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Chaper II: All Cos[m]ic Revelations [Cope & Rabbit]

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Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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Through deep, dark streets the moon cast an oily gleam on slimy cobblestones and dark leaves, weighed down by the water of recent rain. The only lantern, a shining beacon of somewhere warm, safe and importantly lit, was burning lowe over the Broken Gallows Inn.

Inside, a number of downtrodden travellers, looking hollow and unintersted in the world had congregated. It had been a boon for many industries in the hamlet of Great Wyrly, as travellers trickled into the town to find food and shelter after their previous way of life had been ripped from them so violently.

In the furtherest corner, at a large square table made from some unwieldly slab of ancient wood, sat a quiet, seemingly downtrodden motley of people. Each of them was staring into drink, bowl and pipe pensively, as if trying to avoid the thoughts of the day. Well, some of them were – it was hard to tell what was going on behind the biting iron mask of the giant slumped at the end of the table, propped up by a young boy who looked like he had only reached midway thorugh his teens.

“What do you think all these broken people are going to do?” The boy finally asked, raising a shaking flagon to his lips. He seemed distant, his clothes still stained with some kind of dark ichor. The giant behind him shifted, but said nothing, drumming his gloved fingers on the table. Niko, the giant’s name was. A huge, battered and diseased creature whose whole life was now two things – pain, and finding resources for his brat companion, Tarkis.

“I do not know, they look exhausted, and tired knowing they celebrated the doom of so many,” the voice, deep and grating, like gravel crunching under a cart’s hooves, issued from under the table. Silax, the creature’s name was.

A strikingly unusual creature, with horns and long, clawed hands and feet, he had previously dressed as a human. Now he had cast off his disguise, too exhausted and damaged from a literal face off with some giant, mind rending horror from beyond the human comprehension of the world. He was not sitting on a chair but rather curled at the feet of the warrior, the mysterious woman Nphepho who had fought with them. It seemed he was wasboth unwilling to sit at the table, the confirmation of his legs making it uncomfortable, and leave the healer who had saved his life.

“I for one, hope they can find a way to ease their minds, be it with flagellation, prayers, or funerals,” Silax was saying. He had taken no food, and was calming himself by holding a joss stick between his teeth, watching the smoke lazily curl up to the underside of the table, causing the smell of some warm exotic spice – cinnamon he had called it, as he had lit it. “The church and funeral parlour will do a roaring trade, for those lucky enough with people to remember them.”

It was only Niko, who seemed to not be doing something to take his mind off the day. He was still in pain, and they had yet to reap the spoils of their previous, hard won victory. Among which, was valuable medicines to keep his rotting body in fighting shape. Tarkis fussed that Niko wasn’t eating, in his drunken state, before finally asking Fosse, the huge brawler woman, to help him be convinced. It wold be a long nigh ona full stomach with a bed underneath them, much less hungry and sleeping in the barn, as it seemed the cold night was shaping up to be.

“So… “ Niko said after some time. “What happened in the … while you were gone...” Tarkis took a long drink of his flagon, as if even the thought were too much to bear. It was a small mercy that Niko could not see the distant look in his eyes, or what little colour drain from his face.

“Kinesia,” Tarkis said quietly. “Do you have the … the words to explain…?”

OOC: Hopefully this sets enough of a scene to start! I feel a bit rusty but these are old favourites :)


Offline EvilCopepod

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Those from the shattered cult that had no means of payment, even to buy a watered down beer just for the opportunity to have a roof over their head, were forced to look elsewhere for comfort. The church was filled beyond capacity with people that promised their faith for a bit of mercy, and all others had to try and find a place in which they could survive the night, as the ones who had returned from the other plane that weren't completely mad or already dead from shock wouldn't last in the cold, malnourished and weakened as they were.

Nphepho wished she had been able to help more, but the being had done nothing to physically injure the humans it took, and their wounds were caused by time, and she couldn't help with that anymore than she could reverse someone's age. She had offered her room to a woman that had taken on several of the now orphaned children so they could sort themselves out before her rent on it was up. She would either find another place or stay in the room that the others had kept if they were accommodating enough. She was the only one, it seemed, that recognized the smell of cinnamon, it brought back pleasant memories of home and helped her calm down a bit. She protested against Silax sitting on the ground like an animal, but speaking to an actual stone and expecting it to budge may have been a simpler feat. So she let him do as he chose to, if she hadn't been through such an ordeal she would have joined him on the floor, but the shoddily crafted chair felt as comfortable as any silk lined throne as she leaned back against it.

Kinesia was glad that they had left the two behind, otherwise they might have lost their room otherwise to the wailing masses that had struggled along the path to this town. She didn't like the idea of sleeping in an inn filled with so much despair, and the wailing children in the room above were getting on her nerves. She would rather sleep outside, keeping warm with the large cat that prowled the woods, but she didn't trust the desperate people to remain peaceful. They seemed harmless enough, but she didn't have it in her to try and fight them, especially after what they'd all seen. She had taken the orb from the being's hand after her cat tore it out, but didn't know what to do with it, it burned inside of her bag as if she'd set the thing on fire.

The cook was getting as much out of the cow that Fosse had brought as was possible, and had already begun stewing the bones, so in an attempt to get Niko to eat, Fosse had ordered a large bowl of beef broth in case his state was making it difficult to chew. She didn't understand what had happened with the others, she didn't remember exactly what the priest had asked them to do, but it had been an easy job, otherwise they wouldn't have taken so few. That creature, however, was not like anything she had seen, although the smell and sounds of the suffering humans was too familiar, but she didn't understand how they had suddenly appeared from nowhere in such a state. When Tarkis asked her to convince Niko to eat, she spoke bluntly:

"Eat, or you will be killed by weakness, not enemies. Boy has eaten and you cannot catch him if you do not eat too." She thought that Tarkis may attempt another solo mission, and she knew he could outpace the man easily if he didn't eat.

