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 (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows

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yanamari

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PostSubject: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:46 pm

The coming of night

*in Nexus*
Settled in her favorite chair, watching the world from her favorite cafe, Diane took a moment to enjoy small, simple pleasures. The taste of her choja. The relaxing touch of her deep seat. The wandering eyes appraising her about the room. Soft discussions rose and fell about her, sounds becoming words. Words revealing dreams. Dreams opening the doorway to terrors. Opportunity swept past her, through her, consuming every consideration and worry with the temptation of action.

Another sat across from her, filling her vision. In moments, her blurred eyes finally focused. Her lips smiled if her eyes did not. Defiance filled her, this need not to be broken by the other's regard.How fragile this determination began with his words.

"You should not have met him. It was a forbidden act." The voice held within it a chill. He did not care, did not understand devotion or warmth. Not like he once did.

Diane looked through the window. Anywhere but the man before her. She imagined she could still see Dane walking through the crowds, holding the rose she gave him. "We are more than the ravings of a mad man. Masters of our own destinies. Are we not?"

*in Chanta*
"Within all things, there is life. Even the unliving carry some spark. What do you see, Mina?" Hands covered her eyes, blinding her with a darkness that felt complete. She did not mean to gasp as the prickling of pain began in her palms. Perhaps it was worse not seeing her mentor at work. And yet, there in the blossoms of this scarlet light, beyond the seething of flesh, she could see...something...

Silver Python pulled upon the threads of energy, essence coiling about his hands, laying within his skin, touching upon the souls around him. Mists rose from his feet, gathering and coiling as the snake he consumed. Within he heard her, as he did that morning so long ago. Words slipped from his lips as the visions took hold.

The elderly man hovered around Mina's head, hands wringing, wishing to shake her. Blood dripped from his hands, her blood, scattered across her face to mix with the sweat that beaded upon it. Her lips trembled as her eyes rolled back. "The way within is the way without...a doorway opens, one you have stood before...there is..." She stumbled, coughing. The pain was too great, body feeling weaker. With a snarl the man took up syringes, mushrooms, implements to force wide her mind even if her heart may explode.

"...footsteps of shadow come, in their wake the world shall change....a time when the moon and sun will not show...and when they return, something will have changed..." The mother whispered, guiding his lips, voice lilting. Yet in that perfect moment of vision, the binding complete, something went terribly wrong. As if a hand reached about a flame and snuffed it. He was falling.

Her body curled and bent, bones snapping from the force of muscles and mind caught in the moment. Awakened drugs and herbs burned through her veins, setting the world on fire behind her eyes. Thoughts erupted into words, words became screams, screams became the death knell. Everything slowed as the old man plied into her with needles again. He so wished to see, remaining ever blind to the truth. Mina felt death knew as hands touched her cheek, pressed back her hair, and awakened her. "Mother..."

Arms caught him. Curling tightly in those arms, the darkness that reached to snuff his light faded. Whatever force that demanded Silver Python would not speak faltered by the light of the solar who protected the prophet. If he could have grasped his arm, looked to his face, and thanked him, Silver would have.

Memories of the past touched upon the present. The future, what would it be. Eyes opening in slits, Silver Python smiled as he had when he was once called Mina. Luna sat above him, touching his cheek, comforting him to sleep.

*in the wilds near Chanta*


A lonely swan from the sea flies,
To alight on puddles it does not deign.
Nesting in the poplar of pearls
It spies and questions green birds twain:
"Don't you fear the threat of slings,
Perched on top of branches so high?
Nice clothes invite pointing fingers,
High climbers god's good will defy.
Bird-hunters will crave me in vain,
For I roam the limitless sky."

A world of consideration burned molten in his eyes. Lit as his body, this fire of command. Compulsions shifted as light on scales, indecision become burgeoning ideal for the time. The place. The end. An entire war fought in the breath taken in and let go from his body.

In this, he won. Bliss as liquid as pearls set in the Prince's crown. A parcel to be laid before his own feet. If the wheel of destiny could be toppled and turned like a child's toy spun from a raided house. Fire alit on the roof. Screams slipping away from within. The sweetness of a body's stench laid upon a pyre.

The poem laid circling paths for his thoughts, to hide away whence the prince called. But an answer, he did have. "I shall be the hunted." With a slipping of reality, Felensai of house Deleneil, guardian of the northern edge of Slurura's kingdom disappeared. A sproutling rose from his departing, twisting to seek the light hidden by leaves from the far lost ground. Within the perfect pale mint leaves, a bloom opened of fire.

*in Chanta, Manse of a Thousand Bird Songs*

Leaving the main entrance, Rain Deathflyer followed in care after the retreating figure of Silver Python. Ages of practice kept him the required paces behind, as they had once followed when first teacher and student. Despite the best attempts of Silver, her student had long learned to read her poise, the bend of brow, the glimmer of her eyes. Stumbling, Silver almost fell again, to be caught in the feathered arms of her compatriot.

Pearled eyes dark rimmed peered up to Rain's. Soft flesh of a clumsy palm traced along his feathered cheek as Silver's fevered visage seemed to swim and shift from the draught. "When did you become savior, and I the saved?" Humor touched the pained voice, as a soft cough took her breath. "Which of those drinks did you give me, Rain?" The humor turned into a demand.

His eyes lowered, cowed into a child's regret at the question. "The strongest. I could not leave you so before the youths. They would not understand, or seek to stay. If you could be reached here, no where is safe. Why did you not ward, Silver?" The tone became brusque as feather ruffled in his remembered anger.

And yet, how painful it was to remain angered before those burning eyes. He had fortified Silver, but at the cost of overwhelming his body with something still considered experimental. The touch laid again upon his cheek. "Edwin, please, you chastise yourself when there is no need. Thank you. You were the wiser as you always are in such things. I should have warded, or even called the solar to help. She would have welcomed a chance, but it was not her time."

Claws curling around his friend's hand, he kissed her palm. Hearing his name always sent chills down his spine. How dare she use this against him. Would she say it again if he asked? Disarmed, he could only continue their conversation. "Mina, what pulled you from vision? What halted your spells? I did not sense anything near the guards. Nor heard a calling of the watcher birds."

For moments, Silver swooned as Rain had, hearing her name from his beak. Would the buffoon ever accept their relationship as it was? But his questions were true and needed answers. "I do not know. Of all the things we have faced, this is one beyond me. But I do not believe it was after us, dear friend. These shadows have other prey. I only hope they are ready for the tests to come."

They grinned together, knowing full well, if they were not...they soon would be.

*unknown*

Solumn halls bereft of visitation laid within a hallowed cloud of unsettled dust. The flicker of light came little here, so far within the deepening halls of a once great kingdom. What bitterness turned the scholars from this room was a measurement beyond consideration in the stream of all things. Yet if something is not forgotten, it can never be lost.

Wanely did light come then, traveling by irreverent hands. The slope of back gave little indication of the figure so hunched against discovery or perhaps from the understanding this meager act was all that the gods left to him. Any majesty had long since pulled from him as a loose thread in a glorious tapestry. Faded. Forlorn.

Taking a place among the many empty tables and desks, he set before him a simple quill, a jar of inch, and a jug of wine. Drinking recklessly, he gave an inglorious refrain of burps before finally capturing his quarry before him. The tome gilded in metals only dreamt of, etched in spells no longer continued in the realm nor in this of Yu shan. Shuddering a breath, he began to regal the quill, filling page upon page in a practiced lilting penmanship once loved among all the greaters and lessers.

And so we come upon the beginnings of a tale once known, now regained. The actors of our scene shall prove a most daunting cast for those villians and retches taking their places so near the stage.

Archimedes, a man who lived his ages until death was rightly earned. Such a fate we expected, but not as this. His heart was forever young, if his body had withered from time's slow disdain. He lived among a people he wished to join, but despised in essence. All but her. His dearest Nialle. Touched by the sun, yet utterly spent into the darkness she sought. His demeanor has changed, the sickly creature that laid in wait within given true form in his flesh.

Drokam, not fallen far from his father's get. So like him, and yet how he wishes to be his own. A dark deed lays in his heart and mind. The balance of his morality seems a fragile spun thing, as glass blown into shapes meant for appraising, not holding tightly. He has toiled, for family, for country, and never once has he questioned what he truly wants, desires, and needs. He must find his voice, or become like his mentor. A retch of a thing.

Dane, caught between the man he was and the abomination he is. There is a dark tide itching to release within him. If turned, swayed, coaxed, the fall would be felt deeply. He clings to what he knows, and understands the reach of his limitations. A perplexing splinter within the wheels of fate, yet one that can be culled if so needed. He has but to grasp his future, and leave the realm he currently is fettered to.

Theon, the hidden mind. His facades of banter and play will blind others but only for a time. As all, he holds his secrets closely. Yet with ever the right offering, those secrets could spill from his lips as readily as the wine he drinks. He holds a tome once called brother from this very library, cradles it to his ear, listening ever so to its whispers. If only he can summon the valor to best his own demons.

In these and others, the setting of our tale has come. They have been gathered with care, bound in spirit, and sent upon journeys of their choosing. In the heart of the east they travel, seeking fortunes and tidings. A rich past. A blessed future. We shall see.

Closing the tome, fingers trembling from the seemingly simple exertion, the bent figure continues. A new tome is pulled forward, and the lives of others are marked upon the pages. One after another, until the jug runs dry.


Last edited by yanamari on Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:28 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:48 pm

*Sal'Maneth. Tower of Spirits*

Back straight as the towers over which he peered, the Lord of the Manor contemplated the very fate that would lead exalts of a new age to his solitary realm. All that passed under his overly large nose were the required needs and actions taken to keep all living and dead in perfect harmony. Perfect balance. The perfection of a grave, topped with sod, and marked with a stone.

The rules were assuredly broken, seeing these living men among his carefully tended populace. They helped the ghosts that deserved to no longer be. They accosted them at his very door, making demands simply due to the blinding lights they could call on their forehead. Hands clenching behind him, the Lord was displeased.

And now, laid flat under one perfectly shined shoe, laid a peasant marked with an invitation to speak. Demanding some discussion as if they were due such a thing. Lip curling, the lord spoke to no one and yet everyone. "There was a story once. Of such men as these. They rose until their own shadows threatened to shroud heaven in their wake. They lie know as skeletons of a world remade in a new image."

A voice rose from a great bowl of obsidian hue, resting on his desk. From within churned chill shadows. "There is another story, My Lord, of a castle that knew far better than its occupants of what it needed. And although the man who arrived seemed ill fit for the occupation, he held to it for he had nothing else to live for."

His chin elevated ever so, voice edged in disdain. "Are you suggesting I should so make their lives thin and wasted? Desperation that drives them to consider the grave, their very own perhaps?"

Only the briefest chuckles answered. Of course that was the suggestion. Better claimed in the covenants and bureaucracy of the dead, than left to live and demand. Raising a gloved hand, he laid his fingers upon glass that had once lived a life. "The City appointed me Lord of the Manor. They shall never conqueror my esteemed place."

And he quoted ever so quietly, what he had always known. Words of the great author. His own destiny laid so long ago. "On the whole the Castle, as it appeared from this distance, corresponded to K.'s expectations. It was neither an old knight's fortress nor a magnificent new edifice, but a large complex, made up of a few two-story buildings and many lower, tightly packed ones; had one not known that this was a castle, one could have taken it for a small town. K. saw only one tower, whether it belonged to a dwelling or a church was impossible to tell. Swarms of crows circled round it."

*Sal'Maneth, a small home*


Little remained far from his knowledge. With tedious care, he considered the flock of scholars and their families. Flock. As if he was a holy man given to ravings of the Unconquered Sun and freedom. Let them believe what they wished. For a time, everything was fine. Perfect. Could not have been better planned. Even his failures with the Lord of the Manor in the manse of spirits led him to consider new avenues of power.

Eyes closed, Sameal reveled in knowing he would enter the library again this very night. Yet a twitch of lip, dripping of sweat made him reconsider this course. Should he? The others he spied from the forest were no mere men. Essence pulsed from them as dark halos around demons. And they saw him. Watched him. Hungered for his knowledge.

Clenching a fist, he slammed it into the table of rubble. Snarling like a wild dog, he thrashed this way and that in sweat soaked robes. "They will not...take...me. Nor the library. I shall have nothing of this. Nothing of the travesty they would call down upon us. Untested. Untried minds. Infantile fumblings like so many sticky encounters of opposite sexes. They would whore my knowledge." His eyes craved to know what laid in every skull. Yet nothing was exposed beyond what laid in their eyes.

None but one. She was no where to be found. Normally, expected. Especially after the smacking for the defacement. But something tugged upon his thoughts. "Find her, Bashib. Show me more." Something coiled near in shadows rose and turned. Only a thin black tail marked its passing.

"I will know what she knows. Time to teach her...of how things truly work around her." The toothless smile dripped in forgotten spittle.

*Sal'Maneth, a lost room*

The manacle has begun to tear through my wrist. I can only imagine the forethought he must have had in bringing functioning manacles to this place. What a list that must have been when determining his travel plans.

Parchment. Quills. Food of course. Oh and manacles for enslavement and questioning. Why not bring the knife kit just in case too? Audacious thought for such a madman. How little they know of him.

Ever since the first dream, I understood remaining apart meant a prolonged survival. Despite my tender years, I refuse to allow such a cretin to gain the upper hand in my existence. Does not Lui speak of such things in the Thoughts of Risen Suns and Fallen Moons? Even in this world the spirit of a hero lives and reigns for thousands of years?

Who am I kidding? Seriously, what barely eight and caught like some thief in the marketplace. Hand manacled. Body hungering. Missing a tooth. Dirty and smelly. A thin excuse of refuse among gems far greater in worth? How I miss mother. Then again, why should I? She sold me off for another week of snort weeds.

I do believe I miss Drok, the Geezer, and Dane. A pity I did not meet their friend. Hiding so quickly as to trick the eye. Where did he disappear? And their markings, moving like the metals of the southern tower. As if they were born of it, returning and demanding entrance. As if to cry in the air to a king, Father! I have returned a glorious hero! Bring on the feast!

They let me be a child. To laugh and play. Not bent before books to decipher words. To be simple. To not understand the horrors of living. Peons never realize what happiness they truly have.

I will die here. He will return, ply me with fruits which eventually I must eat to survive, and everything I know will disappear. Why do I fight? My rebellion vexes even my desirous heart.

If only the silvered sons gave two shats about me.

*Sal'Maneth, a year ago*


The hollows had not borne another but That Which Dwelled in Eternal Dark for years unending, unknown. Yet with a singular gathering of a darkness the shadows could only hear in whispers, something inky formed. Gathered. Became.

A sphere of ever dark, as putrid and vile as the heart that forced its creation broke through the world of the labyrinth. One side to the next. As a kiss from a rapist upon the lips of the broken. Coalescing upon a point within, a orb opened wide. Slithering arms made of that same darkness clawed to pry wider the orifice, to provide what the master demanded. The others nodded, lowered their eyes, in the proper way for such a creation. But a moment was all that he received.

The vile whisper remained last. Something tore at him, pulled at his sense of disturbances, that uncanny sleuth's sense that he was simply not alone. Peering with keen eyes, sunken in a visage best kept hidden by a mask of bone white, he reached forth to close the parting.

With a thought of power, he allowed the labyrinth to remain in contact, to tarry but for a moment and repay the curious interest in kind. Essence fractured, unable to accept such a cruel touch. And yet the curious one remained, saw, and faded ever so slowly.

Turning on a bony heel, Breath Trailing the Word, the Vile Whisper, sought his companions. Blood dripped from the edge of his mask, the last supplicant used in their miserable journey. His companions waited in their perfect silence, taking a cue to speak only when he rose his fingers. Essence poured through the blood, scintillated along the bone white mask, barring interference with this moment in time. The price for such hidden work he would pay later.

"Sorcerer, I trust you have reasons for secrecy." The words felt more monotone and colorless than before. Certainly his leader was most aggrieved.

His voice murmured as soft as nobles whispering behind fans. "Our path has been found. But where or when, remains a bitter secret. How our travels could have been located so quickly defies my logic."

The warrior's fingers tightened upon the scythe at his back, until a hand laid across it. Fine, porcelain white, far too perfect to be anything but a lie. Her eyes sought Breath Trailing the Word, strangely allured in their travels over his mask. A sneer twisted his lips as painfully as his heart sank. No, he would not remember. Such simple diversions would never taunt him again. The chill of the void did not answer, leaving him heated far more than he wished.

"My Child, dearest Child, we need not concern the judgment of our most blessed magister. For his is the will and way. And we need both. Do we not?" Those sapphire eyes held Breath as her hand held Child. Of course, how could they not accept her words as truth? "But we do need to understand, do we not? You mentioned the Labyrinth may cause fissures, with as many as we have made in recent days. Perhaps there is an element to this and what you saw?"

The snarl he felt curling about his lips slipped into his speech, saving Breath from further embrassment. Rising to his full height, he watched them both with those sharp midnight eyes. "Of course I do not expect every lesson to lie upon furtile ground, but one can pray. Yes, we have caused disturbances. But this shifting within the essence felt of home and yet not. As if..."

"He hears them." The child's voice reached them in the utter dark beyond. A hum filled the words as the owner danced and swayed in her own lithe way. The three merely watched beyond to the blackest of lairs. "The one that watches but does not see. He hears the song, but oh, how it teases."

"Who is this that hears, Lament? Who is it that aligns their vision with ours?" Curiosity played a coy touch over his skin in ways the Shorn could never dream to. Hands rubbing together, thin fingers splaying as if caught in organismic wonder, he entered that inky dark with a knife in hand. Hunting the child. "Who is it, Lament, or shall I force you to speak clearly. No more games."

The first slice brought a whimper. The next a scream. But not from the girl, from the sorcerer.

The Shorn sighed languidly, sliding her eyes to the stony visage of the warrior by her side. "Shall we ply the demons with questions or kisses?" Together they wandered into the dark. Much was to be gained. And a pair of eyes to hunt. But from the future...the past...the days most present...only the Labyrinth could say.

And it spoke through its chosen as Theon shook his head, eyes clearing of the pitch that filled them. Essence cracked as a pane of glass dropped upon stone floors. Nothing of this he had ever seen or heard of. And to witness it. The mask. The bone. The drop of blood clinging then falling. The hand that grasped and closed the way between them. His heart raced at such secrets that even his prized book could not show. ...or could it?

Dane and Drokam peered with concern, pressed tightly together in the dark. He spoke of what he saw before he truly knew what words passed his lips. Tingles made his fingers itch.

*Solar Manse, Sal'Maneth*

Screams held behind clenched teeth threatened to force his jaw into locked fractures. The pain helped to center the rage and heartbreak within him. Were they all so blind? Or had he gone so far as to not be understood?

