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There are tales of ghouls and the dead rising along the Eastern Allir Reaches. The Templar chapter based of Allria has gone to investigate the matter... and perhaps bring to an end to whoever is at the root of this evil...

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OOC:
A necromancer seems to be ravaging the Eastern Allir Reaches(near the spine). Some of the Templars are trying to stop him/her. Feel free to join in as a survivor, a passerby, maybe the necromancers servant!

Tales Beyond the Veil

Discussion in 'The Chronicles' started by Shuck, Nov 30, 2018.

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  1. Shuck

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    Shuck Not a Church Grim

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    They had traveled east for five days, following the path that the clurichaun had carved into their minds. With it came random flashes of landmarks and strange trails, generally accompanied by a headache. Sometimes Joseph would get it, others it would be her. She, at least, was silently cursing the wretched creature, hoping she crossed paths with him again after she got her name. To do what, she didn't know, but she had plenty of time to mull on it.

    Their company had been mostly quiet, but not unpleasant. She, for one, tried not to broach the subjects she had overheard in the camp or those she'd learned from their encounters with Saturninus and the clurichaun. However, she had little to discuss. She had intermittently told him bits about her life as a grim, sharing the few exciting stories she had: chasing young lovers from their would-be desecration, that one time she chased off a bogie, then two burglars she'd chased... a lot of stories about barking at or chasing things. But generally, she scouted just ahead of him on the path and they spoke little until they made camp.

    All the while, the large ringed moon, Lessat, chased after the sun, creeping closer with each passing day. Tomorrow, they would live in darkness and the fae would run wild.

    But today was still a normal day, and the shuck sniffed out a path for her and Joseph. It was nearly midday, the moons and the sun high in the sky. She liked eating, and was always eager to stop for their small noon rations.

    She came upon a rock cliff that would prove difficult and time consuming to descend, however, and backtracked to Joseph.

    "There is a cliff ahead. We should rest now so your horse is fresh for the trail. We can camp for the night by the river below."

    Turning back, she guided Joseph to the learning at the top of the cliff. The sight was stunning -- the world suddenly dropped away and offered them a beautiful view of the river basin below. Autumn was in full swing, the sprawling forest a veritable wildfire of color as the trees turned. The river glittered in the midday sun, and the grasses in the meadow rippled in the autumn gusts.

    "It's beautiful," she remarked, mostly to herself. Then, with a sigh, she turned away. "Shall we have some water and rations, then? It looks like our descent will consume most of what is left of our day. It may be a good place to stay during the eclipse. Can't be traveling with spirits crossing over into our world."

    She was entirely casual as she sat beside his horse, waiting patiently for him to get a stick of the dried meats out of her pack for her.

    // Joseph Meier //
     
  2. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph was quiet. He listened to her stories and offered a comment here and there, but he had a lot to think about. He mostly smoked cigarettes, and combed frustratingly through their bags for whiskey. Heinrich wanted him to dry out.... the other man didn't approve of his alcoholism. Of course there wouldn't have been a decent bottle of whiskey. However like any alcoholic forced to dry out, he was starting to shake by the third day. He shivered and pulled out one of their blankets from their bags. He began to stink of the stuff as alcohol seeped out of his pores. His body was cleaning itself, pushing out all of the whiskey and trying to repair the damage the booze had done to his system. He began to smoke more, threatening to deplete the entire supply that Heinrich had given him.

    His mood began to dip. He chewed the edge of the cigarette, glaring as midday rose. The heat made him want to shed the blanket, but he was so soaked in sweat he cooled down too quickly. He eventually just packed the blanket away and nervously shuddered on the horse. When Shuck proposed resting he couldn't get off the horse fast enough. He took a stick of the dried meats out of their pack and offered it to her with a bowl of water. He pawed through the rations again. Whiskey. He needed alcohol. He gritted his teeth. Why no fucking booze?

    He leaned against the saddlebags, taking a big shuddering breath. He did find a bottle of something, but when he took a nip of it...tea. Cold tea. He threw it over the cliff with an inhuman roar.
     
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  3. Shuck

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    She watched him with alert ears as he rummaged through the bag, noting his haggard appearance. He reminded her of an opossum that got caught out in in a rainstorm, his gaunt features more pronounced by the way his hair clung to his damp face. She wasn't sure if he had always looked so disheveled -- if she was only just seeing it because she had paid more attention to him in the last few days, or if something had changed. If there was something ailing him, he had yet to voice it, though she was sure he had been looking for something since they left.

    She knew so little about mortals in general, only from observation over the years. But seeing a plethora of behavior didn't necessarily teach her how to understand it. Something seemed wrong with him, yet she was unable to determine what.

    Accepting her meat and water with a short word of appreciation, she laid down to gnaw at the end of the chewy stick while she turned over her thoughts. Heinrich had said hebolwould open up to her, but did asking questions work toward or against that?

    She hadn't gotten very far when he angrily threw something over the cliff. His yell, more than anything, made her jump to her feet and spin around to face him, her bag jostling awkwardly.

    "What is the matter?" she asked hurriedly, her voice edged with surprise. "What was that you threw?"

