Tales The Space Between

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

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  1. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph Meier Resilient as the Wolf

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    #126 Joseph Meier, Jan 10, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019
    “I don’t judge you for playing to your strengths, you uneducated ape.” Joseph snapped back. “You know full well you’d beat me if we played by your rules just punching each other, and I know I’d win if we played to mine.” He rolled his eyes. An arrogant little shit shoveler who got tangled up in the fae. Sounded about right. He listened while he prepared his bed. He’d slept in a few barns in his day.

    “Only because she’ll die if I don’t. If I have to remind you, she chose to wither away and die with me rather than become Malice again. I can’t lose her, and I know she doesn’t want to leave our child without a mother. I only want to reclaim her name because I have no choice. You’re acting like I want her to become the raging bitch everyone says she truly is.” He sat down, cleaning himself up a bit with a rag. “I knew men like you. You’re the type that would love prison as long as you got to run it. You were the king of shit mountain in court, and you want your place back. Malice orders this, you do it without any thought. We might as well lobotomize you for all you bring to the table.”

    He snorted a laugh. “Did you even pause to think about what you were doing? Any of it? Did you think you had to give up everything that makes man capable of moral thought because she navigated you through a snake pit and gave you a sword? Dogs lick men who rape and beat children, with wagging tails. The form suits you.”

    Joseph shook his head. “You, Volker, Oscar. You’re the same. Slaves. Whether it’s a misguided sense of debt, actual slavery, or being a willing infidel, none of you could have independent actions. Maybe I should be easier on you. You’re only a slave.” He said. It was strange how much it made sense. Trahaearn wasn’t his own man. Could he really blame a slave with four thousand years of his own head being brainwashed? He’d never end up the same way, blindly obedient to someone else no matter how much power they had.

    He ran his hand over his head. “Maybe I should let her fade then. Get her heart back to buy us time. You can leave us in peace. We can raise our child, and she’ll die happily and peacefully.” He said. “That would suit me, and she’s already said it would suit her. I’ll tell her in the morning. Your miserable slavery will be up in a decade or however long it takes her to die, and you can have peace as well.”

    He got up and sat next to Trahaearn, looking at him as he drank. He did notice the pinky finger on the floor. He waited until Trahaearn was drinking, and quietly slipped it into his pocket. “When was the last time you did anything independent of her? Do you even remember?”
     
  2. Trahaearn

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    Trahaearn A Truly Heartless Man

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    He listened for a time about playing to strengths, and held back a laugh when he claimed to be able to win with his strengths. Confidence like that always brought a person to their untimely death.

    "I've paused a number of times, held my hand also. It came back to hurt her. And it was my fault. But, she chose me to act for her. Not be a lapdog or a mindless blithering idiot. She made me her equal, granted me her power. I am a literal extension of her, not simply because of our deal. My life is tied to hers by her magic, and her life tied to mine in the same way. Unlike yourself." Trahaearn informed him with a chuckle. "And I served her, yes. But by my choice. I became her sword, her friend. The only friend that she could keep because of the court."

    A slave? How novel an idea.

    "If she asked you to kill me, I doubt you would hesitate. And even if you claim it is because you hate me, that makes you no less a slave than myself. Men do terrible things for love Joseph, and willingly do so, because of love. And do not tell me that you are some man above doing anything for love. I have seen you act on that feeling, and you are a fool to say otherwise." Trahaearn quietly rebuked the man once more.

    He could remember a number of terrible things he had done for Malice, in the name of loving her, had cut down others that threatened that. He very much doubted Joseph much different than himself in that regard.

    "Let her fade? I hardly doubt you capable of being happy, burying her so readily. You put on this great facade of a strong person, but your true color shines through in being so willing to run around the world to fetch this and do that to keep her alive. Don't drum up this selfless notion to showboat a weightless threat. Besides, how many more fae from court are going to come after her when she is so weak? When something so valuable to them as revenge is possible. You are living in a fantasy, thinking it will be peaceful. After all, Volker is set to return, and I very much doubt you capable of handling him by yourself." Trahaearn informed him, unsure of just how much the man had caught of that interaction.

    He took another sip from the container before offering the flask to Joseph with a slight tilt, the item still close to him.
     
  3. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph rolled his eyes. “You laugh but who’s the idiot who tried to shove his finger down my throat after getting bitten?” He settled against the side of a stall, but he had to outright laugh at the idea of Trahaearn being her equal. “Bullshit. She just wanted a tool slightly less powerful than herself. She’s given you a lot of power, but if she’s got the brains I think she does, she’d hold something in reserve just in case you got any ideas. Love her? Please. If she asked me to kill you, and I’d do so happily because I can’t stand you, I’d at least ask why. If she asked me to do something senseless like...oh, murder the innkeeper. I’d refuse.”

    He was confident in that. He would do a lot for her, but he wouldn’t blindly obey her. “I can handle fae. That maniac is built strongly but he’s also older than I am. Besides, if nothing else, this trip has brought me a lot of forms. The more forms a boggart collects, the stronger he is, and the same principle lies with me. If I ever watch a dragon for a few minutes watch out. I can protect her.” Joseph shrugged. “She’s the one who first came up with the idea of dying quietly. If she wanted it, I would safeguard her while she passed. We’re heading for a safe place for her to give birth.”

    He didn’t know how the trip back would go. They’d be travelling with a newborn. He’d taken a short trip back home after his first child and even a day on the road with a babe had been a living hell. He didn’t know how they’d manage it, but they’d survive. He took the bottle and swigged healthily from it, handing it back. “Sixty Days is what I heard from that sociopath. I can bury the bastard in sixty days. The nightmares give you a link to him. It’s those damn knives. Him, the shade, and the knives are linked. Break one and I’d bet all three would go down.”
     
