[Featured thread] A Better Way

Zavya and Elias

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A city floating in the center of a lake, Ravok is a place of dark beauty, romance and culture. Behind it all though is the presence of Rhysol, God of Evil and Betrayal. The city is controlled by The Black Sun, a religious organization devoted to Rhysol. [Lore]

A Better Way

Postby Elias Caldera on November 20th, 2018, 8:20 am

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51st Day of Fall, 518 AV

It had been three days.

Three days since the storm had come and the lightning reigned.

Three days since the chaos of the fires had set the institute ablaze.

Three days since the escape…

Three days since he’d fallen.

In all that time, Cainen couldn’t think of anything else save for that singular, terrible moment where his legs betrayed him and he’d collapsed to the mud. It was all he pondered anymore, and the memory just kept playing over and over in his head. He remembers the madness that ensued when the fires began, men and women, the masters of this place he’d known his entire life to be the pinnacle of calm and collected even when performing the darkest deeds imaginable, suddenly turned to panic and terror in the face of the unexpected. He remembers how his mother had come barreling down the hallway, pushing aside the fear stricken scientists and doctors with a look of sheer determination in her eyes as if purely in spite of the tumult that surrounded her. In that instant she was everything he aspired to be. Brave, bold, and unstoppable. She’d ripped open his cage and pried him from his stupor with a sound slap across his cheek, only to then utter a single word into his ear as she held him in an embrace, the last thing he remembers her saying;

‘Run.’

And so they had. They ran as hard and as fast they could. Cainen had never known haste like that before, nor the sheer dread in his chest that fueled it. He had been scared, like he was now, but as long as he was with her, as long as he was by her side that fear could be quelled, that terror silenced, at least just long enough to get one foot in front of the other.

Through the courtyard and across the field they fled. Past the watchtowers and right through the carelessly flung open front gates. Once an insurmountable barrier to his entire world, now just a thing standing in their way. Once they were through, he had seen the forest ahead, the dark, towering sentinel trees of lake Ravok as imposing as they were once just as unobtainable. Now, they were just a few more steps away, and they no longer represented just the edge of his reality, but the gateway to his freedom from it.

Then the moment that plagued his nightmares for the past three days. The tick that he knew would haunt him for the rest of his life… the moment he tripped.

Perhaps the worst part of it all was the look in his mother’s eyes when his hand slipped from hers and she realized what had happened. It was a level of despair he’d never seen from her before, even when they’d beat her or burned her or performed the their heinous experiments upon her flesh, she'd never shown such fear as she did in that instant. It was as if all the strength and courage he’d always adored her for was suddenly washed away in the rain, and what was left was something too unspeakable and alien to recall.

She tried to turn around, tried to get to him, but his mistake was all their pursuers needed to catch up. He heard the shouts of the guards hot on their heels, the whizzing of crossbow bolts over his head, the snarls and wails of his mother as she disappeared into the wilds… without him.

After three days of reliving it all, the young kelvic found himself at his wits end. He was not accustomed to any of this whatsoever, and it showed with every nervous glance and jittery twitch. Part of him -a part he despised- was actually relieved when they dragged him back to his cell. His entire life had been the slow, morbid tranquility of KRI captivity. It wasn’t sweet and it was wasn’t in any sense of the word good, but it was bearable, if only because it was all he’d ever known. It wasn’t until his mother had discovered his existence and begun filling his head with ideals and hopes did things begin to spiral so quickly out of control. Today was no different, but Cainen had a feeling he couldn’t shake that eventually something here had to give. That grinding sensation only grew worse when the stranger with the sword had arrived.

So you’re telling me that inside every one of them is a tiny, little creature responsible for everything?

He heard the pale man mutter in awe. Cloaked in ebony armor and wielding a wicked blade upon his back, Cainen knew him to be one of the Ebonstryfe at an instant. He was not entirely unfamiliar with the soldiers of Ravok, they frequented this place often enough that he knew the telltale look of them already. Nothing but bridled fury and zealous arrogance all dressed up in black, and each one of them coiled like a serpent ready to strike at a moment’s notice. This one though, seemed different. He was white, a sickly kind of white, like a ghost or a dying man, though if it was an illness that beleaguered him, it didn’t show in the way he stalked across the office like a predator pretending it wasn’t on the prowl. He smelled of smoke and steel like most warriors, and the way he spoke, low and cold, reminded the kelvic boy of a water snake he’d happened upon a few summers ago. He’d never seen one before that day, yet the hiss it made at him as he drew nearer had been enough to startle his instincts into gear and send him running in the other direction.

No such luck now. There was no where left to run.

Cainen had always been wary of such men, careful to stay out of their way and their line of sight if he could help it, but this man… something about him simply made the boy’s skin crawl. The look on Amanda Nitrozian’s face made him think he wasn’t the only one that felt that way.

The Kelderon Mimic,” he heard the young head scientist reply in a sigh. “Both the bane of my existence and my eternal muse.

The soldier didn’t look back at her, his hands busy trailing curiously over the countless jars and beakers that Amanda kept upon the walls. Each one filled with a foul smelling liquid and an even more vile horror of flesh and bone floating within.

Cainen hated being here. Mistress Nitrozian’s personal office was not a place he relished entering on the best of days, but lately, he’d been seeing more and more of it ever since the escape attempt. They had hurt him after they'd caught him, naturally, punishing him for his foolish and childish attempt to leave, but he was not the only one who’d made a break for it and failed, and by the mangled screams and anguished howls he heard coming down the hallways that night, he was certain he didn’t get the worst of it.

In fact, they’d given him a cushy new job after he was well enough to walk again. He was to be Mistress Nitrozian’s personal attendant from then on. He’d serve her directly, cleaning up after her, tending to her every whim. He was rarely ever out of the woman’s sight anymore, and it frayed his nerves to the bones. The lady Nitrozian was not a woman you ever wanted the attentions of. Compassionless, cynical eyes, always peeling you open with every studious gaze, dissecting you, pulling you apart until you were just the pieces of the puzzle she had yet to decipher. If the men and women of the research institute were to be considered callous in their studies, then Amanda Nitrozian was as apathetic and heartless as the butcher was to the butchered.

Fascinating…” The stryfer cooed under his breath, eyes still glued to the plethora of diagrams and charts scattered around the room. Some were so complicated that it made Cainen’s head swim just looking at them, and he couldn’t even read.

So how does it work?” He asked inquisitively.

Amanda frowned, folding her arms over her chest. She clearly did not care to discuss this, but never the less, she acquiesced. “A question I’ve asked myself many a time. This entire institute, all of its scientists and doctors, all my family’s money -most of my life- have gone into answering that very query. So, you see now the burden I bear and why I cannot tolerate interruptions like this.

Slowly, the stryfer turned to address her from over his shoulder. The eerie smile on his lips was patient, polite and demanding. Amanda stiffened, not quite scowling, but seeming to understand the unspoken impudence of her black clad guest. She shook her head, frazzled autumn colored hair dancing to and fro in agitation. “The mimic was taken from another world -its name sake- by a team of Suvan scientists. Through some method we’ve yet to fully understand, they fused the Kelderon Mimic with animals and then infused those creatures who survived the process with blood from their creators, namely us, mankind.” Amanda explained curt and concisely as if she’d been forced to recite her abc’s. She seemed at conflict within though, as if part of her had no interest in enlightening this ignoramus of a man, while the other couldn’t help herself but gush about her work. “In order to assure their absolute loyalty, Marcus infused them with a power that bound the souls of the new race to his own so that deep within the Kelvics they had a need to serve with an ingrained sense of loyalty; the thing you've likely known as the ‘bond.’

The soldier ‘hmmm’d’ thoughtfully, turning to look at Cainen who stood idly and complacent in the corner of the room. A fact the boy realized with a small start. “Born for bondage. Catered for the cage. A race of slaves sired for servitude… they never stood a chance, did they.” He muttered, mostly to himself it seemed. The kelvic made sure his eyes were set firmly to the ground and dared not look up again to meet the cold blues he still felt peering at him from above.

You think it cruel, I suppose?” he heard Mistress Nitrozian retort with an amused snort.

The stryfer hesitated, mulling over his response for a while until it became clear he did not have an answer.

I sometimes find myself despising Marcus Kelvic as much I laud his countless accomplishments.” Amanda continued bitterly, her dark cerulean eyes downcast in thought. “To have allowed so much of his talents and work to be lost to time as they were; the coordinates to Kelderon, the infusion techniques, the ability to mold and shape life as he saw fit, all his achievements made at Ironrock and in the field gone… I suppose not even an Alvina could have avoided becoming another victim of the Valterian though. Now today, it seems as if only the grandmother of Marcus retains any semblance of knowledge on the matter, yet despite my many invoices and Ravok’s generous offers, I’ve yet to hear back from Avanthal or that cold witch sitting on its throne. It seems she means to keep her grandson’s secrets from the world forever.

I can only imagine your frustration.” The soldier said with a strangely sympathetic candor. That seemed enough to snap the woman out of her crestfallen state.

You need not strain your imagination much, master Caldera.” She snapped suddenly. “Did you not see the scorch marks marring my institute’s walls? The empty cages and pens on your walk to this office? The witless and worrisome fools I am forced to call my peers mulling about the place? My frustration seems evident, as does the limits of my patience which I have now exceeded with this idle chatter. My father said he’d be sending someone to resolve the situation. I didn’t take it he meant for you to waste my time even further with this pointless rambling. I’ve told you everything you need to know about those deviants. Isn’t it time you did something about them! Their message said they be here any chime now!

Cainen was doing his best impression shadow at this point, desperately trying to sink into the floors or the walls, anything that could get him as far away from this as possible, or at the very least not get noticed. Yelling like this often ended with him at the wrong end of a switch more often than not.

For all her usually imposing demeanor and indifferent airs, the young kelvic could tell Amanda was worried, and he knew exactly why. One of the few perks of attending the woman was sometimes he’d overhear things he wasn’t meant to. That was how he knew why the soldier was here too. That was also how he knew why the others who carried swords and bows that usually patrolled the grounds were all of a sudden gone, their posts abandoned. Amanda had gone on a tirade early this morning when she realized the men were missing, yelling and snarling about family politics until she was red in the face. She had mentioned names like the ‘Lurks’ and the ‘Validizarians’ with utter contempt, terms Cainen had never heard before, but by the way she spoke of them, it seemed as if Lady Nitrozian considered these ‘families’ to be more than just mere nuisances and distractions like she did most other things that kept her from her research.

Cainen also knew why she’d been desperate enough to go so far as to contact her father for aid. It seemed no coincidence that her protection was called away so soon after the escape, especially not when rumors were abound among the scientists that the escapees were coming back. Apparently they learned of this impending threat via an arrow through a window with a crudely written note tied to it, he’d heard. It seemed as if they were returning not to turn themselves in or beg for forgiveness as some of the more delusional humans had imagined, but instead to burn this place to the ground and free their brethren from their chains as they had been freed.