    // Joseph Meier //
     
  4. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph was rubbing his face with his hands. It was hard to explain it to her. His body was hurting. His leg was flaring up even worse than normal without alcohol to keep it relaxed. He was sweating like mad and uncontrollable shivers were running up and down his body. He leaned against the horse, teeth gritted. He was furious, and he didn't want to yell at her. He wanted to rest and he settled down on the ground, taking a few crackers and nibbling at them slowly. Being off of alcohol made him sick, and he knew better than to eat anything more than that.

    He looked at her. His eyes were swiftly becoming bloodshot, he looked absolutely terrible. He was freezing and overheating all at once. "I need some fucking drink is what I need." he muttered at her. "I'll be fine." He raked his fingers through his hair to try and get it back to its normal look. "Just get me to the river so I can sleep for the night and soak my leg in the cold water."

    He had to have alcohol somewhere...but even if he did, he knew Heinrich would have taken it away from him. "Heinrich's been trying to get me fucking sober for years." he growled miserably. "Why the fuck would he do this to me? I don't need to be sober."
     
  5. Shuck

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    He appeared to settle down, after what she could only surmise was a fit of temper. She calmed herself enough to sit back down, but watched him carefully. Joseph explained that he needed some drink, then the cold water of the river below to soak his leg. Finally, he admitted that Heinrich must have relieved him of his alcohol.

    She tipped her head, curious. "Sober" was a word she knew, but when paired with his behavior it was strange. He was sick because he wasn't drinking liquor, which made him sick? Mortal bodies, as much as mortal minds, confused her.

    "We will be to the river before it begins to get dark. There will be plenty of time to soak in the shallows before nightfall," she assured him. "It may be good luck that the eclipse is tomorrow. Would a day of rest help?"

    She meant well. Mostly, she wanted to prove to Heinrich and herself that she did care. She wanted to, at least. Seeing Joseph struggling with something she couldn't remedy was frustrating. The shuck noisily lapped up her water.

    // Joseph Meier //
     
  6. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph sighed. A day of rest wasn't going to help anything. This sort of thing went on until he finally came out of the woods a sober and clean man. He wanted the river. He stood up slowly, using the horse to aid him in standing. "Let's get to the fucking river then." he snarled. He vomited the crackers he'd just eaten up onto the ground, struggled up into the saddle, and stared ahead with a look of total misery. He clicked his tongue to the horse, and began their descent.

    He had to lean back in the saddle to avoid pitching over the horn and landing on the horse's neck. It already made his stomach flip flop to have the horse jaunting him to and fro. His leg did not like being pinched in the stirrup, and he awkwardly planted his elbow into the rear of the animals so he could vomit onto the side of the path. He was too skinny to be vomiting constantly like that. He clung to the back of the saddle like the aforementioned possum to a branch.

    When the path finally leveled out he was exhausted. He didn't know he could be tired just from riding a horse. He flopped forward onto the horse's neck and buried his face in the animal's mane for a moment. He wanted to sleep here.
     
  7. Shuck

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    Joseph urged them onward, eager to get to the river it would seem. But before he could get into the saddle, he was sick. The shuck frowned, trotting to the horse's side to inquire after his health but he was already kicking the horse toward the trail. She watched after him silently for several long moments, contemplating, before letting it go and jogging ahead of him.

    The trail was rough, diving at treacherous slants and often covered in loose gravel that shifted easily underfoot. She was glad for the break prior to mounting the task, and was utterly exhausted when they reached the bottom. Panting, she kept to a slow walking pace as they approached the river.

    She had hoped there would be a point of relative safety by which to cross, but it was deep and wide, much larger than she'd thought it was from atop the ridge. This side was forested, the other breaking up into the meadows she had hoped to be closer to during the solar eclipse.

    After a short time of walking the edge of the river, she found them a gentle inlet that would make for good soaking. With a sigh she turned to Joseph. He looked worse than she felt, which wasn't surprising.

    "This will have to do," she said, resigned. Rather than asking him to take off her harness, she broke apart into whisps of shadows momentarily and reformed nearby. She began the task of sniffing around the perimeter of their would-be camp. She only stopped near the creek inlet where he would be soaking in the cold water, a strange scent tickling her senses. Something fae must have crossed at some point recently, but the running water made it difficult for her to tell how recently. They would simply have to be diligent, she resolved.

    Without waiting on Joseph, she jumped into the gentle creek and let out a girlish squeal.

    "It's really cold!" she announced as she doggy-paddled back to the edge.

    // Joseph Meier //
     
  8. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph was in utter misery but at least he knew he had to get up and make camp. He slowly got off the horse, leaning against the animal. He felt so ill. His magic was even acting up. It was the eclipse. His magic wasn't his own, and on a night where fae ran wild his magic wanted to rip itself free from his mortal form and run wild. He felt this yanking at his soul. A pulling that felt...wrong. It felt lie a caged animal wanting to be free...and he couldn't give it up. Not for anything. He made their camp slowly.

    He lit a fire first, combatting the icy chill climbing up his spine. He warmed his hands for a moment and put up their tent. Heinrich at least had outfitted them with a decent tent. It was oilcloth, and large enough for them. It had a leather top for the rain, and a nice oiled bottom so he didnt have to sleep on dirt. He spread out their bedrolls inside, fluffing up tiny, narrow camp pillows. Then he broke into the supplies of salted meat to cook for dinner.