  4. Trahaearn

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    "You cannot enter gouging and expect to come out unharmed. Besides, a finger is a small price to put you on your back. And while I am not her equal in power, because no one in their right mind would give anyone all of their power, I am an equal in court. Something that you should remember well when we get there." Trahaearn shrugged, not like he couldn't get the finger replaced easily enough. There were tons of replacements just wandering aimlessly through town and other places in the world.

    "And in regards to senseless murder, as she is now, it is not in her character. Nor was it then. If she commanded it of you using your name though, you would have no choice but to obey, regardless of anything you believe. If you don't believe me, ask her."
    Trahaearn informed him once more, as he was apparently not understanding the concept of what fae could do to a mortal. It was a terrifying thought for most, but save for Mal using his true name, she could only suggest his course of action with her words.

    "I'm sure you can handle the fae you have encountered. You know nothing of the bond those two have however, and your overconfidence will be your undoing. Volker, like his father before him, studies his targets to find out how and when to attack them. He is not going to be surprised by anything you throw at him considering that Oor likely has a font of knowledge to give him. As far as if's are concerned, should you depend on those, you will ensure your own demise." Trahaearn sighed. The mention of a safe place made him think briefly.

    "A safe place will be good to leave the child at. No sense bringing them into a place that will harm or kidnap her to strike at us." Trahaearn muttered, content that at least a little sense was being made.

    "Should it come to a fight with Volker, which is something we can hopefully avoid. His target is Mal, and he won't kill you outright. Just injure so that she will come to your aid like she did before. He knows she will do anything to keep you safe, and will use it against us." Trahaearn informed the man. It was a common tactic for drawing out prey. Leave a wailing pup out, and the mother will surely come out into the open for you to strike.
     
  5. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph snorted. “From what I see Volker’s a slave to that creepy spirit. He caught me unaware, running on empty and no sleep. I won’t make that mistake again. He’s going to have to work harder to catch me unaware.” He grumbled, taking another sip of the bottle and handing it back. “Considering there was no bloodshed and he was playing teacher with Shuck...you must have struck a deal. Means the man can be negotiated with. I’m sure all the madmen they can fling at us you’ll be well acquainted with.”

    He shuddered and took another swig, giving it back to Trahaearn. “I didn’t think the fae gave any credence to mongrels, let alone mongrels renting out their magic. Without her you’d be nothing, doesn’t that make you less than she? I’m certainly not afraid of you. You’re just a prick I’d rather see less of, and if an assassin took you out I wouldn’t shed a tear.”
     
  6. Trahaearn

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    "Volker is likely a host to Oor. Considering a deal was struck, he shouldn't attack outright, and a deal can be struck again." Trahaearn admitted, but the constant confidence was wearing on him. "No, likely not. Oor I have run into because he plays all sides, so long as one pays better."

    He took the flask back, the grin returning. "Without her, I would be in my grave, and having lived a sad and shitty life. And she would have never met you since the circumstances would have changed. Her magick makes me half fae, which means I am a fae as far as anyone is considered. Your daughter will also be a true fae since Mal is her mother. You on the other hand, if they find out you have stolen magic, Mal and myself can't protect you from them tearing you apart. A mortal with stolen magick is walking carrion down there." Trahaearn stated, his head canted a bit as he took a swig.

    "I'm a prick you are stuck with until Mal sends me away, so you had better buck up and accept it. Besides, you are a more likely target considering she is showing you favor right now. I'm of no threat to you because you make Mal happy, and I will not remove something that makes her happy."
    Trahaearn snorted.

    However much the man wanted him gone, Mal was the only one that could order him away. And aside from the magick he had received from Mal, his own magick and skills were lethal enough to deal with a good deal of what they could encounter. Unlike Joseph's limited ability to shift his body, a fae bane sword and god granted magick was more likely to win in a skirmish. Not that Joseph winning was impossible, just improbable.
     
  7. Joseph Meier

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    "Then we'll be the side that pays better. You have silver coming out of your ears." Joseph said confidently. "Though from where I'm standing you've had a pretty sad and shitty life anyway. And remember, I'm being Mal until you lot can figure out what the hell is going on. As long as someone like Volker or Oscar doesnt blow my cover, you should be able to find out a lot. I'm going to enjoy the hell out of ordering you around in Court." He took the bottle and snickered into his next swig. He was feeling the affects of the whiskey. He was used to being drunk, and he hadn't drunk since Kitty's....but it helped to numb the pain in his skull. He really needed not to transition between forms like that so often. He'd be doing it enough playing Mal.

    He took another deep drink and handed it back, thinking. "We might need Volker at court. Much as I already hate that weird sociopath, man like him could be useful. If he makes you nervous, I want him on our side. We'll have Oscar long as he can keep his mouth shut, but maybe you can fuck some sense into his Lord Rosebury enough to get him on board. Useless in a fight, but sleep with everyone and know everyone's dirty laundry. Even yours. Probably mine by now. Definitely Mal's."
     
  8. Trahaearn

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    "Let's hope so." He wasn't about to mention what the price was, since Mal hadn't wanted to admit that to Joseph. "Likely no worse than yours, just different. And trust me, I hadn't forgotten that, which is why your pretty face is only bruised and not ruined." Trahaearn chuckled, the ordering him around court would have to be addressed, but that was for another time.

    "He is far more useful alive than dead, which is why we want him on our side. And I doubt the Lord would be interested if he deals in luck and information. Not much of a concern so long as he doesn't sell it." Trahaearn took a swig, offering it back.
     
  9. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph laughed harshly. "Don't tell me you avoided punching my face, because you most certainly did not hold back." he chuckled, taking another drink. "And you..." he leaned in, gesturing at Trahaearn's face with the bottle. He was uncomfortably close, probably due to the drink than anything else. "...do not think I'm pretty." He beeped Trahaearn's nose with the flask and snickered. Damn it, he was drunk, but at least he was out of pain. He flopped on his back on the straw, shrugging. "You don't think we can't buy information and secrets about Shuck's enemies off him? He sleeps with anything that moves, just...be charming."
     
