a swarming shroud of wings

POSTED: Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:07 am

It's night in Fundy National Park, and there are a lot of bugs out. Your character is remembering their past. [Basically skip until after the break for relevant stuff lol.]

* * *

Insects chorused in the woods around the caverns, where a group of boys were laughing and shoving each other and speaking in hushed shouts. Leaning against a cavern entrance, Silas listened to the youngsters' kyoodling with amusement -- until their sibilant clamoring suggested that they were doing something they ought not. Ever the responsible adult, the dark-cowled man slowly straightened and walked toward the clearing where the boys -- including his Zacchaeus -- were whispering.

"You ain't a real man 'less you been stung by one-a these," a brutish yearling said, holding something up in his fingers. It looked like a wasp, one that writhed its bluish abdomen and wriggled its legs in search of freedom. "Hurts worse than a damn coyote bite, don't be showin' that scar off, Forsgren."

Shoving and growling ensued. Shorter than the older boys, his bottom teeth jut out in a mischeivous smile, Zacchaeus clamored for attention. "I'll do it! It's just a wasp, I can do it, y'all are sissies!" He grabbed for the insect waved over his head, then pressed it down onto his arm with a proud bark.

Silas saw it had rust-colored wings and rushed forward. "Zacchi don't--"

The boy immediately leapt at the sting, and hit the dirt screaming and sobbing. Silas shoved the cackling boys out of the way and crouched down, holding onto Zacchaeus as the boy shrieked curses, unable to do anything but writhe.

"Jesus fuck! I can't -- move -- my arm -- what the fuck -- is --"

Silas sighed. "That's a tarantula hawk, son."
* * *

The former soldier snorted at the memory as he watched an insect zip past him. Others buzzed and chirped in the woods: crickets, cicadas, katydids. A mosquito droned a high note near his ear, and Silas slapped the thin skin there before he could be bitten.

He wondered how Zacchaeus would fare here -- at least in peacetime. The woodlands were almost peaceful, thick and green, crisscrossed with streams and dotted with ponds. Mountains, too, but not the dry canyons of the west. It was the kind of place the retired man might have enjoyed, if not for family and duty keeping him in Zion.

No -- Zacchi was too impulsive, too eager to prove himself. Peace would last a week before he acted out on his own orders. It was how it was in Zion, and how it would have been here, had he lived to see it all.

Silas leaned his back against the trunk of a red spruce, staring into the singing dark.

POSTED: Tue Aug 21, 2018 5:34 pm

Somewhere between the mountains and the stinking, dying forest, they had lost her. Degaré had lost her, too slow and too blind to find a shadow in the crag and darkness from which she had emerged. For hours he had raged and stalked the land, Talbot barking mad at his heels, but this was too important to care. Years and years of nothing, of silence, and now...

Now he understood why they had come here.

The Preacher was right, he told Talbot when they had finally stopped to rest. His faith had been fickle for many seasons, fearful of the aches and pains in his body and the restless nights. It was hard to imagine a world with justice when so much had been miscarried, but finally, finally, here was the proof he had been waiting for.

He had lost her because he had not believed enough. Such unreasonable reasons were easy to believe, and Degaré was a man full of self-loathing and eagerly seized upon the idea. The answer to this was simple. It was the purpose which had brought them here, and it now made him eager for the others to arrive. Being without the group had made him weak.

Next time he saw her, he would kill her.

Talbot now led, his eyes keener in the low light despite Degaré's better sense of smell. If they came across trouble the brighter, smaller of the two would be an obvious target. This was the danger of traveling at night, though seasonal rain had kept them cooped up for most of the day trying to wait out the storms. It was still humid, though the sky had cleared enough for the half-full moon to hang overhead, but surrounded by tall trees the temperature plummeted and left the air considerably more tolerable.

Making good time along a winding trail, the pair slowed so Talbot could relieve himself. While Degaré waited, he took note of another scent on the trail and dropped his head to investigate.