    He watched her swim. "Of course it's cold!That's why I want it." he told her irritably. When he was satisfied at the camp he pulled up his pant leg, took off his brace, and hobbled to the edge of the river. He sat down and settled his leg into the shallows, breathing in sharply from the cold.
     
  9. Shuck

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    She paddled around for a while, getting accustomed to the cold that had never really harmed her in any form. Sure, it offended her, but she had been out in the elements for all she could remember; she seemed to be impermeable. Unlike Joseph, whose slight frame was always shivering in the night, she burned with a constant warmth.

    The water was nice and flowed gently enough that she was able to cross over to the other side with no difficulty. Evening was rapidly descending over the high ridge behind them and the woods on the other bank plunged into darkness. Joseph finished the camp and had just put his leg in to soak when she stopped at the very edge of his fire's light to stare into the distance.

    She stopped, planted to the spot by something moving slowly through the darkness. Her vision pierced through the veil of night, seeing the dark shape moving plain as day. And yet, she was confused by its vague mismatched parts as it slowly shuffled between trees. It walked upright as a man, but appeared to be weighed down with a heavy coat of moss and leaves. It's back was hunched forward, as if by weight or age, and a long dark face protruded from the rest of its shape. A mess of antlers or branches or both rose up from its slender head.

    The shuck gave a single growl, lowering her head but not forgiving any territory. Her eyes, silver in most circumstances, suddenly flared red like coals. The figure paused, and its eyes were two green dots glowing in its formless face. The two creatures held the gaze of the other -- for how long she was not aware. Eventually, it turned and continued its path away from their camp.

    The shuck quickly trotted back to Joseph. It was too late for them to move tonight, the night already swallowing them up, but she may have to reconsider this spot tomorrow as well. Gods only knew what sort of creature that might have been; its disinterest tonight could turn to hunger the next.

    She slipped into the creek and crossed in sober silence, coming to shore beside Joseph. Still without speaking, she shifted into her little shadow body and put her little hands on his thigh to hold her steady in the current.

    "There is something out there," she said after a moment, her eyes still glowing red even in this form. "It left, but I don't know what it was." She spent a few moments describing to him what she had seen.

    "Do you want to find a place to ford the river tomorrow to reach the meadows?" she asked. "Although it may be just as dangerous to travel during the eclipse..."

    She didn't know. She looked up at him, scooting closer as the stream momentarily became stronger and threatened to pull her small body away.

    // Joseph Meier //
     
  10. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph heard the growl. He was content to tend to his leg, massaging the muscles and letting the chill ease away the cramps that were threatening to lock up his leg. When he heard the growl he narrowed his eyes, and turned to look at what she was looking at. He wasn't sure if his magic would work the way it was acting. He looked through the darkness at the creature, hunched over and antlered...staring at them. He gritted his teeth; his brace was over by the tent! He picked up a rock, gripping it tightly in his fist. "You come near me and I'll blow your brains out!" he snarled at the creature. "Move on! We have nothing for you!"

    Thankfully it soon turned away from them and left. Joseph didn't trust it. They'd need to move tomorrow. He took a deep breath. "We can't stay here tomorrow." he said. "My magic...something is wrong. I don't know if I can transform."
    He took a moment to splash water on his face, cleaning away the alcohol-tinted sweat. He felt her tug a little harder at his leg and he dipped his hand into the water, scooping up her little shadow form and bringing her to his chest. His heart beat erratically as it struggled to purge his system. He did not sound good at all. He was hot, and chilled at the same time, and he stank of old alcohol. It was as if all the booze he'd drunk in his long quest of self destruction was now bleeding out of his skin.

    "We're going to move. We can't stay." he said quietly. Even though he was exhausted.
     
  11. Shuck

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    Her little arms wrapped around his as he scooped her up to her chest. He insisted on moving, but he wasn't well. She dared to put a mitt on his chest, then reached up and touched his face.

    "You're unwell," she observed. "We can move across the river tomorrow. You need to rest tonight. I can stand watch; I don't need to sleep as often as you." That wasn't a lie, exactly -- it was true that she could go several days without sleep. She was tired enough to sleep for a full day, but their situation wasn't going to allow that any time soon.

    Without waiting for him to argue she gave his face a little pat and melded into his shadows. She emerged behind him and used her little hands to tug on his shirt, urging him back to the camp.

    // Joseph Meier //
     
  12. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph leaned into her little hand. He liked the touch on his face. She was gentle with him. He slowly got up when she tugged at his shirt, using a nearby tree to get upright. He had to crane-hop to the tent to get his brace. "You don't have to keep watch." he told her quietly. "Come on. I know you're tired too. Bastard's gone, we don't have to worry about him." He didn't want to admit it, but he didn't really feel like sleeping alone. He headed into the tent and kept the flap open for her to join him. It was nice; he hated open pup tents where anyone could slither in with him. This one had toggles that closed the flap securely and joined with the bottom of the tent.

    It was nice inside. The canvas bottom kept everything clean, even the bedrolls. He stripped down and curled up in his, sighing and folding the pillow in half so it was a little more comfortable. "Come on." he called her impatiently. "You'll catch your death of cold out there. Come in here with me." he held open his bedroll to invite her to cuddle with him. He wasn't sure if she'd take it...but the offer was there.
     
