[P] So Tired
Whisper, Backdated; Starting out in Charmingtown
tNPCs: Lidia Reeves, Hector, Romano, Jorge; cNPC: Alessandra Reeves

Well, the day had come.  They had left the kids behind at the log house, saying they only had an errand to run and that they'd be back before dark.  The plan was to take Jed from the Parish into Charmingtown, but leave him behind once they got there.  It was safer for the black horse that way, and it would make things go more easily for Theo.  Whisper wanted to go with him, to be there in case anything happened, and with how involved she'd become by now he didn't refuse.  The Mayflower knew what was coming, though it could go either way, and he was glad to have her company.  At the very least, the whole thing was about taking responsibility for his own actions, and the Reeves horseman doubted that any more trouble would be started once he and the old boss faced off.  It would've been against the rules, for one.

The pair of them mounted the stallion and rode for the Del Ceneren town, since that was the one place that Es could come and go in without considered tresspassing.  They rode out to the edges of the settlement, closer to the border so they could dismount and watch for anyone coming their way.  Alessandra's scent wasn't around them, but she was probably watching for them to approach.  With the border pass running right through the middle of the Burnt Church Mountains and Moosehead Lake, it was relatively easy to keep a watch on the comings and goings of Charmingtown, and they hadn't waited long until his sister finally showed herself, approaching the two of them grimly.  "About time you came." she said, the casual manner she had shown prior buried for the day.  They had business to attend to, and it was better for everyone to get it done and over with as quickly and quietly as possible.

"This way then.  Not too far." she informed them, beckoning the couple with a hand as she wandered south and away from the pack lands.  Sucking in a deep breath, Theo glanced at Whisper for a moment, feeling jitters settle into his veins.  "Well, here goes nothin'."
The day had begun relatively quietly, and for all intents and purposes, Whisper hoped it stayed that way, nothing being thrown their way that would put their simple way of life in jeopardy. Now that the southern male had come clean about everything to the waif, she had a clear understanding of what kind of situation they could very well be walking themselves into, but as she'd decided before, Whisper was done running, and she would not turn her back and hide. If something went wrong with the meeting and Whisper wasn't there, she could see the logical next step being these people coming after her in their home and finding their children. This way, since they already knew of Whisper's existence and not that of their two daughters, if the two of them were to die today, Aether and Ariadne would be safe and cared for by the Gang, and the ones chasing Theo would be none the wiser. If it was revenge he was after, what better way than to take the life of a child for the life of a child? No, Whisper would never allow it.

Dismounting at the edge of Charmingtown and walking the rest of the way, Alessandra met them as an escort to the designated location for their confrontation. This time there was none of the humor or charismatic charm showing itself in the older woman, she was straight to the point, and Whisper appreciated that as they followed her. Glancing over at Theo, he wore a stony expression, the nerves radiating off of him in an energy that Whisper could almost feel tangibly. She looped her hand around his arm, making a show of acting as though she needed his arm for support by her sore legs since they had so far to walk, intending for the gesture to offer him support just as much as it did her.
The multiple times that Es had glanced back to the pair of them, opened her mouth to say something, only to close it and look back towards the path ahead was starting to set his teeth on edge as well.  As bizarre as it was to see his sister go so long without saying a word, the constant attention with none of the noise only furthered his anxious heart into an expiration date, the solemn silence quietly suffocating him.  He did have some relief though, the Mayflower quietly coming to slip her arm into his as they walked, the horseman glancing down at the mother of their children as they walked into the trees and heading for the deeper parts of the forest.  He wasn't ignorant of the condition of Whisper's legs, which was likely part of her actions, but the gesture in it of itself was an obvious and kind one.  He thanked Whisper in his own, subtle way, bringing his off-hand to gently clasp her arm, giving an affectionate squeeze as they walked together.  If Alessandra saw anything of this, she didn't show it outwardly.

They kept marching on in silence, the light of the overcast sun filtering through the trees, before the Reeves man saw a break in the forest, a small clearing that had been noticeably hand tidied as his arm that held Whisper's tightened, relaxing as Alessandra came to a halt.  "We're here." she said to the two of them, though it had also been an announcement for those inside the clearing as well.  Sitting around a decent, smokeless campfire, were three coyotes, all of whom Theo recognized despite the passage of time.  As he stared at the trio resting in the warmth of the flames, they turned to look at Es before flicking their respective gazes towards the Ashen.  Except for the Boss, that was.  He had been staring him down from the moment Theo and Whisper entered view.  Alessandra moved to cross the clearing amidst the icy quiet, barely stopping to look at the Boss as he stood up from his perch, stepping out from the comfort of the campsite as he sized the runaway up.

"About damn time," he said in a rich, dark voice.  It was hard to not visibly swallow the lump in his throat, but the Reeves father managed it as he nodded his hat towards the man.  "Boss."  The figure was tall for a coyote, though that only gave him a couple inches over Theo himself, standing at about 6'7" to the Del Ceneren's 6'4".  He had a pale russet, agouti pelt with amber eyes, and right now they looked to be filled to the brim with hatred.  "Don' give me that 'Boss' shit." he snapped accusingly, as Theo tried not to slide his eyes away. Jorge and Romano were the other two he saw, a brother and sister who shared similar hides, showing reddish coyote fur under a healthy dose of dark grey and black from a wolf ancestor, no further back than a grandparent.

