Private Tales The Haunted Hunted

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer


The Werewolf
Character Biography
"He's found us again," rasped Roul, glancing quickly around the corner and down an alleyway of Ragash.

Amidst the foot traffic, he caught a glimpse of red robes and the glint of mail. More than that, he could smell the man. He reeked of monkshood. Not a scent others would notice, but to Roul it came across clear and caustic despite the bodily stench and perfumes of the bazaar. He grit his teeth and looked to Keres, blue eyes staring out from a face sunburnt to bronze and peeling.

I can't believe he found me.

How far did Roul have to run from the Radiants to find peace? He knew the answer they would give.

Further than the light of the Sun.

The red robed man paused, then began to move in their direction.
  • Nervous
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And they were running again. Fuck this was getting tiring. So much for safety in numbers. So much for a day of normalcy. She was young, she was supposed to be wandering around markets, buying pretty things and drinking sangria, but no - she'd chosen to stick with the only other person in all of Arethil who had more shit to deal with than she did.

"You." Keres corrected quietly. "He found you again." she huffed up at him, folding her arms and lifting her shoulders in a shrug. "He - whoever he is - wants little to do with me."

"I might just stop here, have some nice tea and you can find me when you sort your shit out." she muttered childishly as she looked down the little alleyway lined with a few rather interesting stalls.
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“Drink your tea then,” Roul rasped.

“And after he cuts my head off and mounts it on his saddlebags, he’ll come for you.”

The Cortosi reached out and took her by the elbow, crossed as her arms were, and started to pull her in the direction of another alley.

“He can sense your necromancy like a fucking bloodhound. And he’d happily toss your pretty little ass into a lake after hanging a millstone around it and watch you drown.”

Both of them were exhausted, nerves frayed, and Roul knew the gruffness in his tone would drive her up the city walls. But she didn’t realize who they faced.

“He doesn’t do this for money. Doesn’t do it for fame. He’s a paladin of the Church. He does this because in his eyes, it’s righteous. Believe me, I know.”
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Keres shot him a look of indignation.. "Me? He's never seen me before in his l--- Will you stop dragging me around like a sack of fucking potatoes?" she grit out between clenched teeth and unfolded her arms, her feet hurrying to keep up with him lest she be physically dragged like a child.

Gods he was infuriating at times, but she kept her teeth clenched shut as he explained, and gradually, the irritation in her expression gave way to something more akin to trepidation.

"Well that's perfect. As though I wasn't already glad enough to have stuck around, you really are the gift that keeps on giving." she huffed. "The only thing worse than a mob or disorganised townsfolk is a mob of organised fucking zealots." Keres yanked her arm out of his grip and continued along beside him. So much for the tea. So much for laying low.

Once again, she was looking over her shoulder. Hunted.

"Is he alone?.. Can you just.." she 'growled' as she curled her lips into the most feeble of snarls and made a clawing motion with her hand, her brow arching in question. "I mean it has to have some perks, surely?.."
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“You know it doesn’t work like that,” he growled in response, letting go of her arm as they both hurriedly moved down the alleyway.

Only ravenous hunger controlled the beast within him. He was just a passenger in his own body. Terrified to fall asleep in moonlight. Horrified to awake, naked and alone, mouth and hands drenched in someone else’s blood. Constantly wondering what innocents died by the beast’s claws.

Part of him wondered if it would not be better to just let the paladin catch up to them. At least in death he would be rid of this curse.

“Where are you running, little wolf?” Came a cold voice in Cortosi, pitched up above the verve of the crowd beyond.

Roul went still and turned to see the man striding with feline grace down the alleyway toward them. The hackles on the back of Roul’s neck rose and he bared his teeth in a snarl.

“Asturias,” he rasped.

“So there’s enough of you left in there to remember my name,” the man reached up, lowering his red hood to expose tanned features and locks curly black hair. Asturias drew the sword at his waist. The steel gleamed in the sunlight. “Good. When I take your head, my brother will know I set him free.”

The tip of his sword, pointed at Roul, shifted to Keres.

“Stay out of my way, whore, and I give you swift death. Interfere and I will make an offering of your screams to my god.”

At those last words, his sword took on a sudden glow and became wreathed in holy flame. He took the hilt in both hands and came at them, chain mail rattling beneath his red robes.