  13. Shuck

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    He urged her to get some rest too and she looked back as she waddled toward the camp, but said nothing. She was conflicted. It was tempting to curl up and snuggle in the tent, but she was also nervous about these woods now.

    Rather than answer him and make a decision right then, she went to the fire and got the pork that he had put out to warm. She put carried the little plate to the tent and stood at the threshold as he finished dressing down for bed. When he offered to come cuddle, her eyes glanced between the bedroll and the camp.

    He would have seen her hastily set down the pan of salted pork at the foot of his bedroll before disappearing toward the horse. She spent several moments hanging the bag with their food, tugging at the rope in dog form before tying it off as best she could. If she wasn't going to keep watch, she wasn't going to have anything getting into their food stores.

    Then, carrying the water skin (which was as big as she was) and a small roll, she scurried into the tent with him. She stood beside him, holding the water.

    "You've been sweating a lot. When I'm panting a lot I need to drink plenty of water, so you must need to when you sweat."

    See, she knew something about mortals. She stubbornly offered him the water, and obviously wasn't going to take no for an answer. Then she brought the pork closer and sat inside his bedroll with him. When he finished drinking, she tore off a hunk of the bread and offered it to him.

    "You vomited up your crackers today, so maybe this will be better? You need to eat something."

    She had heard the priests blessing bread in the name of the gods to heal and restore its parishioners. Of course, she couldn't commit any blessings in the name of the mortal gods, but she could feed him something that he might have an easier time keeping down.

    // Joseph Meier //
     
  14. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph, at first, thought she was rejecting the offer. He curled up and listened to her busy herself around camp. The horse snorting nervously at her tugging the food up in the tree, her shuffles as she moved around. He eyed the salted pork at the foot of his bed. Ergh. The smell was outrageously bad. He swallowed down a retch that threatened to crawl up his throat and laid back down to get away from it. She thankfully returned with a water skin, which he didn't have to be directed to drink. He was dehydrated from the amount of sweating he'd done, and the crisp water tasted so good. She sat next to him, tiny and snuggled in warmth. The bedroll was cotton and horsehair, and promised to be quite fluffy indeed with her being so small.

    He balked at the bread. "I'm fine. Let me see if I can keep the damn water down." he protested, pushing the bread at her. "You can have it." He curled up with the water skin, nursing it like he would a bottle as he watched her eat. He reached out to her, stroking the back of her little shadowy form. He appreciated that she cared, and was....trying to be stubborn about it. It was hard to take something the size of a small dog seriously. He let her eat, hoping she was happy and well fed, before he dropped off to sleep. He was exhausted. Fully and truly exhausted. His very bones seemed to let out a sigh when he put an arm around Shuck's waist, pulled her to his chest, and slept.

    He woke only once, and that was because the ground was shaking. Loud, thudding footsteps and the splash of water against their tent. He got on his hands and knees, tucking Shuck safely in the bedroll as he unfastened the toggles to their tent and looked out. Cold fear washed over him. A pair of trolls were locked in combat. He'd only seen Marahute fight once, and never against his own kind, but this was ferocious. They had locked their long, mammoth-like tusks together, and clasped hands. They seemed to be doing their level best to snap the other's neck. One troll would dip, yanking his opponent diagonally and attempting to use his leverage to turn the other's head in an awkward direction.

    They fought terrifyingly close to camp, in the middle of the river. Trolls were a people of the water. They stayed near rivers, lakes, streams and marshes. Joseph just hadn't expected a fight this damn remote. Were they in tribal territory, or was this the fucking eclipse? He watched the combat for a few moments, until a loud pop reverberated around the canyon. A horrific tearing noise was heard, and Joseph watched as the victorious troll simply hunched his shoulders and pulled his opponent's head clean off of his shoulders. The body slammed into the river, and the victor flung his opponent's head into the woods. Joseph stared. Of course. The only way a troll couldn't regenerate....fire or beheading.

    To his relief the victor seemed more concerned with bellowing about his victory and splashing further upstream than terrorizing the tent. He sat back, and looked at Shuck. "Tell me about this eclipse." he said quietly.
     
  15. Shuck

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    He refused the bread, but he was drinking the water at least. She was reluctant to eat, holding it and contemplating pushing him, but decided he must know his body. Tomorrow, when he was feeling better, she would make sure he ate. For now, she allowed him to rest. She ate the bread and pork in small bits, just in case he changed his mind, however. He didn't.

    His touch wasn't unpleasant, but different in this form from how it was as a dog. She paused her eating to look back at him, the twinkling stars of her eyes and the void of her face conveying nothing. As a dog, being pet made her sleepy and comforted. Like this it was... well, she didn't know what, but it certainly wasn't bad. She finally looked away, and poked in the final bits of her food.

    By the time she finished, his eyes had closed. Carefully pulling the water skin free of his hands, she left the bedroll for a few moments to drag her blanket over top of his. Satisfied with her attempts to care for her cold human she then slipped into the shadows and reformed her little body in his arms. He pulled her close and sighed, and she sighed as well, snuggling up against his chest. His heartbeat wasn't as erratic as before and though he was still cool, he wasn't sweating as badly in his sleep. Closing her eyes, she let herself sleep, too.

