[P] [M] The rose and the thorn
Carnalis | X Crux

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: gore, cult stuff, X being X.

set in Carnalis, before they leave

His tears had long since dried.

Kallippos laid upon the floor, blankets piled under his body for comfort's sake. The wool that had been used to make them felt like heaven in comparison to the cages that once held his body crunched into an odd shape when he tried to rest. The memory hung over them like a distant nightmare: gone, yet a little piece of it buried itself into his subconscious.

But he was not trying to rest now. Instead, Kallippos laid there in thought, still as a statue.

"How could he choose such a ratty thing? I hope the Devilgod strikes him down. He is making a grave mistake."

Whispered comments such as this one, which they had heard an hour ago, were becoming more common.

He knew that Exodus had no intention of changing what had been built in this place. The Caros might always feel that Vertos were impure. The treatment he got as one, Kallippos mused, was much better than he had ever gotten before Exodus had turned him. Yet still, things were growing dangerous. Not only for themself, but for his... what is it that they should call him? A husband? Kallippos scoffed to himself, breaking through his own stillness. There was nothing about that man that suited being a husband. What a wonder that he should desire to be one.

He heard the door open and sat up. When Exodus came in, he looked directly at him, seeing eye squinted.

"We need to leave." He put it plainly. "Before things get... worse."

Kallippos placed a hand on his knee, hunching over. "You've planted what you could here. But I still feel your father in every crack of the stone. Here is tainted. This final thing, what you've done with..." He paused again, trying to place his words carefully. "What you have done with me... it..."

They ran a tired hand down their face.

"It will not take."
X both loved and hated his life.

That was the way of the Devilgod. Hatred and Love were the same thing. It did not matter if he hated it, but it also mattered that he did, for it meant passion for his position. Hatred was passion, passion was love. This path of logic twisted and corrupted his mind. It always had since he was young, for his father and the cult of Devilgod's Saints had brainwashed him. This explained his behavior well, but it excused none of it. He was a vile creature and he looked the part.

His fur, once pristine and white with innocence, was now dyed a corrupted black with the help of Floria Blackwell, a follower of the cult he led. His skin was a marred void of scar tissue. No part of his body had been spared. Eyes, words, crosses and even a snake adorned him. One look at him would make most pups cry, even the ones that knew him inside the cult shook with fear or balked in disgust. His red eyes were shadowed from below with a red waterline, accentuating his often bloodshot whites. He was every bit as exhausted and in pain as he looked. 

This scarlet was accentuated by more than that at the moment. Blood soaked his fur. He had feasted on the blood and flesh of an innocent Luperci with his followers, high on the adrenaline of the hunt. It was euphoric. It was painful. It was both. That was Devilgod. Death and consumption was a blessing to an inferior lifeform. Life and death were the same. To kill was to give life, to create. This was an activity that X loved and hated, just like his life.

Either way, he was exhausted.

He returned to the residence he shared with Kallippos Paddock once he had washed himself clean of all the blood and visceral residue. Kallippos was the center of X's life. His crux who would become a Crux. He was one canine that X could revere and genuinely love. Strangely enough, the hatred that normally came with love was not as present in what he felt for him. Sometimes he wondered if this was an imbalance that the Devilgod would not approve of. Most times he was just relieved to be in the presence of someone he could love and did not have to loathe.

The glasgow grin that tipped each corner of his mouth shifted as he smiled serenely at Kallippos. Before he could get a word out, however, X was surprised to hear Kalli speak first.

We need to leave.

Strangely, X had already considered leaving. He had known nothing else but Carnalis as a home, yet... When Kalli mentioned his father, X tensed. He did loathe and love his father. Kallippos he loved more than hated, and his father he hated more than he loved. Maybe he was meant to be unbalanced in his hatred of him so he could love Kalli more. That was what he chose to believe to absolve him of the lack of equilibrium. It would be sinful to just love his mate this much otherwise.

"You don't say." X's voice was thick with sarcasm.

The Prophet leaned down to hang his muzzle close to the Diviner's ear.

"Kalli... What I say now is to not leave this room. I love you more than I love Carnalis." It came out on a whispered breath, barely audible.

What a risky thing to say. If anyone else heard this, it would not matter that X was the Prophet. This was a great show of trust, for he had just handed his mate words that could be sharpened against him. He moved to take a seat next to him upon the blanketed floor to continue his hushed words.

