Flashback Skinwalkers

"And they did take to flight, their courage canker'd 'er to terror, when men with claw and fang from the jungle leapt, and tore them down in snarling fury."

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Taloba, home to the Myrians, is the thriving core of Falyndar. Inhabited by a fierce and savage tribe where blood sacrifices are normal and a way of life, they are untamed and proud of it. Warlike, and with their numbers growing, the Myrians are set on reclaiming what is rightfully theirs. [Lore]


Postby Tarukko on September 16th, 2014, 1:32 am


23rd Day of Summer, 488AV
The Village of the Blackened Claws, Taloba

The boy was born under a thunderstorm ten Summers prior, but if you were to ask the man when his conception truly was, he would tell you it was on that still, fetid day when he was still only a child.

Summers in Falyndar are oppressive in the way a chasm is deep. The heat is trapped by the multitude cacophony of vines and branches, imbued with moisture from the rich soil and hangs like a vast, invisible, soaking blanket for leagues in all directions. Even the lean predators of the jungle only hunt for a handful of hours, so taxing is any movement in the fug. The Myrians have learned to adapt, however; or at least to push through their discomfort.

How can it be discomforting, after all, if that is all you have known, all your days?

Jazak strode through the mire like it wasn't even there. Cloaked in the pelt of the Dhani that had nearly taken her life almost a century ago, she left a trail of rolling dew as she walked, but not a bead of sweat. That weathered, wrinkled brow had seen Tarukko's father's father come into the world, but had lost not an ounce of its strength, or cunning.

Or wisdom. Which is what brought them to her feet that day.

"What do you see, children?"

They were sure it was a test. A half-dozen smooth, frowning faces exchanged glances and then looked back at the old woman, standing with her arms spread, guileless in tone but not in the smile on her face. Taru raised a tentative hand...


"... you, Matriarch?"

"Indeed you do. But not just me. What else?"

Well, no escaping from it now: the questions were coming directing to him, now, and the others in the class were happy to watch him twist in the-

"You?" A gnarled finger speared a girl through the air, and her smirk vanished in a tick. "What do you see?"

"... er..."

"An 'er'? Queer beast, by the sounds of it. Is that any way to talk to your Matriarch?"

"N-No, Matriarch!"

There was a brief rustling from outside the rough square that served as the village's meeting place and classroom. Rawni's parents muttered to each other and then clamped down on their concern. This was a special day for their daughter; for all of them. Tarukko's parents were there, too, hopeful gazes filmed behind hands clasped tight and nervous...

Don't disappoint them. Show them you're as good as a girl.

"A Blackened Claw!"

"Don't interrupt, Taru!"

"Sorry, Matriarch..."

"But you are quite right. A Myrian, a Matriarch, not quite an 'er', as some would suggest... but above all, a Blackened Claw in service to the Goddess-Queen. What you see here is more than old flesh and tired bones, children..."

She held up one exhibit of that, her bare arm... and the flesh shimmered like a wind over the surface of water. Within a tick the ravages of age and hardship were worn away and smooth, supple flesh like that of a maiden replaced it, running from fingertips to shoulder, spreading up and around Jazak... until she was as she had been... decades before...

Mutters of awe, then subsiding to a reverent hush. Even the Druids and Rune Witches could not match such a feat. Jazak chuckled, and the slack-jawed Taru was sure even her voice was younger.

"... it is the power to craft our bodies into the finest weapons and most potent tools for the Goddess-Queen. To tame the jungle and give obeisance to Caiyha by becoming one with her creations, from the tiny crawling things of the ground to the Myrian Tigers that rule even where we have never trod. In these veins, and in yours, is a power of centuries. A lineage going back before the Great Sundering of the world..."

Again the venerable Matriarch seemed to flicker, her whole body contorting from the inside out. Taru had seen his parents Morph, and their faces were always set and pinched with concentration. Not so Jazak: her smile was serene, her wyrd effortless, the wish of her mind and the shape of her flesh the exact same thing.

Not. Not flesh. Not anymore. Now there was fur, white and black. Yellow eyes as calm and cold as sculpted ice. A huge leonine face that matched the eight-foot-long tiger attached to it, resting easily on its front paws, tail twitching at flies buzzing in sudden confusion.