  10. Trahaearn

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    "I didn't say I held back." His head canted a little as he was gestured at. His brow cocked at being bopped on the nose and when Joseph fell backwards, he crept forward. The grin that was plastered on his face was not innocent.

    "I've never called you ugly." Trahaearn insisted, the hay crunching a bit beneath his hands. The crawl forward felt awkward, now that one finger was partially gone. He nearly fell over on top of Joseph a few times trying to put weight on the hand.

    "I can be very charming Joseph. Would you like me to show you?" Trahaearn purred to the man, now close enough to be in his ear.
     
  11. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph hurt. Everything hurt. He pulled on his trousers and boots, wrapping one of the clean blankets around his shoulders to warm himself up a little bit before he put on his coat. Gods, Shuck. He could never tell her this. It never happened, and if Trahaearn ever attempted to use this against him he'd slit the man's throat in his sleep. He glared daggers at Trahaearn, limping outside. He couldn't walk straight. His normal limp was exhaggerated; not using his leg at all last night in an attempt to stave off morning pain hadn't worked in the slightest. He touched his face gingerly. His right eye was practically swollen shut from being punched. Irritably, he fished around in his pockets and pulled out a small knife. He made a tiny cut just around his ocular socket, and gently pushed. Blood from the damaged flesh oozed out of the wound, and in a few minutes the swelling had gone down enough that he could open his eye properly.

    He closed the knife and prepared his horse. The mare had fared well from a decent night in a warm stable munching hay and oats. She was well rested and ready to travel. Good, because he was going to burn cobblestone getting them out of this goddamn city. He didn't want to spend any more time as a female than he had to...especially considering he wasn't sure now if Trahaearn had managed to do the unspeakable. The idea of getting stuck in this form for nine months was a thought too horrifying to think about. He had to get out of the city, be safe from Saturninus' eye, and change back into himself as quickly as possible.

    Getting up into the saddle was probably the worst mistake of the morning. There was just no reprive. If he tried to sit toward his rear to spare his front, he was still sore. He gritted his teeth and his eyes watered. He doubled over the saddle horn for a moment, taking deep, concentrated breaths. He could do this. It hurt so badly, but he could do this.

    "Let's get out of this fucking town before Saturninus knows we're here." he snapped irritably to the other two, steering his mare out of the yard. Oh god, her ambling walk was even worse than just sitting.
     
  12. Shuck

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    Shuck Not a Church Grim

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    Shuck bathed extensively, lingering in the warm water until it had gone cold, letting the lavender and lemon fragrances sink deep into her skin, even if she hated the smell of lavender and lemons. She was buttery soft and her fingers and toes had pruned by the time she climbed out and toweled off. Slipping into her dress once more, she returned to her room and ate her food in a state of stubborn bliss, telling herself that she didn't mind the quiet. She combed and braided her hair then laid down to sleep. All night she pretended that she preferred the extra space, the cool sheets on the other half of the little bed or the ability to sprawl out how she pleased. Her sparse sleep was because of her nerves, being so close to Saturninus and having seen her village and her cemetery.

    By the time she rose just before sunrise, Shuck was absolutely miserable. Having spent every night by his side since the naiads, it didn't take long for the loneliness to get to her. Reminding herself that Joseph was right outside alleviated the worst of the panic that threatened to overtake her, but after seeing her cemetery and revisiting all of those feelings... The evening was long and the agony was acute. She'd refused to cry, choosing instead to let her anger simmer. Her concern was real, however. She'd intermittently reached her hand across the bed as if to touch Joseph's face, worrying about the bruises and cuts and needing to know that he was alright. But she wasn't getting the satisfaction of knowing he was alright, because she was mad at him -- mad at them both.

    Perhaps hoping they'd sort their differences out hadn't been the best approach. Pausing after she'd put on her boots, Shuck idly pet her stomach, letting the little curve of her stomach soothe away her anger. It was likely better this way, she was sure. They'd taken care of this now, rather than later. Weeks on the road together had culminated to one little fight. Trahaearn was missing a finger, but they were otherwise no worse for wear.

    Slipping into her vest, Shuck descended the stairs and strode out across the alley to the stables. She unceremoniously slapped on the door.

    "Time to wake up. We are leaving within the hour," she announced and turned on the ball of her foot to march back to the inn. While they weren't welcome, she still was. She could pull them each aside for a private conversation when they were well and past the city. For now, however, she would keep things cool and civil, even if it killed her. Shuck ate her breakfast spitefully, taking her time before she went up to her room and packed up her things.

    Descending to the barn, she couldn't help giving Joseph a concerned inspection as she fastened her things to her saddle. Gods, he looked like he'd been trampled. It made glaring at them both easier and somehow infinitely more difficult. She couldn't bear to look at him, to see him hurting so obviously as when he doubled over in the saddle. Trahaearn looked like he was sore, too. Maybe being cold and distant was too much. Seeing both of them struggling softened her.

    "Ready to go?" she asked, swinging up into her saddle. Joseph's biting reply made her quickly turn away, frowning sharply. She wished she'd let him come up to their room, that she had washed away that anger and the cuts on his face instead of exiling him to the barn. The cold couldn't have been kind to his leg. Was he simply in pain, or was he angry at her for not attempting to understand why they'd fought in the first place?

    Choking back a pang of guilt and sadness, Shuck wordlessly heeled her horse forward.

    Navigating through Alliria took them well through the morning and into the early afternoon. Shuck's lingering anger had completely dissolved long before they left the last outlying homes at the far edges of the massive city. Their pace had been a brisk walk, assuring they spent as little time in the city as possible, and when she saw the open landscape spreading out before them, Shuck felt a strange sense of urgency. Never one to doubt her innate senses, she urged Trahaearn to lead them a bit faster; she didn't want to be anywhere near that zombie bastard or his potential cronies.