"I need to keep living. You need to keep living. My Purpose is far from over and so is yours." He curled back a lip, his shining teeth betraying anger. "Many of my followers have become poisoned with sin. They have strayed from Devilgod. You and I still hold the Truth about Them. There are others I trust that know the Truth still, with Bellatrix, Marquis and Viscount among others."

He had obviously thought about leaving more than once.

"We could announce that I, you and anyone else who agrees to come and knows the Truth are leaving to spread the word of Devilgod. We will gather them and everything we need and... go."

Now he had spoken his thoughts into existence. Now they may manifest. It was thrillingly exciting and also a scary thing that filled him with fear.

"We will stay together, will we not...?"

His fear came through in his voice, leaving him vulnerable - something he never was around anyone else but Kalli. He looked to him now for comfort and reassurance.
the call to adventure

The Caros were a broken people. Kallippos knew this, and that was why he now considered himself one of them to the end. Because he had been broken to fit in the proper way they all had. They had spent their time sometimes wondering how many others knew this too. This path could only lead them somewhere dark... and they needed to be kept walking down it anyway.

The sarcasm in X's tone had Kallippos' fur bristling. Not in anger, but in a careful sort of fear, one cultivated over many months. This feeling did not leave him as X leaned down to whisper sweet things in his torn ear. If anything, it only increased. Their heart began to beat fast and hard. They did not know if he wanted Exodus to love them this much.


This prompted X to explain further. Taking in a long breath, Kallippos hung their head and closed their eyes as they listened to him. So, in the end, this had not been their idea, had it? Perhaps X had been waiting a long time for them to put it out in the open. If they hadn't said anything, had not come to the same conclusion, would they just have been whisked away from this place one night? Likely.

"We will stay together, will we not...?"

He froze, then thawed out, each muscle relaxing one by one. His heart was in his throat now.

"I..." They did not like to talk about their dreams. X asked them about their dreams every morning. But rarely did Kallippos reveal too much, if anything at all. There were stock answers they had taken to giving: 'It's not the right time to tell you.' or 'I couldn't tell the meaning of it yet.'

This time, they gave in. It would help... it would help to say something. "I had a dream of us far away from here. We... we were at a church, and it must've been spring or summer. But it was cold, not like here. And there were people all around us..." He glanced at X. "They were happy."

The Prophet had thought that he would have seen this coming, but Kallippos seemed confused. He remained close to him, their arms and hips pressed together. Exodus always craved to feel Kalli's warm, tawny fur pressed against his. Due to this physical contact, he could feel Kalli's flesh turn to stone. Had he said something wrong? For a moment, he feared that Kallippos would turn against him and throw him to the wolves of their pack. But he wouldn't, would he? If he did, X could lash out against them or himself... He didn't know how he would react. He never did.

Then, he rescued him from his doomsday thoughts with a dream.

Instantly, X was glued to what he said. His head cocked to the right, red eyes searching his mate's blessed orange ones for more meaning. A far away place. That sounded much safer than here. A church surrounded by followers that were happy. He smiled, relieved through this comforting dream.

"A prophecy, then," he murmured. "Devilgod is guiding us to a promised land. What you saw, we have a divine right to." His tail swayed from the happiness. "Do you believe we can be happy if we go?" He sat up straighter now like a sculpted pillar, a hand wrapping loosely around Kalli's upper arm. "It must have been north of here to be cold in spring or summer. It must be meant to be. We will bring Devilgod's fiery warmth to that frozen land."

His eyes were ablaze now with excitement. It was almost like the manic energy he was often swept up in during sermons he gave. It was not quite so intense this time, softened by his lover's presence, but it was there. He was hopeful. He had faith. 

"Thank you for sharing this with me. I know it can be difficult sometimes to understand the meaning of these dreams and also to know if it's the right time or not to bless the material realm with that knowledge."

X rarely thanked anyone, but this prophecy was important and so was Kallippos.
"What you saw, we have a divine right to."

Did they, now?

Kallippos swallowed, regret hitting his stomach like a stone when he looked upon X's smile, heard his words of promised fire. Had he done the right thing? Would he just be moving the pain of this land... somewhere different? Was it Carnalis, or was it the Devilgod? Did everything They touched grow this way?

Many questions alike to these swirled around but he had no time to take careful sips of rumination.

