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Thread: [M] The Sword and the Fang [Namingtoohard & Ashen]

  1. #1
    The Ashen One
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    Default [M] The Sword and the Fang [Namingtoohard & Ashen]

    [The following roleplay is rated mature for reasons that may include, but are not limited to, violence, blood, coarse language, sensual situations and drug use. Reader discretion is advised.]

    A usual crowd was gathered for a Tuesday night. People bustled around the dimly lit room to share food, drinks, and anecdotes with close friends, family members, total strangers. The sweet smell of sweat and alcohol permeated through the stiff air, overpowering the cheap candle the bartender had bought. He looked out on the gathering crowd, still multiplying even this late into the night, and he sighed. This was his busiest night; exhausted merchants and proud buyers found comfort in the Moonlit Dragon after the chaos of the market that swept through town every Tuesday morning. The echoing chatter and thundering laughter did little to alleviate the bartender's headache, but the shrill clink of glasses sliding against each other or crashing against the bar was enough to drive him mad.

    The wall torches cast the room in a soft, dull glow. Men mostly gathered tonight, their firm jawlines accented by the shadows of flickering flames. Tourists and locals alike filled the tables and stools, though tonight, origins meant little. Under the roof of the Moonlit Dragon, every man was equal. Everyone chatted and laughed with a smile, all but the busy bartender. He kept up with orders effortlessly, tossing specialized drinks and dodging drunken babble while juggling coins into his apron. As he looked out at the bar, at the fathers and sons, bosses and employees, even the occasional couple, he recalled a time when he, too, was nothing but one of those carefree men, forgetting about life just for a while.

    An unexpected breeze brushed through the room, silencing the torches and casting the bar in darkness. Confused chatter rose from the patrons. Small balls of light rolled onto the single stage of the bar, drawing eyes to the scuffed, aged wood. Soft footfalls descended onto the platform. The lights were too weak to reveal the identity of the person, but they did reflect off flowing, shimmering black pants, bare brown feet. The chatter grew, questioning this individual and speculating about their purpose.

    Amid the swapped whispers, a sword appeared on stage. The curved blade was drowned in flames, dancing and reaching towards the sword’s wielder. They shone dully on the performer’s face and lightly illuminated a deep, spiraling tattoo on their chest peeking from the cusp of their top. Gasps fell from around the room at the fiery sword and the fearless sword bearer, making the performer smile. Slowly, they raised the sword above their head, pausing to build the anticipation in the room. Then, in a single, swift movement, the sword fell from their hand and tumbled to the ground, eager to consume the wood and, with it, the entire bar.

    But it didn’t. The performer swooped in and caught the sword, hand just below the blazing blade. They brought the sword back to eye level, spurred by the gasps and applause of the crowd. No one would be able to see the smirk peeking from their lips in this darkness. Their motions were fluid, elegant, but every so often a jerk or drop of the blade had the crowd gasping again. The entire room was captivated, eyes glued to the burning blade. Through the darkness, the sword appeared to be moving all on its own, slicing through the air in a graceful display, leaving ribbons of sparks in its wake. The dance continued for several minutes, not a single pair of eyes daring to miss a second. Even the tired bartender, hands wiping absently at an empty glass, stared in awe at the dancer.

    For their finish, the performer raised the sword above their head again. They looked out at the silhouettes in the dark, the shining eyes, the glint of a toothy grin. They turned back to their sword, the brown and blue of their eyes sparkling under the dangerous flames. They closed their eyes, feeling the anticipation in the room, the excitement, the fear. Then, in a single motion, they dropped the blade. The fire soared only breadths before their face, warming their cheeks. Just as the sword was about to hit the stage, the fire vanished without a sound, leaving the entire room in awe.

    In only a few moments, every patron erupted in cheers and applause. People shot from their seats, loudly showing their appreciation for the performance. Most of them had never seen anything like the exotic dance they’d just witnessed. The torches flickered back on, as if by magic, allowing all the fans to see the person deserving of their adoration. The dancer looked out at the room, at the smiling faces, the shining eyes, the bouncing excitement, and they smirked. Another undoubted success. They gave a low bow, the beads and trinkets on their top clattering, then straightened and tugged at the sheer fabric of their pants to curtsey. As they scanned the room again, pride puffing their chest, their gaze locked on familiar, stern brown eyes. The owner of them, an older man, crossed muscular arms over his chest. The dancer straightened, panicked. Something was wrong.

    Leaping from the stage, the performer made their way to the man. Their father had only ever visited their workplace once before. The man had never approved of his child’s lifestyle, of the way they moved so provocatively, how they captured the hearts of men and women alike. Casting a hand through their hair, the color of soft chestnut, shaved and swooped to the side in a style their father had always hated, the performer swallowed hard. Their outfit was another source of disappointment: black, billowing pants made their legs shapeless; a tight, glimmering top formed an arrow under their breasts and did little to hide the hated tattoos snaking across their arms; stomach exposed, all could see the swelling, masculine muscles, the graceful, feminine hips. Even the paint used to outline their unique eyes would surely anger the man. But, as the performer stood face to face with their father, they saw neither disappointment nor anger behind those eyes. Their frightened eyes had learned to fear the face they stared into, but never before had they seen fear there, too.

    “Your brother,” he said, his voice shallow and foreign. “He’s gone to the forest.”

    “What?” The performer’s eyes widened. Their fingers absently flew to their neck, to two identical scars dipping under their collarbone. “He wouldn’t do that.”

    “He left a note,” their father replied. “He’s alone.”

    The performer’s gaze fell to the floor in confusion and disbelief. “He wouldn’t do that,” they repeated. Looking back up, they asked, “You’re sure?”

    Their father scoffed. “Lec,” he said sharply, sending a shiver down his child’s spine. “Go find your brother.”

    ~~~

    There wasn’t time to change. Lec shot out of the bar, pounding the cobblestone outside with bare feet. The moons had risen by now, two soft silver orbs in a blackened sky. Lec looked to them, letting the celestial bodies guide them. The forest was half an hour away running, and Lec had no time to lose. How long ago had their brother left? They just didn’t understand. He wouldn’t wander into the forest, the land of the enemy, not again. It didn’t make any sense.

