[P] [m] take me down with you for the last time

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.

Specifically, this thread is marked mature because of: blood, violence.

He was persistent.

Tiamat had come to learn this over the countless days and nights she spent trying to shake him off her trail. Ever since he'd come charging after her in the northern mountains, she had lost valuable time and sleep to putting distance between herself and this scout, who all at once seemed everywhere and nowhere. He wanted to tire her out, she deduced.

It was going to be his ruin.

The cold was worse in the marshes. It came up from the ground, where the floods of seasons past had frozen and thawed so many times over that it was impossible to tell where one step was solid and the other certain death. Under new snow, it looked as any other field or forest, except that it was colder.

It took a while to get the fire going. Every now and then she would lift her nose to the air, and Baroness would lift her head too. She knew the pattern even as it waned. The last they'd caught his scent was three nights ago. He could have gone home, but Tiamat knew if their roles were reversed, she wouldn't have let them go, and so he wouldn't either.

She tossed a few more dampened sticks in. Once the fire was billowing smoke, she turned to Baroness. The horse huffed, anxious to get going again.

"You'll have to wait for me," she said. She took a few things from her pack, a long stick and a knife, and hesitated at the sight of her wrapped axe. It was a risk to leave it behind, but a greater risk to carry it. She moved on, running a fond hand along the mare's neck before patting her cheek. "Go, friend. You know where to find him."

The Onuban would not fail her. Although she doubted his courage, his task was very simple. Keep her horse safe, and if she did not return, then he would bear the news to Portland.

Tiamat watched as the mare turned toward the east, where the night already began to pull at the coattails of day. Once she was gone and out of sight, she stamped out the fire and left the camp, just as careful to feel her way forward with the stick as she was to cover her tracks. It had to be convincing to the scout that she had failed at a misdirection. He wouldn't suspect anything, then.
(---) | NPCs: None
<3 Location: Isthmus of Chigneto
There was one thing that the woman had managed to accomplish beyond her initial attack – she had become a fixture in O'Riley's mind, and drove him to doggedly pursue her despite the risk. He was not alone in this task, having seen to it that the Shield understood his purpose, but they were not able to focus so singularly upon it as O'Riley. Their children and their personal lives got in the way.

In comparison, with Salsola in peacetime and winter edging towards its end, O'Riley had only the monotonous tasks which were asked of him. A day of hunting cost him a day of tracking. Spending hours seeing to repairs meant he lost more time. When he did make it out into the wilderness he felt like he was chasing a phantom.

Like all killers, this thing he could not control became an obsession.

The worst part in all of this was the nagging thought that he would fail in his task. Until now, he had never done so – or if he had, it had been forgotten – and each day his ire grew and grew. He was terse with his cousin and avoided socializing more than necessary. Igor seemed to realize this and did not get in his way, which benefited them both. Their living arrangement was one of convenience, which made it easier to spend days without talking for more than a few minutes.

He hadn't returned for two nights now, though.

That had been a miscalculation on his half. When he had found sign of the woman he thought himself close and looked for her, but the elements and the terrain were against him. Snowfall covered her tracks. He had stuck to the mountains where he had thought she might be and slept in secret alcoves when his exhaustion became overwhelming. He managed to find food when he needed it, but his condition suffered.

Had he slowed down to think, O'Riley would have realized that he was making a mistake. His covetous nature did not allow for this reasoning. He knew his path was righteous and that his quarry was close.

The smoke could have belonged to anyone, but in his heart, O'Riley knew it was her.

He came looking for the source like a proper hunter, keeping to places where his presence might not be noticed and alternating between movement and stillness. Bit by bit he closed the endless distance between himself and the campfire until he realized it had been abandoned. The residual heat told him he had not missed her by much.

There was a more obvious trail left by the horse, but the longer O'Riley lingered – sniffing and studying the tracks in the snow – the more apparent it became to him she had done this on purpose. He did not know if he would separate from his mount. It seemed foolish.

Despite this, O'Riley soon determined she had left on foot. The bulk of his weight caused the icy grass underfoot to crunch and give way, but he was not concerned about leaving tracks. Once he found the bitch, it wouldn't matter who knew where he was.

With a low, guttural snarl, the wolfdog increased his speed.
Ordinary morality is only for ordinary people.
She felt her way forward with the stick. It made progress slow, but getting away wasn't the point.

Every child of Krokar was warned of winter's treachery; despite this, they had been inclined to play at the edges of danger, to test their mettle against forces unknown. For the lucky ones, the play furthered their understanding of the world and their own limitations—Tiamat's journey might have ended prematurely if not for her father grabbing her out from the river when she was little.

It was that shadow of a person she had clung to for so very long, even after she learned the truth of who cast it. It was strange to realize that the answers had always been there, but she had re-arranged them to fit the world she wanted to be true.

It was even stranger to realize that everyone did this, to smaller and greater extents. Truth served the desires of those adamant enough, at the cost of reality.

Tapping ahead, she heard a cracking sound that was promising. With a little more force, the ice broke loose and the powdery top snow collapsed inward. She probed further, until the very top of the stick nearly disappeared.

