Oceans rise, empires fall

POSTED: Fri Jan 11, 2019 10:17 pm

[417]

Vesper lay at the mouth of the cavern, listening to the drip of snowmelt and the tentative melodies of birds, as the sky slowly bled pink with the light of dawn. She'd seen it framed this way hundreds of times, and it was some comfort to be somewhere so familiar again -- even if the earthy scents of Grimwell made her recount hundreds of memories, too. Not all were painful, though, and she was used to melancholy and nostalgia; it came with age. She could deal.

Deeper in the sandy bowl of the den, Clover slept at last. The stubborn girl had insisted on keeping watch throughout the cold night, but in the early hours of grey pre-dawn, Vesper had woken and the dog had finally dozed off. Tiptoeing carefully around her as to not wake her, Ves had settled in the entrance to the long, crooked den cavern to watch the sky change colors.

It was a ritual for her, and she wasn't about to stop now.

The hushed birdsong -- little twitters here and there of feeding creatures -- was pierced with a coughing croak as a raven flew off from the scraggly trees overhanging the limestone formations. Stormeye fanned her wings and soared out over the moors, likely in search of a rabbit or other carcass.

Clover growled, then whimpered, in her sleep; her eyes shifted frantically beneath their lids. Vesper pushed herself to all fours and went to the dog's side, pressing her muzzle into the thick ruff. After a minute, Clover quieted again, her twitching body settling into a blessed stillness.

Vesper pulled her head back, then rolled her neck with a little pop. Now that she was standing up -- quite a feat in the mornings -- she should go take a leak. Slowly, stretching her limbs with each step, she exited the den and hobbled down the little hillock, her bad leg's paw barely brushing the earth with each limping step. She sniffed around a bush for a while, then looked back out over the Waste with its withered yellow grass and sparkling frost.

Her ice blue eyes -- still sharp, especially for her age -- flicked toward a figure moving in the distance. She glanced toward the caverns, trying to judge how fast she could run back to the den if she needed to, but something made her hesitate. Slowly, she lifted her head to its full height and flagged her bushy tail out behind her, staring, waiting, her heart racing.



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Raze
Luperci
tatter-winged phoenix
cunning linguist

POSTED: Fri Jan 11, 2019 11:53 pm

Before the day dawned over dead grasses bent by frost, before the songbirds gathered their breath, before his partner woke beside him Alistair arose. An uneasy night slowly gave way to uncertain day as he sat staring into nothing. Nothing at all, no one. The scents of coyote still clung tight to the stalwart rocks, the mournful trees, shattered skulls. They were everywhere and nowhere. Gone.

His memories of Inferni were memories of her. Battered, broken, paranoid, and yet she kept on going. Vesper kept on going despite all odds, despite the weight on her shoulders and all the zealotous monsters who kept trying to pin her down. Hers was the ever-burning flame, the tireless spirit of Inferni.

Perhaps he chased a ghost.

He filled his lungs with cold winter air his eyes dry, their lids heavy and leaned over Atalanta's sleeping form. "Ata." She stirred slowly, blinking the softest loveliest blue eyes at him. "Morning, love." She acknowledged him with a warm sleepy smile and he nuzzled her, pausing a moment to take comfort in her scent. "I'm going to go look around for a while."

"If I don't return by nightfall- tell my story." He managed to curl his lip just enough to be convincing then got up, readied his horse, and set off with an urgency that was far more telling.

They passed half-remembered sights and scents, but few traces of life. They were, as he feared, gone. He was about to give up hope when a scent- two scents caught his attention. The dog, he disregarded, but...no. No, it couldn't be.

He reined Merlin in hard, hard enough to leave grooves in the earth. The gelding tossed his head and sounded his discontent, but Alistair was already out of the saddle. He patted his black neck once then followed the scent over grassy hillocks and sharp rock faces, treacherous terrain that battled his every step. He climbed a shelf and looked down and there his eyes locked on to a scrawny, battered figure her bottlebrush tail waving like a banner of welcome. Her eyes flaring with life.

He stood a moment in silence, surveying her- worried that if he blinked she would disappear. "Vesper." Not a question, there could be no mistake. His feet moved without permission, his thoughts lagged behind. He descended the craggy slope until they stood on even ground. There he kneeled before her and abruptly threw his arms around her smaller ragged body like an old dear friend.
Last edited by Alistair Callow on Fri Feb 01, 2019 12:13 am, edited 3 times in total.
Alistair Callow

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Stormie
Luperci SoSuWriMo 2013 Champ! have you ever licked a lamppost in winter...?
I am the Sword
the Light
and the Shield

POSTED: Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:18 am

[277]

Old faces smiled at her in dreams -- the weary, apologetic, unreal grins of those that had wandered out of her life. Turquoise eyes brimmed with regret over a faint echo of a tender look; dirty-orange rolled beneath dark curls; bright gold squinted with sororal love and shy smile; fiery orbs winked with a charming smirk. Others too greeted her in landscapes of mist and cobweb, insubstantial.