    Lec lived with their family in Evimaire, the capital port city of the country of Sthenorn. The prosperous port lay at the tip of a peninsula connected to the rest of the continent only by a rainforest. This rainforest, Lucet, belong to a tribe of shapeshifters at war with Sthenorn. Lec didn’t understand the war well; as far as they’d been told, the Lucet were stingy with their bountiful natural resources and attacked anyone who tried to share in them. As far as Lec was concerned, the Lucet people were a tribe of murderous, shapeshifting hippies who hated Lec and their people. As a result, Lec had never ventured beyond their city, unable to afford a trip by sea and unwilling to enter the forest of the enemy.

    No, there had been one time. Lec had ventured into the forest before. Their brother had wandered that way out of curiosity, a child born with an imagination too vivid, and Lec had been tasked with rescuing him. Back then, the two had run into a spirited Lucet girl with hatred in her scarlet eyes. She’d chased them through the forest, and once she’d had them cornered, she’d transformed into a lynx and attacked. Their brother was unscathed, but Lec hadn’t been so lucky. They retained scars from it, pale ugly marks that marred their neck, but the mental scars stung far longer. Now, five years later, Lec couldn’t imagine why their brother would cause them that kind of pain again.

    There were no streetlights past the border of Evimaire. Lec looked down at their hands, not breaking their stride, and mumbled a few rushed words. A ball of light appeared in them, similar to those they had used onstage. The dull glow would allow them to see where they were going but would not be too bright as to alert any beasts of the forest. With that as their only guide, they plunged themselves into the undergrowth, praying their brother was unharmed.

    They couldn’t know how long they were out in that forest. The gentle earth tones of their skin and the darkness of their clothes kept them hidden enough, but they feared for their brother. The child was too pale, would stick out like a thumb in the darkness of the forest. What if they were too late? Just what would one of those demons do to a child? Lec could still perfectly picture her dark eyes, her sharp fangs, the bloodlust in her roar. They could feel their throat closing in. No, they told themselves, grabbing at any distraction they could think of. Now was not the time. Shoving through leaves and vines, eyes everywhere at once, they struggled to find their most important person in the world.

    And there he was. Curled against a large blue stone, tears flowing freely to the earth below, was a ten-year-old boy. Red stained his too-white arms. Half his shirt had been torn away, and a leg was missing entirely from his pants. Relief washed away by panic, Lec dove for the child, clutching him into a tight embrace and shrouding him from view. “Soren,” they breathed, “by the gods, Soren, why are you here?”

    The child peeked his head from under his sibling’s arm. His silent sobbing was ceaseless. He struggled to free his arms. Though his hands were quivering, his signs were clear: “There’s someone here."

    Lec straightened. Their eyes surveyed the darkness. The ball of light they’d used had slipped from their hand and rolled a short distance away. The grass rustled and the trees howled. With a wave of their hand, they killed the light, leaving them in the dark. They grabbed for their brother’s hand, speaking into it only words the two of them could hear. “You’re going to be okay,” they signed, though their hand shook too wildly to make the sign language convincing. Those red eyes, those giant paws, the suffocating pressure of claws at their throat…

    “Lec?” It was the sign the two of them had developed together, a name sign, a semi-closed fist rubbed against a cheekbone. The child looked up at his sibling, blue eyes petrified. He was trying to sign, but Lec wasn’t watching him, wasn’t catching his words. “Lec,” he tried again, cursing his inability to speak. “Lec, please. Are you having an attack again? Lec?”

    Lec started choking, kneeling over and spitting out what they hoped was the reason they could not breathe. Now was not the time for a panic attack, they kept telling themselves. They tried to focus on Soren, on those gentle eyes, on that childish face, but his face morphed into one of theirs, his eyes into blood. Lec panicked, jumping away from their brother in a confused and frightened frenzy. Just don’t look at him, they told themselves. Rising, Lec offered a hand to the child. “Soren,” they said quietly, “we have to go.”
    Last edited by Ashen; 08-02-2019 at 10:07 PM.
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  2. #2
    Mistborn
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    At a glance, the forest bordering the portside town of Evimarie might have seemed a beautiful place. The fading evening sun filtered down through a canopy of yellow and orange, bathing the forest floor in light as gentle as a lover’s kiss. Lush greenery blanketed the floor, broken up only by the occasional rock or fallen branch, and often layered so thick that it was almost impossible to find the dirt beneath. A soft trickling sound belied the existence of a small stream nearby, though the sound was almost entirely drowned out by the myriad of calls and cries from the birds and insects that had claimed this little slice of paradise as their home. Such animals were plentiful, if one knew where to look, too tucked away in the small corners of the world.

    A foreigner might have called it tranquil. Picturesque, even. A place untouched and unsullied by human hands. The locals claimed to know better, however, speaking of hidden far beyond simple feral animals. Lurking dangers that would kill any human who ventured just a little too far, explored just a little too deep. They spoke of an ongoing war being waged between the city’s residents and a race of unnatural, shapeshifting monstrosities. They saw the forest in an altogether different light. Where others saw beauty, they saw danger.

    To Issa, it was simply ‘home’.

    The young Lucet knew the forest’s reaches like the back of his hand, and traversed them as casually as a human child might explore their own backyard. Nowadays, however, that almost seemed like a bad thing. The wonder of exploring with his brothers and sisters had dulled a little as the years had passed, fading to nothing as the scenery grew increasingly familiar, and his family had devoted themselves to other duties. Left alone, Issa was forced to try and find new ways to entertain himself. One of the elders doubtless would have argued that he should be performing one menial task or another for the good of the village, but where was the fun in that?

    At the present moment in time, Issa was lounging amongst the lower branches of one of the forest’s trees. He had decided to try a little climbing to try and entertain himself, but had abandoned the idea after coming across a convenient little fork that looked like it would make a perfect seat. Now his body relaxed while his mind wandered, drifting to places that were just as far out of his reach as the highest branches. Thoughts of things beyond the forest were first and foremost. Things he might find, sights he might see, and adventures he might have if he were to ever wander beyond the forest’s limits. All pure fabrications, of course. A great many of them were much more imaginative and outlandish but the reality, as was so often the way with these things. Still, the temptation was very much real.