"Yes... Yes, it can be difficult." Kallippos responded at last. "I can't promise that we will be happy, if we leave. But we have no choice anyway, and it is an encouraging vision." He tried to always be careful to walk that tight line between keeping up appearances and not promising too much. If they went wild with demands, it only made it more likely that, eventually, they would no longer be believed, not even by X. Kallippos had never believed in themself from the beginning but they could recognize both the good and the bad of their so-called 'powers'.

Belief in magic could be good. Even here, in this most accursed of places, this land most antithetical to good, Kallippos had seen that. It instilled wonder, it created beauty. But as well it could bring ruin. Most notably, it brought ruin when others didn't get what they had thought was prophesied.

If led astray, the people's ire would crash down upon him in all its glory.
The anxiety X spotted bobbing as Adam's apple bobbing in their throat was something that gave him pause. He was quick to dismiss it, squinting only briefly in instinctive suspicion. He trusted Kallippos and he was sure that they knew that if they were wrong about this, those he brought with them would end him. He hoped it would not come to that, for he would have to kill them all and start over with new recruits if that were to occur. He ran his hand over the other, feeling the texture of the scarring on each finger as he thought about this more seriously than before.

X knew Kallippos was wise to acknowledge the difficulty of interpreting messages from Devilgod. He thought them so at least, for the truth of just how wise the Diviner was continued to be veiled from him. Perhaps more thickly than the Veil that he and his followers believed separated this world from the afterlife.

"I feel the same way about interpreting it. The Truth can be hard to hear. Painful, even - though that only proves its importance all the more. We just have to have faith." He sounded wistful and reflective, perhaps even comforted. At first.

He turned his eyes back on Kallippos now. The dying sun's rays that shone into their home reflected in his scarlet irises hauntingly, hellish gates with promised fire flickering from within.

"I will teach you to have more faith in what Devilgod tells you." Was that a threat? X was not even sure himself. He did not like to threaten them, but sometimes that and more was necessary.

"I know damn well that we have no other choice. This is a matter of life and death." These sorts of words would normally be shouted aggressively by anyone else. Yet, the tone X used was deathly chill with its stillness. His mouth formed a flatter line, extended by ritual scarring at each end of it. "It is not the good kind of life and death, either." He amended his phrasing, for life and death were typically good things in their culture. He did not want Kallippos to get the wrong idea, as X was still working to needle the philosophy and faith deeper into him.

The Prophet put out the fire in his eyes now. His smile returned with a soft and tempered warmth, a far cry from both the scorching of brimstone and cold-blooded ice that was present just moments ago. This sort of expression was one he rarely showed to anyone save for Kalli. He engulfed him in an embrace for a brief and gentle squeeze. His heart pounded for them, the swiftness of which could be felt through the fur of his chest. Moments like these were the only times he truly felt safe, content and calm. He withdrew his arms to press a kiss to their cheek. They were his greatest treasure. This was reflected in their gold spun pelt, each individual hair of which a ray of pure sunshine to X.

"I will attempt to commune with Devilgod tonight. Then I will pray for the safety of those I trust to choose for the journey. They may not all survive. Especially if it's far." He grinned - although this was more of an anxious grimace, which was more clear in his eyes. "I know that you and I will not perish, at least. Your vision is proof."

He clung to what they had told him. Otherwise, he would lose all hope.

I just don't want the others to die. I care about them. He left this thought unspoken, for he did not know how to express such a sentiment with the right and acceptable words. He knew that if any of them did die, it would be a necessary sacrifice and a perfectly honorable way to die. He just did not want it to happen, as naïve as he knew that would sound if he had said it.
[232] | Optime

Kallippos held themself there, slinging one hand over their opposite shoulder, holding themself in some vain attempt at steeling themself for X. But, they could never be ready for him. Never.

"Yes, Exodus. I know. I know it well, too." He spoke quietly to his lover, no aggression in his tone. The words carried as if he were shushing him to sleep. "I am being taught by Them. In every waking moment, and in the ones spent asleep." It was torture, but Kallippos couldn't help but think it was a beautiful kind. There was indeed some Truth in there. That life and death could both be held in high regard was an idea that he had already taken to.

What if he had died that day? Forced to face another? What if he had laid down his body and let himself be struck down?

He took a breath as X squeezed him, the constriction some kind of binding seal. It left an imprint on them that they knew would not fade any time soon. "It will be far." They murmured, nodding their head. Their cheek, where X had kissed, burned. In a reward, affection for affection, fire for fire, Kallippos came forward and briefly drew their tongue over the top of X's head.

Then, they lay down again, closing both their eyes.

"I will do my best to protect everyone."

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