pegunicent: I'm in charge? Really? I thought I was Scape Goat Jesus. (Asylum)
 This will only make sense to me and Trips probably, but if you know FullMetal Alchemist, Dr. Zhu Spitfire is my OC. 

1) Falman blinked over his coffee cup as the atmosphere of the building suddenly shifted. "Incoming Spitfire!" 

Moments later the office door opened briskly to the jingle of silver bracelets and a smell of fresh lemons. Dr. Spitfire looked them all over suspiciously, pointed at Fury and snapped "You late for check up. This week, no excuses!"

Fury nearly smacked himself saluting, and Falman heard the click of his swallow from two desks away. "Yes Ma'am!"

Nodding in grim satisfaction the diminutive woman stalked down the hall and rapped sharply on the door frame. "Colonel."

"Come in Major, it's always open for a lady." Roy's voice was smugly cajoling for only having had, Falman looked at the clock, one cup of coffee. 

"You can stop saluting Fury."

"No I can't, my knees locked up and if I move I'll fall over." The poor man grit out, sweat visibly wilting his collar. 


"So, Major, is there a reason you're terrorizing my staff at this unhappy hour?" Roy asked lazily, watching as his door was closed and summarily glared at by gunmetal gray eyes. 

"Staff late for appointment." she growled, prowling around his office like something caged. Her hair was up in it's typical braided bun, two chopsticks sticking out absently as if she'd finished dinner and decided to skip the dishes. Though he appreciated the view of her long legs, the white lab coat and walking shoes took away from the overall image. Especially when he knew the mini-skirt was simply her defiance in the face of a uniform to a man and nation she considered terrible war criminals. 

"I'll be sure to have the lieutenant remind them of their duties to physical fitness. Anything else Dr.?"

When she met his eyes, he had to fight the reflex to check his gloves. //I need your help.// 

Carefully he unplugged the phone and stood to check the view outside his window. "Lieutenant? Would you mind bringing us some more coffee, the Major needs her caffeine before attending all those patients." When he heard Hawkeye leave her desk and secure the office, he sat back down and gave Zhu his full attention. //What's wrong?//

The gratitude in her eyes made him feel like a heel. 

//Someone is poisoning my patients. I don't know why, or how, but they come in with simple illnesses, easily treatable, and within hours they'll be too sick to leave! I tested all our water, our food, the air, it's not environmental. It's always the very old, or the very young, they come in by appointment and I see them, I make sure everything is all right... then before they can leave they'll start complaining about stomach pains, nausea, start vomiting blood... Three of them nearly *died* before I could stabilize them!// Her words came fast and staccato, fingers laced so tightly together her scarred knuckles were bloodless. 

He kept his voice low, watching her as his mind raced. //And you're sure it's not disease, something they can catch.// 

//I took samples, their blood and urine showed arsenic.//

A regular doctor might miss elemental poisoning, especially in low doses, but Zhu was a State Alchemist. If she said there were moon rocks in her patient's colons, Roy would still demand evidence, but he'd take her word. //Let me make some calls. Go to work. Act normal. We'll find who is doing this.//

He would need a lot of time and whisky to bury the memory of her desperate eyes. She'd probably insist on him *sharing* the drinks after all. 


"Everyone doing well 'Elizabeth'?"

"The family's just fine sir, it's just Papa Francis's arthritis." 

Roy held back a sigh and wondered how many bullets he'd have to dodge if he told Riza her undercover voice was the same as her sniper one. Falman at least seemed to be doing his part, you'd hardly know that bent and wobbly man was the same one this morning jogging five miles for his 'wake up run'. 

Zhu was in her element, a small dark storm scattering Xing curses and broken Amestrain orders about as she dodged around nurses, tended gently to her patients and bullied the unfortunates who thought they knew better than the Dr. about their health. Roy rarely willingly came to the medical ward, so it was something of a novelty to witness the skilled practice of making order from chaos without an array in sight. 

"Dr. Spitfire, it's lunch time."

"Yes yes, you go, call Rossi cover desk." 

"Aren't you going? Dr. Neya is already back..."

For a moment he saw her hesitate, gaze flitting to the doors that led to the emergency wards. "I.... yes, I go, just need office things." Things like her carry all, and the bag of cat food she kept especially for the feral feline population in the park down the street. Zhu was nothing if not one of his most predictable subordinates. Lunch in the park, for one hour, eating cold take out leftovers from the mess hall. 

"Mister Francis? The doctor will see you now."

Zhu didn't even blink, scribbling her name on the out sheet and whirling for her office all leashed adrenaline and martial grace. Her thighs really were spectacular. 



Falman set a small disposable cup on the table. "Pretty standard check up, I shouldn't strain myself too much, here's a prescription for some cold medicine to help with the cough and until I fill it, drink lots of fluids. Like the water that was waiting in this cup when I got in the room. Took the doctor long enough to get there I got thirsty." 

They all frowned at the cup. 

"Arsenic in the water?"

"And no idea who planted it." 

Breda glowered. "It had to be someone on duty today right, a nurse or doctor."

"But it could have been any of them, they all have free run of the hospital, and access to the sitting rooms." Fury countered. 

Roy stared at the the bland, generic little paper cup so common, so invisible... "Dr. Neya didn't seem surprised you were fine enough to leave?" 

Falman shook his head. "He didn't seem much of anything. Bedside manner of a bland lampshade."

"Well now what do we do? Fury isn't *that* young..." 

"And Falman's prints are on that thing, no way we can lift something useful..."

Roy shook his head and picked up the cup. "You'll watch the exits and prepare to apprehend our poisoner. The lieutenant and I will handle the rest."



"Someone wants to hurt her, and they're hurting her patients to do it. I won't stand for this lieutenant, endangering innocent lives for a personal grudge? It's disgraceful."

"I'm assuming you have a *plan* Sir." 

Roy's grin could probably be described as 'hungry' by those who didn't know him that well. "They failed to get their victim today, they won't leave until they've hurt someone, and Dr. Spitfire always works the pediatrics in the evenings." 

"She likes to make sure the children are comfortable, to keep down nightmares." Riza agreed tonelessly, eyes sharp as she followed his line of thought. 

Roy let Riza take the lead after he charmed his way past the front desk, keeping his mind on the puzzle of their poisoner. Hospitals were always depressing places, military ones even more so, and the pediatrics... To go home at night after facing this day in and day out would drive any person to unhealthy habits. Obsessions. 

The turn over rate of doctors went down in peacetime, but hospitals still lost their best and brightest every year to depressive burnout. 

"Maa, Michael. How you feel, hm?" 

Riza caught his eye and they found places to hide, her in the doorway of another patient's room, him around the corner pretending to read the supportive motto under an abstract painting. 

"I still don't feel good." whined a voice so similar to Alphonse Elric's that Roy caught himself straining for the tinny echo. "Do I have to stay?"

"Saaa, I can't make you feel better if you go. I'm sorry Michael, I know is scary, but I work hard, make medicine to make you better alright?"


"Hah. You know I'm Xing witch, yes? I hear you whispering with Saul. My magic very strong, make great medicine. You rest. Soon, you feel better."

She said it with pride, as though the whispers and racist mocking from her fellow alchemists were a joke. The way she shrugged off the jeers for studying medical alchemy, and her refusal during the war to leave her post in the med-tents. 

He watched through the reflection on the painting's glass as she left the boy's room, dark shadows bruising the skin beneath her eyes. Checking the papers on the door, she sighed, straightened her shoulders, and dragged a smile on for whoever was unfortunately laid up down the hall. Resolutely cheerful and optimistic in the face of fear and pain. 

Slipping into her office to steal a coat, he determined once again to force her to take an actual vacation one day. 

While lurking around a hospital as it closed down should have been suspicious; a white coat, a distant frown of tired confusion and a stolen clipboard were an excellent disguise that few had the energy to question. 

Riza didn't even have time to get decently bored before someone who belonged less than they did came through the ward. Granted, he had the credentials, the authority, and his own clipboard. He was also carrying a paper cup of water.

"Hey there Michael! You ready to take your meds tonight?"

"Dr. Spitfire already gave me some..."

"Oh did she? Well, I'll be, must have read the chart wrong. I'll just leave this here in case you get thirsty then, you sleep well now alright?"

"Goodnight Dr. Weston."

Roy nodded for Riza to follow the doctor, while he retrieved the cup before poor Michael got a hold of it. 


"Sorry, slight problems with the water here, you can get a juice from the nurses." Roy gave the boy, small, young, terribly thin he realized, a charming smile. Too-bright blue eyes stared at him until he ducked back out, expression going grim. "Doctor Weston, let's take a walk."


"Doctor Weston? But *why*? He's good doctor!" 

Roy sighed over his glass. For all her faults, at least Zhu had good taste in alcohol. "No, he was a *brilliant* doctor, one of the best to graduate from Central University, and no matter what he did, *you* did it better, in half the time, with *alchemy*. In his mind, you were *cheating*."

The look she gave him before slugging back her own finger's worth of burning amber was utterly horrified. It matched how he'd felt listening to the man confess. 

"We *save* people! We help people! That is what makes doctor! Not... not a *competition*!"

"Perhaps not if you're moderately moralistic. He swears he never meant to kill anyone, just to get you discredited and 'removed back to a lab somewhere' but the court isn't going to be lenient when it hears how his last victim was your little Michael. What's wrong with him anyway?"

She stared into her glass, lips tight. "Cancer. You know cancer? Body kills itself. He has this, in bones. Spreading."


She shook her head, bowing it to hide behind the loose fall of her hair. "No. I don't know cause. I can't find cure. Only treatment. Time. Month's maybe. Not enough."

Roy bit back his apologies and condolences. She didn't need them, she needed doctors. Fellow dedicated, brilliant doctors, and the best she had he'd just arrested. Silently he poured them both more whiskey.

pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
 He has three days to watch the Inquisitor sleep. Boss hadn't been exaggerating the effect of the 'glut', he is nearly insensate, only turning every few hours to sleep on his other side. His breathing is shallow and slow, skin radiating warmth that's almost a fever. 

Bull takes the time to catch up on some of his reading, card tricks, and a few notes he crumples and burnes after writing because he'd been cut off from the Qun, what need is there to report? Now and then he let his hand drift over to comb the tangles from dark hair, tracing long tipped ears that twitch ticklishly and garner him a throaty purr. 

The elf is soft in his sleep. Touchable. The Iron Bull had noticed that in the tavern, cuddling the overwrought form and helping pull himself together from whatever shattering edge he'd reached until he was comfortably asleep in the Bull's arms. Even through blankets and full armor, he'd been able to feel and map some of that satiny skin, hairless and surprisingly soft over iron hard muscle and tendon. Now Idhronn of Bosmer is helpless and trusting and Bull only takes the liberties that he's absolutely certain the elf won't take offense to. He undresses the elf and puts him to bed, and on the second day gives him a warm wash down with a cloth that stays chaste and respectful. 

The glut is driving the elf's body hard, keeping him hot, layering muscle and fat under the copper skin while his distended stomach slowly retracts. Bull can't imagine the metabolism required to manage it. Lizards and snakes coming to mind. Soft skin is even more elastic and fragile now, reminding Bull of budding horns and satiated cocks. 

Bull isn't much of a thinker. Too much to be a simple worker, true, but not enough to be more than a set of ears and eyes for the Hand. He gathered the pieces and let the Arishok put them together. Now he has to do it himself. He's got plenty to work with, he just doesn't know what kind of picture they're making. 

'Fus', Bull thought. It didn't mean anything to him, but still brought to ind his old Qunlit lessons. Sometimes when Boss spoke, The Iron Bull thought he heard the language of home but it never made sense. Words and grammar all mucked up. 'Fus' wasn't a word, not in Qunlit, yet when Boss spoke it things blew to pieces, including Bull's composure. He lost track of the times he brought off his release to the memorized *feel* of the sound. The elf could get him aching with a whisper if he had a mind to. 

They'd be having a lot of amazing sex if Bull could wrangle the Herald into it. Unfortunately Andraste's chosen was the sort who wanted more than sex, before they even got the sex. That was one of the main reasons Dorian's flirting would never get very far, the mage made it plain his future lay back in his homeland, where elves like Idhronn of Bosmer were bought and sold like cattle. 

Varric was a dwarf alone with his stories. He might love 'Growly' for saving Hawke, but it wasn't the kind of love involving bedrooms, tables or the handy wall... The kind of love Hawke had with his own misfit elf according to rumors. Along with that traitor mage Boss ... unpossessed? Depossessed? Whatever, 'Anders'. 

'Bend Will'. That was a scary name for a spell. 'Soul Tear' was downright terrifying. Cullen hadn't seen it himself, the green-blue ofthe spirit fighting the arching electrical black of the elf's magic, and the subsequent toll on both casters. He hadn't heard the screams. The only reason he'd suggest trying the same on demons was because of his profound ignorance, never knowing what it was to hold a thin bundle of bones and sinew as it sobbed and whimpered itself into exhausted slumber. Cullen was a fortunate idiot in Bull's opinion, who was going to drive their leader to a breakdown. 

The Fade scared Bull. Demons scared him. He would admit it, if he had to, although he didn't like being so weak. He'd been scared of demons since he was a child, but at least now if one snaked into his brain, he had the Boss at his back. 

It was reassuring to know he had the might of the Inquisition behind him. Too bad it included Cullen. 
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
"My people don't pick leaders from the strongest, or the smartest, or even the most talented. We pick the ones willing to make the hard decisions... and live with the consequences."
"Well, that explains why you're alright with the boss I guess. I don't think he's afraid of anything."

"Not demons, death, or darkspawn at least. Nail clippers might be another story."

They watched the men training, bantering back and forth with the ease of familiarity. Vivienne and Leliana had their little Inquisitor locked up for the day going over trifling human nicities like eating with multiple forks and wearing shoes. Bull didn't envy the poor guy, he was completely out of his depth and the entire Inquisition knew it. 

"So there's more rumors going 'round about you and the Iron Lady. A few guys seem to think she's hard on you."

Bull arched his brow at Krem, studying the man's profile for the direction of the jab. "You mean soft on me."

"Nah, they say she's got a raging shaft she likes plowing your sweet little..."

""It's not *little*." Bull paused at Krem's whoop of laughter, rewound the conversation and sighed. "Alright, I walked into that one."

"With both horns!"

"If The Iron Bull plows anyone with his horns it's going to leave an awefull mess about the place." Dorian muttered from the curving balustrade above them. He had a glass of wine in his hand and seemed to be admiring the show of muscled men getting sweaty.

"Actually there was this time I tried charging a group of Vint's..."

"Sweet maker tell me they dodged." Dorian gave him a look of utter horror. Krem beat him to the punch line, asshole.

"Nope! He ended up with two mages impaled and screaming on his head."

"That's why the Charger's motto is 'Horns up'." Bull nodded. Dorian actually shuddered before drinking his wine. 

"How perfectly horrid, this is why I'll stay far in the back, thank you, these clothes are far too expensive to come to *that*."

"You'll have to learn to deal with close combat at some point mage, you can't cast forever." 

"Perhaps the Inquisitor will teach me his way with words, it seems wonderfully effective for him." 

Bull felt something tick in the back of his mind, a few more little ships etching out the gray unknown. "I just said you can't cast forever." He wanted Dorian to say it, confirm it, even if you couldn't trust a Vint as far as you could spit.

"And yet our dear Inquisitor is no mage, so with his teachings, perhaps I won't have to. Besides, it's much less taxing than... whatever that is." Dorian's glass gestured to where a few of the boys were preparing the rocks.

"Dead lifts." Krem explained. "For the explosive bursts you need sometimes. Pick up the rock. If you *can* pick up the rock, put it down again, get a bigger rock until you can't pick it up. When you find one you can't lift, dead lift it."

"How does one 'dead lift', exactly?" 

Krem grinned. "Imagine you're dead if you don't lift it."

"Ah. I see."

Not a mage, well, he didn't have the staff for it but still, there was no way to breath fire without magic. Unless you were a dragon. It was true all the elf's magic seemed grounded in sound, either shouting or singing, but they were two different sounds. When the elf sang it was a language of vowels and bird trills, like a forest magnified. Not exactly easy on the ears, not melodic in the least, but somehow natural, for all that trying to mimic it would make a man's throat bleed. When he sang, it was for an audience of green, that sometimes listened and sometimes didn't and sometimes they got reports that thousands of miles away in the hinterlands a bunch of sylvans wandered out of the woods to attack the Templars. 

When the elf shouted things died. Or exploded. Or froze with ice for Bull to smash. The words were harsh and gutteral, growls from deep in the chest and they had a force to them that shaped the world. The Iron Bull could hear those words in his bones, felt them pound in his blood until he was light headed and harder than his horns. It was a language of some kind, far different from the one he sang in, and if you caught him at an absent minded moment he might even tell you what he'd said in a voice that didn't repeat the effect, but still made no sense. 

If all that wasn't magic, what in the name of the Qun *was* it?
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
“Also, it's 'THE Iron Bull.' I like having an article at the front. It makes it sound like I'm not even a person, just a mindless weapon, an implement of destruction... That really works for me.”

The elf arched a brow at him, the corner of his mouth twitching. "Idhronn."

"That it?" Bull needled, getting rewarded with another twitch grin. Guy was probably out of practice smiling as he was talking. "I mean, that's your name and you're not calling me something funny in elvish right?"

The Inquisitor shook his head slightly. Everything he did was slight, the elf was tiny. "Means.... 'Walks Far'. Idhronn."

The Iron Bull thought about that. It wasn't Dalish, unless for whatever reason the elf had no clan name. A number of reasons for that, and the guy didn't look or sound like he'd had a clan around for a long time. Dalish names didn't *mean* things either from what he recalled, they just *were*. Sort of like human names, a bunch of syllables strung together that sounded good. Meaning came *after*, with heritage and reputation. 

"Huh, guess they knew you'd end up far from home eventually huh?" Bull usually let the intel come to him, but he was a nice, people person, showing a bit of interest couldn't hurt him too much in the early stages. He expected a cold shoulder to the prodding, he just wanted to see how cold. 

