[M] now I do my talking with a gun

POSTED: Tue Oct 24, 2017 4:39 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.

Dove escaped Khael ugly and changed, inside and out.

She blamed herself. Since the death of Saffron by Mistral’s hand—a stranger, an irrational, insane stranger—Dove trusted slow and few and begrudgingly. Like the hermit crabs she loved near the shore, she had found a shell in Inferni and hid inside it, finding refuge alone or with selected company, never to reach or leave without good reason.

For sake of war, she crept beyond the comfort of her shell to scout the borders. She did so by extension for her own safety and security, but so too did Dove seek to avenge the children and grandchildren of Pilot, innocent birds killed unjustly by Salsolan hands. She sought to avenge the slaves they reputedly kept. She sought clues for the disappearance of her little brother, vanished during the time Salsola and Inferni fought as allies. She sought to contribute, to harden herself, to become unflinching like Salvador.

Dove left her shell to speak to Khael, a Salsolan. She was tricked. She was warned. On the other side of Drifter Bay was one sweet, kind—no. On the other side of Drifter Bay was one equally wicked Katinka, if Khael proved anything of Salsolan deceit, and if Dove were ever to chance upon them, she would lose far more than her hair and slivers of blood.

The shell that was Inferni shattered. The comfort was gone. Always a breath away were Khael and Katinka and Salsola, waiting for Dove to wander a wrong path and along their own. The clan committed twice to war in one year, and Dove found herself not admiring of Vesper any longer, but fearful. The day Dove shot an arrow into the shoulder of a Salsolan near Infernian borders, the look in Vicira’s eyes persisted with the Reverie. The fact that they took captive a doctor persisted with her. The sight of seeing the Regulus nursing the captive Salsolan child from that day only deepened the well that was Dove’s insecurity. In doing so, Vicira was taunting them. She was inviting a massacre.

At the deepest darks of panic, Dove sought out Salvador and told him these things. He guarded the caverns often, and it was there he gave meager advice from a place of pure detachment. Unsatisfied, Dove and her too-short hair stormed away often on brink of tears.

By the third or fourth attempt for sympathy and help, a voice came from within the caverns calling for her attention. She pushed past Sally despite his unspirited protests, and found in captivity the very same Salsolan man she and the Sadira had found near to the borders, minus one of Dove’s arrows stabbed into his shoulderblade and replaced with bandages visible under his dirty shirt collar.

She didn’t say anything. Too frustrated and stressed, Dove only stared.

Seated and with hands in binds behind him, the man stared back, a weariness in her eyes she momentarily blamed herself for. “I’ve heard everything you’ve said to him,” he said. “What’s your name?”

“I’m not telling you anything,” she replied, a telling flare at her lips.

He hushed to whispers, dreadfully serious. “I want to help you. My name is Rust.”

“No, it’s not, fuck you. You’re Salsolan.”

“Fine. Fine. Okay. You want my real name? It’s Neith. Neith Heiwa.” He leaned forward and hissed, “Listen to me. I want to help you. If I help you, you can help me.”

Dove turned and promptly left him. She would have none of his lies.

Post-dated to the days following this thread.

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smoke and mirrors

POSTED: Tue Oct 24, 2017 9:44 pm

Two days later, Neith heard the young woman’s voice meet with the big red-nosed mongrel guarding him, and she returned to his captive chamber.

She didn’t say anything. She looked at him, waited at him with this wild look in her eyes, he guessed born of sleeplessness. Neith thought she looked thinner somehow, in only days’ time, but concluded his senses were getting the best of him, wearied and confused by the stress and exhaustion of captivity.

“You’re back,” he said, eyeing the slash down her face that was healing slowly. He didn’t mention his observations of it.

“Tell me how you can help.”

She sounded skeptical enough, but it was clear the young woman had passed some sort of breaking point. Once more, he didn’t mention his observations. Neith hadn’t the energy for sympathy, especially not for the woman who shot him in the shoulder. Boredom as a prisoner was one thing, but aside from the injury itself, spending that boredom with nothing else to focus on but the pain was unbearable. Short of patience with her he said, “Send away the guard and we’ll talk.”

“It’s Salvador. He’s fine.” When Neith gave her a look she pressed, “He’s fine.

Prompted by his name, the red-nosed guard joined them with a gray mixture of apathy and curiosity in his eyes. Neith pushed for privacy, but the black coywolf remained.

“All right.” Somehow, Neith prayed to Ondine’s gods, this would all work out in his favor. Somehow, this wouldn’t get back to his people in Salsola. And if it did... Well, he hoped it was worth it.

“I’m Dove,” she said. “Now talk.”

Deep breath. “My proposal is this. I want you to take the Salsolan pup the gray woman’s toting around, and I want you to get him as far away from Salsola, from Inferni, as possible.”

The two clanmen stared him, aghast. Salvador squinted, reading hard into the Salsolan’s expression, and muttered a rather neutral “Huh.”

“This is another trick. You’re trying to trick me because I shot you,” Dove exclaimed.

“No. You’ve seen for yourself what Salsola is like.” He leaned back. “I’ve been thinking and this... This is the best opportunity that boy has at a normal life—at not becoming like Khael. You don’t just leave the kind of place like where I come from, and I’ve watched for myself what happens to most kids born and raised there. I don’t want to bring him back there, alive or dead.”

He hadn’t known Khael was a monster, but he took the news with little surprise.

Shaking her head furiously she hissed, “No way. This is absurd. They’d hunt me down.”

“Not if I tell them he’s dead.”

“And let Inferni deal with the aftermath?” asked Salvador.