Kinesia didn't want to talk about the being, or even think of it, but she couldn't look weak in front of the others, she couldn't show them that she had been as frightened, if not more, than some of them. She had shown weakness in her hesitance to fight it, to get close to it as Silax and Nphepho had dared to, but she could make up a thousand false reasons as to why she kept her distance. None of those would be believed if she continued to show that the thought of it made her cower.

"There was a creature, an evil one, that preyed on humans." Kinesia began, pausing as she tried to think of how to explain exactly what had happened, the pieces all coming together now. 

"Like... evil creature we took egg from?" Fosse ventured, fully aware that this thing had been more dangerous given its size.

"No! Not like the spider at all!" Kinesia snapped, if the tavern had been as empty as it had been when they first arrived, she would have drawn attention from everyone, but she wasn't the first to have an outburst this night. "It... It spoke. The spider was like an animal, it killed to eat or when it was threatened." Until she had been pulled into the other realm, that had to be one of the most horrific things she had seen, but it was still a creature without sentience, something that they were smarter than.

"This... this thing spoke its own language... and ours." She thought of the Messiah, the marionette that had looked and acted as if he were one of them. "It made a puppet, that looked human, and spoke as we do,  it told lies to try and keep us near.  It lured humans to it as we lure game with food. It set a trap beneath the leaves and baited it with the scent of paradise."  Kinesia closed her eyes for a moment, taking in a deep breath before continuing.

"I have heard of such things. Of beings that know things that drive men mad. that are older than the forests and oceans. They live near us, but we do not see them. They can appear in a dream, a ritual gone wrong, with magic used unwisely, or... if they choose to show themselves. I never believed they were real, just stories to scare mages into making proper spells. But this thing... it had its own world right by ours." Kinesia still didn't understand how that was, how it could hide in such a way without leaving a physical trace, the amount of power it needed in order to maintain its own reality was impossible to fathom.


Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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For Niko, the feeling of the inn was oppressive. He could feel the change in his charge, the difference in Tarkis’s posture, how he sounded a little fainter, a little further away. It hurt his appetite, and he was unwilling to eat, however he was more unwilling to annoy Fosse by not eating. He picked up the spoon, stirring the bowl of broth. A few tables away someone was crying, sobbing into their elbows.

“That he might, Foss,” Niko said drily. That Tark could run away – would run away, even, weighed heavily on his mind. He sighed, lifting his mask to reveal his lower face, the skin having sloughed off to the inside of his mask, and began to eat, listening pensively to Kinesia’s voice.

What she did not know was her companions – in each of their own ways, were beyond caring if she showed fear. It was not in Silax’s nature to see fear as anything other than a natural response to situations that were unfamiliar, or unsafe. Tarkis had blatantly shown fear when faced with the creature – he had heard, through a tiny, magical earring that now sat deep in his pocket, the speech of the creature the clearest, and its words were a knife between his eyes, dulled only slightly by drink. And Niko, who could barely perceive her, was beyond perceiving the nuance of fear.

Tarkis met her eyes over his flagon, and felt a flash of guilt. He could have tolds Niko not to ask, but here they were, hearing the tremble in her voice as she tried to coalesce her thoughts and memories of that great, giant thing into a coherent sentence.

“It was great, and terrible,” Silax tried to describe it too, in words that would impress to Niko and Fosse the magnitude of the suffering they had seen, the way it had spoken, the fight that they had all thought would have been to the death. From under the table, he could see Niko’s leg start to jiggle, giving away the anxiety he began to feel as Kineia spoke. Above the table, he looked as calm and unmoving, considering Kinesia’s statement.

“So it preyed on us, drove people mad and then … did what? Ate them?” Niko was clearly trying to piece together a part of the story that no-one had answers to – why?

“We don’t know!” There was a puff of incense as silax spoke. “I do not wish to think on it. All the people you feel around you Niko … all of them, the ones crying, the ones jibbering, the change in Tarkis and Kinesia and Nphepho and myself. It’s because of it.”

Niko nodded. “You killed one. All of you. What does that make you?”

“Exhausted!” Tarkis snapped, clearly unhappy that Niko was upsetting their travelling companions. The giant fell silent, his mask placed firmly back over his face so they couldnt see the deep sadness in the downturn of the corners of his mouth. It was almost too hard, to live this life.

“Well, if it makes no sense to dwell on it … perhaps we should retire for the night...” Niko suggested tentatively, realising they were, above all, worn out from the events of the day. He went to stand, banging his knee on the underside of the table. “WATCH IT! YOU BIG OAF!” Tarkis snarled, his drink sloshing.

---

Unfortunately for the companions, the room was too small for six people to stay in, even though the innkeep had turned a blind eye to the idea of far more people than usual to a room. Tarkis had insisted Niko stay inside, scared he would pass away in the lashing cold that late autumn had brought into Great Wyrly. Silax had willingly relinquised the idea of sleeping within the confines of the inn, stating that he would be happy to guard a place in the hay loft of the barn.
“I feel we are best placed to return to the church toether,” He said, dropping to all fous and sizing up the window, clearly he had chosen not to exit thorugh the door. “They will hear us out, with more people to corroborate.” He disappeared through the window, his tail lashing the windowframe as his skittering claws struggled to find purchase on the slippery roof tiles. He disappeared over the side of the building, and all was silent.

The evening wore on, Tarkis still shell shocked, shaking and trying to push flashbacks from his mind. He sat on the edge of the bed, using the last of his clean bandages and blackwood salve to clean and dress Niko’s joints. “So … should we draw lots for who goes to the barn?” He asked finally.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2019, 05:44:40 PM by the_rabid_rabbit_bites »


Offline EvilCopepod

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Fosse had expected him to pour the soup right through the small holes in his mask, not that he would lift his mask and use the provided spoon. She stared underneath his mask, not because she was transfixed by the grotesque, but to make sure none of the flesh fell into his soup by accident.  Even if Fosse noticed Kinesia's fear, she would be easy to convince otherwise, and she could tell from all the others that something very bad had happened, whatever it was.