"They who?" Gold flecked eyes gave him a black look that could have matched a re-educator. Bull felt a few more assumptions fall away, more gray unknown fill in where he'd thought he'd charted a bit of the map. 

Thank Krem for being his second and completely reliable. "Qunari get named by *them*, you know, whoever them are, do you now who them are Chief? Cause I know who named *me*."

"Them are the Tammassrans, you Tevinter bastard."

"At least a bastard knows who their mother is, better than you Qunari, huh?"

Idhronn watched them with that glacier gaze, like some where past the warm earth and sunlight was an icy graveyard. Eventually he rolled those eyes heavenwards and grunted, letting it all wash past to focus on whatever it was elven Inquisitor's found more important to worry about. 
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
 Bull had reports long before he sent Krem out to invite the Inquisitor to meet. They told him the Inquisitor was a Dalish elf mage straight from the woods, feral and dangerous. He expected glowering, halla's and a big stick. He knew there'd be tattoos and possibly paranoia, maybe a lightening bolt or two from the back row while the Chantry warriors did all the talking and fighting. 

The elf wasn't hard to pick out in the party that came over the hill, it was either an elf or a *child*. Possibly both. There was no stick, but the bow was nearly as big as its wielder. Bull tried not to be disappointing. 

The Inquisitor's party saw the Vint's at the same time the Iron Bull's scout sent up a warning, about two heartbeats after an arrow was loosed he thought back later. The arrow hit the Inquisitor, shattered, and time seemed to slow to a crawl. There were words, words that rang clear through the space behind Bull's ears but made no sense to his brain because the Inquisitor was breathing fire. His companions didn't even bother to attack, letting the tiny body teleport right into the fray on ship, blood and fire erupting all around, swords and arrows breaking on armor made of air and light that glittered rainbows

Iron Bull adjusted his pants and decided the Chargers were fucking *cheap* if they had to be to get in the same legion as that. 

A Vint exploded with another sharp crack of untranslatable sound. Bull took in a deep breath and smelled thick ozone, wet copper and the specific pungency of violently emptied bowels. The Inquisitor looked around, glaring at the corpses like he was expecting them to put up more resistance. Like he *wanted* more, an arrow clenched tight in one hand, the other flickering with green fire. 

The Iron Bull had been hoping for an attack, a quick and simple way to show off and impress the Inquisitor into taking them in. The storm that had followed them had been promisingly dramatic for atmosphere. The skies however had suspiciously cleared less than a candle mark ago, and now the first opportunity to display their skills, was swept aside by a single elf who didn't even wait to join their ranks to begin a massacre. 

"He doesn't look comfortable on the water, does he?" Stitches asked quietly, watching as they all were, the elf casually stabbing faces the way they'd be slitting throats. Willing some blood back up to his brain, The Bull found himself nodding thoughtfully. 

"Dalish. Wagons and trails, not water."

"Let's hope he doesn't fall over then, or can swim."

"So, you're with the Inquisition. These are the Chargers. We're expensive, but we're worth it, and I think your Inquisition can afford it." The elf stared up at him, face practically carved from stone. Bull found himself a seat, so the guy didn't have to break his neck just to talk. "You've met Krem, my lieutenant." The Iron Bull tried again, gesturing to the Tevinter before sending him off to care for the men. "So you know we're good at what we do."

The elf continued watching him, flexing his clawed toes into the sand and stretching up onto the balls of his feet once. 

"Uh, you *do* speak basic..."

"How much?"

Apparently the guy just took a bit to string the words together. Alright, The Bull had worked with worse.  "Oh, nothing for you personally, your ambassador, Josephine, we'll talk with her and get it set up, the gold will take care of itself. But you won't just be getting us, you'll be getting me. You need a bodyguard. You need someone to watch your back, against Tevinters, Darkspawn, Dragons? The bigger the better. You need an ass kicked The Iron Bull is ready." 

Toes wiggled again. Bull cataloged them as a tell, and also cute, watching the guy think it over. He wore a fur cloak, thick and mottled brown with a hood currently pulled back. His clothes were all leather, raw edged and unfinished, like whoever made them couldn't be bothered to do more than pull the material off the scraping racks and cut some holes for lacings. No decorations, no dye, no clan marks on the dark copper skin. Even his hair was brown, slightly curly and shoved behind pointed ears, the same shade as the hull planks shattered along the shore actually. 

"You move together like a trained unit, impressive reputation to."

"Like I said, we're expensive, but worth it. There is one other thing though, might piss you off, ever heard of the Ben-Hassrath?" Bull didn't expect so. 

"No." The elf's voice was calm, listening, but also low and rough, almost a whisper. Bull had excellent hearing, but he made a note to watch for people who might need things repeated, firmly. Fresh out of the woods, probably on his own for years, Bull could see where the communication issues came from. Unfortunately the only thing for it would be practice, and possibly an interpreter others were too afraid *not* to hear.

"They're a Qunari sect; enforcers, rogue hunters, spies... We're spies. My people want me in close to the Inquisition, they don't like the rift any more than anyone else. I'll report back to them your progress, the work that's being done, and share the reports I get in return." Honesty might cost Bull the position, dishonesty would probably cost him his life later on when it was discovered. You didn't explode people with your voice if you were the forgiving type. 

"...Qunari." he rolled the word around, as if testing the tip of an arrow. "What would you tell them?" 

'Nothing about your failure to swim.' Iron Bull thought to himself. "Nothing that would slow you down or compromise you. They're afraid they may need to invade in order to save the world, I'll tell them you've got it in hand." 'At least until you don't, but I'm sure if anyone does, it's the guy with teeth like a shark.'

Stitches had a thing for Dalish girls, so Bull knew most of the variances. There was a sharpness, an angularity to the face and shoulders that went past Dalish. He wasn't any less easy on the eyes, but it was a different, more raw ease. Short and thin, under the layers Bull bet the guy was whipcord. Something built and bred to vanish in the dense woods, then put an arrow through your neck while you were still wondering if it was unnaturally quiet. The large eyes that watched everything were even brown, if you were an unpoetic soul. Closer to amber or dark honey, a brown that glittered with gold. The Bull set aside a few fleeting thoughts about chocolate and leather straps for later contemplation. 

"You give your letters to Josephine before you send them, and if your people decide to invade, you give me a chance to personally demonstrate why that's a bad idea. If you agree, you're mine." There was no particular inflection or emphasis on those last two lines, but The Iron Bull had commanded enough men, had taken enough lovers to their preferred limits, to feel the sheer weight behind the words. He couldn't tell, not from such a short and distant introduction, if the elf knew exactly what he was demanding, but The Bull's gut twisted enough to say that he did. His gut had been wrong before. Did he hope it was now or not?

"Whatever you say Boss. Krem! Get the men together, they can celebrate off duty, the Chargers have just been employed!"
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
 The light blinds both the entrenched Ishbarites, and the lines of gathered Amestras troops. For a moment the noon day sun overwhelms the entire desert, startled screams coming from both sides as a voice rings out through the sudden whiteness.

"The Price is Paid."

Between the lines of men bloodied already stands a black iron door, a Door, for those who know what terrible thing it is, and when it opens out staggers a miracle. Or abomination. The sword could fall either way. 

Military cut brown hair, pale white skin, but almond shaped eyes in a face not so different from the one Roy sees in his shaving mirror. Naked, scarred, it could just be another young soldier drafted into the war, another idiot alchemist meddling in things he didn't understand until too late except... Except the Ishbaraites were laying down their arms and falling into prayer. Men and women fell to their knees, brows into the dust, a cry of adulation rising up. 

The figure turned to see why, and Roy's breath caught in his throat. Red wings shadowed a black flame, surrounded by the scriptural writing of Ishara. The ink could have been fresh from the artists needle but combined with the Door.... 

"What the hell is going on! Are they surrendering?!"

"They believe he's a Holy emissary. An Angel." Roy replied. An angel stepping out of a Door.... an alchemist who had performed Human Alchemy....

"What the fuck is he saying?" Hughes asked in a whisper from the side of his mouth. Roy tuned in and blinked. It was... Ishbarite? He had his arms up and seemed to be saying something in a liquid, vowel heavy language.... 

Two old men stood up and came forward slowly, their crimson gazes locked on the figure, and the answering rapid fire speech was the harsh staticy tones Roy was more familiar with. He couldn't translate, not properly... One of the men pointed at the surrounding Amestras troops and the strange alchemist turned again. Roy automatically categorized the scars. Fire, gun shot, knife stab, whip...

Silver eyes. Not gray but shining, pure silver. 

The alchemist brought his hands together and Roy found himself pulling his fingers into a snap without thought.

A smile, innocent and hopeful, and then a bow. 

The snap of his fire rebounded off the array, white and gold and green that sprang beneath bare toes along the sand. He didn't even know what made him try the second spark, the array was expanding too fast, too strongly, it spread under the Ishbarites, engulfed the city and while the Amestas troops opened fire in panic they also scrambled to retreat as the desert exploded in a wave of power and Alchemy so great it blinded everything. 

When Roy dazedly came back to himself, he found himself under the sheltering and sweat stinking body of Meas Hughes who was roundly cursing a litany in his ear. The sky was blue and endless. 

"If this is heaven I don't want to be here with you like this." Roy managed to wheeze out. They untangled themselves and looked around. Soldiers were starting to come around. people were staring and screaming and pointing and *searching* for the weapons they'd been holding not moments before... Roy absently felt for the pistol at his belt and was unsurprised to find it missing, probably, his brain supplied helpfully through the clamor, it had become a part of one of the shoulder struts. 

The last stand of the Ishbarite Rebellion, the ruined city of Ishara lay under the baking noon day sun in total shadow. Above it, gleaming silver, stood a... an *angel*. Roy could find no other word for it. It was a fortress, a castle, a winged metal giant. 

"Alexander." A voice said. Roy found his gaze jerked back to the crazed alchemist with the beatific smile. "Alexander."

Alexander. The guardian of Ishara. A legend. A religious myth. 

"Hey. General. Uh, are we still at war if *both* sides surrender, because if we're just chucking rocks at each other I think they've got more of 'em!" Hughes shouted with an edge of hysteria. 

Surrender. End the war, without any more bloodshed. Without conquer. And it wasn't Amestras's fault because they'd been beaten by a miracle. 'Please', Roy found himself praying though he wasn't sure exactly to what, 'Please let it be that easy.'
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
 At the root of the feiry mountain,
Against the Devil's White beach, 
Grow the Balamb flowers
Beautiful beyond reach.

Blue as sky and calm water, 
As fragrant as any thorny rose,
Blossom the Balamb flowers
Over Marble statues posed. 

Tended with care by sea and moon,
Each petal a dream undone,
Spread the Balamb flowers
To unknown songs unsung.

Balamb flowers follow every SeeD,
They cover all the lands,
Where blood is shed for money
Flowers can grow in desert sands. 
pegunicent: Luffy/Zorro OTP! (Mates)
 It was pleasant to be out on her own, without a guide or guard or awkward Nakama to deal with. The trip to Sabaody took her only a week from where she left Shanks and his crew on Dawn Island. Most of the time was spent swiftly sailing over the Calm Balt, with a few stops to swim and catch something to eat. Shanks had generously left her ketch's hold filled with barrels of rum, and neglected anything resembling food. 

Their sparse letters over the last two years hadn't set a specific date for their reunion, so Little Sister wasn't sure if she'd be early, or late, and couldn't quite bring herself to worry over it. Brother could take care of himself after all, hopefully by now he'd figured out she could do the same, and wouldn't stress himself grayer.

Her hair was awkwardly shoved in her hoodie, trailing loosely out the bottom hem to tickle her knees and she promised herself for the thousandth time in two years that she'd cut it all off. Shanks was a great fan of fun and games, one of the earliest he'd taken to heart being 'slice Sisters hair ties'. She'd run out some time after six months, resorting to stealing from Ben, then when that failed, to improvising with leather, ribbon, assorted plant life... Eventually she gave up and focused on more important matters, but the lack of her lifelong braid made her feel... naked. Vulnerable. Angry. 

The fact she hadn't cut it all off to feel more in control was simply another mark in their ever escalating game of pissing each other off. 

The outfit was another 'gift' from Shanks. She'd woken one morning to find there were no other clothes available, and it was wear the offering or go about naked in front of an entire crew of Admiral level pirates. None of them women. Most perverts. 

She'd gone naked for a week until *someone* broke, her clothes never returning but a new, slightly less offensive set of garments offered in a compromise that reeked of a blood truce. The white pleated skirt was shorter than anything she would have chosen for herself, and the top was obviously stolen from some noble daughters school uniform, a sailor collar and bow and sea-green skipper stripes. She purchased the hoodie to help delay the inevitable recognition from her bounty poster and went barefoot rather than try the knee socks. 

Her ketch was the original her brother had stolen, with a few small modifications and a fresh coating of paint. During the long nights she'd taken her basic stitching classes and turned her medical satchel into a small backpack, her Bun still safely stuffed and cramped at the bottom. She hadn't allowed herself to take it out and hold it where any of Shanks crew might find out. Now, sailing back to meet up with her only family, she found herself unable to sleep without clutching it tight to her belly. 

Sometimes, in the false dawn light or the breaking of a sudden patch of clouds, Little Sister caught herself rubbing the thin scar between her eyes. A game of 'tag' that went rather worse than it needed to. Shanks had been angry, very angry, and Little Sister still refused to feel sorry for finding out the man's secrets when they were so obvious to her. She'd been raised to seek Justice, and Truth went hand in hand with it. She still wasn't sure if he'd meant to land that strike or not, he'd been horrified afterwards, in the bare seconds between her feeling burning pain across her face and reacting by leaping to tear his throat out. 

Shanks never apologized for her scars. She never apologized at all.
pegunicent: the Great Kannon (Funky Lady)
 RG-Veda snippet:

People don't understand how Yasha and I are. We aren't people any more, not gods, not humans. We exist only for each other, and so we are creatures with no tribes or attachments. We have merged into each other on a level of the soul that surpasses blood and destiny. 
We wear the garments of vagabond wanderers, easily cast aside or cleaned, or abandoned. We carry only our swords, or clothes, our inner fires that act as our possessions. We own naught but each other and time itself to spend together. 
When I gaze into his eyes, I see only love and devotion, a need that steals my breath and makes me weak. I can bear him no child, nor can I father an heir. When he slides between my thighs and sheathes himself in my body, I am but a vessel to receive his lust. Ill-formed, unequipped, pleasure of the flesh is a strange agony that over takes me when Yasha's power invades me. Our couplings come with sobs of confusion and screams. 
I hate that within the cradle of my bowels Yasha's seed is wasted, I can not even grant him a false womb to expend himself. Ashura are hardness, destruction. We are not made for other's joy. Each time I open myself, it is with a steel in my flesh that must be beaten and worked into an accommodating softness, such that Yasha is not harmed upon me. 
Do not think I take nothing from our ruts. There is nothing else in the world like having Yasha within me, his heat and strength transforming me. Only within his arms am I changed, manipulated, metamorphosed into a better version of myself. There is an indescribable satisfaction to be gained from feeling the strongest warrior in Tenkai shudder and break within my body. Though I am no proper mate at all, it would destroy something in me to know that Yasha sought his release with any other living thing. 
We are only Yasha and Ashura. There are no others like us, we have only each other, forever. 
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
Sydney strains against the leather straps, glaring murder. Sephiroth double checked that the bands weren't chafing or rubbing too hard on the soft skin. Sydney still preferred dresses, still wore his hair long and braided. He was so young, so pretty, if Sephiroth didn't know, couldn't *smell*, he wouldn't know it was a young man in front of him.

Lately Sydney had been driving him crazier than usual with his scent, the sweet softness of youth edging frequently with the bitter salt of arousal. In the mornings, at odd moments through the day, frequently before sleep Sydney reeked of sex and spent seed. Sephiroth had been careful, he'd been courteous when they were in Wutai, he always made sure to relieve himself far away from the child that he'd taken in. He knew how not to be a monster. But Sydney was no child, not any more. Now he was strong and smart, fighting to stand his own ground in this new world that promised to rip him apart if Sephiroth wasn't careful. He mocked Sephiroth's care, flaunted his scent, pushed Seph's buttons until it came to this.

Sydney was his. Kneeling on the bed, he made sure the buckles on the belts were tight. Then he moved down, nuzzling and petting at his boy. He could feel the anger under Sydney's skin, taste the frustration in his sweat and the tears that squeezed out from clenched eyes. Behind the Silence Sydney was screaming at him, Seph could feel it in the vibrations of his throat.

Following the smell of bitter musk he slid downwards, spreading thin legs and pushing ruffled skirts aside from his goal. Neither of them had ever been in the habit of under clothes, wetness staining leather and linen alike as they matured. Now, even angered, Sydney's body twisted at the lightest touch of Seph's hands, responding with sticky wetness and firm, blood filled muscle.

Sephiroth inhales the smell, tasting it so he can memorize the complex flavors. He has to hold slim hips down to the mattress, tight thigh muscles tremble and flutter under his palms. It doesn't take long for the seeping, weeping moisture to explode in a few short, hard pulses of bitter salt in his mouth. After he swallows he searches for more, more flavors and more ways to encourage them.

He tastes the tears at the corners of Sydney's eyes, the blood in his mouth where he's bitten through his lip, and then the dark, hidden funk of his sphincter. The more he covers Sydney, the more his own scent pervades the room, sheathing his boy in a blatant message of possession. The more he tastes and pins and takes the higher Sydney's arousal spirals, as though he dances to the rhythm of Sephiroth's hands and tongue. Sydney shatters around him, spread open and held Silent on Seph's mouth.

Sephiroth hears his breathing even out, his heart skip and then settle in easier beats after he comes again. Carefully, mindfully, he licks the mess away, ensures that Sydney is comfortable, then takes care of his own hardness with sure, hard strokes that splatter mako tainted semen over the sheets.