Warnings seemed prudent, and yet, they deserved this pain. He arrived here invited. Held his own, never bending and scraping. And yet, they came, forced wide the gates, made a mockery of his life. They tossed aside carefully laid rules, gave the mad scholars free reign, and even...stole from him. Artifacts were meaningless compared to his own freedom in this moment.

Eyes drifting behind closed lids, how he wished he could scratch his nose, stretch his hands, pop his back. Pain laced every thought bringing him to his knees far quicker than the threat seeing Maron brought. The old one shoulder understand, this Archimedes. Why were they so cruel?

Small fingers brushed against his nose. Scratching and shifting to tossle his hair, twist his robes straight, help cleanse the wound on his shoulder. He knew the touch, quickening his blood. The girl? The girl. Memories rose in him, easier to afix without the diadem.

"I'm sorry, Sameul. I've been really mean. But I need to know things. I need you to tell me before they decide." Lynn pulled aside his blindfold as golden light pierced his vision. Her small face leaned over him, concern and hate fighting in eyes far too adult for the tender age.

Moments seemed to drag past, until he felt the muscles twinge along his neck. "Lynn. I had to. You put it on, and were losing yourself. I could not leave it on you. No one can wear it and not be touched." The admission was painful too make. Too much pride in his heart threatened to overwhelm his good sense of judgement.

Thankfully she looked away, plucking at the rags she wore. "I know. I know now."

"Yet you say nothing. Do nothing. Let me rot in these bonds and hurt. I should be free!" Her small hands pushed at his lips from the outburst. Madness still lurked in his eyes.

"No no, Sameul. Not so loud. Please, I am sorry. But what will happen now? I'm...not like you. Or them. They may take me from here, into the world. And you've seen so much, it would make a elder dizzy in the revelations you have held. I just...want to know what is going on."

The plaintive look in her eyes moved him to speak like none of the others could. "Within me is a dying legacy. If they leave me to Maron, I will never see you again. Perhaps it is a fate I deserve. I was terrible to you, to them. Something I could not understand till now..."

Her fingers pressed back his hair. "What did you discern from the library? Please, Sameul."

Heaving a sigh, his eyes darkened. "Few souls remain unchecked. The powers that be no longer sleep. Something lost may yet be found. The bars that bind have names writ upon them." His voice became a whisper as his eyes seem to drift. Lynn leaned ever closer, gasping as his penetrating gaze returned.

"Lynn, take care of them. Name others you find. Find another, wise, insightful. Find a king of the earth. Stay close to these men. They will protect you. And never...forgive me." Those eyes hardened, the madness quick to rise again.

Before he could scream, she stuffed his mouth with cloth and pulled tight the blindfold. If only they could see as he did. What memories waited. What terrors lurked. What beauty waited in death.

*Solar Manse, Sal'Maneth*

Attentive care in every movement, Maron moved through the halls as a child left with candy and none to say no. Every surface glimmering in gold was a joy to her eyes. The lavish clothing laid in drawers of resplendent oak. Tomes of ancient histories, lost lives, and magic. And the silence so pure to leave her calm.

Eyes closing, she stood in a pool of sunlight. The heat of every ray brought memories of the simple past, lying upon beaches, smoking, dreaming of a life not her own. And now she had it. Everything she ever desired. How she hated the restraint.

"I know that look. One I have felt many times over." The bronze face of Jakou appeared beside her, facing into the sun much the same. "The wonder of the sun. The power in our minds. And the responsibility that threatens to choke us."

If the others could not sense his ability, Maron certainly did. The simplicity of his words and smile were completely true. A deadly combination knowing so well what he was capable of performing.

"Jakou, we are prisoners no longer. And yet...how can we feel otherwise. The Sun has returned us, or has it? Is this a natural birth, or a rude one forced upon us. Was it..."

"Like that for us?" His smile glittered in his eyes. "For a time, yes, it felt that way. At least for me. I wished nothing more than to sail the seas, to touch the point far off where horizon met water." His hand spread wide beyond them both, as if he could see it so clearly now. Slowly those sculpted fingers, calloused like her own, closed into a fist.

Her words echoed his thoughts. "This manse is a prison. Will you stay?"

Shaking his head, the smiles lips formed a grim line. "I do not want to. But I see no other way. Perhaps that is why I was chosen to remain."

Her hand slipped free of her own, to lie over his. "That sense of duty is why they choose you. Your strength of heart tempered by merits and exceptional patience. Someday, I hope I can strike the same balance."

His eyes watched their hands, brows furrowing. "You are taking Sameul and returning to your circle?"

"When the others depart, I shall. I do not wish to tarry and cause you unrest. You have much to consider, Prince of the West. Especially after we have met the returned General of the North."

Yanking free his hand, he turned fully to Maron, hoping to catch her eyes. But they remained far away through the window, smart, too smart. "Who are you? I could swear we have met before."

The past fell upon her vision, cloaking her in memories she wished would simply stop. "Yes we have. And we shall again."
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:51 pm

*months ago, a place in shadow*

Vile Whisper laid in his chair, curled and brooding. Elbows bent, hands lazily tapping upon each other, he squinted in turns. The recent past showed signs of some other sorcerer watching them. Yet how? They had been exceedingly careful, using spells and the Labyrinth to pick through the world.

Or perhaps, the gods had noticed their intrusions and sent whispers among their children. Only another exalt could have the power to part through the veils of the world. His interrogation of the Lord of the Manor had at least imparted that information. Yet who could be following?

A board laid on the table before him, small figures scorched from what they once were waiting for movements. Each one held a small mark carved upon their base. His circle. Certain spirits. A few others he had met in trade and travels throughout the land. With singular ease, he reached for a small burnt hind, the symbol of Other inlaid on it. His own special case, this man that watched him. Twisting and turning the piece, a part of him knew the question would not answer itself through pondering or listening to the whispers alone. He would require aid. Snarling, he threw the piece into the farthest reaches of his quarters.

But it did not clatter. She was already here, slipping past the shadows to slip upon the table. Cross-legged the child sat, more creature in design than a girl of undetermined age. Her face seemed as melted wax, carved in forms none of them could discern beyond horrific. Eyes the color of molten bronze laid upon him. Lips of the same colors tilted in a smile.

"The game displeases you. Strange for a mystic to hate the unknown." The grace of her lilting voice added to the macabre scene of her mismatched skin and snakelike hair. Was she fallen into a vat of something upon death or naming?

He did not attempt a practiced voice, leaving the roughened edges raw and honest. "I abhor it. There is never a need for complexity in designs such as these. Someone has stumbled upon us, why else has nothing more occurred? They glimpsed a moment they did not intend to find, and now plan and consider. Yet nothing of a reaction has come. No demons invading our home or call from our Lord. Only the speculation that drives needles through my mind, waking or sleeping."

The fingers marred in death's throes turned and twisted the piece. Breathy, she spoke studying the damaged gameboard. "Tell me what you saw, Whisper."

"A man of middling years, soft, covered in marks the burned and moved as silver. Dark hair in those shadows, perhaps in midnight hues of blue. As if of the west yet the distinction of features seemed far more of the east. Only so tall, no bulk of battle to him. More...scholarly given to scraps with thugs. Eyes simple yet filled with curiosity." On and on he spoke, weaving the picture of what he saw.

And on and on that melted skin of the Concubine of Laments and Brine shifted and changed. Smoothing, warming, hair becoming lengths of blue, eyes looking more of man than death. Silvered tattoos of demonic script and lurid children's tale blossomed across her skin, unlike those of the man he spoke of. And yet, here he was now, sitting so close to be watched and studied.

The Concubine looked as his foe. "Does this suit what you spied in that corridor."

Pieces of the game forgotten, Vile Whisper sat forward fluidly. "Yes. Perhaps you can aid me after all, Concubine."

*Lunar Manse, Sal'Maneth*

He watched the gathered youth, discussing their plans, falling upon each other in mirth. Such tender consideration for a deserved moment free of mystery and concern. Yet among them, Azsure's eyes fell upon the man of wolf. Drokan, the warrior of few words, commendable spirit, and eyes filled with shadows.

Closing his own, the tiger's heart wrenched terribly. Rising from the curl of tree limbs, he slipped into the form of a moth, to rise and fly without spied passage to the tomb above. Past this he spun ever higher to enter a path only given to the keeper. Sighing, his form fell away. Skin dark as night, rich in colors of the south greeted him. The strange silver tattoos glimmered in the darkness of his quarters, never fading even as windows formed and parted.

Nearing one of many gilt frames, he gripped the embellished edges, peering into the eyes of his son. The paintings had held through the many years. So many captured moments of the joy in his life. Laughing eyes, pride and determination in the jutting of his shoulders, rise of his chin. Dark as he was, yet with eyes so like his mother's. Gemlike blues that warmed him to this day.

And yet part of him knew. The boy had died defending the city, fulfilling every dream a father could have. Tears stung Azsure's eyes, trailing hot upon his cheeks. Throwing aside the painting, he roared his pain and heartbreak. The painting landed harshly, magics alone keeping it whole.

He wished nothing of grand designs and the pride of a life spent in duty. "Damn this life. Damn the tomb for keeping me. I should have died that day. Not him...never HIM! MOTHER....WHY!" He railed, the tiger within bursting forth in a flood of silver light, consuming essence until he tumbled to his knees. Claws dug futilely upon the floor.

"Why..." But grace did no hold him, comfort him in this moment of need. Azsure was needed, but survival laid in his own hands. A moment he must best or fall forever. "Menai, forgive your father. I love and miss you son. Mother, hold him close, keep him safe. I cannot...come to him yet. They need me in this time." Mewling in his throat, the decision was made. Softly did he feel her then, gathering him close, and brushing away his tears.

Son, my dearest son, I would be honored to hold your son. But he did not die in this place. He lived and thrived. Soon, you may leave and find your family.

Chills rippled through his fur, luring his eyes to lay upon the hundreds of paintings kept in his chambers. So many faces of those he met and lived with. The people he protected. "Yes...I will find them."

*duos, Sal'Maneth*

Winds caught and pulled about Maron and Sameul as they rose and disappeared into the distant sky. The gathered circle, so strange and touched in destiny turned as well, leaving the city behind them with new treasures and deeper insights.

The two that remained finally brought their eyes to lay upon the other.

Azure Claw of Sunrise, Warrior of Luna's Mercy, rose to his full height. In the days of Sal'Maneth's glory, he was an artist and protector. Many sat before his talents, having their portraits and lives laid in pigments upon magic inlaid canvas. His place among the city was like others, neither high nor low. And yet he laid his life before others, to hold them in care. Everyone in that place knew his treasure was a son of bright eyes and wonderous talents of artistry so like his own.

Jakou, captain of the Wandering Maiden, Prince of the West, gave a jaunty smirk. In the heights of Sal'Maneth, he had ended up in the port of the city without truly meaning to stay very long. But a wench of a Solar stole his ship and hid it with cunning care. Stranded, he swum among the society with little to truly add to the magical experiments held. And yet, he had a passion for life that seemed to bring everyone the greatest of ideas. The bored muse.

"I never thought I would be the last to see this city, Azure. And I am quite sure I am the last face you wished to see entrusted with the tower." The snort that greeted him spoke as much as the tiger's eyes.

"The pleasure of your company is dubious, Jakou. But we all have our strengths. I know you wish to leave as much as I. We have family and cares left too long unattained, and all of them beyond this place."

Tossing back his hair, the pirate sighed. "So very true. We neither have a retinue, or circles to call. Their times ended, and ours it seems have truly begun. But what concerns me..."

"Yes. I have been wondering the same."

Peering to the towers, the exalts could not see further than the grand exteriors of the manses very much awake and aware.

"They have been awake this entire time. Where is Mikail and Demetrious? If they woke so long ago, why not wake us? It leaves me in shivers, Azure." As if in response, the solar rubbed at his silken sleeves.

"Me as well. For once, we agree on something. Why would the dragon-blooded and sidreal be awake...and not wake us?"

*traveling from Sal'Maneth*

The sky flickered between thin patches of leaves and branches, a misted glimpse terribly difficult to see. This world of leaves and shadows held a wild beauty that sent shivers through the small mouse. How long since he was a wild creature? Could he ever have been considered wild?

They kept a rugged pace upon the earth, rising into the trees upon branches as wide as the streets they left. Light and shadows caught at Den'lan's eyes to make the mouse sleepy. Small paws caught and pulled at Archimedes' collar, folds of thin cloak giving the familiar a perch to ride within.

Softly, his voice trailed to his master's ear. "I once knew a man called Sevren. Luna woke him from a sleep he never wished to wake from. His thoughts were more dream than waking words. Ah my master, he held in his mind's eye a view of what had been and would be again. As if he saw the birth of the world and held some terrible secret of it."

Nose twitching, he breathed scents of the elder man. His body may have many years, but the heart was strong, the mind quick, the demon whispering. Recoiling into the folds of cloak, Den'lan knew this life would be far different than with Sevren. "Whatever you may need my lord, Archimedes, I shall offer what knowledge I hold. Luna looks upon you all with favorable eyes. But this cube, the places it will show, are beyond my knowing. She who held it..." The mouse's voice softened into the barest of breaths, "she moved through the world as a ghost. Take care with this creation. Many heart's yearn for such a gift...such a curse..."

*Gossamer Stockade, Rabbit*

Warmth. All the world is so warm here. Hands hold me, and let me sleep. My dreams only wander where I want. Nothing chases or pulls. I wake, but do not feel tired. Safe and warm.

There are fingers in my fur, lulling me back to sleep. This feels familiar, like fingers in my hair. I was so hot then, hurting, thirsty. The pain! I wake and see nothing of the pain. But I am in a bed again. No the fingers lull me back. I am safe. I am warm.

Why do I remember pain? And in beds? I was so hot. Fever. Sick. I was so thirty, and nothing could quench it. She gave me medicines. Held me close. She worried so much, with those eyes.

She told me things. Wetness falls on me. She cries but does not know it. Her fingers were in my hair, on my cheeks. She was losing again, another child. But I am not her child. Am I am child? I was so scared. I still get so scared.

But my new mother whispers everything will be ok. I am no longer alone. But I have fur now. No hair. Paws, no hands. I want to be safe. To help. People are moving now, scared, worried. Something is chasing us, fast as breath. I cannot move, or I will fall.

I want to live. I want to live!

*Gossamer Stockade, Edges of the Forest*

They gathered together, breath quick between their teeth, pulses racing. A chase laid upon them, a promise of war and terror their souls could remember deeper than the fear that stirred their hearts. The Fae the mortals called them.

Leaves and ash blew across Melensai's feet. The dark of her armors shifted slightly, absorbing light far more than reflecting. Her words rang in her ears, as the memories woke feeling of rage held back far too long. The Lunar's touch, the drink that tasted of his desires and fears, lingered upon her lips as his dream kindled her brain. They all wished to hold her, mold and tame her, like some weapon or painting to behold. Even the Solar warrior's eyes held designs that darkened her thoughts. Dominion and custody.

Stepping away from the living, Melensai coaxed her fingers to press along her arms. Her words breathed to life, to assure what had come to pass. "A warlord. How could I forgive him for taking this life from me? To slip into my world, take what I earned, and leave me for a position. A position? Was my heart not heated enough? My ambition too swift?"

The winds shifted ever so slightly, pulling her hair forward to length tendrils into her vision. Into the distance, she felt the horns before she heard them. "War comes. This night no longer hostage, will I step forward and battle again. Dren. Sister Rei. Even dear brother Jorea. Why did they kill you? Perhaps your end heralded my own. They wanted each other. Your wife and my husband. To take our places and rule all that is. Is this path the one we truly sought? Or one conjured as their magics?"

Her eyes strayed between the shadows of night to the old woman she now hated. "And you. Far from frail, used and torn, led to take the life of he most dear. The second choice in case the magics faltered?"

Let not your anger hold you, daughter of the wyld. Prepare.

Fine brows came together as she looked beyond the elderly woman. Something of her visage ached in her sight. "What in the infinite skies was that?"

*boughs of Chanta*

In quiet, Rain Deathflyer remained a still figure. Essence gathered, shifted, spun about him in a dance of life unlike no other. Yet he remained apart, seeking the solace of meditation. Lifting his hands, fingers bending to form complex patterns, his breath rose and fell with every motion.

Essence became motes of color behind his eyes, teasing in shapes that could be. Brows furrowing, beak clicking, Rain sought to solidify the forms, to find some message within them. An art he knew laid in his partner far greater than himself. With an unending sigh, he felt an ache behind his eyes rather than a vision.

"Seeking illumination?"

Tightening his beak, he felt the humor lacing that voice. "I have always wondered how you saw through this world unto the next."

He felt light touches upon his shoulders, fingertips brushing along his feathers to his crown. "Silver--"

"Shh, just listen. Feel the essence, let it become as a tapestry. A field of colors like flowers. A painting. Whatever it shall be. And in it, will pictures become. Sense it, feel it, become it." Softer Silver Python spoke, words becoming those of old realm, high realm, murmurs Rain could not discern.

Shivers of essence rippled about those fingers, laid upon his feathers, warming through to his mind. Gasping, he could for a moment see as Silver. The quiver of power became a true shudder as Silver fell forward. Voice a doubling of sound, he continued those strange whispers.

Eyes opening in slits, Rain spied his partner's eyes become molten silver, glimmering with a life their own. "What do you see with those eyes?" His clawed hands cupped her face as lightly as a butterfly upon a blossom.

"Hard won sorrow....hard won wonder...each pinned to the axis between the present and the future. Shall the sun and moon lie within pools of shadow? A memory of stone shall speak of all they question. Questions choke their throats, answers frail as the writ of heaven." Silver's chin turned delicate in those claws of Rain's. "In this, the unbidden is made whole."

Rain gave a start at these words, remembering them once spoken by Silver when they first met. Feathers gave way to flesh. Clasping Silver close, he whispered close to her ear. "No, do not speak it. It will not come as long as I am here."

Silver's fingers pulled Rain closer. Scenes of past visions, wonders of those to come fought behind her eyes. Rain, strength and duty, a sense of kindred affection. No, I will not hold too fast to what I have seen for you. For us. And yet...should not Dane know as well? Does he not hold a place in my heart for the gift of gifts he gave unto me? A night as a lifetime?

A smile laid upon her lips in remembering the years so close and shared with Rain, as the night with Dane. "Soon we will need to speak of all that has happened of late, Rain. More than simple visions."


*borrowed time in Chanta*

Melensai hung limply, arms aching until it seemed bones were as rocks swaying in her skin. The iron ate away at her thoughts, seared flesh. Pinioned between metal and questions, she felt ground away slowly. And yet the damned bird would not cease.