"There was no signs of it eating anyone." Kinesia had not seen a mouth of any kind, or any indication that it was devouring the humans, which had been very clear on the other creature that they fought.

"Not their bodies." Nphepho said, her voice cracking slightly, "But we do not know, and we will not know." It was possible that it devoured something that was invisible to humans, souls, emotions, or some other unnamed substance. It was just as possible that the creature had been doing it out of cruelty, or that it thought humanity deserved to be culled. "It makes us nothing, if only decent. If I had known what we were to face, I would have prepared more, but I would have still gone to end it."

"We only managed because it was already injured. We... we were not the first to fight it." Kinesia shuddered to think what had been able to cleave a section off of the creature and pierce the stone upon its head. She doubted it was human, perhaps another being stronger than it, or scars it had from defeating another of its kind if there were more.

Fosse looked to Tarkis when he snapped, not understanding why he was getting so agitated, but she knew it bothered Niko as he stopped eating. She didn't push him to eat again, only eyeing the boy and his drink, she considered telling him to stop drinking, it was making him unpleasantly noisy which she knew from experience was a common effect of alcohol.

She was going to agree with Niko, as even though she had not battled nor suffered as Niko had, his anxiety had spread to her as they searched, and it had put a strain that she wasn't often used to. At first, she thought that Tarkis was referring to her when he shouted, even though she had no idea what it was she had done this time. Fosse soon realized that he was talking about Niko getting up and bumping the table, and she disapproved of this deeply, he had already hurt the man enough today without so much as an apology.

"There is always much boisson, unruly enfant." She said, standing and taking Niko's unfinished soup, she drank it all down then put the bowl back on the table.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"We will meet you there." Kinesia said, she had no worries that the gargoyle would claim the prize without them, from what she'd seen at the church she doubted he'd be allowed in on his own.

Nphepho watched him go before looking back to the others, "This was not my room to begin with, I will take my leave as well." she said, "I recommend that you stay in here as well, Tarkis." Her voice was a bit sharper at this utterance, as she had insisted he stay before more gently yet he hadn't, which had endangered not only him but Niko as well. The barn was perfectly safe, but she knew that wouldn't keep Niko from worrying, and he had enough ailment to begin with. She then left herself, through the door rather than the window, to join Silax at the barn.

"I will draw lots against Fosse. If you go out, he'll follow you." Even if he didn't, Kinesia didn't want to be shut in a room with the anxious giant.

"What is 'drawlots'?" Fosse asked.

"Drawing lots is how we'll choose who gets to stay and who gets to go to the barn." Kinesia repeated more clearly, "It is you or me that will be going."

"I am staying here." Fosse said. She had slept in barns before, and normally would prefer it to this cramped room, but she wanted to stay here with Niko. She felt bad that Tarkis had left so easily before, and planned on preventing it this time around.

"That's not how it works." Kinesia bristled, "You might stay here, but if you aren't drawn then you have to leave." In response, Fosse sat upon the floor.

"I will not leave. You must move me." she replied, calmly, knowing very well that the smaller woman wouldn't be able to accomplish this.


Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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Tarkis watched Kinesia’s body relax - visibly relieved as Silax left. Despite the sombre mood, he couldn’t help but make a dig at his companion’s unease. “It’s ok Kinesia, I’m sure he dislikes your presence as much as you,” he joked, despite the fact while eccentric, Silax did not seem in any way hostile to the group - a sentiment reflected in the fact that Nphepho made her exit soon after, seemingly willing to leave the tense standoff between the remaining three.

“Well if you insist,” Tarkis said darkly to Nphepho’s receding back. He might well have followed the strange healer into the barn if he handn’t seemingly been the cause of much ire for his group. Instead, he watched Kinesia’s increasing frustration at Fosse, who seemed unable to grasp the concept of a random chance of staying in the room or in the barn.

Niko had taken his place on the bed, and had clearly ‘gone away’, as Tarkis described it, allowing his memories and thoughts to become distant, shutting down his senses from the world. Where previously it had seemed to be a way to distance himself of the pain of treatment, now it seemed to be in response to Tarkis’s hostility. Even insolent little pest noticed Niko seemed less inclined to respond or interact - even with Fosse, who he could tell they had forged some strange kinship in the short time they had been together.

It was this thought that made Tarkis choose to intervene. “Kinesia, I think she is saying she won’t leave him,” Tarkis ventured carefully. Fosse sat, defiantly on the ground, unmovable as a boulder - something Tarkis was glad he need not take up with her. “Whatever friendship she has forged with him apparently transcends comfortable sleeping, if she is willing to sleep on the floor for it...” It of course meant there would be three people piled on the floor, fighting for space and with only a few blankets between them, but Tarkis felt a strange sense of fairness. Should Fosse not move, it did not mean Kinesia should be forced to sleep out in the barn with the animals.

Tarkis was holding up Niko’s arm to bandage the last elbow. His skin had been very damaged from the siezure-like anxiety attack he had suffered early in the day, and he felt  pang. He was sobering now, and had recognised obnoxious behaviour downstairs. He nodded to Fosse. “Thankyou for caring for him.” He said finally.

-X-X-X-

The barn was a large, dark shape not far away from the inn. It had once been painted red, but the paint was now flaking off, revealing dark wood, rotting in places, underneath. There were plenty of loose boards, and birds and bats alike had taken to nesting in the rafters.

Inside, a few stalls were occupied by horses, goats, sheep and a single large bull at the very end, who now in the deep of the night was asleep, the sounds of its weight shifting breaking the scuffling in the roof. The hay loft itself was warm, having trapped some of the heat of the day, and when Nphepho entered seemed empty but for the sweet smell of hay undercut by manure.