    But the evening was fast approaching, and they'd only stopped long enough for her to have a hasty cup of tea before continuing onward, and she was (frankly) quite hungry. She had drunk the last of her venison blood that morning, but a night of terrible sleep was catching up to her. Shuck turned around in her saddle and looked back at Joseph.

    "Do you think we're far enough from Alliria to stop for the evening? Or should we push on a bit further?" She honestly didn't know, and was tired of being angry at him. She had only spoken to them when necessary all day and had avoided what she could with nods or shakes of her head.

    // Joseph Meier // Trahaearn //
     
  13. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph was in a disgustingly foul mood all day, but it might have been a boon to the other two that they were in the city. Joseph’s anger lashed out at everyone, but on the surface it seemed borne out of pain than anything else. He steered carefully around potholes in the road and where they were unavoidable he tensed in the saddle and rode through white-knuckled. Everyone seemed to get on his nerves. While it was common courtesy to slow down or avoid people in the road, Joseph barreled through the streets as if they weren’t even there. Several people cursed and made rude gestures at them, both of which Joseph ignored. He was practically steaming in rage. It made him want to tackle Trahaearn all over again and beat his face in as an ogre or something. He didn’t deign to look at him. He was mad at himself, mad at the weather that was crawling up his brace again, mad at the stitches that itched and burned, mad at Trahaearn,

    If he’d been more observant, he might have noticed their straggler. Gilder was easy to lose in a crowd, and the little sphynx was skilled at dodging the feet of men and horses. She was following from a distance, trotting easily to keep up with them. She was not a happy cat. They’d cost her master years of damage to his body from releasing Henry, not to speak of all the spells and components they’d lost. Joseph’s ledger was becoming more than he could handle, and Saturninus was asking for a century from him now. No doubt the corpse would take payment all at once, aging Joseph into an old man, a corpse, and dust in a matter of moments. The cripple was easy to follow. He stank like old sex and whiskey, and was doing his best to be a complete asshole to anyone around him. Gilder resolved to be careful...the black shuck he’d been travelling with before looked like she’d found her form. If they’d made it to the fae lands and found her name, she wasn’t sure the spell she was carrying to bind their magic would work. She’d have to be careful. They seemed to stop just outside the city to let their mistress drink some tea.

    The two men looked beat up, which suited Gilder just fine. If they were both healthy and hale it would be more dangerous.

    “Camp.” Joseph said simply. He was hurting and being on this horse felt like someone was jamming rocks into his undercarriage. He wasn’t sure he could get off the animal at this point, but he didn’t dare stumble in front of Trahaearn. It might have been dangerous this close to the city, but it would still be just as dangerous a day out. He took a deep breath. Last bit of pain for the day. When he swung down from the saddle he had to grab the straps and punch the side of it. Luckily the mare didn’t startle easily, or she might have sidestepped and let him fall. Joseph put his forehead against the saddle fender, waiting for the cramps and pain to pass so he could get his bedroll. Everything was still so damn cold. Out in the open, snow was able to pile high and deep. In the flatter parts it would be up to their horses’ chests.
     
  14. Shuck

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    Camp it was, then. Shuck steered them off the road, into a small copse of trees that might protect them from the harsh northern winds. They dismounted, and she motioned to Trahaearn as she began untying her bags.

    "Set up camp. I'll see if I can get us some tinder from the--"

    She gasped sharply, the words falling out of her mouth and bending to lean against the horse. A hand went to her stomach, probing where she'd felt a sharp jab. Concern skewed her expression, and she was gravely silent for several moments before she felt it again -- a fluttering jab below her navel. Shuck continued to stand in silent shock, oblivious to the rest of the group for several more moments until she finally realized what she was feeling.

    "Joseph!" she said, looking around for him with eyes wild with excitement. "Joseph, hurry! Come here!"

    The moment he was within reach of her long arms, Shuck reached out and yanked his hand toward her belly. She hastily laid her hand over his, pressing it firmly against the bottom curve of her bump.

    "Hush! Feel!" she urged him, a painfully broad smile stretching across her face. An excitement not unlike lightning made her whole body tingle. She could have died of happiness, right then and there. She felt the flutter and then two little kicks against her stomach.

    "Do you feel it?" she breathed, her eyes filled with wonder and aw as she looked down at Joseph. They'd done this. They'd made life and suddenly it all seemed so real. It was moving, was alive. The realization hit her like a landslide of emotion, a tangled mess that made it hard to breathe.

    // Joseph Meier // Trahaearn //
     
  15. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph Meier Resilient as the Wolf

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    Joseph was hurting. He didn't know it was possible to be in this much pain. His leg hurt. Between his legs hurt. His face hurt from being pummeled. He could take a thousand baths and not wash off the stink of Trahaearn. He wanted to curl up and fade into unconsciousness more than anything right now. But when Shuck shouted for him, he did his best to straighten up for her. She grabbed his hand and for a moment he blinked at her in confusion. She told him to feel, so he concentrated. Then he felt them. Two little kicks, bumping against his hand. He stared. Guilt, and joy, and self-hatred all washed over him. He loved that little life, and loved Shuck. So why had he drank with that glorified sword rack and made everything worse?

    Shuck was so happy. He gave her a weak smile. "I do feel it." he said softly. "That's our baby.." He felt strange going in for as as a female. It was time to shed this form and oh gods, it was going to hurt. He touched her cheek and smiled. "One moment." He leaned against the horse again and led the mare into a copse of trees just out of sight. The pain in his gut felt like someone was scooping out his insides with a spoon. It writhed in his gut. Gods, Trahaearn had done the unthinkable...and with nowhere for it to go with him as a man, out it went. He did his best to lean behind a bush as he vomited a gout of blood and tissue. Thank gods he wasn't further along, and it would have just been starting to quicken. He shut his eyes anyway as he felt chunks of something travel up his throat, get caught on his back teeth and spill into the bushes.