Even without sullying Sydney's dress, the boy smells of him, reeks of mako, magic, and Sephiroth. It's enough for now to set him at ease. He can go about his duties, go to the office and be sure that even if Sydney somehow escapes the apartment, every SOLDIER will know not to touch what is his.

For now, Sydney is safe.
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
The world has gone crazy since the end of the war. Seph is sure that peace, real peace, shouldn't be so blood soaked and dangerous. He knew who the enemy were in Wutai. He knew who to kill, how to fight, how to protect his people.

Now he's not even sure who his people are. Genesis and Angeal are both gone, missing, traitors but still brothers and he can't get straight answers from anyone. The SOLDIER's are still his men, except when they're not, when they're secretly monsters in men's skins, waiting for orders to mutate and change and attack.

Sephiroth has doubts he is even safe these days. What is he? What is anyone?

The only thing Sephiroth is sure of is that no one is safe. Nothing is safe. The war, as much as they say it's over, still wages in covert ways. People are still out to kill him and he is still expected to kill others. Peace is just a word for cover up.

He wishes he was back in the jungle sometimes. In the rain and mud, with constant mortar fire, curled up in his too-small cot he knew what was important. He slept easy. He could open his eyes and see milk-pale skin, hear a steady thrumming heart twice as fast as his own, smell youth and ozone and pet pale corn-husk blond hair. He could hold what was important safe in his arms, believing himself strong enough to protect it.

Now he had to take precautions, he had to be diligent and more careful. Only in his private rooms, bullet proof and reinforced, constantly monitored for bugs, was he certain that Sydney was safe. Happy? No, not truly, but neither of them had ever been very experienced with happiness. Safe was the best he could do for the moment, even if it meant he had to bespell the boy to Sleep when he left the apartments to keep him from trying to escape, and Silence him when the shouting and tearful arguments began.

It was the best he could do.
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
Genesis laughed, the ragged, tattered scroll in his hand momentarily forgotten as he reveled in the coursing power of the planet. He was invincible. He was a god. He was the champion who would set this poor fractured world to rights, because he had been *created* for that very purpose. He would carve new truth, new Light from the darkness that he'd been crafted from. If he was made of lies, he would baptize himself in truth!

His wrist exploded in pain and blood as one of the annoying pests from Shinra stalked out of the jungle toward him.

"You're under arrest for crimes against the SOLDIER military." The ant says calmly, as though his blue suit isn't spotted with mud and grime, as if blood doesn't streak down his face and one arm isn't bent at wrong angles.

Genesis spreads his wing and floats higher, glaring down at the first of so many he's going to destroy in fire, destroy for the affront of his pain, for the crime of their *lies* and betrayal and torturing of his Lady... She sings to him through his cells! "Hell Firaga!"

Sickly green poison seeps into wounds, satisfaction at the stench of burning meat and fibers not outweighing the sudden, sharp perforation of his thighs and throat. Even blind the ants aim is acute, his bullets bite where there is little armor, only Genesis's Lady strong and loving enough to close the wounds that would end mortals. Mere, weak, fleshy little worms. Vermin. Deceivers!

The scroll, forgotten for the moment, hits the leaf strewn mud of the jungle floor with a squelching thud.

Genesis raised his sword, the forest floor shining in red seals as he called upon the power of the planet below to expunge this annoying insect from it's surface.

"Muten! Zoutsuru banatsu waruinai!" A voice shouted, ringing through the air from a thousand directions at once, the broken man's gun still pointed upwards. From the forgotten artifact sprang twenty, forty, eighty lengths of gleaming paper covered in writing that re-wrote itself as it was read. The lengths wrapped around Genesis, binding him, cocooning in tight constrictions that shattered his wing bones, dislocated his shoulder and unceremoniously hauled him from the sky. Even as he screamed in outrage, a foreign power, like that of the planet yet not, was invading, violating him, tearing him away from the comfort of his Lady. She screamed and ripped at him as the power of the scroll tore back.

Under the blind, uncaring eyes of a beaten fool, the Red General was shattered.
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
Wizards, being largely powerful and powerfully odd to the rest of the world, took it upon themselves to build their own city where upon they could be autonomous and secure. This city, eventually named Kelfax after the first High Grand Master Magician Sorcerer Elite Hedgar Kelfax, sat squarely in the center of three countries converging borderlines.
After some strenuous negotiations which had only a little bloodshed as these things are measured, the city was given it's own country as well. A very small country that extended only a half league in any direction from the city itself, but still a country.
The Council of Eight proclaimed themselves to be far too busy governing this country (named Kelfax as well for ease of directions) to bother meddling in the affairs of the rest of the world. In truth, the Council was so busy muddling up the rest of the world, that the autonomous city had to set up a separate and discrete government just to get things done at home.
This other government (known as The Rank and Vile) held all the true power in Kelfax. The Council, held a large portion of power in Kelfax's three disgruntled neighbors so that between the two governments peace, prosperity and only occasional bloodshed were the norm. The Council, as any group is want to do, often argue. Indeed rarely can they agree on anything and so nothing gets done and the world continues on greatly unmolested.
As one might imagine of a city built by wizards for wizards, Kelfax was large, grand, magnificent, and other synonyms for huge. It was designed in a series of concentric rings, with each ring being built largely of a different material and height, and the individual buildings in each circle interlocking to each-other in various ways. At the center most ring stands the Akademy. The school for all great wizards, the Akademy has nine towers, eight evenly spaced in a tight ring surrounding the tallest tower at the very center of both the city, the country and to the magically inclined, perhaps the very world.
The Council, being a convenient eight members, resides within the Akademy and commands the towers, teaching up and coming wizards all the schools and philosophies of magic. The ninth tower being so very tall and very important, is closed. Since the completion of its initial construction not a single person has been granted access inside, and even the Eight together are not permitted to crack open the door.
Hedgar Kelfax had been a great wizard. However he was not a great architect, so while Kelfax the city was organized and aesthetically pleasing from the sky (the view commonly used on maps), getting anywhere involved going under, over, through and around the warrens of buildings, tunnels, walkways and canals that made up such vital systems as water, heat, road and waste.
Most students at the Akademy choose to specialize. This makes them seem more credible in their field, and they don't have to walk very far for all their classes. Zeke, having no ambition and very few goals in life, chose to take the less common route and learn as much as he could about everything. This labeled him a looser, a geek, and a perpetual student who by the age of twenty-six turnings had only made High Wizard.
Every wizard, knowing that pomp and circumstance also play heavily in magical politics, play up their abilities, specialties, and familiars. Zeke, being not only not-ambitious, had the most unique familiar in the history of magic and therefore played up nothing at all. His robes were mostly black or gray, given that those colors hid various stains well. and he wore no hat, simple but broken in boots rather than pointed toed slippers, and his 'wand' was a walking staff.
Zeke was also missing the smallest finger of his right hand. He knew exactly where it was of course, it simply wasn't where it ought to be. The missing digit usually bothered him not at all as he was left handed and only slightly vain about his appearance. Zeke's vanity, and indeed much of his energies lay in the gathering of knowledge and to this end he had his own small tower at the edge of the country. Within the stone walls were an impressive library, an observatory, laboratory, kitchen, dungeon and bedroom.
The dungeon had been added during the months of his last exam studies and he hadn't been aware of ordering it at all, but used it as a place to store his dirty laundry.

Zeke was not one for deep introspection. Considering that had he been one for it he might not have Decimate, and that Decimate had just saved his life by killing twelve bandits, a lack of inner speculation might actually be a survival strategy.
Certainly Decimate was not one to complain about Zeke's flaws.
Zeke complained enough for the both of them about most everything.
"Bandits. Four days out of Aceina and there's bandits on the King's highway. I thought this country had a damned army! What are they doing, pissing in the moat?!"
Decimate cleaned his claws with silent laps of his tongue and listened with one half cocked ear to Zeke's ranting.
"Of all the things to hold us up... You know I should just leave their bodies here on the road for the next person to clean up? I really should. It would probably be the damnable knights of King 'Fuck the Wizards' anyway!"
Decimate snorted softly in reply.
Zeke worked his way through the corpses, taking whatever few coins or personal effects were on them before casting Wytch Fyre over them to destroy and cleanse. It was one of the more effective spells for that sort of business, but Zeke couldn't cast it indefinitely. After setting the twelfth corpse, his coppery-tan was washed out and he sat on the ground next to Decimate hard.
"I mean, is it too much to ask that if it's the King's road that the King take an interest in people being able to travel it?"
Decimate whuffled softly and draped a warm feathery wing over Zeke's shoulders. After a moment the minute trembling in Zeke's body subsided. Decimate bit back a disgruntled grumble at the fact that there was trembling to subside, but Zeke never listened to anyone about pushing himself too hard.
"Alright. Well, that was some excitement but we really do need to get back on the road." Zeke muttered tiredly.
Decimate eyed the sky and estimated they'd been attacked perhaps an hour before full dark, which meant that as far as distance was concerned, they weren't going a long ways. Which was just as well, since Zeke needed to eat something and Decimate would undoubtedly be awake the entire night because the road was patrolled so poorly that anything might attempt to snack on them in the darkness. Provided that 'anything' had no brains, no sense of smell, no survival instincts, and no magical awareness to speak of.
Humans basically.
Decimate whuffled again and shook himself all over, the heavy saddlebags strapped precariously to his back threatened to slide right off.
"You want to camp here. Where we got ambushed by bandits. Right here?" Zeke's tone was dubious at best.
Decimate gave him a long look over one shoulder and licked his muzzle.
"Fine. Anything that happens tonight is on you then, I wanted to keep moving and try to hit Banelk by the eighth day."
Decimate rumbled a soft sigh as clever fingers started undoing the pack straps and massaging rumpled fur back into place. For all Zeke's noise, he was a very doting man, patient and careful, and Decimate wouldn't trade him for the world.
For a nicely grilled goat at the moment...
But not for the world.

Zeke had no real qualms with fiend hunting. Many strapping young things with more muscle than hope made a tidy sum from the business. Usually enough to stop and do something moderately less dangerous later on in life, like get married and have kids. It was also a glorious and honorable tradition among knights to count lord tithes in fiend hides. (A nice way to suppliment the grain harvest in particularly poor years, especially if the fiends tended to eating the peasant farmers.)

All that aside Zeke would rather leave the job to someone else. It was messy, tiresome, again dangerous, and Decimate took far too much glee from attending the task in as gory a fashion as possible.

Zeke was a wizard, not a knight. And even if he wasn't much of a wizard he was definitely less of a knight.

“Grrrow?” Decimate inquired, fangs still black with fiend blood. Zeke shook his head and sighed.

'Sometimes I wonder if you weren't meant for a battle mage.' He thought to himself, setting grimly to the task of collecting what whole hide and liquid blood he could gather here unsupported. Meat, bone and fang were all too poisonous to meddle with out here. The blood and hide, while carrying toxns, held less than the rest and could be rendered safe enough after a few days in the sun. He'd have to burn the rest.


Whatever Decimate didn't eat at least.

Zeke mentally added more glass vials and obsidian flakes to his shopping list for when they got back to a decent market. Along with tea, cotton satchetts and more flaxen thread. The one real decent thing about fiend leather was it's sturdyness. Once properly worked it stayed true to form, water proof, fire resistant and age defying. A good leatherman could make it into nearly anything and charge three times the price of the raw skin itself.

“If you're worried about us being poor, you could leave a bit more of the skin intact.” Zeke pointed out, waving a broken stone flake at his gorging familiar.

“Mhmphgrrhmph.” Decimate replied distractedly, ears flicking back as though he was truly paying any attention to anything other than his gullet.

“Mhmm. You don't care as long as you can eat.” He sighed. “At least you won't be starving when we get to Bunara.” Livestock, Zeke had found out, tended to be horrifically expensive.

Stripping the hides as quickly as he could, he pondered the novelty of trying to salt or smoke fiend flesh to the ecstatic sounds of crunching bone.

His gloves were stained and spotted by the time he was done, and he wagered he had enough hide to replace them, with perhaps the rest as trade. If not he'd sell the whole lot and buy another cheap pair from yak leather.

Bunara was known for it's yaks. Not much else as far as he knew, but this was his first time being sent out so far.

The more remote the township, he'd found, the more welcome a wizard. Any wizard. Even one with a familiar that ate fiends. Sometimes they were especially welcoming for a familiar that ate fiends.

Zeke had never focused on battle magic studies, indeed he'd been hard pressed to focus on any one spell for too long. They all held appeal. The minor incantations and spell works he'd readily mastered in his time as a full-fledged student were all useful little things like location charms to find his shoes or one book out of the library, or preservation wards to keep delicate old papers safe from the elements, or even slight animate spells so his quills could take his notes while he read.

WytchFyre, Ironstaff, Quicken were all spells he's had to learn quickly once out of the safe halls of the akademy. Decimate had lost quite a few feathers in those first hectic months.

By rights Zeke should have been studying battle magics for years before learning those three spells, but necessity made many difficult things possible. Of course now in his spare time he tried to speed through the intermediate spells and charms. Some were easy enough, and some gave him fits until he learned a lesser charm from another school that made things make sense.

He'd picked up quite a few things he'd never thought of before. Neph had been very pleased with his growth as a mage the last time he'd been in the Akademy to catch up. Of course, Neph had been very pleased just to see him alive so everything else was a bit of a bonus. Zeke didn't feel like much more of a mage than before he'd left, certainly he didn't feel any more powerful, regal, or confident, all valuable characteristics of a good mage.

Jeorge ha hinted that he ought to look into taking the next level of Akademy exams, but Jeorge had a disproportionate appreciation for Zeke's person, rather than his actual skills.

“That's not opal, that's moonstone. I'm not making a fertility charm, I'm working on an animus spell.” Zeke argued, shoving he stone back at the startled shop keeper. “I don't need moonstone.”

Zeke brushed his hair quickly, yanking the brush through the curly strands. He neither loved nor hated his hair, growing it long enough to keep held back in a thong out of his face, rather than spending the time and effort to constantly cut it short enough to stay out of his eyes.. he was lucky enough not to be prone to facial hair, needing only to scrape off the random bristles every few days, or as often as they wandered through civilization. The soap and cleansing spells he'd memorized helped with the worst of the tangles, but the mane his mother had cursed him with rarely allowed him to do much more than pull it back.

Not that Decimate really cared, and he was the one with the sensitive nose that had to spend the most time with him.

Decimate seemed more than happy to groom him actually, if he gave his familiar half a chance. Decimate was just that sort of cuddly, leech like character who tended to scare people with his affection.

Not that Zeke had ever been afraid of his familiar. Not even that first awful moment that they met; Decimate black as midnight, covered in the shredded remains of Zeke's older brother. He'd been horrified, sickened, but not afraid. Decimate had the same honey brown eyes as his dear little bastard brother. The same eyes he'd seen every day looking back at him from the mirror.

Neph had been the only one of his teachers to accept Decimate as an equal familiar to anyone elses. Neph of course was only one of hundreds of mage teachers however, The Akademy refused to allow Decimate in classes or near other wizards, so Zeke was forced to leave his familiar alone in his private tower on the borders of Kelfax, a state neither of them appreciated.

Neph's solution had been to start sending them on mage missions, special assignments contracted out from other countries or mages who wanted something done without having to do it themselves. Zeke earned credits for every completed assignment and spell craft mastered along the way, however until Zeke stopped long enough to take a comprehensive examination, he wouldn't actually be recorded as having earned anything.

Wizard rankings were based on spell mastery, skill level, innate power and arcane knowledge. As far as the Akademy was concerned (and therefore everyone who dealt with paper over people) Zeke was a low rank wizard of little innate power, unskilled and largely problematic. (The people who knew Zeke had heir own ideas, mostly dissimilar and unshared with anyone so lazy as to base assumptions on a bit of writing.)

Zeke had no true opinions on his skill or ranking, happy to gain knowledge from any source available and ecstatic when that knowledge saved him from ending up on something's evening menu.

Decimate and bathing were long affairs of intense work. Things started out with lots and lots of water, usually cold since there were few tubs big enough for him to soak in and fewer natural springs not already claimed by some band of humans with sharp, pointy objects and lots of cleanliness issues.

Which was slightly ironic since cleanliness was the very thing they were trying to work on with constant bathing but Zeke had learned that people as a whole were greatly stupid no matter how educated they claimed to be.

So lots of water, and soap, of differing strengths and makeups, and elbow grease. The last was the most important due to there being ever so much of Decimate to go around and so very little of Zeke. First they tackled the fur with a liquid sort of soap made from the saps of many various sweet smelling herbs and the rendered oil of a low spreading legume. This lead to a very heavy lather and much fur coating everything along with Decimate, and changing the water a few times if not done in a moving stream or deep lake. Then came a lighter liquid oil from a bulbous flower, and this went to the feathers of Decimate's wings. The soap there wasn't so much a cleaning ritual as a mending one, Zeke's fingers deftly repairing any damage to the heavy pinions and soothing the irritated skin under the interlocking barbs. Decimate's wings were largely water resistant, but the leading edge that should have been sheathed in tiny feathers was covered instead in the same coarse fur as the rest of him, which left many of the initial layer of down wet and ragged.

After feathers and fur came the horns, claws and teeth, all scrubbed with a boar bristle brush until they gleamed and the beast's breath was no longer another of his weapons. Decimate appreciated this last scrubbing the least, hating the overly strychnine taste of the mint and pine paste Zeke purloined for them from the herbalists, but Zeke never relented until his familiar was gleaming from every angle.

The length of Zeke's own soaking bath was usually proportionate to the amount of struggle Decimate gave him to that last indignity.

Zeke didn't think he ate any differently from anyone else given what he had available to eat on any given day. Or who he had to compete with for that food. Decimate would devour anything put in front of him. He loved fruits more than vegetables, and meat more than anything else, and grains any time he could get them. Zeke tried to feed him as much as possible, often forgetting himself to eat until his bod ave up sending the hunger signals and simply started making things especially difficult to accomplish.

Like walking.

At about that point Decimate tried to sit on him and feed him whatever was in reach, up to and including leaves and tree bark. Zeke took that as the broad hint it tried to be.