"That's Hector to you, boy." came his snarl of contempt, before he stopped to glance at the one Theo had come with, interest barely passing his face. "Surprised you finally conned someone to be with ya, an' surprised still you brought my hat with ya too." His disgust was a bit more concealed by then, and internally he'd dismissed the hybrid that hung on his arm from further thought. He only cared that Theo was here now.

"Finally done scamperin' off with yer tail between yer legs, after all these years?" Feeling an itch in his hand, the Reeves male tried to keep himself cool as he stared down the person he had admired most, catching sight of Es glancing nervously between the two. "You know the rules better than I do. Guess it was a matter of time." That was all he had to say in response, a defeated lift of the shoulders as he said it, though he never took his eyes away. His old Boss almost looked like he was going to laugh at that, though his face twisted into a sneer. "Then let me remind you, an' be done with it then." He let a hand fall down to his waist, where a knife had been holstered there alongside a matching set to Theo's own. Four against four, belonging to an original collection of eight, the knives that had been Hector's prized possessions. Back before he had decided to hand them down.

"One knife, one throw. That seems fair, what with you only needing one to kill your best friend." Theo's mouth drew in a tight line at that, the hateful reminder of how he had stabbed what felt like a brother to him through the heart, Hector's son. "Fair for me." came his reply, working his throwing hand so it didn't spaz out on him in the last moment. It was all a well practiced code of Hector's gang, that whenever someone left willingly or forcefully, that they'd have to fight Hector on his own terms. Those terms having been laid out just now, as Hector was the one who'd taught Theo how to throw a knife back when he was just a pup growing up. In all of their practice together, he couldn't think of a single time where he had been faster or more accurate than the older coyote, though that was five years ago, and he wasn't as young as he'd been. They both had only one shot, and for the sake of his own family, Theo had to make it count.
The trail was long, and it was hard on the Mayflower, but whatever pain she felt, she kept it to herself, locked away tightly behind wide eyes and a clenched jaw as she stared straight ahead, putting one foot in front of the other even as she shivered from the cold and the fear and her legs screamed and her knees threatened to give out with every step. The hard, frozen earth beneath their paws scraped her delicate pads, and her heart beat thrummed against the inside of her chest like a caged hummingbird desperately seeking a way out of it's prison, but she carried on. This was not about her, and she would be strong for him.

They arrived in a clearing with a few shapes of people and the light of a fire that Whisper could see, the scents were all mostly coyote, and as they stopped at the edge of the clearing, the hybrid waif squeezed Theo's arm with a surprising amount of strength, steading both him and herself all at once. A man approached them as Es walked away, and Whisper's ears flicked back. She swallowed as he spoke, listening, yet keeping her head lowered, only when he acknowledged her presence did the wisp lift her eyes to examine his face, pale violet eyes flicking over his features, more visible now in the closer proximity, but she said nothing, and quickly lowered her head again.

It wasn't until those words were uttered, 'One knife, one throw', that Whisper's eyes snapped open to their fullest extent, and her ears pricked forward as she looked up at Theo, then at the other man, the cold glint of metal visible on his hip now. 'You better not lose.' She thought at her mate with an intense gaze that did well to convey her message. 'I don't plan to drag a corpse back home to our children'. There was nothing she could do, nothing she could say, she knew this was not her fight, and she knew what that man's motive was. It was a son that he'd lost, after all, so she simply stood, stiff and still, praying to any god that would listen that he survive this.
Predictably, things became heated to a fever pitch as soon as he stepped foot in the clearing, and already he was expected to fight then and there.  The Boss was never one for beating around the bush, and five years of waiting probably didn't help Theo's case either.  He knew the trek had to be tough on Whisper and her legs, but he appreciated the strength she lent him, and when it was time for her to step aside so he could make good on his failures, he caught the glance she shot at him, as the horseman gave an uneasy smile back that rang 'I hope I don't lose either.'  And as much as the coyote wished that he did not in fact lose this competition of life and death, he equally had no desire to win either.  He was in the wrong after all, and he had revered the older coyote growing up.  To kill him now would be wrong, despite whatever vengeance was facing the Reeves male.

"Thought our Ma was supposed to be with you?" he pointed a question, holding the confrontation off for a moment as he realized that she was missing from the gathering.  He doubted Es would lie about something as serious as their mother being dragged along as collateral, not with how she had spoken to them for the first time face to face.  Hector gave a glare to the tall coywolf, who so happened to be conveniently inspecting her claws by the firepit.  "Yer sister has been gettin' too cocky in my old age, sayin' shit she should keep to herself.  Mama ain't here right now, if you were hopin' for her to come to the rescue."  Theodore heaved a sigh of annoyance at the contempt of his former leader. If he was going to hold out on the hope that someone would magically fix things for him, he would've stayed in Del Cenere's borders.  It was a shame, though.  He would've liked to have seen her one last time, the opportunity provided to him.