The thought of it alone was enough to make even the stoutest hearts waver… or the smallest hopes blossom.

Be at ease, my lady.” The man named Caldera casually assured his near frothing compatriot. “We are prepared, you have my word. As long as you and your colleagues have availed yourself to my instructions as I laid them out, all we need do is await the appointed hour of your Kelvics and all should be-

The pale man’s words trailed off as a light from outside the office window illuminated the glass. Cainen stared at it in quite wonderment and mounting unease. The sky outside was the color of a bruise, the twilight hour having almost ended by now and the darkness eagerly coming to claim its place over all. Amidst the backdrop of the night however, a smoking stream of yellow and oranges now pierced the skies, and the boy realized it was fire. A ball of fire, to be precise, hurtling through the black.

Ah, speak of the Defiler. Our guests have arrived.” Caldera said with a knowing smile. “That was one of my glyphs they triggered. They won’t be far now. Lets go greet them, shall we.

Cained heard a clicking noise and after tearing himself away from the window, realized it was the Stryfer snapping his fingers at him, beckoning to come over. He glanced at mistress Nitrozian reactively to see what she wanted. She shot him a hard glance out of the corner of her spectacles, then nodded. Nervously, he made his way over to the man’s side, but he barely reached the tall man's hip in height and was forced to look up at him. The soldier’s cold gaze fell upon him fully now, and Cainen suppressed a shudder. He noticed the man’s hand was still outheld for him though. He didn’t have anything to give, nor was he being offered something. It took him an uncomfortable tick to recognized what the gesture meant. Without recourse left to him, he anxiously placed his hand in the man’s. Instantly, it was enveloped, black gloves consuming Cainen’s comparatively miniature and dainty fingers. The next thing he new, they were walking, leaving the office and traversing down the clinically clean hallway that lead outside. For some reason, the boy was surprised by the touch of the pale skinned soldier. It was a great deal more gentle than he had expected.

Canden, was it?

Cainen, master.” The boy stuttered in reply. They were passing a number of other scientists lining the passageway. They looked scared. Some even wielded weapons like crossbows and clubs, though they appeared as comfortable with weapons in their hands as they would a swarming hive of bees. They weren’t warriors. Most couldn’t even pretend to be.

Your mother sounds like a brave woman.” Caldera continued, his eyes locked front and center as their pace quickened. “It seems she’s come back to take you with her. Isn’t that lovely.

Cainen didn’t know how to answer that.

I predict there will be a great deal of yelling and shouting and threatening to take place soon. I don’t want you to be frightened by it, but more importantly, I don’t want you to get caught up in all the excitement either, do you hear me?

He nodded vigorously.

She will call to you boy, as all mothers do. You will not go to her, understand? You will not move from my side until I allow it. Otherwise, I cannot insure your safety… or hers.

They were getting closer to the door. Closer to this confrontation he had no idea how to handle. Cainen hesitated. He could feel that pit in his belly he got when things were coming undone around him. It was strangling sensation of dread that made his limbs weak and his brow sodden with sweat. He felt as if he couldn’t breathe, like the air in his lungs had simply decided it had better things to do than keep him upright and moving anymore. His chest was tightening, his eyes bulging. He didn’t-

You’re afraid.” The words snapped him back to reality, and with a shock, he realized he was face to face with the soldier now, the man having taken him aside and knelt down before to match his height. His face was covered in scars both small and large, and every time his mouth moved to speak, they stretched and shrunk with hypnotizing effect. “You’re afraid, and you've every right to be.” Caldera continued, his harsh glare trapping Cainen’s in its icy grasp. "You believe you know exactly how this is going to end, or worse yet, you have no idea, and its petching terrifying. I understand.

The boy stared at the soldier, puzzled by this sudden turn in tone and tenor.

They’re entering the yard.” He heard Amanda sneer from behind him as she peered out the oval windows of the front main doors.

I used to feel the same thing you’re feeling right now. That trepidation. That fear.” The stryfer held his hand aloft between them, and Cainen watched in equal parts alarm and awe as some sort of ocean blue… thing, began to pool and float just above his palm. It was like nothing he’d ever witnessed, and trying to describe it’s characteristics proved more and more impossible as its size steadily began to grow. Was it gas, was it liquid, or some kind of combination of both?

I use to feel it all the time, because I use to believe -and perhaps I still do- that if something could go wrong, it would. But then I discovered something.” The soldier said, an unbeffiting smile touching the corner of his lips as he placed a hand over the top of the strange, undulating orb, and twisted. “Not everything is as it appears,” He whispered as the mass of blue magic suddenly burst into a thousand tiny droplets swirling and and dancing around them both. Before he knew it, the blue was gone, vanished before his very eyes. In its place was left the same smiling stryfer. “And not everything is worth being afraid of.

Once more, Cainen was offered his hand, and once more he took it as the three of them -he, the Caldera, and Amanda strode out the front doors and into the grassy courtyard of the Kelvic Research Institute. Awaiting them there on the other side of the grounds was a cadre of men and women, each armed to the teeth with all manner of rusty weaponry and scavenged bits of armor. Cainen had eyes for none them however, for at their center, and leading at the head of the pack, was the largest and most menacing dire wolf he’d ever seen in his life. Taller than a man by half and nearly twice as long, its fur was a mottled and grayish patchwork of old wounds and ragged reminders of battles long past. Familiar dark eyes peered from beneath scarred brows, and as they settled on Cainen, he couldn't help but smile.

Mom.


WC - 3570
Last edited by Elias Caldera on December 2nd, 2018, 4:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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A Better Way

Postby Zavya on November 24th, 2018, 3:50 am

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My son is still there. I need your help. Three days, we take them down. If you still remember your roots, if you still care for us at all, don’t let what happened to you or me or any of us happen to him. Meet us there. Stand on the right side. Don’t let them win.

-F


The note crumpled in Zavya’s palm after she reread it for what felt like the hundredth time. Her fingers were white-knuckled around the slip of parchment, fist trembling. The dire wolf Zavya knew only as “Fang” had no idea what she asked of her. The danger the slave was in if she got caught. The punishment she would face if Ryker had even an inkling that she’d helped out in some sort of Kelvic revolution. What was the wolf thinking, sending her such a note? What did she expect her to do?

Zavya paced restlessly across the floor of her tiny chamber, tossing the unwanted correspondence into the nearby fire. Tonight was the night she was expected to arrive, to join the rabid pack of shapeshifters marching on the Kelvic Research Institute. The tigress was at a loss of what to do. She could well understand the wolf’s desire to rescue her son, but to overthrow the Institute entirely? It was madness. Complete and utter madness. How could they possibly hope to succeed?

And to go back there… The blood froze in her veins at the thought. After everything she’d been through, after three years of nothing but pain, why would she ever want to step foot on those grounds ever again? Molten gold eyes glazed over in memory, halting in front of the fire and staring into its depths. Licks of flame reflected in her gaze as she recalled a particularly vivid night, one that would stay with her until the end of her days.

The metal at her back was cold. So very cold. She could still remember how freezing it was, skin prickling in gooseflesh at the memory. Her arms and legs were strapped down so she couldn’t resist, a length of dark cloth wrapped around her eyes to keep her blind. They tried to claim it was to prevent her from panicking, but she knew better. They knew the fear caused by removing a creature’s sight. These disgusting men thrived on that fear, and took pride in eliciting it.

Impersonal hands probed at her stomach, painfully poking and prodding as if she were nothing more than a sack of flour. “How many times did you say she’s conceived?” was a detached voice above her, the man’s nasally drawl bored.

“This last time was her third,” another voice promptly replied from across the room, followed by a few murmurs of agreement.

“Third, you say? Hm.” At that last comment, those hands were removed and the tigress breathed out a sigh of relief. Of course, she should have known better than to think that was the end of it. When had that ever been the end?

Keen ears picked up on the sound of metal clinking softly against metal—an instrument being picked up or put down was her guess. Her heart thudded against her ribs as she pondered what manner of instrument, skin breaking out in a cold sweat. “And you’ve examined her?” that same nasal voice intoned over her head before she heard another clink of metal. Selecting a different tool perhaps?

“More times than we can count,” another voice replied, this one a little deeper than the others. “We can find nothing wrong, at least nothing we’re familiar with.”

“I see. I would say you simply haven’t done a thorough enough examination then. You can always find the cause. You simply have to
dig hard enough.” With that, the Kelvic felt a searing flash of pain against the lower region of her stomach, one that she’d never felt before. It was a paralyzing moment while her brain took the time to process the agony her body was enduring, momentarily numb with shock. Only ticks later, the tigress was screaming, an ear-shattering cry that echoed off the walls of the room.

The Kelvic writhed against her bonds, thrashing back and forth as she tried to move away from the hands that sought to inflict such pain, but it was not to be. Immediately, she felt at least four different pairs of hands holding her down, pinning her to the table as she felt another slash across her abdomen. A feral snarl accompanied her next scream, veins cording against her skin as she felt fingers begin to probe into the opening they’d just made. Agonized tears soaked the fabric of her blindfold before she mercifully fell into unconsciousness, falling limp in the arms of those who held her.


Zavya pulled herself from the flashback with a snarl as feral as the one back then, one hand pressed to the throbbing scar across her pelvis. How could Fang expect her to go back there, knowing what the tigress had gone through? It wasn’t her son that was at stake! Why should she help at all?

Because if it was your son, she’d be there to help before you could even ask. And you know it.

It was no mistake the Kelvic had never carried to term, and the dire wolf had been the one to help ensure it never happened. She knew the pain inflicted by a child’s separation; she knew the life the children were bound for. After the fight that had given Zavya the permanent claw marks across her thigh, she and Fang, or whatever she was calling herself now, had become fast friends. She was the one creature in the entire Institute she knew she could count on. And now that the tables were turned, here she was. Hesitating. Reluctant to even think of giving her old friend the help she so desperately needed.

But do they really need me? she asked herself as she resumed her furious pacing, her stride threatening to leave an indentation in the very floor. From what I hear, she has an entire following. What will one more body really do?

As if she was just some ordinary body. Zavya knew well the impact a four hundred pound tiger could have on a battle, her teeth and claws powerful enough to rip grown men to shreds with hardly the blink of an eye. She knew why the wolf wanted her help. But she had to be the one to decide if it was worth the risk.

You’ve taken risks before and gotten away with it, she reasoned with herself, her pacing halted as she heard signs of movement in the conjoining room. Ryker was back from dinner and would be summoning her soon. She wouldn’t have much more time for contemplation once he got his hands on her. She had to decide. Soon.