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POSTED: Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:12 pm

A moth fluttered past Silas next, borne about on a wind that still smelled of moisture. The humidity here compared to Zion was not something that Silas enjoyed, but he was resigned to the rains -- though vexatious, they were not dangerous. Nature here was kinder than it had been in the desert, where rains threatened flash floods, and where the insects' stingers brought unbearable pain.

He stiffened and sniffed a moment later, catching a trace of something else. Urine, coyote enough to alarm him. He got slowly to his feet, resting his hand on the grip of his wretched iron sword, expecting a kyoodling pack of coyotes to descend upon him at any second. He knew nothing of Inferni's ultimate fate, but it was not too far-fetched that some vengeful scouting party might break through the trees.

The figure he saw moving about in the dark was too big to be a coyote, though. He let out a low woof, his ears pricked forward and his green gaze direct. There was no aggression in his posture yet, but his wariness was obvious.

POSTED: Fri Aug 24, 2018 9:52 pm

Something big moved and Degaré turned his head when the wolf called out to them. He was closer than Talbot, though like the stranger could smell him plainly.

They had not run into trouble yet, but being no stranger to it, Degaré seemed cautious in his own approach. He did so openly, his blind eye forward-facing like the other and gleaming in the dark. It was hard for him to see the charcoal colored wolf, but from the way he was standing the fact he was armed became apparent.

Degaré chuffed his own wordless greeting in return, one equally ringed by caution.

For the red dog that emerged soon after, none of this posturing seemed to matter. He sauntered back to the path, and from here looked at the stranger with open curiosity.

Well don't you concern yourself with us, friend, Talbot spoke with a wag of his tail. It sounded like he talked a lot and paid attention to the sound of his voice, which was measured with pleasant friendliness. We certainly didn't mean to wake anyone.

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POSTED: Tue Aug 28, 2018 8:10 am

The stranger walked toward him, equally careful. They measured one another as best they could in the darkness, until the one whose odor had set Silas on edge strolled back onto the forest trail with a pleasant greeting. He was a deep red turned to brown by shadow, a hardy-looking dog -- though Silas knew coyotes and their mutt ilk well enough to discern what sort of wildling blood might have tainted him.

Were Zacchaeus still here, the boy might not have noticed he was more than dog -- though if he had, the insuts would have flown, metal would have been brandished. Despite his own prejudices, deeply-rooted in necessity, Silas had forbearance his dead nephew did not. Perhaps that was why he was still alive.

"Oh, it ain't no trouble," the ex-soldier replied, but despite his drawl he sounded rough, tired, tense. "I wasn't asleep." He was lucky if he could lay down for a few hours, jumping and bristling at every out-of-place sound in the wood. There was no telling what two strangers like these would do to a sleeping man; though he would have woken up at their approach, a few seconds of awareness meant everything in a fight. It was why the scrawny coyotes were so fond of their ambushes.

He made to relax his stance, his elbow going loose, though his hand still rested on the grip of his sword. "You travelers? You're an odd pair."

POSTED: Fri Sep 14, 2018 5:01 pm

Talbot was always too relaxed and too friendly for Degaré's liking. He suffered the way popular, well-liked people did – never knowing when to shut up, never reacting when their presence wasn't welcomed. In a way, Degaré loathed him for this. It was an awful way to think.

He was hungry, like he always was, and maybe that made his mood sour too. A lot of his frustrations came back to the woman he had almost caught and the realization that he had failed to catch her when he could have. If he was healthier, if he had eaten more recently, if they had slept longer, all those factors were annoyances that came back to his own presumed failure and ineptitude.

So his scowl continued despite Talbot's casual, almost flippant greeting.

Well, stranger things have happened. We're all travelers these days, but those who believe belong, and for us that's enough, the coydog peered at the stranger. His eyesight was better than Degaré's, but even the wolf could see the dark figure was thin and scruffy the way loners often looked. Loud night, suppose that's why you couldn't sleep.