How could he? The fiend before him was a lovely creation that had tempted and destroyed so many. Rain knew the tales so well. Next to the primordials, the war of the fair folk held a place of reverence and terror among all exalts, and mortals foolish enough to seek the knowledge. The Raksha. Yet how little did fleshkind know. Even the exalts did not acknowledge her people's name, dimenishing Melensai as she stood. To simply say fair folk was calling a rose some simple flower.

But this one knew. All too well, as his hawk eyes watched her breath, move, every shift of hue. As if his hands were born to bring her own to doom.

Rain Deathflyer entered with a bowl that bubbled and popped. A terrible scent of scorched metals seared her nostrils, making her head shake. In his other hand laid linen, fine and pure, untouched by blood or tears. Settling before her on bended knee, the gryphon raised a single claw, dipping it into the churning ore kept molten in the bowl.

"Within is a question, confounded and confronted. Upon the first tier of a mountain does it reside. Upon the highest points will truth be found. In the harassing shadows and lees, deception waits. It is time to unburden yourself of this making, Raksha."

The claw laid against her flesh upon her cheek. A zagging of line that banished breath from her body. Pain lanced through her mind, coiling her body until boned popped and snapped. "I..have spoken truth..."

"You answer desires with your own. Spelled or not, that truth prevails." Another marking of metals laid into her, iron digging beyond any nerve, to the very heart of her. "I wish you unmade, creature of darkness. Why have you laid such false hope upon the solar? The lunar children with him? For your own delights?"

Her lips trembled, words biten between her teeth. "To live." Eyes widening, her visage was that of a woman forced to admit the worst. But even this was beautiful deceit.

And this Lunar did not accept it. His entire hand laid into the metal, rising as steam burned her eyes. Beyond the horrific dripping of his talons, did she peer into his eyes and realize Chanta was a terrible idea.

"Shall we begin again..." His hand flicked forward, wrapping about her throat, squeezing. Oh how he squeezed.

*Gossamer Stockade, the dust settles*

One by one, the filaments of shade slipped past, no longer diverting eyes from the sights merely hidden but not lost. One by one, the Raksha scouts appeared in the swirls of gray and night. As one, they knelt in supplication, silent as tombs.

Two paced nervously, making patterns with their feet. The ebon gentleman laid his pink hued gaze upon the other, a woman of unending beauty. Her tale intrigued him, so entwined with his own. A pale butterfly compared to his chalky night. Her golden tresses seemed to float as she moved, quirks of muscle merely an agitated grace.

"Do you believe they followed, gave chase as you tarried through the limbs?" Her voice was a riot of emotion, fears laid bare as a foot caught on a splinter.

The silent scouts merely gave motion of head and hand that all was well. The plan succeeded. All was as it should be.

"Trifling with Solars and Lunars both. Are we mad, Dren? Have we truly sought such a dangerous path?" Her hands caught about her hair, twisting and turning it into an origami of expression.

His dark fingers cradled hers, such a force of calm as to lure her into a swoon upon his chest. This sense of stability overwhelmed her senses as the hush of orgasm upon a maiden. "It is. We wish to take absolute control, to bring an end to the old ways for the embracement of the new. Melensai's weakness cannot withhold this glory. Our tale shall outshine hers and her brother. Together, my love."

"My life." She mirrored his words with a coo to rival any dove.

Yet between them, settled at a table, surrounded by maps, plans, and doctrines waited a regal woman fair in a way so very foul. "With this plan in play, my time among you shall come to an end shortly. If you would complete our agreement?"

The two seemed to swallow a sneer when turning to look upon the woman...that is until they spied her. And the fiend behind her. Equally as quiet and patient. Where she seemed a bore, he remained a horrid reminder of what they had done.

They spoke not, only nodding, setting off to gather the required matierals and tomes. Soon they would have a territory in turmoil between Slurlura and the Lunars, desperate for some form of society which they could provide.

"They shall not run as you suppose, Whisper. His heart is that of glory itself." Her fingers smoothed her gown as lashes closed her eyes.

The rasp of his voice laid serpentine about her ears. Vile Whisper's hands crab crawled across the table, his shadow presceding his flesh as if it lived and breathed. "He has run. They all have. And soon cornered, ready for our cunning ploys. But Shorn, I have words I would say. Not for repetition." Behind his mask, his tongue licked at his treacherous lips. With every syllable spoken, she could not help but lean closer in hope.
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:52 pm

*Leaving Chanta*

Feathers bristling, Rain Deathflyer folded garments, wrapped vials and bowls, and curled and tied his bamboo scrolls. Each item he meticulously planned a use and need for, laying them neatly in a small case, far too small for what was laid within. Purpose drove ever decision.

He sensed her before he heard the small patter of feet, the tap of foot. Looking over his shoulder, Rain gave Silver Python a gruff welcome in a soft chirp and click of beak.

The sound alone sent Silver forward, no longer pouting and annoyed at his little scheme of sending the young ones to her secretive workspace. Laying hands upon the robes he held, helping him tuck them away, she whispered with downcast eyes.

"You need to go with them?" Hope teased at her words that he would remain.

His own held little doubt about the choice. "I must. Silver, I fear they have been lied to and enscrolled. The Raksha holds more secrets than they know. The deviltry of it all is they do not seem to care! I cannot fathom it, my thoughts unravel at the sheer inane leap of faith they seem to have." Shaking his head, he laid his clawed hand over hers. "I know what you wish to speak of. You know my heart and mind."

The furrowing line of her brow softened as the pained smile on her lips. "You are sometimes far wiser than I. But you can have your time of despising me. And I can have my moments of finding it all so very funny. Storm about, and I can bring you peace." The timbre of voice shifted from sunny to dusk. "But in this...I fear you are only too right. But it is the will of Luna and the very world we live in they must fall and rise on their own. We cannot make these decisions."

His eyes traveled over her small scaled hands. "Even if the bring peril to our lands? Our peoples? If Ma Ha Suchi learns..."

"You think him blind?"

"No, I know he could not be." His eyes met hers, grimly understanding she had reached thoughts far beyond his, far quicker. "They travel in terrible danger. We cannot let that be. I take this responsibility."

The smile lit her face, danced in her eyes. Such a simplicity of emotion that caused his own feathers to smooth and breath to still. "Simply take heed and care, Rain. Too much is at stake, moving too quickly. Or perhaps I am finally leaning into an age too old for such things."

Longs moment trailed quietly between them, as they parted without need of embraces and loving kisses as others would. Just the presence of the other was a balm of the soul. "You could never be that, Silver. Ever. Luna might gasp and fall from the sky before you could ever be considered...to old for anything." His eyes slit in humor as he pressed his forehead to hers.

*Entering Sal'Maneth*
The city brought forth various memories of a youth briefly remembered yet eternally felt. The walls felt warmed from the sun's rays, yet the summer's heat did not feel so uncomfortable here beyond the trees. Wings flexing from the long flight carrying others in a way he had not done since his earlier travels, Rain Deathflyer marveled at the subtle changes wrought by time.

His arm ached deeply despite the many years past as his clawed feet walked the streets, eyes gazed over long abandoned buildings. Chunks of rubble had been moved, vegetation slowly returned, signs of some sort of life gave a brilliance, that perhaps it could live again. The reveries ended with the arrival of two elders he had only heard from the pack's stories. Azure Claw and Jakou, both exalts risen from a prolonged sleep. Despite his stoic demeanor, excitement flickered in his eyes for such a meeting.

And yet such a time was cut short by the simplicity of trouble making youth. Dane had a fae. Archimedes reveled in questions. Theon steeped in twisted words of the Abyss. And Drokan seemed to burn with passions that threatened his senses. Of course, all of this paled to learning a Night caste traveled with them.

The absolute embarrassment burned within his skin, of not knowing another of the sun's children was with them. And worse, that he followed with a darkling thought of gained wealth be it in information or jade. One of those kind. Bristling, he felt the eyes of the elders upon him. Stirring the burdens he perceived as a fire by a stick. His stomach roiled, threatened an unpleasant evening.

He needed a holiday.

And yet, what truly upset him, drove a harrowed fury deeper than his bones came in the simple need to aid another. Despite the afternoon meeting with Jakou. The reprimanding by Azure. The knowledge learned from the new Lord of the Manor. The constant fears regarding the fae. He was completely undone by a simple act of gracious healing from Theon.

Bare before him, no feathers or power to hide his distorted limbs, the marred flesh, the stunted growth of a boy with a man's mind, Rain wished surely for death. To be struck down that moment. Luna seemed humored. Silver fretting terribly to constantly clutch the gems they shared.

Settled at the table again, every argument he held. Every twist of word he had planned to speak. Everything unraveled and laid about him in frayed bits, like his dignity. Tattered and ill used.
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:52 pm

*Jakou has a chat, 1*

Sliding closed a set of doors, he looked keenly into the woven patterns of Orichalum upon them. Stilling his breath, banishing the hesitancy of his wine addled mind, he turned to regard the Raksha.

"Your name and title, lady of the Gossamer Stockade?" He remained bitterly formal, eyes hard as the glimmering metal of the room.

Magics spun about her form, shifting her clothing and armors, trying deperately to find just the right attire for the moment. What remained was an explosion of black and white. With a frustrated sigh, Melensai rubbed at her ears.

"My shaping will not work here. So it is true? Only she could stay in these halls?" He eyes betrayed a knowledge he could not believe she would hold. Ever so slightly, he stiffened.

"She? Of course, you would speak of her." For a moment, he seemed undone, trailing his lithe fingers along the comfortable furniture in the lovely suites. How many years he had spent in this chamber. "Aramika would seem a fitting persona to remind me of considering your own fate. But the parting between she and the brothers and sisters of the Sun is also a spoken tale. One I am sure you are also equally aware of."

Melensai rose, chin tilting as a breeze seemed to gather and swirl in her midnight hair, billowing as dark clouds. "How could any forget the most tragic of tales. She earned much renown and respect in our own lands for the triumphs and perils faced within these walls. With and against each of you, even...you."

"But I did not come with these men to remind you of a past. I am seeking a new future. One perhaps similar as hers yet different."

He scoffed, shifting on his heels. "To fail utterly, binding herself to this idea that she could become something else? That she was not the monster we know your people to be?"

She stepped back a pace at the menace and heartache in his eyes. Shaking her head ever so, she countered. "I have lived since my decision was made to find new truths. So many of us have left the courts and freeholds of the deeper wyld. Why could we not find peace? Love? A life not tethered to habits and stupors."

Jakou slipped forward as she retreated, his tone and being relentless. "You will fail. Killing many as you do. Ravaging innocents, and finding yourself unable to stop even as you weep and pull at your hair. She could not. Why do you think you could?"

Pivoting, he left to the doorway. Something not so ancient for him welling in his heart. "I am holding a feast this eve. I ask you not to attend. It is for the youthful and exalted. I will see what can be done for hospitality's sake."

Reaching for the door, he almost made it free. But her voice carried softly to his ears. "She never forgot or forgave you. Despite what happens, know I have."

But the door was closed, as was his consideration.

*Jakou has a chat, 2*

Smirking as only the pirate could, Jakou had very little to say to the girl. Everything about her was exotic and bored. He knew that look. And the last thing he needed was another eager child making a hell of his life.

"Senzen yes?" His words bent and shaped until she understood him. Yet before she could speak, he laid his finger on her lips. "No, I do not want you. I am sure you have fine wares, but I prefer my women to desire me, and not my coin. And as you know, you are with a group of men, young men, with means and needs."

"But you are not the slave you were. So listen. Pay attention. Learn. And leave the slave behind. You are among family...sort of..." The stern look gave way to a grin and wink. "How about a bath, a bit of spice wine, and a nice dress. You can then enjoy the feast. And take what I said to heart."

Swiftly before he could second guess himself, he took her hand and led her along. Almost hysterical, he could only think.. what in the abyss was he doing?!
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:52 pm

*a place not here*

Pieces moved across a board of black and white. The marble touched by flames and soot offered a playing field the exalt could not completely destroy. Perhaps a fine gift, or an annoyance. And yet onward he pressed the figures, distorted and marked, into new configurations.

Each move, he contemplated behind a steepling of fingers. Eyes burning behind a mask of bone, the thing gnawed upon what challenges he faced.

A soft opening and closing of doors followed by dainty steps heralded a companion's entrance. Settling across from the misshapen thing sat a lovely woman with sad eyes. "You were correct in your assumptions. Perhaps my hopes are simply bitter dreams."

His lips murmured, cracking over words he tried not to dip into sarcastic glee. "Shall I consume these too? Make you a hollow creation for our lord's will? What sense of my altruistic duty lies in such a farce."

Her hand fell upon the board, scattering pieces beyond his reach. "These dreams are not folly! And no, I want to remain the woman I am! I just..."

His fingers snapped about her neck, clenching to squeeze. How delectable her moans would be as he raped her like he had. Like they all had. She never fought back. Just accepted. The revelation brought bile to his throat. Through clenched teeth, he brought her ever closer to his mask.

"You are not the woman you were. Come to your sense, Shorn Heart. Gaius is long dead. What glory of memory remains only that. I have business. As do you. Shall I simply provide this information to the others? Allow them a chance to wallow in the blood and flesh of he that once held sway over you." His fingers loosened every so slightly to crush again. "Or shall we take hold of this moment."

Her voice stumbled spent as she fought to speak. "What do you hope...to gain...Whisper..."

Words never left his lips again. He did not trust them. Essence gathered, pooled, and spilled forth from her eyes. Too late, he fell for the trap. And soon, she would fall into his.
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:53 pm

*in dreams*

Soft music wound about her ears. Downy soft her fur moved between his fingers. The shadow of shadows. His name left her memory every time the played. And yet with him laid a sense of peace, serenity, caring wonder. She stretched her legs, feeling muscles warmed from the running through the willow trees. Sadness cradled in his heart if she was away too long.

"Little one, I need you. I miss you. Come back," it said.

She wanted to concede to it, to fall forever in the music he sang. But no, she no longer lived in his hands. The touch became painful, reaching and twisting, gathering into her fur and pulling upon her ears.

Screaming, she fought for release. Grass laid under her feet, churned and pulled by her paws as she sought anywhere but those arms. He called for, his Little One. Voice shifting and turning, becoming a darkling thing.

The light in the woods died, swallowed by his disdain.

And those eyes...oh how horrible those eyes could be. Peering into her own as a spear to the heart. Lips snarled and twisted harshly spoke her name in languages she could not place. Horns sprout from his eyes, as blackened blood snaked from the burnt holes.

She screamed, pouring her fear into it, hoping the nightmare would end. Her world became this seething thing of a man. This fae.

Finally she cried out the one word she knew. "DROKAN!"

And finally...she woke.

*moments before Blossoming Spring's dinner*

Scuttling from the shadows, the sounds of clawed fingers and toes wended among the footfalls of the populace within the rooms of the inn. Their smiles and laughter filled the brightly lit place with a eager desperation to make the gaiety seem a mockery. Concubine watched this, in detail. Every crinkle of eye in smiling, she smiled much the same. Every twist and turn of jerky life she recoiled and moved within her own skin. Within moments the puppeteer became the puppet, acting much as the others below her watching gaze.

Slipping away into a small servant's room, she donned the garb of a random maid. No one ever expected the help. Why the horrors a mere butler could enact boggled the mind. They were her favorite to imitate. Flouncing from the small room, she reviewed her guise and the important orders.

Locate the two missing diplomats.
Determine what they have been doing.
Reclaim them with force as necessary.

Concubine did not relish the thought of fighting Vile Whisper. The fiend held a strange place in her tepid mind, one reserved for well-respected enemies. But the lady, such a weak thing, she felt compelled to handle. Personally. And so she wandered the halls as she had before, smiling, filling goblets, and accepting the petting from random hands.

Like clockwork, she wandered the main area, dainty feet and hands gaining her access without question. "What a predator she could be. The terrors to unfold with ever turn of hand, flutter of eyes. If only she would accept and stop this fighting. What use is there in such an internal battle?" The man she stood against, filling his drink, she grinned down upon. "Can you imagine? That lady there with her hands at your throat?"

He laughed, eyes betraying a sense of fear if addled by drink. "I can think of better for those hands, aye." Concubine laughed and continued her journey. Ever closer to fill that goblet with the special concoction of her own brewing. Something for the brain, such soft tissue, and the blood held within it. A step, a dribbling of poison, and the act was complete.

In an hour, the lady cried out, falling into the arms of the Solar. Concubine's breath caught seeing such tenderness from the man. "All for a dead woman that loves what lies within you. Oh strange." And what folly of luck she had to follow. One step at a time.

The fiddler kept a vigilant watch upon it all. Lips forming a grim line.

*the chess set*

With absolute care, Shadows took notes of the chess set. Each burnt and twisted piece, the gem within his pocket glimmering life to the runes and sigils upon each piece. Lover. Most Hated. The Lord of Masks. The Child of Purple Pain. On and on the sigils spoke, whispered. The Hanged Fool. The Compassionate Demon. She that Devours. He that Births.

For a flicker of moments, they make a picture, then the scene changes. The placement seemed so vitally important, pawns, rooks, kings and queens. The bishop in four moves of taking a queen. The queen ever vigilant upon the knight. With such destruction, determining which were white and dark become a meaningless task.

Were they all enemies? All allies? Shadows would need time and rest, but then the bustle of leavings kept him from any significant study. Off he left, to end up in a chase of Vile Whisper. A capture of ghosts. A journey into the heart of the first Sijan.

He could not have planned it better. Each piece woke, shivering into life. The play continued, one piece moving, as the games ever continued. A flash of golden malevolence filled the room as a child with flash powder. This divine comedy unfolding upon the board, surrounded by the signs of gods lost, forgotten, or simply slumbering. As events quieted, the sigils died, glistening metals giving way to simple burnt wood.

Such a shame Vile Whisper could not have charted the moves.

*a fine house exploded*
Breath rattled painfully in a body shivering more from palsy than fear or pain. A lacework of wrinkles hid away eyes consumed in pain. Every movement, every shake, every single breath became a motion fraught with the end. A voice called to her, insistent, worried.

"Margaret? Oh please, Margaret. You need to speak. Whisper, blink, anything. Let me know you can still hear me." The elderly ghost settled on knees, peering over her, plucking at her singed clothing. A timber laid over her, papers of her work fluttered to the carpets worn for so many ages by her small slippered feet.

"You...whine like...a skinned cat...Archibald." Her lips flecked with blood and dust. "Oh I think...I broke my hip."

"You ache my heart, love. The brothers come, why oh why did you upset that that..."

"Agent of death?"

"Freak."

He frowned as she quietly laughed. Despite the splintering of rib tickling her lung, it felt good to laugh. "My time...may have come, my husband." Shadows manifested in the room as swirling robes and screaming men and woman invaded her home. How she wished this to remain her sanctuary.