However, once in a place of civilization large enough to ave restaurants of at least chefs and cleaning ladies, things became a bit more dicey. Most people who worked and made their livelihoods at creating food for others, usually refused to lend their services to Decimate, on account of the teeth and horns and claws and massiveness. While they might otherwise feed Zeke, they fairly fainted at the amount of food he would order, and then get very upset that he didn't intend to eat any of it, and instead let his familiar at whatever feast he wrangled up.

Those people rarely served Zeke twice, no matter what he was willing to pay.

Zeke, being above all a good person above being a good wizard, refused to eat without making sure his familiar was fed as well.

To this end Zeke ended up forking out many pretty coins for terrified livestock that thus ended up, if not tasty, at least filling for one if not both of them. Out in the wilds things were both easier and harder, in that they had no one trying to deny them food where they found it, but on the other hand they had to find it. Zeke was not a naturalist in any measure of the definition. He could identify many plants of various toxicity and benevolence, and even make use of a few of them, he'd taken to carrying around a blank diary to fill in with notes on what was and was not edible near the myriad places they ended up.

Midwives and hedge witches helped him fill out many of those pages with their local herbal lore, and pointed him at many more books with better notations than what he'd previously acquired from the Akademy libraries.

He was willing to go with the idea that he'd simply not known where in the libraries to find those sorts of books, being as the libraries were organized by year, author, mystic school of thought (or closest equivalent) popularity of edition and then cross referenced by some method known only to the head librarian and his staff of helper iguanas that made finding any particular book an epic quest or an hours worth of interpretive dance. (The iguanas were very helpful indeed, if they understood what you were asking for, but had a poor grasp of human language and even poorer eye-sight for the flat letters of human writing so communication was an adventure and a half. Many thesis had been written on the best way to accomplish this and the best, or at least most entertaining, was enchanting a fly or grasshopper to find the book first and then lead the iguana there by hunterly instinct. This was of course impossible as the whole point of the iguanas would be moot and the head librarian would have to train a whole flock of short lived, book eating insects.)

Zeke's own library kept threatening to explode out of his small tower. It had migrated out of the room meant for it, creeping into Zeke's bedroom, Decimate's bedroom, the laundry room cum dungeoun, the laboratory and the fiddly bit of architecture that couldn't decide to be an attic or an observatory. Books covered every flat surface and piled up on the floor and if he'd had the money to spare he'd look into hiring someone to organize the poor things. His spare coin went to getting more books however, and saving up for a dead horse.

Location charms were his life savers when it came to finding anything in the chaotic mess.

Jeorge had offered to reanimate the horse for him, should he meet the man's discounted price. (Jeorge's discount was still so far above Zeke's pay grade as to be laughable but at lest the necromancer was willing to help him at all. Death Magics were expensive and difficult to learn and Zeke had no desire to step too far into that school in order to learn the craft and raise the horse himself. Not because he disliked anything about the death magics, but because he simply had so much else on his plate the notion left him staggering.

Decimate probably wouldn't appreciate the experiments and potions and long time spent gathering obscure ingredients either. For so peaceable a soul he got bored and distracted easily and hated being cooped up for too long in one place.

They still managed to gather plenty of things along their journey that Jeorge needed or asked for, but whether these trinkets and ingredients were adding up to any dent in the total price, Zeke was awful at remembering to ask.

The largest and most useful spell Zeke had ever learned for his travels was 'Enlarge Holding/Transference'. This spell let him put an infinite amount of things in his small pouches by transporting them to a set location after a small amount of time. The drawback was that everything made a one way trip, and the spell was not designed for anything alive.

He'd learned the spell from three different books, each dealing with different aspect of the trasnportation issue. Great wizards in history had the ability to move themselves and their belongings great distances without actually moving. The last recorded instance of this however, was the Great Kelfax, founder of the country of Kelfax, who had taken the entirety of his private tower from the outskirts of the Hinterlands to the central tower of the Akademy, a journey that would have taken a man walking over ten years with a team of a hundred wagons. (Or so the most common mythos of the tower said, Zeke privately doubted this as the central tower wasn't completely built until fifty years after the wizards death from consumption. Of course most of his peers scoffed at the idea of o powerful a wizard dying from something as measly as a little illness, so the exact means of Kelfax's demise were shrouded in rumor as well, such that getting a single straight story was more impossible than summoning down the three moons at once without destroying the planet.) *Another thing the great Kelfax had been accused of trying to do, in his wild and youthful days.

Decimate's opinion on any other wizard's work besides Zeke's ranged from absolute boredom to outright hostility so few ever tried to discuss the matter with him. Indeed except for Zeke very few people ever spoke to Decimate outright, preferring the bizarre means of talking around him as though he were completely unable to understand a word they said and then expecting him to somehow have something to contribute through Zeke, as if Zeke were some form of translator between beasts and people. This was sincerely not the case, Zeke only understood Decimate because they talked so frequently and with such casual fluency that they might always be said to be speaking to each other whether or not either of them said a word.

(That this was indeed how most beasts communicated with the world at large passed over both of their heads completely.)

Decimate was of course Zeke's familiar as has been stated countless times, but the nature of familiars has been under represented so far so allow me a moment to elaborate. Every wizard worth his hat had a familiar sometimes after they mastered their first great spell. In Neph's case, it was a tiny song-bird called a mimic, who could reproduce any sound it heard, and which it did, often and without regard for harmony or discretion. In Jeorge's case the familiar was a large, bony black hound who constantly appeared to be three missed meals away from permanent fixation in the backyard. Zeke had never heard it bay, bark or yowl, nor had he seen it do more than blink a sleepy eye at whatever disturbed its rest, and often he checked just to make sure that it was indeed still breathing.

Familiar's carry a great deal of mystic power within the wizarding community for they acted in part as a miniature (usually) representation of their wizard's personal character. Or so most believed. A familiar was composed of equal parts Fate, Magic, and Will, and came into their wizard's life regardless of the wizard in question wanting, needing or asking for them. Much like a cat. In fact many wizards of lesser rank had cats, and it wasn't uncommon for them to snipe at each other over who's was more cat like.

Zeke had no opinion on music or dancing, neither were very wizard like things, and he'd never made much effort to learn more than a few basic chants and rotes that were geared for remembering set spell orders.

However as he spent more and more time out in the wilds with common people he found music to be a common denominator. Music bridged the gap of language, united people in the urge to dance and sing, and brought about friendships where otherwise would be strangers.

Music had a magic all it's own that worked regardless of the singer's talent, the knowledge of all the words, or the order of steps. Dances could be as spontaneous as someone having an instrument at hand, festivities always had to have at least one singer, if not the entire town participating in the music somehow. It was a powerful force that Decimate grasped long before Zeke, at least in that he accepted it and it's influences. Decimate could neither dance nor sing, being built entirely wrong for either practice, but he would sway and thud out the rhythm with his hail and rumble approvingly when a song struck a particularly strong chord with him, and for this Zeke first started paying more attention to music and then for the music itself.

He couldn't sing, and his dancing was universally inept, but he found that when presented with a chance to learn and a half decent instructor, he could play a small clay flute rather well. It entertained him for many miles, learning to replicate various tunes they'd heard, and then making them up for himself when he ran out of the ones he already knew. In fact it was entertaining enough he pondered the notion of learning a few more instruments in his spare time, small and simple ones that wouldn't cost him much in the way of coin.

Of course after that came the pondering of adding magic to the music itself and trying to come up with a new form of spell work. Decimate wasn't too thrilled with that whole line of thought and informed him of it by expedience of growling long and low whenever Zeke mentioned the thoughts out loud.

It was certainly not anything the Akademy had ever looked into to Zeke's knowledge. Of course, the Akademy was divided so much over the seven 'true forms of magic' that the notion of trying to make a new school was almost guaranteed to get him tossed out and his wizarding title stripped for the impertinence.

He filled a few notebooks on the subject and went back to learning how to catch water from rain and purify it for drinking through the use of a filter spell. It would help clear up quite a few nasty cases of parasites in the last village they'd passed through.

“Willow bark, some mint, some poppy, hrm, I thought for sure I saw sage earlier...” Zeke tried to keep his herbs stocked up, with how often they had to eat on the road and how inept he was at identifying anything in it's natural state without using his books and adding a lot of wasted time to their journeys.

Jogpur was a bustling metropolis filled with people from all over Valeria. There were wizards all through out Jogpur, most calling themselves 'witches' in traditional fashion. As many women as men claimed the title, something Zeke wasn't used to at all, Kelfax ruled entirely by male wizards and females with mystic power relegated to 'hearth witch' status. Zeke's own noble mother had been a hearth witch, magically uneducated and capable of merely lighting a few candles around the manor or finding her boys when they were in trouble.

Women in Kelfax were ambitious, but they were never supposed to admit it, as Zeke understood things. They were not admitted to the Akademy, and while most of the higher wizards, including the council, were married, their wives and daughters were not permitted to know anything about the inner workings of government or magic.

How true this was in the grand scheme, Zeke had never bothered thinking too hard on, content in his male privileged role. The greater world brought many things to light he'd never considered.

“Sage, there we are. Oh, and rosemary and some lemon grass. Yes, a bundle of each of the dried please.” He smiled and bowed to the little old lady selling her wares straight from her garden and store room most likely, in a small tent on the street. Apparently this was typical of Jogpur, and Zeke thought it much more efficient and motivating than the huge share-crops and tithing system of Genine, Valeria's southern neighbor.

Decimate was waiting at the home of their current employer, an aging witch by the name of Gertie, who had asked for someone to come and teach her grand daughter the more common spells and charms for tending a house and garden, as well as infusion charms and possibly some nature craft if the girl showed any skill.

It was a request no one else in Kelfax would have taken, and Neph took some sort of perverse pleasure in sending Zeke out to fill it. Gertie had taken one myopic look at Decimate and remarked that Zeke had a mighty fine horse, it would have to stay in the barn. Her granddaughter had screamed and tried to drag the old woman away while Decimate hunched and tried to cover his abused ears.

On the whole the granddaughter's reaction was depressingly typical. They'd managed to work out a compromise where Decimate had the barn to himself, and Zeke would stay out there with him in the upper loft, and the girl would take her lessons in the courtyard. Zeke wasn't looking very forward to the next three months, which was the shortest amount of time Neph had deemed appropriate to cover the basics.

Gertie, increasing age and blindness aside, was quick witted and a hard task master. She'd seen Kelfax training as a good way to increase her granddaughter's status and chance to find a decently monied husband, so even though there were plenty of witches who could have done the task, she'd accept no one but a wizard straight from the Akademy. Even if he came with a monster fiend for a familiar.

Decimate stood taller than a battle stallion when he straightened his spine and went back on two legs. He was covered in black fur, thick as wool, and had rust-brown feathered wings that stretched out wider than eight men standing shoulder to shoulder. His head was shaped somewhere between a wolf's, a horse's and a hawk's, having a long muzzle and wide forehead, that sloped up sharply from his jaws. Crowning his head were three twisted black spears of horns, razor sharp. His long tail was tipped at the end with three black spines in mimic to his horns, and his claws were constantly re-edged on the bones of fiends.

His ribcage was barreled like a mans, but his hips were an awkward mix of ape and cat, allowing him to run very fast on all fours or fight on two legs. His eyes and tongue were slit like a serpents, his teeth the back facing dagger curve of a lizard. All in all, Decimate resembled a little of everything and matched nothing.

To Zeke's studied eyes he certainly didn't resemble a fiend. Fiends were pitch black all over, not feathered at all and while they had horns they only had two. They had neither fur nor scales but skin like that of a man lacking any hair anywhere. The largest fiend was perhaps Decimate's size, but those were few and far between, rarely found near humans and their magics. The smaller ones could be up to the size of a man and hunted in packs of two to three usually, though upwards of nine had been spotted together in the wilds. They stood and moved on their back legs, and had a build not dissimilar to humans, excepting for their heads being shaped more like a reptiles or chickens, each eye set to the side of the face so that their range of vision was nearly completely around. Their mouths were meant only for rending flesh from prey and emitting feirce howls that chilled the blood of any other creature.

The worst thing about fiends was their intelligence, they often communicated great hunting grounds to each other, would patiently stalk caravans for weeks and would gather many of their numbers together in a 'swarm' to over take smaller villages. Their most devious weapon lay in their inhuman eyes. When given opportunity, they would lock eyes with their prey and use an intense, spell-less magic known as 'Mesmerize'. The unlucky soul to be so caught would stand there dazed and helpless while the other fiends moved in and took their time feasting upon his flesh. Indeed so strong was Mesmerize that a man would not feel pain nor death until the fiend released it's gaze. Only then would the sorry fate of himself be revealed.

It was reported, though only in careful company, that the remains often showed other hungers had been sated upon a mesmerized human, before the driving urge to feed overwhelmed.

Zeke had heard those hushed whispers and snorted heavily, having run into no few fiends upon travels. The simplest trick to fighting them was to do so with one's eyes closed, and this should prove no handicap for a wizard well versed in his arts. Decimate, perhaps uniquely, had never fallen to the evil Mesmerize, though in the course of events Zeke could never recall if the fiends they faced had ever tried to sunder him that way.

It is the case of familiars that while they contain no small portion of their mage's magic power, they also have individual drives which allows them autonomy when their mage falls susceptible to some ill-fate. So had Zeke even been foolish enough to fall for a fiend's gaze, Decimate would quickly have ended the threat through judicious violence.

“Alright. Now, Imbue charms are very simple and require only focused concentration and incantation. They are useful for a number of things, from making furniture more sturdy to keeping clothes from wearing out to making simple items prettier.”

“How does that work? The spell doesn't change anything right, it just...”

“It does change the item just a little. It doesn't change what the items is made out of, but it increases the properties of whatever material is there. For instance, a leather coat will still be a leather coat, but imbued with 'sturdiness' it will last longer out in the elements. The leather itself takes on a more worked and oiled property. Imbuing a plain ceramic vase with 'beauty' does not change the vase, but it makes it a bit shinier, more symmetrical, removes whatever flaws might have occurred in casting and thus the vase is more beautiful to behold.”

“It sounds like a way to cut corners on making a decent coat or vase.”

“It can be, but a well made coat or vase can still be improved through the Imbue charms. Now, the great things about charms are hey are easy to cast, and don't require you to be very powerful or study a long time. The draw back is that they need to be recast on a schedule corresponding to the strength of the caster. So, if you Imbue a coat to make it last longer, and you aren't very strong, you may need to recast that charm every other week.”

“So it'd be better to just buy a new coat every few years! What's the point of this?”

“So, you can always afford a new coat?” Zeke arched a brow at Marhgie pointedly. “Because I can't. And I'm a wizard who makes quite a few coins. I have to spend those coins on food, shelter, medicines, clothes, books... You'll have expenses to, and husbands are just like other people, they aren't made from money, they have to make it, and spend it wisely. A wife who can budget is better than a wife who is pretty.”

Marhgie put great stock in her looks, but not much in her housekeeping skills. While that might earn her a place in a noble's or merchant's bed, it would not be enough to convince someone of status to take her in vows. Zeke knew that much just from the various marriage contracts he'd witnessed his peers making back in the Akademy. A good wife was a partner in the marriage, not a leech. Even if they weren't supposed to have any power.

Wet fur and feathers smelled... well they just smelled really. Zeke thanked the herbal soaps and oils for cutting down immensely on the odor. He would wager that the scented stuff wasn't as pleasant for Decimate as for him, but his familiar hadn't complained much after the first bath which involved lots and lots of scrubbing, massaging and petting so it was possible that Decimate saw a trade off involved.

For Zeke, his own soap was a harsh bar with flecks of volcanic stone in it, mixed with herbs and smelling over-all of various decaying leaf matter. It was hardly pleasant over all, but it got him cleaner than anything else he'd found, and worked as well on hair as skin.

“I'm not sure what this exam is covering.”
“Everything a High Wizard needs to know, and that a High Great Wizard already knows.”
“That doesn't tell me anything!”
“Just do as you're told and try your best and you'll pass for sure.”
“But what am I supposed to be studying? How do I prepare?”
“Be yourself.”
“That's the worst advice ever.”

The first part of the exam was easy, it being a full list of all the books he'd read with pointed questions on the contents, major theories and the counter arguments made by other wizards. It took a long time, but when he finally go to the essay section he was feeling rather confident. His reading list was eight times longer than the prescribed minimum. The essays were also easy, although he ended up take three scrolls to complete each one, rather than the half a scroll they'd given him, and the test taker kept shooting his handwriting dirty looks.

Zeke's script tended to flow across the paper in a near messy scrawl, especially if he spent a lot of time thinking about what he was going to write, and was passionate about the subject. He refrained as much as possible from the extravagant cursive or curliques of some of his peers, who thought their writing should look as pretty as their words sounded. Zeke thought if it could be read that was good enough.

Zeke stared at the sailor and cleaned his ear, certain he'd heard that wrong. “I'm sorry, what did you say was the price of passage to Nabradia?”

The man leered and opened his mouth, took a look over Zeke's shoulder and went white as a sheet. “...f...fie...fiend!”

Zeke looked around, saw Decimate looking rather non-plussed, and sighed. “No fiends, this is Decimate he's...”

The sailor was running for the docks and didn't care at all that nothing was chasing him.

“Well. I suppose we didn't want passage on his ship anyway. Honestly it sounded like he said 'ass or grass', what in the name of Kelfax do you think he meant?”

Decimate grumbled and scratched at a horn.

Iron Staff was great, except that he wasn't a battle mage and so swinging his staff around tended to get him in more trouble than sitting back and calling down lightening. Which was why Zeke was here in Nabradia, trading magic lessons for fighting ones. Earl/Duke/Lord something or other title at least Rabenath wanted his son to master elemental magic, which Zeke was not an exert at, but could give starting lessons until his real teacher got through with his job and meandered his way up to the northern country.

Rabenath Jr. was a fine young warrior of fifteen, capable of calling the breeze to lift girls skirts and setting fire to horses tails to see their riders tumble swiftly off the panicking animals. Zeke didn't expect to hammer anything like mystic manners into the teenager, but meeting him for a long, bruising spar with the quarterstaffs at least put them both in the equal mindset of murder.