    He wiped his mouth, staring. Black and deep red strings of tissue, shredded by the shifting process and mixed with a heavy dose of blood and stomach acid, was flopped on the ground like a dead animal. He shuddered and spat. Everything from the ribs down felt like jelly. "I'm never going to shit again I swear to gods." he muttered under his breath at the horse, who was rolling her eyes nervously at the blood on the ground.

    He led her back out of the bushes, looking pale but like himself again. Being in a form for too long always came with a measure of discomfort but on top of everything else it had been too much. His eye was swollen shut again. Wonderful. He tried to put on a happy face for Shuck, hugging her tightly and touching their child. He wanted to reassure her. He wanted to be there for her but gods the fight, the fucking, barely recovering before travelling again. He was ready to not be in pain. Joseph kissed her cheek. "I love you. I love her." he put his hand along the lower curve of the bump again. "Hi darling...it's your father. Don't hurt your mother too much." he told it softly. "We'll meet soon."
     
  16. Shuck

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    She didn't care if he was still in his female shape, Shuck took his face in her hands and kissed him deeply. It had been weird the last time he'd been female, but this time it didn't even matter. She was reeling, disbelief and amazement rendering her nearly stupid with happiness. Showering gentle kisses over his bruised cheeks, she let him go without question. Too happy to think of anything else, she watched him go for several long moments before turning to Trahaearn.

    "Trahaearn? Do you want to feel?" she asked excitedly over the saddle. Stepping around the horse to give Joseph the privacy she requested, she poked out her stomach toward him. She guided the warlock's hand over her stomach, where he received a little kick.

    "Isn't it amazing?" Her voice was pure reverence, lost in the wonder of what she'd done, of what they'd made. She heard Joseph returning, however, and hastily smiled up at Trahaearn and danced back toward her lover.

    His face looked worse, and his excitement was obviously diluted by his current condition. Shuck cradled his face and kissed him gently. She'd have to see if Trahaearn could do something about it; he had some of her magic still, after all. What she couldn't use, he could. Surely some of that was healing like what she'd had?

    "I know." She gently stroked his hair as he bent his head toward her stomach. It had hurt to not be able to say those words back to him before, but now almost worse than ever. His gentle voice made her lip quiver and her eyes shine. Kissing the top of her head, she wrapped Joseph in a tight hug.

    "Come on. Let's get camp up so we can get you warmed up and taken care of," she said gently.

    // Joseph Meier // Trahaearn //
     
  17. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph Meier Resilient as the Wolf

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    On the road again...
    Joseph kissed her back meaningfully. He didn't want to feel sick, he just needed a decent meal and rest. He hadn't gotten good rest since Heinrich's. He helped her set up camp, offering her a smile whenever she needed it and helping her when he could. He ate a little jerky, and crawled into his bedroll. He needed to cuddle her. He needed to hold her in his arms, and kiss her softly until they both fell asleep. He needed to hold her again and forget about the events of the previous day. He stroked his fingers through her hair and spoke softly to their babe, enjoying the peace of it.

    He was getting the best night's sleep he'd had in weeks, with Shuck in his arms and his stomach finally settled down, when he heard an unholy scream. He sat up sharply, green light streaming through the tent and the horses whinnying madly. What in hell? He swore he smelled burning fur and flesh. Gods, if they lost the horses...! He burst out of the tent and saw Shuck's gelding dancing on the end of his tether like he had a live snake attached to his leg. He was kicking out at a smoking corpse on the ground, about the size and shape of a housecat. What the hell?

    Joseph covered his mouth and nose, slowly approaching it and turning it over with his foot. Gilder. The sphynx's face was half-gone in a necrotic rot, but it was Gilder alright. What in hell had taken her out? He looked at the gelding, and the smoking hole in the bottom of one of their saddlebags. When he tried to approach he had to dodge a side kick. The horse was not liking whatever had happened. Something in their bags had destroyed the sphynx so quickly she hadn't had a chance to run. Saturninus would, no doubt, hold her death against them both. He swore angrily and kicked the dead sphynx. He had been having such a fucking good rest too!
     
  18. Shuck

    Member
    Shuck Not a Church Grim

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    Their evening was peaceful. Shuck's idea to have Trahaearn do something to help Joseph was almost immediately dismissed. They didn't seem to have made amends, and the tension between them was palpable. Trahaearn just looked on with a smug expression and Joseph glared daggers at the warlock.

    So Shuck had turned to a more natural approach. She'd snapped icicles into a kerchief for Joseph to hold to his swollen eye while she tended to his leg and shoulder. Both had taken a beating in their fight. While she was gathering kindling from the copse, she'd steered wide from the scent of blood, deciding that, if Joseph was hurt beyond what she could see, then he would tell her eventually.

    At least, she hoped.

    Her interaction with Trahaearn had been brief. Inspecting his finger elicited a sigh, though he had dismissed the loss with minimal concern. They shared a few words about honoring her wishes, as per his arrangement with Malice, and after a bit of sassing and some mild threats of obedience, he agreed to dial back his antagonizing attitude with Joseph. A small win, she decided.

    Talking to Joseph had been more difficult. She'd managed to save a pastry and an apple from her meals at the inn, which she gave to him as a sort of peace offering. She had doled out the sweetness in sickening portions, wanting to smooth away the crease from the evening prior. While she didn't broach the subject of her latent regrets, she offered him as much cuddling, kissing, and belly touches as he needed.

    She had been lingering on the edge of sleep, coiled delicately around him when there was the distinct tingle of magic in the camp -- near the horses. Shuck roused, lifting her head from Joseph's chest just moments before there was a flash of green and a scream. The surge of magic that washed through the camp paralyzed her, pinning her to the bedroll even as Joseph sprung up.