“We killed one of your young, so you killed one of ours. The body’s been burned, and there’s nothing left to find. It’s not impossible for my people to believe, trust me.” Until someone figures it out, a voice said in the back of his head. He stifled it. For all his weaknesses, Neith had some talent in preserving a masquerade of lies and faking the part.

“Sure.” Salvador crossed his arms, playing along. “I suppose you’ve also figured out what we’re going to tell our leaders when both Dove and the pup are gone, too.”

Neith sank. “No, I haven’t. I don’t know how your people think.”

“It doesn’t matter anyway,” Dove said. “We’re not doing it. You’ll turn on us.”

“I’m just asking you to get the kid somewhere safe. For his sake, not mine. As long as that happens and you both maintain he is dead, I don’t care where you are or what you do. If he’s brought back to Salsola, he’ll be an enemy in your next war. I guarantee it.”

There was a long pause between them, in which Salvador read the Heiwa’s features and Dove looked at her feet. “Dangerous talk. Your people wouldn’t take kindly to news of treason,” said Salvador.

“Yes, well. That all depends on whether you speak to them against me, and whether I return to my home still alive.” He straightened his back. “I swear it. I have no intentions of betraying you.”

When Dove looked to Salvador with skepticism but was met with raised brows and a shrug, she panicked. “Are you serious, Sally? You can't be taking this seriously.”

“Actually, it’s not a bad idea.”

“Excuse me?”

“Dove, quit lying to yourself. You’re miserable here. Hell, I’d wager you’ve been miserable since the day you arrived. There’s no reason for you to still be here. You’re not a soldier, you don’t have family here, and your brother’s dead and not coming back. Here’s your chance to get out and do something right.”

She left them in stunned silence. Salvador followed soon after to return to his post. Neith could only shout up the echoing hallways for Dove to consider his proposal in quiet, and hope that his intuition had not misguided him in trusting those two with his traitorous plans.

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POSTED: Sat Nov 04, 2017 5:06 pm

It took days for her to come to a decision. Truthfully and outside of herself, she could not fathom why she considered these plans in the first place. The propositioner was Salsolan, a pack whose members Dove had recently confirmed never to trust again. Inferni had been kind to her in the months with and without River Lark, and its members patient with her slow recovery. They had taken her in as family, for reasons far beyond a bloodline with origins among their embers.

But talk of the war’s escalations lingered with her, and her thoughts looped often on the two wars within a year’s time. Dove was not a soldier, and with Basilio gone, had become stagnant in training and unprepared to fight on behalf of a clan with too many enemies. More than ever, Dove found herself nostalgic for Juniper Peace, and stifled every inkling to give up and go home. There was no point. She didn’t belong there any longer.

She didn’t belong in Inferni either, Dove came to realize. Not right now.

When she returned to Rust in the caverns, he brightened up as if he had been left wanting for good news. They talked details, though instructions were light.

“Take him and go far enough away that my pack won’t see run into him by chance. The farther, the better.” He paused to think. “You should call him by another name, too. Just in case.”

“You’ve never even told me what his real name is,” Dove replied.

“Ask Fylgja. He’s the son of Loki and Stjarna, and a little girl named Embla is his sister. Don't speak those names, and if you ever hear of them, leave.” Neith leaned back, wincing a moment from pain of the wound her arrow inflicted. His eyes slid to Salvador, standing back. “Whatever your stories are to cover this up, I hope they're convincing. For my own sake, and... for the sake of his family.”

Thinking aloud, Sally tapped fingertips along his folded arms. “Vicira’s been nursing him, so we’ll have no choice but to talk to her. We’ll have to figure out what to tell Vesper and everyone else. What will you tell your people?”

Neith frowned at news of informing Vicira, but did not dwell. “I’ll tell them there was some kind of accident, but I did not witness it.”

Salvador shook his head. “Not good enough. You need to tell them you saw the body. I don’t want them coming here asking questions and thinking the clan’s keeping him somewhere.”

Slouching, the Salsolan man nodded. “Right.”

Salvador turned to Dove. “You’re sure you want to do this?”

“I mean,” she stumbled, ”he is right. Salsola has slaves. That little kid could turn into someone like Khael. It is for the best, isn’t it?”

“It’s for the best,” agreed Neith, and a long and wearied sigh followed. She read into his downcast eyes a level of dread and regret and uncertainty, though he washed it from his features when he returned his eyes to them. “Dove, Salvador... Thank you.”

Sally scoffed. “Don’t thank us. You’re murdering someone’s child.”

Neith did not dwell on this, or at least, he did not show it.

They spoke briefly of Dove’s intended destination—by Salvador’s suggestion, she was to try first at Cour des Miracles, for he believed the pack had to be stable given it was still around. When she brought up the heiress Mistral, Dove was encouraged to work with her intuition; if the pack seemed dangerous, she would go somewhere else. When they were finished speaking, they bid farewells and good lucks in nervous tones, and parted ways.

By the following afternoon, the Reverie and Sadira tracked down their Regulus and explained at length their conversations with the traitor in the caverns. Though skeptical of Neith and uncertain about Dove’s capacity to be, well, a mother, she allowed it. Their intentions were good—and if all else failed, they knew they needed only speak of the captive’s treachery to Salsolan ears to clear the blame from the clan.

Albeit calculated, it was a risk to proceed. Dove shouldered the burden quietly, whether silenced by a sense of righteousness or sheer nerves. She gathered her things and met with Vicira and Salvador at dusk. For the first time she laid eyes on the boy swaddled in Vicira’s arms, and said and thought nothing as the boy was passed into her hands. Dove said her goodbyes, knowing well this would not be the last they would meet, and left east as the sun made its descent.

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