if by chance we could find some redemption

POSTED: Sat Apr 06, 2013 6:11 pm

the story of the beast with those four dirty paws

Between the ruins of the fort walked a soldier, with a bearing straight and practiced. His ears twisted 'round to catch the distant roar of the waves against the coast, or the subtle whisper of the wind through the eaves. There was something about being here alone that spoke to his soul; it offered him the peace in which to think and observe in his own way. His companion, the Seer, ranged far ahead, alighting from one shattered stone pillar to another. The pair was silent as they moved, alerting no one and nothing to their presence. It was how he liked it. Adonis the ghost; the Everto wraith. A lingering image of a time long past not unlike the dilapidated remains of this human bastion of protection.

The day was fading fast, and the light that clung to the clouds on the horizon was disappearing rapidly with the setting sun. But it was not the night that caught his attention as he approached the coast, but the sight of wood smoke rising in delicate, snaking tendrils, and the smell of horses. A fire flickered on the rise nearest the museum and, erring on the side of caution, he approached downwind from the camp. Falling onto all four paws, he crept up the rise, keeping low to the ground. Seer was perched on a stone wall to his right and currently concerning himself with the state of his feathers. Clearly this group was not a direct threat to them, or the pale avian would be much more alert.

Adonis pushed himself up so that he could peer over the rise and saw, to his surprise, a group of four sitting by the campfire. In the dim light he could make out two younger wolves, a middle-aged male, three horses, and a old man. The young pair were busying themselves with watering the horses, while the middle-aged man was kneeling over a fresh deer kill with (what Adonis assumed to be) a knife. And the eldest was seated close to the fire, his hands reaching out towards the warmth of the flames. A weathered hood was pulled over his head, though his ears fit through two holes cut in the top. Adonis could see a smile beaming on his snowy white muzzle.

He was about to leave the group to their privacy when the eldest wolf turned and faced him directly. Adonis froze, and watched as that smile grew to an open-mouthed grin. The light of the fire illuminated the distinct mar of a scar on the old wolf's lip. "C'mon now, as if I didn't notice someone was sneakin' around." The other members of the group seemed shocked, and every pair of eyes alighted to Adonis. Normally this would be the moment he fled, but something about the voice kept him rooted to the spot. The wolf beckoned with a pale hand, chuckling. "Come, sit, have a bite with us. It's fresh."

With his heart pounding in his chest, he glanced towards Seer one final time. The raven tossed his head and flew off towards the fire, alighting to the log beside the old wolf. Adonis followed on numb feet, entering the circle of light and standing, awkwardly, beneath the weight of four pairs of eyes. He chanced a brief look towards the two youngest who stood gaping at the sight of him. Perhaps not of him, but of the keen senses of the old man. The man motioned for Adonis to sit and he obediently obliged. The same pale hand reached for a piece of meat and held it out for Seer to take, who did so greedily.

The group reluctantly returned to their work after sensing the calm in the air, but an excited murmur arose from the pair of youths. "Don't mind them," He said as he fed another strip to Seer. A warm chuckle rose from the old man's throat as he added, "It isn't often they meet someone from my stories." Adonis' hackles bristled as a tingle raced down his spine. He knew that voice; he recognized the tone, the inflection. "And honestly, Adonis, I didn't think I'd see you again, either."

"Chehalis?" Adonis spluttered. He watched with wide eyes as Chehalis reached up and pulled the hood off his head, and raked his hands roughly through the matted down fur. He'd aged many years since they'd last met; the snowy speckling of white on his chin now almost entirely engulfed his muzzle and throat. But the same fire-lit eyes stared back at him; a youthful soul taken right out of time. Adonis heard rumors of him ascending to leadership beside Athena and, by all accounts, it would explain the lack of guilt hiding in the recesses of his weathered face. It would be an excellent, and final, fuck you to his father, Caligula. They'd been bitter enemies during the war, especially after Caligula killed his brother, Montesano.

The russet wolf laughed and clapped Adonis on the shoulder. "Good t'see you too!" He remarked. "Though I was hoping I might've gained some inches on you thanks to the change. No dice there." He teased. The boys, finished with the horses, returned to the fire and sat on Chehalis' other side. The nearest one was patterned like his father, but with a dark cape, and sharper features. The other was softer, bulkier, and taller. Both of them watched the exchange with eager expressions.

Adonis smiled at them both and asked softly, "Your children?" Chehalis put a gentle hand on the nearest boy's shoulder and nodded. "Our eldest boys. Marcello and Titan." He pointed to the dark boy, and the lighter one in turn, before gesturing to the pale wolf near the deer. "And that's Farran. His father leads our ally pack." Farran gave a little wave, hands bloodied from deer, and returned to work. "Athena is taking care of our younger ones while I supervise this adventure. They wanted to travel, and I wouldn't let them go alone." Chehalis curled his hand into a fist and cradled it in the other one. A look of sadness flashed across his face before disappearing behind a smile. "She thought it'd be good for me, too."

The former princeps knew where the moment of sobriety had come from. Chehalis was certainly getting old; he himself was five this year. There was no telling how much longer the older wolf's body would go until it failed him. But he decided to let it go. It wasn't his business. "Well met." He said to the boys. Marcello replied with a respectful dip of his head, "Piacere." And Adonis, for the first time in this encounter, grinned at the use of the language. "Buona pronuncia." He replied, eliciting a like grin from the younger boy.

After a beat, Titan rose and went to join the other adult with the deer. Adonis watched them until Chehalis spoke up again. "Do you live around here now?" Adonis nodded and motioned in the direction of New Dawn to the south. "Indeed, in a pack called New Dawn. I traveled for a while with Jazz's daughter, Juliet, but we became separated and I ended up here. I tried looking for her, but the trail is cold." He explained, twisting his ears back against his head out of shame.