    She was awakened only a few times, her keen senses catching the subtle noises of the forest. Though she never left, she laid awake listening each time for several long minutes before the sound passed and she returned to her dreamless slumber.

    The horse blowing its nostrils nervously and slight tremors in the earth first woke her, and she laid very still as she listened to the sound approaching. It wasn't far off, she realized shortly before Joseph awakened.

    "Stay quiet," she whispered sharply when he startled awake. He put her into the bedroll, but she immediately zipped through the shadows to look out with him, staying inside the tent as she observed the trolls.

    She'd never seen one before meeting Marahute, and was rapt by the encounter. By the time the battle was claimed by the victor in one final display of brute strength and violence, she had fully realized there was little she could do to counter such a beast should he choose to raid their little camp.

    Fortunately, the victor turned upstream, away from them, and she slid back to the bedroll. She let out a great sigh of relief, and her red eyes turned white as she blinked at Joseph when he spoke to her.

    "The greater moon Lessat eclipses the sun thrice annually," she over-explained as she reached up toward him, beckoning to pick her up. "The fae feel more in tune with their magick during various heavenly events. Eclipses generally affect some wyldfae and unseelie more so than the seelie and domestic fae. They like solar events, like the equinoxes and solstices, more.

    "The time of year is also inportant. The seelie are strongest in the summer, while the unseelie peak in winter. This particular eclipse is during the strengthening of the unseelie in autumn, and they tend to get a bit moon-drunk."


    Fae magick was more complicated than that, and the shift in court power was more complicated than that, and the effects of heavenly bodies on fae was more complicated than that, and she hadn't even mentioned ley lines, but she paused there. It was a lot to throw at someone.

    "It makes sense now that I'm never truly affected by any of them," she remarked suddenly, her voice sad. She laid her head on his chest, subconsciously reaching for comfort. "That's why I've been slowly fading: I can't renew myself like the others. Without a name, I'm not able to tap into my powers -- I'm not really fae without it. I'm just... lost magic that likes to be a shadow or a dog."

    It made her sad, and something in her twisted in anguish and, surprisingly, anger.

    // Joseph Meier //
     
  16. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph frowned. “That’s why my magic feels strange.” He said quietly. Because it wasn’t his own. It was reacting to the need to fulfill itself in the full moon without someone to do so. He’d survived years with this, and every year he’d felt it but not nearly as strong as he did now. He put his hand on her, cuddling her close and absentmindedly stroking his hand down her back. She would die if she couldn’t renew herself. Her magic would just let her fade away. He couldn’t let that happen.

    He was a self hating, cantankerous bastard but he wasn’t the type to just give up on someone. He was determined to see this through for good or ill. He leaned over and kissed her head, cuddling her up on his chest. “Sorry I smell.” He mumbled sleepily. “It’s...the alcohol.” He pulled their blankets up and closed his eyes.

    He kept an ear out for the troll, but the creature was long gone. Territorial fights could last days, and he had probably strayed far enough. That was lucky. They still had the antlered beast to worry about. Joseph needed to get his magic under control, and quickly before they had to defend themselves.

    In the morning he woke up to find he’d shifted around in the night. Shuck was settled low on his stomach, in the curve of his hips, and he was barely on the pillow. Joseph dipped his hands below the covers, trying to move Shuck quietly before she woke. He hadn’t intended to dump her in his crotch, but one move of his thigh and she slipped down.

    He swore under his breath and sat up, fishing around for her.
     
  17. Shuck

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    She was simmering in that indignant anger when he commented on his own magic, and it pulled her attention.

    "Your magic?" She repeated curiously, though he didn't answer her. Heinrich had called it dark magic before, and she assumed it came from that awful Sarurninus fellow. Was it anything like her magick?

    She wasn't getting those answers tonight. She resigned herself to sleep once more, sighing contentedly under the warm brush of his hand down her back and putting her arms around him. He apologized for smelling and she laughed -- really laughed.

    "You're human." Without digning to explain that loaded comment, the fae almost immediately put herself to sleep.

    She was roused by the feeling of him trying to move her, and she groggily batted his wrist to help him determine one end of her from the other. She had moved under the blanket in the night and found the warm crook of his belly to sleep in.

    "Is it morning?" She asked sleepily, her eyes blinking open. How long had she slept? As he removed her from the blanket, she languished against his warm belly, reluctant to leave the cozy spot. Nonetheless, she let him pull her out when he finally got a handful of her torso.

    "I'm up, I'm up" she protested. "You don't have to manhandle me." The shuck wriggled free of his hand and gave a cat-like stretch before standing and peeking out of the tent.

    The world outside was twilight. She slipped out through the flap to get a better look. The sun was a ring of light on the horizon across the river, illuminating Lessat's rings in a familiar yet eerie display. The forest made the dim light even more so, and she could feel a world of shadows around her.

    "Nothing got to our pack last night," she announced as she waddled back to the tent flap. She cast her eyes up the creek toward the hulk of dead troll that still lay there. "But we definitely have to move today. Hags and scavengers will come for that corpse," she remarked as she wriggled back inside.