Roul drew his own sword and parried, but Asturias’ blow drove him to his knees and he felt his wrists ache with the reverberation.
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Dark waves lashed at the air as Keres' head whipped around, her eyes wide on the approaching Paladin. Instinctively, Keres drew closer to Roul, seeking solace and protection in the presence of the only ally she had.

Keres did not truly fear many things. Things she saw every day were the stuff of nightmares, things that would make most grown men weep, but she had never feared them. Perhaps it was Roul's fear that told her that this man was different - either way, his looming presence made her feel like nothing more than a child. Ice ran down her spine as he pointed the blade at her, his threat overshadowing the insult he hurled at her. Any retort she might have had mustered wilted in the face of his menace, leaving her throat dry and her tongue heavy with unspoken fear.

The weight of his gaze bore down upon her, stripping away the veil of bravado to reveal the raw vulnerability that lurked beneath. What power did she truly have in such moments? She had much to learn and her magic was slow, it took time, and blood, and she doubted there were any dead men nearby that she might call upon. Not yet anyway..

As the paladin's sword erupted in a blinding burst of white flame, Keres flinched instinctively, raising her arm to shield her eyes from the searing light. The alleyway erupted into chaos as bystanders scattered in terror, their cries of alarm mingling with the clang of steel and the crackle of holy fire as the blade brought Roul to his knees. There was little time to think. Her instincts screamed at her to run, to flee from this fucking fanatic. And for a moment it seemed that was exactly what she was doing, before she rounded back on him.

In a blur of motion, Keres leaped onto Asturias's back with a guttural cry of desperate defiance, her dagger glinting as it sought out his throat whilst he was otherwise busy trying to keep Roul at bay..
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Straining against the strength of Asturias, Roul grit his teeth, shoved against their intertwined blades, and then raised his own for a thrust at the man’s gut even as Keres desperately threw herself upon Asturias’ back.

The dark haired Cortosi’s lips twitched in annoyance, his blade crackling with holy godfire. His black-eyed gaze saw the thrust, felt the scrabbling of Keres on his back. Roul watched as if in slow motion, his blade racing toward the man’s stomach, Keres’ dagger for his neck.

“Pathetic,” spake Asturias, derision dripping from his tongue.

Then a blast of energy rippled from Asturias in all directions in a wave of force so strong it sent Roul flying backward to land with a crunch on the dirt of the alley. Keres, unless she had something up her sleeve, would have been likewise blown backward - a gnat in the gale beat of an eagle’s wings.

”You make a mockery of my brother’s body, beast.“
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Lifted into the air, as if caught in the grip of a tempestuous wind, Keres' body became a mere plaything of forces beyond her control, tossed through the air so effortlessly. And all at once, she understood this man's strength.

The impact with the wall was brutal, the sheer force of the blast slamming her against the unforgiving stone with bone-jarring intensity. Agony erupted throughout her body as her spine and skull collided with unyielding mortar, a sickening crack echoing in her ears as pain lanced through her consciousness like shards of glass.

For a moment, the world seemed to spin in a dizzying whirl of chaos, blackness threatening to swallow her whole as she struggled to draw a ragged breath back into her battered lungs. Dust and debris filled the air, swirling around her like a shroud of impending doom as she fought to regain her bearings.

With every ounce of strength she could muster, Keres forced herself to push through the haze of pain and disorientation, her muscles trembling with the effort as she attempted to rise from the ground. But her limbs felt heavy and unresponsive, her body refusing to obey the commands of her fractured mind.

With a grim determination, she pulled herself across the ground, reaching for the blade, and with a shaking hand she drew it across her palm, her dark eyes on the paladin as she spoke.

"Karnath esh na'khul, krasaroth besh ukhun....Karnath esh na'khul, krasaroth... besh ukhun."

To most, the language was dead, long since prohibited and obscured by the passage of time, but their essence was doubtless, inflicting the weight of mortality upon Asturias with an intensity that would reverberate through his very soul, calling it free of his body.

He would no doubt feel the chill touch of death creeping through his veins, a coldness that would gnaw at his flesh, it's only wish to extinguish the spark of life within him. It was a spell Keres had learned well, but had never tried, and though she doubted she had the time necessary to complete it, with any hope it would make him more vulnerable to attack for as long as she could hold it.
  • Frog Sweat
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"Hnnnhaa," Asturias let out a hissing groan of pain. "Wretched whore, who taught you that tongue?"

