[RO] [m] they say, they say
#1
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<td><b class="red">WARNING</b>: This thread contains material exceeding the general board rating of PG-13. It may contain very strong language, drug usage, graphic violence, or graphic sexual content. Reader discretion is advised.</td>
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[html]<div class="Kaliclean"> <img src="http://i.imgur.com/bagQKdb.png" title="By San" style="max-width: 45%; float: right; padding-top: 5px; padding-bottom: .5px; padding-left: 4px;">

<p>They say "<i>Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned</i>"&mdash;this is what they say. And this is what they <i>mean</i>. </p>
<center>***</center>
<p>The blackness came heavy, and it came swift. She was not aware for how long she was blind, and deaf, and unfeeling.</p>
<p>Days? Weeks? ...<i>Months</i>. It did not matter.</p>
<p>It did not matter until the blackness was lifted, and Kali had risen from the deep ashes of depression like a phoenix reborn. </p>
<p>But she was not a magnificent bird of fire and glory and renewal. Rather than emerge from the suffocation of emotion as a sublime and evolved butterfly, what had taken the place of the broken de le Poer was something <i>infinitely</i> more terrible than what had been before. </p>
<p>Something cold and <i>hard</i> had taken root instead. Where there had once been flame and forges, now lay chars and smoke. And <i>pain</i>. Pain that would roll over the earth like the tides of a fire-born tsunami; and nothing in her path would be spared.</p>
<p>For if Kali had been a Destroyer before, then a <i>Decimator</i> was what she had become.</p>
<center>***</center>
<p>Rook was present. He was the only attendant of the transformation; To her death and revival. And now when he looked at her he felt fear and torment, and he was all there was to witness the sickness she carried with her. </p>
<p>His infection with the Luperci virus before leaving Inferni had been fortuitous, if nothing else. When she was despondent, he had cared for her in the northern wilds. And when she had reanimated he could assist better now, when they disposed of the <i>bodies</i>... </p>
<center><p><i>So many bodies.</i> </p>
***</center>
<p><npc>I've never tried that, no. I can't imagine I'd be very good at it, though.</npc></p>
<p><b>It's not so hard. Just takes some practice... an' a good eye.</b> </p>
<p>A fire pulsed and danced in front of them, and they were reclined cozily together; an unsure male wanting to touch, not yet given full permission. </p>
<p><npc>I doubt that's all it takes to hunt with a whip, Kali,</npc> he said skeptically, smirking at her. <npc>But maybe now that we've met, you could teach me?</npc> There was hope in his voice. Kali's smile was intoxicating, and her laugh thrilled him deep in his bones. She had laughed a lot in the hours since they met, and it made him feel as if the world was attainable. He wanted nothing more than to make the last half-day last for a lifetime. </p>
<p><b>I could teach you a <i>lot</i> a things,</b> she murmured coyly, angling her face and inviting him in with her eyes. He didn't hesitate. The male leaned in gently, a grey hand slipping into the mass of her dark, wavy hair as he pulled her into their first kiss. </p>
<p>He <i>knew</i> he had been reading the signs right! And he was happy about it for a time. She was warmer than the fire, and she let his hands explore her freely as the passion went from a low simmer to a rolling <i>boil</i>. </p>
<p>She did not let him lead for long, and soon he found himself pressed deep into the grass beneath them, and she was dancing on top of him with an athletic body he had not yet witnessed before. She drew from him the most colossal pleasure he had ever known, and it all he could do to continue breathing in the wake of her writhing and erotic body. </p>
<p>He gripped her hard, desperate to slow the edging pinnacle that would mean the end of this ecstasy. He began to whine and pant, crying beneath the force she would use to punish him. Because he <i>was</i> being punished. He knew it, somewhere in the back of his head, that he would never know anything greater than this moment. And it came upon him with a vengeance; had him shouting out into the night, as she sang too, in the burst of his climax. </p>