As if on cue, the knob on the door that connected their bedrooms began to turn, Zavya turning toward the entrance with a resigned look on her face. She knew well what would come next as he opened the door, that telltale look in his eye making clear his intentions. A single finger crooked in her direction, the arrogant man not even bothering to give voice to his order. She knew what he wanted, and even if she protested, she knew he would get it. One way or another.

It was easier to save her strength and simply acquiesce, shedding her clothing as she stepped reluctantly into his embrace. Immediately, she could smell the liquor on his breath, a rare indulgence for which she thanked every god in existence. If she decided to go through with this mad plan, his inebriation would make at least one part of the process that much easier.

Ryker’s hand tangled in Zavya’s dark locks, yanking her head back as he planted a firm, almost rough kiss on her unwilling lips. His other hand groped for the small key in his pocket, reaching behind her to unlock the collar around her neck. Another silent prayer of thanks was sent to whatever deity might be listening. When he laid her bare, he preferred to see all of her, a fact that would serve her well later in the night. So long as he had no presence of mind to put it back on after.

The next bell passed in much the same manner as it always did, though Ryker’s liquor dick made the process go on that much longer. When he finally spent himself within her, he collapsed at her side, arm wrapped possessively around her waist as he quickly lapsed into slumber. Well, at least that part was easy, Zavya thought, her inner voice as wry as it was disgusted.

Sore from his none too gentle ministrations, Zavya stared at the wall as she laid amongst the scattered bedclothes. It would be at least a few chimes before he was in a deep enough sleep for her to extricate herself from his grasp, and she used that time to think. To go or not to go? She had to make a decision before it was too late.

How could she say no to the one woman who had ever tried to help her in that godsforsaken place? The one friend she could rely on, the shoulder she’d soaked with tears until she had no more tears left. How could she even think to let her down?

But how could she help her? A golden tiger would be noticed should she decide to join the fray. Did she think it was even remotely possible that word of such a thing would not get back to Ryker, even if she did manage to sneak there and back without him noticing? She was the only tigress in the city, at least as far as she knew. Especially the only one with her color. Besides, it wasn’t as if she was a particularly altruistic person. She cared little for the others that joined the wolf, and their cause was not one she cared for. Even if they managed to free the other Kelvics, what then? What sort of life really awaited them on the outside? She could personally attest that it was no better on this side of the fence than the other. It was just a little prettier.

Nearly a bell passed as she went back and forth with herself in her fierce inner conflict, weighing out every possible pro and con from every possible angle. At last, she came to a decision, one that made her stomach uneasy with fear. Succeed or fail, she had to try. Worth the risk? She didn’t know, but she could never live with herself after if she didn’t go.

Ever so carefully, Zavya slid out from under Ryker’s arm and silently rolled out of the bed. When he turned over with a groan, her breath caught in her throat, sure she was about to be discovered. However, he did nothing more than pull the blanket over his shoulder and fall promptly back to sleep. The Kelvic’s shoulders slumped with relief, hastily retrieving and re-donning her discarded attire.

Now would come the tricky part, escaping the Valdinox estate without being stopped or questioned along the way. It wasn’t her night to keep guard, so those who saw her outside Ryker’s chambers would have every reason to ask why. Luck, stay with me tonight, she prayed silently as she reached for the doorknob, turning it as quietly as she could and slipping into the hall.

So long as I can get past the door guard and whoever’s prowling the grounds tonight, I should be able to make it out with no fuss, she mused as she crept down the hall, molten gaze vigilant for whoever else might be awake. She passed only one of the maids, the pair nodding to each other amicably enough as Zavya tried desperately to appear as if she wasn’t in a rush. “Nice night, isn’t it?” the tigress remarked to the passing servant, who offered a smile of agreement before carrying on. The Kelvic released a breath she hadn’t even realized she’d been holding as she continued for the exit before stopping in a shady alcove ahead of the front door.

Larken’s on duty, she observed, the man standing vigilant at his post. Can’t sneak out under his very nose. I need a distraction. Nervous eyes darted to and fro, settling on a nearby vase. Perfect. Casting her sight around to make sure she wasn’t watched, she darted out to retrieve the object before slipping back into her little niche from before. Hefting it in her grasp, she took a deep breath. I really hope this works. Pulling it back, she tossed it as hard as she could, the porcelain antique shattering against the far wall.

The startling sound pulled Larken away from the door, the man running into the other room just as she hoped he would. It’s now or never. As soon as he turned the corner, Zavya ran for it, legs carrying her out the door just as fast as they would move. She briefly basked in a job well done before she dropped to a crouch behind the outer wall. Don’t get too cocky now. There’s still one more.

There she was, a bored looking female patrolling the outermost edge of the estate. Amelia. She identified the woman by the flame red of her hair, the high set of her shoulders. Don’t know that she’ll be as easy to fool as Larken. Best keep low and stay quiet. Hopefully she just won’t see.

Thankful for the cover of darkness, Zavya did just that—keeping low to the ground and stepping as silently as she could. She kept close to the wall, gaze flicking every so often to the guard’s progress. So far, she seemed not to have noticed, and the Kelvic silently prayed her luck would continue to hold out.

A sudden sound nearby turned Amelia’s attention in her direction, Zavya instantly dropping to the ground behind an artfully arranged pile of stone. The guard came within inches of the Kelvic’s location, Zavya hardly daring to breathe with the other woman so close by. Her fists were clenched hard enough for her nails to draw blood from her palms, but the tigress didn’t move a muscle. She couldn’t fail, not now. Not while she was so close.

The tense moment finally passed, Amelia moving on past where Zavya lay. She waited a few ticks before she slowly sat up, cautiously searching out the other’s location. Fortunately, she was well out of immediate sight, so Zavya moved to her feet again. Almost there, she thought, moving a little faster now that Amelia was farther away. A few more steps, and I’ll have pulled it off.

The gods were smiling on her that night, Zavya leaving the Valdinox grounds with her breath held in her lungs. When at last she passed from the Noble District and out into the city proper, she released it, and a broad grin crossed her face. She’d done it! She was out! One challenge defeated, and who knew how many more to go?

Her travel through the city and toward the lakeshore passed without further incident, keeping her golden gaze averted from those she walked by. So long as no one recognized her, she would be all right. The fact that Ryker kept her so close at hand combined with the encroaching darkness worked in her favor; it wasn’t likely anyone would take special note. At least not until she reached her destination.

Each step that brought her closer to the KRI filled Zavya with a lingering sense of dread. Her feet shuffled along the ground as if filled with stone, more and more reluctant to continue forward the closer she came. What if they caught her? Would they return her to her master or simply throw her back beyond those walls? She wasn’t sure which option was worse, a shudder travelling down her spine at the thought.

At last, her destination was within her sight, the stark walls of the Kelvic Research Institute coldly welcoming her back home. “I can’t do this,” she whispered, stopping in her tracks as her heart sped to the point she thought she might pass out. Her hands trembled; sweat beaded on her forehead. “This was a mistake. I shouldn’t have come here.”

Zavya started to turn around, to go back the way she’d come, and that’s when she saw her. An enormous dire wolf, covered in scars from head to toe—a few of which had been bestowed by the tigress herself. Fang. The Kelvic had no idea what the woman went by now, if she kept the simple name from her years of bondage, or if she had forged a new identity for herself. But whoever she was now, the same heart still beat within. As soon as Zavya’s gaze rested on that wolf, she knew she couldn’t turn back. No matter the outcome, she couldn’t leave her behind.

“I’m doomed,” she said aloud as she strode forward, loosening the ties of her clothing in case she needed to shift. It was clear there was already a standoff happening, Fang standing in front of her pack of renegades across from a group of rather unhappy looking humans. Amanda Nitrozian was among them, an icy shiver raising the hair on the back of Zavya’s neck. She knew that woman’s face very well, and it was one she’d never had any desire to see again. Beside her was a pale man, so very pale, almost unnaturally so, and dressed in the stark black of the Ebonstryfe. Stryfers too? This is a fool’s errand. If they’re here… this was over before it began.

Beside the man stood a young Kelvic, one who only had eyes for the dire wolf on the other side. Zavya glanced between him and the pack leader, her own eyes narrowed. The way his attention trained on her, and the way she never broke his gaze in return… That was her son. It had to be. She glanced between the two groups again, nails tearing at the same indentations she’d created in her palms. He can’t be out here for anything good. Do they mean to negotiate? Or to simply kill him in front of her?

Zavya hung back, quietly creeping toward where the group of Kelvics stood. Their ragtag armor and rundown weapons would be no match for the trained discipline of the Ebonstryfe, the tigress silently praying she and Fang were not the only predators among them should worse come to worst. Her luck had held out the majority of the night, but it was bound to break eventually. Please don’t be a bunch of mice and bunnies, she thought as she crept toward the back of the crowd, nervously scanning the nearby faces. I hope she chose her friends well.

Every nerve in Zavya’s body was on high alert, teeth digging into her lip as her attention shifted rapidly between Fang and her son. Maybe I can convince her this is a suicide mission, she thought as she melted into the group, carefully pushing her way to a space where she could see the wolf, but remain unseen by the humans. Perhaps they might even hand over her son if she calls off the rest.

Before she acted, however, she would wait to hear the other side’s demands. Perhaps the wolf would see reason even without her intervention. One can hope, right? Zavya thought, even if she lacked the confidence in such a thing occurring. The Kelvic had never known much reason for hope.


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Zavya
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A Better Way

Postby Elias Caldera on December 3rd, 2018, 1:13 am

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He’d been dreaming of this day for as long as he could remember.

Ever since his bondmate had been killed, he realized somberly. Years and years of plotting and planning, of imagining every little detail about the exact moment he’d finally get to sate his vengeance. With fire and steel and claw, he’d reap from those that thought themselves better than beasts everything they’d ever taken from him and more. He’d warmed himself on cold night with such thoughts. It never failed to bring a smile to his lips when there was no other reason in the world to be happy.

Today was the day he finally got to do more than dream. Today was the day he knew everything changed.

It seemed like a life time ago now since the grief and horror of watching Rupert be cut down before his eyes had seized control of his shattered mind. They’d thrown him in shackles and sold him off to the highest bidder after that, shipped like a sack of grain from one hellhole to another to toil and die on the whims of monsters. He’d suffered and served for only as long as it took his mind and body to heal though, for no chains or bindings had ever been able to hold Sorin for long. Rupert had known that about him -his ‘masters’ had not.

The freedom that followed had been bittersweet; fighting the wilds for every scrap and morsel, hiding from everything that walked on two feet or more, scrounging just to survive day in and day out. It had been a new nightmare he’d been as unprepared for as the last, but it was freedom none the less, and it was his, and so he’d reveled in it as much any man could.

It wouldn’t have lasted long of course. Something would have gotten him in the end, whether that was the slavers or his own foolishness, it didn’t matter. It wasn’t until he met the Lady had he realized how stupid and selfish he’d been. She had changed his life -saved it even. With her, his purpose had been made clear… but it wasn’t until he met Fang, did he have the nerve and the means to make that purpose a reality.