The trees were rattled by an icy messenger, bearing news of an incoming force. She shuffled her white cloak over her shoulder and hastened her plan.

She prodded around until she had a better sense of what lay underneath. She found that the ground below deepened in a gradual slope, and only a little ways further was the point of depth that would hinder any creature unlucky enough to fall through.

Cracking the icy sheath until she was satisfied that it would break under the right pressure, she discarded the stick and covered it with snow. She had just enough time to finish kicking around to cover the rest when a figure crested the slope behind her.

Tiamat looked up at him. The Salsolan had been in motion the last time she’d seen him, a hulking mass of fur and claw like a vengeful mountain come to life. He was not in such a state now—more patient it seemed, perhaps assured that he’d finally caught her.

She straightened, her hand around her knife. The wind blew back her cloak, tossed at the dark waves of her hair as it did the angry northern seas.
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They faced one another like ancient titans – and for a moment, with the wind the only thing moving between them, the pair were statuesque.

All of that changed in the span of three breaths.

An eruption of motion propelled the hulking wolfdog forward. He intended to take advantage of the slightly higher ground he had on her, and use this to increase his own speed. A single, well timed blow could knock her off her feet. If he could get on top of her and get the knife out of her hand, he could...

Would they want her to be brought back alive? A horse was dead. Two people had been seriously injured.

Would a trial by fire satisfy la Familia? It was within his right to kill an opponent in battle. He had found her all by himself, and he had let her get away once before.

Crippling her would be an acceptable option.

O'Riley decided to break her wrist and then focus on her leg. Once she couldn't run, and couldn't fight, he could force her to submit.

He miscalculated several things, and this is why his plan failed. He forgot his surroundings.

The ground sank beneath his feet, but not deeply enough to warn him. O'Riley was focused on her arm, and in the subtle motions half hidden by her flowing cloak. It was meant to distract him, he thought. She wanted him to look elsewhere, and not see what her hand was doing.

When he was close, he feigned left and then lunged for her arm – his foreleg sank, suddenly, and it was only sheer propulsion that kept him from falling headfirst into the black hole that had opened beneath him. The shock of the cold water startled O'Riley, who staggered and lost his momentum when the ice beneath his back legs suddenly gave way and plunged into frigid water.

Ordinary morality is only for ordinary people.
The wolfdog who had been tracking her for days stood at the crest of the hill. The wind had carried on between them, but for Tiamat, this towering figure eclipsed all other elements.

He came down in a whirlwind of snow, but what she saw was the spray of the ship, the sand in the Desert, the blood on the stone steps.

Tiamat had not bent to the forces who once opposed her. It was not for a lack of weakness, but rather because of it; all the injuries of her heart had come together as disparate pieces of iron did in the forge. Under pressure, they became something new. Under pressure, she became something strong. Pain was not the end of things, it was the start.

She held faith in her plan even as he barreled through the first leg of the marsh with little trouble. The knife in her hand wouldn't be enough to kill him under other circumstances, and she became aware of this as his massive form drew close. Her lips curled in a silent snarl as he twisted left, almost missing the trap she'd laid.

It was then the water awoke and swallowed a half of him.

Tiamat did not relish the actions she took, but they were necessary to turn the broken compass needle of the world towards Justice. Identifying the part of him that held on—his right foreleg, it seemed, had the most purchase on the ice—she lunged forward and thrust the knife into the surest area. Close enough now, she could see that his eyes were a shade of the sky at early dawn.
(---) | NPCs: None
A flash of silver cut through the air, and the sharpened point of the knife gouged a deep blow into his shoulder. O'Riley howled – in pain and with anger. The sharp edge of the dagger cut a long line towards his back. Not seconds after she sliced his shoulder open did steaming, bright red blood began to pour freely from the wound. This froze when it splattered onto the ice beneath them.

The [M] last time he had fought someone, he had been wearing armor and a layer of protective leather beneath even that. He had been armed, then, and able to counter the blows of the Outsider's sword. She had been good despite this – good enough to cut him the way this new enemy had managed. To say he was outraged was to minimize the white-hot fury that spread from O'Riley's shoulder and into his heart and mind.

If they had been over open water, things would have gone very differently. The place Tiamat had chosen was marsh, however, and the thick sedge grass caught beneath the surface had not made its home on water alone.

O'Riley's back foot touched something cold and solid. His left arm, the dominant one, found purchase against the slippery surface. The wolfdog's thick, long nails dug into the ice. Not all of it had been weakened and as adrenaline poured into him, so too did a greater and more powerful force than even his hate – a desperate, indomitable need to live.

He heaved himself out of the water with a great cascade. His wet fur and limbs did not aid his speed, but as soon as he got one paw against the lip of the ice he knew he had her.

Snarling, he went for her arm.

In the distance, the rattling sound of metal-against-metal could be heard.
Ordinary morality is only for ordinary people.
The Salsolan would not go quietly into his cold and liquid tomb, and Tiamat found purchase on this fact as he did down below. Water gushed across the ice and snow, and the spray of his actions caught the wind and light like a sky full of stars. Tiamat flowed with his movement's current, sliding almost out of range of his snapping jaws. Where she could not help but linger, her armored arm lifted to knock aside his teeth and caught them instead.