But even in this fine moment, with her husband, soon to join him, Margaret would not be free of that damned woman. Grieving Shadow's mad eyes studied her from the depths of shadows cast by hair far too wild for her liking.

"My Lady, shall we prepare the rites?" The eagerness in that voice lured her tongue to flick across lips. It sickened the elderly leader of Sijan.

"Yes, prepare my robes...the rites..." Grasping, she began gulping for air. Eyes bugging from within the folds of wrinkles, she tried valiantly to pass a final message. "The successor...is...not...in Sijan..."

Whispers slunk from her lips until a final moment lit her eyes...then no longer. Grieving Shadow rose, stepping silently from the destroyed home. Looking back upon the home that held so many memories, she announced to the gathered. "Silken Veil has passed. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen."
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:53 pm

*in the Blushing Spring inn, Aysel*

So much had happened, far too quickly. Stately in grace, Aysel, once called Diane, once called the Shorn Heart, leaned back against the door of her newly rented chambers. Her ghosts tended to the luggage they carried as she sank in a swirl of skirts upon the floor.

Tears glimmering with the blood just consumed from such a sweet, and tender man painted her cheeks as they slipped and fell from her eyes. So warm, she felt so very warm. A renewed strength blossomed in her limbs to made them prenatural in terror. Every muscle twitching to life against her wishes, itching for the thing that rest just beyond the pale light of this world. From the nightmare of the labyrinth.

How could she bring herself to reveal it? In time, she may not have a choice. For now, she cursed at the blade that dreamed of bloodshed. The shadow of the very dragon that prowled her dreams. Gaius. No...Dane now.

"Yes, Dane... He is Dane now. Yet how am I still Aysel? Why has all of this happened?" But the memory returned ever stronger. Nails digging against her scalp, she wished to be free of it all. What was millenia ago for these new blood children was yesterday for her. The heartache seemed too much to bear.

Whitewall became a prison, threatening to consume her soul. The dragon blooded and sideral were in a terrible ritual, ordained under the watchful eye of the syndics. How long she tarried at the door, peering between the cracks from a darkened hall into a chamber wrought with unseen horrors.

Her teeth gnashed, tiny points grinding.
The touch of Dane's anima roiled the beast in her heart. The darkling seed so very at war
with the essence she once was. His anima, the golden touch of the Unconquered Sun.

The falling of a pale hand splattered in blood. Her eyes wide as they stared into another's. The
crystal of dragon kings jutting from the fragile chest. Ribs protruding as fingers trying
desperately to loosen the thing that gnawed.

Breathing heavily, shadows and motes of twilight swirled to life in the room. The dark essence of her anima coiled about Aysel, wishing to bring comfort.

The body on the altar. Demetrius' eyes catching her own. Running. Screaming. Crying for Gaius.

Crying for Dane, lying in the waters of the bower. A mad woman with eyes bright like the sideral's
above her.

All the while, her second soul cackled. So like Vile. As she fell into a troubling sleep.

*in the Blushing Spring inn, Senzen*
With a swirl of skirts, Senzen tossed herself from the rooms she shared with the circle. "Men and boys, the difference only in age and humor. They will find themselves in terrible situations, and still grin as if it was all a game. I swear, I should just follow them. To the abyss with this waiting! Even the cat goes..."

Despite the short time they had shared, Senzen needed Drokan's strength. And she dare believed, he needed her softness. At times, she could almost see the man he was once, or could be. As lost as the wolf, veiled by leaves and shadows in forests too wild to enter. If only she could speak as he, share words beyond the simplicity of touch and eyes.

Others had arrived, Dane and the witch woman. Closing her eyes, she tried with difficulty to sing a nursery ryhme to keep from rushing from the door, slapping the man, and shoving the woman away. The fae born loved the shadows in the woman and her vile companion. A court of evils, only she seemed to understand. And the boy. How frightened he was. They brought each other comfort.

Her breath caught as thinking of him brought the nightmare back. Had she dosed off? Slept? No, only a second had passed, they remained parting at the witch's door. Yet how could she have dreamt? Rising, she pulled on a heavy cloak, twisted clothing tightly about her, to try and slip past to the stairs. Thankfully, the man remained intrigued in the witch's spells. \

The press of people seemed a welcome diversion, yet Senzen wished nothing more than to wiggle free and run. Panic thundered in her chest. But why? Her eyes peered around, everything so large, shadowed, and loud! A cacaphony of sound to make her ears bleed. The reel of a fiddle rose and fell. A trilling thing that held her paws in place as the rabbit made to give chase.

"Now, I don't think your man would be none pleased to see his prized love run off INTO danger." Fingers gripped behind her velvety ears, making her limbs limp. Eyes rolling, Senzen could only wonder at the man who smirked and led her off to the fireside. Settling on his stool, Sinclair the fiddler ran his fingers through Senzen's fur. "You've nothing to fear from me deary. A trust I promised your fair Luna long ago. But I concern myself with you because you are touched. I can see it you know. There be a song about it."

A couple near the fiddler grinned, sloshing their drinks. "A song, Sinclair? You've the voice to sing it." They seemed to ignore the fact the rabbit had once been a woman.

"Why yes, a fiddler's fair then of songs. For this is the lady Senzen you see. And with a kiss of her fair gentleman, she will be released from this spell! But for now alas, she is as she is." He leaned his lips close to an ear, whispering. "And that be safe. Let me tell you a few things. You need to know them, my little Lunar. For you are bright as the moon to us."

And so he got to singing. So many tunes, to keep the rabbit from leaping after the wolf. Now that...was a song waiting to be sung!

Silvy, Silvy, all on one day,
She dressed herself in man's array,
A sword and pistol all by her side,
To meet her true love she did ride.

She met her true love all in the plain,
'Stand and deliver, kind sir,' she said,
'Stand and deliver, kind sir,' said she,
Or else this moment you shall die.'

Oh, when she'd robbed him of all his store,
She says, 'Kind sir, there's one thing more,
A diamond ring which I know you have,
Deliver that, your sweet life to save.'

'The diamond ring is a token won,
I will keep it if my life I lose;'
She being tender hearted just like a dove,
She rode away from her true love.

Next morning in the garden green,
O like true lovers they were seen;
He saw his watch hang by her clothes,
Which made him flush like a red rose.

'What makes you flush at so silly a thing,
I fain would have had your diamond ring,
I only did it for to know,
Whether you were a man or no.'
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:54 pm

*Chanta*

Some things never changed in the world, and others simply needed a push. Lynn wandered the limbs of the world, seemingly without a care. Theorems crashed through her mind, revolving around the same simple point. She had not exalted. A mind like hers, ruthless in skill, hungry for knowledge, working for the Lunars and Solars...and yet she woke, ate, and slept. The magical world they lived within nothing more than story.

Heaving a sigh, she rose from her perch looking over the edges of rope and limb bridges into that twilit place below. At times, it seemed someone watched back. Did they dream of being ordinary? A shift of shadow, a glimmer of color, or simple her mind wishing to see something that was not there led Lynn to continue her path to see Archimede's contact.

Day and night she toiled on the numbers, writing letters, producing documents, creating a persona to someday fulfill. Valanthe provided so much to learn, yet, when would she be the teacher? As the lady of the spiders turned away, Lynn secreted out a folded parchment she kept among the others. A smile tugged her lips. Maybe she would respond, take a river caravan to Nexus, and join the master that made such a wonderful offer.

*Nexus*

Walking the watchtower, footfalls a heavy thud dull and bored, Huya trudged the same passages over and over as she had in her youthful days. Despite the blinding heat of the day, she held her post in full plate, visor closed, spear in hand. Her duty was life, life her eternal praise of the soveriegn dragons. Damp brown hair pressed to her face as her breath made the healm stifling.

Another approached, footfalls shod in the same metals as her own. But in them laid a cadence. Military. Lively. Eager. It brought her already ridge form to extreme attention, blade of her spear perfectly aligned for standing guard.

The steps neared and stopped. A woman regarded her, that much she could tell from her peripheral vision. But Huya knew better than to turn her eyes upon Dragonblooded masters. "Guardsman Ledaal." The voice tempered in excellent annoyance, expecting to be followed, annoyed that it had to speak.

"Your station is now relieved in Nexus. I am recruiting you for continued service in my billet." The eyes flickered down, even though it could earn a sound scoffing of the ears. But the woman held her gaze, giving a grim nod.

"Yes you, with me."

Anyone who was anyone in the Legion knew that armor, the hair, the face. How could she do anything but gape like a fish? Yet somehow through mere training alone, Huya tipped her spear. "My life for yours, general."

Turning on her heel, the warrior continued onward. Gathering new recruits. Hoping this gambit would pay off. On her belt hung the gauntlet of someone thought to be dead.
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:54 pm

Eyes behind closed lids, eager for the sights seen. He fell through the world, every scene as sand. Sand sifting upon wind into nothing. Everything seemed to simply melt, as so many candles. Candles that surrounded him as prayers lifted from his lips.

Dreaming when awake, he stood upon the edge of a wall. His toes had trailed upon stones, until nothing but swift breezes met them. Arms rising from his sides, his fingers splayed to feel those winds, fantasy making him think he could float away upon them.

"Why can't it be like this...forever?" His voice seemed far too raw, perhaps from screaming. But why would he scream? Was that his voice during the fighting? He knew the scene before him, a dire place, a terrible tragedy. If any of the court had lived, they might have committed the fall of Thorns in poetic verse. For now, it would lie as ashes laid upon the seas. The remains of everything they knew churned by the very gods they prayed to for help.

"They do not care. They never listen, never help. Why should I believe anymore..." The others would come. The heat of fires raged at his back, making mockery of shadows. He counted the breaks in the light. Too many or a mere servant to even consider running from.

He took a deep breath, held it, and felt the blow come. Rocks crumbled under his feet as arrows and lichlight bolts and swords all collided where once he was. As he tumbled into the roiling sea, Icherus could only wonder at the strange workings of gods.

As he splashed, he floated to the bottom. And somehow, he landed and began walking until even fishes could not see him.

Sands into nothingness...
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:55 pm

*apart from the living*

This place only the shadows knew, clinging as old ivy upon brick, seeking the mortar. With a simple step, did the most vile of things walk between pillars, under the flowing battlements that were smeared in sigils of the one true lord. The lord of a world's end. A dismal winter, of death's victory as bones reaching for the hollows where life once beat.

Eyes scanning the paths around him, his mind followed that within. Perhaps this once, things would fall into place. A ringing of bootheels sounded across the pave stones. Mask shifting ever so slowly to gaze upon the lord, Vile Whisper merely bowed. And so too did the Child. The Scream That Never Ceases. He was fast earning names for himself.

As he should.

"Whisper, we must have words."

The gleam in those eyes did not flicker with hungry, nor any emotion man could muster. Some things laid best beyond life, in that sense of death flesh is heir to.

"Yes, that we should."

Sinuous did the other appear, trailing fingers along his spine. "And Concubine, of course always good to see you." His arm shot back, but she had long since slipped away.

And yet, they did not lay into the flesh of Vile Whisper. They merely nodded, stepped behind him, and followed into the chambers of his manse. A cackle rose to cascade in the twisted streets of Thorns.

*the plains of the east*

His eyes held an eager gleam as he watched the small cracks form along a simple egg's surface. Cooing ever so softly, Rain Deathflyer watched the small babe of a robin family battle to see the dawning of its first day. With exacting care, he picked up each bit of shell as the small beak pecked away to breath the air and give sharp cries with new lungs.

Such moments were rare, and most certainly welcomed by the Lunar. Despite the wars his hands committed, the battle and blood, the simplicity of life held sway over his soul. A shadow neared, the soft brush of kimono moving among the rice fields the Lunar crouched in.

"Brother Rain, your sense of compassion leaves me perplexed and grateful." Turning a long slender neck, the heron raised feathered arms within the wide sleeves of his robe.

Rain chuckled as a boy with treats. "Sometimes, we forget too quickly all these little life lessons. Do you think he will learn to call for mother first? Or sing a song to the sky?"

The other closed the distance, his shadow falling across the egg and chick. "You have come for other reasons, Brother Rain?"

The warrior sorcerer merely nodded once, his voice far heavier in this moment. "A warning, Brother Sky. Clouds will move swiftly, as the many pass. Shadows fall in their coming, a quiet whisper not spoken. The world will hush seeking to hear it. A fear lies in us, that the world will not speak after."

Feathered fingers laid on Rain Deathflyer's shoulder. "If hunters travel, these lands cannot stop them. The grace of rice fields, the bend of backs at work, are all it knows. Quietly, will such as these be tended, and poisoned roots pulled from the earth by delicate fingers."

As the baby bird broke free, Rain bowed his head further. "I have stayed too long. Some of the oldest secrets are breaking free, Brother Sky. I do hope you travel this time to the moot. Not for the sake of lords, but for us all."

The voice of the other shifted, a slight inflection of disdain. "Why should I care for other skies. These welcome me with their bounty."

Turning, the old argument too long to voice, Rain towered over the heron. "There is only one sky."

Birds went silent. Grasses ceased their dances from breezes. The world held its breath. Eyes slitting, Rain laid the baby bird back among its nest, and turned to snap rough words of old realm. Arrows and darts shattered upon the crafting of a shimmering disc of power. The heron took flight without a word, knowing the danger all too well.

Rain could hear boasting, hoots and hollaring, words that only thugs and drifters would know. But in his sight, their armor glimmered in perfect shades of jade. These he knew not to fear so much as the silent masters, three all together, standing in a semi circle. And before them a woman stood, hair as a scarlet banner. Eyes as hard as diamond. Skin as cream. Her story remained closed to his scrutiny. These he feared.

Pulling free his swords, he carved spells around his body. Feathers became as bronze. Winds whipped into twisters. Lions of fire rose from the earth, scorching all in their paths. Motes of essence leapt from his carving to float in dizzying rotations around him.

"And so it begins..."

*on scorched rice fields*

The battle had been a gruesome thing, truly not one spent against a simple opponent. Rubbing a cloth inlaid in embroidered spells, the Roseblack buffed at the scratches and soot on her armor. Her tender shoulder screamed from the movements, but they must be done however torturous.

Huya stood guard over this general, a swath of fabric covering burns and a wounded eye she herself sported. The menial work of cleaning armor should have seemed ridiculous, yet something of this general working as hard as her men was a respectful thing.

Finally she broke the silence, huffing away as she worked. A small brush leapt to ink, writing what she said upon an unfurled scroll.

"The hunt was well informed. We have found trails of many anathema in the region. Lunars. Some discussions of Solars, but little true evidence. The Solars are being helped or hiding better than they should be. The Lunars not so much, but these are their territories, for now. Your predictions seem true, in blazing a trail here, we may deter and draw the forces of the Bull. Nexus will have to respond, Lookshy not far behind. If the Bull is given snippets of tales of woe and tyranny, well placed by caught men and slaves, he may even be lured so far as Greyfalls."

Squinting her eyes, she worked harder upon a dent laid by the spelled lions. "The trap is cunning if not deadly. We will undoubtedly raise awareness by the Lunars. They have more than themselves bound to treaties and alliances. I have gained information of small gods and courts. We need sorcerers and scholars sent from the Heptagram."

A sound at the tent door stopped the brush in its writing as man in jade armors entered. He bowed deeply as he wiped a rag at this hands, blood soiling the cloth. "General, he finally speaks. The monks are asking for you."

She gave a nod, donning the armors not entirely clean. "As you were. Huya, get a meal, and have a monk check those wounds." Huya nodded, but merely followed her lady as she stepped quickly from tent to tent. She raised a hand, greeted her men, these cutthroats and thieves that loved their general as they loved their mothers. The Vermilion League... The Red Piss Legion...how fitting.

Passing a contingent guarding in a circle around a smaller tent, she passed through ancient symbols of the dragons inlaid on canvas. The three were here, with some of her more serious men. The monks did not scoff as she entered without bowing. Perhaps this one day, they allowed it. Her prowess deserved acceptance after saving one of their own.

And there among them, the Lunar hovered between life and death. Feathers laid scattered, burnt, charred, covered in tars, sickened with black death. An eye was shut closed by a branding of spells. Hands broken and distorted. And yet no matter the pains and spells laid upon him, he tried to sit up smartly, to watch his opponents.

The monks came together speaking low with the Roseblack, whispering what they had learned. The words opened her eyes wider. "You know what must be done then. If this is indeed one of the First Age, drain him dry. He may only allow us to hold him while more come."

An eagerness filled them as they brought forth bowls inscribed by Siderals. They would prize the gift of this creatures power. Over the course of an hour, they bled him of essence, filling the bowls, which filled stoppered jugs. Essence waters, life waters, the very strength of this man. He shrank before them, true fear lighting his eyes. Thinner, smaller, feathers gave way to pale flesh, a shock of pale hair, disturbing marred flesh, and mismatched eyes. His body was a history of pain, fire and spells, blades and grief. Whatever he faced in his change, he had barely survived.

Kneeling before the man, more boy now in her eyes, Roseblack thought upon a beloved cousin. They looked the same in years. How could the gods curse this one, and bless her own? "Your calling is one not known to our scrolls. But we will gain your name."

His cracked lips finally moved now, a voice as deep as caverns filled with shadows. "Take the waters of my life, and you will still thirst. Nothing of my life will grant you fulfillment of your own, Dragon."

She tugged free a glove from her hand, nodding to one of the monks. Fire blazed in his eyes. An idea came to light as she grasped the Lunars jaw, turning him this way and that, like a slaver inspecting a mark. "You will speak, you will sing, you will give me stories until I fall sleepy. Or I will let ...him have you."

Fire. It sprang to life, playing in crackling orange and red wonder around not only the monk's hands, but his head, and soon his entire body. The Lunar started then, eyes widening until they may pop free from the sockets. Muscles desperately tried to fight bonds that held him to get away. His pupils dilated, mind raced, thoughts churning from ancient fears. A monk of air behind her watched those eyes, diving into thoughts and memories of the Lunar.

When he seemed about to regain himself, she merely gave orders to the monk. Fire laid into the Lunar's skin.

The screams could be heard for miles...
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:58 pm

*bound and ready*

Rain felt raw inside, burning and twisted. Not even in his training and testing did he feel so torn apart. As if he was a child's doll, bits and pieces strew about then sewn up wrong. Something went missing, a hollowness filled his heart as his mind seethed in circles upon circles.

What did they truly want to know? Did they think essence and the might of ancient fears would break him? Did he break? The history of so few recent moments seemed to elude him.

The dragon-blooded tended what wounds they committed, hands moving per routines, no sense of compassion or care. The order he knew before it left their lips. He would be taken to the Blessed Ilse. To be tested. To be used. And if he would not become theirs for ungodly needs, they would kill him, smote his essence, and rob Luna of a precious soul seed.