    Issa continued to daydream idly until a flicker of movement and some gentle rustling below grabbed his attention. Forcefully dragged out of his daydream, Issa climbed to his feet slowly, doing his best to remain silent. Below, a deer stepped out of the undergrowth and into his field of vision. A buck with a small set of antlers – probably about a year old, by his estimation. Ever cautious and ever regal, the beast took a few careful steps forward, before coming to a halt. With its ears pricked, the animal turned its head back and forth, scanning the undergrowth for predators. Luckily for Issa, very few creatures – human or animal – tended to look up. So long as he stayed quiet, he doubted it would notice his presence.

    Had it come to drink from the nearby stream, or was he simply lucky? It mattered little, really. It seemed that the goddess had presented him with a gift, and Issa wasn’t one to waste such an opportunity. Even if he wasn’t particularly hungry, a chase sounded like more fun than he was currently having.

    Such were Issa’s thoughts as he lingered on his skyward perch, waiting for the skittish buck to relax. Enough for him to make his move, at the very least. As soon as its body language relaxed, he sprung into action. Issa jumped from his perch, trying to get as close to the deer as he could.

    During those few brief seconds in which gravity had yet to take hold, Issa changed. Bones broke and reformed in an instant, whilst muscles and skin stretched and twisted to accommodate their new shape. A thick hide of coarse black fur pushed its way up through his skin, covering Issa’s body from head to toe. Teeth became fangs and fingers became claws. He even lost the ability to speak the human tongue as his mouth, tongue, and voice box all changed, instead becoming those of a feral animal.

    The process was more than a little uncomfortable. Still, it was hardly all bad. The pain faded as quickly as it came, leaving only a faded and dulled memory of suffering in its wake. His hearing, sense of smell, and eyesight all grew much more acute, making the world seem much more vivid. His new body was accompanied by a sense of lithe grace and balance any night burglar would envy, and his muscles were filled with restless energy. A sort of lean potency, far beyond that of his human form. Beyond that, the change felt…right, somehow. Like taking off an uncomfortable pair of shoes to run about barefoot. Natural.

    The change might have felt like it stretched for a small eternity, but in reality the entire process took no more than a few seconds. When Issa landed, he was human no longer, having instead taken the form of a large black panther. The unfortunate deer he had been watching startled almost immediately, the sound of his landing enough to draw its attention. The buck was quick to panic, and immediately turned to run. Having been expecting – hoping – for this outcome, Issa was ready, and quickly gave chase. The thrill of the hunt bubbled up inside him, and had his new animal features been capable, Issa had no doubt he would’ve been grinning.

    After a few exhilarating moments he finally managed to close the remaining distance between them, and leapt towards the fleeing deer, claws outstretched. He caught the animal cleanly, dragging it to the ground. His jaws quickly found the buck’s throat, and the coppery tang of blood filled his mouth as his teeth pierced its flesh, strangely palatable to his animal tongue. He held the buck tightly as it thrashed its death throes, applying as much pressure as he could to its throat, before the buck finally fell still. Issa took a moment to collect himself then, revelling in the animalistic joy of a fresh kill, before finally lowering his head to the deer’s carcass in earnest.

    ~~~~

    Night had just about fallen when Issa finally returned to his village. He had made the vast majority of the trip in his animal form, and paused only when he was close to change back into his human visage. The process was similar to the one before, simply in reverse. Once it was done the young Lucet spent a few brief moments straightening himself out. He brushed his hands over his clothes – a mixture of furs and cured animal hide – and double checked that his earrings were in place. Finally, he squared his shoulders and strode into the village good and proper.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Lucet as a whole generally believed in growth alongside nature. The forest was a living entity, not a mere cache of resources, and they treated it with respect. Their philosophy showed in their construction, with all their meagre buildings constructed from dead and fallen wood. Similarly, most of their structures were built in harmony with nature, instead of the defiance humans seemed to prefer.. Just about all of their buildings were built around trees – both on the ground and tucked away amongst the branches, with wooden ladders and rope bridges linking them all together. A veritable network connecting each individual Lucet to each other, and their tribe as a whole to nature.

    Once upon a time, the entire village had been full of joy. Children darting back and forth, running and climbing and playing, whilst the adults looked on and laughed. That was what the older Lucet said, anyway. Nowadays, Issa thought that it simply seemed there were too many buildings…or too few people. Still, he was in a relatively good mood, and it showed The few people he passed were all met with big grins and hearty waves. Names were called out, and playful jibes exchanged.

    “Long time no see, Steph. I hope you’ve been giving your mother enough grief”

    “How are the kids, Kiara? The little ones, I mean.”

    “Evening, Clover. You find your sense of humour yet? I…I guess I’ll take that as a no”

    It was all in good fun, until a squat man with beefy arms and a barrel chest stopped him up short. Judging from the expression on his face, Jez wasn’t much in the mood for any sort of playful banter.

    “Issa. Lady Nakoa has been looking for you”

    “Truly? How flattering.”

    “She wants you to meet her in the temple. Now.”

    Inwardly, Issa let out a sigh. It seemed there was to be no avoiding the tribe’s matriarch and her requests today. Even Issa dare not disrespect their leader and priestess by refusing so direct an invitation, especially when she had gone through the trouble of arranging an escort. Setting his original plans for the evening aside, Issa instead set off towards the centre of their little village, with Jez trailing just a few steps behind.

    Together, they made their way towards the only standalone building in the village – a large, single-story structure that stood apart from the other huts, or any sort of supporting tree. Issa brushed aside the furs that were hanging up across the doorway and stepped inside. The interior of the temple was dominated by a large wooden carving of the goddess herself, which some artisan or another had fashioned into his vision of her form. Issa could’ve sworn the statue was watching him, and the mere thought sent a shiver down his spine.

    Issa forcibly tore his gaze away from the wooden relief, and instead directed his attention to the woman seated near its base. A frail old woman, more wrinkles than skin, but undoubtedly the wisest amongst them. Matriarch Nakoa herself. Knowing better than to interrupt, Issa stepped up alongside the old woman. He knelt down and bent his head as if in prayer, and waited for her to finish.

