don't let me die with that silly look in my eyes

POSTED: Wed Oct 11, 2017 11:43 am

They traveled on horseback in the grassland, wary of threats beyond their capacity to handle. Grievous supposed these tactics – that was, the violence Inferni had thus displayed against women and children – were meant to frighten them the same way their displayed skulls did. In a place where blood was fed to spirits and gods, and in the stories of his mother's cannibal night-haunts, a person might come to dissociate the dead from their remains.

Whatever power might have been in those deaths was long gone. They only had to worry about the threats presented rationally, physically.

The orders trickled down in the same way information did. A slave was missing, Inferni had taken two of their own hostage, and an unpleasant ceasefire had been forced upon them. When they could not risk open war, suppressing information gathering was the next best thing.

A bounty on each black bird was what they had heard, and so the two men went east. Luigi borrowed one of the trail horses (a little thing that Dama seemed smitten by) and they rode where the scrub-brush trees grew thickest when possible. The wolfdog was a better shot than Grievous, but together they had killed every raven they had come across. There were not many in the western parts of the Bay, but three was a good number, Grievous thought, and he felt encouraged by their progress and thus pressed on.

Luigi pulled his arrow back, staring up at the black shape as it neared the herd of horses milling in the low ground nearby. He held this position for what felt like a very long time, and then fired. Whistling, the arrow sailed true and struck the raven. It plummeted like a stone.


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POSTED: Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:06 pm

She needed air.

This war thing was too much. Tensions were high. She had been trying to help – learn how to fight, learn how to heal, keep morale high, try, try, try – but nothing really fixed any of it. War sucked, and there was no two ways about it. None at all. So she passed over the skull-lined borders of Inferni and into Drifter's Bay in the hopes to clear her head.

It worked, for a time, dark-furred Magpie prowling through the grasses with her shiny trinkets and sullen expression. It let her clear her mind, be rid of thoughts of her dead cousin and the soberness of home when life was threatening. Not to mention Redtooth's new babies – who she tried desperately to hate, but who she found herself unable to really feel animosity towards. That made her heart sink too.

It was the dull sound of something weighty hitting the ground that drew her out of her thoughts, nose twitching to smell the air and scenting raven on it – and blood. Blood always shot a metaphorical red flag into the sky in the mind of the doggish 'yote, but instead of turning back (like a smart adult probably would have), she began to track it. If a raven was hurt, she wanted to get it back to Meemaw, who could help it get better. The ravens were the symbiotic crutch of the coyote clan, after all, and she was fond of them. Usually, at least.

Black feathers had wilted where the bird fell. It was dead – a fact that hit Magpie like a rock in the lower abdomen. An arrow had felled it, still puncturing the meat. She reached out to grasp it, trying to remove it, hopeful for a moment that the bird would be okay. It wasn't. When the arrow was removed (a difficult task, for a girl unfamiliar with arrows), there was only blood and a limp bird left behind.

She snuffled, peering with watery eyes at its corpse, before turning her head. Where had the arrow come from? That was the next question.

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POSTED: Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:35 pm

What are you gonna do with yours?

With my what?

Whatever these end up bein' worth, the wolfdog barked, grinning towards their collection of birds, and his bushy tail wagged.

Oh, I don't know. The feathers are nice, though. Some of them, anyway.

Yeah, but they sure look ugly when they're dead, Luigi curled his lip. He rolled his shoulder, and flexed his free hand.

Grievous was only half-listening. He had spotted a larger dark shape up ahead – a dog, he thought at first – near the place where their prize had fallen. This struck him as odd, given that they were in the Bay. As he understood it, few travelers would bother with an area patrolled by two groups known for violence.

Then he caught her scent, and his face hardened.

Seeing the change in his companion, the wolfdog stiffened. Luigi lowered his hand, and Grievous made a subtle motion with his own. He urged Dama forward. Two-toned horse tossed his head and paraded forward, while Grievous – leering and doing his best to look fierce looking – rode the horse towards the dark coydog.

That belongs to us.


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POSTED: Sat Oct 14, 2017 9:02 pm

Magpie could smell the horses before they neared, but it didn't register in her mind to be worried. Instead, it was indignation that rose in her chest That belongs to us, said the moon-pale wolf, and she glowered disdainfully and leaned over the dead raven as if to protect it from interlopers. Liar, she insisted, You killed it! That doesn't make it yours, it makes it less yours than it would have been otherwise! It didn't matter to her if the bird was one of the ones familiar to Ravenswrest. It didn't matter to her that it was dead. She'd grown fond of the black-feathered birds, who resonated with her in a clan where there were so few dark shapes.

There were two of them, she realized, which caused her ears to shift back. She knew what it meant to be outmatched, even if one of them was barely older than she was. They both had horses. She wasn't familiar with horses – but she knew they ran faster than she could on two legs. Still, she had come this far, tried to be fierce... Why back down now?

So she glowered more. You two don't belong here, she claimed, trying to drag the raven closer as she leaned back once more, crouched before the pair.