    // Joseph Meier //
     
  18. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph Meier Well-Known Member

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    The squirming against his belly wasn’t helping the situation. It felt good, and he hadn’t been touched in a bit. Even the night with Heinrichs crew had never gone beyond petting, and that wasn’t in his normal form. “I’m not manhandling you.” He argued. “You were in a...an awkward spot.”

    He sat up, pinching himself to get rid of the pressing issue, and went outside to take a piss. Gods, everything looked strange with the sun as a halo. He shuddered at the strange light, the feeling of day and yet perpetual night at the same time. He looked at the trolls corpse. “Yeah. We’d best get moving. If the trolls are in rut like that we definitely don’t want to run into more of them. Pity he tossed the head; we could have used the gold that ivory would have brought.” He mentioned.

    He dug out a tiny kettle from their pack and filled it with water from the stream to make coffee. He wandered back into the tent and laid down on his bedroll, picking her up and intending to cuddle with her a little longer. “Let me get some coffee and we’ll be on our way.” He mumbled.

    He liked cuddling her. He laid on his side and tucked her against him, tossing the covers back over them. He nuzzled her head with his, feeling lazy. Honestly, purging the booze from his system hadn’t done him anything but good.
     
  19. Shuck

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    Shuck Not a Church Grim

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    She curled back up into the bedroll, making a noncommittal sound as he commented on the head.

    "If you want to compete with whatever is in this valley, I'm sure I could sniff it out," she offered. Not that she wanted to. That antlered creature had given her the creeps, and she would just as soon leave this part of the woods than linger for more mortal treasures.

    She didn't complain when he returned and gathered her up for snuggles. Small and warm and soft, she couldn't blame him for wanting to curl back up with her against the cool morning. With a little giggle she nuzzled her face against his chin, then laid herself into the curve of his neck and closed her eyes. He was cooled from leaving the tent for a bit, but he would warm up soon enough.

    But responsibility niggled at her mind, preventing her from going back to sleep. She sat up and put a little mitt on his cheek to rouse him.

    "That creature was moving upriver. We'll most likely find an easier crossing that way, but we will have to follow it..." She watched him carefully, wanting his input. They had yet to make any choices without the other, and certainly weren't going to start with a matter such as this.

    // Joseph Meier //
     
  20. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph Meier Well-Known Member

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    Joseph liked cuddling. It was something he got precious little of. He smirked at her giggle and snuggled down in the warmth. Gods, he didn't want to move. He wanted to spend a day like this. Just like this. Curled up with nothing to worry about, water nearby and food. He sighed when she put a little hand on his cheek. They needed to move. He knew they needed to move. He just really, really didn't want to. He did listen to her idea and lifted his head to look at her.

    "You want to follow it UP the stream? The same way the troll who just ripped another creature's head off is travelling?" he questioned. He looked at the river. It was rather broad here. A taller man might not have had an issue wading across, but for smaller creatures like himself and Shuck it was dangerous. "Look...we need to start making good time if we're going to reach the mountains. We need to get across the meadows with all haste, and we can't keep taking detours. I say we take our chances with the river versus that weird creature. Who knows what it is? It could disembowel us."
     
  21. Shuck

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    Shuck Not a Church Grim

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    She nodded along with his reasoning and sighed. He was right, even if it meant putting them toward a different sort of danger.

    "Then we should get your coffee and break down camp before any of the forest rabble arrives." With that, she reluctantly withdrew herself and began rolling up her bed. She was small and it took her a while, but it was easier to break down camp with "hands".

    She got her part of camp put away and shifted into a dog inside her harness before helping him pull up the ropes of the tent, and she dug up dirt to cover their fire pit. While Joseph put the last of their camp on the horse, she sniffed the perimeter for new scents. Finding none, she waited for her companion to mount up, and the two were on their way downriver.

    She scouted ahead, but not as far as usual. She periodically ventured into the shallows of the river to test the current and depth, and when she found a spot she waited on Joseph to catch up.

    "This may be as good as it gets," she announced, indicating the river. "I can cross first and test the current, but it looks like the horse will have to swim in the deepest part across the middle." The shuck was already beginning to wade into the rocky shallows. "I'll tell you from the other side."

    And with that she entered the river. There were several large rocks scattered across the shallows on either side, marking both the rock bars and where they broke the speed of the river. Maneuvering between them, the water was almost immediately too deep for her to touch. She'd miscalculated it a bit, the perfectly clear water looking less deep than it was in reality -- not a good start.

    But she pressed on regardless. Paddling against the current, she braced on one final rock and pushed herself out into the strongest part of the river. The middle carried her downstream and a ways beyond the rock she'd been trying to reach, her doggy-paddles not incredibly effective. Still, she managed to keep her head above water (mostly) and she at last reached the reprieve of the slower and shallower waters.

    Panting heavily, she walked out of the river on the other side and slowly walked up the bank to stand across from Joseph.

    "Joseph! It's a strong current in the middle, and deeper than I thought," she called. "Be careful!" There wasn't an option but for him to cross now. She was too tired to journey back across, but she watched from the shore, prepared to jump in at the first sign of trouble.

