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POSTED: Sat Mar 03, 2018 9:50 am

The mountain highlands were terribly cold even with the sun out, and O'Riley hunched his shoulders against the wind as he looked for a better place to stop. He hadn't meant to be out here like this, but he had gotten careless.

His leg ached and was still tacky with blood, but it was not broken and not the worst of any wound he had suffered. The goat had been faster, and he should have known that, but it was just too damn easy.

Well, he had gotten his meal. He had gotten banged up for his trouble, full belly or not, and he had lingered to ensure the whole thing went down his throat. If he could not be given the right to ride, he would ensure no one mistook his strength for what it was. The massive Secui form in which he traveled promoted as much, though now that his leg was really starting to hurt he wanted to get back onto two legs.

Salsola was close, he felt, though he had traveled further east than he had expected. He had wanted to go back to the Waste, to go further even than that. He felt like it was necessary to find the truth of things as the world moved forward, now that he was looking towards being something more.

Chasing the goat when it had spooked had been a stupid mistake, that was all, but he was paying for it. O'Riley growled into the cold air and looked for places where cover might be found.

Everybody hit the ground
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POSTED: Wed Mar 07, 2018 10:39 pm

Neith found Salsola on the wind, but too far from the land where it belonged.

Their society and culture was so curled into itself that the Heiwa often forgot its people were allowed to come and go as they pleased. For several days Neith sojourned beyond Salsolan borders, traveling as far as the northeastern mountains in search of last season’s drowned but resurfaced plant life during the typical thaw of February. He returned home with several pages of detailed directions listed for further study come the heart of spring, and something of a renewed sense of purpose.

He’d expected his leave to go unnoticed—not that it mattered. He was a Warden. He had responsibilities and expectations and did well enough at them that he did not draw attention. He was not a member of tighter circles, and apprenticed beneath no one. At present, for better or for worse, Neith acted with intent to be as much as ghost to Salsola as the creature in the Blackwoods.

But he could not identify that Salsolan scent further, and the sympathetic fool he was followed it. If they were injured, he couldn’t in his right mind pass them by.

He connected the scent to what he remembered of his Eternity usurper, and immediately cursed his soft and stupid heart.

“Hello?” he called out, a fool among the snow and rocks and sticks. “I smell blood. Are you all right?”

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POSTED: Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:01 pm

The wind whipped around as he lingered on the edge of the stone. When the voice behind him came he turned sharply, revealing the injury by lifting it when he did so. For a moment there was only savage hostility, like a wild thing caught in the open, but just as quickly as the warning showed with his teeth did O'Riley lift his tail and turn the expression into a leering grin.

Cut myself a little ways back. I'm trying to get off it, O'Riley admitted, and the expression dimmed quickly as the need for showmanship fell. He was well aware of his place compared to this man, though Elphaba had taken a liking to him or something or another (it was stupid, he didn't care) and even Grievous had mentioned the man's name in passing. The Apprentice supposed he had done well in seeing through Neith's charade – it had carried him upward in the end, after all.

He was helping.

Here, you want to look at it? he lifted his leg and flexed his great claws with a grimace. The pain was more of an annoyance now.

Besides, he was curious to see what Neith would do. Up here, no one could see their goings on. Salsola was a few miles yet, and scouts did not often travel this far when easier routes could be found along the borders and lower paths. O'Riley could think like a rider even if he was no longer permitted such activity.

His paw flexed again, but his face did not change this time.

Everybody hit the ground
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POSTED: Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:28 am

He and O’Riley found each other simultaneously, and their reactions branched opposite; the Apprentice with a smiling leer, and Neith with as neutral and emotionless an expression as he could push together. For all the loathing Neith harbored for Salsola, O’Riley Eternity had wittingly placed himself in the very center of it all, and in some way seemed to know and relish in this status.