Somewhere inside, a goat bleated in response to squeaking from the rickety ladder. It seemed Silax hear it too. As her head and shoulders appeared over the last rung of the ladder, he unfurled himself from on top of a stack of hay bales, slinking four-legged over to her. “A fine evening to sleep in a drafty barn, is it not?” He joked, stretching as he approached. He had done away with nearly all his clothing, and his slinky, coiling movements gave a catlight effect as he circled Nphepho. “Well you are in luck! I found a corner of the barn with no drafts! Have the others decided what they may do?I feel they will send one oth-” he was caught mid-sentence as he caught Nphepho out of the corner of her eye, realising she was wearing little more than a cloak over her shoulders. Where he had been from, and taught from the religions he followed so closely, there was a strict taboo around women’s exposed skin, and for a brief moment, he felt a deep, rolling sense of discomfort.

Never mind they had fought alongside each other in much the same state, SIlax had barely noticed given he so often scouted ahead, and had been so focused on Hrathungej.

He moved away, dropping onto his side in the corner, facing away from her. It was obvious he had been gravely injured in their fight from the twisting in his back, and further harmed through the splashing acid he had used to prevent the monster in the otherworld from regenerating. There were fist sized craters in his lower legs, burning away the stone like skin and revealing dark grey flesh beneath. “Are you well?” He asked finally, realising the silence had stretched long.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2019, 07:22:00 AM by the_rabid_rabbit_bites »


Offline EvilCopepod

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Kinesia glared at Tarkis when he made his comment, more upset over him noticing her unease than what he actually said, "You should be more careful, boy, you shouldn't trust a thing like that because it acts harmless. A cur is more dangerous when it doesn't growl, you'll get no warning before the bite." 

When she realized that the other wasn't being responsive, the woman kept her few words meant for him to herself, though she believed he was like this because he was too tired to socialize, not that he was trying to separate himself from reality.

"Bed is... not hard." Fosse said about sleeping on the floor, Kinesia glanced at the bed, thinking that the hay in the barn would be more comfortable than what they filled their mattresses with. Even if it were a bed fit for royalty, she wouldn't sleep upon it, not with all that had leaked from the man into the fabric and its contents.

"He can damn well defend himself, and you can't keep him from fallin' apart." Kinesia said, she was going to make a jest herself about them being involved with one another, but imagining the union between the two of them was almost enough to make her shudder, so she didn't dare speak it as well. In truth, she thought it might be better to sleep with the animals, and she may very well have if Silax and likely a bunch of refugees weren't going to be staying there as well.

"I could get you on your way, you stubborn cow, but I'd risk burning the building down that way." If they'd been outside, she wouldn't have hesitated to set a little fire underneath Fosse. She also wouldn't be able to dodge any retaliation from the larger woman in such a tight space. She grabbed one of the blankets roughly, pulling it around herself.

Fosse heard the scrambling of claws upon the roof, and thought that Silax may be returning, though he sounded differently. Kinesia's large cat came in through the window, laying down on the ground like a tame housecat and allowing the woman to move up against it so she remained warm even where the blanket didn't cover her.

The other flopped down onto the floor herself, having taken off her armor and only having her wool underclothes on, she slept on her stomach directly in front of the door to keep Tarkis from sneaking out again. She made no attempt to acquire a blanket for herself despite the biting cold that was coming in through the opened window.

----------------------------------

The day had been long, filled with torments, pain, and the ever looming guilt of being unable to help with such a great deal of human suffering. Her shoulders had been slumped when she made it to the top of the ladder, and her face rather somber, but Silax's mood and manner caused a small smile to spread across her face, and instead of looking as if they carried a great weight, her shoulders seemed relaxed now. Her eyes smiled as well, and she even let out a small laugh at his comment on the draft. Nphepho didn't know what made him stop so suddenly, but she decided that his injuries must have caused a pang which made it difficult for him to continue his movements.

"The others are sleeping in the inn, though one may join us." She watched his back, remembering the feeling of his backbone snapping under her hands. She moved after him, "Is this the corner?" she asked before crouching down by him, she placed a hand upon his back gently.

"Allow me to heal you, it will not hurt this time." She had been forced to use more powerful healing during the fight, it was a hard and harsh magic, with no energy wasted on soothing the nerves as it healed. Unlike the blinding light that had come during the battle when she healed him, a dark, smokey-like substance flowed out of her palm and sunk into him, having an analgesic affect as it worked to heal the damage sustained from the fight at a much slower rate.


Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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Kinesia’s hostility left Tarkis quiet, sitting at the end of Niko’s bed as the night closed in around them. He thought, long and deep, on what it would mean for them to part ways – they were, after all, not far off that path, given it seemed the only thing that kept them together was convenience, and the sheer number of refugees crowding the inn. He was cold too, wrapped in a blanket and propped up against the rickety frame, but he dared not go and close the window, for fear Kinesia’s strange spell over the cat would be broken and they would have to kill it – or it killed them – or they killed each other in the process…

The performer boy’s mood was dark, clearly. He felt, for some reason he stubbornly refused to attribute to jealousy, that he and Niko were better off when they were not in Great Wyrly, even if here Niko had seen more treatment and medical supplies than elsewhere, so easy it was to trade for the necessary coin, bandages and salves.

He frowned at Fosse’s back on the floor “I could climb out the window, you great oaf,” he remarked savagely as he fell asleep. “Might even be better than being between you and your amoreux.” It seemed he too, was using Kinesia’s line of thinking as a weapon against the sleeping Fosse – ineffective as it was. Well, he would be rid of her, soon enough – or so he hoped.