The Cortosi knight's focus settled on Keres and he raised a gauntleted hand. Heat began to glow in the center of his palm.

"No!" roared Roul, scrambling to his feet and flinging out his own hand in desperation, conjuring a sliver of ice that spat from his hand and struck Asturias'. The ice shattered on the gauntlet, knocking the man's aim just as he loosed a firebolt that crackled through the air to char the cobblestones by Keres.

Roul rushed forward swinging his sword in an all out attempt to distract the man, but Roul was out of practice. Asturias' fiery sword countered his every cut and Roul could feel the searing heat from the blade as their steeled edges ground together.

This close, Roul stood nose to nose with a man he had spent years fighting beside. A deep, cold sadness tinged his rage, even as he bent his strength against Asturias' in their locked blades, trying to force the man to his knees.

He didn't want to kill him.

But Asturias was a true knight of the Radiant Church. He served the Sunfather's will. And Roul could see that fervent belief glowing in the man's eyes, reflected as clearly as the flames of the burning sword.

As their blades ground together, Asturias - life still being siphoned by Keres - raised his off-hand again at Keres and launched another fireball directly toward her. It sizzled through the air as it went and Roul watched in horror, powerless to stop it.
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Keres felt her strength wane with every second, her body screaming with pain and exhaustion as she tried her best to cling to consciousness. Blood trickled down the back of her neck, her head pounding and her teeth ground against the agony that lanced through her spine. Dark eyes blinked blearily and her pale hands trembled as she struggled to maintain her focus on the spell she had invoked.

She could feel it working - the Paladin's soul stretching as the spell she cast dragged it from his flesh, but it was a spell that required far more practice, and much more strength than she had to spare, and it was all too late. Keres sobered instantly at the sight of that glowing palm, but she had not yet finished with him. She gave one last pull, spitting the words venomously, loudly , until she scrambled to her feet at the last second.

Too late.

All she could do was take a single step, turning her body away from the ball of fire before it struck. A scream tore from her throat, the ball of flame engulfing her in a searing torrent of white-hot agony. Her knees hit the ground once more, her skin blistering and blackening beneath the intense heat. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she tore the burning shawl from her shoulders, tossing it aside with trembling hands as she collapsed against the stone wall, her breath coming in ragged gasps.
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A savage roar ripped from Roul's throat until it ran raw and ragged. Blinding red rage consumed him. The beast he kept cage within him gnawed at the bars of his will. And as he watched Keres burn he found no reason left to keep it locked up. He let that slavering beast come loose. Adrenaline and hunger and power pumped through his blood.

Surprise flitted across Asturias' face at Roul's surge of absurd strength. The wrist holding the burning sword twisted painfully, tendons protesting, bone straining.

Roul snarled, a pain in his jaw only mirrored by a rabid desire for flesh. He leaned forward, teeth snapping, strings of saliva dripping down his beard.

The surprise turned to outright fear on Asturias' face. He knew what a bite might mean.

"Dog," gasped the Paladin.

"Wolf," corrected Roul, his voice a barely recognizable growl.

Their blades clashed together in a flurry of silver blurs. Steel rang. Sparks flew.

They locked up again and Roul felt he could overpower the man, when suddenly a pain blossomed in his gut. He looked down to see a dagger buried in his stomach, held in Asturias' off-hand.

"Predictable, friend," Asturias shook his head and shoved Roul away, jerking back the dagger as he did so. Roul stumbled, smoke curling from the wound, the smell of monkshood thick in his nostrils. Asturias twirled the dagger and held it up, its length streaked with scarlet ichor. "You never did watch for the off-hand. Glad some things haven't changed. That's a silver blade, coated in aconite."

Roul stepped backward, holding a hand to his gut. Smoking blood streamed between his fingers to patter on the ground. Asturias advanced, confident, unhurried.

"You won't be able to heal now. It's over. Let me put you out of your misery. I'll give you a quick death. Can't say the same for your witch," his lips twisted in derision.

Roul's gaze flickered to where Keres stood sagging against the wall, then back to Asturias.

"No," he bit out, then began to draw on memories of what he learned at Elbion. The aconite mixing with his blood, staining his fingers. He could use that. A dark offering.

