Well sir I guess there's just a meanness in this world.

POSTED: Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:12 pm

[WC: 700] Phosphagos Foothills. Set after this thread.

In the hours after Otilie Novak's brutal murder, her killer meditated.

His life's work had been fulfilled in the completion of the woman's death. It had seemed so very important for this to come about that he had focused on such a thing long through the duration of his adult life, and now that she was dead he wasn't sure what he felt. Emotions were complicated, and the words for them not expansive enough to capture the turmoil within him. It was an existential crisis of such magnitude that he had gone into something not unlike a trace, shocked by the realization of what he had done.

Among these feelings, Degaré lacked any sense of guilt. He was regretful only that he had not drawn the act out longer – oh what things could have been done if he had any patience! The deed mattered, the end mattered, and that was important.

When the snow started falling, he barely noticed.

Degaré sat alone in the field, breathing slowly. He had not washed the gore from his body and it was blackening and starting to freeze. Just as he did not feel the snow he did not feel this horror as it sat upon him, though it attracted many a curious scavengers. The ravens were the boldest of the lot, but they kept their distance. They were birds who had seen wolves before, and who stayed only long enough to see the blood-covered creature was not wounded before cawing insults and winging back from the forest where they had come from. Degaré did not notice them go, just as he did not notice the fox or the feral cat which both wisely chose to be on their way.

His perception of time passed strangely while he sat there, statuesque.

He hoped he would hear Omni. It would be reassuring to know he had done well, and that his sacrifice was accepted. Degaré craved these things. Part of what had led them to staying behind had been his desire to be among people who valued him.

When he finally came back to himself, though, Degaré couldn't find a simple answer. The emptiness within him seemed to remain, and this puzzled him deeply. Killing her was supposed to make him feel better.

He came back to them as night fell. By then he had taken time to wash himself. His stomach ached from hunger, and he was looking forward to eating again.

The murder seemed like it had happened a very long time ago. Days.

Huddled around a small fire the two men were dark shapes against the night. Though the snow had stopped the clouds remained and the wind rustled at the highest branches in the nearby forest. Degaré padded into the light slowly, and without a word came to stand where the heat had melted away the snow.

Talbot, having removed his mask, was near the fire. His cloak was still damp from where he had scrubbed it, spread out beneath him and stained from the dead woman's blood. He was combing his hair and seemed blissfully ignorant to Degaré's arrival.

They must have found food sometime during his absence, because there was a sizeable remnant left for the wolf. He dragged this aside and consumed it nosily, and returned to the firelight soon-after. After finding a comfortable spot he settled languidly and for a few moments did nothing more than stare at the fire.

Degaré turned his attention towards Milos.

You understand I had to do that, he said slowly. His voice sounded strange to his ears. You understand us now, I think.

Talbot side-eyed their captive. He was trying very hard not to smile. In the firelight, his pale eyes gleamed nearly the same way Degare's blind-half did. The damage to his face had been catastrophic, but the it was Talbot who turned ugly and mean looking as they awaited a response. The evil within him was kin and common to that of his counterpart.

Escalation depended upon a partnership. Degaré and Talbot gave each other permission to do terrible things. Together, they were two devils fueling one another into doing ever more. Self-hating men so easily became monstrous.

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POSTED: Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:36 pm

Time had been slipping away from Milos for a while now, ever since that night of the fire and the masks and the screams. Days had passed since then – sunrise, sunset; grey skies, starry nights; shining sun, glowing moon – but there was no sense in keeping count of how many. Mere days, or a handful of weeks? A multitude of months, perhaps. If it weren't for the slow crawl of the season, the fallen Captain could have convinced himself that it had been years.

Oddly, it felt as though a massive wedge of time had separated him from the hours since the murder, too.

Since expelling the meager contents of is stomach and staggering back to his feet after the two cruel men, Milos focused exclusively on his movements. One foot, crunching freshly fallen snow, pushing the weight of his body into a paw print whose fate it was to age and be forgotten (just the same as the fate of men, he supposed). Another foot, the same fate, propelling his thin body forward and forward toward a destination he had not been told.