<p>The rapture in the first pulse of his member had barely consumed him when she brought the knife down and buried it hilt-deep into his chest. The male gasped, unable to comprehend any of his feelings as both his semen and blood left him. A profound feeling of <i>Emptiness</i> consumed him, and as green eyes questioned her in his last second, blood filled his lungs and he died there. </p>
<p>By now she had perfected the aim of her weapon. They died in the same moment they came; No longer did they struggle for long afterward; No longer did she need to stab more than once. </p>
<p>Kali picked herself off of him, dead herself, and then turned her eyes towards the edge of the darkness, where she could see Rook standing. His face, a handsome Optime one, was pursed into an unhappy look&mdash;but he had stopped arguing about this weeks ago. After about the sixth time, it no longer seemed to matter... </p>
<p><b>Is the hole finished?</b> she asked him, cleaning the blade of her dagger on a cloth. Rook only nodded, which she caught in the corner of her sharp eye. <b>Well get the head, I'll get the feet.</b> He hesitated to uncross his arms from across his broad chest, but the dog came forward obediently, and hoisted the body up with Kali. </p>
<p>He could have easily carried the man himself, but Kali liked to be involved in every way possible. The dog didn't know why.</p>
<p><b>C'mon, let's make this quick. I'm tired as fuck.</b> </p>

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#2
[html]<div class="Kaliclean">
<p>They say "<i>Karma is a bitch</i>"&mdash;this is what they say. And this is what they <i>mean</i>. </p>
<center>***</center>
<p>In her dreams, all the eyes were green. </p>
<p>From the blinking earth to the peeking mountains&mdash;<i>everything</i> was covered in emerald eyes; Green poison and sour delight. The ghosts and ghouls had them too, and their blood was verdant acid, and for every one she vengefully slayed there was another surely to take its place. The Demon lived on, behind his green-eyed legions, and Kali would eat them all alive. </p>
<p>When she would wake, she would realize she hadn't been dreaming, and the coyote of fire and <i>war</i> would resume her virulent torrent across Nova Scotia. Kali's plight had reached dozens so far, unwitting victims, mostly unconnected men whose eyes were too close to her nightmares, reminded her too much of her lost <i>possession</i>, and she would <i>bury</i> them for it. </p>
<p>Their bodies would forever lie with the moral pieces of her; These could never be lost. With the last of her goodness draining, her Sins were becoming all-consuming. These, she could <i>own</i>.</p>
<p>What fueled her was <i>power</i>. She thought she could control all and <i>be</i> all. Though where righteousness had once been bred, there was now a blackness whose vastness sought even to consume the fiery glow in her eyes. But she would not die&mdash;not when there was so much <i>hate</i> to be served like a buffet of delicious misery.</p>
<p>In her dreams, all the eyes were green. </P.
<p>And the blackness yawned in its hunger.</p>
<center>***</center>
<p>Her last victim had been a son; She had killed many <i>sons</i>, but this son in particular had been requited as some type of young god. But Kali was an <i>old</i> god, and the young gods have always been devoured by the old. </p>
<p>Though her fury was unprejudiced, the de le Poer had been careful as she had been raised. How was she to know he allied himself with <i>The Exiled</i>; the mad, the rouges, the <i>misfits</i>, the ones who kept in secret and lived underfoot like rats. She did not know any of this. But she would know soon enough. </P>
<center>***</center>
<p>Rook noticed the shadows first, and his attempted defense against Kali's capture was just as valiant as her own. At least two died in the struggle, but when she regained consciousness after the overwhelming fight, she found that her arms were bound over her head, and the claws of her tightly bound feet scraped the ground uncomfortably as she dangled back and forth. </P>
<P>Her face stung, having been slapped awake, and her eyes rolled, meeting the face of a tall gray man&mdash;and she was instantly <i>furious</i> for his wolf-eyes were the same shade of green that had gotten his son killed. </P>
<p><npc>Wudn't easy trackin' you down, missus.</npc> He patted her face, and now that Kali was fully conscious, he could now see her exact wrath, as she jerked her clenched mouth away and snarled through the bandana meant to trap her jaws. <npc>You is a feisty'un, eh?</npc> he acclaimed appreciatively. He hadn't been present at her capture, but clearly he was more in charge than any of them. </P>
