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The trees didn't give away their secret places easily.  Still, Fiji reflected to himself as he parted a curtain of ivy and looked into the revealed stone hollow, at least they weren't giant, purple-capped psychotropic mushrooms.  That had been a bad world and, afterward, apparently a bad lifetime.

The ivy fell back into place as Fiji turned away and wandered through the woods, his pointed ears swivelling and shiny black nose twitching.  His glacier blue eyes were half-closed, his posture relaxed and his stride was more of a sleepwalker’s stagger that nevertheless kept his feet on rocks or exposed and semi-rotten logs.  He paused suddenly, mid-stride, his foot still raised, as his head turned and his ears focused on something.  His foot lowered as he listened intently, and then he stalked through the shadowy woods with a new purpose.

He stumbled a few times. The darkness of unmanaged woodland hid moss-covered logs and submerged stones where they could not be easily seen. The few anaemic shrubs that tried to grow in the leafmould were easy to rip out and place, roots pointing the way.

If he got his own way, Fiji decided as he clenched his lacerated fist to cover his lacerated palm, he’d turn the entire forest into an open mining pit. That’d teach nature not to mess with him. He grinned, fangs gleaming against the darkness, as he imagined the reacion of the emotionless popinjay in his Tower, and then huffed out a breath. He’d never go for it. Not for a few decades, at least, and the entire idea was a short-term fancy anyway.

Sunlight glimmered through the trees and the breeze brought with it the scent of flowers.

 



 

“I still think it’s pretty odd.”

The wargs rolled, cuffed at each other with their immense paws, and play-bit, their black-spotted, coppery hides covered in dust from the road.

“Yeah. They’re pretty odd, alright.” Tats pulled another one of the long pins out of the cart and started wiggling the other wheel free of its axle. “But they’ve done their bit, at least until-”

Not them!” Blondie straightened a little from levering the other wheel free and levelled a glare at his twin brother. “I mean that new guy. Dogface. If I could travel like that, Nisnav would never find me or my family. Makes you wonder what he’s here for.”

Maybe you could try asking.” The growly voice made Blondie flinch, and the cart suddenly tipped towards him. Fiji’s clawed hand caught the top of the cart bed before it could fall very far. “So. Who’s this ‘Dogface’, and am I going to have to savage you over an insult?”

Don’t mind my stupid brother.” Tats leaned on the top of the cart as his brother backed away from Fiji with his hands up. “I’m Tats. That’s Blondie. Fish is the four-armed guy sorting the weapons and shit. You’re Dogface. No names, see? Keeps our... work from getting back to our families.”

I do see.” Fiji’s pointed ears flicked down briefly; a Ghor apology that he knew quite well that the humans probably wouldn’t even notice, let alone understand. He set the cart down gently on the road. “I found a clearing. Far enough from the road so we can’t be seen. Close enough to get to easily in a hurry.” He paused. “Do the savage, terrifying, exceptionally fierce and modest beasts have names?”

It was Tats’ turn to flinch. He turned slowly to look at the Wargs and relaxed visibly when he saw that they were still play-fighting.

You don’t. Ever. Name the wargs that you take with you. If they don’t like something you call them, they tend to tell you off.” He looked at Fiji. “It’s very painful to get told off by a Warg. Blood everywhere.”

Sshow me thiss clearing.”

Fiji turned to look at Fish, who was walking towards them and wiping a clear film of grease from his hands with a pair of rags. The black-scaled fishman’s tail thumped the ground behind him once or twice, the delicate-looking fins on the end throwing up rainbow hues.

Of course,” said Fiji as he started walking towards the trees. “This way.”


 

Once more, the cool darkness of the woods swallowed him.

 

@Spooky Mittens

@ViverFever

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[Territories of CoTH, Afternoon Woods]

The pair had spent the better part of the day traveling without pause, save for a few moments here or there to share a word or gather their bearings.  As Demi began to speak at greater length, Tirkas decided that now was as good a time as any for the pair to have a bit of a break.  They had wandered far enough now that the geography of the forest had shifted some.  They broke into a brushland, an area where trees had either burnt or fallen away which was now blanketed in shrubs and bushes that rarely grew taller than a man.  It was still fairly sunny here, and so it suited Tirkas' needs perfectly.

Tirkas kept walking until Demi finished speaking, looking all the while for a suitable place for them to pause.  He remained silent for a few moments longer before he found a nice mossy spot to sit, and there he would drop the sack he had hoisted over his shoulder.