Sorin had introduced many an escaped slave to their encampment in the past. It was his job to go out and find the ones who needed their help, as the Lady had taught him. Usually, when he brought these tortured and terrified souls back to their home, they were as much scared as they were grateful. Fang however, had rolled into the hideout like a storm, all bluster and boiling blood. When the direwolf had first beheld their meager haven nestled deep within the confines of Ravok’s swamplands, she had growled with contempt. That was the moment Sorin knew the woman was different than all the others. Even with the fresh crossbow bolt wound in her shoulder, she’d stomped and cursed and bared her teeth at them, demanding why so many had chosen to do so little. She’d railed against them all, even the Lady herself, and watching the two clash -or rather, watching Fang clash against the impenetrable serenity of the Lady, was beyond tense. The wolf was fury and fire and everything their verdant savior was not, yet together Sorin couldn’t think of two stronger, more perfect women in the world.

Gods above, now was not the time to be blushing.

To say he was smitten by the gray haired huntress might have been an understatement, but it was true and he could not deny it. She had… inspired him. It was the only word for it. The wolf had only been with them a few days, but in that short amount of time Fang had managed to stir up such a fervent and zealous fervor in them all, Sorin included. She reminded him of Rupert, in a way. They both had a strength of will that could not be matched and he saw that strength personified in Fang. Sorin imagined she’d done the same for a lot of the others as well, because when the freshly escaped slave made her rallying call and declared she was marching back to Ravok to save all of their brothers and sister still stuck in captivity, many had chosen to follow.

A pang of regret hit the hawk kelvic as he recalled the moment they had begun their long trek to the shore. He wished he could have said something to the Lady of the Wood who had done so much for him, but he knew she would not forgive him for this. ‘Safety and solidarity’, it was all she had ever preached, and to see her most trusted son betray that… he didn’t need to look back to know how much he’d broken her heart.

Yet Fang was right. Tears and prayers would not be enough anymore. This needed to be done, and just dreaming about it wasn’t the answer.

That was why they were here that night, standing in the very heart of darkness itself. The ‘KRI.’ The source of so much of Ravok’s slavery and woe. Sorin had never been a guest of this place himself, but he’d heard more than his fair share of horror stories from those who had. They had planned to take this wretched compound by force, but it seemed as if fate was on their side. No blood had been shed or lives lost in the siege. In fact, the gates had been left open and they’d simply walked in and taken the place like it was nothing!

Well… almost. There was still one little hindrance standing in their way.

Either an arrogant fool or just a dumb one, Sorin thought angrily as he glared at the ebony wrapped warrior. He stood alone before more than a dozen armed and angry kelvics ready to tear him to pieces. Sure his armor and his sword may have been polished and refined while theirs were scraped together or outright stolen, but numbers didn’t lie. The man was dead if he thought he could stop them. Hell, he was dead even if he didn’t try.

Next to him however, stood a woman that could only be the one Fang described as Amanda. She looked as imperious and pompous as the wolf had said. It wasn’t her that Fang was staring at though, he noticed. It was the boy standing between both of them that had caught her attention and held it tight. Being just off to Fang’s right as he was, Sorin could see the muscles beneath her fur tense and her hackles rising in preparation for a charge. It was Cainen, the boy.

Her boy.

The child started to move, a hesitant step forward towards the direwolf, but stopped suddenly, eyes widening as if realizing his hand was still held in the grip of the black one standing over him. Cainen looked back at the stryfer, no doubt feeling a squeeze from the hold that held him. The pale man shook his head and the boy lowered his, meekly looking back to where his mother stood. Fang too had been just as easily diffused by the simple gesture, her body deflating somewhat as her intentions became conflicted. If Cainen was being held hostage like this, then any misstep or wrong move could see her son harmed. It was the first time Sorin had ever sensed doubt in the woman, yet the rage that blossomed off of her was as palpable as ever.

The hawk was about to place a calming hand on her flank when he noticed movement on his periphery. Fang noticed it to, nostrils flaring ever so slightly as she caught the familiar scent of someone she seemed to recognize.

The wolf cocked its head ever to the side, breaking its stare on her son for the first time. Dark, animals eyes sought that of a golden tinted gaze trying to hide amidst the throng of slaves at their back. Like all creatures, t was hard to read a kelvic when they were in their other form, but Sorrin could have sworn he saw a smile on the fierce wolf’s muzzle.

My name is Elias Caldera. Commander of the Ebonstryfe.” Said the pale man barring their way. Everyone’s snapped back to the situation at hand.

No one gives a flying petch who you are, soldier boy.” Sorin fired back, his words carrying on the wind as it picked up around them. Good for flying, he mused to himself as he leveled his crossbow at the stryfer. Not so good for shootingNot now while you’re breathin’, and even less so after you’re dead.

Cold blue eyes flashed over to Sorin and the hawk met them without flinching. There was no reason to afraid of black clad cock suckers like this, not anymore. “So,” Sorin continued, shouting across the courtyard that divided them as he drew a few steps closer, crossbow at the ready. “Tell you what, drop that fancy sword, relieve yourself of that armor, unhand the boy, and maybe we’ll let you scamper back to your sweet city on the lake when were done. How’s that sound, soldier? It more mercy than you deserve. More mercy than you show us.” He gave the signal for the others to advance forward with him. Shale and Rial broke away from the pack and moved upon the silent command, their own bows drawn and ready to fire. This whole time Sorrin had been watching, waiting, eyes peeled for the ambush or trap that should have been waiting around every corner, but nothing came, and soon he knew nothing would. This fool was alone. The only thing standing between them and the slaughter that awaited behind those doors.

I can't let that happen.” Came a cool and emotionless response from the soldier. He held his ground, even as the kelvics advanced. Even Amanda, this legendary bitchbeast of Fang’s seemed unnerved. The frizzy haired woman was whispering frantically into his ear, the look of desperation etched into her features growing deeper and more profound with each step her demise drew closer. He could hear what she was saying. Well, not ‘hear’ exactly as much read. Her lips moved like all humans’, and Rupert had taught him long ago how to decipher those little twitches and quirks to make sense of voices too far away to be heard. She was nervous, confused. The soldier had likely asked her why there were so many of them, but Amanda responded by repeating something she’d apparently made clear before. Not all of these slaves had escaped from the Institute. These were not hers. It didn’t seem to bother the male, or if did, he was good at hiding his fear.

Neither will I allow you another step forward.” The sleek, metal hiss of steel leaving leather resounded like thunder in his ears. As the did the heavy thud that followed. The stryfer had drawn his blade and stabbed it into the earth. A warning. A line that would not be crossed.

A bluff.

Rial stopped in his tracks. Sorin shot him an angry glance, but the man was frozen, his hands trembling on the trigger of his weapon. Oh petch… The hawk groaned inwardly. He should have never brought the old rabbit. He knew the man wasn’t strong enough for this. He knew he’d waver and-

TWANG!

The snap of a string going taught, the whiz of a bolt unleashed.

Sorrin snarled in shock. Rial had fired, the petching fool! The boy was still standing there and he had fired!

Hold your fir-

Sorrin’s bellow was lost in a sudden gust of wind. He felt himself nearly thrown of kilter by the surge, his long brown hair whipping frantically about him as did his old patchwork cloak. He had to close his eyes in the face of the wind, but when he opened them again, part of him wished he hadn’t.

He saw Rial’s bolt and where it had ended up. Not in Cainen as he’d feared, nor the stryfer’s neck as he’d hoped. No, instead the thing hung in the air, motionless and unnaturally mere feet away from the outstretched hand of the Caldera. Around it, wind whipped and whizzed in a shivering bubble, locking it in place.

“Mage…” Came a horrified whisper from the crowd.

Rial was already running, crossbow abandoned on the floor where he’d dropped it. He’d been nervous ever since they’d triggered that -whatever it was- in the forest. The sight of magic always terrified the old coot, and now that he was face to face with it, instinct took hold of his cowardly heart. Shale, wide eyed and petrified, broke free of her stupor and jerked her weapon up. Sorrin watched as the sorcerer twirled his finger and the bolt turned in the air with it. Now, all of a sudden, it was facing them.

He flicked his finger, and the next thing any of them knew, Shale was on the ground, screaming.

Lets try this again. My name is Elias Caldera. Commander of the Ebonstryfe, and I’ve come… to negotiate.


@ZayvaOk, the set up is all done. I swear i'm gonna start roleplaying my own character at some point during this thread lol
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Elias Caldera
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A Better Way

Postby Zavya on December 8th, 2018, 4:32 am

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Zavya knew the moment Fang saw her, those dark eyes turning to meet iridescent amber. The tigress tipped her head in a small nod of acknowledgement, the barest of smiles resting on her lips. One hand was placed over her heart, a gesture of love that spoke more words than the Kelvic knew how to. Zavya couldn’t think of another for whom she’d ever put her life in such peril, and the fact that she was even here should tell the wolf just how much she cared for her. Fang seemed to understand, offering a brief wag of her tail in return. Even if the tigress had doubted herself, she’d known Zavya would come. She’d never even considered another possibility.

Their moment was short-lived, the pale man at Amanda’s side drawing the group’s focus back in. Elias Caldera. Zavya turned the name over in her head, brow furrowed in thought. Why does that sound so familiar? Before she could answer her own question, her attention was pulled to the shouting man at Fang’s side—threatening, intimidating, posturing all while an impassively cold face stared back at him. The Stryfer’s unnatural calm unnerved Zavya, her hair standing on end. What sane man could remain so composed while outnumbered and seemingly outmatched? One that knows something we don’t. One that knows he won’t lose. She paused. Or one that’s not very sane.

Nearly as soon as she had the thought, a crossbow fired nearby, Zavya’s head whipping in the direction of the sound. What petching fool…? The tigress nearly added her outraged voice to that of Sorrin’s before a sudden gale of wind had her covering her face against the dirt that sought her eyes. When it died down and she was able to see again, she wished she couldn’t. The bolt from the other Kelvic’s crossbow hung suspended in midair. And Elias was the one suspending it.

“No,” she whispered, but it was too late—a flick of his finger sending the projectile through the leg of another. The woman’s screams rent the air, but the black-clad soldier had accomplished his goal. He had their attention.

When the Ebonstryfe Commander repeated his name, Zavya’s blood ran cold. Shiress. She remembered how she knew that name—he was the man Shiress had saved from assassination. The lover she’d described in their intoxicated encounter. The tiger’s lip lifted in a silent snarl, unblinking fiery gaze locked on Elias. Did she know he was here, standing at the side of Amanda Nitrozian? And if she did… how could she possibly condone him defending the KRI—the place her bondmate had known only pain and torture? Perhaps she was in the dark. Or perhaps Zavya had misjudged someone yet again.