<p>The wolf was a burly sort, stone-colored, and scarred like a man who had been a pirate or battler in his youth. Now he just <i>led</i> the wild fleet, as opposed to participating in it. He began to pace. <npc>Y'might've made me a fine luhver, had ye'not killed my son.</npc> There was little bitterness in his tone, though the efforts he had sent to find her spoke volumes to the opposite. </p>
<P>The man's Peace promised her Death. </p>
<p><npc>He wus'smarter than the restovus. A good one.. did a lotta readin'. He weren't meant for the undergroun'... tha's why he runs away, and then you, well you just takes his life, don'cha?</npc> He touched her body, with large and filthy hands. <npc>Heard y'killed Poggy en Dipper too, eh? Yer a right bitch you are, aren't ya.</npc> If Kali could spit, she would have, but she settled instead on scorching him with her eyes. <npc>If y'were free, I'd be a-shakin' frum that look yer givin' me. It's a scurred kinda pleasure&mdash;I likes it! Keep glarin'!</npc> </P>
<P>The man grew excited, as he stabbed her in between her ribs. </P>
<p>She howled into the pit of her mouth, her cries playing vibrations against the nerves in her teeth. Kali's eye contact was broken, but only for a moment as she forcibly returned it with a tangent of sharp breaths, scores of pain shooting up to her brain as he laughed. <npc>I think I'm in luhve with them eyes o'yers! Oh if'n onleh ye'hadn't killed my boy!</npc> he cackled, stabbing her again.</p>
<p>Kali cried out, longer each time, but by the fifth stab she was still able to withdraw herself from the wounds and meet him with eyes unafraid of the torture. <npc>I don' wants to kill ye jus' yet,</npc> he mused, rubbing his blade across his stomach, lathering himself with her blood. He turned to retrieve bandages from a metal table standing near, though the wrappings looked less like they would stop her bleeding and more like they would give her a mold infection. </P>
<p><npc>I gots a lot planned, missus, so don' go dyin' on me al'ight?</npc> He said, beginning to patch her stomach and smililing all the while. He talked, because it seemed like there wasn't much to talk about these days, and newcomers were either killed or scared away here, so he talked and he told her plenty in the few short minutes he took to stop her bleeding. He told her about The Exiled and the depraved types in their company. He promised her horror and unhappiness for as long as she and her <i>friend</i> lived&mdash;and she could only assume he meant Rook, who she did not see&mdash;and he told her that he had killed Hades and Mercury. </P>
<center>***</center>
<P>When she was left alone, the flames taken away and the darkness encompassing everything around her, Kali began to mourn herself and her sins. And her hung body shook as the silenced sobs made her stomach bleed and her thoughts swell painfully.</P>
<p>It would be the last time she cried.</p>

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#3
[html]<div class="Kaliclean">
<p>They say "<i>Do not play with Fire</i>"&mdash;this is what they say. And this is what they <i>mean</i>. </p>
<center>***</center>
<p>Most of the things that happened over the following days, Kali had steeled herself against. Pain was relative, and it were only the <i>sometime</i> moments that would resonate through the wall she had mentally constructed around herself. </p>
<p>Sometimes she hung, sometimes she was chained to the floor. Sometimes she prayed, sometimes Rook's howling screams turned her deaf and numb. </p>
<P>Sometimes she was promised things, sometimes she received them. </p>
<p>Sometimes she counted. Sometimes she would reach four-thousand before the agony began to feel like water pouring over her skin. Like a downpour dousing the flames of a wildfire. </p>
<p>But pain was relative. And it was not more powerful than her pride. </p>
<p>And though her flames no longer licked the earth and the skies with starved vengeance, her glowing embers remained. Needing only a kindling breeze for revival. </p>
<center>***</center>
<p>The torches were out when the wind came through. </p>
<p>Kali felt it in the dank place, and she picked up her muzzle on instinct though her head was heavy and the chain at her neck crushed down on her collarbones. Still, she was unable to see or smell anything besides ocher metal and her own black blood. </p>