-X-X-X-

“Y – yes it is,” Silax could feel himself staring at the wall, looking at the stray pieces of straw trapped in a long forgotten cobweb. It was indeed warmer, and less chilly than the other spots in the barn – it seemed Silax had taken some time to build a wall of bales against one side, so any gaps in the wood couldn’t let through a chill. There were others sleeping there, of course, but none had ventured into the hay loft, seemingly Silax’s presence had scared the majority of them off. “I hope it is warm enough for you. At least, you will not catch a chill…”

Her footsteps ventured closer, and he visibly flinched. “No … it’s fine … no …” it looked as if he was anxious from the pain he had experienced previously, rather than the true cause - some internal turmoil. His breath caught as she touched him, and then relaxed as he felt the warmth of her magic coiling into his back, working the last of the break out of his spine again. He had felt perfectly strong previously, but now the stiffness that had pulled his shoulders tight eased, and he felt a brief flash of some unknown emotion in his stomach.

His chest expanded, and then contracted with deep breaths under her touch, his stony skin rising, seemingly to make as much contact with her palm as possible, and each breath out felt like he was exhaling out whatever had made him nervous previously. He sat up, still looking somewhere other than her. “Thankyou, it is a great kindness to be treated as a … a living being.” How strange a thing to say, given for all intents and purposes Silax was a living creature.

He could smell the smoke from her palms, and seemingly unconsciously, he leaned against her to breathe in the scent – an almost comical impression, since he was now so terrified of looking at her. He was heavy, as one would expect from a creature as large and heavily framed as he – however, he went well beyond the heaviness of flesh, and likely any further leaning would have pushed her over. “It is foreign magic to me, with a scent like charcoal,” Silax said; as if to explain why he was so fascinated. “It is not like that which … raised me, or that which is used by the wild witch in the inn. Or … or what torments the giant… how did you learn such magic? Where does it come from, within you?”

He curled against her leg, the impression akin to a pet sleeping next to its master on a cold night. In much the same way Silax’s voice rang clear as a bell when he walked, four legged alongside them when they travelled; he seemed to have no problems asking questions curled up on himself, either. “Who are you? How did you come to be here? What experiences have made you such an… accepting, person? I know you gave up your room to others in need…” His torrent of questions slowed, still having given little up about himself.

He grew tired, and his adherence to the human mannerisms grew less strict – so much so, as he began to drift off, a deep rumbling in his chest began, signalling the strange revelation a creature such as he was capable of purring.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2019, 08:47:13 AM by the_rabid_rabbit_bites »


Offline EvilCopepod

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Even if Fosse had heard his jibe, she would not have been insulted, but rather very confused about how she would be able to have any sort of amoureux. She had not thought of the window as a means of escape either, as it wasn't a way she herself would be able to use to exit the inn. Kinesia could easily move out the window, even without the aid of the large feline, but she would not be made to do so because Fosse was blocking the door.

When the witch woke up, she tried to get the larger woman to wake up, giving her several kicks which hardly made her stir, it wasn't until she set the cat on her, to pounce on her with claws sheathed, batting at her face with its great paws. It growled as Fosse grabbed it, pulling it close like it was a stuffed toy, squirming enough to cause her to wake up and release it. The animal bounded out the window once it was free, and Kinesia tried pulling at the door.

"We need to get to the church before all the supplies are used up." Kinesia didn't know if the church would deny the refugees the medicine that was promised to Niko, or if they decided that they needed the gold in order to support the influx of humans.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"It is perfect." she said about the warmth, Nphepho was good at gauging when it was too cold, as it often was in this new land. He seemed unimpressed by his own work, "Does the cold bother you?" It didn't seem like it would because what he was made of, but he was more than that as if he were only made of stone she wouldn't be able to heal him any more than she could rebuild a damaged column.

She tried to think of what was disturbing him so much, as she was certain it wasn't because the pain the healing had caused before, he had continued fighting well after he'd been broken, so he had a tolerance for injury greater than any human she had witnessed. Nphepho was pleased when he relaxed, the magic worked easier on a calm patient than an agitated one, his body accepting the magic more readily.

Even though it was strange he was refusing to look at her, she was glad for it, so he did not see the look of bereavement upon her face when he spoke next, she was able to change her expression back to a happier one before she spoke so it wouldn't alter her voice. "That is what you are, so there is no need to thank me for it." She didn't have to ask why people treated him as such, but he must rarely be treated as more than an inanimate being if he thought that this was so kind. It made more sense as to why he put on such elaborate makeup to make him appear to be human.

When he leaned over, she had nearly fallen, and if he had pushed a bit more she would have, but she didn't reject the new contact he was making, encouraged by it rather than bothered, as well as his questions. She had been asked about her magic before, but it was rarely as nicely as he did, having been accused of using dark magic, that she was poisoning rather than healing because of its color and consistency.

"It is not witchcraft." she started with, as that seemed to be the majority of what kind of magic was seen in this part of the world, "It comes from the Earth, from my ancestors, from their knowledge and powers. I had to learn how herbs and animals are able to heal, and how to use the abilities my family before me have mastered. It took much time, but it comes from my belief in them and their belief in me, these powers are not mine alone."

Him curling against her was a strange sensation, he was like a rock that had the sun beating down on it for hours despite the dampness of the night, but she welcomed the contact again. "I am... what you would call a priest in this land, or a doctor, something in between." She didn't like the comparison exactly, as there seemed to be much desire for monetary gain in both the religion and medicine of this land, but she refrained from commenting. "This land has much evil that is not challenged, there are the ones who raise the unwilling dead to serve them, to make slaves of strangers by pulling them from their rest." Her voice became sharper at this, filled with more conviction, but it turned soft again when she spoke again. "I am accepting because it is how I was taught to be. I do not have these abilities to take, but to give. My ancestors would not bless me otherwise."

When he began to purr like a large cat, she could not keep a quiet laugh from escaping her. She would have thought it disrespectful to stroke him like the animal that he now resembled, but from what he said before he was often treated less than an animal, so she thought he may appreciate the contact if not only in his dreams, she stroked gently down his now healed spine before falling asleep herself.


Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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There was a choking noise, then a cough and Niko stirred, surprisingly, before Tarkis. His momentary pain and confusion washing away quickly to realising that Kinesia was yelling at Fosse to get up. “What is it, what happened?!” He asked quickly, sitting up so quickly there was a strange, wet tearing noise as his mask adjusted on his face. “Ooooh!” he groaned, waking Tarkis from his slumber.

“Yes? What?” He immediately was on his feet, looking around for the danger. Instead, he saw Fosse holding a now terrified mountain cat in her sleeping grip. “The great oaf managed to cuddle Kinesia’s cat like it’s a kitten…”

“Don’t call her an oaf you fucking fool,” Niko snarled back as the cat made its hasty escape, before what he had said sunk in fully. “… Kinesia has a cat…?” Tarkis paled, not wanting to let on to him a predatory – and sometimes scavenging animal was so close to him in the night.

“She doesn’t any more, the damn thing just climbed out the window,” Tarkis said darkly, still pouting that he had been told off. He reached over to help Niko stand, but he waved him away, standing, and swaying dangerously, before he found his balance. The giant could still stand and walk, and for all intents and purposes seemed a lot stronger than he had the day before, with something akin to a decent meal in him and fresh bandages.

“I think you are right, Kinesia,” Tarkis agreed. She was above all else, pragmatic. “We must be hasty. The church will likely have realised we have brought an … influx of the unfortunate … with us, and may bear us some ill will for it. The sooner we give them the information, and got Niko’s medicine, the better." And, of course, the modest sum that –unknown to them, Silax had ‘bartered’ for the day previously, when he was trying to get information from them. “We should go to the church immediately. Nphepho and Silax have … have more information, than I ever could have gathered from the fight. We should bring them, as they will corroborate our story well.”

-X-X-X-

Silax had listened, rapt and suddenly feeling, for the first time, warm and comfortable with a human as an individual, instead of a population he was made to defend, and one day die for, thanklessly due to his horrific appearance. “There is much evil here,” he agreed, eyelids drooping. His voice had a strange lilt to it as he spoke over the deep thrum in his chest. “But if there are people such as yourself, surely much good too! Or … much capacity for it. I am optimistic, Nphepho. You are powerful, and surely much blessed by your ancestors.”

He knew he was overstepping the doctrine of a good creature of his faith – for there were teachings that the faiths of others were not to be accepted by them. Not shunned, necessarily, but not accepted, either. And here he was, fully believing that Nphepho was blessed – by her ancestors, to reach deep into the earth and heal with what power flowed through nature. He felt a stab of guilt that made him curl up tighter; only to relax as she touched him again, sleep descending on him in a warm haze.

Nphepho! Please, be awake!” Silax had woken early, and was circling her again in that same slinky movement, looking over his shoulder so as to avoid meeting her eyes. Any moment of tenderness in waking, still curled into her side, had dissolved into anxiety as the teachings of his priests rang in his ears. “I hear the others, they are waiting but I … I must …” atone “… attend to some unfinished business. I rarely care much for gold, however my supplies are running low. If you collect from the church in my stead, you may keep half of my earnings. I merely need enough for face paint.”

Outside, the sound of Tarkis’s impatient voice rose above squawking chickens and shuffling barn animals.WAKE UP YOU LAZY GITS. THE REWARD WILL NOT WAIT FOR US! Tarkis demanded, standing outside. A slice of threateningly overcast sky was visible through a crack in the barn door, as Silax beckoned her to go quickly.

“Maybe they aren’t in there?” Tarkis asked outside. He was unwilling to go in himself, particularly given he would leave Niko vulnerable. The giant had insisted on following the sound of Tarkis’ bells instead of being led as he had previously, and it would mean Tark would have him following him into the barn.

OOC: Feel free to move them to the church! I wanted to wrap up the overnight and have Silax make his hasty exit to atone, poor guy.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2019, 08:57:46 AM by the_rabid_rabbit_bites »


Offline EvilCopepod

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Even if her cat had been less obedient, Kinesia doubted that it would try to feed on Niko, she was sure that the animal could smell whatever sickness plagued him and would not risk disease for a meal. She snorted when Niko said not to call Fosse what she clearly was, especially blocking the door as she was like a great useless lump.

"We best get paid for getting them what they asked for before they realize they don't want it." Some of the churches in larger towns would have rejoiced, with the influx of poor and ragged souls the rich that hoped to pay their way to paradise were always willing to throw a few coins at the priests. But as it was, the richest of the folk here were still barely getting by on what they received from travelers.

"Fosse will not go." The woman said when she stood up. "Must do... faire des courses."

"That's fine, there's hardly enough room in the church as is." And as far as Kinesia was concerned, the woman had done nothing in this quest so deserved no reward. "Come back here when you're finished, or don't." It wouldn't surprise her if Fosse simply wandered off, even with her apparent kinship with Niko.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

His words meant a lot to her as well, for she had spoken to very few about her ancestors, less were willing to listen, and even less than that were not offended by it. When she healed, she had been thanked, but no matter how long she put her hands on them they were always at a distance from her that she could not hope to bridge.

She slept deeply, not waking even as he rose, it wasn't until he spoke that she sat up, looking alarmed for a moment before understanding what he said. She pulled a few pieces of hay out of her braid before standing up and brushing it off of her clothing as well, watching him as he again moved around oddly, not so much the catlike movements as his body seemed fit for it, but that he continued to look away from her.

"He is quite rude." she said as she heard his shouting, though she didn't sound upset or annoyed, more amused by it than anything. After what he had seen, she was glad he was still able to act as such, many of the children his age that had been taken were mad from what they had gone through, and the only shouting they did was incoherent.

