[P] [M] you pay a price for everything you do in this life
#1
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WARNING: 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.
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They had the coyotes' leader, and oh, Beth felt the assurance of victory was close. Though lives had been lost, and it seemed like very little gains had been made, seeing the old thing ruined by Sara's skillful hands had been inspiring. Since she was young, Beth had understood that one of the most vital parts of war was fear – and without their leader, the coyotes had to be afraid. They were stupid pests limited by their scavenger mentality. Without someone holding them together they would dissolve into the savages they were and be easier to destroy.

She had brought this up to Amund, and to her surprise, he had disagreed.

Instead the two had argued over the matter, with him explaining that it was not part of the plan. Every point she brought up, every reason, he shot down. By the end of it she had been so infuriated that she had blown up in his face.

And he had told her you're being hysterical in the way that announced oh so clearly that he looked down on her woman's weakness as a fault.

Though she might have gone to see her father and reason things with him, to gain further insight, he was nowhere to be found. Jericho had been involved with her subordinates and other tasks she did not find important enough to do herself. He would probably have disagreed with her intentions anyway. While her father was a wise man, he was one stuck in his ideas – like Amund, she thought with irritation.

So Beth decided she would take her own initiative and see, just see, if her hunch was right.

She was tacking up her horse when she saw the white form of Caiphas.

Hey, he called, approaching. Where are you going?

I thought I'd ride by Inferni, she told him. We seem to be having luck with those filthy pests.

You mean that one your father brought in?

Your father, she thought irritably. Even now, everything was about her father.

Of course that's what I meant. What are you doing?

His expression tightened at her tone, and she saw him draw into a false-attention – enough to show he took her words as a demand, at least.

I was going on a patrol. I wanted to look for that wolf we ran off the other day.

Oh yes, your 'giant'.

Yes, that one, he snapped, and folded his arms over his chest. Who are you taking with you?

I don't know. We're shorter on numbers than we should be.

I'll ride with you, Caiphas offered reluctantly. If you help me look for that heathen.

Beth snorted bullishly and tightened Hail's girth harder than perhaps needed.

I doubt we'll find it, but you can come with me if you want.

They ended up leaving together. Though talk had risen about bringing a third member, they were lacking in options – and neither felt comfortable leaving their camp and leader unprotected – and decided against it. Others were out, and it was possible they'd come across them along the way.

There were many trails and paths leading south, and the two picked one which crossed the mountains between their enemies. The open plains reminded her of the land they had traveled through coming north. Zion was a desert, but so much of the country was great windswept places with endless sky and fantastic storms. She had fallen in love with the landscape and thought that should the war ever end, she would take her future family there to spread the gospel. Those rolling, empty places seemed ripe for this. A new church, a new pack, and her duty would be done properly...without these stupid men holding her back.

Wild horses lingered in the far-off fields, but they had grown warier since losing members. This was not theft but reclamation, even though they had found some too wild to tame.

This place made things savage, she thought.

Hoisting her spear to a more comfortable position, Beth regarded the sky – she was looking for ravens.

Hey, you see that? Caiphas asked, and pointed with his nose.

Beth lowered her gaze and peered out into the tawny, winter-tan grass. It took her a moment to find what it was her companion had indicated, but soon enough recognize that the gray thing was too small to be a wolf.

I told you, she glanced at the white wolf. Luck is with us.

He shook his hair from his face and drew an arrow, but by then Beth had kicked Hail hard in his side. The black horse whinnied and moved forward, increasing his speed as the pressure around his belly grew. She readied her spear.

The coyote saw her. He was young, and not grown into his big ears or lanky limbs.

It didn't matter if he was a boy. There were no civilians in a holy war.

He started running back the way he had come and Beth's mouth split into a terrible grin. She rode her horse hard, closing the distance between them. He was quick enough to avoid the stallion's hooves, but not the spear – when she thrust this down, Beth was rewarded with a high ki-yi of pain. She wheeled her horse, disappointed only that her blow had not been fatal, and then decided she would take her time with this. What better way to degrade their enemies than to take both their leader and their children?

They certainly deserved it. Coyotes had killed her mother – not these coyotes, not even ones still living, but all of their breed were despicable.

The puppy had gotten his footing again and was running hard despite the wound. She glanced back toward Caiphas, who was riding towards her, and saw him fire an arrow. It missed, which surprised her. He was a good archer even if he was a terribly annoying person.

Watch it! She shouted at him, snarling.

With a twist of her wrist, she prepared for a second assault.


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#2
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370 words.
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Vesper had been taken from them.

Even now Clover trembled and growled at the thought, and shook her head fiercely. No, to say that she was taken with such finality meant that she wouldn’t be coming back—and she must come back. Inferni would fall apart without her, because individuals already began to crumble—from guilt, from grief—and while one would have to be blind to ignore the way that their Regulus had begun to spit commands at others with more ferocity than before, Clover knew that they were still leaderless. What Vicira learned from the books of history Vesper had learned through bloodshed.