<p>She heard two clicks and a soft clanging, followed by pained groaning&mdash;<I>whimpering</i>, really&mdash;and Kali whined in response to the sound of her friend's dying tone. It was all she could muster in the darkness that weighed on them like the weight of sea. </p>
<p>She did not <i>hear</i> the woman approach. </P>
<P>Suddenly there were claws at her chained wrists, and Kali flinched feebly away from the scorching grip against her icy skin. She growled, as if it had ever stopped anything. </p>
<p><npc>Hush!</npc> a feminine voice hissed angrily, heavily accented. The de le Poer was too dazed to place it at first. <npc><span title="be still">Ser todavía</span>&mdash;don't move an' don't speak.</npc> Her accent was some variant of South American&mdash;Colombian, she thought. Kali obeyed the woman in the shadows, if only because she didn't have the strength to even verbally repel anyone. The deep weight on her body began to lessen as Kali counted; she was at twenty-three before she realized that all her shackles were being removed. </p>
<P><b>Wh... What're y&mdash;</b> <npc>¡Silencio!</npc> The harsh whisper traveled through the stone chamber, and Kali was effectively confused but silenced nonetheless. Her last binding, the leather around her chest, keeping her upright against the wall was loosened, and then nothing moved at all after she collapsed onto the cold, sludgy floor. </p>
<p>For a while she could only hear herself breathe, then her pupils constricted as the cellar doors opened and the underground was illuminated by moonlight. Distant rustling, the crunching of gravel and mumblings and dragging noises; All of these things Kali tried to focus on, but it all happened too quickly for the sequence of events to register properly. </p>
<p>Suddenly there were powerful arms sliding beneath her armpits, beginning to drag her towards the light. Instinctively she tried to resist, but no part of her was strong enough to fight. She stopped moving completely when she saw Rook's limp body in a massive heap at the top of the steps she was being pulled up. </p>
<p>Hauled onto the back of a cart, a quaking thud happened beside her, and Kali (who was lying on her back) rolled her head to one side so that she could see that her dog had been thrown beside her. He was unshifted, as he had always preferred, and Kali used whatever will was left in her body to place a scarred hand upon his blood-crusted cheek. Something hot was placed on her other side but she didn't bother to see what this was. </p>
<p>As the wagon began to totter away quickly from the doors in the ground, the stairway to Hell, Kali fell unconscious with an apology to her friend on her lips. </p>
<center>***</center>
<p>The sky was bright overhead, and awareness trickled in slowly as warmth began seeping down into her bones. Her back felt pleasantly heated, and there was a quiet, consistent <i>whooshing</i> sound that Kali recognized as the ocean. Her fingers flexed, pulling sand with them, and she realized why she was so warm. </p>
<p>A beach. Paradise. Surely a dream. </p>
<p><npc>Finally you are awake,</npc> came that same Spanish voice from the night before. <npc>Thought you might leave us... it has been five days already.</npc> Not the night before&mdash;almost <i>a week ago</i>. </p>
<p>Kali pushed herself up with a groan, surprised that she even had the strength to. Propped on her elbows, she began to observe her surroundings and re-realize her body. Besides being blinded by the uncovered sunlight, her stomach throbbed painfully, and she was reminded of the large brand on her back as charred flesh pulled and wrinkled with every move. </p>
<p>The coyote blinked, slowly able to make out the shapes forming before her&mdash;Rorschach inkblot tests suddenly becoming full-figured Luperci. </P>
<P>The woman was before her, and she could tell the foreigner was short despite the fact she was sitting cross-legged. She had a bandana over her muzzle like a bandit, and the rest of her was covered in shawls. A gypsy. The only thing Kali could make out about the woman was her spicy scent, her tan feet, and the sharp gold of her eyes. </p>
<p>She turned her head, looking onto the water, and then towards the cart as seagulls wheeled past, drawing her eye. Two horses stood near a detached wagon, and a wolf was brushing the chestnut. He was tall, with claw marks down his muscular back, and when he looked at her over his shoulder with his eyes like misted daylight, she noticed that his jaw was hanging oddly, and where there should have been a tongue, there was teeth and air only. She looked away. </p>