"I will collect yours." She did not plan on keeping any portion of his gold, but she wasn't going to let him know that until she'd delivered it to keep him from protesting. She didn't ask about his business either, simply because it was his business, and she would let him choose to share it if he wanted. "I will see you  after." She climbed down the ladder, retying her large black robe so that she was decent for the church. It wasn't until then that she realized what had been bothering the gargoyle so much. Of course, it had to be their cultural and her nakedness compared to the others. She had thought at first it hadn't bothered him as he hadn't reacted during battle, but neither had Kinesia or Tarkis. Kinesia hadn't aimed any insults at her, and the boy was at the age in this land which instead of ignoring or looking away, would stare at her if she wasn't covered. That Silax didn't seem qualified as being one to fall for the temptations of the flesh for his flesh was of stone, she had overlooked it more.

She intended to apologize later for her thoughtfulness, stepping out to join the others before the whole of the barn patrons headed to the church for some aid. Kinesia glanced behind her, no doubt looking for Silax as well, she then looked up as if he'd come jumping down from the roof like he had at the inn.

"Where's the rock?" she asked.

"I did not know that I was supposed to be keeping track of a rock." Nphepho said, cooly. "But I am the only one coming, I will be collecting for Silax." She walked past her, not seeing the rude gesture the other woman threw her way. "How are you two this morning?" she asked of Niko and Tarkis as they went to the church. After such a harrowing experience, there were few people up yet to make demands on the church, there were only a handful outside, sleeping curled against the stone as an attempt to keep dry. Inside was much more crowded, but the sleeping masses weren't up to make a ruckus, to beg for food, clothing, and continued shelter as a group, the few that were awake staring into nothing or whispering quietly to one another.


Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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Tarkis took another deep breath ready, to yell again when Nphepho emerged from the barn, her purposeful stride carrying her right past him before so much as a peep could pass his lips. The boy deflated, letting the yell of YOU’D BETTER GET DOWN HERE! fade into a sigh.

The exchange between Kinesia and Nphepho was so cold even Niko noticed, his grip on Tarkis’s shoulder tightening. Tarkis squeezed his gloved hand as if to tell him things were OK. Indeed, Nphepho’s reserved stance seemed to lift ever so slightly to respond to Kinesia, and Tarkis wondered briefly if Silax had hurt her in the night, and she did not want to talk about it.

“Well, no matter,” he said, trying to look spritely despite the friction. “I am sure between the four of us we can provide more than enough information for the church. We are very well today Nphepho, look! Niko almost has his old strength back! I will be pleased to see him with more Blackwood Salve and another square meal in his belly.”

-x-x-x-

The church, however, immediately smothered what little good spirits Tarkis had valiantly tried to foster. They had to carefully pick their way between the people sleeping on the floor and slumped against one another, heads hanging hopelessly. Tarkis was careful to lead Niko around the restless forms, and he felt a twinge of sadness for them – they had devoted their existence to a false prophet, then had come to a world that had moved on so quickly.

There were a number of priests and nuns scampering amongst the rows of returned to tend to them as well as they could with such an influx of the unfortunate. The group approached the priest that had sent them on the quest. He was hastily scribbling in a record book up at the altar, clearly trying to record the event in a way that captured its greatness and terribleness. The approach was cautious, as Tarkis half expected him to conveniently forget about their deal, instead, he stood stiffly, looking at them with a venomous frown.

“I suppose you don’t know anything about this, do you?” He asked bitterly. Clearly, he had not been expecting the travellers to bring back such a large number of the missing.

“We will tell you everything after we see our reward,” Niko spoke. It was rare for him to speak up unprompted, particularly given that he had no clue what had happened but for the avoidant discussion with Tarkis and Kinesia. It was clear – to the group, at least – he was feeling the absence of the vital medicines. Tarkis nodded, and they stared, in a stony silence – the Priest wilting under the gazes of the three weary travellers, backed up by the faceless hulking expanse of Niko.

“Blackwood Salve. And gold,” Tarkis said crisply. He was polishing a bell on his shawl almost nonchalantly, trying not to belie the urgency of the request. The priest sucked in a breath, as if remembering how painful a bargain it had been, and asked them to wait, hobbling off. The record book left open on the altar. When Tarkis leaned forward to read the curling script, his nise crinkled in disgust to read a description of wretched creatures, described as a burden on the resources of the church. He decided the assessment the church was greedy and uncaring was, perhaps, a very accurate assessment.

The priest returned, six jars of the horrendous smelling salve Tarkis used so liberally on Niko’s skin tucked under his arms,  fresh bandages, and a fat sack of coin – at least twice they expected from the task. Tarkis averted his eyes to avoid staring, lest his greedy gaze clue the priest in to the fact that they knew not where the gargoyle had gone.
They picked up their supplies and gold, and made their way towards the heavy, wooden doors of the church. Tarkis noticed something fluttering on the door, its gleam suggesting it was pinned there by a dagger. From further away, he noted it as curious, but when they got close enough to see it fully, his jaw dropped.

There were six neat squares across the top of the page, each with a small, but expert ink drawing – a teenage boy with shoulder length black hair, a beaten up mask, the unmistakable scarred face of a wild mage, the face of another mage with golden scars, a cracked face with horns, and finally, a hulking woman with limp blonde hair. It was them, the only way someone who did not know the names of people of interest could get their attention. Tarkis, able to read quickly and without stuttering, quickly parsed the script.

To the people who have now faced otherworlds and survived it wrote. My consort will wait for you at the gates to Great Wyrly today. We can offer you food, medicine, gold, tutelage. For your services.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2019, 02:02:29 AM by the_rabid_rabbit_bites »


Offline EvilCopepod

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Nphepho was glad to not only hear, but see that Niko was improved in both emotional and physical health. Even though she didn't possess the means to cure him, or even know who she could refer him to, she felt that she had failed him as a medical professional. His illness was unlike anything she had heard of, a creation of twisted magic and cruel science that was kept quiet by all who practiced it; she was certain that even they had no intention of making a cure for it. She did not ask where Fosse was, assuming that the others were going to do the same and collect the gold for her as well.