"We are the Skinwalkers, young ones..."

Taru gasped as if punched in the gut. Such control... such detail. Though her form was of a tiger, the means for her to speak had been unchanged by her mind, and her wyrd had matched her without a qualm. The voice rumbled like grating stones, echoing around the square as the beast sat up.

"This power flows in us all. Me. The Druid. The Witches. The Elders. Your parents and siblings and cousins and you. All you need do is harness it, learn it, respect it... and practice. For years I know you have watched your elders work this craft. Now comes your time..."

The tiger straightened up on two legs and in a whirl of impossible movement, like a tornado localized over a single body, the tiger vanished under folds of weathered, octogenarian skin... and Matriarch Jazak stood there again.

The flies had given up even trying.

"Close your eyes, young ones. This is your first lesson. To look within thyselves and see the wyrd anchored to your soul."

Taru obeyed, after a moment, as if he were afraid he would miss something. But still, he closed his eyes, cross legged on the dark, wet dirt. The village and the longhouses and the Matriarch and the class, they vanished. Cooking fires and sizzling meat... shuffling feet and distant calls from ape and bird... they remained, but through it all were tones born to command.

"Relax, young ones. Don't wait for some power to grab you. You must find it. Breath... become still in body... so you may look beyond it..."

Tarukko did not know how long he sat there. He kept expecting something, anything, a miraculous hammerblow of enlightenment. Instead he felt only his own sweaty body, twitching and itching. Then that faded, as his discomfort subsided... and with it, a fuzzy awareness of something... pulsing. Beating. Racing.

Inside him.
Last edited by Tarukko on October 2nd, 2014, 2:31 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Tarukko on September 28th, 2014, 7:39 pm


"Don't fear it, young ones. Tis rightly called 'wyrd', but it does not mean you harm..."

Taru tried hard to focus on the Matriarch's words, but these were... especial circumstances. Days, bells, ticks beforehand, paying careful heed to every syllable from Jazak's mouth would have been second nature to him. But now he was entranced, bewildered... but, oddly, not afraid.

"Has this... always... been there...?"

Tarukko's father hid a smile with a dip of his chin to his chest. Ah, so the boy did have some of his blood in him, after all. That had been his first question. And, just as it had been a quarter-century before, he heard Jazak's firm, amused voice-

"Always, Taru. Since the moment you were born. But only know are you old enough to wield it, and craft it. What you feel now is like a river, running from your soul, through your limbs, into every crevice of your body. The barbarians of the far lands call it 'djed'-"

The Matriarch's face twisted as she spat the word, disdain and derision marring her voice that had been, until then the very model of firm but warm encouragement. Faces all around them aped her, not all of them parents, and none of them simply because they wished to follow the Matriarch. Who cared what the barbarians who lived beyond the light of Myri called their powers? The mishmash language was hard enough to follow when they were screaming orders in battle...

"But we call it 'wyrd'. For it is a strangeness, something that is beyond the real, the simple up-and-down of our world. But... that does not mean it doesn't have rules."

Her class still sat with eyes closed, and Taru found himself exploring inwards without being told. The Matriarch's words came to his ears, but they were of secondary importance now. He could... almost... yes, it was there... almost a low throbbing... like his heartbeat, but out of sync with it... and he didn't so much feel it as he could know it was coming, and when it came, he knew.

He really didn't have the language for any of this, and shook his head in confusion.

"What vexes you, Taru?"

"How... How do we control this, Matriarch? It is like... trying to grab smoke."

"Patience, Taru. Patience and practice. All of you, open your eyes... except for Varem."

The children did as they were told, all of them now focused on the one in their group still with her eyes pressed shut. Sweat beaded on her forehead, and not only from the cloying humidity. The girl knew she was under scrutiny now, but without the sight of them studying her, she seemed to be handling it better. Jazak strode over and crouched before her, voice soothing and low.

"Do not try to catch it, Varem. Not yet. Simply... observe. Feel it. Through your arms, your fingers, your chest... understand that it is there, waiting for you to call upon it. The longer you focus... what happens?"