"Hmm, terse as ever I- what are you doing?"

Roul plunged two fingers inside his wound, eyes bulging and shifting to a wild amber as he muttered in a wicked, forbidden tongue. He brought the fingers out of the wound and streaked them across the air, causing it to shimmer.

"Fuck. Off." Roul slammed his bloodied hand against the air, palm flat.

A torrent of invisible energy blasted from his hand and everything in its path wavered like a heatwave until it struck the shocked Asturias in the chest and sent him hurtling backward. The spell sent Asturias crashing through the wall of the building behind him, then the spell itself met the building and tore it apart. Wood splintered, mud bricks shattered. The entire two-story structure collapsed in on itself and onto the dazed Asturias.

Roul rocked, unsteady, and nearly fell over as he felt the toll. Blood still poured from the hole in his belly, running in a stream that soaked his shirt and the pant beneath. Grimacing, he made his way to Keres, thankful she appeared to still be alive.

They needed to get out of here and find somewhere to heal, somewhere to hide.
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Keres could barely keep focus on the fight, her mind so addled by pain she fought to stay awake and fought harder still to keep the meagre contents of her stomach from making a reappearance. She tried to step away from the wall, tried to steady herself, but her legs were too weak to hold her as shock radiated through her body, leeching whatever strength she had left, her breaths quick and ragged.

She was going to die here.

The sounds of screams sharpened her focus on the pair, and she quickly realised why the few merchants who had remained to protect their stalls now fled. It was Roul, unleashing the primal beast within him—the very creature he had fought so fiercely to contain, that she had helped him keep chained upon full moons. The creature was raw power and untamed ferocity that she had found terrifying, and entirely fascinating. If the Paladin wasn't going to murder them both here and now, she was certain there would be another mob coming along to finish them off.

A glint of steel, and time seemed to slow to a crawl, and the world around them fell into an eerie silence more deafening than the tumultuous frenzy that had reigned just moments before. Keres's heart lurched in her chest as she watched in horror, her dark eyes widening with disbelief as a blade found its mark in Roul's gut.

They were both going to die here.

Tears welled in her eyes and spilled onto her cheeks, a quiet whimper tumbled from her lips, a sound devoid of hope that echoed in the stillness of the air. She'd hoped at least for a swifter death when she met her end, but this was excruciating, and she suspected it wasn't about to get any better for either of them.

'..what are you doing?'..

What was he doing?

Dark brows furrowed with confusion as she blinked heavily at Roul, but she quickly realised the grim offering that he was making, and before she could understand fully, the Paladin was being thrown through a building Keres flinched at the violence of the impact, the sound of shattering masonry ringing in her ears, sobering her from the shock of the moment.

With a choked sob, she reached out a trembling hand toward Roul as he strode toward her. A cry of pain tore from her lips involuntarily, the raw agony of her injuries threatening to overwhelm her. Every movement sent shockwaves of torment rippling through her body, her spine screaming in protest as she struggled to stand herself upright. In mere minutes, Asturias had mutilated her, left her broken and vulnerable, teetering on the precipice of oblivion. Her gaze shifted to the rubble, and fear gripped her heart in its icy fist, squeezing until she felt as though she would suffocate from it.

"Is he dead?.." she whispered desperately, her attention dropping to the bleeding wound in Roul's belly. "Y-ou need a healer. I'll.. find one.." she told him drowsily, staggering and slumping against him, her eyes drifting to a close.

Neither of them, it seemed, had noticed the old woman watching them from the shadow of a nearby alleyway with dark hair, and darker eyes.
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Her fingers stretched out to him, pleading, tears in her eyes. She stumbled toward him. He rushed to her, forgetting about the blood soaking his own clothes. Gingerly, he tried to support her, conscious of the burns across her body. Finding some hidden reserves of strength, he lifted her into his arms and shuffled away down the alley, vision blurring.

* * *

Roul could scarcely remember how they found their way through the city to a place of healing. It passed in a fever blur. He lay on a cot in the healing house, a poultice over his wound. Bleary eyes saw Keres laying nearby, her body bandaged where she'd been burned.

Early morning's rays peeked through a window. The air felt crisp and cold.

Roul could still feel the aconite's effects, weakening him. They needed somewhere to stay. Not in this public healing house. Somewhere private.

