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Thu Jan 03, 2019 7:26 pm
In the presence of death, Degaré was taken back to the time he had died.
Nearly was, of course, a word worth noting. There was nothing to bring a soul back to its mortal body, though Talbot certainly spoke as if he had. Everything around that day was terribly fuzzy.
Degaré remembered thinking he should have heard the cougar. As a boy his elder siblings had scared him with stories of the Fairy Queen's cursed offspring, and how the screaming they heard at night was surely one of those demons. His parents had chided them later, and corrected his learnings. They had not mentioned how dangerous the big cat was, for the wolves of Terchová had long killed all those who came near their land.
He had not known he was dying until the cougar attacked him, and by then it was too late. The damn thing had meant to kill him outright. It had gone for his spine. His thick fur had saved him, and sheer dumb luck had saved him. Degaré, terrified, sensing if he did not overcome the challenger his life would forfeit, had fought desperately. They had mauled one another, the wolf and the cougar (his name had been Csaba and it was his second year defending the territory), and the battle had been brief and terrible. Tooth and claw was the way of the world. When they had both fallen, Degaré had still lived.
Intervention was the only thing that saved him. The commotion in the forest had attracted a curious traveler named Talbot Kingsford. Though he had not joined the battle, the dog was glad it was the other canine who had won. He had been different then, or so Degaré remembered.
Things were getting fuzzier by the day. Sometimes he dreamed of dark shadows, and thought he heard voices on the wind. Omni had chosen him. Even if he would not speak this supposed-blasphemy aloud, Degaré came to believe it more and more. All that suffering, all that pain, it had been worth it had he come into the sight of a being whose coming was all but certain.
The wolf could look down at the poor woman and see her not as a person, but as a promise kept. A woman who had been his brother's age, who had perhaps suffered no fault except for being a starting voice in a mob. She had been the loudest. She had been the spark.
So when he had crossed, wounded and hungry into territory not his own, it had been her fault too. Maybe if he hadn't been hurt the cougar never would have attacked him.
Each time he slashed through her flesh, he thought about all the violence he had endured. All those people who had seen fit to attack him, he thought about them. Mostly he was thinking about the cougar and the loss of his eye, the damage to his face.
Behind Degaré his best friend and savior relived the scene as he had seen it then – stupid, brutal violence without consequence.
They gained power over things by reliving them.
Degaré choked the breath from her throat. He ripped her hands apart with his massive teeth. He spilled Otilie's blood onto the thirsty ground, and it bathed him in the steaming gore until his face was awash with red. He hadn't laughed in years, but he did now – a strange giggling that had begun amidst his earlier snarls grew now into a hysterical frenzy. He laughed until he lost his breath and then coughed long and hard.
When he had finally satisfied his fury, Degaré turned to his witnesses. A shake of his massive head sent blood spraying through the air and spiked his fur into sharp points.
Degaré needed no mask to enact the rites of Omni, the many faced god.
Talbot loosened his grip on Milos. A grotesque smile split his face. The hand whose nails were bloodied from where they had cut his hostage now caressed his wounded head. He was drunk on this power, on the ritual of murder, of the explosion of energy like the blood which now splattered his scorched mask. For the first time in what seemed like forever, they were seeing things advance. The fire had only been the beginning, and now...
Degaré listened to the wind and breathed in the cold air. He was drooling. Already, scavenger birds were winging their way towards the area.
When the silence seemed to last forever, he finally announced: I'm done.
Mon Jan 07, 2019 11:13 am
Violence was not a foreign word to Milos. Since the early days of his life, when he was only just weaned and learning what it meant to be a wolf, combat had ripped through his pack like a tornado tears up earth and trees and the lives of lesser beings and tosses them all asunder without regard or remorse. But it was no worn and weathered militant who sullied the bright, virgin eyes of the young boy, that day of the war.
While they cowered against the soft belly of their old nanny, he and his half-siblings, opportunistic Luperci – a sight never seen before – took advantage of the warring factions and stole into their meager sanctuary. Amara, that old and gentle wolf who had watched over them as though her life held no other meaning, fed the earth with her own blood and flesh in an effort to keep her charges safe. Years later, when he understood the beauty of sacrifice and the finality of death, Milos found himself hoping that Amara believed her efforts weren't in vain, as she drew her final breath that terrible day.
But, of course, her death had been in vain. Stolen away from their family and taken far from the conflicts and the barbarism of feral wolves, Milos was sold into slavery and flung into the conflicts and barbarism of civilized Luperci.
Oh no, violence was certainly no foreign concept to Milos. But this?
Unblinking and rigid, the fallen Captain watched as Degaré slashed and tore and bit and chewed at Otilie's defenseless body. At one point, a bead of crimson, sent air-born from the beast's frenzied brutality, found Milo's dark face and clung to the graying fur below one dull, hollow eye. Like a bloodied teardrop, it sat and went unnoticed while the carnage went on and on and on.
Even as he thought of Chaska's bruised and bloodied and blistered body, roasting in the southern sun while ants and beetles and flies ate slowly away at him; even as he remembered the silent release of his tortured body as Milos sunk his dagger into his lover's heart, warmth washing over his hands with the blood of the life he had just taken, Milos found himself thinking that he had never known violence to the degree he was witnessing and hearing and smelling now.
This, he felt, was beyond violence.
Degaré's ruined face was turned to him again, bloody and sharp, and Milos did not feel the easing of Talbot's fingers from his skull or the warm trickle of blood down the back of his head. Frozen in place, tense and taut, Milos looked from Otilie's still body, her flesh ripped to ribbons, to the face of the monster who had done turned the coyote inside-out and wondered if he would ever, truly, be allowed to hold his daughter again.
The silence stretched. A crow croaked and was answered by the gritty cawing of others. Milos didn't remember when it happened, but he had shifted his eyes back to Otilie's ruined body again was watching her with tears pooling along the bottom rims of his eyelids.
Done. He was done. It was done.
But, for Milos, it felt like something was only just beginning.
He nodded mechanically, tearing his eyes away from the woman whose fate had been sealed by his own action and inaction, and followed his captors away from the carnage.
[WC — 585]