Chehalis hummed. "Chin up. If she's anything like her parents, she'll be just fine. Her mom was a survivor, and her dad's about as hardy as they come." Just then, Titan and Farran both joined the group holding strange curved wooden instruments filled with meat and handed them out. Adonis took his with a delicate touch and cradled it awkwardly in his hands. He looked down to see choice pieces of meat, and saw the same in Chehalis bowl. He was simultaneously grateful and touched by the gesture; eating like a King beside a King was an honor to those of his species. "Thank you." He said to Farren who smiled from his place on the other side of the fire.

The group was now looking to Chehalis, waiting for their Alpha's permission to eat. The old warrior lifted his bowl and spoke, "Respice finem." And everyone echoed it, including Adonis (who was surprised, again, at the use of languages). Chehalis pulled out the first chunk and began eating, motioning for the others to do the same. He was a humble ruler, happiest among his subordinates instead of on his throne. They ate, the conversation drifting from one topic to another while the gentle roar of the sea in the distance, the crackle of the fire, and the soft exhale of the horses as they nibbled at the grass sung the sweetest song to his tired ears. In the company of his friend and his family, Adonis felt completely safe and secure. He only wished it would last beyond this night. But his loyalty to New Dawn, and Zalen, was too great to forgo.

As the meal drew to a close, and the fire began to die, Adonis sensed his time among them was coming to a close. He returned the bowl to Farran, who walked off to the shore with utensils in hand, leaving the family alone with the princeps. Chehalis sighed deeply, but as he opened his mouth to speak, was hit with a sudden seizing series of coughs. The russet wolf curled over and brought a fist to his mouth, coughing into it repeatedly. Marcello was beside him in an instant, kneeling in front of his father with one hand on his back, rubbing in soft circles. Titan looked on, uncertain and caught between moving in to help, or allowing it to pass. The noise was guttural, and unnerved Adonis deeply. Traveling had not been kind to the elderly warrior, and it was obvious his sons were keenly aware of that fact.

The older wolf's breath rattled in his throat as he regained control of his spasming lungs. "I'm (hruk-kh), god damnit!" Chehalis cursed as he choked out a final cough. "I'm fine Marcello, it's fine." He said, voice raw from the fit. Marcello's frown deepened, but it was Titan that spoke. "Father, please." Chehalis' eyes flashed to his son, narrowing. "Enough."

Adonis flattened his ears when Chehalis' attention returned to him. He wanted to say something; the medic in him knew the cough was far more serious than a passing cold. That horrible rattle... it would only get worse if unattended to, and who knew how many packs between here and their home had competent healers. Not to mention supplies. He thought of the hut, and Ksenjia. Would she be willing to help? Would Chehalis even accept it if it was offered?

Chehalis heaved another sigh that, thankfully, passed without incident. "It's been a blessing seeing you again, old friend." Adonis shrunk in on himself at the praise. He'd never thought of himself as Chehalis friend; he'd once been on the verge of killing him just to sustain his hunger during that horrible winter. But perhaps the choice to save him altered the course of their relationship permanently. No longer was he just Caligula's Son, but instead a friend. "And you, Chehalis DeMonte. You have created a legacy and found happiness in much sadness and guilt. We all are, indeed, the stories we tell and the memories we make."

Adonis rose to his feet, and Chehalis joined him. The hooded cloak spilling down his back to hang somewhere just above his thighs. A pendant dangled from his neck, similar in make to the ones around Marcello and Titan's. He couldn't see how he didn't notice them before. The russet wolf held out a hand, and Adonis reached past it to grasp his forearm. Chehalis mirrored the movement, and smiled up into Adonis' tarnished gaze. "I wish you well, friend." The elder gave his arm a firm squeeze. "Live free and live well, Adonis."

They dropped their hands, and Adonis turned towards home. But after only a few steps, Chehalis called out to him. "Before you go, I have something to give you." The pale wolf stopped and waited as Chehalis dug around in his pack before procuring an item. He walked over and gestured for Adonis' hand, which he held out. A piece of cool metal touched his palm and he looked down, ears perked, and eyes wide, as Chehalis curled his fingers around a pendant exactly like the one he wore. "Without you, I wouldn't be here. You saved my life and risked your own life as a result. You are part of this family, as far as I'm concerned." The russet wolf placed his free hand on Adonis' shoulder, keeping one rough hand balanced on top of Adonis' own.

His heart was threatening to beat right out of his chest, and something large wedged itself in his throat. Adonis looked at Chehalis with blurry eyes. "I don't..." Chehalis shook his shoulder, "No, kid, you are worth it. You've always been greater than your father. You have good in you, and you fucking know it. So use it. Let the past go." As if taking a sledgehammer to the walls around his soul, Adonis leaned down and gathered the old wolf in an embrace. Streaks of tears dampened the fur around his eyes and he clung tight to the last remaining vestige of the Everto war. Everyone else was gone, save for them. These two poor old souls. Adonis never felt so exposed in his life. But this was his chance to finally let go.

The scent of autumn, roses, and wet stone clung to the strands of fur his nose was now buried in. It reminded him of home. Of the Salvajes. Of the place neither of them could return to. Adonis drew in a deep, shuddering breath and pushed back, looking Chehalis in the eyes as he spoke from the depths of his heart. "Thank you." He took a step back and brought the necklace around over his head. The pendant came to rest beneath the ruff on his chest, and he displayed it proudly. "I will see you again." It was not a request, but a promise. Something for Chehalis to remember should death come knocking in the night. Chehalis nodded. "That y'will."

With a final wave goodbye, and a whistle for Seer, Adonis strode off back towards New Dawn through the ruins of humanity. Through the final bastion of protection and onward to a brighter dawn.

This needed to happen for years now. +2400 words

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