The Heiwa was frankly disgusted, and would have preferred nothing more than to desert the Apprentice to bleed himself thin in the cold and rocks. Politics—and O’Riley’s nerve—would see to it he suffered for such a crime. He did not fear usurpation a second time, for his loyalties to his home quaked with each passing day, but Neith feared what could come worse.

He was overreacting. The Heiwa visibly shook himself of it.

“Of course,” said Neith, as if nothing had occurred between them in the past. He drew in without smiles, close enough to touch and inspect the wound were he allowed (and resentfully twist and jab at it, under veil of innocence). “How recent was this? Explain to me what happened, if you will.”

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POSTED: Tue Mar 27, 2018 4:58 pm

Not too long ago, O'Riley told him with little enthusiasm. It had been long enough for him to eat, and for the wound to clot, but it had broken open during his excursion back. How else would Neith have found him so easy? As far as O'Riley saw it, the witch-born Warden was hardly capable when it came to things requiring physical strength. He had shown the potential to be a liability with his capture and subsequent loss (and the life of a child was a heavy weight to carry).

Elphaba seemed to trust him in spite of this, and O'Riley allowed her long-standing superiority help influence his behavior – at least now that it mattered, when she stood beside their grandmother in place of her father.

How could he not respect such a thing when it had been his hands which helped put such things in motion?

I hit a patch of ice, he went on truthfully enough. Came down a slope bad. Could have been worse, his mouth turned toothy, thinking of the way the goat had fallen.

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POSTED: Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:05 pm

“Could have been worse, indeed,” but why couldn’t you have broken your neck while you were at it? Neith dawdled only for a glimpse on the bitterness he was capable of. Usurpation was not end-all, be-all, yet an unyieldingly resentful part of him would not see otherwise. O’Riley had not been the one to sleep with and leave Lillith Trombetta dead. He had preyed upon and taken a rank; he had moved a chesspiece as Salsolans did, and Neith was a fine and unwitting pawn. But this made the Apprentice dangerous, and capable of far more.

Neith poked and pulled at the wound in the Eternity’s leg unnecessarily but satisfactorily, making convincing hums and haws all the while as if this were proper medical practice. At rest the injury might have more or less healed itself without necessary intervention, but O'Riley didn't need to know. Neith had found an opportunity to promote himself as useful (and thus spare himself some future hassle, with any luck).

He applied pressure at site of the wound for a time, but found it futile in the long run. “This closed and reopened, didn’t it? We’ll need to stitch it.”

The Heiwa searched momentarily for untampered snow and returned with a handful of clean slush, placed carefully at the wound to hamper the bloodblow and swelling. While it took meager effect, Neith produced a needle and thread from his satchel and closed an eye as he attempted to weave them together. “I’m sure it goes without saying, O’Riley Eternity,” he said, smiling sweetly, “but you’ve no problem with needles, am I right? Try to sit still.”

Given no argument, the doctor set to work.

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POSTED: Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:53 pm

People were complex things, but in the end, they were simple too – maybe he had recognized it early on in Neith, before he had sense of words well enough to understand what a treacherous intent lived in questioning hearts.

Having never lost anything of great importance in his life, O'Riley did not measure loss as others did. He tried to imagine it, sometimes, but found this a distant, dimming feeling he could not grasp. Unable to do so, he did not deign to pretend. Sorrow and loss and betrayal made people weak. Neith had fallen victim to these poisons long before O'Riley demanded him yield.

He was simply stronger. He deserved to be ahead of the pack.

Yeah, he admitted. When he realized they would not be moving further, he shifted his weight to better rest across the rocky ground. Neith's long fingers and steady hands encouraged O'Riley to trust him, even though the first prick set his skin on fire and made him flinch and growl, baring his teeth and bristling all over. His neck fur fluffed up the way his hackles flared, and for a split second he might have been a mad thing –

– and the moment passed. The rolling noise quieted in his throat. His body barely moved, a show to the discipline Neith's request required. Slowly, his fur began to settle.