Zeke's rule was that for ever round he lost, he'd teach the boy one trick. For ever round he won, the child had to confess to his father what use he'd been putting his knowledge to.

The first week Zeke met the dirt more often than he liked. The second week he improved enough not to drop his staff when his hands went numb. By the third week he'd managed to trip the gloating little snot into a pile of manure and after that outright war was declared. Rabanath Sr. was as impressed with their viciousness in the yard, as he was unimpressed with his eldest heir's decisions to turn his powers into the terrorizing force of the household.

Zeke tried not to get involved overly with affairs like the running of person's homes, or the raising of children, but it warmed something in his heart to hear the whelp sobbing as he counted out the belt strokes to his backside for drawing out all the water from the well to 'wash' the visiting peasants with their monthly tithes in a sudden rain shower.

Neph smirked, twirling a long strand of hair around his carefully lacquered nails. “I see. And this is a mission for my tower why?” Neph was the head of the Yellow Tower of the Akademy. Of the six towers, each was comprised of different stone work and thus a different color. Each tower was also the 'seat' of learning in a particular school of magic. Yellow Tower was built around Charms, Red, Elemental magics, Black, Necromancy, Blue, Battle magics, Green, Prophesy, and White Tower taught the rotes of healing.

The seventh tower of course stood empty. The Gray tower, the seat of all arcane lore and Kelfax's last achievement.

“Er, that is...”

“That is that no one else wants to dirty themselves with the matter and so you come to the last school that might bother themselves and hope that we are so desperate we can't refuse?” Neph arched a brow, head tilting a little as his mimic-bird stared at the messenger over its wicked beak from his shoulder.

“This... this is a major issue! Acadia...”

“Acadia is a friendly country to Kelfax, but it's government should be responsible for taking care of it's own citizens. If it were fiends, you'd be petitioning the Blue Tower. If it were so progressed that disease was rampant you'd be at the White, so, this is a minor issue that your government is willing to pay a minimal sum to see taken care of without getting their own hands dirty.” Neph's smile fit a well-fed cat that was still debating killing the impertinent mouse just to play with it. “The answer is 'No.'. The Yellow Tower has better thing to do than tour Acadia's sewers. No matter the price.”

“You're sure about this?”
“Of course. You're my student, it's my job to know when you're ready.”
“Alright. Lets get this over with.”

The first part of the exam was written, and easy enough. The second was harder, in front of the lesser heads of council he was questioned and recounted truthfully as much as he could of his travels, what he'd learned, what he'd mastered, what he'd read... They questioned him on everything, wanting details and numbers and was the lord's coat blue or purple and the hardest part was keeping his temper through the process. Some of the questions were impossible to answer, he didn't know what her name had been, he never asked, and some were just stupid, what did it matter if he'd taken holly from a tree eight days after the sage ran out or nine?

The third part, the comprehensive exam, that he'd been looking forward to. Doubtless it would be difficult but he'd been practicing his magic constantly for months now. He'd expected them to tell him Decimate was to stay out of the exam, and so before stepping into the Trial Area, he gave his familiar a good brushing and spent some of his last coins on a fat goat. Decimate was still unhappy, trying to crowd him away from the gate and shield him with his wings, but Zeke ducked and squirmed away, promising to return as soon as everything was over.

The Trial area was a huge flat circle surrounded by floating stone stadium seating that could be magiced to hover further or closer, depending on the perceived threat of the magic display going on. Today the stands were exceptionally close and Zeke wasn't sure if that meant they expected him to fail, or if everyone present just wanted to be able to see Neph's pet project pupil up close.

Charms were not notorious for their displays, and he was officially of the Yellow Tower, though he'd spent as much time in the other ones and the vast underground halls as anywhere else in the Akademy really. Not many had decided to show, Zeke recognized only Neph and some of the secondary heads that had been at the second part of his exam. Maybe thirty in all. Typically one's whole Tower at least had the decency to arrive if only to cheer encouragement. His brother's advancement exams brought the whole school out, sure of a grand spectacle.

Zeke had never really been part of his Tower though. Or a true part of the Akademy. Not since his brother died and Decimate was born.

“Well, I did warn them I've been practicing.” He muttered to himself, letting his travel cloak fall to the sandy ground, staff up. Breathing deep he centered himself, took hold of his staff in both hands and traced the carved runes of his favorite spells. The dark gray ironwood was nearly black under the tiny, circling script.

Quicken first, then Imbue Diamondscale to the stands, then Earth-shake. Dancing Wind, Iron Staff, Refresh, and Bird Summon. Lilting Tune to play the clay pipes while he danced around his invisible attackers, lightening and fire at either end of his staff dispersing the tornados he called, the hawks, the ravens. This was Zeke's moment, his magic. Charms weren't notorious for putting on a good show, but Zeke wasn't playing for an audience. This was for Decimate. His partner. His familiar.

He would be a wizard worthy.

Neph smiled widely and accepted the startled murmurs and gasps from the secondary council heads as his due. Zeke was his of course, but they were all free to covet and wonder at his luck. He'd been sure that the boy was something special all those years ago when he first tripped his way through the Akademy halls in over sized slippers. Landier had been a glittery gem of a child, all sparkle and sharp edges aimed to wound. His brother though, was a strangel-vine flower, slow to grow, blossoming on the bodies of those stupid enough to stay still and underestimate that vicious weed.

Decimate was the violent flower on top of those tangled strands of clinging, choking vine. So many people saw Decimate, and forgot there was something out there even more dangerous.

But that was the way Neph liked things. His little conspiracies worked out so much better when the masses were nicely ignorant and stupidly self assured.

He wouldn't admit to anyone that Zeke had blossomed far beyond what he'd expected. The boy wasn't just talented and hard working, he was driven, pure and simple. Driven to undo what his brother had wrought, driven to make things right, no matter what the personal cost was. And Zeke's personal costs were something to give an army of accountant fits. Neph tried to balance a few scales where he could, and had Jeorge make sure the boy wasn't running himself into a grave.

Neph had plans that required he have a pulse for quite a while.

Neph was tall and slender, with ebony hair straight an silken straight to the floor. He had charmed everything in his boudoir to help him tend to the long tresses.

Every morning he put it up in elaborate styles, and every evening he brushed it out, washed it, and let it dry over the heated floor of his sitting room as he reviewed the scrolls for the day and plotted. He spent a lot of time, relatively speaking, plotting. Everyone knew that. The matters of his plotting were up for high debate however.

Neph was one of the six on the council of course. But he was also one of the six heads of the Rank and Vile, the true government of Kelfax. He had a lot on his plate. Sending Zeke out to smack things would be simple enough, but unsatisfying. Zeke was much more useful in upsetting people's world views and forcing others to think, rather than just smiting fiends until he died.

Not that the fiend smiting didn't earn him a lot of points. Oh there were so many points there, and so many lordlings and earls now pondering the applications of chimera warfair on the evil bastards. If the fiends could be reduced in high numbers, more of the wilds could be tamed, which meant fatter peasants, fatter purses and more wizards getting out of Kelfax when they got their highest rank. Neph considered that last a very grand achievement indeed. The rot creeping through Kelfax's governmental systems could stand a thurough scrubbing via removal of petty little sycophants and young idiots.

Especially idiots that weren't Neph's.

Neph smirked into the black glass mirror in his private bath. It was an elegant thing, made of polished black glass and set quicksilver, the frame a heavy and simple black iron he'd had cast with curls to hang his combs and jewels from.

But its looks were not what made this mirror special, nor Neph's favorite. He'd had to fork over a hefty sum to Jeorge for this mirror, along with a good portion of Zeke's leash. Trailing the tips of his black lacquered nails over the smoky glass, he watched Landier scream soundlessly into the air, body broken and writhing on thick steel hooks.

“I warned you that meddling in the Soul Magics would get you into trouble, my little pretty murderer.”

“Ahem. The Rank and Vile requests your attendance at the next meeting. You know where.” his little familiar growled out, neatening its feathers from his window sill. With a chuckle he sat and pulled a set of fine silver combs, their teeth hollow needles filled with poison from the mirror.

“Of course. Just let me make myself presentable.”

Somewhere in the forsaken realms, what was left of Landier's soul bled and wept while Neph looked on, his reflection a vague shadow overlaying the inner images.

Someday he may leave the mirror for Zeke, as a gift. If the boy managed to succeed in his quest. A more perfect reward Neph couldn't begin to imagine.

Zeke stared in awe at the pile of books that greeted him. They were everywhere, stacked high to the cavern ceiling, in untidy mounds, dusty and forgotten and hoarded... Zeke's personal treasure trove. He could spend months here, sorting and charming away the grime and reading everything he'd ever wanted! He might even find something to help Decimate!

Decimate who was growling and looking not at all pleased by the piles of books.

Zeke sighed and thumped his staff to the cave floor. And for a moment there he'd honestly gotten his hopes up. Damned dragons and their Lure spells.

A dragons hoard could be a great treasure trove. It could just as easily be a pile of broken armor from idiots who went stumbling into caves and ended up a snack for the hungry beasts. Or it could be an epic ton of pyrite which, while glittery and minimally useful, didn't yield a lot in the way of coins. Most of the money in dragons came from the butchery of the beasts actually, and since this was a rare skill set to have, taking a specialist with you when you went hunting them was a good idea.

Zeke hadn't expected to run into any dragons, so he hadn't taken that precaution and as such was now debating the best way to handle things. Decimate's opinion was to eat the dragon, of course. Zeke thought that rather appropriate, excepting that there was a lot more dragon than there was Decimate and there might be some coins to be had past his familiar's next meal.

Dragon scale, dragon horn, dragon heartstring all gathered a fairly decent price if he remembered right, and there were places that bought the organs. With a sigh he waved at Decimate to start in on the carcass and tried to remember the best preservation spells for the fiddly bits.

Deep enough in the cave to have been overlooked by the less curious (or the more directionally oriented), there was a small stash of gemstones and broken armors, some fairly decrepit weaponry and what looked like a lady's personal carriage worth of ripped clothes and baubles. Zeke went ahead and dumped everything that looked worth a few coins through his transportation pouch and left the rest for any looters willing to haul it all out.

Either dragon corpses didn't fetch as much as he thought they had, or levitating the entirety of the remains and hauling it back to the nearest township broke some taboo he hadn't been aware of because it took nearly three hours before he was able to sell off the half devoured carcass and even then Decimate grumbled about loosing his latest chew toy.

Zeke had harvested and saved some of the longer bones for him, so hopefully he would be forgiven for being such a skin-flint when it came to the spoils of battle.

Armor for Decimate was a strange concept, Zeke honestly hadn't really thought about it since few familiars ever needed it and most that did were from the Blue Tower, wolves and large cats and raptors and the occasional huge riding lizard. Nothing like Decimate. But when Neph casually asked if he was saving up for a decent smithy, Zeke's mind got to turning.

Something light, to let Decimate move, but solid, to ward off grasping claws and teeth. Covering for the back and chest area, and something for the major muscles of for and aft legs. Easily buckled on and off, and leather or cotton padded to keep from abrading the fur and the sensitive skin beneath it.

Scale work he finally decided, and mithryl scale at that, expensive, very very expensive, but the best that could be forged without magic. Then he'd enchant it within an an inch of it's atomic structure.

Zeke had no patience for priests. As far as theory and philosophy went, one religion seemed as good as another but when decorated with details and spewed by madmen who'd read only one book in their lives, they became another symptom of social disease. Zeke had been outspoken as a student, a trait that had only driven in the wedge between himself and his father. Zeke knew that educating the masses even unto simple basics of mathematics and literacy could only improve their lot in life and to improve the lot of the lowest class could only improve the lives of their lords.

Zeke's father had seen only wasted time that could be spent tilling fields or tending herds, and more complaints. Eventual uprising. “Men are meant to be led, peasants by lords and lords by kings and kings by divinity. Contentment only comes with acceptance of one's place in life and satisfaction in their tasks. Never will a man be at peace with the world or himself until he internalizes those truths!”

Wizards of course, were an exception to those truths because it was always a wizards place to question, to seek better, stronger, faster means of things. A wizard answered only the lords to whose land he passed through or attended, and ultimately to the council of the Akademy. The council answered to no one, a power of their own to rival any king. They made treaties and agreements with any kingdom that sought their aid, and sent their wizards to the lords and ladies of those realms that had reached accord with the Akademy.

Those lands that refused magical aid either prayed to a very benevolent and protective god, or were lost to the Wilds. It might be different, Zeke knew, if any of the numerous religions in the lands could come to an agreement, unify, and preach a singular message. If that happened, then the priests he met would have more influence. A single unified religion would be a political force equal only to the Akademy or one of the Great Kings. But so far in all the years of the Akademy which were counted as over 8000, there had never been a single acknowledged religion as the True religion.

Probably, because none of them were based on anything more than ideas and social rules. At least magic was based in fact and the natural laws. Belief in some almighty figure creating the world from dust and nothing? Who actually fell for that crap?
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
Clothing and blankets were luxuries, ones Zeke indulged himself in when he was given the chance and coin and basically forced by circumstance.

With Decimate he didn't even have skins and hides to try and use, as his familiar often devoured every bit of what they hunted. He tended to trade minor magical favors to those who would spare him their wash rags, old linens and such. Then he'd use what he could to mend what he had, and turn the rest over to Clara for cleaning.

Before Decimate and Clara, Zeke got a fresh tunic or a pair of trousers from his parents once a year on his birthing day.

Andria, as far as he could tell, had four different bright tunics she traded out each day. She was never dusty or unkempt, her braids were never loose, and her teeth sparkled. For someone without magic she used many magical products. "My face earns me as much as my voice and memory." She'd say, laughing.

He'd like her more if she wasn't so close to Neph.

Neph was inhuman as far as Zeke could tell.

"You don't look like a Wizard." the elf said, leaning on a tree. Zeke huffed and glared. Elves didn't come to the cities, and most people with brains didn't go into the elves forests. Some Lords of the Land tried, every so often, to conquer a particular stretch of woods and claim it for their own, and inevitably ended up a carcass tied to a horse which was set on fire and forced to run back to whatever was close to 'home' in the thing's head. Often the corpse had its back cut open and lungs placed carefully on the outside prior to the setting of fire, which no human had ever gotten a straight answer on.

Elves had a terribly black sense of humor after all.

"You don't look like a dragon hunter." Zeke bit out. He wasn't sure what a dragon hunter should look like, but it felt like the thing to say.

In the half wild townships where people struggled to eke out their lives, elves were neighbors and trading partners. Sometimes the races had dalliances which consternated the more conservative folks.

He'd been searching for a live dragon for almost two years without success. The beasts were rare, dangerous, and universally killed when confronted. 'Thou shalt not suffer a dragon to live' went the saying. Aggressive and destructive, a few Lords had preserved specimens, but for his research Zeke *needed* to see one alive.

"Iddhron Snowpelt, the best dragon hunter in these lands, and the only one you'll find. What do you want the beast for, parts?" The Elf arched a faint eyebrow at him. He was small, barely hitting Zeke's sternum. His hair, skin and eyes were all dark shades of brown. His clothes were leather, ornately done with embossed work, creased and smooth from long years of wear.

"No no, I need it *alive*. At least, for a day. Maybe two. After that what you do with it is up to you." Zeke shook his head quickly. "I need to do a few experiments on it."

The elf looked less than impressed. "A live dragon. You know what dragons are don't you? Huge scaled fire breathing vermin? Mean? Cunning? I mentioned the fire didn't I?"

Zeke rolled his eyes. Elves and their irrational hatred of fire. Most of the greatest legendary dragon slayers were elves, now that he thought about it. It probably had something to do with their love of bows and trees and all things imminently burnable. "Yes, I'm aware. That's what I need, not the fire part, I understand if you lash the muzzle tight they can't breath it, and the wings are their greatest weakness if you shred the webbing. I need it alive. You can *keep* it for all I care, I just need a day or two to try and understand how it works and how much magic exists within its biology. Someone made a chimera out of one, I need to *unmake* it, preferably without killing anyone or exploding anything."

"Oh, some idiot made a mess and you want to make another one to clean it up? Well that humans for you I suppose." Snowpelt sighed and picked at one long pointed ear. Cat slit eyes studied Zeke for a long moment. "Fine then, if you've no interest in the beasties bits, I can make enough coin from the carcass to warrant the risk. They're broody now, past breeding season on to the nest watching. Bucks have moved northward, they claim crags and peaks for territory. Perchers you know. Females are in the caves, *they* haven't got wings so what you know about them measure to a thimble. Better stay back and let me do the actual work."

"Eggs? What do you do with dragon eggs?" He asked curiously.

"Break 'em and eat 'em. Can't let the things grow up and you idiot humans would try *raising* the things like pets. Next it's the end of the world in flame and screams and dragon powered war. No thanks."

Zeke tried to imagine his father with a pet dragon and shuddered. "Yes, very intelligent of you. Erm, what do you need coin for, I thought elves didn't use it?"

"Course we don't. But we also don't use fire now do we, which means if I want steel or iron for my knives and such, I've got to trade with you lot, and you're all about shiny baubles."

Zeke had to shrug at that. "I hadn't thought of that."

"Obviously, or you wouldn't have asked such a stupid question."

Snowpelt led him deep into the mountains above the forest, where ancient caves honey-combed the soft stone. They camped in the late darkness of a single moon, eating hard bread and tough jerky with some cheese. Snowpelt passed on the bread, Zeke's contribution, with a disdainful glower.

Zeke tried to imagine a diet without plant matter and couldn't begin to fathom the deficiencies. The healer in him wanted to ask a lot of questions, which he didn't think would be answered kindly.

"There's no one else coming to meet us?" He finally asked, silently wishing for the warmth of a small campfire.


"I thought, elves usually hunt in family clans. Or is that something else I've gotten wrong?"