His eyes darted about the floor at his feet, slick with spent blood. Those words would mean something later. For now, he could only focus on breathing. Bonds laid against his blistered flesh, pulling tightly until his shoulders popped. He merely grunted, throat unable to scream. Yet of all the things they could do, they place a hood over his head.

The world muffled, darkened, became a close and confining thing. Inwardly he sought, meditations and memories of Silver Python. Of her lessons in such things. Strange, how he had not needed to pull on those memories. Let them think such a thing would tear about the remains of his sanity. The bonds merely gave him much needed time.

For the moment, he felt raped by their magics. But soon, that would change. May Luna guard their souls...

*Chanta*

Silver returned, steps not as light as once they were. Shadows filled every hall, leaves and air feeling closer, making her gulp for breath. The last time Rain's moods had so affected the manse had been a time of madness. Holding her jaw, Silver could only worry over thoughts that tumbled into terrible patterns. Paths he would take. She could lose him again to this need, yet could she blame him for so desiring this end?

Hand laid upon her shoulders, pulling her back into feathers far rougher than they had been. "Silver, he hurt you. Please, allow me..."

She stepped apart, hair shivering as she shook her head. "No, Rain. I will carry this wound as you carry your own. Do not take this from me." Her stance shifted, bringing her face into profile. "They tore you from me. Touched places within you I swore to protect. I deserve far more than this wound."

The sword upon his back felt terribly heavy. Failure became a gulf between them, each feeling beholden to the other. And yet in this, could they not embrace? Battle before the gates of walls they crafted as they had done countless times before? Always had he followed, this once he raised his hand for her to take.

"Silver, come with me into this battle. Aid me in this path." The force of that gaze, the pain and raw need within it urged her hand forward to lay among his feathered claws. He pulled her closer, cradling her face. No other words slipped from him, only a soft ache that clenched his jaw and made mad his eyes.

With a single nod, essence filled her hands, gathered round their bodies, until they became as wind. Not even scent remained.

*Chanta*

Aysel dreamed and felt an ache of all things past to present. Images fluttered to life behind her eyes as moans and cries filled the chamber. The shadows began to chitter as her distress summoned that which should not be in this world, bridging to the next. She remembered so very much now, the pieces no longer drifting apart.

The piercing eyes, words spoken that quickly became a spell. Essence and power drawing her being in two. Fire surrounding her, a corona. But far too late, Twiceborn only destroyed a corpse. Aysel was his now, in the prison, far from any other. This past made her thrash. Hand clenched in sheets, inky blackness rose in the sweat on her skin. It pooled between tendons, slipping, forming, becoming a gauntlet. The claws of those fingers ripping apart the silks she laid in as the snarl of a cat.

Eyes flying open, she gasped. "Demetrius...why...You almost had him. Had Gaius. But he..he escaped. And the others. Why us? Why such a specific group? What have you become..."

Shivering whispers sought her ears, trying desperately to become words she could discern. Hands fluttering over her ears, she squinted closed her eyes tightly as possible. Words sputtered betwixt her teeth, as she spoke against the night. "No...not now...not here! Vile, please leave me alone. I am not yours. I will never be...be..."

The shadows closed in as her eyes opened wide. Unseeing. She fell back, hoarfrost glimmering to life upon her skin. "Master...forgive me."
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:59 pm

*Sijan*

Her small fingers rolled a stone between them. Dear little Lynn. Cute and so young, able to learn, wonderful to chat with...blah. How she hated it all. And yet, she loved them all for not underestimating her, freeing her to do what she was born to do. Yet, of them all, this Ogsomething, the stranger with strange friends sparked intrigue in her.

He had connections. He had influence. The others accepted him, traded powerful secrets with him, and he in turn protected them in his own quiet way. This shadow was going places.

Maybe, she found the perfect family at last. Drokan, Archimedes, Theon, Dane, and the shadow. Now if she could just exalt. Just be chosen.

The rock trailed bright between her fingers, silvery light, back and forth.

Lynn had so much to do, and so little time. Oh yes indeed. Snatching up the rock, she thought to toss it away and continue her work, until she found the glow burning from within it. Lips forming a perfect O, her eyes slid this way and that. "What indeed is this?"

*the island*

Waters roiled and calmed upon white sands. Foam smelling of salt and brine caught in tangled brown hair. Icherus' eyes flickered open time to time, unsure and unseeing as his mind tried to wrap around his destination. Was he awake? Alive? Did the dreamlike journey still have ahold of him?

Flickers of memory would take hold of his mind, deep waters speckled by sunlight. Fish slipping around his head, as eager and curious as he. And ever in the distance, he spied another child, white haired, hand extended. Somewhere beyond in that watery land waited the answer to everything. Everytime he neared, the figure would smile and disappear in the depths.

How long had he traveled? His fingers curled in the sand, feeling every pearly grain. With strength returning to his shaking limbs, he climbed to his knees, then his feet. Stumbling ahead, he fell against a fallen palm tree. Breath puffed into his lungs, as he finally could look around him. "Where ever have I arrived?"

White beaches stretched to either side of him. Grasses swayed at his feet, the scents of fresh tropics and salt waters filling him with renewed life. Yet a thirst burned his throat, hunger his belly. Rolling up the frayed and worn edges of his linen pants, he tossed off his worn shoes to sink toes in the fresh sands. Breezes stirred at his hair, salt and sweat pulling the lengths into spiked ends.

Wandering away from the edges of sand and water, Icherus sought the basics with little understanding of..how. Surviving in the wild remained unlearned mystery to him. Never had he left the city for the outdoors. Now the young man was tromping through underbrush, following any scent and path that could have water. The fine noble's garb became a frayed garment far gone from the beauty of his house. He followed the voice, the beckoning hand, without concern or question.

Why?

His hand remained closed, fixed in a fist. What you seek, lies in your hand. Often the voice said this. And yet when he opened his hand, as he did now, nothing laid there. Sand glimmered on his skin, shining like constellations in a night sky.

"Where am I...."

*in lands southern*

Settling his claws upon the overgrown grasses of teals and greens, Rain Deathflyer gazed over the seemingly quiet valley. Trees and grasses swayed, looking lost from time, yet meticulously kept. Farmers bent of back worked among the herbs and orchards, sending a sweetness on the wind. So idyllic, peaceful, such a lie compared to the lord within.

Silver Python stirred awake, slithering from Rain's shoulders to slip back into the skin of a woman. Her pearled eyes traced the temples of stone rising from the earth in the distance. "This course and no other."

He nodded beside her, eyes upon that unreadable face. "This path."

She took up her hand, cutting into the fleshy palm. Blood dribbled on the ground as she held the blade to Rain. He did the same, squeezing his blood to fall on that of Silver's. In time, the scent would travel the distance.

Yet the voice that reached them, came from behind them. "I foresaw your coming farther away. Dear friends, I see you give a gift of blood. This boon, is one of war and sacrifice." They turned bowing deeply to the lord of the kingdom. Towering above them, the genteel Mahasuchi's eyes crinkled in a refined greeting. "Silver Python and Rain Deathflyer, the ages have treated you kinder than the kiss of a maiden to her lover. What brings you so far south? Certainly not early for the moot?"

Rain stepped forward, a delicate claw turning with a harsh step. "My Lord Mahasuchi, if it was pleasure, we would have come earlier, and not as swiftly. But this is a matter of war and warning."

Social norms alone kept the lord from commenting on how very naked the warrior sorcerer was. But the fact had not been lost. "Come and give your counsel, friends." Striding forward, hooves edged in moonsilver left no trail as the horned wolf strode into the borders of his lands. "Come. Eat. Speak your thoughts. And bring forth your blade. We have much to do it seems."

*Sal'Maneth*

Slipping through the ancient manse, Nialle heaved a sigh from her boots. The look of absolute disdain could have withered mortal men, but these walls gleamed from the constant rubbing of the butler's work. The others snickered or pulled away from the man, considering him a freakish addition. Mumbles did they call him?

In strides careful and calculated, she followed his path through the manse until well away from prying ears. Slitting her eyes, essence gathering in her veins, she sent her quiet summons to the being. "Yes mistress...it remains." He said other things, but far too quiet for ears.

Butler leading, night caste following, the pair wound through the manse until they reached the library. Standing before a statue set in a wall, it moved aside silently, opening a new path beyond. With a nod, Nialle entered the grand vault. A celestial lion woke, turning a gleaming head to watch the woman. And with practice patience, she held up her hands, announcing her name to the creation of Yu'shan.

"I merely come for my chest, interred many years ago."

A regal voice thundered through the chamber. "You may reclaim your property, as deemed in the eyes of heaven. But touch none else, child."

Even she was not so stupid as to tangle with a guardian of gods. "How have the eons treated you, Tiberius?"

Raising a shaggy brow, the gleaming creature regarded her light touches upon a wall of drawers until one opened willingly. "This manse and city has been a quiet place, lonely in many ways. So few have sought the vaults since the reclamation of the world. And yet, many lights begin to fill the night sky. A returning of your own."

Her shoulders shrugged as she worked the locks, feeding essence and blood, keywords and bits of orichalcum to the locks. "Damn I built this too well. Hrumph, yes, the children are being reborn. Not that I fancy it. They haven't learned a damned thing since their deaths. I have doubts."

"And I have none. This city and others should awaken again. Voices to fill the chambers. Light against the ever dark." As he spoke, he could sense her mood worsening. "You know of things to aid the children. Why not become an elder among them?"

With a silent shake, she pried open the small chest revealing far more in it than it should hold. "No Tiberius. The lessons I have learned would send them to an early grave." Vials lifted one at a time from the chest, shaken and searched in the light. "There are far more terrible things waiting in this world. Too much has been lost, forgotten, and now...it's all coming back." Falling to her ass, she began mixing among the vials, capping and pocketing a few into her fur-lined belt.

"Will you try to save them from it all?" The laughter fell strangely on his ears.

"Oh no. No, I'm not a general or a king. Let those fools become the heroes. Nothing will change they way they hope."

"You have grown far too cold, Nialle. What happened to the woman with a sharp tongue and sharper wit?"

Her eyes seemed fevered for a brief moment, then became cold and flat. "She died long ago, Tiberius. Watch the rest of those. Siepia will be sure to return for them."
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:59 pm

*Sal'Maneth*

Lynn ran through the streets, heart beating until she felt it would explode from her very chest. The sound of drummed in her ears, leaving her unsure if the they saw her. Was that the sound of pursuit? Leaning around the corner, her eyes sought every curve of rock, the jutting of walls, and any sign of the others.

Gulping for breath, she fell back against the wall at her back. She could not hide in plain sight, not like the others. A scuffle rang in the area. Gasping, she turned and kept going. If they found her, they would find them. How could she let her new family fall into hands like that? "Demetrius...is here...by the gods...must tell them..."

A soft click sounded. As if a bit of rock jettisoned from her running into a wall. But Lynn came to a sudden halt. The sound she knew quite well.

"Lynn... this way..."

Her eyes squinted if only for a moment. So like the dream, like the book. Her fingers clutched at the stone in one hand, the small journal in the other.

"Yes."

Diving into the shadow that opened in the wall, she fell away from the streets of Sal'Manth. The others passed by, never noticing her passing. The dark pressed in around her as the stone that glowed so green faded to nothing. Pulling up her knees under her chin, she laid her cheek against the thin journal.

"Icherus, I just wish once, I understood all of this." With a sigh that stretched from her feet, Lynn shook her head. "Talking to a book. I'm as bad as Archimedes whispering to his skin. But sometimes," she held the book closer, "I swear I can hear you. As if, everything in this book is really happening. You need this...weird rock don't you?"

She held the rock over the book, watching how the shimmer of green danced within. "Thorns...an island...white sands and arches... And when you sleep, you seem to travel without moving. Sounds like magic to me. Something of these exalts that stomp about the world like small gods." Tilting her chin, she smiled. "Maybe if I find you, you'll tell me what it all means hm? I think for once, I would like some adventure of my own. But this is rather dangerous business. The others, found the dead near here. People like themselves. Slaves, men and women, charred from fire. They are trying to find each other. And when that happens...the earth may tremble."

Her voice whispered softly, swallowed by the dark. "I wish I could help you, Icherus. But it helps knowing you can sometimes hear me." Into the near shadows, she whispered all she could until thirst stopped her voice. In time, the path between rocks opened again. Brilliant light shone, shadows far different. A whole day had passed. Eagerly, she opened the pages of the journal.

*The Island*

Running through the brushland of the island, Icherus lept dune to dune, flowers and leaves churning in his wake. His lungs heaved for air as his body felt alive rushing through the world he was coming to traverse. The island of white sands, five arches, small cliffs and endless cerulean waters.

Bending to catch his breath, he laid his hands on his knees. Somehow he knew she was in trouble. The girl in the dreams that stalked him. Always in some strange green light, an emerald land. He felt the loneliness and constant questions, laughing how serious she sounded for being so young. It reminded him of his own life.

And then somehow, she answered him. Sometimes, he found her words carved in the shore. If he moved quickly, he could catch the words before the tides washed them away. Somewhere in a land called Chanta and Sal'Maneth she lived. Surrounded by magic and haunted by a fear that the world would forget her. As if she was caught in a storm that would drown her.

Other times, he could here her worries and cries, her laughter and smiles. She felt sunny. Sunny? Felt? Shaking his head, he took off like an arrowshot again. "Lynn, you just have to keep looking. The answer has to be somewhere. And then I can read to you." With a kick and a yell, he leapt free of the earth, soaring over sands and trees, as if to slow in time and space. Air whipped at his hair as he studied the lands around and under him.

The moment passed, he splashed into the pure blue waters. Deep in the waters, everything changed. Eyes closing, he reached forward as if he could just feel something right before him. If he could just part the way between them.

"Keep looking, Lynn..."

*chanta*

"My love for you..." She paced forward, small heeled shoes clicking like thunderclaps. Her fingers twisted and turned. "...is like a red, red rose." The verse ended, slipping into the next as she spun and paced back. Her nails laid scores along her knuckles. So many paired marks of two holes laid in her palid flesh. Flesh loosing more color by the minute.

Aysel could not longer deny it all...she was starving. Essence within her skin felt dulled, yet pushed and pulled, threatening to leapt from her body. Every hawkman, every snakeman, every living servant no longer looked friendly. Their bodies pulsed in time to the thickening hunger in her body. For a few days, it remained in her belly. But now that desire screamed in her eyes, thrummed on her skin, made her body twitch. When did she call the klaive to her hand? The armor chitinous about her hand as a claw from the abyss.

Her pacing became frantic until her lips pulled back. The other voice, the silent one now spoke. "I will love thee still my dear, while the sand of life...shall.....run." The words silken and metered curled about Aysel's mind, pouring through her lips to drip in promise. "You tire and need to feed. Is this any way to treat the temple of your body and soul? My precious little gift?"

Her hand flew to her lips, trying to stop them from moving. That voice was not one she needed to hear. She was not the hand, the pawn, the extension of her lord. She was Aysel, her own freed woman, returned to find her love, to live again, to claim...to seek...to take this world. Shaking her head, the fallen solar fought those feelings. "I am not that woman. I am no creature!"

With a strength of will, pulling the tatters of her beliefs together, she laid the sword so close to her own throat. The voice quieted, slithering away without a sound. Eyes darting about this room so grandly of Lunar make, Aysel could only feel ever more imprisoned. Yet, something in her sensed...something so fundamental near by. Watching. How did she miss it before.

Slipping one dainty foot forward, she pivoted and grasped with the chitinous claw to gather around a neck. A neck of a watcher demon. "Left by your mistress then? See how I have behaved? Shall you report even this to her, fiend?"

The macabre thing reflected all about it, even her hand, the plates of shiny black laid over each other. The horror that was her glowing eyes. The fangs protruding from her lips.


She was so....hungry....
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:00 pm

The grasses smoked, charred remains of a battle that raged upon this earth, leading further among the trees. Eyes slitting, essence curled about Swift's snout catching scents beyond him. Coming from the north. Dropping the dead at his clawed feet, he bent low and rushed to the enveloping shadows. Everything smelled acrid, as the bombs once used by the black sailors.

Rounding upon a tree, he slithered free of his lizard form to fur and claws, rushing up limbs until soon even claws gave way to scales of a snake. Within a breath, the lunar was lost from simple sight. How he hoped those that followed would seek to find him. A far better battle than the one he missed with the monk.

Soldiers moving far too lithe and quick for normal movements entered his vision. They took up perimeters, one group watching over the next. Small units like before. Simple circles with a leader in command.

Two moved among them. A general in full plated jade armor, dark hair showing signs of silvering age. He smelled of old forests, a strangely comforting scent easily lost here. A well chosen general for infiltrating the east. Along his side hung a sword, a face in song upon the hilt. White jade. Swift wanted it.

By his side broiled a man shaven of head. Another monk who sought the fallen body of his sifu. Even so high, he could taste those tears falling from the younger man's eyes. Warmth spread through Swift, a hunger that made his jaws clench. Ah yes, another one. He could perhaps hunt and eat this one. Slithering away, he slipped from the trees. As he landed, he become one of the many who he had eaten. Breaking tokens made from bone, he rewrote himself, becoming this man he ate, his life, his scent, his essence. Silvered tattoos left him. Slipping the flesh of the others over him, he laid in wait letting his pains finally take hold.

For Mahasuchi, this mission would succeed. The Blessed Isle would open to them all. And the meager war offered by the Bull would seem like child's play.

Life was good.

*chanta*

Aysel awoke suddenly. Breath gasped between her teeth as she jerked free from a weight laid upon her. At once, pain lanced through her face, a deep pain lancing along her jaw. Within moments, the darkling blood flowing through those veins pulled closed the wounds, laid a coldness upon the ache.

Her clothing reeked. Her skin crawled. And the body no more than a husk seemed brittle as aged parchment next to her. Clasping her fingers across her mouth, she felt as if she would retch knowing what transpired in a moment of time. She had gone far too long without precious vitae. And the waiting had cost herself and the Lunars some of their treasured birdmen.

Rising, she carried the remains with her to private chambers. After so many ages, the words rose to her lips in rites for the passed. All the while, something itched along her spine, coursing to curl and tempt her hair free of it's complicated forms. A whisper of ice laid upon her cheek, making her eyes seem as crystal for a moment.

My Heart...your time has come. Open wide those eyes, precious, and show me all you see.

"No!" she cried and railed, yet her eyes would not close. Frozen, they peered about her, providing the frozen one all he desired to witness. A blossoming pain lanced her hand as the chitinous black soulsteel gauntlet encase her hand, every digit. Onward it trailed, growing, lamellar layers over each other until it ended upon her shoulder. A small mask appeared, beautiful and porcelain. Despite her efforts to stop her master, she had done exactly as he wanted.

"I do not wish this." Tears spilled from her eyes, become cold ice upon her cheeks.