His expression remained quite terrible.

What are you doing up here anyway? The wolfdog asked. Each time Neith jabbed him, his mouth twitched.

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POSTED: Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:35 pm

At the prick of a needle, the Apprentice flared. Watching from his peripherals, the needle paused between Neith’s fingers, an alert stillness about his features but without sign of fear. His ears did not flatten, he did not recoil. Neith waited, staring at the blur of exposed fangs in the corner of his vision, sensing the tides of bristling furs, and the consequent homeostasis that left O’Riley grimacing, but calm.

Neith cleared his throat professionally and continued work. His heart pounded, and a tremor within his fingers betrayed him, his aim was true. Poke.

“Oh, this and that,” the Heiwa replied stiffly, a dismissive tone about him to make it obvious he chose not to comment on what had been witnessed. Poke. “Mainly trying to locate herbs and seeds beyond the borders that I can use, but it seems to be a slow spring. The best I’ve done is sketch a few maps to check back on in a month or two.” Poke.

He did not quite delight in this torture, but Neith did not mind it in the least. His satchel slumped over, spilling a pair of ruined his hardcovers with his nature sketches in the margins, and Neith was quick to clean them up one handed and push the bag further aside. Poke. “Were you out hunting? Ah, if you’re unable to walk after this, I’ll run and send along Grievous for you.” Poke.

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POSTED: Fri Apr 06, 2018 5:34 pm

I can walk, he insisted. The ache was present, but if this would get it to stop bleeding he was pleased by the idea. I've been walking on it, O'Riley further pointed out.

Besides, he couldn't really feel the pain of the wound anymore. Not when he was so focused on the needle and the awful feeling that each stitch left as it was tightened. He pressed his tongue against the roof of his mouth and bit down to steady the impulses which demanded this pain be avoided. Discipline was the only way one could overcome stupidity.

Eyeing the bag now that it had been brought to his attention, O'Riley wondered if Neith capable of uses he had not fully realized.

His claws extended each time Neith stuck the needle in, though the pain wasn't terrible now. He barely felt a thing.

He told me you wanted to look at his muscles, O'Riley said abruptly. His gaze shifted back to Neith's face, curious. After an awkward, lingering moment, he said: I'm bigger than him now. You should have asked me.

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POSTED: Wed Apr 18, 2018 7:20 pm

Poke. “If you insist. Regardless, you should rest a few days. Salsola will survive without you running around.” It would do the doctor no good to have his patient split open a wound, and he did not trust O’Riley not to do so purposefully and drag the doctor down without reason. He hadn’t needed a reason to usurp, after all. “The stitches should hold, but I’ve doubled them up just in case. I’m nearly done. How does it feel?”

For all his contempt, Neith did not truly wish the worst on O’Riley. Not deep down; he wasn't the type yet. Neith wished to be let be. The two did not see eye to eye, and while the Heiwa took some delight in prodding his usurper repeatedly with a needle and watching the recurring flare, Neith knew well enough that the two were on separate planes, effectively, and only clashing at the crossroads. Poke. O’Riley had taken his rank, and Neith resented him for it. But when Neith acted against Salsola, he acted against what figures like the Eternity represented to him. That was his manner of comeuppance. To send Ask away was to remove a soldier from the ranks of the pack Neith resented, and the same pack O’Riley held dear.

Would the two clash again? Neith did not doubt it. This was only a hostile reprieve. A momentary lapse to play politics.

Or he was overthinking things again. Poke.

He had drawn the thread long at the wound’s end when O’Riley mentioned Grievous, and Neith paused with the thread taut and awaiting a knot. His mind came up dry, utterly blanked by the comment. He cleared his throat to save face a beat later. “I will—I will keep that mind,” he said uncomfortably, drew the knot, pulled it tight, and snapped the thread. “It’s done. Sad to say, you might be left with a scar.”

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