    Joseph's horse had only just begun to step in when the wind shifted and she caught the distinct scent of fae. Her head whipped downstream. Joseph would be coming to shore there!

    Abandoning her watch duty, she charged down river toward the scent.



    They watched with interest from below, their dark speckled bodies camouflaged against the rocky bed of the river. The dog leapt bravely into the water and they shielded themselves in glamour, recoiling from her dark shape as she passed overhead. Their black eyes watched her pass, moving beyond their domain and leaving the other behind.

    A human! The Forest Mother had sent them a special feast on this day of twilight! They clicked and whistled to each other joyously, waiting for the dog to leave and for the man to enter.

    They spread out, one darting upstream under the veil of her glamours, and the others taking up places among the rocks, in the river bed, near the far bank. Five in total, theirs was a large pod -- one that would feast on the flesh of man tonight when their blood ran high on the power of the moon.

    When the horse's hooves first broke water, the watcher signaled -- the dog had left her post! A bad choice, they agreed, as the horse reached the deeper waters. It would be too late to turn the beast back. Only then did the two in the rocks pull their glamoured forms onto the great stones.

    "Joseph," they called, their voices laced in charms and magick, mimicking that of his canine companion. Their dark speckled bodies appeared fair and plush to their prey, long seaweed hair transformed to dark locks that clung to their wet skin. Dark became lean legs that splashed playfully and their feminine arms reached out toward him. "Joseph, be careful."


    The two in the current waited, preparing to strike. The horse's hooves lost their ground, and they swam in for their prize.



    Shuck scoured the bank, trying to catch the scent once more. It was the antlered beast she was certain of it! Her diligence to the task pulled her away from watching over Joseph as he began to cross, her nose sweeping over rocks and grass in an attempt to catch the trail.

    It was everywhere and nowhere, carried on the wind instead of passing over the--

    "Foolish girl," an ageless voice hissed. It was the sound of wind through leaves, of the decay on the forest floor. She spun around to see the horned figure looming over her. The moss and leaves and grass of his cloak shuddered in a false wind and the branches and antlers rose up from the skull of an elk. She was frozen in place, fixed by the crushing strength of the glowing green eyes that stared out from the skull.

    "Who did you cross to be cursed with a mark of death?" That was twice she had heard her curse spoken, by two powerful fae. A tremor ran through her.

    "Your foolishness will be the death of him, too. You are not a dog, sitting and begging to some human master. Stand up, or he will drown."

    The shuck had been staring at the figure, confused and paralyzed, but upon his words a new fear overtook her. Joseph! She growled at the figure before daring to turn her head to look back.

    The two dark figures on the rocks were reaching webbed, clawed hands toward him, straining. Dread turned her body cold. Naiads!

    She didn't look back at the antlered beast. Charging up the bank, she began barking loudly. If their magick had charmed him, no amount of barking would get his attention.

    "Joseph, don't listen to them!" she yelled as she began to bound into the water upstream from him. She had to cross, had to swim out to him before --

    A flash of something dark in the dim light rose out of the water behind him. She watched with horror as another naiad leapt from the river and pulled him off of the swimming horse.

    // Joseph Meier //
     
  22. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph Meier Well-Known Member

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    Joseph drank down his coffee, and kicked out the fire. He could break down their tent, and he wasn't in too bad of spirits about it. Heinrich had given them a good tent, sturdy and waterproof with its canvas bottom. It would last them years if they were careful not to poke holes in the bottom of it. He rolled it up carefully; at least his attention to detail helped him when it came to things like this. Men could get frustrated with such things and spend hours trying to fold it correctly. Joseph had it in a neat little roll on the back of the horse in only a few minutes. Then he washed out the coffee pot, packed it away, and helped Shuck pack away her things.

    He mounted up, and off they went. The horse plodded along calmly, already feeling better from the rest, and Joseph was perking up a little with the clean air and being sober for more than fifteen minutes at a time. He nodded when Shuck dipped her paws into the water. "Be careful. I'm not a cattleman, if you get swept downstream I cant throw a rope in after you." he warned, and watched her closely as she crossed. Then it was his turn. He hated this sort of thing...he didn't know how to swim. He'd always considered it a lost cause with his leg, even though his light frame was practically built for it.

    He urged the horse in, gripping the saddle horn. He was about to tell Shuck something, lifting his head, but only saw her charging downstream. "Hey! Wait for me!" he shouted after her. Of all the...
    He kicked the horse a bit harder than he meant to. After all, the iron heel of the brace wasn't anything to be on the recieving end of. The horse whickered and plunged into the water, head up and legs struggling to keep on the bottom of the river. He wasn't alone. Far from it. Fear clenched in his heart when he heard the voices. They sounded like Shuck, but they definitely weren't. There was a tinny and watery quality to them. He glared at the women. "You lot can fuck off." he snapped at them.

    The horse lost his footing and kicked out into deeper water. The animal's eyes were rolling at the sight of the nalads, nostrils flared in panic. Joseph clung to the horse. If he was swept out here, he'd be lost downstream. The barking caught his attention. He looked up and saw Shuck shouting at him, and he squinted at her trying to make it out. Then something hit him from behind and into the water. The horse lost it. It attempted to kick out at one of the nalads and completely lost its balance, tumbling over in the water. Joseph struggled with the predator that had ahold of him. He needed his magic!