    “Issa”

    When the old woman did finally speak, her voice was gentle. Even so, her words held a strength that belied her physical appearance. Issa finally lifted his head, his gaze flickering over the rusty orange, faded body paint that covered what little of her hands and face were visible. They were stylized after a fox, which was supposedly the old woman’s true form.

    “You sent for me, mother Nakoa?” he asked, trying to sound agreeable. The old woman watched him in silence for a few moments, during which he shifted uncomfortably, before her eyes narrowed.

    “I smell blood. Open your mouth”

    Issa did as he was asked, even as his mind recoiled. He knew perfectly well what was coming, and there would be no insulting the mother by trying to argue with her. The same went with lying, and so he saw no denying the accusation that came next.

    “You’ve been hunting again, haven’t you?” she asked. Her tone was casual, almost conversational.

    “…Yes, revered mother” he answered, his gaze slipping downwards.

    “You know, in my old age, I tend to forget the simplest of things. Be a dear and remind me. What’s the first rule we follow when it comes to the forest?”
    “We never take more than is necessary, mother”

    She nodded sagely at that, before repeating his words. Slowly, as if savouring the way they rolled off her tongue.

    “If you have energy and bloodlust enough to be hunting in your spare time, then you should have no problems helping out the night watch, hm? They could certainly use the help.”

    A punishment, cleverly disguised as a request. It was all Issa could do to nod.

    “Thank you, dear. You may go”

    As he left the temple, the wheels of Issa’s mind were turning. Surely that wasn’t what she had wanted to speak to him about, was it? There was no way she could’ve known in advance about his breach. Yet she hadn’t mentioned anything else during their brief discussion. It was strange, but there was nothing to be done about it, he supposed. Still, it kept his thoughts occupied as he left the village once more, this time heading in the direction that led towards the human settlement that bordered their forest.

    ~~~~

    Night fell, and Issa grew increasingly bored as the hours dragged on. He was prowling the outskirts of the forest in his animal form, having chosen it for both the more acute senses and the camouflage his dark fur provided. To amuse himself, he had decided to try and seek out one of his siblings – there was bound to be another two or three of them out here, stuck on night watch themselves – to see if he could get the drop on them. He moved silently through the forest, trying to distinguish the regular nocturnal animals from the other Lucet. At least, until an unfamiliar voice reached his ears. Given that he knew everyone currently living in his village, that could only mean one thing.

    Humans.

    Issa’a priorities quickly shifted, and he changed course immediately, heading off in the direction that he had heard the voices coming from. Just like before, he stayed low and moved silently, though for entirely different reasons. After a few minutes of prowling, the strangers came into view. Two of them, huddled close together.

    What were they doing out here, this late at night? Issa paused, sinking into a low crouch as he considered the situation. The logical thing to do was kill the two of them, or at least scare them badly enough to send them running. That was what he was supposed to do, at the very least. What all those back at the village would tell him to do, if they were able. The other Lucet out on patrol certainly would, and without hesitation. Even so, another idea was quickly taking shape in his mind.

    Before he could think enough to stop himself, Issa had shifted again, returning to his human form once more. He lost sight of the two humans as his eyesight returned to normal, but that mattered little. Issa already knew where the two of them were, and that was enough. Moving silently through the forest was virtually second nature at this point, but this time Issa made a point of stomping on several fallen branches – each one producing a loud and distinctive snap – and rustling several bushes, all to betray his approach. When he got close enough that the humans became visible through the gloom, he spoke.

    “Well now. A pair of humans, out for a midnight stroll through the woods. That certainly isn’t the sort of thing you see every day.”

    How must he had looked to these two humans, stepping out of the darkness like that? His messy blonde hair, slightly tan skin and hawkish face were all certainly human enough. The two studs in his left ear and the single ring in his right all looked like the sorts of things they might wear, if they felt so inclined. That was where the similarities ended, though. There was nothing human about the fact that he was barefoot, or the clothes he wore. Even the two curved hunting knives hanging by his belt were decidedly poor quality compared to what the humans used, though they were still sharp enough to do their job. Worst of all, and perhaps the most indicative, were his eyes. They were a vibrant scarlet hue, reminiscent of freshly spilled blood.

    “Not around these parts, at the very least. Most of them seem to think its too dangerous, nowadays. I’m sure at least one of you has heard the stories, right?” Issa asked rhetorically, his voice smooth and rich as honey. You could practically hear his smile in his tone. “Its not the sort of place you want to get lost in. I wouldn’t worry too much, though. I’m sure I can help you out.”

  3. #3
    The Ashen One
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    The forest howled under the darkness of the starry sky. Lec prayed for one of the moons to peek through the trees, to provide any sort of light on them and their brother, just so that they might get some grasp of their surroundings. They were being watched; Lec was entirely convinced of that, but they weren't sure if that was the paranoia or if someone were actually around. Soren had said something about not being alone, but... Frantic eyes surveyed the darkness. Thoughts whirred louder than the wind could ever be. They needed to leave, to get out of here, to get home, but Lec couldn't even remembered where they'd come from. Which way was home? How would they make it there when Lec's legs were too shaky to even walk?

    Soren watched with wide eyes the way his sibling's hands shook. He didn't know how to help, and with Lec's gaze jumping all over the place, he didn't even know how to communicate. Soren tugged at Lec's hand, trying to get them to move, but Lec wouldn't budge. The child cocked his hand. With one hand, he started, "We need to--" but Lec threw a forceful hand towards his chest, silencing him.

    "They're here," they said quietly. The snapping of branches, the rumbling of pebbles, the heavy footsteps; someone wanted them to feel their presence, to fear their approach. Lec gulped, standing their ground. Last time they'd been defenseless, but this time, they had weapons, had magic. Their first priority was protecting Soren, returning him to his father, and never setting foot in this cursed forest again.

    But then they heard a voice, not loud by any means but thunderous enough to rattle Lec's bones. They squeaked when they heard it, an involuntary sound that left a shudder in its wake. Soren turned sharply towards his sibling, unsure of what to do. They could run, he thought, but a Lucet would easily outrun them, and he didn't even know if Lec was capable of moving. They were stuck at the mercy of the enemy, and neither of them had hopes of making it out this time.