    A conduit for magic, Yaste had said. As the residual magic from whatever was happening swirled around the camp, Shuck found herself grounded. She could feel it leeching into her, rippling through her like a gentle caress. It was strangely familiar, though she didn't know why.

    When she finally got up and slipped into her dress, walking barefoot out into the snow, she emerged from the tent in time to see Joseph kicking something away from the camp. Burnt flesh and hair cloyed the air, and she had to cover her mouth with the back of her hand as she stepped toward the object. It was a black cat, but its face (or what was left of it) looked human. Stumbling back from the stench and the sight, she put her hands out to horse to calm it.

    "Joseph, what happened?" she asked, putting her hands on the horse's neck. "Wasn't that a sphynx? What was it doing here?"

    There was something she was missing, she knew. Looking to Joseph, she finally saw the hole in the bottom of her pack -- the one she'd worn as a dog. With the horse calmed, she managed to yank it free from its ties. She could feel the magical residue all over it, practically buzzing in her hand like a disgruntled bumblebee. Her teeth rattled, her brain filled up with that humming, and if anyone said anything to her as she opened the bag, she didn't hear it.

    Her hand withdrew with the charred bundle. She had forgotten about it, pushed to the bottom of her small pack. It radiated with energy that shot up her arm, making her gasp and blink, but it didn't harm her. Sliding through her, it exited her toes into the ground beneath her. Once lavender, sumac, and fir, the bundle was now a mass of blackened sticks that were beginning to crumble in her hand.

    "It was this," she said dumbly, blinking away the strange fixation on the thing and looked up at him, then Trahaearn. "It was in my bag when I found it, after the naiads," she told Joseph. "Someone had left one in our camp, too, but I left it when we left."

    She frowned at it. "It was just a bundle of sticks: lavender, sumac, and fir. I didn't think anything of it."

    Her eyes drifted towards the sphynx's body, a tremble running through her. This bundle had done that to her. When she looked down at it again, she had the strange sensation that she was being watched, but refused to look over her shoulder toward the trees. Instead, she held the charred bundle out to Trahaearn.

    "Do you recognize it?" she asked. "It's powerful fae magic of some kind. I can feel it."

    // Joseph Meier // Trahaearn //
     
  19. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph Meier Resilient as the Wolf

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    ""Not just any sphynx." Joseph said in disgust, crouching slowly to examine the body. He turned it over and plucked out a tiny bundle of charred feathers wrapped in sinew and what smelled like wormwood. It stank. He shook his head. "Saturninus has really got it out for us if he sent Gilder out to curse us. She might have gotten away with it if it wasn't for...whatever came out of that bag." he nodded to the hole in the dog pack. Her gelding was still prancing a bit, crowhopping and shaking his head. Joseph joined her and patted his neck to soothe him. He looked balefully at the corpse. Gilder hadn't been a bad sort, though why she stayed employed with such an evil creature hed never figured out.

    He looked at Trahaearn for an answer as to the herbs, nodding to the bundle he'd taken from Gilder's body. "That's probably a curse, isn't it? Something to compel us to go back to the shop?" he asked the warlock coldly. He didn't want anything from the other man, but he had to ask. If Saturninus was sending people with curses after them...they needed to be on the move first thing in the morning. Who knew when the zombie would figure out his plan didn't work? He might already know Gilder was dead. "Do we bury her?" he asked Shuck. He wasn't quite sure what to do with the body. It felt wrong just leaving it, even if the sphynx had meant them harm.

    He was about to pick it up, when the body sharply sat up. The horses went wild again and Joseph swore, backing away. The body crackled and made uncomfortably dry popping noises. The corpse moved stiffly, not at all the fluid grace of a sphynx but the jerky walk of something puppetted by magic. Joseph uncomfortably watched Gilder start back on the road to Alliria. "...we need to get moving." He muttered, and moved to go roll up the bedrolls and break camp. "Leave her be. Animated corpses won't stop moving, no matter what you do to them."
     
  20. Trahaearn

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    Trahaearn A Truly Heartless Man

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    When Mal had addressed his missing finger, she had also asked him to dial back the antagonizing attitude. It had him smile a bit differently when she made it clear she would make him obey if he didn't do as she asked. He waved away the thought and agreed. When they made camp, he shifted to dog once more and had begun to sleep when the snap of magic in the air woke them all.

    The green fire and roasted body bothered him, as it had come from something inside of Mal's pack. A small hole in her bag where the magic had come streaking out to attack the small sphynx. While Mal retrieved the thing from her bag, Joseph commented that the sphynx was from Saturninus, and had been sent with a curse.

    He sniffed the bundle that Joseph showed him, and he nodded. "It would have caught you two, and I might have been able to stop you at some point, but that zombie knows what it's doing to get you two."

    When Mal came with the bundle out of her bag, he gave it a sniff before eyeing her.

    "Throw it on the ground if you could." Trahaearn quietly asked, and upon her setting it on the ground, he pawed it open carefully.

    "This bundle has a double meaning. This is some expert spellwork that doesn't smell seelie or unseelie, but it is shadow work, wyldfae magick it seems like." His paws weren't the greatest for tearing it apart but he was making slow progress, intending to be careful.

    "Each of these plants has properties that are favorable to what the spell was.The fir by itself is strength and regeneration, but it made up the basis of this spell, where the shadows remained until activated. The sumac by itself was a symbol for activation, grounding, and protection. It was acting as the ward, the watchman, and formed the trap for Gilder. The fir was the sword in this case." Trahaearn quietly explained to them both. He had experience with this.

    Malice had several vases at home, and he had made the mistake of putting random plants into them without knowing their meaning when he was still fairly young to all of this. Several centuries of learning had seen fit that he recognized well what these things meant.