And such is why I adore you. Now my dear, let us review your dwelling.


"And if I refuse?" Her voice held steel that had not been tempted before.

Ah my Shorn Heart, then I will not tell you of how your dear solar has betrayed you. Time and again.

One shuddering step after another, she wandered from her quarters. His words were lies. Yet, could they be truth?
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:02 pm

*Sal'Maneth*

"You have chosen a most unwise position." Demetrius raised his hand, tugging free each finger of a glove inlaid with needles. Drops of blood dotted the floor in an oddly beautiful pattern.

How had Jakou gotten to this point? He wanted a drink, needed it. Yet the churning of his stomach, heaved any such thoughts away to a distant spot somewhere about his heart. His chest burned, every pinprick welling a scarlet droplet that reflected the light of hundreds of candles. A chuckle sounded wet from his own lips.

"Demetrius, I can't let you...do this anymore. How long...must you be on the...losing side." They shared a smile, one pure, one fevered. "All of this...will catch up with you. Heaven will not...remain blind."

Folding the glove, Demetrius favored the eclipse with a tired look. Any other may see the haughty turn of lip, risen brow, and believe the sideral master of a rough assassin's soul. Yet with a taste of essence in his dry mouth, Jakou knew the truth. A shattering and saddening moment for him.

"I have become the master now, Jakou. Find your friends. Share final moments with them." He turned ever so slightly, eyes never leaving Jakou. Those eyes of blue fire, filly with clarity, and a need the eclipse could not fulfill. Not yet, just yet.

He was, and then he was not. Never blinking, Jakou could not determine when exactly the sideral had left him. Lips quirking into a smile, a cough racked through his body. Canto arrived then, standing beside the keeper of his manse. No sound uttered from the one they all called Mumbles. He lifted the pained solar, as the coughs became laughter.

Laying a bloodied hand to the butler's lapel, Jakou gurgled softly. "He wants heaven to see him. But it has forgotten how. What a lonely...life..."

*a capitol*

Throngs bustled and ground against each other, working their bodies and souls towards some existence greater than they had. A danse macabre to rival any fet the damned could raze. They needed this moment of many, to politic in what ways they believed fit. Recent battles had been fair, ending in victories, small yet welcomed.

Besting mortals meant little. But the final plot completing between two death lord, rivals yet partners for a single midnight war, did deserve a celebration for the ages to come. The youngest had won. News of the final blow to a dragon-blooded citadel of Thorns still filled mouths as did bloodwine. Yet the Lion was not calm. Within his eyes, plans within plans laid.

He read within the messenger something perhaps intended, perhaps not, from one brother to another. And so did his eyes lay upon one the Dirge's. Of his many death knights, this one remained apart when surrounded. Quietly contemplative, words spoken rarely but chosen well, the Dirge Behind Sealed Lips had not risen quickly in favor, but never faltered. Since his rebirth, his position rose without stagnation or revile.

With a single nod, he gave the message from his mind to that of this creature. Rising, the demon bound within his flesh moved with him. His fingers loosened from their ever tight grasp within his clothing to lay upon companions. Without word, they followed to listen to his concerns and take part in his demands. At the doors of the crowning hall, the Dirge bowed deeply, eyes never leaving his lord. And the lord nodded.

*moot*

Dane's back turned, eyes clouded with thoughts. When so deeply thinking, his back hunched slightly, steps not so much wayward would seek a direction away from all that would interfere with his contemplations. At least, that is how his gait seemed to Silver Python.

She caught the movement again as the light left her eyes. In those moments, she floated, held in some fantasy of the mother's hands. Softly she smiled remembering that perfect bliss as she would lay upon grasses, her head laid in the mother's lap, fingers brushing back her hair. Yet as the visions continued, that moment faltered. Now she simply felt the mother embrace her, speaking as she spoke. Silver was moving beyond Luna, and the fantasy she realized painfully was simply that.

Luna was not the source of prophecy. She was. The soul within her breast. The stars aligned in her birth, or perhaps her rebirth. She dreamt while awake, despite any magic, potion, or drug she tried. An omen in its own right. For a moment, she felt as if she fell through the world, staring at Dane's retreating back as a new vision greeted her.

Hands laid upon her shoulders, pulling from reverie. Breath puffed warm and inviting upon her ear, personal as a lover. The presence felt seductive, luring her to lay back against a chest, the hands moving to encircle her. Whispers laid within the wind, everywhere at once, that spoke of this moment. How many times she had foreseen it. In some ways, the fear had become desire.

"If you do not come to me, they shall all die."

Eyes opening wide, Silver's lips trembled. A single tear gathered in her eye to fall down a cheek. She reached for the hands around her, turned to see the face, but nothing was there. "Mother moon, I must do this. Somehow, help me find strength to walk away." Her eyes traveled the trees and gatherings of Lunars, catching a moment of Rain Deathflyer teaching young warriors. "Help him."

*chaunta, manse*

Flesh, bones, and torn cloth. Aysel laid beautifully in the billowing of her tattered clothing as a dying goddess, still lovely despite a bloodless appearance. Eyes smudged in shadow, she feebly moved her fingers, clawing to pull herself away from the black chitinous plates of armor lengthening over her arm, reaching her shoulder.

The control of her lord strengthened. And she held little reserve to stop his encroachment. The whispers grew ever louder. Rising and falling as waves, they laid about her ears despite how far from the labyrinth she truly was. Between them, within the depths of hisses, words formed making a strange sort of sense.

Her heart thumped. Slower. Rise. She pulled her arms to her sides, rolling onto her stomach. Hesitant. Move. The blade came to her hand, clasped by armored fingers. Her other hand pressed upon the slats of wooden floor. Begin. Dark shadows writhed under her fallen hair, hiding her face to her lips. They opened, breath whistling within them, pulling those shadows inward.

Whispers in her thoughts became raspy itchings from her throat. Every syllable gathering the dark to her hand. She hated this spell. Why cast it? The last of her willpower blossomed in her breast, burning away through veins too thin.

The world between thinned. The air split in a hoarse scream as tendrils of reality spun free, off kilter, as a window formed. Beyond a face loomed, eyes painfully cold as mirrors met her own. He reached through, holding forth a simple package, wrapped in gaily colored silk.

She plucked it from his grasp, confused for a brief moment.

"You must regain your strength, aijin."

As he arrived, so did he depart. The world pulled together again, as threads of a tapestry. Closing before her, the labyrinth disappeared leaving her with a bundle. Releasing her sword, it disappeared with the armor. Tugging free the knot, she opened the package to find a meal of flesh carved in simple bento fashion. Three bottles of chilled blood wine. And a small note with a drawn smiling rabbit on it.

"What...in the abyss...was that..." Blinking, Aysel sat upon the floor, having a nice lunch.

*"Douseldorf"*

Pain awoke in skin Vile once thought fried beyond senses. Blood welled thick and ruddy to drip slow and cold upon the stonework. The fingers of the demon dug deeper into the flesh of his abdomen, inching through intestines to fondle organs long since dead or changed.

"How can life reside in the close dead?" The demon's visage shifted darker than the fly infested shadows about it's head. The fingers shook, tickling his liver as it tried diligently to find the spark of life. "Tell me,creature."

Vile spat a mix of blood and spit from a ruined mouth, more a whole blackened and changed than normal lips. The demon considered it an answer, but the abyssal's thoughts churned within regarding one man. Archimedes.

How could he give me to willingly to the demon? Did he not realize what this would mean? His face contorted in terrible pain. Lengths of his intestines twined around the demon's hands, gnawed upon to taste what he tasted. Archimedes! I will crush open your skull as a fruit and dine upon the misfortune you have earned.

He screamed against the invasion of the thing suckling upon his lifeblood and spirit. It ended in a gurgle of acceptance. Shorn Heart was right. He loved the old lunar. Something of Archimedes was a kindred soul, so like his own. Someone to connect with, share with, embrace. In truth, Vile remained proud of him. Quite proud.

"Why do you feel this...smile this...creature?" The hands groped further into his chest cavity. "TELL ME!"

Screams rose again, filling the streets in pain and gratitude.
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:03 pm

*The MOOT!*

They arrived with rules and wagging fingers, threats behind their teeth and eyes demanding she stay put. Do no wrong. Not step out of line. Doing any of those things would cross a line she could not return from with them. For once, she knew this boundary needed to remain.'

And then...they all ran off! Every single one of them ran off like children left with toys. Smiling, laughing, running, perhaps setting things on fire. Kicking at the grass with shoes she stitched till nothing but thin leather was left, she could only feel a little sadness at being left behind.

The lunars peered at her. Eyes following her small steps with a mix of hate and interest, but little of the companionship she had known for so long among her own. For once, Lynn ambled with a sense of duty, and wary optimism. This world was something for her to fear. Something to lurch away from and hide behind walls and stone. Never more than now...did she feel small, mortal, and helpless.

With chattering teeth, she meekly whispered. "I should have stayed on the boat."

Slipping to her knees, she set still in the softly blowing grass. The scent of fruit and flowers wafted past. Shouts and wild calls rang out. Someone sang. Others boasted. Metal clashed against metal. Fingers curling over her heart, she felt her breath catching again. Blood dripped from her nose to splatter on her hand. The brightness of day continued such, brighter and brighter until there was nothing but a glare.

Someone neared, taking her hands, pulling her back onto her feet. With a gentle nudge, the hands made her walk forward. if she looked back, the sun was still far too much in her eyes. Whoever it was said nothing, only marching her forward. Finally, breath heavy between her lips, the hands stopped her. Pressing her to the grasses near a large temple, Lynn tried to gulp air to speak.

"Who the--"

"Not yet, my dearest poppet." The voice lilted, singing of a deep and prolonged sadness, yet merry in a foppish way. Kind eyes met hers, so somber and heavy lidded. "Enough time to chat soon. Stay here though, if you would." He moved along, soon replaced by a gangly vision of others she knew trailed by many she did not.

In a large group, she watched Archimedes, Dane, some snow white woman, other powerful people, Corvant--- A sudden thump pounded into her chest. Corvant. Corvant...

"Bloody abyss, not him. Not here. Not now." Shoving her hands into each pocket, she grasped two stones. "Why is he here? How do they know him? Gods, what do I DO?!" But for some reason, she felt rooted to the spot, invisible to their eyes, over looked and walked past as if she did not even exist.

"Whoa...that was strange." Looking back to the temple, the man with long pale hair and dark eyes just nodded until sure she would not leave. How could she, this seemed very interesting indeed.

*MOOT*

The two men stared at the other as Archimedes left the great hall. The sound of bees filled the old man's ears as he took the final steps away, from the hall, and beyond the door. For moments more, they stared hard into the other.

"Your actions have been most dispicable, Jakou of the West."

"Your attentiveness to my every motion has been most taxing, Wolf of the East."

Jakou broke first, a grin about splitting his face in half. Ma-Ha-Suchi followed suit. With a rough embrace, they congratulated and welcomed the other.

"Damn, old Wolf! I thought certainly you were passed. What blind luck they told me you lived!" The mirth in Jakou woke something kindred in Ma-Ha-Suchi.

"Jakou, I would never have considered your skin to make it through the past centuries. The fall of Sal'Maneth seemed the tolling of your bell. I thank the mother you did not pass beyond the veil." His claws gripped the solar far too harshly. "I thank you for joining me again."

Squinting through the pinpricks of pain, he shrugged best as he could. "Nothing you would not have done for me. Enemies in bed, friends in battle. Though I swear, the world seems so much smaller now. The Deliberative is gone. The peons rule. And we have been painted as enemies?" The wolf nodded, receiving a heavy scoff. "Figures the world would flip upside down after we not only save it.."

"But shape it. Indeed, my comrade in spirit, it continues to surprise me, as it also darkens my heart. Change must come, a return to what we once were yet ...different." He favored the solar with a penetrating gaze, the calling of his charms seeking to slip through the formidable powers of Jakou.

Jakou responded with a sideways glance. "You've gotten better at that. Look, Wolf--"

"Ma-Ha-Suchi please."

Brow rising, Jakou turned his own charms upon the Lunar. Move for move, they were met and blocked. "I have been out of practice...Ma-Ha-Suchi. I'm sorry I could not stop him from this. If I could lift it from you."

"No, Jakou. After so long, the lessons it has granted have been greater than the weight of pain. But the calling has become incessant." Clenching his fist, Ma-Ha-Suchi could see the thinnest of lines, drawing of some macabre essence around his own silvered tattoos. "One day, the demon will consume me."

Jakou laid his hands over that one fist, fingers not even meeting for the size. "Well, at least you won't face it alone. Hm? So tell me, what of this war of yours? This desire to shake heaven? And don't tell me you are considering anything from that Sideral."

Ma-Ha-Suchi fixed a stern gaze upon Jakou, perplexed. "What do you mean that Sideral."

"The one I passed outside..."

Turning in unison, they looked to the entry doorway as a single shadow waited, with two darkly gleaming eyes.

*Jakou's Ship*

They gathered in such a powerful display, Vile reveled a true victory fell into his grasp. They feared him. Wanted him. Felt compelled to understand who and what he was. The moment of moments, how strangely an old conversation returned to the sorcerer as the no moons surrounded him tightly. Their eyes hungered to touch the corruption in him, despite how much their bodies reviled the very look of his body and soul.

Typhon's advice held true... Typhon held his arms wide as attendants with lips sewn tightly shut worked to lay soulsteel and jade upon him. A warrior politician, he watched the many Abyssals that clung to his retinue. His was a blessed position in the court of the Mask of Winters. Yet of those that pandered, the one called Vile Whisper merely left a note, gave a nod, and departed. To this he sent a simple reply, heartfelt and honest. One Vile carried every day since receiving it, in a pocket near hi heart.

An eternity opened before him, of choice. Peering from within the hollows of his mask, whispers dancing about his ears, he gazed upon them all, one by one. Until finally they laid on Archimedes. He owed this man, something vast, something painful, something ecstatic and deeply physical. The old man smiled, dark light in his eyes, the demonic mouths of his shared friend opening in a mockery of shared affection.

Oh yes, he must. Whispers grew louder as a demon he held wrapt about his hands invoked to life. Dreams gathered about tired minds, tugging them into sleep. The very demon he used when sending pieces of the black box to Archimedes and his circle. Oh how he loved this creature. All but three fell immediately. Darkness rose inky about his robes, touched by soft motes of stars. In these he wove another spell to entrap their minds. Of them the white lunar and another fell. All but one.

The old weathered twilight grinned widely as the abyssal worked. "I have not seen such a devious use of a demon in a long, long time. Angyalkae?" Corvant curled his fingers with quiet consideration of the robes glimmering between swashes of soulsteel.

Vile tilted his mask slightly, pondering how best to handle this threat. "You are far more than you seem. Solar?"

"Indeed. And you are one of these darker fellows. Abyssal?" They nodded to each other. "A tainted essence by the ancients. Primordial spirits?"

Vile rose his fingers swirled about by dark shadows and hymns of soft music and shrill cries. "Oh if you wish to learn more, we must do this far differently. Besides, I highly doubt my soul sliver ever knew yours. Or perhaps, yours has yet to pass?"

Corvant smiled. His teeth were too white. Despite such care the old man took with his appearance, this was one thing he forgot. It spoke volumes to the Daybreak.

"Shall we continue our confrontation? I cannot allow you to take these lunars. And you cannot allow me to leave unmarked. We need each other."

Vile Whisper cackled in a darkly humorous way. "No no, you need them. I do not. They simply fascinate me. But you...you weakened fiend, need power. Although much lies in your body, it is merely a vessel. And this one," Vile kicked Dane in the side as he smiled so wide, "has shown you all too well the truth of that."

"You see too much..." Fire bright as phosphorus exploded about his hands. "...and I wish to see more. Perhaps from inside out."

The mask hid the abyssal's smile. "I would have it no other way, ancient."

Hounds of hellish light sprang forward, to shriek and bite at Vile. In return, he flung blackly blazing creations at Corvant's face. Draperies exploded into flames as Vile dispatched one hound with the elongating zombie of his cat. The second landed upon him. Filling his hands with darkness that burned hotter than any fire, he fought to scald and sear the pain into the hound. As long as he kept it upon him, Corvant could not turn his power away.

"You should leave Archimedes. Come with me, to Nexus. I could offer far more than these wild beasts."

Vile hissed in his mask, seeking the heart of the creature as his cat fell with the other beast. "You know so little, twilight. So little indeed."

*moot, the throne room*

Jakou watched them all. Pandering, moving, evading. It reminded him so much of the past he wanted to vomit, right there and then. It was everything he strove to leave from. And now, here he set, being asked to lead by Ma-Ha-Suchi, and wished for as a guidance by the others. If only he had remained a mortal... His sister would have slugged him by now. Damn, he missed her.

The thoughts of the others opened so easily to him, barely requiring a touch of essence. For all of his strength, Ma-Ha-Suchi's abilities were clouded by rage and the fierce touch of the wylds so near him. Yet to Jakou, by the gods, it was too terribly easy.

Dane's desires, the goals he held, held tightly like cards against his breast. He held secrets, but not well enough. His plans within plans were painful to Jakou's sensibilities. So like he was in the first age as Gaius, so again now in this age. You should have kept Aysel with you, damn general. Could have learned something. Aysel...yeah, better be a little more careful Dane. Stomach churning, he looked away from the dawn.

The woman Ivory felt a thrill of fear and concern, thrust so quickly into this entire world. Duties were laid upon her, immediately throwing someone new to the east into a realm of suspicion. The perfect choice, yet how badly would her reputation be tarnished? Ma-Ha-Suchi, you damn sly wolf. This will only end badly...

And Theon. His friend, his compatriot. Through it all, there was a blanch concern of the sideral, a keen interest in everything, and a grudging sense of truth in his voice. Pity, he would lose all of this innocence so fast. Not if I can help it... And Lilith huh? Oh boy....

If only he had a drink, a moment, anything but the expectation of what would come, and the questions the Lunar elder would pose. So Jakou repeated to himself over and over, he was the king here. Not this Lunar.

*moot, prison*
If Vile was given any one wish, it would be to let Archimedes leave the room. He did not want his friend to see him torn open, pried apart, studied and disseminated. They would question. He would answer. They would torture. He might scream. They would demand and experience. He would grant them one.

He had been tortured and questioned, countless times. It was his way, under the power of his lord. The mind in Vile could not be broken. Read perhaps, but never broken. Now, he felt a doubt in that. His eyes fell kindly upon his friend. No, his love. He wanted to reach to Archimedes, promise everything would be fine, that they would see the opera.

That would be a lie. Nothing would be alright.

The others entered, cutting into his thigh, draining him dry. No...no...how he pleaded. Not that, anything but that. But soon, there was only the thirst, terrible and agonizing. It hummed and burned in his body, sending his mind away. Vile wanted to cry, but he was no longer present. Only the dark beast moved. The one great thing he never wanted his friend to see.