    The snake came back to him. His body grew covered in scales, and his eyes became slitted. Then his leg slammed against a rock hidden in the current, and black spots swam in his vision. He went limp in the water, the pan having well and truly knocked him out.
     
  23. Shuck

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    Shuck Not a Church Grim

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    Panic flooded her body, and she threw herself into the current after him. The horse continued to press across the river, but she paid no mind to its peril. As soon as she was into the middle current, she drew a deep breath and did her best to dive down. She wasn't built to push beneath the surface, and she struggled to keep herself down. But she was below long enough to see Joseph struggling with a naiad before his body began to twist into that of a serpent.

    She had to rise back up for air, but when she dropped back below the water, Joseph was himself once more and no longer struggling. No!

    You are not a dog.

    The words rang through her head. She couldn't reach him as a dog. He would drown long before she ever reached him, and would yet lack the means to drag him back to shore. She needed a body with hands and legs. She needed...

    The shuck broke the surface one final time and dragged her lungs full of air, and when she dove down she closed her eyes and focused. I'm not a church grim, she told herself. I'm not a dog. And with that, she imagined herself changing. But rather than reaching for shadows or canine legs, she told her body to take human arms and legs. She felt a new yet familiar shape becoming hers.

    When she opened her eyes, she didn't hesitate. She swam down to the first naiad, taking it by surprise as she sank her teeth into its shoulder. A shrill whistle hit her ears and water rushed to fill her mouth, but the creature fled in a cloud of it's own blood, letting go of Joseph.

    The other watched her with solid black eyes, clicking threateningly at her as she grabbed him by the shirt. Hauling him upward, she pushed from beneath. The momentum carried him toward the surface, but exposed her. The second naiad's teeth bit down on her leg, but she swung the other back. Her heel connected with the creature's face, and it let her go. She pushed his face above the surface before she came up beside him, coughing and gasping for air.

    Desperately trying to keep him above the water, she was tiring rapidly. As they drifted downstream, she was continually pulled under by the naiads, biting and clawing and kicking her way to the shore. But she refused to fail, wouldn't give up unless they drowned her first. Though they tried their best to do just that, she fought hard and their soft watery bodies broke easily under her attacks. It felt like it took forever before she reached the shallows and pushed him toward the far bank, but with one last straining push of her arms he hit the pebbly shore.

    Her breath of relief was short-lived; the clawed hands and jagged teeth followed her, and she rose from the river on shaking legs. She hooked her elbows under his arms and dragged him back, only once having to stop to chase off a naiad as she grabbed his ankle. When at last she had him away from the water, she dropped him and collapsed.

    "Joseph?" she panted, thumping his chest weakly. Was he breathing? She was too exhausted to tell, and continued the thump his chest with her open palm. "Joseph, you have to wake up."

    // Joseph Meier //
     
  24. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph Meier Well-Known Member

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    Joseph was lucky he didn't feel a thing of it. Unfortunately for him, it was the last grasp on his leg that damaged his brace. The long-suffering piece of equipment snapped, the curved foot piece yanked away by the nalad as Shuck drove it away from her friend. He laid on the stones, scaly and strange looking. Her pounding on his chest did help. He vomited up a gout of water, turned over, and nearly blacked out from the pain. His entire leg was on fire. He knew this sort of pain. This wasn't pain that could be dulled by whiskey. This was him getting thrown out of a window in a bar, beaten up by men three times his size, running into a table edge agony.

    Then there was the woman crouched over him. He hadn't heard a word of what she'd said. Where was Shuck? He couldn't see the dog. He lunged forward, eyes tearing in pain, and seized the woman by the throat. "If you...have hurt that dog...I will inflate your fucking uterus and use it for a fucking wine skin!" he snarled in a ragged voice, raspy with pain. He tightened his fingers around the throat. He looked like a rabid animal that might have been halfway to passing out or throwing up. It was impossible to tell. He cocked back a fist and punched her. "Where the fuck is she? Did you leave her to the fucking water bitches?!"
     
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  25. Shuck

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    Shuck Not a Church Grim

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    He coughed, then rolled over and vomited, and she wilted in relief. They both caught their breath, and when she was steady, she rose up on her hands and knees to crawl to his side. She gently coaxed him onto his back and sat on her heels, cupping his face in her hand and smiling on the verge of happy tears.

    "I thought they'd drowned you," she said breathlessly. "When I saw the one pull you in I --"

    He moved fast for a half-drowned man. She didn't see his hand before it closed around her throat and her head hit the rocks hard enough to rattle her teeth. Disoriented, she put her tired and bleeding arms up to defend herself.

    "Joseph, it's--! No!" She saw his fist coming and shifted her hand to attempt blocking it, but he managed to hit her regardless. Color and light blossomed in her vision and the distinct tang of blood filled her mouth. Struggling to hang on to consciousness, her eyes wouldn't focus and she blindly flailed to grab his wrists.

    "It's me! Joseph.. " Her breath hitched in a little sob and she was having difficulty drawing air under the pressure of his hand. "I'm right here. It's me..." She gasped for air, tears forming and rolling down her face. "The shuck..."

    // Joseph Meier //
     

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