    Lec forced themselves to look at their foe. He was a handsome creature, with chiseled features and a shapely build. Those eyes bore into Lec's soul, and those weapons, poorly-fashioned as they were, sent shivers through to their fingertips. In another life, Lec might have been attracted to such a being, but in this one, the human knew he was more beast than man. He was staring at them, waiting for them to respond. That sick smile on his lips, that stupid, carefree tone of voice; he was taunting them. Lec squeezed their brother's hand. They would handle this; they would save their brother; but how?

    Lec lowered their gaze. "We don't need your help," they said, their voice wavering. "Thank you." There was no gratitude there, only malice, fear. They tugged at Soren, begging the stranger before them to let them pass.

    The child knew better, however, and did not budge. "Lec?" he signed slowly. "He won't let us go. Use your magic."

    Lec shook their head. "There is no reason to attack," they signed, knowing the Lucet would not know their hand motions. "Come, Soren."

    But Soren's eyes would not stray from the red ones shining before him. "We need to attack," he said, his signs small and close to his chest. "Lec, we should..." Noticing his sibling still wasn't going to attack, Soren took it upon himself. Pinching his eyes shut, he held his hands flat out in front of him. Focusing, he forced his hands forward, a small movement that created a small flame. The fire poured out from his hands like liquid, dripping to the grass below him, instead of to the Lucet he'd wanted to hit.

    Lec watched the faulty magic and panicked. If they were to start a fire, that would only make the Lucet angrier, more likely to kill. "Soren!" they called sharply, and they blindly ran forward, throwing their brother over their shoulder. "Don't you think, Soren?" they scolded, still running barefoot through the brush. The fire their brother started was small, and if the Lucet concentrated on putting that out instead of following them, maybe they would get enough of a lead to get out of there unharmed. Either way, Lec wasn't going to turn around to check. They'd keep running until they collapsed, with the dumb hope of getting out unscathed.
    Last edited by Ashen; 09-03-2019 at 04:12 AM.
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  4. #4
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    Issa waited rather patiently for the humans to speak, all whilst silently wondering what they must be making of his sudden appearance. When the older of the two finally broke the silence, the Lucet raised an eyebrow, his expression inscrutable. Based on current appearances, Issa would have estimated their situation as anything but fine. At least, that was what the blood seemed to suggest. Given the outright refusal, and the almost lethal edge to their voice, Issa supposed he knew the answer to at least one of his questions now. He couldn’t help but feel the slightest bit pleased, despite how out of place such an emotion seemed right now, and how much more difficult it would make his goal.

    Issa opened his mouth to speak again, only to stop himself when the two humans began signing to each other. Did they have some other way of communicating, just as animals spoke in scents and body language? The movements seemed much too complicated to be instinctual, but much too deliberate to be meaningless. Issa couldn’t help but be intrigued.

    When the younger of the two humans decided to demonstrate his magical abilities, however, any curiosity Issa felt quickly went up in flames. Quite literally, as it so happened. He let out a soft yelp of something akin to fear, his relaxed composure gone. When the magic that some humans possessed had crossed his mind, Issa had been thinking of the dangers that such a human might pose to himself. Of any magical attacks that they might send his way if they felt threatened. He certainly hadn’t expected anything quite like this.

    All Lucet feared uncontrolled flame, and Issa more than most. Hardly surprising, considering the threat that it posed to the forest that was their home. If the forest went up in flames, it would mean devastation for the Lucet. At the same time, it would also deprive the human society of the very resources they so often tried to steal. Such was likely the reason that they had never intentionally tried to burn the Lucet out in the first place. Now, he couldn’t help but ask the obvious question.

    “Why?” Issa called out, sounding more worried than angry. His simple question was left unanswered as both of the humans disappeared into the undergrowth together, leaving him alone with the small fire that they had started.

    Issa stood frozen for a moment, before he finally broke out into a run. The Lucet took off after the humans, pushing his way through the branches and shrubs that unwittingly tried to bar his path. He pointedly resisted the urge to transform, despite how much his instincts urged him to do so, unwilling to give up the opportunity to try and speak, or deal with the aggression his animal form likely invited. He’d already seen enough magic for one day.

    Thankfully, between the blood and their haste, the humans had left a trail that was easy enough to follow, even in human form. Given that he wasn’t trying to carry someone else, Issa slowly began to close the distance between them. As soon as he thought that he might be within earshot, the Lucet called out after the humans, eager to get them to stop and listen.

    “Please, stop! You don’t know what you’re doing!” Issa called out, hoping that he was close enough for his voice to reach them. Of course, whether or not they would actually listen was another matter entirely. “If you run into any of my siblings, they won’t hesitate to attack you!” It was a paltry explanation, but the best he could manage on the run. Even so, Issa hated how desperate his voice sounded. Where had that easy going confidence gone? There was nothing to be done about it now, though. He simply had to keep up and hope they would listen to what he considered reason.

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    The forest was darker now, as if the flame drew to it all the light of the ecosystem. Lec couldn't see where they were going, in part because of the darkness but mostly because of the tears blurring their vision beyond comprehension. Their brother struggled against their death grip, but there was no way they were letting go now. Flashes of memory swirled in their head, throwing their legs into a quiver. Those eyes, the panic in them; was Soren trying to burn down the forest? The Lucet was trailing them, though his footsteps seemed too harsh, too frantic even. Of course the Lucet feared the flame--one forest fire and they would have no home, after all. Lec clutched their brother's frail body to their chest. "By the gods, Soren," they murmured, their voice a broken whisper. "What have you done?"

    Soren was keeping watch behind them, his scared eyes bouncing between the leafy silhouettes and the human-shaped shadow trailing them. The Lucet wasn't mad; rather, he seemed almost scared. Soren looked to his hands, unskilled in the magic his sibling had tried so hard to teach him. Did he alone have such power as to strike terror into the hearts of the Lucet? A smile split his thin, chapped lips. Maybe he could help them get away, after all. Maybe he could get revenge on the demon who had driven panic into the heart of his sibling all these years.

    Lec was unaware of Soren's intentions, and they kept running. So shaky on their own legs, they tripped over a branch or stone and tumbled to the ground, taking care to protect their brother. Wincing at the new gash in their leg, they got up and glanced behind them. The Lucet was there, desperate, deceptive. His words meant nothing; Lec was sure any Lucet would kill them now, especially the one in front of them. Now that human fire had dripped into Lucet soil, Lec knew their chances of survival were nil.