<P><npc>Mi hermano, Tsuban,</npc> the woman introduced suddenly. <npc>I am Nadya.</npc> She was watching Kali, just as Kali had turned her head again to watch her. </p>
<p><b>I'm not your prisoner,</b> Kali observed aloud, and even from beneath the veil, she could tell Nadya was smiling.</p>
<p><npc>No, you are not.</npc> </p>
<p><b>Why did you take me?</b> She didn't feel comfortable with saying the word <i>rescue</i>, as it was yet to be seen what type of situation she was in now. </p>
<p><npc>Fire-'yote kill Dipper. Nadya owes her life to such a woman.</npc> </p>
<p>Kali sighed, moving one arm to rub her face, when it clanked against a wooden bowl. She watched as the clear liquid inside it sloshed, before slowly taking it into her hand. She gave the water a suspicious sniff, which drew a quick, hearty laugh from the Spanish wolf, before ingesting it in quick gulps. From the puddle that was left, she saw her reflection for the first time in weeks, and was shocked though it didn't register on her face. </p>
<P>The left side of her head had been shaved, and there was a vertical tear splitting the tip of her right ear&mdash;her earring had been ripped out. Her face had scratches that would heal, but the left side of her mouth had been cut wider and then stitched closed. </p>
<p><npc>We are letting your wounds breathe, si? I will wrap you up again when we go back on road.</npc> </p>
<p>Kali hardly heard her. Absently she touched her own throat, checking for the medallion that was always there, but she found only her own fur, mostly clean from the blood that had caked there. </p>
<p><npc>We have your things,</npc> the gypsy spoke again, and Kali looked at her. <npc>They took everything intact from you and would have traded them later on expedition. I collected them for you. There are sharp things and whip, and neck-laces, a ring...</npc> she drifted off, as Kali's face expressed neither gratitude or relief. Kali wasn't looking at her at all. </p>
<p>She was looking at a spot on the beach nearby, looking into deep chocolate eyes that looked back at her. The only part of him that didn't blend with anything around them. </p>
<p>Kali made a move for Rook at the same moment he moved for her. The dog was far more injured than she, but injured in the same manner that she had been. Neither of them had received life-threatening wounds&mdash;<i>He</i> had all known just where to stab, just where to gouge, just where to <i>hurt</i> without killing them&mdash;but the worst days had been those where Kali had been forced to <i>watch</i> him stick and burn and bleed her companion. </p>
<p>The stitched wounds on her stomach hurt the worst as she began crawling towards Rook. Kali was aware of other gashes, namely the horizontal ones across her thighs and shins, but she pulled herself through the sand so that she might reach Rook, as he hauled himself to her. His back legs didn't work, which seemed to be the only thing keeping him from moving any faster. </p>
<p>He whined as his broad head finally met the warmth of her palm, and he pressed into her gratefully. Kali pulled her weak arms around his neck, feeling the ring of wounds that had been born of him attempting to shift against his chains, and the acts of being hung until he passed out. There were places across his body where his thick fur had been torn or sheared away, and the scabs and stitches were too many to count. </p>
<p>She held him for a long moment, telling him how sorry she was. His death had been all but promised, as her own; and yet here she was, and here he was, as he had always been since the day they had met. </p>
<p><npc>I knew you would not like if we left him. He more dead than you, but fight for life when he see you here too... Your bond is...</npc> Nadya could not find the word, but Kali didn't need it. </p>
<p><b>You risked your life to save us... Thank you,</b> she croaked in such earnest that she realized she had never thanked anyone like that before. Even when maybe it had been deserved. </p>
<p><npc>We weren't living much life anyway,</npc> the thin woman shrugged, looking up as Tsuban had come to set food before them. Kali didn't hesitate to indulge in the raw meat, and after every bite, she would feed Rook an equal portion as he lay in the sand against her leg. </p>
<p>Nadya ate too, speaking after each swallow. <npc>After you kill Dipper, my ownership change to Mudboy, King of the Exiled&mdash;you remember him, yea?</npc> </P>
