sometimes the questions are complicated

POSTED: Tue Jan 17, 2017 8:05 pm

Frankly, Grievous was horrified to learn that his brother had shifted before him. The whole thing seemed absolutely ridiculous. Misery, maybe he could understand – their sister was the biggest and strongest of the lot, even next to Mandrake – but Scourge? Absolutely unacceptable.

Luckily for the irritable Bambino, it had not been much longer after that when his own body had gone through his process. The form had made him tall and lanky, and he felt strange in it. Mostly, though, he felt horribly skinny and self-conscious of this. By the time Grievous had been overcome by the change, he had not lingered in the form long – presenting it to his father and mother, getting used to the sensation, and changing back when he was assured it was possible to do so.

Then, having learned that his brother had gotten his Cueponi riddle, Grievous had been compelled to do the same. He would not allow Scourge, of all of them, to take the honor of achieving his independence first if he could help it.

First, he had needed to present himself to the Boss. That had gone about as well as he expected. Though the Boss was his aunt, she was separate and above his family as well. This was the way their culture worked, promoting into itself the idea of circles within circles. His parents were close to this echelon, but they were still beneath it.

She had been direct enough, and this had made getting the riddle a simple task. Harder still would be untangling what exactly a proper answer might be.

Grievous was not as terribly bright when it came to complex things. Fighting was easy, and doing physical things was easy, but when it came to matters like memorizing or problem-solving, Grievous often struggled. Even traps seemed complex to him, because they involved the sort of forward-thinking that his mind, trapped in the now mentality that suited his feral pursuits.

Bring me a stone made from the living, had been what Salvia said, and it had sounded easy enough until he really started thinking about it because riddles weren't supposed to make sense.

The gray and white wolf was laying in a patch of pine needles under a tree overlooking the shore. He often came here to be alone, and liked it. His house was too crowded and his siblings sometimes horribly annoying.

Eventually, when he got tired of thinking, he napped in the afternoon's rare, pleasant sunshine.

Voices woke him not long after.


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POSTED: Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:08 pm

This whole thing was absolutely ridiculous.

O'Riley would never have announced this aloud, but he thought it undoubtedly apparent. The people who had attacked Salsola had done very little damage, and suffered their own losses in the process. If this did not dissuade them from such action they were idiotic. Salsola was strong, well-defended, and reaching the places where they actually lived was not easy to do.

That hadn't stopped his grandmother from putting restrictions on him, which only further weathered O'Riley's anger against these Outsider threats. He came to understand that they were rumored to be some old threat returned, and overheard bits of conversation relating to the matters. His grandparents tried to talk mostly when he was asleep or out, but he sometimes pretended to sleep and listened.

Having been given the option to go out with a different guardian, O'Riley had initially been excited. He hoped it would be someone interesting or important, and was horrified when saddled with an Associate of all things.

This had changed once O'Riley realized he technically outranked the man.

Pleased, he had bullied the wild-haired wolfdog into taking him “somewhere cool”. They had avoided the borders with great purpose, and instead gone towards the ocean. Though this was a relatively safe area, both were aware of the dangers of the tide. Rumors of easy prey further attracted a puppy just learning to hunt, and he paraded ahead of Nickodemus with his head and tail high.

...been looking for more interesting finds, the Associate was rattling on. He spoke with a curious accent even when he spoke the Mountain tongue, which made O'Riley wonder exactly where it was he had come from. Those pieces of glass are most excellent, but I would be thrilled to find something left by the Space Brothers.

But the star fell into the water.

Oh certainly, but something is always left behind. The water goes everywhere, though, so it's hard to find things all in one place.

What does it look like?

Hmm? Oh, I won't know what it is until I see it, but I look for things with certain lines or certain shapes – it might look like writing, or maybe not.

O'Riley frowned. Whatever it was, it sounded confusing.