"It... It becomes... clearer."

Jazak smiled, showing twin rows of sharp, yellowed teeth. "Indeed. Not merely phantom twitches or undulations, are they? The longer you stay like this, relaxed and looking inward, the more definition and substance you can find. Is that not so?"

"Y..." Varem licked dry lips, brow furrowed in concentration. "Yes..."

Jazak's eyes swept her class, touching on each one in turn as she spoke.

"All of you have helped your clan in caring for an animal in our pens. Some great, some small, chewers of plants and tearers of flesh, feathered and furred. Wux? I have seen you and your sister care for the baboon that your father caught, feeding him bananas twice a day. Qerap? You found an Akila pup in the jungle while hunting, its parents and pack departed. You have raised him to aid you on your hunts now, and his name is-"

"Kroz." Qerap said with a bright, proud smile. "She's seen two Summers with us, now!"

"Indeed. And you, Tarukko? What beast has your family adopted as its own?"

The young male's face relaxed into a smile, relieved to be on familiar ground. "Barbil, Matriarch. Our jaguar."

"Ahh... a lucky find. Wounded, wasn't he?"

"Last Summer, Matriarch. We were hunting to the south and we heard him... crying. He was wounded, alone. We think another cat had attacked him but we our party scared him away..."

His words tapered away into nothing and Jazak cocked her head, remarkably like the beast she spent most of her time as. She studied the suddenly reticent male.

"... and yet you didn't take him for meat, hmm?"

"No, Matriarch. My mother, she said we should take care of him."

"Hmm. Strange decision, don't you think? A fruitless hunt, the day waning, and yet your mother took two hundred pounds of fresh meat for a pet rather than dinner for her clan."

Familiar ground vanished under Taru's feet and he was suspended over a chasm with unnerving speed. Jazak smiled wider, a pure predator now, sensing uncertainty, the inklings of fear... and finding opportunity there. Tarukko didn't dare look at his parents. He wouldn't embarrass them. No. Not today.

"She said he would be better with us."

"And why did she say that?"

"Because we could learn from him." New confidence crept into the male's voice, chin raising with certainty. "Like you learned from the great tigers, Matriarch."

A low, raspy chuckle echoed around the fly-besieged square and Jazak nodded her head. "Good... very good. We Blackened Claws are closer to Caiyha's creatures than most clans, because we don't see them as simply meat, or enemies to be slain. The jungle is mother to us as well as Myri, and Caiyha rules her. Our wyrd, or Morphing, allows us to become even closer. And the first step to that is watching. Learning. Have you learned, Taru?"

"I... yes, Matriarch. I have."

"Have you all?"

Of course there was a ripple of nodding heads and bright, eager eyes, all of the class too proud and too determined to suggest otherwise. Jazak smiled knowingly. Ah, children. They grow old, they lengthen and thicken and learn, but when the next generation rolls around, they're still the same.

"Good. All of you, eyes closed. Remember those lessons. Those animals. See them and feel them in your mind, as you do on your flesh. Feathers and fur, claws and talons, scales and skin..."

Taru sat there in the hot, empty darkness of his mind... and he did as he was told. He saw Barbil as a cub, his eyes too big for his head and his teeth comically blunt even as he tried to hard to gnaw his hand off. His fur was short and bristly, not yet the longer, sleek coat his parents would have had. Taru remembered stroking it when his little charge was exhausted or had eaten to his full. He remembered how it scrubbed against his palm and how he could feel the pulse of the beast beneath it.

"Now... feel the wyrd beneath you again, children. Tis all in the will and the imagination, this craft of flesh and skin. Do not just imagine your skin as a that of your beast's; will it to be. Push that flow of wyrd through yourself, up from your core, into your arms..."

Taru breathed deep, and as his chest expanded, he felt it was like a torch thrown on spilled oil. A second skeleton of shuddering, gushing, pulsing power was in him, and as he held his hands up... he pushed... he thought of pushing... and as he thought, as he willed, he gasped at a realization.