These days Vesper did not imagine she would see many people again.

And yet she paused when she saw the figure, and the rhythm of her heart was birdlike as she shallowly breathed the crisp air. They could be anyone. They were probably no one. And yet.

The Luperci that crested the stone shelf paused: tall and tawny, chestnut hair ever-tousled by the wind. The silvering face that stared back at her was not the oldest or dearest in her dreams, but the sight still struck her. Vesper forgot, a moment, to breathe, and her eyes narrowed and paws shifted on the hard earth as she tried to think. By then, he approached.

Vesper stood a little straighter as he came near. Her lips peeled back to show yellowed teeth in the beginings of a sarcastic growl, her tattered ears pricked so she resembled somewhat the alpha she used to be. She knew she was dreadfully skinny and fleabitten, crippled and scarred and old.

Before she got a word out the once-king kneeled in front of her, then wrapped his arms around her in a sudden embrace.

The coywolf's bony body tensed all at once, then relaxed. She pressed her face into his shoulder and said nothing.



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Raze
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tatter-winged phoenix
cunning linguist

POSTED: Sat Jan 12, 2019 1:20 am

Silvered snout often turned to making japes was silent now as he held her, solid and bristling in his arms. She was so thin. He felt protrusions of bone where his hands pressed in, old scars accompanied by even older ones, areas of knotted flesh and a coarse, ratty pelt.

Where he expected to feel teeth instead she placed her head, easing into the embrace just as unexpectedly. His head, too came to rest at her scruff and he squeezed just enough for comfort. For Vesper, for himself. He let go then, his thoughts slowly catching up like a clock being re-tuned. Reminding him that it was Vesper he held, though somehow he didn't regret it.

His earth-toned eyes met hers -forlorn and icy- at once warm and worried. He could feel his veins pulsing with barely contained anxiety which mounted in his throat as he prepared the words. "What happened here?" He asked, dreading her answer as he swallowed into the pit of his stomach. His voice was dry from a night without rest, haunted by the dark, unseeing sockets of discarded skulls.
Alistair Callow

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Stormie
Luperci SoSuWriMo 2013 Champ! have you ever licked a lamppost in winter...?
I am the Sword
the Light
and the Shield

POSTED: Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:38 pm

[379]

Alistair was never one Vesper would refer to as a close friend. All his qualities would be opposed to this. He was a man, a Luperci, a former leader of a wolf pack.

But he was here. He was real. And that was what mattered.

His arms tightened around her, and while in another context she might have felt trapped, she only pressed harder against his muscled frame. He smelled of earth and fur, wood and snow, and seemed to be doing well for a loner. Compared to her, at the very least -- her rib and shoulderbones sticking into his flesh as he embraced her. It hurt, a little, putting pressure on muscles sore from travel and joints aching from arthritis, but the pain grounded her to reality lest her mind float away again.

Alistair released her, and Vesper quickly averted her gaze so he could not see the odd shine to her aged eyes. She anticipated the question, though, and any pain or sorrow burned over with that old fury -- letting herself seize upon the anger that smoldered in her all these months.

"Salsola," the old coywolf answered, spitting the word with utmost hatred. She was comforted in the knowledge that he would understand.

"One of those slavers hurt my friend. They turned him," she said, and recalled unveiling her pain on Alistair on the beach long ago, when he made light of her preference for four legs. It was not something to joke about, and whether or not he truly understood -- what Luperci did? -- he would at least have insight as to how unforgivable this was to Vesper.

"You cannot trust those monsters. I didn't want to play nice anymore. We went to war. Salsola is without mercy. Salvia did this to me," and she gestured to her badly-healed leg, useless in the snow. "They burned down our mansion with my grandchildren still inside. They took everything from us."

She snarled, now, silently, her yellowed teeth painfully grit. One of her bottom fangs was gone. It was just another ruined facet of her person -- but from the instant her father had cut that oldest scar into her brow, Vesper hadn't cared about these things.

Her worst scars weren't visible to the mere eye.



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Raze
Luperci
tatter-winged phoenix
cunning linguist

POSTED: Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:24 pm

He'd never known what to make of Vesper. They were so far apart: physically, psychologically, even geographically. They were opposites in every way and far from appreciating their differences Alistair used to mock them. Words that had been said in jest, he realized now had been cruel and undeserved, unworthy of a knight, of him. She was a biased, sharp-tongued, and haggard old thing...But she'd been through hell. He should have been kinder.

When they parted he felt it, the leaden weight of regret sinking low into his body and pulling down his spine. Simultaneously her eyes averted and his ears fell. Until he heard the name.