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POSTED: Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:36 pm

There were two voices, and after a moment of careful listening, Grievous could make out that they were speaking his mother's tongue. He grew interested for this reason only, and went so far as to lift his head and begin the arduous process of sitting up. Halfway to his haunches he spotted them approaching from the woods, though moving down towards the beach properly.

They didn't look alike, which suggested the older man not related to the puppy. It wasn't like the puppy was very little, though – he was younger than Grievous, certainly, and that was probably why there was an adult with him – since he was tall and had what looked like a proper winter coat. More than that, he walked to a certainty and serious air that seemed more adult than a gallivanting charge.

Grievous got to his feet and shook the pine from his fur before trailing them. He was build to navigate the treacherous, rocky terrain like Salsola's coast presented, styled in the sturdy way of his D'Angelo ancestors.

When he reached the base of this narrow, would-be path, he was confronted by a dark face and a pair of intense, storm-colored eyes. Grievous lifted his head and stepped back instinctively, muzzle crinkling. He was used to his siblings “surprising” him like this before launching into one of their many “sneak attacks”, and the stiff-legged stance he took betrayed this.


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POSTED: Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:51 pm

Nickodemus was weird. He talked about “Space Brothers”, which he explained were the “extraterrestrial” (a word which apparently meant they were not from the earth, which made no sense to O'Riley) beings that may or may not look like they did, but were vastly smarter and more powerful. They sounded like gods, but as Nick had lengthily explained, they were not gods but simply a more advanced species.

He was either weird or crazy, for sure. Still, if his uncle had let him in, he wasn't dangerous. The Paladin was Salsola's strongest defender, and he would not put the Family at risk. Apparently, Nick had done some weird things before he joined too, like making all the weird stick figures that still decorated the low-hanging branches of Salsola's forests. They weren't all particularly good shapes, but some of them were fun to look at.

O'Riley trampled down to the beach with ease, for though he was still growing he had large paws and enjoyed climbing rocks. It wasn't until he reached the bottom and turned to wait for his forced company that he spied the ghostly figure higher up on the cliffs.

It had been his intention to see if this was a ghost, being as it seemed that hauntings could be found throughout Salsola if one believed the rumors, but what he met at the bottom of the path was just another boy.

There were other children in Salsola that he was aware of, though he had not met many of them. His cousin frequented their home most often, but others had come and gone in passing. This person was someone he had smelt before but not met, though connected his scent with that of the Paladin and Cleric.

Are you following us? He asked directly.

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POSTED: Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:08 pm

It occurred to Grievous that he knew who the puppy was too. The smell was terribly familiar, and as he racked his brain for the solution, it finally made the connection. This boy was the one who he had smelt at the Boss' home. He understood that it was not her son, since the Lord Commander's mate was one of the Boss' daughters and older, though not as old as his own parents. Satisfying to his own understanding nevertheless that the puppy had to be someone of relative importance.

He was more dark than he was light, and to an inexperienced eye like Grievous', looked like a wolf. The puppy had a very serious expression even if he still had a high voice, and though Grievous might have dismissed his inquisition in any other case, he feared reflecting poorly on himself when he was so close to achieving his independence.

I wasn't before, he began defensively, then huffed. But yeah, I did. What are you guys doing here?

The coast was generally a lonely place. It had sheer cliffs in many places and dangerous outcroppings in others, and lacked good ground for hunting. On days when the weather was poor it was a miserable area, but when the sun was out, late afternoons like this afforded views which Grievous thought particularly good.


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POSTED: Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:39 pm

You're not very good at following, O'Riley stated matter-of-factly. He had spotted the stranger, after all, which meant he was bad at acting out covert behavior. Perhaps if it had been foggy, as it often was early in the morning or after it rained, the pale wolf could have disguised himself better. He looked like he was capable of hiding in snow easily enough, though it did not stay snowy on the coastline for very long.

It seemed to annoy the older boy to hear about perceived inadequacy, though he didn't offer an immediate rebuttal.

As if hoping for one, O'Riley pushed with an added: I saw you coming.