“Interesting negotiation tactic you’ve got there,” was Sorrin’s response after a considerable silence, Fang visibly bristling at his side. Whether her fury was directed at her compatriots for firing off an arrow that could very well have struck her boy or whether it was at the Stryfer’s demonstration of his power, it was impossible to tell. But furious she was, a low growl building in her throat. Her patience was wearing thin.

The others were growing more restless and nervous by the tick, Zavya among them. The group’s unease was palpable, and the tigress feared pandemonium would erupt at any moment. Her own skin fair twitched with excitement and terror alike, almost wishing for a fight. Anything had to be better than this… this waiting.

An enemy that can turn our weapons against us. And the Ebonstryfe Commander at that. What chance did they face against such odds? As if in answer to her unspoken fears, the Kelvic next to her gently nudged her elbow and put a finger to his lips. His eyes flickered toward the roof of the main building, Zavya frowning in question. She glanced in the direction he had before her own orbs widened in surprise. Six barrels of an unknown substance sat in a neat, evenly spaced line near the edge of the roof, and the subtle grin on the man’s features told her they had come from the group around her. A large bird circled the area, another of their number waiting for a signal. That’s something, I guess, she thought before turning her attention back to Fang and Sorrin. Whatever it is.

Sorrin gazed down at Fang’s grizzled face, the wolf looking up at him in determination. Her muzzle pointed in the direction of the boy at Elias’s side, then turned back to the hawk with a very pointed look. They would hear out what the pale bastard had to say. She would take no risk where Cainen was concerned. But they would make sure this Elias knew they were serious.

They have my son, she thought, furious. Unprotected and in plain view. If any of these fools let loose another arrow while he’s out in the open, I’ll kill them myself! Lip lifted in a snarl, she looked back at her group with a firm, very unwolflike shake of her head. They were not to move. Not until she said so. Her glare turned onto the screaming form of Shale before she turned back around and looked up at Sorrin to speak for her. He knew what to do.

“What are your terms, soldier boy?” Sorrin finally shouted, bow slack within his grasp. “And I’d suggest you make it worth our while. You might have your fancy tricks, but we have a few of our own.”

An unseen signal passed between him and the massive eagle flying overhead. Ramming into each of the barrels in turn, a thick, viscous substance flowed outward to coat the roof and drip down the walls of the KRI. A few of the Kelvics holding torches stepped forward, the archers among them brandishing their bows. They had come prepared. They wanted to make sure he knew it.

While all this was going on, Zavya’s molten gaze rested on the terrified visage of Amanda Nitrozian, the woman looking between them and Elias with clearly increasing anxiety. Her whispers in his ear were almost constant, Zavya able to see the shaking of her hands even at this distance. The tigress never thought she’d see the day where that woman was anything less than composed, and she couldn’t deny the almost sadistic satisfaction she felt in it now. My, my, how does it feel, bitch? the tigress thought, eyes flashing in fury. To watch them you tortured take control. My heart positively bleeds for you. Even if this was all a terrible mistake and none of them lived to see the next day… as far as Zavya was concerned, it was all worth it just to see that look on Amanda’s face.

Sorrin’s voice broke through Zavya’s reverie, the tigress turning her attention back to the situation at hand. The tension in the air was crackling. Any moment could ignite it.

“So. Now that the field’s a little more level… What did you wish to negotiate, Master Caldera?”


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EliasxD And what a mighty setup it was.
Last edited by Zavya on January 11th, 2019, 5:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
Zavya
Hear me roar
 
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A Better Way

Postby Elias Caldera on December 16th, 2018, 8:52 pm

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It didn’t take Elias long to realize he wasn’t going to like this squawking peacock of a man very much.

The emboldened Kelvic reminded him of a child who’d managed to slip into his parent’s liquor cabinet for the first time; drunk on a power he had not earned nor even truly grasped, yet still felt as if he’d more than deserved simply because it had been denied to him for so long. Power was always infectious like that, making addled thugs and monsters out of even the best of men and their intentions. The Caldera could only imagine what it would it feel like for a slave to find themselves with an opportunity to not only seize their freedom so triumphantly, but also rub it in the face of those who had pilfered it from them in the first place. Watching all that invigoration and newfound arrogance culminate into the little shyke eating grin now plastered upon the other man’s face annoyed the stryfer to no end. Annoyed him so much that he had to restrain himself from grinding his teeth or clenching his fists in retaliation. Not because of pride or an inborn sense of revile for all things beneath him… no, that smile irked Elias because he knew this petching bird and his gang of misfits had damn well earned it.

T-that is oil. Caldera, that’s oil!” Amanda shakily wheezed, head craned and twisted upwards as the dark, sludgy liquid came cascading down the side of the building. The stink had become a palpable miasma within seconds.

I see it, Lady Nitrozian.” The mage responded coolly as he stepped to the side to avoid an errant droplet. It was all he could do to keep his veneer of calm in the face of this new turn of events. Truly inspired, even he had to admit. They’d come more prepared for this than he had could have expected, using the absence of the guards to smuggle in a number of casks -likely stolen on the road or from the edges of the lakeshore outpost- and hide them until such a time as they would be needed. That took cunning and patience, a calculating mind that was just as callous as it was focused. Everything this ‘Sorrin’ was not. Elias knew this because he’d seen it in the man’s aura. Nothing could hide for long from a sorcerer who could divine truth from the very naked essence of all things. It was how he knew the Kelvic was a bird in the first place. He could feel the feathers as much as he could the hesitation and hubris. No, this had not been something this preening creature could have conjured in his simple mind. This was the work of someone with a purpose that outweighed their ego and their bloodlust despite the overwhelming gratification it would no doubt bring.

They’re going to destroy my work. Everything I’ve accomplished here. Everything I’ve dedicated my life to. Caldera, I command you to stop them. Use your magics like before, cull these beasts, put an end to this now!

Amanda’s stirring demands resounded across the courtyard, loud, impassioned, and dangerously compelling. Truth be told, it had been the reimancer’s first instinct to act as she had instructed even before the words had left her surly lips. He’d nearly attacked outright the moment he realized what was happening, but then the fire caught his eye, as the did the flash of steel and fangs. Defiant. Undaunted. This were things he’d rarely never seen in mere animals before. He could taste the fear flowing off each and every one of him with his auristic ability, but it was corrupted, tainted and made weak by the hint of courage they all shared. It was as if he beheld a scale before him; on one end, Ssena and her enfeebling influence. When they looked at Elias, when they considered his arcane arts and the horrors he could no doubt unleash upon them, it tipped towards the Lady in his favor. Yet, on the other hand, all it took was a mere glance at the dire beast, a small reminder of the bristling fur and the bulging wolfen frame brimming with power and determination that stood with them to send the weights toppling and the scale swing away from that fear and back on the side of hope.

Some of them -most of them, he imagined- were ready to die this day.

Needless to say, he was puzzled to realize such conviction steeled their hearts. It was enough to make him stay his hand and consider his options. He could attack, and maybe he’d get to them all fast enough. Maybe he could stop every spark and ember from reaching the oil. Maybe he could do as the fiery heir of the Nitrozian’s bade him to… but maybe he’d fall short. Maybe he’d missed something else like he’d missed the barrels and it would come back to bite hi,... Maybe he’d lose.

The soldier spared a brief tick to look down at Cainen, the boy’s own gaze still firmly affixed to his mother’s unwaveringly.

‘Maybe’ wasn’t good enough. Not today. Not when so much was on the line.

He had a plan. One that was slowly but surely falling into place even now. All he required was time and patience. This was not the moment to be losing his composure, nor allowing others to lose it for him.

I have this under control, my lady. Please-

This is madness!” Amanda barked, frustration overcoming her usual dispassionate rational. She stepped forward, much to Elias’s chagrin, and leveled a finger at the crowd of armed Kelvics standing across the way from her. The very same Kelvics who wanted her worse than dead, he hoped she remembered that.

This had gone too far, Freya. You will cease this nonsense immediately, do you hear me?

To Elias’s surprise -to everyone’s really- he realized Amanda wasn’t addressing the whole crowd, just the giant wolf that led it.

I’ve had just about enough of this temper tantrum. You will return to your habitat. You will remember your place. Or so help my Rhysol, Freya you will not-

That is not my name!

What followed was a flash of seething red light and a thunderous, bellowing snarl that shook Elias to his very core. Such was its fury and fervor that Amanda near leaped out of her shoes and even the stryfer himself took a step back. As the light quickly faded, in the place of gargantuan wolf at the head of the pack now stood poised a woman the likes of which the swordsman never before laid eyes upon. “That is not my name.” Came another, low, trembling growl. She took a step forward, shadows cast over her eyes and teeth all but bared. Her short mess of unkempt gray hair trembled atop her head with the rage that so vividly coursed through her impressive form. “That is the name you gave a slave.” Another step. Corded muscles, dense and defined as steel flowed from her broad shoulders to her calves. “The name you gave your toy -your experiment…” She was getting nearer. Breaking away from the herd and drawing too close for comfort, yet Elias did not act to intercede. In fact, to put it plainly, he was was transfixed. He could make out the scars that seemed to cover every inch of her olive skin. Big and small, brutal and benign, her tortured flesh was a tapestry that told the tale of a thousand different conflicts and a thousand different struggles overcome. Hers was a body forged hardships and hard-won victories, and each mark told a story as riveting as the next. To say Elias was mesmerized at first sight may have been something of an understatement.

Good lord, The bewitched soldier found himself musing inattentively, What sheer… perfection.

Naked as the day she was born and yet somehow even fiercer now than when she had been a wolf but moments earlier, the swordsman realized she now brazenly claimed a spot within spitting distance of the Nitrozian she despised.

Say it again and my fangs will find your throat before you have a chance to scream.” Came the crescendo of her threat. The way it rolled off her tongue with such sincerity and animosity sent a shiver down Amanda’s spine. He watched as the woman gulped and took a tentative step back until it was Elias whose focus Fang’s dark eyes fell upon at last. They lingered only a moment before eventually they fell to her son. “Its going to be ok, little one. I’m going to take you away from all this, I promise.

Mom…” Cainen stirred, anxious and desperate, but Elias’s hold on the boy had only tightened in light of recent events, and soon the young child was pulled in front of the stryfer, black gloved hands falling firmly upon his shoulders as his captor studied the beast who’d come to take him back. The fact that Elias was licking his lips as he stared at her only brought a snarl from the muscular woman. “If you hurt him, I swear I will do to you everything I intend to do to her.” Fang sneered, eyes flickering over to Amanda. Thankfully, the irate scientist now stood behind her protector, quite content to let the armed guard deal with matters from now on it seemed.

Threaten her again, and I’ll give you no choice but to try.” Elias responded cruelly, making a show of his hands deepening their hold on Cainen’s shoulders.

You’re a coward.” The wolf barked, “A pathetic, cravenly weakling. I’ll eat your petching heart!