Snowpelt stared at him for a while then rolled his strange eyes skywards. "I've not got a clan, so if you are right I wouldn't know. My father was exiled for banging a village bint. Did his best to care for us both, made a pretty sum from dragon hunting, then got gored to death my fifteenth Winter Night by an angry moose. Mother took ill a few years before that, couldn't afford a Witch or a Wizard, so she's buried at the edge of the forest with him. Well, he with her. In any case there's the terrible sob story, will you please shut up and sleep?"

Zeke nodded, wide eyed, and firmly bit back the apology on his tongue, for fear the elf would decide to shoot him and call it suicide.

The next morning they pretended nothing had happened, and Zeke learned ho to lure a hungry, broody dragon from her nest. Snowpelt explained that normally he'd be downwind, and have a few seconds to fire off as many arrows as he could into the large eye socket when the female slunk from her cave to clam jaws on the broken legged deer he tied up outside her hole. Since they wanted the thing alive however, Snowpelt needed to change up the plan.

Together they wove a strong net, large enough to catch the female Snowpelt thought was within the cave. Zeke couldn't use any magic on it, since Dragons could smell spell work and would go into a frenzy trying to devour it. They wove it out of tendon and hide, some of it harvested from former dragon kills. The elf shrugged and admitted that he'd kept the heart strings and tendons for bow string. With the net complete they set a collapsible trap over the entrance of the cave. Snowpelt assured him that females were nocturnal hunters, sleeping deep during the day, wrapped around their precious eggs. Finally, the last part of the hard work was rigging the trap to come down when the deer was taken... and getting the deer.

In the end, Snowpelt did most of the work, and Zeke got burned.

"What are you doing to it?"

"I'm measuring how much magic is naturally in it's tissues, before it feeds and frenzies. All living things have magic, just usually in tiny amounts that means they can't do much with it. I understand that dragons are *supposed* to have a higher amount, but how much is highly debated."

"And you can't do that with a corpse?"

"No, you see, like a heart beat pushes blood, magic flows through the body. After death the magic dissipates so it's impossible to measure accurately." Zeke explained absently as he took a small sample of blood and mixed it with special powders in his ambelic. "After this
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
Tazzy: They weren't sure how they had gotten where they were. All they remembered was their handlers dropping them off and setting them on their target when an explosion had ripped through the building they had been approaching. The best speculation was that they had been knocked out by flying debris, but that did not explain where they were. They were in some sort of swampy area with brackish water and trees that dripped vines and moss towards the ground, and everything was brown, green, and yellow. A quick scouting of the area had shown no sign of close civilization, although they had spotted a dark cloud in the sky some distance off over what looked like it might be a city. It had taken only one rainstorm for them to find a good cave to make into a shelter. Trial and error had shown them which among the local wildlife was good to eat, and the giant snakes were just fun to hunt and tear to shreds. When no one showed up to collect them after a week in this strange place, they decided that they had been abandoned and managed to change their lifestyle to reflect a bit more of the freedom they now had, letting their instincts rule them more often than their common sense. When the strange men in uniforms showed up, they lead them as far away from their shelter as possible before attacking them, determined to not be leashed by any military again. It didn't take long for their own uniforms to become shredded and filthy, and they abandoned the clothes when they were little more than rags. Their dog tags were tossed into the brackish water of the swamp with a flick of their wrists, and just like that, Crusnik 1 and 2 vanished into the wilderness of Gaia to be replaced by the two wild boys of the swamp.

Quez: Tseng gave Lazard and the troop of Third Class a long blank look. He was here for simple threat assessment, and possible sample collection, not to amuse them.

"You *are* the 'people' person here, mister liaison." Lazard grinned. Grinned.

Tseng let his eyebrow rise a quarter of a centimeter until Lazard's was suitably nervous. "I see. Eight Third Class are afraid of snakes. I should have requested Sephiroth for this sojourn."

As they started giving each other looks and shifting like they had all caught a case of Reno's itching powder, he took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and took out his cell phone. "Rude. Man the chopper."

He shoved tie, jacket and phone into Lazard's arms and started walking straight into the swamp.

Tazzy: Two sets of eyes watched the strange man from the tree they were perched in, wings folded against their backs. He didn't look like the others, no uniform for one thing.

"His suit is like the large man's," murmured the silver, eyes flicking over the group. "Not military, but definitely have to keep an eye on the group."

"Will they attack if we do?" inquired the blond, getting a nod from his brother. No matter the differences between them, the men would attack if they pounced the strange man.

Quez: Tseng mentally wrote out the cleaning bill for his suit and a new pair of shoes, attaching it to an imaginary file labeled SOLDIER.

The waters rippled, muck surged, and a set of fangs attached to fifty feet of spine, scale and muscle came barreling out of the swamp straight for him.

Tseng fired twice, once to each luminous eye socket, and continued walking. "Yes. So terrifying. I should bring the General here for a picnic someday!"

Tazzy: The twins looked at each other. They had never seen another calmly take out one of the big snakes without a lot of screaming and flailing.

"We should watch him," the silver said. "He is... unexpected." The blond nodded and they quietly slunk closer to keep a better eye on the strange man. As well as watch his back for any of those big snakes.

Quez: Tseng expected a bit more of a fuss. He wasn't entirely sure what snake breeding season was, reptiles had never interested him in particular, but monsters tended to take threats to their territory in violent ways.

It was almost, he thought as another mid-sized specimen tried it's luck and ended up creating a trench trough the murk with it's death inertia, as though they'd learned to avoid smaller predators. He'd suspect SOLDIER's playing around if the Third Class hadn't acted like a bunch of school children on an outing. Perhaps he *would* have to talk to the General about his stress relief methods.

A flicker of something off color caught his periphery. A chocobo?

Tazzy: Humming, the blond's eyes glittered at the spray of blood created by the bullet and he leaned over to lick his twin's ear, getting a hiss and a flapped hand. "Stop. Not now. Enemy near," hissed the silver in a harsh tone.

"But doesn't the sight of that blood make you hard?" asked the blond. The silver only growled and motioned for the blond to watch from there while he moved for a better angle. He climbed farther up in the trees and started making his way around as best as he could.

Quez: Something was stalking him. For the first time since he'd received this assignment a bubble of amusement rose up. He turned, keeping the sliver of color to his back, pulling his second automatic and slowing his pace. Not much longer and he'd be past the Third's reach... he estimated three shots before the nearest SOLDIER would reach him. Rude had the chopper but he would need time to fire the missiles.

A small smirk tugged at his lips, shadows under the water moving swiftly. "Shall we dance?" A hooded basilisk head rose out of the reeds, the ground under Tseng squelching and trembling with the displacement. Forty feet climbed and kept moving, most of the body still in the earth, coils wrapping around Tseng in loops thicker than a man's hips.

Tazzy: The silver's lips pulled back in a hiss. He didn't know if the man would be able to take on the large snake, but he didn't want to lose this strange man. Whistling sharply in a rising cadence, he launched himself from the tree he had been hiding in, fangs and claws bared. A few moments later, his brother joined him in the air and they impacted the back of the snake's head, hoping to at least buy the man some time to get out of the coils.

Quez: He wasn't sure who, or what, had decided to take offense in his defense. Harpies came to mind in the seconds between hearing the cries and firing both guns.

"You might," he warned, on the off chance the things were sentient *and* understood Mainland. "Want to get out of the way."
The first Third Class swung his sword on a scaled loop of mutant muscle as the Rude's rockets breached the swamp boundary.

His suit was going to be *ruined*, he just knew it.

Tazzy: The sound of the rockets had both of them jumping into the air just long enough for the explosions to happen, before the fell on the serpent's head again, this time they managed to claw its eyes out instead of just distract it. Then, deciding that it had been rendered helpless, they abandoned the snake and flew back to a nearby tree, close enough to watch and help if needed. The blond absently licked his claws as they settled on their perch.

Quez: Dry cleaning wouldn't cut it. Burning would have to suffice. Blood *never* came out.

He twisted and narrowly avoided the serpent's corpse crushing him into the swamp.

"That should suffice the doctor, if you'll be good enough to drag this back to the transport tanks?" He checked his guns carefully before holstering them.

"What about... those?" one of the SOLDIER's asked, indicating the roosting harpies. If they were harpies. Male harpies?

"If you think Hojo would like them, please feel free." He found himself smirking."

Tazzy: The twins quietly snorted, glancing at each other. The military would *never* get its hands on them again. They also didn't like the talk of a doctor. In a heartbeat, they swore to each other that they would not hold back if these military men tried to capture them.

Quez: Seeing as his shirt was ruined, he casually stripped it off and discarded it. "I begin to believe they understand language, as that puts them above SOLDIER standard requirements, they fall under Turk purview."

There was ruffling and bristling, the Thirds not exactly happy for the insults, or being relegated to pack mules, but since *he'd* done all the damned work he didn't care a bit.

"You're purview Tseng? I didn't know you collected animals." Lazard grinned, walking carefully through the mud. "It does explain your Turks though!"

Tseng looked up, letting Lazard take the full force of his disapproving gaze. Without breaking eye contact he palmed his primary automatic, popped the clip, and slid a fresh one in to the quiet of a swamp holding its breath. "I see your misinformed again, Lazard. SOLDIER's are recruited. Turks, are *family*."

Tazzy: Family? That caught their attention. They only had each other before, but maybe this one would accept them into the family? They were lonely and had heard good things. The silver shook his head, laying a cautious hand on his brother's arm. They couldn't take a risk on so little information.

Quez: Lazard didn't back down, but he did stop smiling, which was as good a sign of submission as Tseng required at the moment.

He took his phone and left the coward holding the rest. "Rude, what is our fuel? Tell Rufus the mission has created a time delay, and get me a clean suit. Send the invoice to Sephiroth."

There was a choked snort behind him.

Looking at the pair in the trees, a thought came to him, something born of blood and amusement. "Have Reno meet me on the ridge with my sword. I believe I finally have sparring partners."

Tazzy: They watched as the one started towards the ridge, and the silver nodded. "Let's go watch him," he whispered, and the blond nodded in response. Carefully to avoid the soldiers, they made their way after the man, Tseng, the other had called him. Honestly, the silver didn't think they could really avoid it at this point. Tseng Turk was just far too *interesting*

Quez: A nice hike in squelching shoes and filthy pants put him in the perfect mood to decapitate someone. Reno *whistled* from over his sniper scope. Tseng wondered if the harpy boys had a clue he'd been there the whole time, the perfect lethal shadow.

"You forwarded pictures from your phone, didn't you?"

"Elena had to change panties boss man. Rod owes my eighty gil. You want to change pants before pulling the pig sticker?" Reno laughed, but there was a serious glint to his eyes.

Tseng peeled off shoes, socks, and wriggled his toes in the dirt. "No sense ruining two pairs." He handed over his holsters, then in a bout of *whimsy*, handed over the throwing knives from his calf holsters. "If they attack you, aim for the wing joints." His katana sang as he pulled her from her sheath and saluted the strange pair.

Tazzy: The two froze at the edge of the clearing, hunkered down in some bushes and the silver cursed himself for seven kinds of a fool. The thought of a sniper watching Tseng Turk had never crossed his mind, assuming that the soldiers had been his only backup. The blond punched him in the arm for not knowing about the sniper and he growled in response. When Tseng Turk pulled his sword and *saluted* them, the silver took a breath and carefully emerged from the bushes, uncaring of the fact he only wore his hair, snake blood, and some mud he hadn't washed off yet.

Quez: Reno settled back in a seemingly nonchalant pose, watching everything with vibrant green eyes. For once, he didn't say anything, content to watch his boss, for lack of a better word, 'play'.

Tseng slid one leg back, Katana angled across and down, an old defensive move he'd never have bothered with against another swordsman.

Tazzy: The silver tilted his head before grinning and holding out his hand. It seemed like blood gushed from his palm before solidifying into a wicked looking scythe with a barbed tail. "You seek to challenge us?"

The blond emerged, his black lance already in his hand. "DO you wish one or both to fight?"

Quez: So they did understand speech, and they were at least as intelligent as the prostitutes Shinra hired regularly. Tseng narrowed his eyes, weighed them up in his mind, and *growled*.

Tazzy: Delighted growls echoed from them as they shifted their weapons into a ready position. Crouching slightly, they studied Tseng Turk for a moment before baring their fangs and lunging at him, the silver going high with his scythe whistling through the air, and the blond going low, hoping to tangle Tseng Turk's legs.

Quez: He twisted and struck, feet sliding along the earth rather than lifting. He caught the scythe with his scabbard and deflected its motion away as his blade swept downwards, the flat side meeting spear and shoving it aside.
Young, restless, eager to hunt and kill and unafraid. He smiled.

Tazzy: A delighted purr rumbled in their throats as the silver flicked the barbed tail out, attempting to entangle and remove the sheath from Tseng Turk's hand, thus depriving him of a weapon. The blond chuckled and reversed his swing, this time aiming at the back of the knees.

Quez: Tseng rarely used his katana in a real fight, since he rarely got 'real' fights any more and his guns had materia slots. His girl was more old fashioned.

Rolling his feet, he back-flipped over the spear, keeping his arms straight and angled in, under the arch of his spine which let the whip slide down the length of polished wood without catching.

As he landed, his feet slid apart, automatically widening his stance and putting him back in the defensive. He arched a brow at them pointedly.

Tazzy: "He like to fly, brother," purred the blond, stalking in an opposite way as his twin to maneuver Tseng Turk into a space between them.

The silver hummed, eying their opponent critically. "Doesn't get out to fight much, but doesn't slack either. A true challenge!' On the lat word, he struck, faking a blow to the shoulders only to lash the tail at the knees while his twin did the opposite.

Quez: He threw himself forward in a roll, blade and scabbard crossed safely over his chest. The escape was narrow, but other than a shallow cut from the whip barbs along his leg, it worked.

In a ritual spar he'd give them first blood. Instead, in his roll his tugged the cord from his scabbard and when he came up, sent a small throwing star straight for the blond's wing joint.

"Someone didn't teach you well enough, if you waste breath to communicate."

Tazzy: The blond's wings vanished into his back before reemerging once the small star was past. Raising his hand, he sent a sonic wave at the man. Growling in excitement, the silver flung a bolt of lightning with his scythe, trying to figure out a winning strategy for this fight. Their opponent was sneaky and very good.

Quez: The scabbard was wood, he used it to block, and ground the bolt to the ground as he dodged the wave of.. he wasn't sure. He was certain it would be painful. Well, if they wanted to call on Materia... his hairband glowed crimson, the black Ribbon tucked into the cord activating the one Materia he never left home without. "Ultima."

Tazzy: They cried out in surprise, unable to dodge the attack in time. They braced themselves, and managed to remain on their feet after the explosion. The silver had lost a wing while the blond had burns on his body. A fine, black dust rose from the ground to reform the missing wing, while burned skin began flaking off, leaving healthy pink behind.

Quez: He stood straight and stared at them coolly, assessing. "Do you yield?"

Tazzy: "If we do, what would it gain us?" inquired the silver, eyes watching as his brother moved over to stand next to him.

Quez: "You've got skills, and some intelligence, so you could be Turks." Tseng ignored Reno's arched brows and 'Huh?!'. "Which means a job, a shelter, uniforms I'm afraid, and steady meals, along with the usual Turk Weapon package." Tseng watched them out of his periphery as he pretended to check his blade. "Or you could stay here, like animals. Alone. Until the scientists come for you. They'll send me to collect you for their experiments, and you'll likely die in a lab somewhere. Nameless. Unknown."

Tazzy: "You assume some lab will hold us," mused the blond, his lips twisting into a sneer.

The silver regarded Tseng Turk curiously. "What's the catch, Tseng? Your offer is too good to not have a catch."

Quez: He smiled slowly. "If you're a Turk, you're *mine*."

Tazzy: "And the soldiers you were with? What say would they have/ Or their general?" demanded the silver, not convinced, but they had lowered their weapons as they listened.

Quez: Reno laughed. "Like Seph *wants* more headaches?!"

Tseng sheathed his katana. "General Sephiroth is in charge of the SOLDIERS. SOLDIERs, and the General, belong to Doctor Hojo, the head scientist who creates them. We cooperate on occasion, but Turks answer to President Shinra alone. We take some... suggestions, from other department heads."

"*Veld* takes suggestions, then he hands them to boss-man, and Tseng shreds them while Rude and I piss on the burning ashes." Reno's smile was fanged. "Shinra? He pays the bills so we clean up his messes and keep him from bleeding. Too much."

Tazzy: The two glanced at each other, holding an entire conversation without speaking a word. The blond raised a brow before the silver nodded. Their weapons vanished and they shifted to look like young teenage boys, blue eyed and fang-less, as their wings also vanished into their backs. Walking over, they knelt in front of Tseng, heads bowed but tense, expecting a trap. "We are yours. Completely. Do with us as you will."

Their vow was directed at Tseng, not as the Turk, but as the Man.

Quez: Tseng let himself blink once, before he slid his blade through his belt and bent down to grip each of them by the back of the neck. "On my honor, I take you as my family and name you," He pressed harder on the silver one, "Jyut Loeng (yuut lung) and," he pressed now on the blond. " Taai Yeung (Tai Yung)."

Tazzy: The boys blinked at the names but didn't object. "Your wish is our command, Master," they said in one voice, waiting for permission to rise. They had thrown their lot in with this strange man, for better or worse, and gambled everything. Now to see what the gamble paid in the end.

Quez: He stepped back, holding out his hands to help them up.

"So, boss-man, I'm thinking fire hose. Cause that's a lot of mud ta ask Rude ta scrape outa the chopper."

Tseng snorted. "A Water should do until a proper bath. You have spare uniforms?"

"Besides yours? Yeah yeah, but they ain't gonna fit too well."

"Bad clothes are better than a jealous Rufus."


Tazzy: They took the offered hands before offering a humorous grin. "Our previous clothes were shredded and we just didn't see a reason to replace them," remarked the blond.

"After all, other than the wildlife - which is rather tasty by the way - there was nothing out here that would grow offended by our nudity," replied the silver with a roll of his shoulders.