    "The fir was the container for the spell, and the sumac guarded us, but the lavender..." Trahaearn trailed off for a moment. "You said these bundles appeared?" He asked her carefully.

    The lavender only had one true meaning, and added to this spell, its meaning did not fit into what he had seen on the sphynx's corpse.

    "The lavender represents love and attraction, or maybe relaxation, by itself. As part of a ward it doesn't make sense and shouldn't be in this spell. It serves no purpose." He told them as the bundle unfurled under his paw and split. A green oak leaf unraveled before him, and he gave a sharp yelp as he began to feel something watching him. "Oh, now it makes sense. It is love. It's the spell's vengeance."

    His head slowly turned back towards the camp, not knowing what he expected to see, and spotted that several of the trees around them were in fact oak trees. He knew this feeling, and had very little doubt as to who had made this bundle.

    "This would be a safe place, if not for Saturninus, but I agree we should move." Trahaearn informed them, still eyeing the trees. It made him terribly uncomfortable being here, his hackles having rose at the unfurling leaf. Trahaearn pulled at Mal as she was tying something onto the horse, when Joseph was occupied and not looking at them as they prepared to leave. He had a question for her specifically.

    "Did you see something before these were left with you? A spirit? Another fae perhaps?" Trahaearn asked quietly, he didn't truly want to know the answer to this, but it was important to know for sure that it was who he believed it was.
     
  21. Shuck

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    Shuck Not a Church Grim

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    The sphynx was from Saturninus'. She remembered Gilder once reminded of her, and Shuck frowned at the charred corpse. Gilder had not been unkind, but she'd worked for that awful zombie. Or was she like that other fellow, shackled to him with no choice? Shuck was uncertain if she felt relieved by her death or saddened by it. Learning that she had a curse in her paws made it a bit easier to be glad she was dead and gone, however. If she'd managed to curse them... Her hand protectively laid over her stomach.

    Dropping the bundle in front of Trahaearn, she listened intently to his remarks as he pawed through the burnt components. Fae incorporated natural materials into their spells, tapping into the magical properties of everything around them to channel and enhance their magick.

    "This was a protection spell?" Confusion was plain in her voice, and she frowned at Trahaearn. "Who would have left a protection spell with us? We were alone..."

    Her face paled. They hadn't been alone, she realized. She let Trahaearn finish his observations, refusing to look over her shoulder as that feeling continued to plague her. When the dog jumped in shock, sorting out the purpose of the lavender, she couldn't help but look over her shoulder toward the trees as well. There was nothing there, but she could feel it watching. Uncomfortable, Shuck picked up the bundle.

    She shook her head absently to Joseph when he asked if they should bury Gilder. "I'm not sure. I think? Some fae have different funerary rights, but they all return to the earth in some way." Shuck probably wasn't the best source for information on fae, but Trahaearn didn't seem interested in honoring the sphynx's death whatsoever.

    It didn't seem to matter anyhow, as Gilder's body gave an unholy crack and Shuck jumped, a girlish squeal escaping her as she stumbled back and away from the dead cat. She was most certainly dead, but she stood awkwardly and began a jerking march back toward Alliria. Fighting the urge to kill it again, Shuck nodded to Joseph. They needed to leave.

    They hastened to break down camp. Shuck quickly dressed and put out their blankets near the fire to warm them as they worked. She broke away a branch to obscure their tracks and had Trahaearn bury the fire pit before sweeping snow over the patch. She was tying her bags onto her saddle when the warlock approached, standing close and speaking quietly to her. Paling instantly, she looked over the saddle toward Joseph before bending slightly to put her face closer to Trahaearn's.

    "A forest spirit," she confirmed, feeling a chill run through her at the mere mention of the creature. "It's face was the skull of an elk with branches in its antlers, and it wore a robe of grass and leaves. It..." She paused. "We saw it the night before the eclipse, but I saw it that next day -- at the river, when the naiads were trying to drown Joseph. It told me... It told me I wasn't a dog, that he'd die if I didn't stand up."

    Foolish girl. Who did you cross to be cursed with a mark of death? Your foolishness will be the death of him, too. Shuck trembled. Some things were difficult to remember, but not that one.

    "Do you know what it was?" she asked suddenly. Her eyes burned bright in the darkness as she stared down at her warlock. He seemed to know something.

    // Joseph Meier // Trahaearn //
     
  22. Trahaearn

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    Trahaearn A Truly Heartless Man

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    She confirmed what he had suspected, and it couldn't really surprise him. He had seen that spirit a number of times when she was herself. Malice and that spirit would always seem to stand quietly and stare at each other for a brief minute. It seemed personal to continue looking and had to divert his attention away before it felt like he was intruding on something.

    It had learned him a reprimanding when he had only just begun to be a retainer for Malice. She warned him to not touch or speak ill of the spirit, a threat that was followed by her own addition. You will be lucky if I deal with you, she had informed him plainly. The underlying tone that she may not even have something to bury when the spirit was done with him.

    When she asked if he knew what it was, he could not stop himself from glancing at the oak trees.

    "An ally, of sorts." Trahaearn replied quietly as he sauntered away to finish packing for their early departure.
     
  23. Joseph Meier

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    Joseph Meier Resilient as the Wolf

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    On the road again...
    Joseph was unnerved. Hed known that Saturninus was skilled in death magic, openly dealt in the slavery of other fae and humans, and cursed people but...this? He watched Gilder and shuddered, rolling up the tent and putting their things back on the horses. A six hour nap wasn't nearly enough. He ached for the comfort of Yaste's cabin. Days of sleeping and making love and doing chores. Being on the road with all of this fae nonsense was fucking exhausting. He moved them along.