For all Milos knew, they intended to take him far away and slaughter him in the same manner as the coyote woman with the ivory plume. If it weren't for his daughter, the hollow man might have accepted such an end without an honest attempt at a fight.

Maybe. But instincts did funny things, sometimes, when one's survival was at risk.

Milos wanted to believe that his inaction to play the savior in Otilie's final moments was to survive long enough to preserve Daisy's young life, but he could not deny that there were more primal, more visceral, factors at play in his decision to sit back and watch the woman die. Genuine as his fear for his daughter's safety was so, too, was the desire to keep his own vulnerable flesh safe from the confinement and the terror and the agony of Degaré's savagery.

It had dawned on the wolfdog, as he pushed himself forward through the snow and kept in line with his captors, that he was not filled with so much compassion and altruism as he had lead himself to believe for so long.

Who had he become? Who had he been?

If Talbot talked to him in Degaré absence, Milos had forgotten. Maybe he had, and had received a response in turn, but Milos had forgotten that, too. Meat was cooking over a warm flame that the fallen Captain couldn't feel, nor remember helping with, if he had. Everything, up until the moment Degaré's voice addressed him, had been done in a blur of thoughtless reactions and unconscious movements.

When he replied, his didn't recognize the voice as it breathed, "Yes." Mechanically, as though being pulled by the strings of a marionettist, Milos lifted his head up from the hunk of meat in his hands that he hadn't touched and looked hollowly into the half-blind, mangled face of a man whose soul seemed only an empty, endless void.

No, said that bold and noble voice that Milos had known his to be, once. This had the been the voice that had stood up to violent oppression and which had endured myriad sacrifices. It had been the voice of a man who had nothing to lose.

There was a great lot to lose, now.

"Atonement. Retribution." He swallowed but there was nothing to wet the arid desert that his mouth and throat had become. "Justice." He didn't know what they wanted him to say, but he understood these things very well now. "Had t' be... done."

Against the gentle flickering of firelight, Milos' cheekbones looked sharper than they had been in a great long while and the shadows found shallow dimples along his temples that they never had before. They licked and kissed these places with dark and devilish tongues, dancing in time to the cadence of the flames.

He wanted to ask about Daisy. He wanted to know what fate they had in store of her, for him. Beneath his bony sternum, his heart began to thrum, encouraged by a violent release of unmerciful anxiety.

Somewhere in the darkness of the dormant wood, an owl hooted gently and was answered by the tender call of another. Such different lives birds commanded, and in such a different world. Milos found himself in envy of their freedom from the internment that his own world had become to him. How simple it would be, he thought hopelessly, to spread your wings and fly up and up and away from it all.

The eerie, shortened scream of a rabbit pierced the night air and silence returned to the forest once more.

"What... what now?" he managed at last, his voice scarcely a whisper for the the fear he had in his heart what the answer would be. Would he become their captive until the end of his his days, made to help them seek out and exact retribution on countless other innocent souls? Would he be returned to the camp where the Omniscients had held him and his daughter before they had been torn away from one another?

Or was this the end of the line? Was this him, looking over the edge of a cliff into a crevice that promised only death?

Milos was as still as a leaf without a breeze to lift it up, his body tense and his fingers clutching the chunk of meat between his cold, numb fingers. He scarcely dared to breathe and the hammering of his heart in his ears filled the silent void for what felt to him like an eternity.

It might have appeared, at first glance and if the light of the fire caught them just right, as though there was hope in his amber eyes. But mostly there was acquiescence and there was weariness and, perhaps most of all, there was fear.

[WC — 1000]

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Moderator Luperci Mate to Eliza but you'd become my candle in the dark Little Bandit
can you pull down the dawn?

POSTED: Sat Jan 12, 2019 4:30 pm

[WC: 411]

Degaré considered killing him.