    But a part of them made them pause. They looked to those cursed eyes of their foe, and they found fear there. Unless this being was a skilled actor, the panic behind his eyes told a story beyond a shared pyrophobia. Lec grabbed for Soren's hand and stood their ground. Maybe, just maybe, they had the upper hand after all.

    A call rang out in the forest, a voice of a man in panic. Had some other Lucet discovered the weak fire Soren had caused? Lec crouched to the ground, weaving their fingers into the dirt. With only a breath of a syllable, they conjured a tease of a stream. Water flowed from their fingertips, diving into the earth and heading towards where they and Soren had just been. It was a pitiful attempt, sending water to put out the fire, water that would undoubtedly be absorbed by the earth before ever reaching its destination, but they had to try. If this ignited an end to the cold war, a rise to new bloodshed, Lec would never forgive themselves.

    Soren, watching his sibling do such pointless work, readied his hands for another strike, but he was swatted away by Lec. "Stop," Lec growled, their voice low, commanding. The small boy straightened, scared of this new tone. He turned his eyes to the Lucet, perhaps just as scared of the terrified Lec. The older mage straightened, trying to appear with more confidence than they could dream of having in that moment. "We don't want to hurt you," they said quietly. They glanced towards their brother, now still, subdued. Returning their attention to the burning red eyes before them, Lec cleared their throat. "I was simply retrieving my brother. I mean no harm to you or your home. If you'll just let us pass without fuss..."

    Soren was less interested in peaceful protest. He snatched his hand from his sibling's and signed at the Lucet, a vulgarity he couldn't have understood. Lec, out of the corner of their eye, watched the sign and stilled. They didn't know what sign language the Lucet could know, but they hoped this creature would not know that sign. The last thing they wanted was to anger the beast more. The readied their hands by their sides, semi-closed fists, an icicle forming in either. In the event of an attack, Lec would strike without hesitation, but their hands were quivering, and they feared their own power.

    They took a few steps back, eyes not straying from the Lucet. Such a pretty creature, wearing such human emotions... Lec would scoff at it later. "Thank you for understanding," they murmured, a last final plea, before grabbing their brother, forcefully, and hoping there was nothing more this beast would want of them.
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    Issa did his best to keep pace with the two humans, and managed to keep them in sight as they fled. He couldn’t help but wonder if they had any idea where they were going, or if they were simply fleeing him and the fire they had started. Similarly, he had no idea if his shouted plea had reached them, or his words had simply been lost to the wind. Given the lack of a visible reaction, he sincerely hoped it was the latter - if they were ignoring his attempts at entreaty already, then his chances were looking depressingly slim.

    The Lucet skidded to a stop as the larger of the two humans tripped, sending both siblings sprawling. Issa himself stumbled slightly when his own momentum threatened to tip him over, but he managed to regain his balance at the last moment, and stayed on his feet. Even so, Issa’s chest was heaving, his breath coming in ragged gasps, and from more than just the chase.

    He maintained a respectful distance as the two righted themselves, too wary to try and move any closer. Whilst they had stopped running, things still seemed to move too fast for Issa to process in full. He quickly turned his gaze away from them for a moment when a loud yell split the air, as if he were searching out the source. His attention was quickly dragged back to the two humans when the older sibling conjured up a small stream, and Issa found himself unsure what to make of the gesture. He flinched when the younger human began to move, expecting more fire, but thankfully the older sibling quickly put a stop to any such behaviour.

    Whilst the hand gestures made by Soren were well and truly beyond his comprehension, Issa was quick to reply when the older human addressed him again, his words as spoken as hastily as his decision to follow them had been.

    “You mean no harm? You have a funny way of showing it, setting fire to-“ Issa started. His voice was a little too harsh, even to his own ears, and the Lucet cut himself off quickly, before his fear made him say something he wold really regret. He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself a little, before he started over again.

    “Please, just....just listen for a moment, okay? You don’t understand the sort of danger you are in” he offered. Inwardly, the Lucet cursed just how shaken he sounded. What had happened to all that easygoing confidence, and the plan that he had originally laid out for himself? He was quick to push onward, eager to try and salvage some small scrap of it.

    “The other Lucet aren’t like me, okay? They won’t have any qualms about killing a couple of humans that have wandered into their home. They won’t try and speak to you, or try and warn you off. They won’t make a sound. You won’t even realise they’ve found you until it’s too late. You’ll think you are alone, right up until the moment they lunge out of the darkness, and it’ll all be over. Just. Like. That.”

    Whilst he spoke, Issa slowly raised one of his hands. He punctuated the final word in his little speech with a simple snap of his fingers, to help drive his point home. He did, of course, conveniently forget to mention all the times that he had done the same to other unfortunate people in the past. His hands were hardly clean. Thankfully, there was no way for the two humans to know that.

    “The more noise you make, running around aimlessly like that, the faster you’ll bring them down on us. And if they find out I tried to speak to you, it’ll mean trouble for me, too.” The Lucet held his hands out in front of him, in what he hoped was a placating gesture. “I know you don’t have any reason to trust me, but if you want to get out out of here alive, you’re going to need help. And right now, I'm the only person both capable and willing to give it to you."

  7. #7
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    Lec couldn't understand the Lucet's attempts to talk with them. Did he think they would hurt him if he attacked? With their hands shaking so wildly, they weren't certain they'd even be able to properly aim whatever magical weapon they conjured. The malice in the beast's voice; Lec supposed he had every right to be angry. Two strangers had wandered into his home in the middle of the night, noisily bursting through the undergrowth and waving magic around recklessly. Lec glanced towards Soren, a thousand swears bouncing on their tongue. They were trapped, prey under an unwieldy claw. The Lucet was right; wandering around blindly was likely to get both of them killed. Lec stilled, painfully aware of their situation. Maybe their only choice was to trust the enemy.