Vile needed a hug.
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:04 pm

*moot, prison*

Ma-Ha-Suchi's words traveled about in Vile's brain. A seething mass of frustration coiled and burned as did the Lunar's blood. Those simple words he whispered were a promise. A terrible certainty.

I will consume Archimedes, taste of his heart, lie in his flesh. And then with his face, I will consume you. Tear you apart until you smeared my lips and this earth. But you would not continue. You will both cease in this maw. Never to speak or embrace again.

The abyssal closed his eyes, feeling the flickers of panic that not only threatened bloody tears but his hold and sway in his death lord's legion. He felt love, and a fear of losing that cherished gaze. He needed Archimedes, and he did not understand why.

Or perhaps, Vile one, I will consume you, keep your thoughts alive in mine as they slowly snuffed out as a candle in wind. All the while I would feast upon Archimedes. I have done much worse, but in this simplicity there is art. I do not need blades to hurt you. You are your own instrument of destruction.

A tear leaked free. He had spoken then, told the ancient all he could. No matter how quickly he spoke, the vision of Archimedes dying in his own hands, intestines wrapped around a fork like spaghetti, spurred onward the sought after information.

He broke, but not entirely. Just enough. Just a little. But the ancient found the chink in his armor.

"I must break free. Hurry, Archimedes. Come, my family..... please."

*Den'lan*

"And Feris? How is he these days?"

"Long since past, old chum."

"A pity indeed. But certainly Molly has continued?"

"Oh she has a teeming clutch of children! The warrens under Lord's Crossing are just filled to busting. So many crumbs, so little time."

Den'lan smiled at that, nursing at a small shell filled with liquor from the Blessed Isle. Near him sat a rather small Lunar, far shorter than all of his kind. The rat face and eyes burned with a stellar and wholly mad intensity. Yet, something in him reminded him of others.

"But I must ask..." Den'lan's gaze fell to his small furry hands which folded over each other. "Nicademis?"

Templar's eyes burned the brighter. "I have not a clue. But soon, perhaps, his spirit will return to us."

Den'lan felt the anger and pain lacing his mind from Archimedes. Looking to the greater temples, he gave a short nod. "Soon, we rise again."

*The Ship! Hooooo!*

Gaining access to the ship proved easier than he ever could have believed. With the nimble words of Den'lan, choosing to approach the solar prince when he was drunken, Templar was given a mark to enter and passage as a friend. Golden eyes squinted, the glow dim as a plate newly washed than the moon itself. Brushing back his long whiskers, Templar looked over his hunched shoulders, every path that led to this point, and the air above. Nothing seemed to sense him.

Rising from sewer rat into his deadly beast form, he spoke calmly and quickly in high realm. "I, friend of the prince, seek entrance. Templar of the Blessed Isle and Luna's shadow." Light awoke, cutting through the night, enough to make the rat hiss in contempt. It needed to hurry else he be seen and found.

Soon he drifted upward into the bowels of the ship, tumbling forward with a thick edged moonsilver cleaver in his clawed hand. Touching his nose to the floor, he began the careful work of learning scents and flavors. Raising his eyes keenly for the dark beyond, he heard the quick footfalls of the manse keeper coming. Taking forth what looked like a hard boiled egg, Templar turned it, clicking free a small jewel, which he pierced through his ear.

Pain jolted through his skull as a cold feeling of an egg landing on his head, dripping over his body, took shape. The footfalls stopped, confused, slowing ever more. Slipping to clamber to the ceiling, shifting into his totemic form to hide within a light fixture not quite working, Templar watched the keeper walk into the entry, gun raised, shaking, confusion playing across his face.

The item worked as the thieves in Nexus promised. Waiting took ages, but Templar remained still as possible until the keepers left, light dimmed, and the scent died slowly over the course of an hour. Leaping from the light, he rose to his full height, a mere five foot five even in his crinos form. Cleaver in mouth, he moved room to room upon quieted claws. Finding a door willing to open, he slipped within, the door closing after his tail disappeared from sight.

Lights awoke to his entrance, earning a glare. Reaching up and around, he cut away the connections between the fixtures and walls. One more room destroyed seemed an easily overlooked thing compared to the sad state of the ship. But Templar could only hope he could reason with this mark of his. Eyes seeing in the dark, the small bent Lunar pulled forth a curled notebook filled with drawings and notes.

Faces laid in it, some marked through, some with additional notes. Until he found the one of the Dragon-Blooded youth named Tepet Dane. "I hope you are right, Senebau."

*Boooooat*

The tiny skiff rejoined the main ship, as Lynn and Icherus leap to the main ship. Looking at each other, they finally started breathing again, whooping and hollaring.

"OH MY GODS AND THIEVES! Did you SEE that? I mean WOW!" Lynn clapped her hands together, eyes wide and bright. "All those demons! And elementals! The fire logs were even doused in dead fae and logan moss! They are sooo going to have hang overs!"

Icherus grinned wider, putting his fingers up along side his head. "And that demon king! I heard sooo many stories of Ma-Ha-Suchi! But whoa, he really is possessed! That Anathema must have a KILLER treasure trove! And a huge manse!"

"All those cuniform marks of spells and enchantments!"

"The swords on that one freaky turtle!"

Giggling like mad, they jumped around, dancing and laughing like only kids could do. Until a loud booming voice exploded around them making them leap and wrap around each other.

"WHAT YA DOIN'? YE CRAZED CHILDRENS AND YER CURIOSITIES! I thought ye died! Got hurt!" Krellis had eyes glowing in green, hands curled into white-knuckled fists on her hips, lips quivering with spit. "By the Maker, ye gave me heart tremors! If yer fathers' knew missy..."

Lynn sheepishly spoke. "Theon saw us! And...sent us back..."

"Aye that he should. Now get that skiff cleaned up and buckled in. Then back down fer baths and sleepin'."

The kids looked to each other, just then noticing they were holding each other. Normally, they would jump away, but this once, they shared a simple smile.

"I really like our adventures, Lynn. You show me a whole new world even if your fathers are going to hell." He gave a little wink, despite the mix of looks she gave him. Lynn had none of the beauty of the girls he would be betrothed to on the Blessed Isle. A little button nose, freckles from the sun, tanned skin, brown eyes, long brown hair...not a damn thing was soft, refined, or royal.

Lynn tilted her chin, studying that openly admiring look he wore. Icherus represented everything she hated, but she could not bring herself to despise him. Pale eyes, blond hair, refined when not hiding that fact, knowledgeable of the world and realm, raised by wealthy parentage, with the chance of exaltation within reach. "Strangely, I really...like you too, Icherus."

In the distance, they heard Krellis yelling again. Together, they yelled they were coming, hand held in hand.

*Booooatttttt*

Krellis moved through the corridors of the ship, every part of her mind annoyed from the various problems presented in the very fabric of the craft. Walls held fractures, sending perpetual pain throughout the planks and orichalcum. If ever they found a heart or power source, the slivers would cause dire pain and problems to the health of who entered it. Spells once impenetrable had slowly unwoven from the marked passage of time.

Laying a bare hand on the curved railing of the stairwell away from the tip top, she could only muse with a heavy heart. "What did ye' see in yer time, lady belle? Hmm? What work me fathers strove to bring to life in ye, has suddenly gone so dark?"

"This not be no normal warring ye faced. Ye ran this way, from the West. Where yer secrets be held?" Turning an ear, she thumped the wood upon knots and gnolls too fine for any mortal or celestial eyes to see. Within the golden boughs, a soft voice wept. A woman's voice. It urged her ever higher in the ship, to a room she was not allowed to find. Every time Krellis neared, the gangway would turn, twist, set her out upon another deck or into a broom closet.

Smashing her hand against an archway, she muttered curses to strip moonsilver from Lunars. "Damn ye, Prince. Ye better come clean. No more secrets. No more runnin'."
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:06 pm

*moot fire*

Lilith spoke her due, arms folding over her chest as she leaned back near Theon. The fool's mouth filled with laughter, coughing it about the cups of wine and spiced drinks thrust into them. His fingers itched towards them, reminding her of those fiends who sold their bodies to the thirst burning in them. As if she was any better, grasping her own small petals of flowers to tuck under her tongue. The terrible pain left in slow turnings, as if something was all twisted up inside, and unraveled when tasted.

She said what was needed, turning eyes this way and that. Sending curious glances away from herself and onto the Solar. The solar she hated. The solars that deserved nothing less than being stripped of their souls again. Had they all paid for what they traversed?

Who was it that accosted her in the woods? That made her come this way? Some old man, wrapped into his own little mysteries. A crown of horns that bloomed weeping flowers. He spoke of a returned king. In her the fear and hate born, so long past, Lilith truly believed she was beyond Desus and his memory.

Her fingers ghosted over her stomach, eyes wrinkling as if the phantom of the child was there. The child her mentor spoke of. The one she was terribly sad to hear of its death. Bridgette had some blessing of knowledge, some knowing of the future. Hiding among the fair ones, seeking to end them, or curtail them. When she told her friend and Solar keeper the terrible truth of her lost child, her eyes seemed so darkly tired. Painfully so.

She walked into those woods ever deeper, never to return.

Slipping down, head lolling against Theon's lap, she closed her eyes, begging for respite. His fingers wound about her long hair and feathers, patting her in a drunken fondness. Could she trust him? Did it really matter when she could crush his head as a melon under a mammoth's foot? No, she did not. Maybe she could try, but she needed to know more. And seeing him twist and turn, listening to the honeyed words of this reborn Gaius only fueled her passions.

Gaius who was friend and compatriot to Desus. Rivals in power, yet beholden to the same just causes.

Just.

Could the one in Nexus be foul? Could this one? The petal melted within her mouth, drifting away her woes and concerns, as the wyld hungers in her demanded it.

*Boaty boat boat*

If the bed could hide him, he would lay under it a century more. If the sheets and blankets pulled as tapestries around the edges could keep him away from the world as a courtesan, he would remain, fanning himself trying to breath. He should not call the small magics to him, yet even shaping a human seeming about his body and mind awoke deep magics the eldest could sense.

The dust bunnies and weakened essence floes around him whispered history. Scratching at the blond wood of the floor, Sinclair shaped without shaping. Moved without touch. And the realm under the bed, became a room it's own. Fiddle slipping to his chin, hat pulled low over his eyes, he felt the rising tempo of the blood and brawn before the campfire some distance away. Dreams laid in the wood, promises in the night.

Yet for all of the dreams that could be, Sinclair sought memories. His fingers pulled and plucked, pressing upon the thin wires. His bow slipped through his finger as a dance partner upon a marvelous floor. His eyes opened wide, looking into a distance of the wyld.

"Twas a darkened story, of a father come to be. Wizened in thought and life, he brought forth a grand decree..." Melancholy drifted into his voice, deeply warm as hops in mead. How he wished he could see the ancient's eyes, to whisper and learn of his tale. Yet, why? The wolf was quite well known among his own kind. The others...what of those...

Ma-Ha-Suchi breathed deeply of the burning wood, curls of heat and smoke about his mane of hair and fur, curling about his eyes. As if through it, he sensed the player beyond. His vision slowed, darkening, as the simple human appeared before him. Eyes slitting, he felt the movement of the mysteriously figure, yet it moved away. Far away. Flicking in vision as if it never was.

Voice humming, Sinclair sang of his own life. Something he had not done in quite an age. A single silvered tear gathered in his eye, deepening into blood, slipping along his cheek. But who would hear the song, the tale of the army that waited in silent vigil? Of killing and usurping his father. Of loving her daughter too deeply, giving her his crown. A kiss wanton and unwanted upon her lips as his body slept, and his thoughts traveled into the realm of men.

*Moot, after the boat leaves*

Ma-Ha-Suchi spoke in rousing words with those that sought him. He reminded them of their duties, verified what each pack would seek. A couple would seek the question of these supposed gatherings of the fae. A chance for them to cut their teeth upon excursions into the wyld. A few others reports of dragon blooded movements, shifting of men in Lookshy, changes near the Hundred Kingdoms, onward the list progressed.

But of the greatest threats, he merely sighed with a finality that rolled across his shoulders. The sidereal could be in the shadows, so near he felt yet no where to be truly perceived. He would not reveal how infuriated it made him feel to be so directly studied by their ilk again. For all the bravado and words of the Jade Claws, Dane, Lilith, and others, the true enemy none of them even considered was the one that never appeared.

The Sidereal.

His words would continue as a pantomine. The truths wound and hidden within the act. Only a few ever gleaned the truth in them. He tested the three Solars, but only Jakou had read him correctly. Hopefully his work in Nexus would prove out his concerns. But Dane and Corvant never once showed understanding. A pity yet to be expected. Now to speak in double verse with Silver Python and Rain Deathflyer.

The two entered, one angered with a petulant look and a small stamp of foot; the other settled in a stance expecting the worse with a glint in his eye hoping for the best. Ma-Ha-Suchi gathered about him specific flowers, scents mingled with those of his own flesh, a turn of hand, curl of claw, dart of eye. Rain did not pick up as quickly but Silver did. Damn, he adored this couple. If only they would concede his viewpoint and move accordingly.

"We must marshal ourselves and seek these two Wyld Hunts. They invade our lands, destroy the youthful, and lay claim on a war without approaching us. They lay not tribute upon shrines, nor thank the elements they rob. In their hearts is murder, in their hands a swollen secret, and their pains against yourself, Rain, we have not forgotten or forgiven." His claws curled, forming patterns of essence in a mimicry of claw speech about the air, in scents and tastes only beasts would understand.

Within these words, was spoken another language. As he continued his discussion of plans against the Wyld Hunt, which truly were a threat to the very lives of their people and that of the mortals, which others seem to forget all too easily, his second conversation was a deeper thing.

Steps in motion...Archimedes trusted by shadows...let not the spider know the wolf hopes it be...the cat was found...the spy overturned...let now the spider build a web...

Rain did not follow as quickly, but the step was close after Silver's. His beak snapped upon words, his heart filling with anger at the Dragon-blooded, yet he turned, clawed feet leaving a similar pattern in their wake. "Perhaps it best we three then seek these hunts. We are the sovereign of this land. Not the Solar. Not the fae. Though I believe the treaty would enlist their aid if we so need it. They bow to the eldest ways." The last was spoken with a look back over his feathered shoulder, eyes lethal.

Your motions bring us death...trust how...surrounded by wyld, dragon, sun...none of them will help...all will war...need allies...need all of the moon...conclave...

The last symbol and words of Rain moved Ma-Ha-Suchi then, bringing his claws close to Rain, horns creating a cage about that feathered crown. His eyes roiled with unspent rage. "If you two wish your ancient treaties, then seek them. But there are bonds heaven alone knows will never allow it to be. Their kind are not our kind." Fate stands against us!

Rain finally understood, yet he did not balk at the wild wolf's gaze.

Silver simply stood. She spoke not, only listened, only watched. Moving closer, she laid a calming hand upon both, gaining their attention. "We are comrades here. Always." But in her fingers, her scent, the movement of her own response, they read something more.

Then fate with be tithed...


*preparing for a journey*

Rain had grown painfully quiet after Silver spoke in their clawed way. It seemed a truthful answer none of the Wardens could turn away from. In all things, she was the wisest of them all. Their lady and seer, their friend. Yet the pain in him burned as a fire turned to smoldering with a chance of a new inferno. So obvious...so clear...how could Dane not see it? How could he act so naive?

His claws seemed to thrust every possession into packs with a visceral urgency. His eyes glinted into thinner slits as the images and smells roiled through his mind. She had been with him again. And he remained silent, betraying the love he felt day after day.

A soft touch laid on his feathers, a cheek pressing into his back. All of his continuing fears roiling through his mind as a thousand questions he could never bring himself to voice. Was she saving herself for a solar lover? Did she hold herself from him because she saw their return? Did Luna wish her to marry this solar dawn and bind the two peoples together? Could that be this tithe she spoke of?

"No, Rain. No, no, a hundred times no." He froze hearing those softly whispered words, tear-edged and pained. For a moment, he remained there, staring ahead, feeling her face press deeper into his back. He would hate to damage that pride the woman had, but it lasted only a moment. Swiftly turning, he knelt before her, taking her face in his hands.

"No what Silver?" His eyes flicked between hers, desperately seeking to understand.

"I am not rushing to him. Please, let loose this need of a rival. None could ever take your place... I cannot bear this..." She shook that mane of hair, bright as the moon, small scales glinting within it. "But I do hold him dear. Hate me for it if you must, but let it be once done."

Despite ages trained under her and Ma-Ha-Suchi, Rain became a fumbling fool when before those eyes of hers. "You deserve a king. They rise again, newly born, embracing a new life. You could lead with him, this dawn, and advise him like no other. A proper mating and marriage, rather than the travesty his previous life engaged upon. He seems destined for such a thing. Dragon Blooded, reborn a Dawn, with a ...child in your womb." The smile of his was a bitter and lonely thing. "I have nothing."

"Rain, that is not true--" He knew this argument, all too well.

"Then why hold your hand aside? Why not ask?" The slivers of control he had fell into pieces, claws slipping into her hair, holding her so close his beak nudged her nose.

She had no answer except to wrap her thin arms around him. Yet the logical mind deep within him knew. Everything came upon this moment, this tithe. Whatever she saw must have been winding about her for years upon decades upon centuries. Closing his eyes, he bowed his head to lay upon her shoulder. "When this thing happens..."

Silence surrounded them, pregnant with expectation. Rain's heart felt next to fall until the barest of words reached him. "When it is done."
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:07 pm

*Nexus*

Stamping her foot, Lynn whirled on Lucien. "Look, we really do need to get into Nexus. It's my home. I know it well, even have papers."

The man shook his head, taking a small sip of his flask. "I think not."

Icherus slung a hand on his sword, tilting his head in a way that reminded the man servant all too well of Jakou. "Seriously, the hired help is holding us up? Do you know who I am?!"

Lucien merely tipped his flask while cocking the firewand. "Clearly you mistake who I am, boy. And if you try to slip past me, you will know all too well. No one leaves without the master's express permission."

Lynn shared a look with Icherus. The jig was certainly up. They stood their with broken bits of railing tied to their ankles and a firewand trained on their heads. Leaning near, she hissed whispers to the lad. "Damn, really wish we could do something about this. Can you like...exalt or something?"

He almost laughed as he regarded the girl. Her lips were kinda soft looking this close up. What did Jakou say to those Lunars he bedded? As she got closer and closer, he tried to desperately remember. "Well, we could do something else until the others get back. Obviously this isn't going to work."

Lynn just gave him an odd look, and snapped her fingers in his face. "Are you having one of those visions again?"

Damn. "Uh yeah...kid in the pits...some kinda fighter." Whew good save! But really, all he wanted to do was make Lynn shut up. Maybe if he kissed her...