Quez: Reno looked them up and down with an eyebrow waggle and a chuckle. "Offense ain't so much the problem."

"Stop texting lewd commentary to Elena and tell Rude to bring the chopper around." He sighed, gripping slim hands and pulling the boys after him to the small crates that held Reno's ammunition, a few 'experimental' weapons, Tseng's spare suit and his guns.

"Done already, just giving the Thirds time to clear out. So what's up with Lazard anyway? I scoped the stink eye you sent."
Tseng rumbled something in his chest that sounded tightly leashed and pissed for the effort.

Tazzy: Twin giggles came from the boys and when Tseng released their hands. they glanced at each other before Silver ran a low level charge of electricity over their skin, drying all of the mud that clung to them. Then Blond used a low sonic blast to remove the dried dirt from them. There was still some residual dirt, but now they wouldn't be leaving a mess behind them.

"What's your name?" inquired Silver, looking at the sniper. He was interesting in a possibly fun way.

Quez: Reno smirked, pushing his goggles up a little higher. "I'm Reno. the guy coming in with the chopper is Rude. You might meet Elena when we get back to base, she's about this tall, blond and pure puppy. Needle teeth."

"If you didn't tease her so much, she wouldn't try to castrate you at every turn."

"Then where would I get my kicks?" Reno laughed. "We three are Rufus's personal guard. With Boss-man. We also guard President Shinra... when Veld is unavailable."

"That won't be your job." Tseng assured them, stripping down to his skin and casting Water over himself before using the rags to dry off. Reno didn't even glance over at the spectacle of scars and golden skin, pulling a small compact from his back pocket.

"Nah, you're Weapons Class. Weapons work in pairs on special assignment, directly under Boss-man. Veld is the name on the papers, but if you don't see Tseng's mark, you don't do it. Veld's a paper pusher, he don't know shit about getting dirty."

Tazzy: "Veld is a desk jockey general," Silver said with a nod. "And Tseng is the general in the fields with the troops." Blond nodded his agreement of the analysis, and they watched Tseng, their eyes drifting over the various scars. They spoke of a warrior and one not afraid to fight, and that made the twins feel better about who they were sworn to.

Quez: Reno whistled between his teeth. "Yeah, well... Don't say that in front of anyone but Turks. SOLDIER's get real funny about words."

"My rank is vice-head of the department of security. Sephiroth is the General in charge of the SOLDIER's, they are the private army bankrolled by President Shinra to protect his investments and holdings. Turks are not SOLDIER's, or soldiers." Tseng left the rags on the ground wiping his feet on them as he dressed in clean blues.

"Baaaasically those idgets you saw down there playing muscle are just that. Sephiroth is protective of them though, and they are fanatical about him. By the definition of 'fanatic'." Reno rolled his eyes.

Tseng smiled. "General Sephiroth has similar views on the waste of resources as I do."

"Yeah, but *you* call them resources and he calls it 'life'."

Tazzy: They nodded their understanding. There had been a few like that from before that were *real* touchy about how they were described. The quiet thumping of helicopter blades caused them to look up as a large chopper headed towards them.

"Was Rude the one firing the rockets?" asked Silver, remembering the large figure on the ground below. They certainly hadn't come from the group of soldiers.

Quez: "Of course. Can't leave Boss-man's backside bare."

Tseng rolled his eyes, wringing out his ponytail and holding a hand out for the compact.

The chopper settled on the ground daintily as a bird, Rude stepping out only after the blades slowed their spinning.

With the ball of his thumb, Tseng applied the red paste of the compact into a perfect circle on his brow. "Load up!"

Tazzy: Without hesitating, they bent low out of habit and scrambled into the chopper with the ease of seasoned veterans. Once inside, they sat on the floor next to the side, their arms around their knees to take up as little room as possible while they looked around. It looked like any other military chopper they had been in, but none of those had large, black men in suits with multiple earrings in his ears.

Quez: Rude didn't even look at them as he helped Reno load up the crates, or at least, if he did it was behind the mirrored shades. "Strays now Boss?"

"Helping the homeless, Reeve can spin the PR."

"Reeve will adopt them and give them cat ears."

Tseng slid his jacket over his holsters. "They're Turks, not house pets."

"Who says they can't be both?" Reno waggled his brows again, jumping into the co-pilot seat.

"Did you want to be Scarlett's on loan toy? I wasn't aware, you should have filed the appropriate forms." Tseng murmured, perching easily on the crates as Rude slid his large form into the pilot's seat."

Tazzy: Unable to help it, the two of them gave rather realistic sounding meows before settling into a deep chested rumbling purr as they watched everyone with slitted eyes.

"We can be anything you wish, Master," Blond remarked, rolling his words with the purr.

"From weapons to bed warmers, or just a general curiosity," added Silver.

Quez: Reno cackled in delight.

Tseng gave the pair a bland look. "Be Turks. That will be sufficient."

Tazzy: They giggled and curled up, leaning against each other. Yawning, they let their eyes drift shut, content to nap for now. They had been up with the sun to hunt for food, and now, they were going to catch up on lost sleep. It had been a long time since they had been anywhere safe enough to do more than lightly nap.

Quez: The chopper landed on the roof of the President's tower, Rufus and Elena waiting near the stairwell with Rufus's pet. Tseng closed his eyes, breathed deep, and made sure everything like 'emotion' was buried under the reinforced steel of Duty.

Tazzy: The slight bump of the chopper setting down caused their eyes to snap open, no trace of sleep visible in their faces as they rose to their feet.

"Do you wish us to help with the unloading of the chopper, sir?" Silver inquired, glancing outside and spotting the two people and the strange animal. The woman wore a suit similar to that of the men so he figured that was probably Elena.

"How do you wish us to appear, human or winged?" inquired Blond, his voice just as casual as Silver's.

Quez: "Human works better for now, the halls aren't really designed for extra appendages." Tseng murmured, trying to gauge Rufus's mood from the distance.

"Leave the boxes kiddos, that stuff is mostly for Rod and Pistol anyway. Uh, Boss, what're we supposed to call them?"

Tseng gestured, not needing to see the pair to know which was which, "Jyut, Taai."

Rude arched a brow over his shades. "What should we call them that the Department heads can pronounce?"

Tseng's lips twisted, just slightly, remembering how *very* long he'd been called 'Sion' and 'Sung' and 'Zheng' before he had a high enough body count to impress upon people the proper pronunciation. "Moon, Sun."

Tazzy: "Yes, sir," they said, an emotionless expression sliding over their faces as they followed Tseng. They committed their new names and their "public" names to memory.

Rufus was watching and waiting with an amused smile on his face. The information received from Reno was highly interesting, and he wondered what Tseng was going to do with his new acquisitions.

Quez: Tseng held the door open for the boys, belatedly remembering they weren't dressed and rifling through a crate until he found a pair of Rude's dress shirts and jackets. "Here. For the moment."
Rude said nothing, checking over the chopper professionally, then taking point near Tseng's right, as Rude lounged, twirling his baton, near the tail of the helicopter, emerald eyes roving both bored and shrewd over the tarmac.

Tazzy: They slipped into the clothes, uncaring how the cloth fell almost to mid thigh, and fell into step behind their master.

"Welcome back," greeted Rufus, his gaze sweeping over the group once they were close enough, and lingering on the boys. Even under the dust, he could see they were quite beautiful. "I trust there were no serious complications?"

Quez: "None. The report will be on your desk by closing, Sir." Tseng tilted his head in acknowledgement. "The mission was sucessful, samples will arrive shortly for the research department, and new employees have been sworn in to the Turk Weapon's Division. Personnel files and security passes will be arranged this evening."

Tazzy: "And who are the new recruits? I don't remember any settlements out there," mused Rufus, eying the twins again.

Instead of instantly replying, Sun and Moon looked at Tseng for permission to speak.

Quez: "Survivors." Was Tseng's short, clipped reply. He stared at Rufus calmly, letting the boy choose just how hard he wanted to press the matter.

Tazzy: Rufus' eyes lingered on the long fall of silver hair. "I can imagine what they may have survived," he murmured. "I look forward to seeing them once they have been fully trained." Nodding at Tseng and the twins, he turned and left with Dark Nation.

Quez: Tseng gave the boy time to clear the stairwell before walking forward, Elena falling into place at the rear.

"Sir. It's good to see you back."

"I'm sure. Veld is throwing fits isn't he?"

"He's in your office."

"Escort these two to the requisitions department and get them outfitted please, three of everything, and bring me the bill. Reno, I want the holo deck training room reserved for tomorrow, noon, after Elena's done make sure they get fed. Rude, double check that Lazard arrives safely and the samples are accounted for, then pay the materia shop a visit and purchase a few of the basics. Full kit."

Tazzy: Sun and Moon looked at each other, confused. "What's materia?" they asked, their voices soft so as to not carry beyond the small group. If it was something important, they'd have to learn about it in a hurry.

Quez: "It's what Boss-man fried you with, and what makes SOLDIER's as good as they are for what they do." Reno murmured.

"It's a secondary product created from Mako production. Mako is what Shinra uses to make power. Shinra is a power company." Rude explained.

"In every meaning of the word." Elena finished.

Tazzy: Moon frowned slightly before it cleared up. "We will need enough information so that we can act normally as one of your comrades without someone cluing in that we are ignorant."

Sun nodded, knowing that such ignorance could be used against them.

Quez: "That will be seen to after hours, and on the training field. Turks work twelve hour shifts, my shift is over at 10:30 pm this evening, you will accompany me home where you will have access to the proper learning materials."

"Spare apartment boss?"

"After they complete their initial training and certification. No need to loose them to a 'train accident'."

Tazzy: "Yes, Sir," Sun and Moon said, taking in their surroundings as they moved deeper into the tower. If nothing else, they would do their best to bluff their way through until they had the information necessary to pass as natives.

Quez: Veld was indeed waiting in his office, he let the man get one glance, then waved the others to go about their orders and shut the door.

"Have you completely lost your mind!?"

"....It's under contract, so no."

Tazzy: Sun and Moon glanced back at the door when it was closed before turning to follow Elena to get properly outfitted. It was going to be strange wearing clothes again after so long. "Is there a chance we might get a shower and clean up before we put on our new uniforms?" inquired Moon, suddenly very aware of the dist that still clung to his skin. He disliked being dirty for any longer than necessary.

Quez: "Of course. They'll need to be fitted and tailored, so what you'll have today will just be spares. After the tailor we can go to the shower rooms." She smiled at them. "They're always open and available, but you might want to get your own toiletries stocked up. The stuff the SOLDIER's use is specially engineered for their heightened senses, but also causes a rash reaction in 15% of non-enhanced staff."

Tazzy: "We have heightened senses too," Moon murmured without moving his lips. He glanced at her and decided to take a chance. "Do you know what a vampire is?"

Sun hissed at him and grabbed his arm. "Think what you say," he snarled. Moon snorted and stared at SUn until his brother calmed down.

Quez: She arched a brow at them, calmly leading down the hall, heels like daggers that made the other people in the halls and offices continue their business quickly. "No, I can't say the term is familiar, however I'm certain some of the research and development scientists."

Tazzy: "Then anything I tell you would probably not make any sense to you," sighed Moon with a shrug of his shoulders.

Quez: The tailor and her assistent looked up when Elena escorted the boys in. "Ah! Don't tell me the brattling has friends now! I'm not creating any more of that.. that.. *gear*!" She glowered, hands waving.

"They're *Turks* Mrs. Trause. Three sets of standard blues."

That got sharp eyes on the boys and a sniff. "Turks."

Elena shifted, just enough to show the butt of her pistol, and the seamstress muttered a curse in Wutain. "Well, bring them over then. Three sets... They'll out grow them, of course, Extra in the seams then, the smallest sizes. Joung! Joung fetch the blues."

Tazzy: The boys followed the woman's directgions as they were measured. When she as don, they very politely bowed to her and thanked her for her time.

Quez: She waved them off, still muttering to herself. She handed Elena two sets of clothes, and two pairs of dress shoes. "Talk to that cur if they don't fit."

Elena nodded and motioned the boys to follow her out. Well, after that bit of excitement, time for a shower!"
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
Zeke didn't train too often. When he did, it was a spinning, whirling, dancing style of staff work that only a Blue Wizard could really appreciate.

He cast off the illusion of friendliness, feet sliding along the Earth, stance solid as mountains. The ebony of his staff turned the gnarled wood into a black blur as he worked, swinging and blocking.

His style was mostly improvised, gained from years of after-dark practice with the Blue students who could be egged into beating the shit out of him. He wasn't great, against any real knight he'd fall and be skewered on multiple swords, however against most Wizards and Witches and the occasional drunk farmer, the staff was his best weapon.

Now, sheathed in the Serpent's fang, he had to relearn all his tricks, the heft and balance thrown off. He quickly learned that the rounded ball shattered anything it struck, the clawed foot tearing through leather and hide like skinning knives.

More interestingly he learned, when one of the Blue students challenged him to a 'friendly spar', the metal of the Serpent's fang was horrible for Wizards. One blow to the boy's arm and the kid collapsed in a fit, magic siphoned off to such a degree that shock set in.

After that Zeke refused to risk anyone else to the metal's hunger.

Honestly after the first four months he barely felt the pull, though he took care not to lean the staff against any shelf containing Grimoires. He wasn't sure that the staff worked on such thing, but after walking through the White's warded Library doors after hours and feeling them part like wet paper along the metal, he suspected that all magic was effected.

Heroes were idiots, hunting down anything that screamed danger and throwing themselves at monsters like a buffet. The serpent knew this when he allowed the first one to take his fang. He could have chomped the fool in half and corroded his body to ash with his venom, but instead he let the tooth be pulled and made into a sword.

That sword was still a part of him. Everything it touched, everything it destroyed fed back into the serpent. Every scrap of magic it drained sank into the serpent's gullet, coated his scales. Now, ages past the first idiot to take his fang, a new idiot gallivanted about, *feeding* him like a well spring. Magic flowed into him constantly, not the dribs and drabs that a hero smashing monsters might find, but the very life force of mages in a steady flood.

It might not be enough, the serpent was prosaic above all. The feast nourished, but it could end. Eventually, one day, he would have enough magic to emerge from his tunnels and embrace the sky again. In time he would see the world of mortals burn to ash beneath his scales, on his way to assault the gates of heaven.

The cookies were better than the bread, so Zeke had some hope he was learning something through trial and error. He was getting a bit tired of soup and stew, but those were the only things he could think to make in Clover.

Clover was a happy thing at least, he didn't mind Clara climbing in and out of him all the time and scrubbing him all over. She even used him as her new bath tub and scrub bucket since he followed her around and never spilled.

If they weren't both animated objects nominally under Zeke's control, he'd think they were building a friendship.

The lighthouse didn't really fit near the Akademy, it caused a lot of staring, foot traffic, and demands for answers or magical home repair.
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
Neph pulled a special book from his desk, and quill that needed no hand to write. This side project of his wasn't the most creative diversion, but sometimes the classics were the best. He was sure the time and method were worth the task. Calcici of the Yellow was growing steadily more and more wary of Jalan of the Blue, who was already standoff-ish and paranoid of the Yellow Wizard's intentions on Jalan's favored 'student'.

With a smile, Neph dictated the newest passage of 'evidence' for Calcici to stumble across.

He’s a hawk, my lover. All gold and brown and fierce freedom in the body of a young deity. He moves with assurity, with a leopards grace. And if it weren’t for the fact he is indelibly mine, I’d cut out every set of eyes that dare to pass over him. He’s mine to covet, and I do.

I love the way he feels, wrapped in my arms, body moving hungrily against my own in the night. There is no more beautiful sight than the sweat slicked curve of his spine, the flutter of his lashes, his bruised mouth gasping for air as I press into him again and again. He’s a hawk, and as he cries out my name in broken mewls I can almost see his soul in flight.

His voice is a low rumbling purr, liquid sex. When he rides me he whispers the coarsest, crudest things he knows, filthy gutter talk a sirens song. He tells me everything he wants me to do, everything he dreams about doing to me, all the dirty little fantasies that parade through his mind. He’s got quite the imagination. Times like this I can almost be persuaded to follow up on some of them.

Only some.

I’ll never hurt him, even if he wants me to, even if he begs. And I can make him beg. Roll him over and dig my fingers into the harsh line of his hip, punish him with the full weight of my body behind my thrusts, pound him screaming into the bed sheets with his legs on my shoulders and his muscles straining against the bend. He’s more flexible than he lets on, but the stretch still burns.

I want to own him. I want to buckle a little black collar around his throat and watch him struggle to breath as I force him to ecstasy over and over until he collapses. With nothing but my fingers. Maybe my tongue. I want him to call me master and mean it, seek me out for his every desire, call my name in painful rapture. I could break him to my will. I have dreams about it.

I can’t do it.

He’s a hawk. Wolves perhaps can be leashed, chained to a man and his whims without loosing their spirits, but to clip the wings of a raptor; sacrilege. Murder. He’d die for my amusement but he’d still die inside and I can’t hurt him. Not even enough to make him come in my clenching fist. It would be too easy. Too easy to start and never stop.

Forcing my way into him, tearing him open enough to fit inside and stroke that place that sets flames to the mind, that’s all I can do. Tie tethers of white hot pleasure around his talons and break him open with bliss, watch the glaze of satisfaction cover his eyes while I grit my teeth against his name. He’ll fly away. But he’ll come back.

Or I’ll hunt him down.

The book was Jalan's personal diary, it detailed much of his life, it was bound in his personal wards, the penmanship was his own hand. It was kept in the locked foot box Jalan favored on the training field...

Except that Jalan had never seen it before, it was perfect.

His back curved, arms braced against the rough stone wall, head bowed to bare his neck to hungry fangs, legs curled under him, straining to rise and ease the passage for the hard length attempting to plow him straight through the floor.

Claws dug into his hip, though they tried to be gentle. Each downward thrust struck home with a gust of wind as ebony wings beat in time to the jerking hips slammed into his pelvis.