Elias pretended to smile. “I see you have a gift for diplomacy, madam Fang. May I call you that?

You’re lucky to be alive Ravokian, don’t push it.” Sorrin warned as he walked up alongside his much taller compatriot. The bird had placed a calming hand on her shoulder, but it seemed hardly effective. The woman was clearly distraught, caught between two whirling maelstroms howling inside her buxom chest. One born of concern over the wellbeing of her progeny, and another of her sheer, unbridled anger.

You taunt a mother with the life of her child and expect her to be calm. She’s right, you are a coward and a bastard, and i'm certain if Fang has to suffer speaking to you again she's going to rip you into to little pieces. Spare us all the mess and direct your bullshyke at me from now on. Now, Say your piece and we’ll consider whether or not you’re worth listening to.

No... Not alone.” Fang muttered under he breath. Sorrin turned to her, perplexed, but the wolf had turned her head back to the gang of kelvics. They looked at her, ready to act on her command and set this place alight if so ordered, but Fang’s eyes sought out only one among their number. One she apparently thought she could trust above all the others.

Z,” She called out. “I need you."
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A Better Way

Postby Zavya on December 18th, 2018, 6:34 am

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There are moments in everyone’s life, moments so pivotal, so drastic that time seems to warp and freeze, that the world seems to stop around them. The moment Fang summoned her to her side was one of those moments for Zavya, the tigress paralyzed as the wolf called her forward. I can’t! she thought desperately, head whipping back and forth as if someone might step in to save her. All she saw were impassive faces, some even infused with jealousy that she was the one their heroine would call to join her. Zavya wished for that task no more than they did. I’m neither leader nor diplomat! I’ll fight at your back until the day we die, but this? I can’t!

But even as she had those thoughts, the tigress knew she could never resist those dark eyes pulling her in, silently imploring her for the help she’d never asked for. Doomed, she thought for the second time that night, screwing her eyes shut and praying this was all a dream. When they reopened, she found herself very much awake and took a trembling breath. But doomed with her is better than doomed alone.

Her stride was achingly slow as she stepped forward from the band of Kelvics, holding her chin stubbornly high as the others melted back. Zavya did not let her fear or uncertainty show, her movements as deceptively confident and graceful as the animal she held inside. She was a predator, by all the gods, and these humans should know themselves as prey. The Kelvic did not stop until she stood at Fang’s side, the woman looking at her with an approving smile. “I’m here,” Zavya said, her voice hard as stone. While not as tall or as imposing as the wolf at her side, the tigress was a striking figure in her own right, the molten gold of her eyes resting first on the pale face of Elias Caldera.

Amanda straightened as soon as Zavya stepped forward, her lip curling in anger. “Should have known that one would be here,” she hissed before looking back at Elias. “She and Fr-Fang were thorns in my side, constant trouble makers no matter how many lessons they were taught.” She sneered in Zavya’s direction, the act as much to show her resentment as it was to cover her fear. “Have you ever seen a tiger, Elias? Imagine a striped cat the height of that wolf but twice the weight and teeth as long as daggers.” Her chin jerked in the direction of the golden-eyed woman at the dire wolf’s shoulder. “Now combine that with the creature saw before and just imagine what sort of trouble they caused. She could’ve been a promising creature, had she not been so corrupted, but…” Amanda shook her head with a disdainful sneer. “She was sold in the spring to one of the Valdinox. And speaking of…”

The Lady Nitrozian took a step from behind Elias’s back to address the newest arrival, “What does your master think of you being here, Taryn?” Much as she’d done with Fang, Amanda called Zavya by the name she’d been given as a cub, one she hadn’t heard since Ryker bought her. Amanda shook her head slowly, tsking under her breath. “Imagine what he’ll do when he finds out… Do you think he’ll even keep you? Maybe he’ll just give you right back to us, and then what will all of this have been for, hm? Don’t be a fool, girl. Don’t forget what happened the last time you and Fang here threw a fit.”

At first, Zavya seemed not to even hear the woman’s taunts, her attention locked on the icy blue of the Stryfer’s eyes. She couldn’t get thoughts of Shiress out of her mind as she stared at him, unable to reconcile the kind woman in her memory with the cold visage of the man before her. How could this be the man she gave her heart to? What sort of depths was she not seeing? Zavya glanced down at his hands tightening on Cainen’s shoulders and swallowed hard before she finally seemed to heed Amanda’s rambling. Her sharp gaze turned to the Nitrozian instead, a snarl curling her own lip.

“I don’t think you’re in the position to be making such threats right now,” Zavya seethed in response, even if she had dived right into the heart of what the tigress was so afraid of. However, the fear was fading with each passing tick, terror dissolving into pure and untainted fury. She was nearly a mirror image of the wolf she so adored, muscles taut with consuming anger and visceral hatred. The smile that followed was unnerving, full lips peeling back to reveal teeth far sharper than any human’s. “Do you really believe you’re going to live to tell him?” she purred.

Amanda’s face drained further of color, Zavya’s chest shaking in a raspy laugh. The tigress snapped her teeth in her direction, laughing again as the woman jumped back behind her black-clad protector. “That’s what I thought, you pathetic cunt,” she growled. “Doesn’t feel so good not to be the one in control, does it?”

By then, Amanda’s face was blood red, apoplectic with rage. “Elias, do something!” she demanded yet again, fists clenched at her sides. “Are you just going to stand there and let these animals threaten us?!”

“You’re more animal than we are, Amanda Nitrozian,” Fang said as Zavya quieted once more, dark eyes flashing in the scientist’s direction. Her confidence reinvigorated by her friend at her side, she went on, “A pitiful, cowardly creature that calls on the Ebonstryfe to fight her battles for her and uses an innocent child as a bargaining chip. But you all would call us the monsters.” The magnificent creature shook her head in disgust.

“You can only beat a dog so much before it turns on you,” the wolf continued. “And we are far more than dogs, even if you thought to treat us that way. Did you truly expect that we would go on in the same way until the end of time? That we’d forever expose our bellies and never bare our teeth? You know more about Kelvics than anyone, Amanda. You should have known something like this would happen.”

Fang turned her gaze briefly to Cainen, the boy’s eyes never leaving hers even as Elias’s fingers dug further into his flesh. He knew his mom would never let this man hurt him. There was nothing she couldn’t overcome. She was the strongest woman in the world. They’d never bring her down. Seeing his blind faith gave Fang courage, and she knew she couldn’t fail him now.

Zavya listened to the wolf with pride, same as Sorrin and the others behind them. There wasn’t a one among them that wouldn’t lay down their lives for her, this tortured creature who sought to carve them out a better place in the world. There were no others Zavya would ever put such trust in, who she’d ever believe could actually do it, but watching Fang in all her fearless glory… The wolf seemed nearly a goddess herself. I made the right choice coming here, she thought to herself at last. Even if I don’t live to see tomorrow… at least I died for her.

“So come on, Elias. You said you came to negotiate, yet you continue to stand here and blither about. I’m starting to lose my patience. State your terms before I let my girl here rip out the little she-bitch’s throat. I’ll not ask again.” The wolf’s face was defiant as she stared him down, Zavya’s gaze resting intently on Amanda behind him.

Come a little closer, she silently dared the Nitrozian, a cruel smirk tilting her lips. Say another word and you’re all mine.


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A Better Way

Postby Elias Caldera on December 28th, 2018, 2:30 am

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She was everything he’d imagined her to be.

Triumphant in her defiance. Glorious in her rage. Freya was exactly as Amanda had described, and the ebonclad warrior couldn’t have been more thrilled to finally see the reality of it for himself. The truth of it was, Elias had been enamored from the moment he’d first heard her tale; pressing the Nitrozian heir for more and more details like a child would their parent reading them a bed time story. To think, a mere slave, bold enough not only to dare an escape from one of the most dangerous prisons in all of Ravok's territories, but with the added audacity to go so far as to rally her kinsman into doing the same! Never before had the soldier heard of her likes, and though every exasperated breath that slipped from the scientist’s lips about her former pet was dripping with venomous ire, the Caldera had only found himself more and more infatuated with this wondrous woman as he listened of her exploits. If he was being honest, he hadn’t quite believed she really existed… Yet here she was now, standing before him in all her naked magnificence.

Look how they worship her without saying a word. See how their eyes linger upon her splendor, how their spirits lift when she roars. They are in awe of this beast cloaked in the guise of a woman. How can they not be. The stryfer mused, his eyes locking with each of the slaves one by one in search of their true feelings. In particular he beheld a certain jealousy in Sorrin as plain as the dark clouds gathering overheard, the bird all but puffing his feathers out in indignation when he realized another now competed for his mistress’s favor. Elias could hardly blame the poor man. His competition appeared steep.

Both groups turned to watch as a new face stepped tentatively from the crowd. How he had failed to notice such stunning beauty slipping in among the others Elias could not say, but now that he had naught but eyes for her elegant frame and alluring gaze, it didn’t take long for the Ravokian to realize he was dealing with yet another predator on his hands. It was the way she carried herself that gave it away at first. He saw purpose in her stride. Confidence in the sway of her hips. Unabashed power in every step that brought her closer and closer to the thing they both knew she had been trying to avoid. ‘Golden Resplendence’ was the phrase that immediately sprung to mind as he laid eyes upon this curious and exquisite creature for the first time. Hers was an aura that gleamed like the sun, blazing and fiery and brilliant all at once. It was both a burning mane of fur about her slender shoulders and a radiant cloak of flame that caressed her powerful form. Her aura was truly remarkable in its uniqueness, yet at its center the light could not hide the darkness within. Marred by the same disease that sullied every soul’s light, no matter how brightly they shone. It was doubt that tainted her radiance, like a swirling miasma it lingered about the Tiger and the aurist felt it just as she did, yet Elias ignored this stain of hesitation, much more enthralled by the picture she was painting for the world to see than the unflattering reality hiding underneath.

As she boldly took her place at Fang’s side, Elias couldn’t help but note the way she looked at the wolf, and perhaps more tellingly, the way the wolf looked back at her. Curious he thought to himself as his cold scrutiny surveyed in detail this newest actress to take her place upon the stage. Now that the Kelvic was closer, Elias could make out the smooth, graceful curves that spilled from her loose-fitting dress, the contours of her picturesque face, the startling hues of her piercing golden eyes. Amidst it all however, the lean, hardened muscles had not escaped his grasp either, nor had the half sun tattoo inked into her hand.

Elias saw everything, and by everything he was impressed.

A tiger… He considered silently as he listened to Amanda’s explanation of yet another of her indignant slaves. He wondered what such a creature looked like, but as the golden woman abruptly bore her fangs at the scientist’s incorrigible taunting, it didn’t take much to elicit a pretty clear image in his head after that.

Elias was beginning to wonder if anyone actually liked this woman at all.