They needed her back. Already search parties had gone out, soldiers and civilians both chancing the wilds and no-man’s-land, and it was all Clover could do to maintain order in their little household. Cartier was beside himself, miserable with guilt and helplessness, and the children desperate for their grandmother to be found. Jehan did his best to act as father and husband for their comfort, while Clover threatened to shred bare the tail of any puppy who dared cross the borders to find her.

Not every puppy received this memo.

When Antioch approached her and explained that he could not find his son, Clover immediately agreed to accompany him. Omar could not have gotten far, and perhaps they might find traces of Vesper if they went. She forced optimism, even as she shifted into a monstrous shape and licked her teeth.

They ranged into Drifter Bay, moving with urgency. Antioch blended with the grasses but for his streaks of sable, but Clover distanced herself from him, knowing that it would take their enemy a moment to register her as a threat. She went ahead, sniffing the trail that the inexperienced Quintus left in his wake, then threw her head up at the sudden trumpet of a horse. She spun.

Then she heard the yowl of pain and ran.

A pair of horses rode after a blur of grey fur, and Clover chased them. Her Secui form lent her uncanny speed, and she flung herself forward, jaws snapping near hooves, and jumped up to rip at the belly of the black stallion.

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[html]<div class="clovSig"><div class="text">I can feel the thunder that's breaking in your heart<br/>
I can see through the scars inside you</div></div>

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#3
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It infuriated him to think that his son – his only son – was an idiot.

Surely, the threats beyond the border and the warnings issued by their parents and other adults should have been enough to dissuade adventuring during times of crisis. This had been what he thought, at least, until neither he nor Versace had been able to find the boy. As his wife's worry bordered hysteria, he had sent her off to look with Laurel and her bird and taken Clover and Scout north.

Things had been going badly for them. Causalities had begun. It was too cold to bury Maddox, and Antioch did not think it appropriate to do anything else.

Then they had lost Vesper.

This was not a loss of any permanence yet, but its significance could not be denied. The wolves had singled her out from the others, and not engaged for too long – or so it sounded like – and ridden away with the Aquila. Antioch feared she would be dead. He did not think that they would keep her alive for very long, for Vesper was not the type of person to go down without a fight. He imagined she was fighting them now, wherever she was, and prayed that God and His angels took mercy on the coyotes.

Anitoch and Clover moved through the tall grass, larger than their native shapes, and he relied upon her nose to guide them. The black bird would sometimes overtake them as he swung in wide, searching circles, and caw down to the Bellator.

When he heard that high, terrified yelling, something inside of him broke. It was like rubble, collapsing down and threatening to bring a building with it, but the sensation of fear which eclipsed his heart was soon overcome by a second, more terrible sense of desperation. He heard Scout shouting, and saw the horses – one black and closer, the other with a pale rider still at a distance – and saw his son bleeding and running—

Sensible thought left him behind.

God filled him with fury.

The Bellator charged after Clover, whose attack had frightened the horse terribly. It was kicking and trying to get away even as its rider struggled to make it do the opposite, lashing out with that long spear. Her companion was shooting at them, and an arrow narrowly missed Antioch's belly, instead sinking into the thick muscle of his haunch. This was not enough to stop his attack, though it staggered him momentarily.

This gave Antioch enough time to prepare himself to jump, launching towards the woman's spear arm. He knocked his face against the wooden length of her weapon before his teeth closed around flesh. The horse reared and kicked out, and the woman riding it shrieked.


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#4
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She didn't see the dog until it rushed out of the grass, snarling and diving for her horse's legs. Hail whinnied and stopped running at once. The force whipped Beth forward in the saddle and she rocked forward, slamming hard into the horn. Her hand tightened into a fist around the spear. Whatever happened, she needed her weapon.

It didn't occur to her to be afraid at first. She knew that Caiphas was behind her. He could shoot down the dog and she would finish it off, it would be simple. That a mongrel would side with scavengers like coyotes did not seem unreasonable to her. Dogs always stole, and they lived only by taking from others. There were no dogs in Zion – even the coyotes down there knew that they could not coexist with animals that lived by feeding off others.

Bethlehem wished sorely for a world free from all these other canines. Once they got rid of them, they could weed out the sinners and the heathens from all those wolves left behind. A perfect would was achievable if everyone answered their Calling. A Holy world made up of those Chosen people could be one she lived to see – or if not her, the family she hoped to have soon.

Her arm was strong, crafted by war. Battle had been a part of her life for a very long time. There were muscles all along her arm and shoulders from the use of the weapon, which she had used since learning how to ride her horse. As long as she was mounted and had the ability to put distance between herself and her targets, she would be fine. Each mission she had ran had been without loss. Even in Boreas, she had rarely lost members of her groups...though they had not allowed her to lead without an elder soldier (and always, always a man) sharing command.

