[m] tooth and the tongue, the target and the gun

POSTED: Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:21 pm

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.

(—) Read-only, set in early January.

The ocean crashed into his dreams and licked salt up his wounds. Miles away, in Freetown, he'd sat bolt upright from a nap, and shivered, and hidden his fear by slinking off to explore. He wasn't safe from the dreams even when he came back to his own territory, laden with new clothes, a Tradesman in his actions as in his rank. Every night, they came. The ocean roared, and the girl with the broken legs and broken spirit let it pull her to its depths.

He looked, subconsciously, every time he walked the marshlands. His eyes followed tracks in the snow, and his nose chased after old scents, but he did not admit what he was looking for to himself. His vengeance was not righteous; it was not for Salsola.

But, for the first time in his life, Loki wanted to kill, and he did not ignore his heart's call.

He carried no driftwood bat. He walked like a prince, a Lord of Discord shining with cold, metallic accents, and wrapped his slender fingers around the hard hilt of a dagger. His grin was wily, boyish, because he was a liar, and his smile and his silver tongue were his weapons.

And so his words to his first victim were, Hey there! You lost, friend?

* * *

Grackle was named for the black wings on his back—the dappled dark saddle of a wolf. He was not bright, but he was not stupid. He knew his place as a follower, and he was happier taking orders than making his own decisions. When those orders included maiming someone, he was a little happier still.

Round, half-chewed ears pricked when the voice of a coyote called him. He glanced at the slim boy before him, and half-grimaced. He was as mincing as Zeke, he thought—but would never say. It was different, though. This boy had balls but chose to dress in pretty gold and silver. It amused him. He didn't recognize this glittery creature as the fierce, scared-eyed hybrid who'd interrupted their game with Holly. He'd been too busy cracking her legs in his mouth.

But he was lost. He shrugged. Y'know where Anathema is? Grackle asked.

The silvery youth's ears swept back, and a ring flashed on his fingers as they fidgeted. Yeah. Why'd you want to go to that place?

Grackle sneered, and laughed. My friends and I are joining, he said. Anathema accepts tough wolves, he added, eyeing the other's narrow form with a smirk. It's the only pack that'd let us in, anyway.

Lips flickered over a dry mouth; the boy was scared. Why'd only they let you in?

Because we kill people, Grackle rumbled, and shifted into his Secui form. He'd practiced many years, and so he was almost more Optime than Secui—hair spilling over, paws lengthening to fingers, spidery, monstrous. He was a bogeyman. And we rape people. Or I do it. Zeke's got no junk; he lets me stick mine anywhere, if he's not shoving bones in the unlucky cunt—or the other hole, if they ain't got a cunt. His grin turned sloppy, suggestive, his teeth too big for his mouth. Anathema accepts anyone. Maybe they'd let us tie a pretty little boy like you up, hm? Maybe you'd make a good gift—I'm sure they've got somebody who'd like boys.

The coyote was quivering, and Grackle laughed. He swiped his tongue over his lips for good measure—but he didn't move. He didn't do anything without Zeke telling him to first.

He yelled, instead. So where's Anathema?

The silvery boy jumped. His dark ears swept back, and he twisted a braclet around his arm—such a pretty, pretty bracelet. Grackle snorted, and then growled, and the boy dipped his head down and stammered, Follow me.

Grackle wasn't bright. He was a follower. He followed.

When they reached the borders of a pack, Grackle didn't know it wasn't Anathema. His amber eyes blinked once in confusion before the world was suddenly upside down, barbed wire biting his fur, and Loki slit his throat.

* * *

Blood gushed over his hands as he grabbed fists of the wolf's coarse hair, keeping him from writhing and breaking the trap, so he hung like a hog, bleeding dry, and Loki held him, his muscles trembling, until at once he let go. Grackle's body dangled by a foot. Loki's tired arms dropped before his lunch did. He squinted, and picked a stray piece of half-digested meat from his teeth. He glanced at his once-white chest, huffed, then coughed, and vomited again.

But he merely wiped his mouth, straightened, and untangled the wire. He didn't want this wolf to rot on Salsola land.

The dead man dropped. Loki tugged him. He was heavy, his half-shifted form almost as large as an Optime wolf. His arms numbed. His mind numbed, too, until this was done—until this one labor was done, and then he could rest.

Darkness fell when the young coyote hybrid stumbled over the corpse. He spat drool and bile out onto the snow then became limp, nestling his chin into the blood-caked fur of the dead wolf, half-shutting his eyes. He was far enough away, he thought.

Like a grieving man, Loki slept curled up with the dead man wrapped up in his arms. And perhaps something changed in the night, because he did not scream when he woke.

* * *

Loki was lucky to have found the man he did, and not be recognized, and to lead him away—but he was clever, too, and at once he began to arrange for the other two. Winter had found his heart, and they needed to die. He'd made a promise to the waves that had swallowed Holly up—they would die. He would track them down as long as it took and slit their throats like he'd done Grackle's. A Salsolan's vengeance was powerful.

Even if this was not for a Salsolan. Loki didn't acknowledge this.