She wasn't afraid of the pain or the prospect of death, and a lifetime of altercation could attest to this. Nothing was—nor ever could be—as frightening as the moment she held her children for the first time and felt hollow.

It was when she felt adrift that these encounters seemed to follow. For creatures like her, violence became the propulsion they needed to find value in life. If she could not love even her own children, then there was no other answer.

The man did not act in half-measures; if his headlong rush into the marsh didn't warn her, then his bite did. His teeth sank down to the skin, and there they raked and rent the flesh bloody. Red speckled the snow where their forces collided, and Tiamat, knowing that being caught could be as useful as catching, was mindful of her footing and the blade in her other hand.

With deft fingers, she turned the knife around and swiped at his face.
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<3 sorry for delay ahh
His fangs found the leather bracer around her arm. O'Riley shook it free with an outraged snarl, shouting at her through his teeth in nothing but furious rage.

How dare she.

The first real fight he had ever experienced had been like this – he hadn't known it was going to be a fight when he first saw the coyote, but he should have. There were tensions building all around them then. Everyone had been hungry for war and not questioned the order when it came from on high.

He had been conscious of the spell they were casting. He had made his decision when Elphaba's father struck him. O'Riley had made a pact to protect her when he was very young, and everyone – all these little, stupid creatures they called Outsiders – was to be his enemy.

Failure by a leader was death.

That was the Law of Salsola.

Once he had a hold of her arm, he had the advantage. Heavy, especially now that he was soaking wet, the wolfdog tried very hard to break or bring her down with the whirling, neck-breaking shakes he managed to get in before she slashed at him with her blade again. This time he was waiting for it, and released her quickly enough to avoid the worst of the blow. It nicked him high on the cheek and drew blood, but did not crush his skull or pierce his eye as she may have intended.

The consequence of this choice became apparent as he skid across the slippery surface underfoot. Though not enough to lose his balance, it cost him valuable time and momentum.

That was when he heard a familiar voice barking over the wind – Russian words, O'Riley thought, though his brain did not stop to process the sounds.

He went to charge the woman again, but she had reached the solid ground first.
Ordinary morality is only for ordinary people.
Between her and the Salsolan there could be no compromise, for the law of his world contradicted her own. Locked together in a war both physical and ideological, it would end only when the other was dead.

Whatever the ultimate outcome of this journey, Tiamat believed herself the victor, because she knew that all that she did was for love. These people, these vile snakes, lived and died by fear.

Her bracer came free with his mouth when he recoiled, but Tiamat did not have time to worry about this. If she wanted to fight again, then she would need to put distance between them. The icy terrain worked to her favor in this regard—he was heavy and now waterlogged with frigid marsh, and this made the surface slick. He would have a hard time pursuing her without falling in again.

The wind was deafening in her ears, but when it turned, she knew that her time was up. Someone else was coming, and whether it was another Salsolan or a well-meaning stranger, she knew she could not afford to find out. The less innocent casualties there were, the better.

She dashed for the bank and scaled its incline quickly. The Salsolan pursued her some way, but after a while she did not hear him. Not wanting to assume that he had stopped, she kept her pace, disappearing once more into snow and shadow.
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<3 <3
She was too goddamn fast.

O'Riley raged as he realized she would escape but his wounded shoulder grounded him soundly. He made a valiant attempt to pursue her, but the weight of his own mass and the slick surface sent him skidding again. A few more feet and he might have been caught in all that frigid water and muck beneath them – he could have become entangled in the grasses and reeds and been stabbed to death before anyone even realized he was in danger.

While his cousin's appearance from the snow might have been a relief, it only woke a terrible ire in O'Riley, who screamed at him.

“Go get her!!”

Igor, panting, attempted to do as he was ordered. He took off running in the direction the Outsider had fled while O'Riley staggered back to the shore.

He was still sitting there, shivering, when the tawny wolfdog returned alone.

“She got away,” Igor said, his tongue lolling.

“I can fucking see that!” O'Riley snapped at him. The fur around his neck stood on end, just like the dark stripe that ran down his spine. He was cold and miserable, and the failure stung. No one had ever escaped from him twice, especially after wounding him. With the woman gone, the only person around to bear the brunt of his fury was poor Igor. “You stupid fat fuck, I can't believe you lost her! We won't be able to follow her now, goddamn it!”

“O'Riley I—,”

“Shut up! Just shut the fuck up!”

Igor pinned his ears and did as he was told while O'Riley, ranting under his breath, began to shift. The process was more difficult than normal, and excruciatingly painful. He screamed and cursed when his shoulder grew and moved into place, and felt his skin rip again before it settled into place. The wound continued to bleed.

“Do you want me to make a fire?” Igor asked hesitantly.

“No, you fucking moron. What if there's more of them, eh? We need to go.”

Ordinary morality is only for ordinary people.

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