A healer saw him awake and came over. He gripped the arm of the sand elf, probably looking like a half-crazed madman.

"We can't stay," he rasped.

"You might die if you leave," replied the elf, calmly.

Gritting his teeth, Roul kept talking through the pain, "Not... safe."

The elf regarded him cooly, then looked at Keres. "There is a house my brother owns in the city. He is away. It is yours, if you can pay."

Roul fumbled through his clothes and produced the last of their coin. "Here. All I have."

The elf looked at the coins, imprinted with the head of the half-giant emperor, then nodded. "It is enough."

* * *

The next day, Roul lay in a bed of the private villa they'd rented within the city. He hoped they would be safe from anymore paladins, but there was no way to be sure. Keres lay next to him, her long dark hair draped across the pillows. He reached out idly and touched a raven lock, watching the deepness of the black shimmer in the sunlight through the window.
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In the hazy realm between dreams and wakefulness, Keres drifted, lost in the shadows of her fractured memories. She experienced only fragmented glimpses of the world around her. Vague flashes of memory flitted through her subconscious, fleeting and disjointed. The touch of healing hands, the gentle murmurs of reassurance—they were but distant echoes in the recesses of her mind, lost amidst the throes of her delirium. Yet, amidst the fog of confusion, one constant remained—a tether anchoring her to reality.

Though her consciousness wavered on the edge of oblivion, she could feel the steady rhythm of his breaths and the warmth that seemed to radiate from him. She was vaguely aware of the morning light, and oh-so-slowly began to claw back her way back to the land of the living.

With a furrowed brow and a soft whine, she blinked against the harsh light of consciousness, her eyes fluttering open to the unfamiliar surroundings.

"Roul?.." she murmured, her breaths sharpening with panic and quickly easing when she realised he was still there. With a shuddered breath, she turned gingerly towards him, seeking solace in the familiar contours of his form and ignoring the pain that shot through her body as she curled against him. There were many questions. She wasn't sure where they were, or whether she'd been out for hours, days or weeks, but one question came quickly to the forefront of her mind.

"Why did he call you brother?.."
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A deep and abiding sadness settled over his guilt ridden heart. He tried to meet her eyes, wondering if those dark orbs would reflect back his own self-loathing.

“I-….” He let her hair drop, trying to prop himself up on the side that hadn’t taken a knife. “I knew him before...”

Roul grimaced.

“Before I became this beast, this monster. I was a paladin of the Radiant Church. I hunted monsters,” he watched her reaction, “in… in all their forms.”

Beasts, yes. Men too.

And the women.

And the tainted children.

All purged in the Sunfather’s fires.

“I thought I was doing the right thing.”
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The weight of Roul's pressed upon her, casting a shadow over her weary form. She regarded Roul with a mix of curiosity and apprehension, her dark eyes searching his face for answers to questions she scarcely dared to voice.

A heavy silence enveloped them, pregnant with unspoken truths and lingering doubts. Keres wrestled with the implications of Roul's revelation, grappling with the unsettling realisation that the man she trusted had once been a harbinger of death in the name of righteousness.

Her heart ached with the weight of his confession, and beneath the surface, a seed of doubt took root. Did he still see her as a monster, as one of the creatures he had once hunted with such fervor? The thought gnawed at her, threatening to unravel the fragile threads of trust that bound them together.

In a voice tinged with weariness and uncertainty, she dared to voice her fears. "You murdered people like us in cold blood, without question, in the name of this, Radiant Church.." she began, her brow knitting. "In full awareness of the lives you were taking. And you call the wolf a monster...?"

She turned her gaze upon him, searching for the truth in his eyes. "Am I a monster?" she asked, her voice trembling with vulnerability and fear.
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"No," Roul replied quickly. "You're... No."

He saw the fear in those obsidian eyes, beautiful but sharp enough to cut him to the quick, and it seemed a confirmation of his own worries and doubts. His own self-loathing.

"The monster is not the wolf. I am. I have always been.

The gold in his gaze seemed a cold and empty thing.

"The curse is no more than I deserve. I should be dead."

He started to pull away from her.

"But I'm too much of a coward to do it."

And nothing else had succeeded yet.
Keres felt her heart clench at the pain in his voice, his words cutting through the haze of her lingering sleep. The speed of his denial was both a relief and a wound, and she could see the torment in his eyes.

