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stories within stories

Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:47 am

Neith was allowed no more than two days’ rest before the questions came, whether by his mother or nephew. He delayed all answers, for stress had created for him headaches like never before, and he thought himself a cripple as he lay buried in his furs for hours at a time, resentful of daylight.

But when Salvia approached him, the young Confidant had little choice but to share his experience as a captive to her. The words of the collared soldier lingered with him, eager to escape his chest like a long-held secret too dreadful to share.

He gathered up his cloak for the nip of soon-to-come winter and the afternoon's drift of early flakes. He would start first from the beginning, and once they had walked a safe distance from eavesdropping ears of their Ruins home, Neith inhaled slow and deep to gather his nerves and stamina despite the insistent jabs of pain within his skull. She was patient with him, he observed, for the Boss rushed neither words nor steps out of him. She was patient, or she pitied him. Perhaps both. Perhaps more.

“I learned one of the slaves had taken Ask,” he began. “The slave taken from the Boreas war. I was nearby, so I followed. I found Darijus dead by the stream, and I followed the kidnapper into the Bay. When we ran into Inferni sentinels, he dropped Ask and ran a different way. I don’t believe they caught him.”

Rather, he was certain of it. Salvador had stood often as his guard, and after Dove’s departure made conversation more than once. Salvia needn’t know he had befriended a few of the clansmen in the process of committing treason, however. “I was wounded by one of the sentinels, but Vicira would not let us free. She held onto Ask most of the time. They weren’t hurting him. They treated us... decently enough, all things considered.”

He grimaced. His jaw parted, shut, and he searched for words with distant eyes. “I saw his body,” he pushed out, with utmost focus on a convincing carriage. “It... It was some sort of accident.”

Somewhere, a skinny white coyote sat with a little ivory pup, watching the snow fall.

“I’m sorry,” he said. He needn’t explain more than that.

Postdated to shortly after Neith’s rescue during the war.

Re: stories within stories

Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:18 pm

In the span of breaths through which Neith told his story, Salvia observed his face and his body as she had since first seeing him. Captivity had not been horrific, it seemed, but he had lost weight and seemed pained. To be afflicted by the event was not unusual, though, and she treated him as she might anyone else wounded in battle.

What she came to understand was that Loki had made a mistake in thinking he could break the man who had killed her sister. She might have warned him of this, thinking of other free-born men who had defied their captors, but grief made people act in strange ways. They had certainly tried to break the soldier, she thought, and it was a desperate and foolish thing to run from Salsola. Few escaped with their lives.

Salvia could see that talking about the incident was uncomfortable for Neith, and explained this off for what he told her and not what had truly happened. It didn't occur to her that the healer might lie and do such damage to his kin by following through with his deception.

I'm sure you did what you could, Salvia told him. He was your brother, after all.

The wolf let her gaze leave him, turning westward. She stared at the bare trees and evergreen between them, thinking.

I understand that this is hard, she went on, her tone odd and almost gentle – like she was soothing an animal. But tell me what you heard, and what you saw. We will be better off if we know our enemy.

She could not understand what would drive Vesper and her followers to such rash, seemingly irrational acts. After the last war, Inferni was certainly no stranger to Salsola's strength.

Re: stories within stories

Wed Dec 06, 2017 6:38 pm

“He was crushed,” he said. Neith voided the forming image of one dead and flattened Ask before it could cement in his mind. “Like something fell on him.”

A silence persisted then, not by Neith’s intention but an absence of dialogue as he arranged his thoughts and pushed on through memories more sincere. In that pause he allowed himself to look pathetic on topic of his half-brother, though such exposure cut raw on his pride like winter winds. Despite this, Neith concerned himself less with whether his status would recover from the loss of a child under his protection—or whether he would be blamed for it. Far beyond his image alone was put to risk by the movement of Ask from Inferni and Salsola, and none here knew it was because of that sense to protect that the boy was now thought dead.

The Heiwa spoke what little he could of their territory. He mentioned Helena as fellow prisoner, held elsewhere in the caverns. He mentioned the young and brash Briarblack. The smart-mouthed, auburn coyote with the fire-arrows. The gossip, mostly irrelevant, overheard as discussed by cavern guards. Trite information, but information just the same.

“Some follow gods blindly,” he went on. “Some were gentle and kind from it. Others felt called to war against wolves. I had always thought that strange racism was only rumor.”

Thoughts lingered on the man in the collar, the feral thing who looked contemptuously upon Neith not as a Salsolan in wartime, but as a wolf.