She brought the weapon down towards the dog, aiming for her neck. Hail was dancing wildly beneath her, doing everything in his power to fend off the ravenous attack. He was fighting her for his head, but she was holding onto this reins fiercely. When the dog was dead she would need to force him to get away from here. Warm blood was around her feet, one of which freed itself to kick out at the gray dog's head.

That was when a second coyote with eyes as red as the devil flung itself at her arm.

It was not the attack she had expected – he had come from behind and latched onto her like a cougar. Her horse, a horse that had never fought her like this before, reared.

Beth lost her balance.

She realized it was happening the moment her other foot slid from the stirrup. The black horse had kicked the coyote, she thought, and she saw an arrow in it, but his teeth were still digging deeper and deeper into her arm. He had very sharp teeth, and they kept shifting, opening, closing – all the while wrapped around her bicep, crushing it, and oh Lord it felt like fire.

Hail broke free from her, and ran.

Caiphas! She screamed.

And then, as she fell, she saw him.

He had been shooting before, she thought, but now he was just waiting, wide-eyed, looking strange.

She heard another horse, but it was coming from behind her, and the rider was yodeling some enemy battle-cry.

Her companion, her ally, her subordinate and once-friend, he turned his horse and ran as soon as she hit the ground.

The big coyote released her arm, and she felt a massive weight around her legs, and another near her chest. No, she screamed, but the words did not form in her mouth. No, God, no, no, NO—!

Teeth wrapped around her throat and pierced deep enough that her neck broke from the force.


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#5
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The horse screamed and kicked, its dark hooves narrowly missing Clover's skull as she lunged up again. She tasted blood, meat, though it was a surface wound and served only to frighten the bucking creature as its rider struggled, before a warm wash of blood ran down the side of her neck and shoulder, and she snarled.

Then a foot struck her face, and she rolled to the earth. Clover was back on her feet in an instant, rushing forward with a baying snarl—but then Antioch leaped, and he had her, and the wolf fell from the saddle and disappeared under the Secui coyote's massive form. His fangs sank into her neck.

The shaggy dog turned to see the retreating haunches of the second horse and its pale rider. She advanced a few yards, snarling, then turned and at once ran back to the crying figure of the puppy.

Antioch! she barked, and leaned down to lick his wound, to sooth him with whimpers and promises.

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[html]<div class="clovSig"><div class="text">I can feel the thunder that's breaking in your heart<br/>
I can see through the scars inside you</div></div>

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#6
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Warm blood filled his mouth and spilled down his throat, mixing with the saliva now turning pink and frothy around his lips. It tasted like metal and overwhelmed his senses.

He could hear his son, dimly, calling out for him. There was a second horse here now – a reddish-brown one with a dark-faced coyote riding it – and it was chasing after the second man. Antioch became vaguely aware of something in his thigh, sharp and uncomfortable.

Mostly he was focused on the dead woman beneath him.

Something had cracked in his mouth, and this was what finally convinced him to release his hold. For a moment he had feared it was his teeth, but when he ran his tongue over them he found this was not the case. He stood there, foam and blood dripping from his open mouth, legs still planted on the blonde wolf's chest. If not for Clover's voice he might have further ravaged her corpse – her eyes were still open, as empty as a cloudless sky.

Compelled by the summons, the Bellator turned and took a few quick steps towards the dog. Omar was shivering and had his ears pinned. He was hunched as low to the ground as he could get, curled into a tight little ball. Worse of all was the way his gray fur had become stained and matted by blood. Having never imagined he might see his child like this, Antioch's mind went blank. Instinct drew him to try and comfort the boy, and reassure him of his safety.

The rider returned. It was the Cenizan man, Nacho. He must have caught up with the woman's horse, because he was dragging it along. The black stallion was wounded, and the whites of its eyes were visible as it fought against returning to an area soaked in blood and death-scents.

I didn't see anyone else, he announced, looking wide-eyed as the horses as he took in the wounded Infernians. Poderes nos preservan, do you want me to take him back?

I'm staying with you! Omar shouted, and shoved himself against Antioch's chest. He winced when his wound brushed against his father's leg.

The stallion whinnied and tried to rear up, causing the rider to turn his own horse and rattle off something in his native tongue. It did little to calm the dead woman's horse, who continued to try and run.

I'll go ahead, I'll tell my sister.

He said something else in his rolling language and took off with the horses.

The Bellator watched him go. Scout landed near the remaining Infernians and asked him several direct questions, hopping from one foot to another. Antioch responded in agreement, then looked to Clover.

Will you go with him and find Versace? I'll take Omar back, but she needs to know.


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