She was now glad that neither of them had come along, and thought it might have been best if only one of them had come to collect, as there was hardly room for them to step. It was admirable how Tarkis could lead his larger companion through the human obstacles when it was difficult enough to do it with her vision intact, she had to raise her robe slightly to keep it from being dragged over the people around her. Kinesia was less careful, though she didn't step on anyone outright she didn't care about brushing against them or stepping on their clothing, like they were stones or twigs on a forest floor she was avoiding rather than living creatures.

 The healer didn't read the ledger herself, but she could tell from the young man's expression that it was not written kindly, and she hoped that the priest didn't leave it unattended often, in case one of the literate refugees looked upon it. Her eyes went to the salve, as it was much more than she expected them to receive, and she didn't have to feign disinterest in the gold. Kinesia's eyes widened at the sight of the sack, but she quickly got her expression back to the somewhat sour expression she usually sported. Thankfully, Nphepho took up the storytelling this time, keeping a much calmer demeanor than Kinesia had been able to, as well as not giving any unnecessary details about what they had experienced. She kept her voice low, not wanting any of the people around them to become agitated by hearing the experience again.

"What the hell is this?" Kinesia sneered, after he had read it, she pulled the dagger from the door, looking it over before shoving it into her belt to keep. Nphepho picked up the now fallen notice, staring at it hard as if the paper would reveal more answers.

Perhaps if the illustrations had been of the original group alone, it would have been less alarming, there was much time between now and when they'd gone to fight the spider, and they had all been seen together at the inn before they had set off. But it included Silax and Nphepho, who had only fought with them less than twelve hours ago, and unlike the spider they hadn't known they were going off to battle some creature. Whoever had done this either had foresight, had known about the monster they had defeated before they did, or was watching them quite closely. Kinesia hadn't noticed anyone out of the ordinary, and this set her on edge, that someone could be tracking her and she was entirely unaware of it. And whoever had done this had either followed them and pinned the message to the door while their backs were turned, or knew they had planned to come to the church and stuck it in before they even arrived. She looked back at the huddled masses with suspicion, any of them could be the messenger, having slipped back into the crowd they had no hope to navigate.

"It is a very good drawing." Nphepho said, "But what they ask of us..." She could only imagine how their task had gotten their attention.

"I ain't interested if they want us to go after another creature like that." Kinesia snapped, spitting on the floor of the church like it was a dirt road, "But I'm goin' ta find out who tha fuck's been watching us."


Offline the_rabid_rabbit_bites

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Tarkis raised a hand, gently tugging the note out of Nphepho’s hands to give it a better look. The boy stiffened, his eyes scanning the page, flipping it to examine the creamy parchment’s other side, which was void of anything revealing – only some dark ink spots. The front’s neat and precise faces almost leered at him – a couple of errant strokes capturing the upturned quirk of Tarkis’s face when he was stirring trouble, another capturing the sombre reflection of the healer Nphepho, and the absence of any ink in the eyes of Fosse, so her eyes took on the distant, almost shell shocked blankness in her gaze.

“What is it?” Niko asked, hesitantly. Clearly, he did not want to draw attention to another shortcoming, however Tarkis seemed more than happy to tell him.

“We are being offered … a significant sum,” He began, carefully. He looked around; maybe one of the refugees would have seen who pinned the note to the door? But no, everyone was … dead to the world. Had he tried to speak to them, Tarkis was certain they would not have responded. Indeed, food, warmth and shelter barely brought them out of the disassociation. Tarkis felt a twinge, and returned to describing the unease of himself and his companions to Niko. “It is not just a sum of gold. It is offering us our needs. ’gold, medicine, tutelage’… it had all six of us. They did not just observe us taking down the spider. I am certain. Whoever wrote this knows where we brought the refugees back from.”

Niko nodded, pensively turning the words over in his mind, but he continued nodding as Kinesia spoke. It seemed he agreed with her. “We have enough gold, and medicine to … to decline, if it is work, like the task from previously,” He said confidently. “But first, we should find the others if they have … been sent for … and we should give fosse her part of the gold.”

“Who says she gats any?” Tarkis asked, puffing his cheeks out defiantly.

”I do, and your sense of moral justice, little brat,” Niko growled, and Tarkis cowered. It seemed unlikely Niko would strike him, but the ire of the giant was intimidating. That Nphepho too, seemed to be covering for Silax’s part of the coin, meant there was little wiggle room to argue they should leave the two strangest members of their party, and they set off to find them.

-X-X-X-X-

Upon exiting the church, and taking a twisting, cobbled street back to the town centre, the group almost literally stumbled upon Silax. They may have missed him, had a trail of gritty, greyish blood led to his hunched form in a narrow alleyway. In the dim light, the shine of his eyes was deeply unnerving, glassy with pain … or ecstasy.

“Ohhh…” he moaned, crawling forwards in huge, roiling strides. Tarkis’s gaze slid to Kinesia, knowing she found him unnerving, and his movements made him look deeply unnatural. The sunlight hit his skin, and Tarkis gasped. There were huge,. Massive welts and open gashes across his back and shoulders. There was even huge weals across his face and thighs.

“Ar – are you ok…?” Tarkis offered. Silax mumbled something, and sat back on his haunches, regarding them carefully, blinking a stray trickle of blood from his eyes.

“Very much so. What has happened, you look pale as a ghost. Looked so before I … I returned, also.” Silax listened attentively as they described the nature of the dozens – possibly hundreds of refugees holed up in the church, and nodded as they described the letter. He asked to see the portraits, and he sniffed the ink gingerly, noting no charms or spells had been cast on the paper – it was a plain message, to people the writer did not know the names of.

“Well,” He said finally, chewing on his lower lip. “I suppose we find the … the woman-giant, and go to ask how they know of us. If another evil has come, I must … obey. They rule to remove it…”