As he pulled away, a sense of desperation welled up inside her. She reached out, grasping his arm with a strength that belied her weakened state. "Roul, don't." she implored, her voice soft but firm. "You're not a coward. If you were, you wouldn't be here, fighting to survive, or to protect me."

Keres' eyes softened as she looked at him, her grip on his arm tightening. "You've saved my life more than once. You're more than the monster you think you are."

She took a deep breath, forcing herself to push through the pain as she sat up a little "We all have our regrets. But you're not defined by the worst things you've done. And whether you like it or not, I need you. Alive. I'm so tired of talking to dead people."
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A long moment passed. Roul could feel the thudding of his heart against his chest, quickening. He could hear the steady rhythm of hers, could feel the tips of her fingers pressing into his arm.

She did not curse his name. She did not wish him death. No, she spoke his name tenderly, touched him gently. Needed him.

"And I you," the words came out hoarse with emotion.

He raised a calloused hand and brushed it softly across her pale cheek, fingers curling into the thick tangle of her black hair. Roul studied her eyes, felt himself drawn into their depths, brighter than onyx, darker than the deepest lakes.

Sunburnt, lips cracked, skin peeling, hair ragged and wounded, how he must look to her. Could she ever feel that way of him? And yet...

Another heartbeat. A moment of indecision, then he leaned forward and brushed his lips lightly against hers, as if she in this fragile form might shatter at his touch into a thousand pieces.
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She wasn't used to seeing him appear so vulnerable. The fierce warrior, the relentless protector, now laid bare before her with all his flaws and fears. As she studied his face, handsome regardless of any amount of weathering, her heart ached for him. For the burdens he carried and for the self-loathing that shadowed his every step. If he could see himself through her eyes.

Her lips curled slightly as she leaned into the warmth of his hand and she met his gaze, saw the flicker of uncertainty before he closed the space between them. She hadn't expected it, hadn't thought he'd thought of her as anything more than a companion, but as his lips brushed against hers, tentative and feather-light, her heart surged.

Her eyes closed, and she responded softly, her lips closing against his and a soft sigh of approval tumbled free. For a moment, the world outside their fragile connection quieted, her pain forgotten. There was only the two of them, broken yet bound together by shared suffering and a glimmer of hope for something better.

Her nose grazed against his before she pulled back just enough to meet his gaze again, smiling. A faint blush of pink coloured her cheeks. "What was that for?.." she breathed, her fingers curling into his hand.
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His heart raced as she returned the kiss, melting into him for a moment, just a moment, but it seemed to last forever. His eyes closed and he drank in the taste of her lips, the smell of her skin. The world and their worries melted away for that moment.

Their lips broke. She searched his eyes.

"Hmm?" amber eyes watched her movements with a newfound hunger.

He had no way with words. How could he tell her that he wanted to do that from the night they first met? But he hadn't, it wouldn't have been honorable. If he still knew the meaning of the word.

Instead of answering her, he just bent in for another kiss, his fingers trailing from her hand, to her hair, gently avoiding her burns though he longed to feel all of her.

"A hut somewhere in the mountains," he rasped, "That's where we should go. Just us. You can do medicine. I can herd sheep."

He chuckled weakly, knowing that it was just a delusion. With his curse, he could never lead a normal life. Bound to destruction, wherever he roamed.
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Keres greeted the second kiss with a welcoming smile. She wasn’t used to such tenderness, or this vulnerability that came with being close to someone who, perhaps, saw her as something more. It was as if all the harsh edges of their reality were momentarily smoothed away, leaving only the two of them in this tender space, wherever it was. She smiled radiantly as he suggested they elope and live mundane lives in the mountains. Perhaps she'd be happy, but it wasn't them.

"Hm. I doubt the sheep would like you very much," she smirked, her head tilting at him as she studied his features anew. She doubted that even without the affliction that he'd settle with such a life. He'd shown her so much of the world already, how could anyone be content to stay in one place when they knew what was out there? Besides, trouble would no doubt find them, and their sheep.

A frown flickered across her features as she thought of such trouble, of the paladin. How afraid she'd been, thinking she'd lost Roul, that she too would succumb to death. She looked down, her hand falling to his chest where she'd seen the paladin's blade plunge into his gut. "I thought he'd won..." she whispered, her voice trembling with the memory.

"Is he dead?"
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