"You needn't worry so much Demi.  I didn't find your reaction offensive."  Tirkas finally replied as he took a seat, cross-legged, in a nice sunny spot.  "Come, let's take a break.  We've been walking since morning."  He finished, patting a hand on the clear spot beside him.  As he waited for Demi to take a seat several small twigs would appear to sproute from around Tirkas' head.  They took to curling clockwise, almost like a crown, and finished by sprouting many tiny leaves.  He followed this development by taking a drink from one of his water skins.  Once Demi finially sat herself down, he would answer he question.

"Well, now, there's an interesting question indeed."  He started, rubbing his chin and looking out across the brush.  "I suppose it's both.  If you think about it, that is.  To work for The Father is to work for The Church.  I guess that answer isn't satisfying.  You probably want to know where my loyalty lies, who I actually want to work for.  Unfortunately the answer tot hat is also quite plain, it's both."  He thought back to the small events that had occurred since his arrival in the village.  Everything had led him to his current point of view.  "God has shown himself to us all in some small way, and as far as I can tell, Father Constans is some sort of prophet.  I didn't used to put much stock in gods, since they all seemed to willing to sit by and watch the world burn.  Our god changed my mind, back when Viscerex and his bandits raided the town.  I. . ."  He hesitated, the words dying on his lips as he furrowed his brow.  He put the thought on hold for a moment as he opened his sack and pulled out a neatly folded cloth.

In the cloth was a handful of Tirkas' personal blended trail mix.  A nice fatty cured meat, cut into small pieces, mixed with various nuts and dried fruit.  He handed it off to Demi, since he didn't actually need to eat for at least another week.  "I lost a boy that night.  I'd only just met him.  When the raid broke, I tried to usher him to safety and took him into town to find his lady love.  She was in a shack, and it was on fire, searching for her cat.  He ran in after her, and I stood by and watched, like the same gods I once scorned.  I could have helped him, I know I could have, but I didn't want to take the risk."  His voice trailed off a bit, growing quiet as he turned his eyes down.  "So, looking to the future, when I can help, I must.  That's what god showed me.  That's why it could be said I serve both.  Constans needs someone with my skills, and Coth needs Constans."

@ViverFever @Ghorroj

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Demi followed Tirkas’ movements with her own, shrugging her pack from her shoulders and lowering it to the ground. Rather than sit immediately, Demi gazed at the small clearing, trailing the odd assortment of shrubs and bushes amidst the forest. When she did choose to sit, it was with her eyes watching the slow growth of leaves and branches like a crown on Tirkas head. A single eyebrow rose in question but she didn’t question it. Instead she merely stretched her legs out in front of her and pulled her own water skin close. She never really had much interaction with elves to really question the various oddities of their race.

Tirkas’ voice distracted her enough from the leafy crown and she turned her eyes to meet his, watching the movement of his jaw and face as he spoke. It wasn’t so much his loyalties she questioned but rather whether or not he was a mercenary, much in the way that Demi considered herself to be. She kept silent however, watching the subtle shift of his face as his words failed him. Should she not have asked, Demi wondered as she accepted the cloth with a soft word of thanks. She picked up one of the nuts, holding it between her index finger and thumb. She twisted it in her fingers then set it down when Tirkas began again; it felt disrespectful to eat as he talked. So she didn’t and instead held it in her lap, the pads of her thumbs rubbing against the corners of the cloth.

“I wasn’t part of the situation; I wouldn’t know what truly happened but…” Demi started, shifting her eyes down to the food in her lap. Her voice was soft as she spoke and when she looked up, there was a comforting expression on her face. “There are… some lessons that need to be learned for us to know who we truly are as a person. As warriors.” She shrugged softly and picked up one of the strips of cured meat, turning her eyes down to stare at it. “They are lessons that stick with us for years. Mine was watching people I served with, that I regard as my brothers and sisters, turn their backs on the people that needed us the most.” She’d watched innocents die, knowing that if she saved one, she was condemning ten others. “I’m sorry for your experience and I am sure Constans is glad to have you on the side of Coth.” 

Demi pulled a chunk from the cured meat, chewing it thoughtfully as she turned her eyes to Tirkas. She wasn’t actually hungry but it tasted nice. She wondered offhandedly if Tirkas had prepared it himself. All the same, after eating the strip of meat and a few berries, she tied the corners of the cloth closed again and handed it back over to Tirkas. “Thank you. My feet are gracious for the small break. And… since we’ll be traveling together, you’re free to ask me anything you like. I don’t mind answering.”
@Ghorroj 

@Spooky Mittens

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