I wasn't trying to hide.

O'Riley considered this, then rolled his head slightly to the side. The other boy was not old enough to be a proper adult, but he looked like he was close to one. He had sectioned-off markings and yellow-orange eyes that reminded O'Riley of his massive uncle. Undoubtedly this had to be one of his sons, which marked the stranger as Scourge's brother. The funny-speaking wolf had visited his grandmother not long ago, looking for his Cueponi riddle.

'Kay. Well, he's, the puppy turned and indicated Nickodemus with his eyes. The wolfdog was picking rocks up and putting them back down. He wasn't doing a very good job of supervising, O'Riley thought, but didn't mind this too much. Looking for some space rocks or something. I was looking for food. I'm O'Riley, he announced. What's your name?

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POSTED: Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:07 pm

Man, little kids were real annoying.

Grievous had never really interacted with anyone younger than he was, of course, and the experience was strange. A part of him recognized that they were allies in a broad sense of things. They belonged to the same Family and were of similar blood, after all. Another part of his thoughts was mad wary, already recognizing that there was a hierarchy in place that required domination and the strength to remain in ones position. He felt, though he did not identify it as such, threatened – it was too vague and alien to be considered.

He looked away first, though. He didn't like the way O'Riley was staring at him.

Grievous. Grievous Eternity, he further clarified.

I'm an Eternity too!

Yeah, my Vater is the Boss' brother.

The puppy's face split into a broad grin. When he spoke next, his words rolled with new-found power – it sounded older when he spoke the Mountain tongue.

My mother is your cousin! Well, one of my mothers. That makes us cousins too.

Does it? Wait, you have two mothers? How can you have two mothers?

You don't? It must be a magic thing – my other mother is a witch.

My mother is a witch too.

R-e-eally? He dragged out the noise, and his tail began to wag furiously. Neat! Hey, you wanna help me look for – hold on, he paused, then turned towards Nickodemus. Hey! What did you call the things we were gonna hunt?

Seals! Oh, hello! The wolfdog waved an empty hand towards the boys. After I finish here, we'll go find some!

Why's he looking for rocks? Grievous asked, peering over as the Associate bent and picked up (and subsequently dropped) another.

I dunno, he's weird. He does find some cool ones, I guess. Hey, I can show you where the really neat ones are – come on!

Before Grievous had a chance to object, the O'Riley had turned and trotted off towards one of the towering cliff faces. After standing for a moment and debating what to do (he felt very uncool hanging out with a little kid and some weird rock guy), Grievous eventually headed after the puppy. If it was boring he could just go home, though the prospect of catching seals seemed like an exciting one.


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POSTED: Mon Jan 23, 2017 3:48 pm

The dark-furred puppy, to the contrary, felt like this day was finally turning around. He might have been stuck with a lowly Associate and bribed only by the thought of hunting, but now with another boy to join him this actually seemed like it might be closer to an actual hunt. Nickodemus certainly didn't seem like he knew how to hunt, but he had to have survived somehow. Outsiders, especially those living alone, did not have the support of a pack.

Parading over the slick stones and smaller, sandy sections, O'Riley balanced on his big paws and took steps that carried him towards one of the tall walls that lined the shore. He peered at these as they passed, slowing every now and again to do this. Sometimes he would look towards the water, and divert towards larger puddles to see if anything interesting remained.

He veered back towards the dark-colored, damp stone, and gazed up at the passing rock's face with some intensity.

Then, stopping abruptly, he turned and announced: Behold!

Grievous arrived behind him, looking water-logged and irritated, but this expression morphed into one of surprise almost at once.

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POSTED: Mon Jan 23, 2017 4:43 pm

The beach itself was not the best place to be, especially in the winter. It was cold and windy around the cliffs, and salt blew up his nose and into his mouth. Though he was confident enough in climbing on stones and cavorting around the forests and marshland of Salsola, the slick stones underfoot were sharper than he expected in some places and made his steps awkward. Keeping up with O'Riley was hard. Even if the other boy was younger, he was managing to bound over the shoreline with balance that failed long-legged Grievous. His hind leg even slipped in at one point, sinking into cold water and making him scramble back towards land.