The flow was moving.
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Postby Tarukko on October 13th, 2014, 2:14 am

It was not pain. He remembered that... but it was close to it. The warnings of agony, should he overstep his mark. He could not see them, but at that moment Tarukko's parents both held their breath, unsure as their own parents had been if their child would possess the will to drink from the power within him without drowning in it.

Slowly, subtly, tick by tick, Taru felt his skin dance and prickle, like goosebumps with tiny teeth. His heart hastened, flurry of images dancing before his closed eyes... and he set his jaw, forced them away.

Don't focus on what might happen, he thought, remembering his mother's words as she'd lectured her children. Focus on what you want to happen.

Now, with Jazak's teachings, Taru understood the dangerous warning in those words. Morphing was a matter of willing djed over your body, quite literal mind over matter. But if your mind could craft scales and feathers and claws and the forms of all beasts under Syna, then the opposite could easily be true.

Will your fears into your flesh, and they will become nightmares.

Barbil. He focused on that. Numberless days when he'd petted and fed and groomed and played with the jaguar cub. He remembered the pattern of his fur, the black diamonds and curving loops around his legs. The texture of his fur... and imagined that fur sprouting up through his skin...

His arms writhed before his clan and his parents' eyes. He sat cross-legged, face sweating and serious... and fur began to push up from his skinny brown arms... until it covered them... from elbow to his fingertips.

Blind to it all, he still heard the buzzing. The shallow, fast breathing from himself and the other children. A hand alighting softly on his shoulder, and a voice, strong but barely above a whisper.

"Taru? Open your eyes."

The young Myrian did... and he saw Barbil's fur on his own arms. His wonder eclisped any shock or fear. He turned them over in amazement, seeing that selfsame coat with the black circles surrounded by orange fuzz... but it was on him... covering every inch.

"Well done, boy."

Tarukko grinned in triumph, breathing in deeply and as he exhaled... yes... he could feel his wyrd pushing up through his body, bolstering his new skin. It still shimmering and weaved, though, like corn in the wind, still not stable. as he reached his fingers, he thought of Barbil's claws. Oh, how he'd always loved them, and envied the jaguar for them! Such sharp and lethal little weapons, and he was born with them. More than that, he could carve his prey and scale trees with equal ease. If only he could focus on that-

"Wait, Taru," Jazak said quickly, knowing her clan-child's wish from long experience, "Patience, do no over-"

Too late. The child gasped in shocked pain as slivers of agony bit into his fingers, bone deep and then some. The bones in his hands froze suddenly and then spasmed under muscle and skin, waves of pain ruining his new coat, marring it splotchy and marred with dark flesh returning-

-until the fur vanished entirely and he was left doubled over and clutching his hands... seeing bright blood ooze from under his fingernails.

Movement from beyond the square. His father stepping forward gently, eyes wide but held back with one arm from his mother. Her gaze was no less stricken but her face, her bearing... it was resigned. Understanding if not enjoying. The boy had to learn, and pain was a valuable teacher.

"It will come, Taru," Jazak said, standing over the boy and waiting for him to stand, cradling his bleeding hands, "And compared to some I have seen... that could have been far worse. Go to the healer. You did well. All of you did."

Without her saying the words, the rest of the young Blackened Claws knew Jazak had ended the lesson. Some of them had sprouted fur; others had feathers streaming from their arms and even down their necks like headdresses. Taru felt a stab of envy as Varem's new, gleaming canines retreated back into her mouth, but her grin of victory did not lessen.

"Some day," he mumbled as he parents came to collect him, shepherding him towards the healer's hut, "Some day... I'll be like Barbil..."c
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Postby Monsoon on November 4th, 2014, 10:09 pm

XP Award!

Name: Tarukko

XP Award:
Morphing +1
Meditation +3
Observation +3
Storytelling +1
Socialization +2

Animals aren't just food
One day! I'll be a jaguar
Observe don't catch
Pain a perfect teacher

Notes: Just for future notice, NPC's like Jazak require permission from ether Voodoo or Transverse to use. I really enjoyed how you had each kid do something different and how each of them including Tarukko had a different story that related to what they saw when meditating. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns feel free to PM me.
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