All of a sudden, Archimedes and a creature that made his mind burn arrived. The thing was repugnant, twisted and wholly evil. Without knowing, somehow the sword was in his hands, thoughts of righteous fury twisting about his brain. ANATHEMA! It screamed. The creature turned its masked and hooded visage too him. Within the hollows of shadow, he looked like a horse's skull.

"So children, my my, I do so love your kind. So bright and full of ideas..." They could feel the insidious grin and malicious intent as the words slithered from its lips.

"Your...your...Vile Whisper right?" Lynn had enough courage for them both, dragging the bit of railing along as she moved.

The thing pulled itself up to a full height as if to give them a chance to bask in its putrid glory. "My dear, you charm me. Why yes, I am the most Vile of Whispers. You have heard of me?" His fingers slipped so close to Lynn that Icherus took a step forward, sword still drawn.

Every single lesson from Dane rose up in his head, making total and complete sense. He could visualize sliding the blade right between the creature's ribs...or the eyes...hmm maybe he could lop off his head? Lynn continued to speak to him as Archimedes returned. A fire still burned in his belly, something awakening in his thoughts, and for the barest moment, he thought he heard someone say... Now you understand war.

*Tavern of the 4 Winds*
They considered him a rather comical joke, yet in some ways...they embraced him! Opal smiled as Ivory let him cuddle so close. She seemed truly to like his presence. And didn't turn him away! She smiled and listened to his words, touched his arm, and thought him a quiet friend.

They listened to the words of Arada. They fought through everything that he offered, the darkness of it...perhaps the light. But none of them noticed how it deeply affected Dane. And to top it off like an ice cream with nuts, Lilith leaped to the chase revealing something few knew or even pondered. So many options came to mind, flashing as the colors he had in his head when he drank or breathed as he watched the solar. But with all of her questions, Lilith just did not get it.

Lazily he tugged at his hair, all short and...spikey... Then again, Dane did not quite see what she meant. Her thoughts were thousands of years down the path. His were touched with the knowledge of current trends of the two exalted peoples. Both of them were right. Sometimes, it just took a lighter touch. Yet there he was drinking away. Eyebrows furrowing, he tried to recall when he last saw Dane drink so.

Gnawing at his lip, plucking at Ivory's sleeve, he tried to slip away a little. Tilting his eyes up and away, over and under, he sought to somehow get Dane's attention without invading. Quietly, close to fainting at trying to speak to him, Opal sought so hard to do such an incredibly simple thing.

"Um..Dane I...er...could we...do you...want some...hot....chocolate?" He could slap his own forehead. But he felt the mother's encouragement. Who knows? Maybe he would say yes...and chat?

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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:08 pm

Water sluiced in flowing drips that caught upon Lilith's skin. The skies opened above her, wide expanses of endless midnight hues. Stars laid as pearls from ripped necklaces across it all. Reminding her of so many nights under his steeled boot, his disdain, his hatred. Old pains made the muscles in her neck twitch and leap, pinching her lips into a frown. Every moment she seemed free of the past, something pulled her back. And now, away from the wyld, away from the fair folk that she loved and loathed, thoughts touched by solars and lunars once again, everything wished to slam her from the sky into the earth. To break her. Mold her. Use her.

Ma-Ha-Suchi. Dane. The young. The ancient. Given time, perhaps even Theon. Though his company did seem a goodly test for her. He laid beside her, tasted her skin and mingled pleasures with her. He never demanded more than she gave, and showed true spirit of compassion and acceptance. Funny how few others could the same. A chuckle rocked her back on her heels as she perched above the streets of Nexus. The thin scarf of hers fluttered from her shoulders as snow white wings stretched behind her.

"I used to kill the raksha. Now I miss them more than ever and wish all these others gone." She sighed, rubbing her fingers together as hollow bones popped. "They don't understand, Bridgette. And I can't make them. Not anymore." The moon turned through out as she lost the will to even speak to herself. The gods had stopped talking to them all so long ago. And now, they had taken up speaking again. So many voices all at once. Rising finally, Lilith left the steepled towers of her haunts. Unto Theon's room she flew, stepping lightly inside, to nestle in his arms.

Death could wait.
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:08 pm

*Nexus, Red Door hotel*

Jakou arrived with the kids, face grinning so wide it hurt. The ladies, oh my lord the ladies. He felt as if he had died and gone to Meru! They appraised him with smiles, demure interest, some rather randy in their touch. Icherus grinned and charmed the ladies next to Jakou, helping to bring all the darling mistresses of the night. All the while, Ellis kicked her feet about, eyes roaming the rich room. And Lynn sighed in frustration. She did not look around the room, or peek at the lovely ladies, not even a glance at Icherus and his blushing.

She spoke with the butler and hostel keeper, gaining a key and discussing they were with the party of Dane, Archimedes, and Theon. As the others continued their review of the amazing hotel, she sought the suites they were given. A servant followed her bringing luggage to drop off inside the room. She gave another suffering sigh, as a gentleman with pale white hair and a fresh smile came around the corner.

She gave a sudden stop until she recognized his garb as that of a servant of the hotel. He seemed in his late twenties, silver hair long behind him, half glasses perched on his nose. His pale eyes squinted in welcome merriment as he bowed. "My word, I did not realize the gentlemen had a daughter, or is it sister? Forgive me, my name is Marcos Alroy. And I have been given to aid as man servant during your stay." When he smiled, it squinted his eyes into the most pleasing of half moon shapes.



Lynn sighed and trudged beyond the man, her meager belongings tossed in a bag draped over her shoulder. She stomped off to each room, looking for some spot her own. Yet every single bed was...taken. Dropping her head, she returned back to the main room where the man seemed to puttering about a table set on a balcony.

She tried to ignore him as he set out two glasses, a dish covered with a dome, and chairs. One she could see from a slight vantage had a pillow in it to raise up whoever sat.

"Care for a game, miss?"

She sunk down from where she spied. Eyes looking this way and that, she peeked around to see the young man smiling at the table. With a simple gesture, he motioned to a large game board set up. Lynn gnawed at her lip, looking back at the door, around the suite, then back to the man.

Eyes swimming with distrust, she meandered to the table, slipping into the chair, looking over one of the most beautiful chess boards she had ever seen. Gold and silver figures laid on a board of matches metals. Despite how much she distrusted the man, the board brought a small oh from her lips in wonder.

Looking up, she gave a curious look. "How do we play?"

He smiled, touching a figure with his fingers. "Simply make a move. We have all the time in the world to learn."

*Nexus, as dinner comes*

Sinclair slipped away from the Commoner's Faire during his short break. This would be the best moment to seek the request Dane made. As the many in the tavern slipped away after their dinners to begin their evening shifts, the coming of those newly released from work would arrive.

Timing was crucial, requiring shaping yet again. With a deep sigh, he focused his will, words filling his mouth to release in golden streams of glyphs and power. Every step awoke his power, the tiny spar of it he brought from the Raksha holdings. They gathered about the doorway to the kitchens, burning into beautiful life for the barest of seconds.

As Sinclair passed through the swinging door, he slipped through a closing door at the back of the auctioneer's stands. Eyes trailing left and right, their molten glow from within shadows softened and cooled to the simple guise of human eyes he wore now. Ducking under his wide hat, he stepped spritely between the dead pan faces, flat eyes. Revulsion burned in his body to be so close to the ravaged masses. They above all others would sense him. Yet for their broken souls, they could not even twitch in his passing.

The king sought first the able bodied, strong men, lithe women. Unto their eyes, he peered. Against their ears, he whispered. But life was truly gone from these. Making sure no others were watching, he passed his hands along the base of every throat. There the small flicker of a signal would bear: the Raksha that consumed the life of spirit from within. He recognized many, those of the freeholds along the border. There the black prince. Here the fanciful duke. The bitch queen. The lean foxer. The pannaquin. The forever night. No marks were strange, none left with even a mote of personal strength or courage.

His smile turned grim. "At least when we finish, it is complete. And you will never know the horrors you will face. Never feel the scorn of a whip, or the passing of a brand. In this, we are not heartless, but heart filled. If only the mortals truly understood how humane we were in this passing. Thankfully, my daughter, you continue forthright with my edicts." Rubbing his forehead, Sinclair felt the ever burning ache to ravage, to feed. How long had he gone without sustenance? Eons. How much longer still could he go on?

A soft sound alerted his mind, but he was far too slow to react. Turning in a pivot, he brought up his fiddle to block the downward aimed sai. Leaping back, the figure wrapped in pitch looked upon Sinclair with wide eyes, then kneeled eyes cast to the ground. The shadows of that body concealed much, but not entirely what laid within. The shadows pooled about its feet, coiling as a living thing, part of the body tensed for a battle.

With grace, he laid a hand on the figure's head, whispering in a musical voice. A command he rarely gave. "Speak not of me. Find me again. I cannot be found among the city as I am. In time, my friend."

The figure rose, laying eyes so playful and childlike upon the king. A sing-song voice responded, so fanciful to be a fae as well. "Of course, goodly king. The crown lays not upon your head, but cloaked at your back. So to shall I. But a brother is in need, and my hand must seek to find his. Sing him a song, and let him know, he is loved."

He curled his finger around one metallic curled hair loosened from its black disguise. "Of course. Though why you stay with them, confuses me so. You should have been ours."

"But now I am his..."

As he turned to leave through the door he crafted, Sinclair felt the rush of wind in the little assassin's passing. Yet another soul he felt truly terrible about. "This guilt never ends, does it?"
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:09 pm

*Nexus*

For once in her life, Lynn had to grudgingly thank Corvant. His lessons provided every important skill needed to decipher this puzzle. Perhaps in a strange way, these were sent by him. His tower was far closer to Theon's shop than any of them realized. As the children hid away in the back of his store, she spied a treasure trove of knowledge. Parchment, leather, various brands of bindings, books old and new...she almost fainted at the endless opportunities within his shop.

Why had no one told her he had such a heavenly place?! Part of her, very tiny, was a little angry at the secret. But overall, her fingers tingled in excitement. Perhaps they tingled too much.

Looking over the pages, she noticed forms of language in ancient ways. Snagging up a pair of gloves, she gave the other two a serious look. "Ellis, don't touch these. Please, be very careful. Icherus, if you want to help, just snag some parchment and a sturdy quill. Trust me on this."

Ellis just smiled but she knew instinctively the work was a sacrilege. It should be burned into ash and spread over shrines. Yet something in her ear whispered she needed to stay back, and let destiny take its course.

Icherus dropped the fidgety aspects he always showed, following her orders without question or fail. Setting up on a stool, he readied himself, giving a quick nod.

Taking a deep breath, Lynn pulled away the protective fabrics each page laid within. The images were a creation story, but told in a rather dark way. Yet the images despite the dark tale were drawn with glorious aspects of righteousness. Somewhere in every image would be a cipher towards translation. What frightened her was how delicate the paper was, some of it even banana leaves, one dripping with blood still wet, and yet they seemed...stuck in time.

"The content alone carries some strange curse? Blessing? Magical aspects as if, just touching the book or wall of the tale carries in that which documents it. I'm afraid if that is true, anyone who looks on them now carries a flavor of it. But if this was a book, why the rubbing like nature of a couple of these. A wall? Fresco?" She turned to Icherus with a questioning glance.

"What ruins or cities would have walls like that?"

"Sal'Maneth did, but I don't remember ANYTHING like this. Those walls carried just the history of the city, not of the world. A first age artifact?"

They both peered at the pictures, finally she yanked up the quill and took a sheet of paper. "This bloody one is already messed up, make sure if anyone enters to shove them out. Going to try something..." Taking up the parchment she laid it over the bloody page. From there she took up a jar of lemon oil and vegetable based inks, mixing and pouring them over the empty parchment. With exceeding care, she snagged a bit of rock used to heat in braziers, held it with tongs over a lantern and then passed it over and over the page. Lemon scorched lightly, the fresh scent filling the room.

Gnawing at her lip, she leaned over the parchment as Ellis' curiosity also drew her. "What'll that do, Lynn?"

"I'm letting the parchment and oil pull at the ink through the blood. If I'm right, and whatever these touched is keeping the pages from degrading, this shouldn't do too much damage, and might pull free with the heat some of the lost icons. The ink will singe into the parchment with the lemon, see?" She lifted a corner, showing indeed a burnt edge of an image behind it."

"I know you are a solar, and an honest girl, Ellis. But I have to ask you not tell them I did this, not unless they ask if you must tell them, ok? They might think I'm too weak cause I'm not...not exalted." She favored Ellis with a rough look.

Ellis just smiled and shook her head. "Lynn, you're smarter than all of us. You have nothing to prove here. I trust you. Just let me know how I can help, ok? It's all waaaay over my head."

"Lynn, toss it!" Icherus came over, motioning with his hand. Rolling the parchment quickly between a layer of linen, they all took up their positions. With a quick nod, Lynn started talking to the other two as they put on a fake little scene as Theon entered the room. They all shared a secret grin.
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:09 pm

*Nexus*

As the oddly mixed circle and family settled for the evening, their dark guest creeping out to the balcony with a hungry, angered look, Marcus moved back deeper into the main chambers. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath completely exhausted with the menial tasks of a man servant. A set of sake chilled waiting for him with a dark shadow parting, revealing his friend. Casting essence about himself, Marcus became Shepherd. Shepherd became nothing. Overlooked. Invisible.

"Shepherd, much has happened in the last hours." The slithery voice filled the small area as smoke in a room, choking and refined. The eyes that glimmered so fiercely burned away to reveal his simple dark eyes. Pulling away the shadowed silk from about his face, his lips were as down-turned as his voice sounded.

Shepherd fluttered his hand round and round, brows furrowing. "Ice, please. I had nothing to do with most of it. AND...and...if you dare say I should have, well, why not you, hmm?" He peeked open one eye as he reached for the sake his friend offered.

"My path is not--"

"Oh fuddle. You know path has nothing to do with these." He in turn prepared and offered sake to his friend. In tradition, they tapped them, sipped, switched cups, tapped them, and drank again. The circle of trust they called the tradition. "Someone or ones have been far more active than ourselves. The one question I have is, do they know where I am?"

Black Ice favored his one friend with a sobered look. "Many do not. But, I cannot speak for two. My own eyes had trouble with some of your motions, if that helps."

"That it does. Siaka?"

"Confused but spending her time enjoying the evenings in the arena and gambling dens."

"The Mask's children?"

Now Black Ice held his drink a moment before sipping. A slight pause, but noted. He need not say a word. Shepherd nodded. "They will find out if they have not already. And damn, Archimedes is beyond my sight. Yours?"

Black Ice nodded, taking up a slice of fruit and fish to pop into his mouth.

"Which can only mean--"

"Stop."

Shepherd gave him a funny look. "You will start, and not end. The night will pass with your mongering, hacking away at what could be, rather than accepting what is. And I do not care to hear it."

The silver haired man smiled, eyes warming as he watched the shadowed figure. How could the others not sense the wonderful humor in him? "As you wish. So I think I can wander away for now. They are in for the eve, though they offered me a job."

And now did Black Ice laugh, a darkly frightening sound. But he did laugh. Then he calmly took up more of the tastings of food he brought to share. "And if we did, what of Vile Whisper?"

With a heavy sigh, he accepted some of the food to fall back in his chair. "They have not tried anything beyond a couple books to return his language. They simply accept or laugh at his loss of words. Even...she did." He flicked his eyes to Black Ice, who stared back. "She is taking a bit more time than I first thought. Do you truly think his time is coming?"

"The scent of death is unmistakable. If any were to receive such a powerful essence, hers would be."

Shepherd tilted his chin as if thinking or listening to something. Through another's eyes, he watched Vile on the balcony. "We have time for another sake."
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PostSubject: Re: (Archive 1) Chasing Shadows   Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:09 pm

She tasked him not to follow. He did. She begged him to understand what she sought. He did. And the smile she bestowed upon him should have awoken one of his own.

He did not.

Rain Deathflyer had ever been, and would always be, Silver Python's friend and protector. But in moments he could not fathom or accept, she demanded to live her life filled with foolish danger. Until recent months, he could not accept it and fought her decisions. Until now. Although Dane posed a threat, he aided Rain in learning a lesson he could never quite embrace. The no moon had lived hundreds of years fighting Silver and her odd visions. But one moment truly watching the Solar helped him to understand so much of her life.

The mother moon choose her daughter for the strength and passions in her. Every decision was a testament of that choice. Eyes upon the stars, he waited in silence, with a lion of molten earth by his side. Under his clawed hand, did the creature of magic wait, listen, and protect. Silver had tested Archimedes, his passions and understanding, his soul weighed by more than simple folly. Would he hold her secret? Understand their calling for protecting the world from things not even the greatest of warriors could fight? Or would he sell her, himself, and all he held dear to the dark?

She tested Dane, to see if he truly accepted Silver as an equal or better. Or was she simply a damsel caught up in so much distress? Did he not understand the mother moon, or just pay lip service to engage and welcome such beauty to his side? Would he see what she tried to show him at every turning, or ignore it all for heated youthful passion?

She watched Theon, always on the edges of her world, held in thrall by a force stronger than Creation itself. He was the chosen of Ma-Ha-Suchi, and would one day take up reigns of power from the elder. Would he discern when that power should be focused, pruned, or given full roam of the world around him? He presented a wild card that both of them feared. Their eldest friend was ill, yet strove truer than any other in a war that had consumed them since the Primordials. How little the others truly understood of him. As they should.

And in Rain, she had tested, and sought, an understanding. Through his foil of the solar, finally he understood. So here he waited, far too calm, far too collected. The trees parted in time, revealing Silver returned from her journey. Her cheeks held a flush of life, eyes bright as the morn, and a terrible sense of humor floated in her laughter.

Moving to her side, Rain unfurled his wings, wrapping them about her. Pulling the woman to close to his heart, he pressed her cheek into the down of his chest. "Thank you for returning." Part of him was afraid of saying more, lest his voice shudder.

She only pressed against him all the more. "I learned...so much of myself...of the others. I just--"

He laid a claw on her lips, slipping from feather to flesh. His two mismatched eyes held hers as Rain gave a rare smile when a human. "No, no more words, no concerns or planning. You are hungry, and heavy still with your child. We will eat, rest, and whisper to each other. I understand what it is you are seeking now. Forgive me for taking so long to find your path."

He brushed back her hair as she turned into his hand, placing a kiss on the palm. "Oh Rain, about time you had. Yes, please."

They both looked back into the leaves of the trees as a soft breeze moved them. Within their folds another passed, waiting, always near yet never far. A spirit that had visited before, but never stayed. This time, it did.

"I do not know if I am ready for this, Rain." A first time for all things, seeing the fear in her eyes.

"We are ready, Silver. We."
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