Instead, he went to the pack that Grackle had spoken of—Anathema. He knew of it, from what Panda had told him, and even what other Salsolans had mentioned. He knew that it was a darker pack, one that had no qualms with servants just like Salsola, but the thought of monsters like Grackle joining it made him feel sick. Perhaps this was why the founders of his own pack left; deceit and murder and other ambiguous morals were prevalent in Salsola, but it was quiet, with the illusion of peace. Everyone worked, everyone obeyed. Filling the ranks with wild rapists and murderers who'd been cast out before was stupid. Salsola only accepted those who were worthy, even if a darker past was politely ignored. What weak leadership would accept anyone?

Loki grimaced, but he ducked into the snow and mud again. He was, oddly, in his Lupus form for this venture—the better to coat his body in dirt, disguising his color even as he disguised his scent at Anathema's borders. He was careful to avoid patrols, staying on one side of the odd wall they'd built, but he had an argument at the ready if someone came across him. He wasn't trespassing, after all.

He rolled again, and stood—dirty-grey now, though his paws were still whitegold from the snow. He smelled at least like a pack member who'd spent recent time outside the borders; it was enough.

And so the dirty "Anatheman" trotted out into the woods to find his next prey.

* * *

Sam was old. He didn't care for his companions, much. He did what he was told, kept watch, fought off other loners. They hunted for him during the long nights his bones ached with winter. It was enough.

It had been his idea to join Anathema, in part because he was so tired. He'd heard stories about the sinners and exiles who found homes there. The stories had woken in him something he'd thought lay dormant, had resonated with him. He'd been chased out of his pack long ago, he'd sinned, and so maybe this was the only place for him as it would be the only place stupid enough to let cunning Zeke into their ranks.

The white husky had gone off to look for Grackle. He'd been angry; when he was angry, he smiled kindly, but when he was out of sight—then he screamed, and kicked the earth, and swore he'd flay Grackle and use his pelt to trade for something more useful, like a rock.

So Sam was alone, and tired. He sighed white smoke.

Then his ear twitched. His sight was going, but his hearing remained keen. He turned and looked down at the ashy-colored wolf eyeing him. He inhaled and grunted.

The small Anatheman eyed him. Hi, he greeted casually.

Sam grunted again. Then: You from Anathema? It was a pointless statement, but the wolf nodded. Wish my friends were here. Would've asked you to take us to your borders to join. What's your name, squirt?

Squirt's fine, the wolf joked. Maybe I'll tell you my name if you join. He paused, and reached up with a hind leg to scratch awkwardly at his flank. But what makes you think the ol' kingpin will let you in, oldtimer?

Sam smiled, briefly. He liked this kid. I don't cause trouble, he said simply. Not enough wolves in this world just listen to what they're fuckin' told. They've got something to prove. I'm not like that. He sighed. Friends are, though. I'll be honest. Got an idiot who follows orders fine, but then we've got a eunuch. I don't trust men who aren't men.

Yeah. Lots don't. Squirt took a seat. Sam didn't notice that the coywolf was a bit nervous about doing so. He didn't recognize the brat who had something to prove back in the late fall—his eyes were going bad. Maybe that's why you want to join us, huh? We're a paradise for troublemakers. Though the warriors won't let Junkless get away with any trouble. He grinned, winked. There's order in chaos. The idiots don't last long.

The youth hesitated. But, he added, I like you. Maybe just you can join up, hm?

The grizzled grey wolf shrugged. That'd piss Zeke off.

We'll throw him in a cave and smoke 'im, then.

Sam allowed himself to grin. I like you, he said. But if I'm not loyal to Zeke, how do you think I'll be loyal to you?

Squirt shrugged, but he wagged his tail and stood. Fine, whatever, he said. But maybe until he comes back we can take a walk? If we're going to be pack mates, and all. He grinned, tail wagging harder. I wanna hear your story.

Sam shook his head, but he considered the kid a moment. Maybe, he said. Maybe, if you get me something to eat. He was too tired to chase down prey anymore, too slow. Hitting someone took exertion, but he wasn't made for chasing especially. He didn't eat much, but even rabbits were hard to get.

But the younger wolf nodded, and turned, trotting off. The grizzled male followed at a distance, puffing softly—reflecting, once again, on why he'd come here, his sins. He felt very weary all of a sudden, but the promise of a meal kept him going—a meal, and company that was pleasant, and not the faux-pleasant that Zeke was. He was honestly tired of him most of all.

Oh, oh—look, Squirt yapped, tail suddenly going a mile a minute. He pranced ahead, an odd little dance of excitement through a thicket. They were in the woods, and it smelled of deer. The size of that one, he said, and Sam smiled. He actually smiled, and stepped forward.

Eyes bulged, and trembling hands clawed at the noose—coming away bloodied. He tore his hands on the barbed wire, jaws parting, and he gagged, and glanced at the youngster who shook dirt from his fur and stared at him.

Help, he said.

Rot in hell, Loki said.

Sam kept on his toes—he was too tall to hang, if he stood on his toes. But as he stared down at the shaking wolf, he remembered. He didn't remember Loki, though. He remembered his sister, instead, and their secret, and the little puppy heads bashed against rocks because father couldn't find out.

He'd been so young, so scared, but still a sinner. And he'd bashed more heads against rocks since.

Sam looked at the trapper, his tongue slithering from his parted jaws. He was an old man. He was tired, he thought. He was tired.

* * *

The grizzled wolf hung, and his tongue turned black, and Loki left the body in the trees. He didn't vomit this time.

There was one more to go.

With your feathers and thorns sticking to my hide
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