    They were having a hard time listening to the Lucet. His voice was low, yet clear, but the words they were saying... You’ll think you are alone, right up until the moment they lunge out of the darkness, and it’ll all be over. The mental image his words created, accented by the thundering snaps, sent Lec back into a panic. They cursed the way their legs reacted to an earthquake not real, the way their eyes kept pinching shut, the way their breaths became wildly uneven. Back then, when they were protecting Soren, when that Lucet girl had attacked--

    Soren startled as he watched his sibling drop to the ground. Icicle daggers shattered on either side of them, weapons now struck useless. He immediately dropped beside them, instinctively wrapping his arms around a shivering person more childlike in that moment than himself. His small hands went for their hair, weaving fingers through waves of chestnut. They were sobbing, were remembering, and Soren panicked. He turned back to the Lucet, trying to figure out what he could do. The Lucet and the Sthenorni worshiped different gods, had completely different religious practices, but he hoped that his single sign, tiny hands clamped together in prayer, would shine through the language barrier. Help.

    Lec knew they didn't have time for this. Burning tears raced down their face, taking with them the black paint Lec had so meticulously applied that afternoon. Their life was in danger; Soren's life was in danger; they had to snap out of it. Blindly they reached for their brother's hand, trying hard to ground themselves. "Go," they murmured, voice fragile as glass. "We will follow. Go." Getting to their feet, Lec was sure not to look the beast in the eye. Just what would he see in the dichromatic eyes of this stranger, anyway? Fear? Horror? A lifetime of memories not fit for a child? Lec was twenty-three now, was far from a child anymore, but the memories clashing in their mind, the trauma clutching and drowning them, rendered them less an adult than Soren.

    Soren was glad his sibling was up again, but he didn't like the idea of following the Lucet. Knowing Lec would know best, he approached the Lucet, being the shield between him and Lec. After all, he had gotten his sibling into this. He needed to protect them somehow. He stared up at the Lucet, desperate, pleading. His eyes squinted into a glare, and he traced his hand, the hand that had produced fire, the hand capable of strangling this entire forest. It was a threat, a promise: Touch my sibling and I won't hesitate​. Beside him, Lec cleared their throat. "Please," they cried, biting back a sob. Shivering, they whispered, "Get me out."
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    Issa had intended for his words to be dramatic, but he hadn’t expected them to impact the larger human quite so severely. When they sank to their knees, the Lucet couldn’t help but feel a pang of sympathy. Even so, if it meant they would finally take his advice seriously…well, then a little immediate discomfort on their part was a tolerable price to pay. His eyes drifted down to the smaller human at the gestures that followed, and a wry smile flickered across Issa’s features. He’d yet to hear the smaller human speak a word, but this time, there was some small glimmer of understanding. He could almost admire the child’s courage, if not for the fact that he had just conjured fire up out of nothing.

    This was hardly the time for reminiscing, however. With the humans supposedly in agreement, Issa nodded once, before turning away. He waved for them to follow, a single word slipping from his lips. “Come” he offered, his tone quieter than before. With that, the Lucet turned away and started walking, striking out in a direction perpendicular to the one the humans had been fleeing on just a few moments earlier. He kept his pace leisurely, but forewent any further attempts at communication, the benefits of silence still fresh in his mind. That didn’t stop him from glancing back over his shoulder occasionally to check the humans were still following, though.

    He walked in silence for a time, the earlier part of their journey rather uneventful. Then, suddenly, Issa froze. He sunk into a low crouch, body tense, ears straining against the night’s silence. He glanced back towards the humans, and slowly raised a finger to his lips, in what he hoped was the universal gesture for silence. He quickly followed up by holding an empty palm out to them, trying to get them to stay. Unable to do anything but pray they understood, he disappeared into the undergrowth, intentionally making a little noise this time. If one of his cousins was close, as he suspected, then he wanted to draw their attention to him.

    He walked on alone for a few moments, praying to the goddess that the humans had understood, and were not following any longer. He dare not look back and check. After a few seconds, the fluttering of wings caught his attention, and Issa looked upwards just in time to see a large thrush winging down towards him.

    A thrush with scarlet eyes.

    The thrush transformed into a human as it neared the ground, landing with effortless grace as its form resolved into that of a young woman, about Issa’s own age. When she spoke, however, her tone was grave – a far cry from the musical whimsy he had come to expect from her.

    “Issa.”

    “Syl” he responded, referring to the woman by her nickname. Normally, that alone was enough to get a smile out of her. No such luck this time, however.
    “You saw the fire, yes? Or at least heard the outcry?”

    “F-fire?” Issa stuttered, his eyes going wide. Thankfully, Syl didn’t seem to think his nerves out of place.

    “Indeed. Stay vigilant tonight. There may be a human about.”

    With that, she was gone. The girl took wing once more, and disappeared into the canopy. Issa watched her go, making note of the direction, before turning back the way he had come. Throughout the walk back, he was silent – contemplative. If Syl had no time for playful banter, then the Lucet were taking this matter seriously indeed.

    With any luck, the humans were exactly where he had left them. This time, Issa took a few cautious steps close, and allowed himself a soft whisper.

    “One of my siblings. I’ve sent them the other way, but we’ll still try and go around, just to be safe” he answered. Pending their approval, he would set off again, taking them in a circuitous route that would hopefully mean they avoided crossing paths with Syl again. Even so, Issa did his best to remain vigilant.

    And slowly, the forest began to perceptibly thin.

  9. #9
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    The Lucet took off into the night, a single command to follow barely meeting the elder human's deaf ears. Lec was still for several moments, letting the Lucet get ahead. Their gaze was blank, lost, and they only snapped out of their trance when Soren brushed a gentle hand against their arm. Lec chased after the Lucet then, Soren keeping up beside them, and together, they walked into what they could only hope was their salvation.

    Every footstep felt like a blind trek towards a cliff. Lec didn't know whether this step would be their last, or the next, or perhaps the one after that. Their gluttonous brain chewed over each irrational thought: He's going to turn around now and snap our necks; he's leading us to his family so they can eat from our bones; he's taking me to my grave. Could the rest of the forest hear the tremble of their bare feet? Could they hear the forceful, unpredictable gales of their breath? Could the Lucet, with his feral senses, smell the terror emanating from every pore?