It's cooler at night, Degaré huffed. Traveling is better.

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POSTED: Sun Sep 16, 2018 10:24 pm

Stranger things had indeed happened. Much could be excused if one considered this; their entire mission could be interpreted as some terrible, tragic farce. His lips threatened to wrinkle back at this, some eerie grimace contorting his gaunt features at his own expense, but they remained covering his teeth in the end. Silas found no humor in these things, unable to summon even a grim chuckle at the senselessness of all that had transpired.

Heathens and scavengers defeating those chosen by God. Soldiers becoming slaves becoming refugees long after a refuge was stolen from them all. Sons dying long before fathers.

His ears pricked when the coydog spoke of belief. They were attuned to such a thing, phrases of faith and godliness, and truth be told some part of him sought the familiarity. Even if the Lord had abandoned them in the end, Silas could not quite bring himself to do the same. To disown his deity would be to cast aside memories of his family and community -- the pride he felt when his little sibling was baptized, the comfort he sought in belief of Heaven at his parents' funeral.

What do you believe? Silas asked, ignoring the unimportant amiable talk.

POSTED: Fri Sep 21, 2018 8:31 pm

Talbot was good at speaking and convincing others to listen. He had been brought up with this in mind – a boy sculpted to lead, to direct others – but rejected his destiny for something greater. That had been what he told Degaré, anyway.

The thing was Degaré didn't really care if Talbot was lying or not about who he was or where he had come from. What had mattered was that in his time of need, Talbot had found him and tried to save him. Talbot had saved him, no question, but Degaré had died and been brought back. He now understood why, though a reason like revenge might not sit well with soft-hearted people.

None of the Eyes mistook their purpose, though.

That the world is dying, Talbot said plainly. We aim to save ourselves, and if we can, save others. What about you, stranger? What do you believe?

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POSTED: Wed Sep 26, 2018 11:15 am

Something in Silas' face changed.

He could hear the voice of the Speakers reciting the signs of the Last Days: kingdoms against kingdoms, earthquakes and pestilence and famine, terrible signs from heaven. He had not been a very superstitious man, and the various signs of the end times were disregarded -- as Silas knew they had to live their lives in accordance with the Spirit no matter what.

He had learned that a star had fallen in this land the spring before Boreas arrived. This might have been a sign from God, but while in chains Silas couldn't quite believe that it had heralded their coming. They had failed, after all.

He met the dog's blue-silver eyes, contemplated his questions.

My people believed the apocalypse would one day come, too. This world is full of sinners, and it must be cleansed for the new Heaven. He tapped his fingers against his leg, his pupils wide in the loud summer darkness. How do you hope to be saved?

POSTED: Wed Sep 26, 2018 1:39 pm

From where he was standing, Degaré couldn't see the way Talbot's smile grew. He saw enough from his companions wagging tail and pricked ears.

Talbot had always been someone who used his words to convince others to purpose. It had been this and his gentle, healing hands which brought Degaré back from the land of the dead. The Preacher had echoed as much, and agreed that one of the many-faces of Omni had given him a second chance at life – so long as their was purpose.

This was it – finding others, saving them. Degaré had lost the coyote woman to the wilderness, but he would find her again. She didn't deserve to be saved, but blood called to blood, and he so desperately wanted to make her suffer. Someone else deserved to feel the things he had endured (and was still enduring).

We honor The One-Who-Is-Many and pray for our survival. You understand, Talbot urged. The sins of this world are immense. If we are to live beyond the falling stars, we must set ourselves on a path which leaves no question as to our purpose.

Call it cleansing, Degaré offered gruffly.

Yes, if that suits you, Talbot all but purred. Your people were right – the end of all things is coming. Things will become much worse in the days to come. If I were you, I would seek shelter. Compassion and mercy exist for those who can make the choice to stand for a righteous purpose. Together, we can raise our voices so they might be heard.

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