<p>Kali nodded, knowing very clearly who her chatty torturer had been. And Mudboy had not been a fitting name. Though he was neither child nor brown, <i>they</i> had called him "Kang Muhdbouy" anyway&mdash;what filth.</p>
<p><npc>He made it easy to plot against him. You see Mudboy almost deaf, but he no tell anyone because it would encourage mutiny. The life of a Exile King is as the life of a fly&mdash;disgusting and short. I remove him from power, and no one look for us. He was the only one with a vendetta against you, and with King gone those idiotas spend their time now trying to be next on top.</npc> </p>
<p><b>You removed him from power?</b> Kali echoed, tilting her head slightly. <npc>I did.</npc> </p>
<p>Nadya snapped her fingers, and automatically Tsuban began to put his hands on Kali, helping her up. She snarled, but could hardly resist the strength of his hands as he pulled her to her feet and began to angle her towards the cart and horses. Nadya laughed at Kali's objections, and led them to the back of the wagon. </p>
<p>Kali wasn't sure what she should have expected, but there, bound, gagged and unconscious, was the massive gray wolf who had stabbed and cut and mutilated her and her companion. She looked sharply to the short wolf beside her, and Nadya smiled obviously again from beneath her muzzle's cover. <npc>My final gift to you, Fire-'yote. You do not know what you have done for myself and mi hermano.</npc> </p>
<p>Kali looked back at her capturer. The man who had only wished to avenge his son. She considered a swift death, but it was not in Kali's nature to be so merciless. She had survived, yes, but in her firm belief (and previous pain-induced hallucinations) it was because God had Spoken, and He had said her vengeance had not been exacted. Justice had not yet been served. </p>
<p><npc>What shall we do to him?</npc> </p>
<p>And though it hurt her stitched muzzle, Kali found it in herself to smile. <b>I'll think of somethin'.</b></p>

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#4
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<p>They say "<i>No man is an island</i>"&mdash;this is what they say. And this is what they <i>mean</i>. </p>
<center>***</center>
<p><npc2>Ye cain't do this to me, bitch!</npc2> </p>
The wolf thrashed in the sand, his mouth frothed and bloodied from struggling against a slew of rope restraints. There were seagulls expectantly wheeling in the glass-blue sky above, adding to the cacophony of the scene, but none of their jarring songs were quite so raucous as the screams of the man tied up on the shore. </p>
<p><npc2>My boys, they'll 'ave yer head! They's got the whole pack a-huntin' for ye right nah this second, y'can bet yer fuckin' ass they are! D'ye hear me, y'right cunt?! Let me go! I said, LET ME GO!</npc2> </P>
<p>There was fear in his face; clear in the way his eyes bulged and in the way his ears&mdash; if the bloody stumps that were left could be <i>called</i> ears&mdash; remained pulled back in distress. His head swung too, erratically from left to right, as he watched the two women working around him. His actions were a direct contradiction to the motion of the one he was talking to; she moved very slowly. Very deliberately. And there was no fear in <i>her</i> fire eyes. </p>
<p><b>Think ya boys'll get here 'fore the tide comes in, Muddy-boy?</b> she purred, ignoring the stabbing pain in her gut as she reached to pull on a rope that turned Mudboy over onto his stomach. He grunted and then shouted in protest, slinging at her all the insults he had ever learned in his grimy existence. </p>
<p>She chuckled at how small he seemed now, able to forget in that moment the hopelessness he had previously instilled in her blackened spirit. But despite the expression, she felt colder than the saltwater currently lapping and clinging at her bandaged ankles. </p>
<p><npc>Do I need to send Tsuban for more rope?</npc> The second woman, garbed nearly from head to toe despite the heat, spoke up in her South American tongue. At the same time, a hazy figure in the background of them perked up at the sound of his name. </p>
<p><b>Nah, Nadya. I think this'll do 'im jus' fine,</b> she huffed, finishing the difficult task of knotting Mudboy's last tether, a process that took additional time because of her mutilated hands. The hogtied Luperci now had his feet pulled up towards his back, and his arms secured so tightly behind his back that his shoulders were being pulled out of their sockets. The dark-faced woman rose at the same time her companion did, though remained to admire their handiwork as the foreigner brushed sand from her hands and picked up her sodden skirts to head out of the water. </p>