"Let's just get this over with." he said with a drained voice, placing a hand over a single knife as Hector did the same.  At the distance they were from each other, throwing a knife so that it struck your opponent with the blade end during its rotations was a matter of skill as well as speed, otherwise it would just smack something fiercely but do no real damage.  Considering how Hector seemed to be far more gray in the face than when he'd known him as a pup, Theo felt pretty confident that his reflexes could outpace the old Boss's.  The deciding factor would have to be how much of his old coordination the older coyote retained, as Theo had no way to tell if he'd practiced at all during the pursuit.  Some? Probably, considering a quick, decisive duel was far more in his favor than any other form of combat.  But enough to beat Theo was the variable.  The Ashen father had to visualize his toss, see it in every detail as he launched his missile where it wouldn't likely kill Hector, but keep him from being able to throw properly.

His thinking seemed to go a lot faster-- or the world got a lot slower-- when he saw Hector flick the knife from it's sheathe, the evidence that he wasn't some senile old man just yet being plain to witness as Theo cursed inwardly.  He snatched at his own throwing knife, bringing it up to arc from behind his head as the old Boss did the same.  What he didn't project into being was that Hector had taken a far wider step forward than he should've, following through with the extension of his arm as he changed the profile of his body while Theo gritted his teeth in shock.  As he had understood the ritual fight, it was strictly a conduct of honor during the match, any underhanded trickery would have the perpetrator punished as the loser no matter what the outcome of the blows.  He had to adjust his own release to follow the target, but by then he saw that it was too late, and he had let his knife fly as Hector's was already coming towards him, and he stared horrified as a flash of metal came spinning straight towards his vision.

Thump.  A bright, painful flash of weight collided with his skull, and his vision blacked out as Theo went slack and dropped to the ground.

It took a couple moments to occur to him, that despite being hit directly in the forehead, dying felt a lot more drawn out than he thought it would.  And painful.  And now his vision was starting to clear again, as he found himself sprawled out onto his back, his hat sitting close by his head, seeing the leafless trees in a way that they appeared to be clawing down into a bottomless abyss that was the sky.  "Am I dead now?" he asked, a little dazed from the rapid exchange and the blow to the head.  "Yeah, yer dead.  Now get up, I didn't hit ya that hard." came the sardonic voice of Hector, though the voice swam a little in his ears.  Shaking his head, which he instantly regretted thanks to the pounding of his skull, Theo tried to sit up a little, and immediately decided against the action.

What had happened?  Hazily, he felt around with his arms and legs, which still seemed attached to him, numbly rifling through the snow until his hand bumped into something cold and hard.  It was the knife that Hector had chucked at his head, sitting innocently next to where he had been bowled over.  That, sonova bitch.  He hit Theo with the handle of the damn thing, and knocked him onto his ass!  Groggily the male used his arm to support himself, casting about for Whisper wherever she was now, giving the Mayflower a bewildered look.  A hiss of pain came from where his feet were pointing, and the coyote flopped his head over to look in that direction as well.
"Ya damn wuss, why couldn't you try t' kill me like a man?  You've gone and mucked up my throwin' arm now." came the angry response of the Boss, gingerly applying pressure to the wound where Theo's knife protruded, right in the upper arm of his throwing hand.

Utterly confused, Theo blinked at the sharp light of day as his eyes wandered around the clearing, hearing the sound of a nearby whinny catching his ears.  It was his ma, walking through the clearing leading a small train of horses by a lead rein in one hand, and carrying a bucket that sloshed precariously in the other.  "Hector, cariño!  The horses are watered and I have fresh water, now that you've so graciously..." she had said, before trailing off as she looked to the gathering of people, glancing from the fresh blood that seeped sluggishly from Hector's arm to her son that laid dazed in the snow.  It looked like she was mastering an enormous amount of will not to dump the bucket and rush at the gang boss, probably to dunk the wooden pail right on top of his head repeatedly.
The air was tense across the entire clearing as Whisper stood on her own, watching through hazy eyes as the two men initiated their duel. She held her breath, every nerve in her body screaming to take action, to run, to fight, anything, but she stood stock still, shaking quietly. They squared off with each other, they drew back their arms, and they threw. There was a loud sound when Theo was struck, and he fell back. The waif covered her mouth with her hand, stifling a horrified gasp and taking an involuntary half step towards him. Only after the fact did she register the sound of the knife itself also hitting the ground beside him. It hadn't stuck? She smelled blood, but it wasn't his, it came from across the clearing.

Glancing in that direction, Whisper quietly dreaded the outward reaction she had made, however small it had been, when she heard that infuriating man's voice ask if he was dead. Concern flashed to anger quickly in the wisps frail body and she crossed her arms, turning to face a bit more away from the prone male as she touched a singer to her forehead in an attempt to ground herself. He was alive, that stupid idiot was alive. As much as she tried to be upset, she couldn't help one corner of her mouth lifting in a partially concealed smile. At that moment, a new person walked into the clearing, from what whisper could smell, and gather from her voice, it was an older woman, maybe around the age of Whisper's own mother before she'd passed, or maybe just a bit younger. Was that Theo's mysteriously priorly absent mother?

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