At first the sorcerer had expected this latest addition to Fang’s personal entourage to be some voice of reason and calm. A balm of sorts to the persistent state of fuming bitterness that made up her bigger, angrier companion. It became bashfully apparent such was not the case within only seconds of her arrival, for as the moment she was forced to suffer Amanda’s barbs the tigress turned just as hostile and bloodthirsty as her scarred ally. Even Sorrin, whose flustered eyes held nothing but envy for the woman moments ago seemed to consider this with some surprise, even going so far as to appear impressed by the outburst.

Elias couldn’t help but frown.

It was a sour and sorrowful thing, one that tugged at the edges of his old scars as he looked upon the three beasts arrayed before him. Such defiance. Such conviction. Maybe, just maybe, they would have had a chance to really pull this off, to do exactly as they had dreamed and accomplish all they dared to… Maybe. Just maybe. If it had been anyone else than me.

I know this feeling.” The stryfer uttered almost wistfully. “This swelling sense of pride and exultation that takes root in your chest. To feel so desperatly that you are right and to know that soon it will proven to everyone else. That feeling gives you courage. It grants you clarity in your purpose. It is vindication and impending victory all wrapped up in one gratifying sensation of… hope.” The swordsman finished with something akin to a sigh.

He affixed his gaze to Zayva, cold blue eyes delving into the blazing orbs that glared contumaciously back at him.

What happens next?

Was the stryfer’s first true question. His tone was as curious as it was pitying.

Have you asked yourself what happens after? After you slaughter us all, claim your vengeance, and burn this nightmare you once called a prison to ash?” Elias’s plainly leading insinuation was accompanied by a meaningful look between himself and the other two Kelvics in turn. “I imagine celebrations would be in order, hmm. You’d scurry back to your hovels in the swamp and proceed to drink, sing, and petch the night away in pure triumph. And you’d be every bit as deserving of such merriment too, I mean this…” Elias said, turning his attention to the main structure behind him, still dripping and viscous with the oil, then back to the small army of freed slaves across the way all armed to the teeth and ready to light the spark on a moment's notice. “This is inspired.” The Ravokian guffawed in what he hoped came across as sincere esteem. “They’ll be telling tales of your bravery for years to come. ‘The slaves who dared to bare their fangs and spit in the eye of the masters.’” Elias sighed longingly, as if he was there at the very heart of the moment he so vividly described.

I know few men bold enough to challenge the institutions that dictate our lot in life. But Kelvics? Slaves? You, Fang, are the first and only.” The mage continued, patting Cainen on his shoulder. “Your son here has every right to feel the pride he now does when he looks at you. Isn’t that right, young man.” Cainen didn’t answer, either unwilling to play into Elias’s game or unknowing he’d even been asked a question. It seemed to be the latter as a pair of guiding hands about him seemed to jolt the young slave back into reality however, and he soon realized he was being sent away. “Over there, with madam Nitrozian. There you go, that’s a good lad.” Elias cooed after him, watching as the boy hesitantly wandered back to where Amanda now stood a few feet away. It wasn’t far enough that he couldn’t overhear what was being said, but even the stryfer wasn’t comfortable saying what he had to say next with a child so close at hand.

As I said, I know this feeling. I know it all too well. Just as I know the bitter fall that always follows it.

Elias’s tone ad shifted dramatically. Now his words were steeped in something dark and sinister and all together unsettling.

So before you find yourselves swept away in its enticing embrace, let tell me what I know will happen next come the dawn.” A gloved hand, black and leathery, pointed suddenly to the south where Ravok drifted, a beacon of light and civilization amidst a placid sea of serenity. “News will reach the Eternal City of your 'glorious victory,' and soon enough the world will know what happened here; they will know that slaves have risen up against their masters and slaughtered them like dogs without mercy. The fear and the anger will take hold first, for in their minds if one of the chattel would dare to kill their owners, then who knows how many more could harbor such savagery in their hearts? It will be a purge, as it always is, for Ravok’s answer is ever the same to dissent. Yet the suffering of those slaves in the city will be least of your concerns. Your nightmare will have only just begun.

Elias was pacing, like one of his instructors back in the Universisty of Zeltiva, he realized.

A thousand sons of the Ebonstryfe will descend upon these marshlands like a swarm of locust. Starved for action and purpose, they will seek you out not for god or for vengeance, but merely to satiate their own incurable bloodlust.” For such was the way of soldiers when they had no war to wage or battle to fight. Without an outlet to relieve their need for a conflict they had trained their entire lives for, they would pounce on anything and everything that gave them an opportunity to finally be what they were meant to be. “If the soldiers don’t get you first though, the slavers will.” The Caldera went on. “From every corner of these lands they will come for you, for your names will be near legendary amongst those of their trade. Desperately, they will seek to make a name for themselves by being the ones who collared you. Fame and riches will await any man who first claims your head, and the promise of wealth has always been enough to draw in the masses.

By this point, Elias no longer bothered with the pretense of keeping his distance. He now walked back forth before the three Kelvics as if he were lecturing a a group of children. Neither the crossbow in Sorrin’s grip or the sheer hatred in Fang’s eyes were enough to dissuade his dire proximity to what most would have considered certain death personified. Elias was not afraid however. The holy soldier knew his fate just as certainly as he knew the sun would rise again come the morning.

He would not die here.

He could not.

Without warning, the stryfer rounded on the tigress, suddenly focusing his frigid gaze upon hers. “You serve the Valdinox.” It was a statement more than a question. “Tell me then, how do those of Ravok’s most elite respond when a slave like you makes a mistake? What is their first reaction when those they consider beneath them accidentally spills their drink, or breaks one of their expensive trinkets, or lets slip a secret they shouldn’t have? They are cruel aren’t they. Wicked and brutal and vindictive for even the smallest slight percieved.

Slowly, achingly, the stryfer turned his gaze on Amanda making sure Taryn followed it. “Imagine then what the richest noble house in Ravok will do when they learn you’ve spilled the blood of their prodigious heir.

After a moment, and with a deep breath, the scarred swordsman straightened himself, returning to a professional’s posture as he looked about the trio to take in their reactions. He knew these words alone would not be enough to shake them, let alone shift their profound belief in their cause, but he hoped they would at least lay the foundation. He knew all too well how this night could end if he couldn't convince her, but Elias prayed to both his god and theirs if they were listening that it wouldn’t have to be that way.

Take not these words as threats meant to shake your resolve or unsteady your hearts. Heed them instead as simple truth, for the truth is you -all of you- have condemned yourselves to a fate worse than the shackles you strove to break free of. You did so the moment you walked back through those gates and dared to believe the world owed you anything more than the endless serving of shyke it has always been…

A grin, small and cocksure found its way to the corner of the pale man’s lip. He stared now at Fang, his salacious and arrogant attention falling wholly on the great dire wolf herself.

Yet, not all is lost, for God has seen fit to put me here before you in this, your most dire of times. Consider your humble light in the dark. The herald of both your absolution and your emancipation. I am the path that guides the way and through me lies your deliverance… all I ask is that a small price be paid. A simple and meager cost for so great a clemency.

The grin faded, and with it so too did Leth’s light over the compound as a dark cloud passed over head.

The slaves. The ones that took you in. All those that followed you. All those that didn’t.

I want them.

I want them all.

You need only tell me where they hide and all will be forgiven.
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A Better Way

Postby Zavya on January 7th, 2019, 8:09 am

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Everything Fang saw was bathed in red, an unending tide of crimson fury that threatened to obscure the world in its path.

There was a rage building within her, a rage that could not be contained within her meager human form. This man in black, he would dare to make such demands? To threaten them with the doom and destruction they all knew was inevitable if they carried through with this mad charade? Did he really think any of them had come here without knowing the risks? They knew. Gods, how they knew. But each and every one of them had deemed it worth what would follow, and so they stood. Staring. Listening. Enraged.

The wolf opened her mouth to speak, but before she could get a word out, Sorrin stepped in. “Better to die fighting than to live a slave,” was the hawk’s contribution to the Stryfer’s spiel, eyes nearly as cold as Elias’s own. “Let them come. Let them hunt us. We’ll burn them to the ground as surely as we did this place!”

A few shouts of approval sung out behind the trio, though Fang and Zavya remained quiet. Neither of them possessed the foolhardy hope of their feathered compatriot, knowing well how fully stacked the odds were against them. Yet, here they were, standing as defiantly as the others. Was it brave? Was it stupid? Only time would tell. And time… it wasn’t often on their side.

The wolf held out a staying hand before Sorrin could say any more, the others falling silent behind them. “Do you think we fear death?” Fang quietly asked, though her words carried, nonetheless. It was hard for them not to, the bated silence that surrounded them amplifying her simply put question. “Do you think we fear pain?” She gestured to herself, the myriad of past injury that decorated her lithe body, before reaching over and lifting the loose dress that shrouded Zavya’s muscular form. What was revealed beneath was a plethora of scars much like her own, a colorful and twisted rendering of the harsh life the tigress had known. That they had all known. When she was sure Elias had gotten a good look, she let the fabric fall back into place, and turned to face him more fully. “We have been beaten, burned, whipped, sliced, branded, raped… Do you really think there’s anything they could do to us that hasn’t been done already?” Tight-lipped and jaw clenched, she shook her head. “They’ll hunt us, you’re right. Perhaps they’ll even kill us. But wouldn’t death be preferable to the life we know now? Wouldn’t it be better that we died with a purpose rather than at the whim of a cruel master who never let us have a life of our own?”

Zavya felt those words in her very soul, not even flinching when Fang exposed her body to the cold scrutiny of the Stryfer. But even as the wolf spoke, the tigress couldn’t help but think back to what Elias said, even if Fang seemed to ignore it. If she did survive all of this only to be enslaved again… The wolf’s words were courageous, and she knew they held true, but there was still that nugget of fear, that niggling doubt in her core. But it wasn’t death she feared, no. It was the fear of her life never changing, of continuing in the same cycle of chains and abuse that she’d always faced. If they succeeded and the slavers bore down upon them, would she be even worse off than she was before? Were there crueler hands than Ryker’s? She wasn’t sure she wanted to find out.

But to hand those over who had helped Fang for the sake of their own safety? It was unimaginable. How could they condemn countless others to a fate worse than death just to save their own hides? There had to be another way. Some sort of compromise. Zavya briefly met Fang’s eyes and could see the same sort of conflict warring on her own face. It was a price too steep to pay.

Her thoughts raced furiously as she looked between Elias, Amanda, and the boy in her grasp. Zavya was here for Fang. Fang was here for her son. He was the key, and they all knew it. Perhaps… “Hand over the boy, and we won’t ignite the fire,” she finally said, molten gaze flicking back to icy blue.