Immediately, his hackles rose, his ears stood straight and his eyes focused. He growled.

When the crime of their enemy was revealed Alistair felt the weight sink a little deeper.Regret. His hands balled into fists; his fingers squeezed so tightly he felt the points of his claws in the meat of his palms.

"I don't." he thought, seething. His eyes moved briefly to her injured foot then sharply averted. Alistair was quiet and introspective once she finished. He didn't trust himself to speak-- not yet. His thoughts raced from point to point: when did this happen, had there been any casualties, had anyone come to help?

"And what of the Cavaliers?" Low and measured he uttered the words through yellowing teeth. Hazel eyes lifted and studied her face with an intensity he could not restrain.
Alistair Callow

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Stormie
Luperci SoSuWriMo 2013 Champ! have you ever licked a lamppost in winter...?
I am the Sword
the Light
and the Shield

POSTED: Mon Jan 21, 2019 1:23 am

[386]

"The Cavaliers?" Vesper repeated, and her voice was a sardonic, coughing raven-croak that might have answered his question even before she elaborated.

She flashed Alistair a mirthless smirk (more grimace than smile with scarred lips peeling back from those ruined teeth) that transitioned into another bitter growl. She had not spared a thought to the knights in some months; such a thing had not been relevant after the damage was already done, and she hadn't had the energy to be upset while trying to help guide the broken clan and its remnants.

Now, however, talk of everything that happened made her angry again. A wild look came to her eye, one that hadn't glinted there since she'd led her warriors into the fight that would cripple her. It was fervor nearing madness, a dangerous spark of emotion that had gotten her into trouble since she first heard the name Salsola. It was the kind of wild emotion that planted seeds of doubt about her leadership into so many people: Marlowe, Vicira, even Myrika.

In her contemplative state, looking back after the damage done, after all that she ahd lost, Vesper did not blame any of them.

But that Vesper was not present, not right now. She spat on the ground, sucked in a breath with a wet-sounding snarl.

"The Cavaliers did nothing. One of their little aspiring ambassadors came by during the war. I told her what those slavers did -- that they killed my grandson. And they did nothing. People and horses burned alive twenty, thirty miles from their doorstep and no retribution. Their oaths are empty."

Saliva glistened on her fangs, pooled in that socket in her gum. While her ice-chip eyes seized upon Alistair with an abrupt intensity, it looked almost like she were staring through him -- gazing upon an alternate reality that suited her ideals of righteousness and bloodshed.

"You were different. You were better; you took your ideals seriously. If you had still led..."

But then her eyes refocused. She trailed off and jerked her head to the side, glaring out into the hazy distance, recognizing the uselessness of her words and knowing that even in this imagined scenario things were not so simple. The wind blew, ruffling her patchy coat, and the thin female shivered.



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Raze
Luperci
tatter-winged phoenix
cunning linguist

POSTED: Wed Jan 23, 2019 10:41 pm

Alistair seized on a last shining thread of hope, a moment-- for that's all it was-- to believe that he had made a difference. Only for it to be severed with blunt and yellowed teeth.

Burning and verdant hazel eyes watched her expression change with a mounting sense of dread as the bitter taste of bile began to burn the back of his throat. The savage gleam in her sharp eyes made the fur on his neck and back rise along his spine. He tensed and listened.

Her first words...Equal parts disbelief, despair, and anger burned through his old bones like a righteous fire. Through the din of blood as it rushed through his head, through the haze of red that clouded his vision, he listened. Because he had finally learned how.

He was a statue, frozen in place with clenched fists at his side. As a younger man he might have cursed them, or lamented on where he'd gone wrong. But he was older-- questionably wiser-- and he knew it would not due to dwell on the things he could not change.

Glaring, Alistair flexed his claws into the frozen ground and ignored the ache that came with it. Her gaze was like a magnet of the opposite pole, commanding his head to rise as eyes met in the middle. She said the words he both desired and dreaded. For a moment he felt their weight on his shoulders like the mantle of leadership, the burden that had ever dragged him down until he was lost in that void of service. There'd been no light to see the path ahead, no air to fill his lungs, no rope to cling to for escape...

His mouth felt dry as he went to speak, it made a sound as it opened. "I would have done nothing." The truth felt no better to say than it did to hear. "I would have been weighed down by the politics, or there wouldn't be enough knights to make a difference, or...Pick any reason."

"I would have wanted to. But, ultimately something would have stood in the way..." He furrowed his brow. "There was always something in the way."

"Vesper, why do you think I left?" The knight shook his head, then wiped his face with his hand. "I've done so much more on my own than I ever could have as the Sole. I fought the Boreas with you. I should have been there."

"I should have been there."
Alistair Callow

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Stormie
Luperci SoSuWriMo 2013 Champ! have you ever licked a lamppost in winter...?
I am the Sword
the Light
and the Shield

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