Contemplation turned fast to visible hesitance, and he spoke what came gradually and carefully. “One mentioned something that bothers me still, my Queen. Black arrows in the heart of one of their dead, before the war began.” He looked to her. “He said the Commander used the same against the Boreas.”

Re: stories within stories

Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:31 pm

The Boss did visualize the answer presented to her, but it was – for a moment – other children who had come before. What could have happened, she thought? A horse, perhaps.

Maybe the coyotes had grown tired of caring for the boy.

Any doubts she might have had as to his story were forgotten the longer Neith talked. Inferni's weakness was visible to prisoners, as she viewed it, and only further suggested incompetence. Was this how Boreas had come to damage them as severely as it seemed? Had it been like this before, and been the reason for only the most dire of circumstances to draw the packs together?

Then all at once, Salvia stopped walking.

Black arrows, the wolf repeated, and her face turned towards his. Though it might have been a mask for how little expression it betrayed, her eyes were wide and staring intensely at him now. And the coyote said it saw this?

Re: stories within stories

Tue Dec 26, 2017 9:56 pm

She stopped abruptly. Caught unaware, Neith paused a few paces ahead and turned, concerned.

“Black arrows, yes.” He detected something different in her eyes, and on edge his words came forth too well-pronounced, too considered and too perfect. Surely he had not misstepped for but repeating what could have been a falsification of the enemy, but it was difficult to tell. In those words were a hearty accusation, and Neith knew to tread carefully and repeat them to no one untrusted.

“A four-legged man. Grays, tans, orange nose. Monstrously large. He wore a red collar with spikes.” Neith squared his shoulders. ”I don’t know his name, my Queen, but he claimed those arrows started the war. Killed his son.”

The Heiwa folded his hands at his waist. “I hope I have not overstepped.”

Re: stories within stories

Tue Dec 26, 2017 10:17 pm

She knew the man Neith described in form though not name, and suspected his position high enough to warrant her remembering him. Salvia turned this thought over in her head and wondered now about all the absences which never quite added up.

It had been after Krios had been hurt, she thought. Sometime after that moment the war had been given life, fanned into being when a singular action overstepped the Law.

Her Law.

The dark centers of her eyes began to swell, though they never left his face. He looked like his father there. Neith was touched by war as Loki had been touched by some vigilante justice that ought to have brought violence down sooner. Though he had been raised outside of her careful monitoring and control, she believed him in this moment – that this story was not a fabrication, though it rang false in her ears.

Did you believe him? Salvia asked directly, seriously.

Re: stories within stories

Wed Dec 27, 2017 11:02 pm

Why did she ask? He was a Confidant, far outside her circles for his thoughts and opinions to be of true value to the Queen. He hadn’t authority. He avoided commanding even the pack slaves.

Neith questioned it yet another trial, but stifled the thought. He knew his tendencies to overthink, and once his mind cleared he chose his words carefully.

“I have no reason to, frankly. He could be trying to cause commotion among our ranks.” Eyes searching with his thoughts, Neith weaved and rubbed together his fingers. ”I know too little about the Lord Commander. It isn’t my place to lay judgment. I thought it to be significant enough to pass along, whether or not my Queen chooses to dismiss it.”

Had he overstepped? He was yet to find out.

Given a moment’s hesitation longer, he asked, “Shall I leave you to your thoughts, my Queen?”

Re: stories within stories

Tue Jan 02, 2018 8:34 pm

[WC: 240]

Neith's answer was so careful that Salvia knew at once he did not wish to provide any certain answer – because one way or another he might damn himself. It was a wise choice, one which she noted had come despite his weariness and whatever lingering damage had been done by his captivity and subsequent escape.

She stared at him for a length of silence after his final question, as if by sight alone she might glean the truth from his form.

Eventually, though, the blonde woman nodded and dismissed him with quiet thanks – and a pointed suggestion that he keep such information to himself for the time being – before sending him back home. Salvia watched Neith on the trail briefly, for she felt the need to put motion back into her feet. This whole affront was becoming far more muddled than she imagined it could be; it was one thing to blame the savage coyotes, however, and another to see treason in their own keep.

Later she would send food and (despite well aware that things had changed between herself and Isabella) confirm the details of the event as she had heard it from all the others. This matter of black arrows, however, was of such importance that it could not be easily forgotten.

Treachery of this magnitude seemed to fit so neatly into all the pieces which had given foundation to the war now upon them.

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