He had been considering this for a very long time, actually. When they had first begun talking about where to go, when Stella had come back so upset and angry, he had thought about Captain Milos Parhelion. At his core, Degaré hated the idea of authority – he identified this with those who had sent his brother away, those who had done nothing to help him or his family when they needed it. This faceless mass became a role that strangers so easily could fill. He had not been the first man they had come across, but he had been the first in a position of power.

It could have been anyone. Chaos was a part of their deities design. Omni asked for sacrifice and promised the coming of the end. Finding answers in the act of violence reassured him of measurable costs. The existential crisis of death was far too massive and significant for him to grasp with.

He coughed.

That's it, Degaré answered gruffly, clearing his throat.

Talbot's brows furrowed with confusion. His smile began to fade.

If you understand, you have a chance to save yourself. You can save everything you love.

Degaré –

As if he had forgotten Talbot's presence, the head of the big wolf snapped to the side. His muzzle twitched a little. When the wolf spoke, his voice had that same strange quality to it. Go get her.

Go get who?

Go get his daughter.

Now? Why don't we all just go when the sun—

No, Degaré growled. His expression was strange, and caused the dog to (surprisingly) hold his tongue. It made him seem feral and hostile, and awoke old fears in the healer. Go get her now. Just her.

This made Talbot's expression further twist together. He seemed to be considering something, as he looked from Degaré to Milos. Finally, with great showmanship and obvious reluctance, he began to gather his things to travel. The masks he carried for them were hidden beneath his garments, carefully positioned where they would not be damaged. The dog put his hood up before walking off into the night.

In the silence that followed, Degaré continued to stare at Milos. The fire warmed his pelt and dried the places where the snow had dampened it. It looked like it might snow again. The air smelled like it each time the wind blew.

What did you believe before this? Degaré asked his captive.

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POSTED: Sat Jan 12, 2019 7:40 pm

He didn't understand, and so Milos said nothing and instead only stared into Degaré's ruined face with gentle creases pinching together his brows in a show of confusion and uncertainty. Was this a trick? Did those two short words carry within them the weight of death? They were vague enough; they were final enough.

When only silence followed the wolf's words and more of an explanation was offered, the mysticism and alarm within Milos only grew bolder. For all he had been made to do and all he had been made to watch, this felt like another trial – another terrible means to the pleasant end he had been seeking for such a long time. What would they do to him next, to prove he had understood? To allow him to save himself and everything that he loved?

Talbot's voice drew a forceful reaction from Degaré, and Milos found himself turning his own dark head to look into the sharp face of the coydog. In stark contrast to the confident grin that the fallen Captain had grown accustomed to seeing, there looked to be and expression that lacked amusement and, perhaps, even agreement. But it was difficult to understand anything when so very much was being said in so very few words.

Milos didn't know whether to be grateful towards Degaré, for demanding Daisy be brought to him, and elated at the idea of seeing his daughter again after much too long, or whether he should prepare his heart and soul for more unimaginable horrors to come. The only solace he could find was in the perception that Talbot did not seem to be happy with the wolf's decision, though whether or not that was due solely to being averse to traveling through the night or because the reason for Degaré's decision to reunite Milos with his daughter was not unwholesome was left to be seen.

Regardless, Milos did not like the idea of Daisy being alone with Talbot. But, helpless as he was, all he could do was watch the coydog pack his things, pull up his hood, and disappear into the darkness and then hope that he wouldn't dare do anything to harm the child for fear of upsetting Degaré.

Milos watched the patch of inky forest where Talbot had gone long after the shape of the man had disappeared, turning his head again only after the wolf spoke. "A goddess," he replied after a heavy pause. "Th' River Goddess, we called 'er." He looked steadily into the fire when he said, "Reckon she's dead t' me, now."

[WC — 438]

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Moderator Luperci Mate to Eliza but you'd become my candle in the dark Little Bandit
can you pull down the dawn?

Sticks and Stones