    Then, suddenly, they stopped. The Lucet made a command with his hands and face, a signal of silence, and he disappeared into the overgrowth. Lec stood, petrified, heartbeats creating harmonies too loud for the lullaby of the forest. They were struggling to keep their mind from that girl, from her claws, her fangs, or their surroundings, the trees that would whistle louder than their screams. Every second was a conscious battle of thinking of something else. Soren was there, patient, unaware. Lec turned to him, to the small child glowing red, the blood of unknown origin, the questions Lec hadn't gotten a chance to ask. Their hand weaseled through the air, finding Soren's and holding it tightly. They made small handsigns into it, words punctuated by tremors, pathetic attempts to say, "It will be okay."

    In only a few moments, the two could hear voices. One was the Lucet who'd guided them, the man speaking to a woman, from the sounds of it. She called him Issa, a name foreign, a name Lec did not want to remember. They talked of a fire, and absently Lec's hands balled to fists. These animals would be looking for them, a human capable of torching their home. It was getting easier for Lec to doubt their chances of survival.

    The talk died down, and the Lucet--Issa?--returned. He made some explanation Lec could hardly pay attention to, and then he was starting off again. Soren followed after him, but paused and returned to his sibling when he found they were not moving. He gave Lec a shove, only then getting the trembling mage to go. They again followed the Lucet, trusting his judgment, praying they would be able to leave without encountering another one of his siblings.

    Eventually, slowly, painfully, the forest began to give way. Lec's gaze was everywhere, at the dwindling trees and scarce shrubbery, at the black silhouettes of buildings in the distance. They knew how to get out now, how to get home, get away from this place. In one swift motion, they scooped Soren into their arms and bolted, running for freedom on legs with newfound confidence. Only moments away now, they would be back in their home, getting scolded by their father, crawling into bed and falling asleep in the safety of their city. It was so close now, so close...

    But Soren struggled against their grip. He nipped at Lec's shoulder, causing his sibling to drop him. Soren fell to his feet and started back towards the Lucet. Panicking, Lec started after him, sharply calling his name. But Soren ignored Lec, insteading focusing on this Issa. He pointed to him, cocking his head and raising a brow. Why did you help us? he wanted to ask, but his signs would be foreign to him, so he remained still. When Lec walked by him, he signed at them, hoping for a translator.

    Lec's legs were back to jelly, and they watched their brother with piercing eyes. His signs were quick, punctuated, matter-of-fact. Lec glanced towards the Lucet, biting their lip. "He wants to thank you," they said quietly. "We. Yes, thank you." They turned back to Soren, as if asking to leave, but Soren continued with his hands. "Why did you get us out?" Lec translated, eyes trained on Soren's movements, on the ground, anywhere but the Lucet. "You should have killed us. Why did you help?"

    Lec wanted none of this conversation. They wanted to get away from here, to rip off this dancer's outfit and crawl into an oversized shirt, a blanket, something to wrap themselves into. They wanted to never see another red-eyed freak. But their brother held a belief, held a stupid dogma their father must have taught them: Never neglect to repay the kindnesses paid to you. They weren't getting anywhere until Soren had his answers. Now, on the border of Evimaire, streetlights struggled to illuminate the Lucet's face. There was salvation in the cobblestone only meters away, there was familiarity. On their own turf, Lec would know how to get away, would know how to call for help. Just a few minutes, they told themselves. The Lucet would be gone from their lives forever in just a few minutes.
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    The Lucet had always considered the outskirts as part of the forest, same as any other. It was land that they had been unable to effectively defend from the humans, however, and had cededyears ago for their own safety. Back then, the hope had been that the humans would be satisfied with the resources that the outskirts offered, and wouldn’t feel the need to push further inland, towards the Lucet village. Now, of course, they knew that such beliefs had been the height of folly. Truth be told, Issa couldn’t remember the last time he had been this close to the strange structures that the humans used for shelter. As they walked, there was a prickling awareness in the back of his mind, reminding him that every step he took now was one step closer to the human settlement than he had ever been before…and one step further from home.

    He was so lost in his own thoughts that he started a little as the humans broke out into a run, brushing past him as they sprinted for the safety that their own home offered. He raised a hand as if to stop them, but they were well and truly out of reach by the time he had realised what was happening. Despite the knowledge that his chance at escape was quite literally disappearing before his eyes, the Lucet didn’t give chase. He came to a halt and simply watched the two go, his expression inscrutable.

    There was no hiding his surprise when the younger human slipped from the arms of his sibling, and quickly started heading back towards him. Issa’s eyes widened at the sight, and he watched the unfolding scene with increasing trepidation. When the younger human returned, the signs he made proved just as indecipherable as they had been earlier. Thankfully, it seemed that the older sibling was willing to translate, despite his fear. Issa couldn’t help but admire that on some level. It was one thing to be unafraid, and another thing entirely to overcome your fear. Oh, what an interesting contrast these two made!

    “Venturing back into the jaws of the beast when safety is so close, just to offer your thanks…what a bold one you are, neh?” Issa questioned, unable to keep himself from grinning like a wolf. He kept the majority of his attention focused on Soren, since it seemed to be the younger human’s words that he was hearing. Of course, that didn’t stop him glancing up at Lec briefly throughout the exchange.

    “Unlike most of my siblings, I aspire to more than a life spent confined to the same stretch of forest, and days of endless bloodshed. I want to see more of the world than that. And I intend to start right….here”

    Whilst he spoke, the Lucet took a few casual steps forward. He brushed between the two siblings, so that he was once again standing between the humans and their city. He slowly turned back to face them and threw one of his arms out wide, as if presenting their own home back to them. A slightly dramatic gesture, perhaps, but hopefully it would help drive his point home. His earlier amusement seemed to fade as discussion turned to darker topics, however. The Lucet crossed both of his arms across his chest, resisting the urge to finger the hilts of his knives again.

    “Alas, I doubt simply strolling in through the front entrance and making myself at home is wise, given how little I know of human society…oh, and the ongoing blood feud that is leading our people to slaughter each other. What I really need is a guide.” Issa said, pausing for a brief moment to allow the implication of his words to sink in. Even if the humans didn’t see how all the pieces fit together, and where he was going with all this, Issa would be quick to clarify.

    “So, I’ll keep saving lost humans until one of them is willing to return the favour. That wouldn’t happen to be you two now, would it?” he asked, tilting his head to one side slightly.

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