<p>Mudboy's rage had devolved by this time. For days he had cried bloody murder&mdash; when they had allowed him consciousness&mdash; and had threatened his captors with varying degrees of passionate savagery. But now, with seawater tickling and creeping up the line of his belly, he had finally stopped shouting, and changed his furious tactic abruptly. </p>
<p><npc2>Listen, ok? Jus'... jus' listen. Aight, now... now lookie here, missus,</npc2> he groaned, struggling to hold his head at an angle where he could meet her eye. </p>
<p>Sighing, she squatted briefly to pat Mudboy on his scalped head. <b>Shh, now. I 'preciate you stayin' alive 'til I got strong enough t'do this m'self,</b> she smiled, though the stitched side of her mouth made the expression into a grimace. </p>
<p><npc2>Now, I-I know I did some perdy fucked up shit to ye back in da dungeon,</npc2> Her smile faded as he entered dangerous territory; <npc2>but I, I mean it were jus' for me son. It were jus' for me son who ye killed cold cock, ye 'member that right?</npc2> Her face hardened, and she looked away as if trying not to recall. </npc2>Ok, so just let me go, an' we'll.. we'll call it square, y'hear? I won't do no huntin' for ye, ye can jus' go, an' an'...</npc2>
<p>She stopped listening, and rose to follow Nadya's scooping tracks up the beach. </p>
<p>Mudboy's pleas crescendoed and then reverted once more to his only defense left: a desperate repeat of insults.</p>
<center>***</center>
<p>Kali was animatedly finishing her story: </p>
<p><b>An' then me, ya father, ya Aunt an' Uncle, all sat back up under them trees an' watched us a beautiful ass sunset as the tide came in an' drowned that fuckin' twat nice and slow. Took 'bout, hmm, twenty minutes, maybe less. Every time he'd get to breathin' an' gaspin' again, that water would just come rollin' back on up, an'... oh, man, Lord knows I wish you boys coulda seen him gurgle!</b> </p>
<p>There were four of them there, sitting cross-legged in front of her; all of them almost a year old now, and all of them plenty old enough to understand the difference between blood and family. Even still, it was the first time they were hearing the story of their biological father. </p>
<p>The two middle sons laughed, looking to one another with eyes that had trickled all the way down from Gabriel; the oldest frowned pensively as he leaned his shaggy head on a knee-propped fist, and the youngest... well, he just seemed entirely unconcerned, peering off to the side in petulant boredom. </p>
<p><npc>What'd you do with Mudboy's body?</npc> the oldest asked, once his brothers had stopped reenacting Mudboy's death&mdash; laughing and elbowing one another between imitated gurgles. </p>
<p><b>Nailed 'im to a tree near the spot where we killed him. His skeleton might still be up, if'n the red star ain't wash that whole area away.</b>
<p><npc>Is it far from here?</npc> </p>
<p>Kali narrowed her eyes slightly. <b>Yeah, Mal. You tryin' t'go see it?</b> she asked, her tone only <i>slightly</i> accusatory. </p>
<p><npc>Yes,</npc> he answered boldly. <npc>I wanna see 'bout turning his bones into a weapon or somethin'.</npc> </p>
<p>Her brows lifted, a surprised and pleased expression crossing her scarred features. </p>
<p><npc>Oh, whatever, Malachi! You couldn't make a fuckin' weapon if you had six arms and four smiths t'help you!</npc>
<p><npc>Shut the fuck up, Urijah. You ain't the only one who can make shit, y'know.</npc> </p>
<p><npc>Both'a y'all, shut the fuck up. Ain't neither one ah y'all got the chops t'make anythin' actually <i>useful</i>.</npc> </p>
<p><npc>Who asked you, shit fer brains?</npc> </p>
<p><npc>Ya gotdamn mother, that's who!</npc> </p>
<p>Suddenly, three of the four young men were wrestling on the ground, ripping at one another as snarls and yips filled the sunbathed gorge, their cries and grunts reverberating off the rocks around them. Kali rolled her eyes, getting to her feet so that she might abandon the eleventh battle of the day. </p>
<p>The sun was beating down mercilessly, and Kali lifted a misshapen hand to shield her face from it as she did a habitual scan of the distant skies for a sign of something out of place. Seeing nothing, she picked up a curved dagger that had been lying in wait on the rock beside her, and hooked it in the belt loop of her shorts as she made for the trail back to camp. </p>