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POSTED: Sun Oct 15, 2017 4:13 pm

She held her ground over the raven like its was something more than a simple bird, even though Grievous and his companion towered above her. He knew then what his nose was telling him to be true – if she was a loner, a dog like he had originally thought, she wouldn't care about a dead bird. Grievous couldn't imagine what kind of person would be allowed to live with such savages. Her sharp features were coyote-like, though she looked well-fed and cared for.

The ring in her nose made him think of their slaves. He thought about Silas, and what had happened to Neith and Ask. His eyes narrowed and, surprising himself, he shoved his reins towards Luigi and dismounted. Dama wouldn't run, he thought, but the stallion was more likely to cause trouble if he realized himself free.

On foot, Grievous was nearly two heads taller than the young woman. Despite Luigi's simple tunic, the pale gray wolf wore only a sun-colored pendant. He moved towards her and flexed his hands, thrusting one forward. Give it here, he demanded, showing his teeth. Don't do anything stupid.


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POSTED: Mon Oct 16, 2017 9:44 pm

The white one dismounted, snowy fur covering a long body. She was surprised by that – that he was so tall. She could tell that from where she was crouched, and oh, did he look extra tall because she was lower to the ground. It made butterflies of panic flutter to life in her chest and stomach, and for a moment, she felt like she was going to vomit. These butterflies grew larger as he stepped closer.

Give it here.

Her two-colored eyes fixed on the outstretched hand as she listened to his demand, and she clutched at the raven's corpse more tightly, its blood seeping into her black fur. What does it matter to you if you have it? demanded young Magpie, her features tilting up and her eyes narrowing – seeking information from the white-furred male that she couldn't guess on her own. What purpose served the dead raven? Though she supposed it meant nothing to her now, either, since it was gone.

Rationality demanded she give the bird over, but Magpie Trouillefou was not a creature of rational thought. She stood instead, trying to look imposing at her much smaller height. You don't belong her – either of you. So you best go on your way.

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POSTED: Tue Oct 17, 2017 5:20 pm

She had two different colored eyes, like his uncle, like a dog, but she had chosen to live like one of them. Loyalty was something Grievous understood. He had never thought about leaving his birth-home, even though his parents and brother had done so (but this was out of shame, of desperation, and somehow allowed) and the world was grand and vast.

Salsola was not like other places, he had always been told, and a part of him feared what he might find out there. It couldn't have been all that wondrous, for many Outsiders had joined the Family and chosen to raise children as native-born sons and daughters.

Grievous was one such son, and his superiority had long been earned. He was engrained in the pack. He had committed treason when ordered, obeying the demands of kin above him. Now, when his Boss called for war, he answered. People had already been hurt. People were missing. The longer he stood there, the more obviously pronounced his aggression became.

It's ours by right, you little thief, he snapped.

Yeah, we killed it! the wolfdog behind him echoed. Luigi had not misread his companion and indeed fed off such growing tension. Even the horses seemed to sense it, shifting uneasily like the tall grass in the wind.

Grievous growled and reached for her arm.


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POSTED: Thu Oct 19, 2017 8:25 pm

Magpie tried to pretend she was unafraid. She tried to pretend this wolf before her wasn't a threat. In her mind, she was able to think of how foolish he would look as she escaped him – but the reality was, he was larger, and they had horses. The longer he stood there, the more she could tell he was annoyed, or angry, or some combination of the two that made him dangerous. The longer they had their impasse, and the longer she mouthed off, the more she realized she shouldn't have left Inferni that day.

It's ours by right, he claimed, and behind him, his companion spoke as well. Thoughts processed through her mind, desperate thoughts. Perhaps she could call for Meemaw. Perhaps she could just give him the bird. When his hand reached for her arm, the latter is the path she took. The bird was thrust at the white wolf, and she staggered, trying to stand so she was in a better position to run. Fine! she hollered, pretending to be livid, voice cracking in her anxiety, Take the stupid thing.

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POSTED: Sun Oct 22, 2017 9:00 pm

He wasn't like this, not usually. There was nothing necessarily mean in him, but his society demanded certain things – dominance, power, wealth – and trapped in this system he could either endure the current or be drowned by it.

There was a moment where the point of escalation became impossible to avoid. Their fingers touched, or felt like they might have, and impulse struck him. He snatched for her arm, forgetting the bird, and clenched his fingers tight. The bird fell between them, forgotten, and as she struggled it occurred to him that this wasn't something he was supposed to do.

That thrilled him, in its own way.

Then she started to scream, and the threat of being caught overwhelmed him. Almost in a frenzy, he grappled her close and wrapped one strong arm around her throat. She kicked and squirmed, scratching him, and Luigi was saying something but Grievous didn't hear. Bit by bit he increased the pressure until she slowed, stilled, and finally went limp.

Ho' shit, Luigi's voice, babbling behind him, reached a fever pitch. Holy shit is she dead?

No, she's not dead, Grievous growled. Unconscious and still breathing, the dark coydog was heavy and limp in his arms. Just shut up. We'll take her with us, he said. They took ours, remember? We'll take her back and tell the Boss.

Someone else could sort it out, he thought. This was too big, it felt like, the same way that what he and O'Riley had done felt too big.

With Luigi's help, Grievous hoisted the girl onto his horse. They rode hard back to Salsola, leaving the dead raven behind.


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Sticks and Stones