    The next three days were healing. Joseph carefully cut out the stitches and ran his fingers over the bright pink new scars he had on his shoulder and calf. Despite what had made them, they were actually very straight and surgical. Volker had done a good job. He kept as close as possible to Shuck over the next three days. It was important to him to talk to both her and his child, though she would have to stop riding soon and they'd have to start using the sled again. Thank gods it was holding up well over the travel. He had studied its construction, but he didn't know if he could recreate it. He was a farmer, not a survivalist.

    They passed their first sign of good luck on the second day. Joseph pulled up their horses in the middle of a snowy forest and urged Shuck off of hers. "Come here! Quick!" he urged. He grasped her hand and pulled her toward a gigantic old oak tree. It was a macabre thing...skulls decorated it. Massive, tusked skulls. Some of them were old, covered in mildew and half-swallowed by the tree itself. Others were new, lashed to the tree with cord. The oldest was at the base, where only an eyesocket and part of a tusk peeked out. A clan tree. He hadn't seen one. They were usually big old oak trees, fir trees, or willow trees that denoted the center of a troll clan territory. This one was so old, it probably predated the road it was so near to. Little bits of cloth with blessings scribbled on them were wrapped around the tree and its limbs, fluttering softly in the breeze.

    "It's a clan tree for a troll tribe." he explained to Shuck. "These are their relatives. Each time a troll dies his or her head is lashed to the tree if they've distinguished themselves in life. It's probably older than the road...the tree's huge. Marahute told me about them." He put her hand on the tree's bark and walked around it slowly in a circle. "Touch it. It's supposed to be good luck, especially for warriors and pregnant women." He patted the tree. "We need all the luck we can get."

    He marvelled at it for a moment. There had to be fifty skulls there. A few of the tusks were sawn off, a clear sign that poachers had attacked the tree at some point. In some parts it looked like it had grown twisting, bony thorns, the skulls were implanted so deep in the tree. He smiled, patted it, and went back to the horses. Seeing it lifted his mood a little.

    The third day caught them a break in the weather. Snow was starting to melt, and Joseph no longer felt so much goddamn cold. He'd gotten a few days of good rest, and it reflected in his mood. He still glared at Trahaearn and did his best not to acknowledge the man, but he was happy staying with Shuck. They shook off the forest by mid morning, and were out on flatter land. A large rolling meadow stretched out before them. It would have been beautiful in the spring and summer, filled with wildflowers and deer. They had to be getting close to her heart. Joseph was letting Trahaearn guide them; they had to be damned close and he didn't want to miss it.
     
  24. Trahaearn

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    Trahaearn A Truly Heartless Man

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    Trahaearn had ignored the other man in kind as they traveled. If Mal didn't want him being smug, the urge to do so was easier completely removed than worked around. Joseph's excitement at the tree was noted, and he was quick to put a paw to the tree.

    Joseph didn't realize just how much they would likely need still in order to be so cheery. The paw came off and they continued to travel.

    The third day came, and it was warm enough to begin melting the snow. A small chuckle escaped him as he thought.

    "Strange way to spend the winter solstice, moving west into-" Trahaearn went deathly silent as he recalled his own words. The winter solstice. The wild hunt.

    Shit.

    He had forgotten that time of year was so shortly upon them. He looked about for any sort of sign for a town.

    "How close are we to someone that will have us for the night? Don't know anybody around here do you?" Trahaearn asked Joseph quickly, his eyes never stopping at trying to find a building or something over the open area. There was clear alarm in his tone.

    They would be caught unaware and have no where to run in this kind of place. They had to get somewhere for the night. They wouldn't be able to make it to town until mid morning the next day at least and that would be if they weren't found in the night.
     
  25. Shuck

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    Shuck Not a Church Grim

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    An ally, of sorts. Shuck frowned, upset that Trahaearn explained no further, but she left it be. They finished packing up their camp and were on their way with little else said between them. She was weary, from harder travel, less fresh game, and the advancement of her pregnancy. But she powered on, relying on Yaste's tea to give her the strength to keep going.

    The road brought few excitements and no danger befell them over the next several days. Shuck announced every growing wiggle and kick to the others, glowing with pride and smiling longingly at Joseph. The nights were cool, but the snow relented the further they traveled west -- a small relief. Visiting the ancestral tree was strange yet peaceful experience. Shuck's fingers brushed against the bark before moving to touch one of the skulls. It didn't feel innately magical, it there was something there. Perhaps it connected to a nearby ley line? Regardless, she felt more at ease when they departed.

    Shuck was diligent about covering their tracks, having taken Volker's warning to heart. Well. She'd commit the words to action, anyway. She'd clipped pine branches which she used to obscure their camp each morning. She made a habit of rubbing each of them down with the needles to (hopefully) help mask their scents as well.

    Darkness was pressing down on the third day, and Shuck was beginning to relax. Alliria, the unseelie court, Volker and Oor... They were all behind them now, days between them and the nearest threat. She sighed as she wat her the sun going down. The days were short, but they would lengthen again soon.

    Thinking similarly, Trahaearn remarked on the winter solstice and Shuck perked up.

    "Is that today?" she asked with a bright smile. She didn't understand his concern as he looked about, asking Joseph if he knew anyone nearby.

    "Why are you so concerned?" Shuck frowned down at Trahaearn. "Human lore regarding the Wild Hunt is wildly fabricated. We should be perfectly fine sheltering the night on the road."

    Shuck giggled to herself. Honestly. She'd not once seen the Sluagh chasing anyone out after midnight. The unseelie host of terrors tended to hunt down more savory prey, like Court traitors, evil entities, and--

    Fae killers.

    Her playful smile vanished as she and Trahaearn both looked at Joseph.

    "Gods, the Court will know now. Won't it?" Her voice was cold and soft with terror. "You think they'll come for Joseph?"

    She began to tremble. No, no, no. If the Sluagh came, they'd have a harder time than with anything else they'd encountered thus far.

    // Joseph Meier // Trahaearn //
     

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