<p>As she passed her youngest son, she stopped to graze her hand along his hanging chin, and pulled his dark face up to meet her gaze; His eyes were an unfortunate shade of green. Her odd son nodded, silently assuring her that he was okay; and she just kissed his muzzle, ran a hand through his sooty hair, and departed up the river. </p>
<p>Echoes of the brawl followed her until the music of the water drowned them out.</p>
<center>***</center>
<p>Following a thin line of smoke and a ring of birds marring the otherwise immaculate canyon skyline, Kali made her way back to camp. The aroma of roasted fish had drawn in the vultures, wheeling above like winged omens, but the only true annoyance they served was making their position more obvious. Not that it mattered, she thought. No one would be after them. Except maybe Marlowe and Agrippa... </p>
<p>She swallowed the familiar longing, and passed through a group of seven horses that belonged to the troupe. She stopped only to briefly make sure they'd gotten no rocks in their hooves standing along the gravel trail. </p>
<p>The foundation of a hidden cabin that had once stood, lingered ahead in the area chosen for their camp. It had caved in long ago, but for the last two weeks had served as an excellent source of shade during those particularly long summer days. </p>
<p>As Kali arrived across the pit of a low, smoldering fire, Rook pushed himself up into a sit so that he might receive her. <npc2>The boys?</npc2> he woofed quietly, looking expectant as Kali bent to pick up the various weapons her sons had left strewn about the site. </p>
<p><b>Y'can't hear 'em scrappin' from here?</b> she quipped. Then after noticing his abruptly concerned look out the corner of her eye, she added: <b>don't worry. It ain't why you think it is.</b> He visibly relaxed at the affirmation, and watching her deposit the clanging weapons into a haphazard pile for a moment before tenderly resuming a sphinx position. </p>
<P>Kali watched him too, secretly, as she cleaned. She was admiring his broad head and the way his profile appeared so strong and noble from her angle. He had shed his former slave mannerisms almost completely by this time&mdash; though he remained exclusively obedient to the woman he now called his wife&mdash; and she was proud to know he was something now of her own creation. Even if he did have a bum hindleg. Also of her (inadvertent) doing. He still preferred his four-legged form, evidenced as he lounged in it now, but had to shift when they traveled because he could no longer keep up with a horse on his own feet. He never looked more miserable than he did when he was on horseback. </p>
<p><b>Where's Nadya and Tsuban?</b> she asked, coming to sit behind her mate. She ran her fingers slowly through the thick fur along his spine, across many scars and abrasions. <npc2>They're heading up to the forests. Nadya wants to make a rabbit and fish stew,</npc2> Rook mumbled, groaning as he leaned into her comfortably scratching claws. </p>
<p><npc2>How'd they take it?</npc2> he asked, after letting a silence lie between them while expecting her to say more. </p>
<p><b>Well, I told 'em first that you're their dad, no matter what details are in their blood. Then I told 'em I went batshit for a while an' started murderin' green-eyed bastards until I killed the wrong one, which (long story short) led me to gettin' knocked up. They ain't give a shit, though. Just like I told ya they wouldn't,</b> Kali shrugged, sighing as she leaned back against a supporting boulder. Four boys, even as young adults, were invariably tiring. </p>
<p><npc2>Well, I expected Barns not to care, but what about the others? Malachi? ...He's always questioned me as his father.</npc2></p>
<p>Hearing the sliver of worry of his tone, Kali turned the unmarred side of her face into a grin, and pulled his face with her hands so that he might see it. <b>He was the most interested to know finally, but yer his dad, a'ight? Get that through ya fat head, already. They ain't even kids no more an' ya <i>still</i> worryin' 'bout it.</b> Rook heaved out a deep sigh, and then fashioned his broad muzzle into a smile. </p>
<p><npc2>Okay, okay,</npc2> he mumbled as she kissed him. </p>
<p><b>Now, c'mon. Let's get us a quickie in 'fore everybody comes back.</b> </p>

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