seemed he was done helping them fight, though he was ready to fend the wolves off from the redhead. However, it didn't look like they would escape as the mercenaries became free enough to even employ bows. The day was won it seemed, though rivers of blood flowed and the caravan Lilium rode in on would not be travelling any further. The cries of the dying were all around them, and it became clear in the scene that the Dark Beasts had been choosing not to kill the wounded, instead setting them up in piles and lines to cry out and suffer for them.

It was with a grim expression Lucas took this all in, and he seemed to be waiting for business to conclude between Lilium and her Dark Beast, as well as the spearmen.


"Ive done enough. They can grow stronger from this," He said to Farren, keeping face even as he knelt down on one knee, supporting his weight on his blade. "We can start helping the wounded once Ive caught a breath," He added on for good measure, eyeing Farren and checking her expression to make sure he wasn't getting a series of judgement looks. But no, now wasn't the time. He would prefer the light-hearted Farren, and he found himself surprised at the thought as he showed sheer indifference to all the dying people around them, far beyond saving for the most part. The fight would see its end within minutes, Lucas taking in every detail from his comfortable position. Once it ended, he supported his weight on his blade to stand stubbornly tall, by this point, particularly eyeing Lilium who may have very well made her way over to them before the others even finished their pained struggle to survive.

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JJV3wJs.pngFarren had followed Lucas, stumbling to her feet and trying to catch her breath, but she followed after him with nimble feet. She likes to attribute her ability to run with her ability to acclimate to the strange world around her. Hunting down monsters is her job, after all, and she has been dealt with some heavy hands that nearly cost her everything. There was no way she could acknowledge then, within the moment of their rushing forward, that her legs felt heavier than usual, yet her steps were never so light. At the moment, it was nothing but a coincidence or something like it.

'... You're there.'

The sound of the voice trailing across her mind made the woman stumble over a fallen tree that's found itself pecked to pieces over the years. So caught off guard, she wasn't able to avoid the travesty of her reaction, and fell face first, eating ground. She wasn't sure if she should be embarrassed or hurt, though a bit of both fit her mood as she struggled to her knees. Not wanting to lose her spot behind Lucas, she climbed to her feet and picked up her pace, again choosing to ignore that something out of the ordinary happened.

By the time she caught up with Lucas, her lungs were burning, and her mind was swimming. With enough time, she looked him over and frowned, not because she saw it, but she smelled it. The stench of blood was in the air, but she could distinguish his from the rest, and it nearly made her curl in disgust. Digging her nails into the palms of her hands, she turns her attention to his words and stays fixed there.

If she were a mind reader, she would have scoffed. It was impossible to pity Lucas, it would go against all the rest of her opinions of the gentleman who has apparently done more to appeal to her emotional needs than grandiose actions. When the time is right, and when she's a bit more comfortable with herself, she will have to ask him what happened. Especially if they are going to have a "heart-to-heart" about her hands. That in itself worried her some, now that the furor of battle is drained from her body, she found herself uncertain about what they'll kick up. Her past isn't ... delicate, but it isn't abnormal either; she doubts there's anything of import.

'You're here.'

Gone was hesitance as the voice burned her ears. Reacting to it, she turned towards the sound of the delicate snip of sound, but she only found the remnants of the battle. Green eyes desperately tore through the trees, hoping that maybe there was a body to this voice - praying, mostly. No matter how hard she strained, there was no one, just hint of noise haunting the corridors of her confused mind.

Her fingers twitched, and she was brought back to reality. "Lucas, I have to sit down," she said while making the first move to leave. There was no time for her to wait for his reply, she was already searching for a hole to hide in. Unable to find the hole, she instead fell behind a cluster of trees to remain out of sight and hopefully, undisturbed.

For the first time since starting this journey with Lucas, she hasn't had to use them. Assuming it's from the fatigue and the magic from earlier, her hands were in demand for some relief from the shooting pain that danced up from her fingertips to her shoulder blades. "Damn," she hissed, discovering that all but one vial was broken. That's what happens when you put precious things randomly in your pockets, Farren. She hasn't had to use the shots this entire journey, and now here she is struggling with wanting to use it and knowing she shouldn't.

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