Decimate had just enough control not to do damage, each growl a mix of apology and need. The chimera was trembling, battling instinct while seeking release, the scent of sex both encouragement and deterrent, the feeling of hot flesh appeasement and inflammatory.

Scalding, burning heat poured into his passage, liquid agony where he’s torn open, white seed mixing with crimson blood. The brutal rhythm slows but doesn’t stop, the spear buried in willing flesh twitching, a touch to mimic the whines of pain and pleasure echoing in the room. It’s painful, oh gods so very painful to be used this way, but the dark furred creature grinding it’s fangs to keep from tearing bites from his hide *is* trying to hold back.

The claws eased, sliding out of the furrows in his muscle to clamp down on flesh merely bruised from the initial tussle. The sheets are soaked in sweat and semen, the air thick with the aroma of musk, fur and tears.

“That... went better than I imagined.” His voice is a raspy ghost fluttering about the air before sinking into the bare stone walls. His lover makes no motion of understanding, only lashes a barbed tail viciously against the side of the bed before resuming the order of the day.
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
Landier grew up with magic in his veins. From the earliest days it set him apart, made him different from his parents and the rest of the household. He reveled in his power, held it close and cherished it as that thing that made him better than anyone else. His family may reject him, but magic had chosen him.

Zeke on the other hand, knew magic simply as another tool. It was a part of him as much as Landier, it flowed through his body and set him apart from the main house. What it didn't do was replace the desire for human contact. It didn't seduce him. Magic couldn't rule Zeke, nor offer him an escape.

Vence could. Vence gave Zeke companionship, understanding, and a sympathetic ear. He encouraged Zeke. Vence was the support that Zeke needed to accept his position as an unwanted burden on the family. Landier had no such unflagging affection.

Landier was not so blind as his little brother thought. Landier could see what was hidden inside Zeke, just under the surface. There was a hollow in the child, a void where his heart should have been. Instead of affection and love, Zeke was about possession, control. What Zeke had, he did not share.

Landier tried to teach him, tried to reach past the walls of indifference to the child who had to be under the wellspring of magic. Every attempt was turned back on him.

Landier would readily admit he wasn't the best when it came to being open and honest, but he wasn't a complete sociopath, he felt for Zeke, the only other person who was just like him. Landier wanted to protect, cherish, and bond with Zeke. He wasn't allowed, either by his parents, or Zeke himself. Zeke only wanted Vence, Vence who was gentle, soft, and subtle.

Vence was the snake in the grass that bit and poisoned but you didn't feel the fangs. Vence was Younger than the man's heir, Zeke would be more loyal, more malleable, a powerful tool and weapon for the bastard Lordling. Zeke didn't see it but Landier did. He saw the larger picture.

If he couldn't teach Zeke, couldn't break through with either kindness or trauma, he would force the boy away from their twisted family, tear the bonds between Vance and Zeke before Vence could destroy the boy.

Zeke likely wouldn't forgive him, but that was fine, one of them had to be the grass that hid the serpent.

"Why didn't you give me a Trial?" Zeke asked Gorman, the head of the Green Circle who was currently washing Jonar's blood from Zeke's Trial robes.

"You would have passed, it was a pointless waste of time with the events that had transpired."

Zeke poked at that in his head. He was aware, as from a great distance, that he was in some state of shock. Even so, something felt off in the old man's statement. "You could have given me a test."

"Why? We already know you learned everything your brother knew, and he passed the Trials like a bird on the wing. There was nothing to test you on." Gorman's voice was kind, and brisk.

"You could have asked me to..."

"To what? Open a door? Look at you! You're half out of your mind. Child..." Gorman sighed and strode over to Zeke's side, kneeling to look into pained brown eyes. "Zeke. You are in no condition for that. If you failed, after all that? The White fool's death would have been ruled pointless. If you managed? Where would it have led? Let me tell you one of the greatest secrets of the Green Zeke, a secrete you only get to learn with your rank. There are some doors that aren't meant to be opened."

Gorman's words echoed in Zeke's mind as he led his Lighthouse to the Akademy grounds and under the gawking gaze of the wizardry, had it settle just beyond the practice fields.

"What do you think you're doing bringing that... that... that thing here?!"

"Well, technically the Akademy has declared it will house any Wizard that needs asylum. Also, technically, I have a house. There fore I brought my house to the Akademy, as I had no where else to put it. As you can see, it doesn't do very well in swamps or quagmires, and it has a tendency to stomp on small animals and destroy trees so rather than upset any Lords, I thought this was the best place for it."

"You can't keep a light house here?! What are you going to DO with it?"

Zeke rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Well I didn't intend to stay at the Akademy forever, so if and when I get a contract with a Lord I'll negotiate the tower in and take it with me. Of course it's much more suited to an island, so I was considering taking it to the southern islands with me, however that could take years with how slow it is and the terrain so I'd have to open a door to the islands and 'pop' right over.... I just have to figure out the spell for a door that big...."

"If you want me to feel guilty about keeping my house on the grounds, Gorman, you'll have to do a lot better than that. I'm not the one who hid Landier's illegal research, I'm not the one who turned a blind eye to what was happening in my own laboratories, and I'm not the one who tried covering up what happened the night my brother died."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Don't. Lie. To. Me." Zeke struggled to breath. "You knew. You knew exactly what he did to me and you let it go. You looked away. You knew what he was looking into, that night, and you made sure it didn't work, didn't you? Did you tamper with the spell, or did you just fail to fix it?"

"You're delusional."

"That night, the night Decimate was born, I've been wracking my head over it for years. It didn't make sense, until you told me about the doors. Landier hated Vence. Landier hated our family, he hated me, but he didn't give a fuck about chimeras. It didn't make sense. And the equations... I've lived with Decimate ever since, I know what he is, how much mass, how much volume, I've done the math for bones and blood and you know what? It doesn't add up. Not when calculated against what he had to be made *from*. I can't take him apart because I can't make the numbers right. Unless i account for the fact that Decimate isn't *from* here. The things that he's comprised of, they don't *have* to be what I know they are if they come from a place where the laws are DIFFERENT. From the other side of a Door. A door my brother opened."

Gorman stared at him for a long moment and then sighed, as though hearing the truth laid out had killed something vital in him. "You're too damned smart Zeke. Too smart and too strong, just like he was. He could have destroyed everything. He could have brought Hell to the Earth, but he didn't care. Landier never cared about the consequences when they came between him and glory. I did what had to be done. You're not going to make me regret that."

Zeke shook his head. "I'm not going to try. I just wan to know what happened. What did you do?"

"I... I knew he was going to succeed. Few ever get past the theory to the actual practice you understand, and the circle's job is to ensure that they don't. I knew he'd open a door, and I couldn't let him. I couldn't... he didn't understand Zeke. I told you that some doors aren't meant to be opened. None of them are. That power is not meant for mere mortals. When he got it cracked, just the slightest... I pushed him through. But something on the other side came *out* and it was twisted and writhing and when i slammed that door it took the first host there was."


"That monster you call Decimate, he didn't kill Landier, he killed two of my ranked assistants. No great loss to the Akademy, but a lot of screaming and blood and explanations had to be made. If you hadn't stepped in I could have destroyed what was left of the evidence and let this tragedy be buried. It needs to die Zeke. That night, and what was born of it... It all needs to be forgotten."

this time it was Zeke who shook his head, and the look on his face was sad but understanding.

"No. Decimate is mine. Vence and Landier were my brothers. This? This needs to be made right. If you won't let me do that... if you try and stop me..."

"You're not your brother Zeke, you won't kill anyone just to suit your ends." Gorman straightened his spine, thrusting back his shoulders. "You're not going to be able to clean up this mess just by playing the hero."

Zeke's lips twisted, for a moment he almost looked like he would back down. Without warning he spun his staff and twisted, knocking the old man's knees out from under him and jabbing the clawed foot of the staff into Gorman's throat. As the Green Wizard struggled and coughed for air the magic draining metal of the Serpent's fang bit into his skin.

"I wouldn't kill you to gain something Gorman, you're right. But to protect my family? The only family I have? I will do what must be done."

Avalon English – Yeonsu (Elementary/Middle School/IVY Campus): Cheonghak-dong, Incheon
Location: 4FL, 496-4 Yeonsu Gwangjang Plaza, Cheonghak-dong, Yeonsu-gu
Phone: 032-813-0582

YBM ECC Daegu 6F, Wonboong Bld., 1344-5 Maeho-dong, Suseong-gu, Daegu 706-140
Tel : 053-767-0509

1500 Northeast 134th St, Vancouver, WA 98685
Call: 1-360-566-1100
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
Neph sighed as he settled into the steaming bath. As much as he hated being one of the few Circle members with brains and morals, he did enjoy his toilet. The bath was fed from the Akademy's private aquifer, heated by a furnace that consumed dragon stone.

Right now he was indulging in spiced oils from Vainfar, his hair carefully wrapped and held high out of the scented water. His familiar, Sweetheart, warbled cheerily at him from her perch. She was a beautiful little thing, a song bird from the southern islands. While she wasn't much to look at, she had the most amazing voice.

"Why do you send me to shadow Zeke, when you have her to report back to you?" Andria muttered, glaring at Sweetheart.

"Sweetheart can tell me what was said, but she doesn't see everything you do my dear. Now, when Zeke left Vainfar, what was his demeanor?"

Andria sighed. "He was better, still tired, but happy, cheerful, optimistic. I still can't believe he did it."

Neph arched a brow. "Which part? That he would haul a legendary weapon from the ages half way across the continent while it slowly killed him, or that he would turn it into a cook pot?" Neph wanted to be scandalized. When word got around, as it was bound to do, there would be Wizards and Lords alike wanting Zeke strung up and beaten for the offense.

Instead Neph felt tired. Incredibly tired. He could follow Zeke's thoughts like an arrow loosed from the bow.

"That he kept the thing instead of giving it away to the first person offering a mountain of gold!" Andria's voice was shrill and disgusted.

Neph blinked at her, honestly surprised that she failed to understand Zeke so much, after so long trailing his shadow. "You're a bard. Have you never listened to your own tales? That would have gotten him and everyone around him in a lot of trouble in any story."

"This is real life, no tale to be sung over the fire. He could have power and clout and a place of safety for himself and Decimate. All for the price of one artifact that even now could be killing him."

A good deal of the metal had gone into that cookpot, enough that Zeke wouldn't be in constant contact with it. He might survive the drain of the hammer and staff. Neph wouldn't bet on any other Wizard, Zeke had a way of skewing the odds.

"Zeke doesn't care about safety. He's never been safe. I doubt he really understands the concept in application to himself. For Decimate perhaps, but Zeke will trust anyone else with Decimate's care. Never. Power and clout are fleeting, they're something that can be taken away. Zeke won't put stock in anything but himself." Neph shook his head wearily and sank further into the tub.

He hoped he had time to come up with something before Zeke returned. He needed to run interference. He needed something, anything, that would keep the pair from being raked over the hell coals.

Lord of the Land Vilthen Bexdri stared at his family holdings and tried to make a decision. He was getting older, nearing the dusk of his life. He had fifteen families beholden to the house and main properties. He had over eighty serfs, a village, trading concessions and allies to worry about and care for. He would die with work undone and responsibilities to pass on but he had no heir to take over.

Once, he'd groomed a son for the position. He'd been careful not to show favoritism, he'd protected through seeming ignorance. From a childhood of hard work and sufferance, his heir would know how the common people lived, he would be empathetic to their plight, he would care for them and not take his title for granted.

Growing up under the harsh glares of his wife, the boy would have known to pick his women carefully. he'd have taken the bullying as a lesson to watch his steps, guard his back, be wary of others with power who used and abused it.

Vence would have been his perfect choice.

Vilthen had been prepared to announce his bastard child as his chosen successor when the boy was of an age to start taking over the Land's duties.

Vence died, and in his heart, Vilthen could not place another in the role.

"You have nephews. I have nephews. You have plenty of strapping and strong shoulders to take up your burdens. Your legacy will live on in the land." Rasira reminded him.

He gave her a long, cold look until she glared at him and left his library in a swirl of silk. She was getting bolder, following him into his private rooms now.

She thought he didn't care for her sons, the children she'd struggled so hard to rear and nearly died to birth. She hated him, because he'd never given love and attention to her favored Landier, or relegated time and attention to Zeke.

He couldn't. They were not his children, no matter the lies Rasira spun about their conceptions. Vilthen had no magic in his blood, not in all the ancestors to touch the Land. Nor, though she mourned the lack, did Rasira, for he'd chosen her partially for her blood lines.

Who had fathered them, he couldn't be certain. He suspected a few if their lordling 'friends' of indiscretion, but at the end of the day he didn't care enough to confront her with the deception.

Wizards could not be Lords. Rasira had damned the boys herself, they were no concern of Vilthen's.


Nov. 14th, 2013 03:49 pm
pegunicent: Default Setting (Default)
He sniffed and looked them over, claws tapping on his arm like an upset school teacher.
"A pirate, a faeling, a shifter and a sprite. *This* is the army you've rounded up?" He glowered at the silent moon, the Gaurdians sharing puzzled looks. Behind him, Pitch slumped, exhausted and pained.

"*None* of them can hope to drag him to redemption! You haven't even the *makings* of a Champion here! What kind of miracles are you expecting without a Vagrant to act as catalyst?! Honestly. *Children* these days."

Jack was the first to step forward because he was, if nothing else, as curious as a cat. "Uh, who are you?"

"Sydney Losstarot."

"And uh, what are you doing with Pitch?"

Sydney sniffed and gave the boy a doubtful look. "I'm *going* to rip the Dark out of him. As to what remains after, well, I was under the impression *you* were supposed to handle it, but I can see you're woefully unprepared and probably horribly inept."

"Oy! Watch the insults there ya bastard, we brought that blighter down without you last time!"
The look Sydney gave E.Aster Bunnymund was something along the lines of disgusted. "Oh, yes. But you completely failed to *fix* him, didn't you?"

"Pitch is Fear, Fear is nature. Nature is not being fixed." North countered, hands resting on his saber hilts.

"Fear may call to Dark, but Dark is it's own, and this man has a core of *Light*. Light and Dark may get along at times, but I'm afraid not in a vessel so very prone to breaking as a *Champion*." Sydney drolled, a flicker of shadow helping Pitch stand upright.

"Wait... you mean Pitch could be a good guy?"

"Oh sweet Mullenkamp, how old *is* this universe?!"

Silver razors weren't the best thing for pinching your nose, but Sydney looked like he'd rather try.

"Oh dear, well, we're very sorry if we don't *quite* understand but you see as Guardians our duties are to the human children of the world. Now, ah, that wasn't always the case of course but we've been so busy and focused that we may have forgotten or, uh, set aside as it were, those other things we used to do..." Toothiana, didn't fidget, exactly, but she did do a nervious sway in the air as her wings flinched in rhythm.

"You is knowing this spirit, Tooth?"

"Ah, well, more I know *of*... I mean, gracious my mother told me stories of the old ways but we've never actually been introduced..."

Jack bounced up and perched on his staff. "So... who is he?"

Sydney smiled, and it was Pitch who shook and took steps backwards from him. "I told you, I'm Sydney Losstarot. I *am* the Dark."

Tooth cleared her throat and waved her hand as though clearing away some fog. "Ah, yes. You see, well, North told you about our centre's, right? The core of who we are, which guides us to what we're supposed to do? Before... long, long before, there was any kind of, uh, 'life', to actually *have* centre's, there were the elements of creation, and those elements made life together. Then, well, some of that life got a bit... rowdy."

"Children without guidance left to their own devices, I'm sure you can imagine the *mess*." Sydney grumbled.

Toothiana forged on. "That's where centres originally come from, the elements were trying to give a, a guiding hand to Life. Then of course some centres fell more or less into specific elements oversight, and well, vessels were taken, living embodiments of the elements. Like... Light. And Dark."

"And a very long time later," Sydney interjected, hoping to speed up story time. "Those children got out of hand *again* and started trying to muck about with the apron strings as it were and a balance was struck to keep them all from idiotically wiping themselves out of existence. Champions. Those capable of combating elementals that got out of line. When Champions fall or get infected, there's ways of fixing them up and putting them back to work... and you didn't do it."

"Well how were we supposed to know Pitch was a good guy?! He seemed real happy to run about hurting and scaring kids!" Jack argued, looking just faintly sad.

Bunny snorted. "Aint nothing 'good' about the Nightmare King. Better destroyed than tryen ta yank him back proper."

Sydney arched a brow. "Well then, you may very quickly *get* your desire. The Dark does like toys that don't break, and Kozmotis Pitchner is a *prize*, but he hasn't accepted Darkness into his heart, which means I can't *keep* him. Not, that I'd want to in his current state." His claws spread like a pair of dancing fans, as sharp as his grin. "However, *when* the Dark leaves him, the Fear will remain, as it *is* him, and what Fear and Light will do... well, that's up to you."

Sandy was the one to step forward, er, float forward, sand curling in tendrels around the shadows holding Pitch up. From Pitche's wide-eyed hyperventilation, he was as surprised as everyone else.
Sydney arched a brow. "Oh? Really? I wasn't aware *forgiveness* was one of your strong suites, Dream Weaver."

Sandy smiled, symbols older than the sun floating over his head. Sydney watched, then shrugged. "Very well. If you're willing to be his anchor, this will go much faster."

Sandy nodded, holding out his arms as though in a hug. Pitch could only retreat so far, then Sydney struck. Blood flew through the air, shadows holding Pitch's body crucified over Sydney's arm stright through his chest.

It went quickly, which was the only mercy. As Sydney withdrew his limb to Pitch's tortured screams, the Dark clung to bloodied silver and came away with. Thick gobs of shadow and black fell away like clotted blood, the wound sealing itself in shimmering Light. Like a wave receeding from the beach, the Dark was replaced by more and more of Sandy's sand, until Sydney stepped away completely and Pitch feel forward, into Sandy's arms. Sandy's diminuative shoulder muffled some of the broken whimpering and sobs. His face reflected a sorrow as old as the stars.

"Your Champion of Light." Sydney gestured grandly. "Don't feel the need to thank me."
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