He was thinking about abandoning the whole expedition when O'Riley trumpeted his find. Expecting the “cool rocks” to be nothing exceptional, when Grievous looked up his eyes widened with surprise.

They didn't look like rocks at all. There were intricate shapes, curving in tight coils or stretched long and horse-shoe like. As he approached, he could make out softer looking things that resembled plants trapped beneath the rock.

What is this? He asked, sniffing at the wall.

I told you, really neat stones, the puppy laughed.

They look like—

Like bones! Another voice called from behind them. Grievous whirled and saw they had been followed.

Nickodemus, with his bright eyes and wild hair, looked as strange as he had upon his first arrival. Salsola had fattened him up some, and his coat was thicker and fuller (and bright colored like a dog) than it had been. His tail wagged behind him, and he pointed up at one of the spirals.

You see, young fellows, sometimes when bones are left in certain places for too long they become hard. It happens to wood too – here, like this! He bent, and picked up what seemed to be a white stick. The forces of the world can turn some things into other things, like seeds into trees, or flesh into dust.

How can something become stone? Grievous asked, uncertain.

Oh, I don't really know – it's one of the mysteries of the world, I suppose. Ah! He bent again, and picked up a flat rock from the ground. Turning it over a few times, he nodded and held it out for the boys to examine. See these marks? This is a sure sign from our Space Brothers. I'll keep this one, he slid the rock into a pouch on his belt. Why don't you each find one and then we'll go catch some seal!

While the boys began sniffing around the base of the cliffs, Grievous began thinking very hard. Slowly, it occurred to him that a stone made from the living could indeed be naturally found. Had this been what Salvia meant? Or was the answer more complex than that?

He frowned and stared at the wall.


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POSTED: Tue Jan 24, 2017 12:57 am

There was supposed to be some sort of language written in the way that lines fell, or circles crossed one another. O'Riley understood this. His grandfather had begun teaching him this not long after his arrival, building upon what his mothers had first laid upon his barely-formed consciousness. Letters, these things were called, created patterns which one might understand if they only recognized them. It was no different than language changed the way in which sounds fell and what they meant.

Whatever the “Space Brothers” left behind for Nickodemus, and however he claimed to attempt to communicate with them, it was in a language that only he knew. Despite this, O'Riley looked at the strange rock for a long time. He had thought that the wolfdog's ideas were very peculiar, but Salsola was host to all sorts of curious people. His own grandfather often told him stories about talking animals like deer and bears and birds, and many of the legends of the Hearg were those of fantastical things like gods and spirits and creatures beneath the earth.

He wondered what Grievous thought so interesting about the rocks in the wall, and asked him directly.

Grievous didn't seem to hear him. Annoyed by this, O'Riley frowned.

Hey! He barked.

What?

Did you hear me?

What? No, sorry, I was thinking.

What, you can't think and listen at the same time?

You know what— the older boy looked like he was going to say something, then thought better of it. He gave his head a little shake and frowned back. I have to solve my Cueponi riddle, and it has to do with stones, so I was thinking about it.

Oh well, what is it?

I'm not supposed to get help.

The puppy laughed at him. Of course he wasn't supposed to get help. That was how tests worked.

Okay. Well if you like a rock you should take it.

I'm going to.

I'm going to find one for my Oma, O'Riley informed Grievous. He did this intentionally, though wondered if the older boy might catch on to his game. She likes things that look like tigers.

Like that big striped thing on your wall?

Yeah. It's like a really really big cat. I have a lynx, he bragged, pushing stones of various shape and side away with his paws. He's little though, so I can't bring him with me. You should come see him!

I can't go back until I figure this out.

Well figure it out then, O'Riley said smartly.

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