A few cries of outrage sounded behind her, indignant that she would dare to make such an assumption. But curiously absent was the voice of Fang, who was looking at Zavya with an expression akin to gratitude. They were the words she couldn’t say herself, her own selfishness hidden within as the others looked to her for guidance. She’d never intended for this to scale into a full-on revolution, the movement tumbling out of her control as more flocked to the cause. All the wolf wanted was her son. That was it. But she was willing to exploit the whims of others to reach that end, and Zavya understood that, even if they didn’t. And if they reviled her for it… the tigress truly didn’t care. They were nothing to her.

“How dare you,” Sorrin growled at last, turning to face Zavya, though Fang shot him a fierce glare. This hawk was a man she hardly knew, and even with all he’d done to support her, she would forever hold the tigress in a far higher esteem than she would him. “You don’t speak for us-”

“She does now,” Fang cut him off before he could say more, the furious tone of her voice brooking no argument. Looking back at her oldest friend, she offered a nearly imperceptible nod, encouraging Zavya to go on.

The bristling look Sorrin gave them both could have cut stone, but he held his tongue, sullen as the wolf put him in his place. It was not a slight he’d soon forget, and for the first time, his confidence in her wavered, wondering if this had all been some elaborate ploy the whole time. Had he just been a pawn in her game? Had they all? A few murmurs behind them reaffirmed his thoughts aloud, but Zavya’s fiery glare silenced them all. Even if she didn’t command quite the same presence Fang did, she had power in her own right. She wasn’t sure how she knew, but she knew there wasn’t a one among them that could match what she was. Followers and prey, the lot of them. She’d thought them brave when she first arrived, but the more time she spent here… the more they disgusted her. She wondered if Fang felt the same.

Zavya turned her attention back to Elias, her gaze locking on his for what felt like an eternity. His overconfidence and self-assurance made her want to vomit, that calm arrogance and holier-than-thou attitude so akin to the man she hated most. There had to be some chink in his armor, some way to unravel that smarmy demeanor, and the tigress was nothing if not determined. At last, her lips curled in a smirk, lowering her gaze. She knew. What was any man’s weakness but the woman he loved? Somehow, even with that unconquerable veneer, she doubted the soldier was any different.

Banished was the fear from her heart when she stepped forward, that same feline grace she’d displayed before oozing from her pores as she closed the short distance between them. Hers were words that didn’t need to be spoken for the rest to hear—they were words for his ears alone. Catching and holding his eyes for a tick longer, she leaned in, one finger slowly tracing the side of his jaw before she whispered,

“What would Shiress say if she knew you were here?”

Another tick of silence as Zavya waited for his reaction, leaning back to let her eyes trace over his face. Was that doubt? Surprise? Anger? He was harder to read than most, but she was sure she had gotten to him. After a moment, she leaned back in and continued,

“The place her bondmate grew up, the prison where he knew only pain. Can you imagine how she’d react if she saw you now? Demanding the lives of slaves when she’s a slave herself? I doubt very much she’d approve.”

Her hand dropped to her side as she stepped away, looking up at him with a firm resolve that, even chimes ago, she wouldn’t have thought she possessed. She knew she was as a mouse to a lion when she stared at him with such defiance, but Zavya was beyond the point of caring. One crush of his paw was all it would take, but what did it matter? If she was going to die here, she wouldn’t go down without a fight. But perhaps she could stymy the tide before it came to that. Perhaps he could see reason, after all.

“You can be the hero she would want, Elias. You don’t have to be the villain.”


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A Better Way

Postby Elias Caldera on January 16th, 2019, 3:57 am

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They were still children in end, the Stryfer had to remind himself.

Children who looked like them, talked like them, felt pain like them, but in the end could never be them, not as their creators had intended. Not as they themselves yearned to be. They spoke to him then of scars, these shallow souls, of suffering wrought and endured, of a life stolen and a future forever blackened by the chains they’d fought so hard to break.

He stirred in shivering vanity. They thought they understood pain did they? His pride beckoned him to rip free his armor and rend his shirt asunder so that may truly understand the anguish they so ignorantly laid claim to. They were children, and in his sundered flesh and tortured soul they would know they could not compare to what a man like he, a man who had lived longer than any of them and would outlive them all by decades if god was willing, had survived. Would they not see the marks of war, of torture, of failings both great and small and know that he was as kin?

Kin.

Despite that seething smugness, the word reminded the greater part of him that knew scars like theirs’ were not a competition to be flaunted and paraded about, but an unspoken bond. What each of them had endured in their own way was a unifying force among all, and in of itself made manifest in the reminders left upon their bodies. A truth only compounded by the conviction in what Fang said next.

‘Wouldn’t it be better that we died with a purpose rather than at the whim of a cruel master…’

How harshly those words shook him, for were they not his own? He had preached such things enough times to know the feel of them upon his ears, the taste of them upon his tongue, the truth of them in his heart. Ravok, his home, his mother, was sick. Dying from the inside out as the old and ancient rot of contentment continued to fester day in and day out. Was this not his very same battle cry he now turned his nose up at?

As Fang pulled free the tigress’s dress, revealing an equally distressing plethora of old wounds and grizzly battle scars as her wolven compatriot, the question he’d been asking himself became even more pressing; Did these slaves not deserve their chance to fight? Did not all men whose souls were girded and daring enough to rise for what they believed deserving of that sacred right? The thought had never crossed his mind before this day, he was shocked to discover. Slaves had always ever been just that, slaves. Chattel to be worked, bought, bartered and broken. Ravok thrived on the backs of those he himself had once collared and chained with not a second thought to the consequence. They were merely ever tools, subhuman and unworthy of the blessing the great lord had bestowed upon his chosen flock. Of course, none them had ever stood up and dared to fight back, not like this great wolf at the head of her pack, and not like this golden huntress at her side whose unflinching amber gaze now held his in their molten vice. Such was the fire of defiance in her that he knew if he did blink first, those eyes would threaten to set his resolve to flame.

In the end however, they broke before he did.

An offer, one uttered wearily by the tiger in hopes of bitter compromise. What followed in its wake was the first signs of a real rift the soldier had been seeking. They argued as a result, however briefly, a burst of outrage and uncertainty that the sorcerer could tell without his arcane sight had not just wounded the hawk’s pride, but more importantly, sundered his trust. It wasn’t Sorrin he focused on however, for it was in Fang whom all this teetered, and thus it was in Fang that Elias scrutinized, noting the hesitation, the deliberation, the unspoken loss of certainty ravaging her once pristine veneer of furious resolution. He didn’t begrudge her of course. In fact, he had counted on it.

I teach my men that it is sacrifice that defines us.” Elias spoke at last, addressing the three slaves with hands clasped perhaps overconfidently on the small of his back. “That it is sacrifice that molds us, tests us, and in the end delivers us. The things we are willing to surrender, and the things we are willing to surrender them for are what make a man truly brave, not oaths or heroics or doing as we are expected, but sacrifice, pure and true.

Sorrin was growing more and more anxious with each word, hand tightening around his weapon. His sharp eyes had begun to dart between the huntress, the wolf, and the many slaves assembled behind them. The throng shuffled and murmured in unease, unclear as to why they were still listening to his ghostly fool instead of putting a bolt through his skull and burning the Nitrozian bitch down inside her torture chamber of a laboratory. If the Stryfer had to guess, it seemed as if Sorrin was asking himself the very same question now. The Hawk was no simpleton. He was beginning to see what was happening here, and as he spied Freya’s quickening breath and tightening shoulders as Elias had, he grew a look about him that said he knew, before long, he was going to have to use that crossbow in his grasp, but on who exactly was now the query that haunted him.

You may not believe it, but my family means a everything to me as well.” The pale sorcerer confided, his attentions resting solely on the dire wolf now as she glared at him from beneath the shadows of her brow. “There is nothing more important to me in this world than the bond of blood, and I understand entirely both the blessing and the burden those we cherish can feel like. For a long time I thought I mine lost forever, only to one day discover I had suddenly regained it. Whether by the will of the divine or mere fate, I had my family back and to my shame I realized I had not changed because of it. You imagine yourself becoming a better person when finally rewarded with the thing you’ve prayed for so hard but… I did not become a better man. I did not grow, nor did I evolve, but instead something had been added, like a seed planted, a pit…” He touched his stomach, prodding at the blackened armor there with fervency as his tone grew more desperate and seemingly deluded. “Right here. Like a door to the void had been torn open in my gut, and every time I looked upon my kin its hunger grew. An endless, terrible maw of vacuous darkness that sunk ever deeper with each harrowing question that raced through my mind; ‘Could I keep them safe? Was I doing the right? Was I leading them astray, or were the choices I was making really the right ones?’ Its unbearable, this insatiable fear gnawing away at you no matter what you do, no matter how hard you strive. There are days where it feels like its going to eat you alive from the inside out, doesn’t it? You know what I speak of, I can see the recognition in your eyes!” He was in Freya’s face now, the concern of reprisal or violence all but discarded as his words took hold of him. The slaves gathered stirred anxiously, raising their weapons and fueling themselves with indignation as the soldier dared to approach their great leader, but by this point Elias’s voice had become harsh and course, his eyes reddening and growing heavy with the threat of… tears? The others may not have been hearing what he had to say, but the wolf was. She could not escape them, for even if her ebon-clad antagonist had not said it out loud, the truths he preached would forever plague her all the same. It was the burden all mother’s bore, and that was why when she claimed she’d rather die fighting than live as anything else, he knew her words to be hollow and false.

And yet…” The blue eyed zealot continued with a stained whimper, his rant bringing him to the brink of weeping “And yet we fight, and we struggle and we press on regardless because all it takes to remind us of why its worth it,” he muttered, turning his cold and hapless gaze to the young boy looking back at them “is that moment when we look in their eyes and bare witness to something so perfect, so unequivocally beautiful and right looking back at us that there is no other choice but to protect it with all we have…

He returned his sights to Fang, and as their eyes met, an understanding flashed between the two, unwanted yet undeniable. There was no word to fully encapsulate what he meant, but she knew it none the less. It was the feeling that, after years of hardships and abuse, was what finally gave her the strength to snap her chains and escape her tormentors. The strength to rally an army of strangers and return to the place that had been nothing but a nightmare. The strength to stand before a trained soldier of Ravok and not bat an eyelash in the face of his mounting threats.

The strength to fight.

They can never understand.” He said, throwing an dismissive finger over her shoulder at those that had followed the brave Kelvic to this place. “They’re not your people, they’re not your blood. Its not their fault, but neither is it yours.” Elias stepped back, whirling on the wolf once more.

You were born in those cages,” the pale lord exclaimed, heartfelt and emboldened, “lived your whole life in them, and when you broke free, the outside world must have seemed like such an alien place. No one taught you the rules. No one showed you how its done, and so you fell back on what you knew, your nature; that of a predator. A leader. A hero…” His fist tightened, and what came next was a bellow roar that carried across the entire complex.

But these things do not define us and now you have a choice! You must decide whether the lives of these people mean more to you than your son’s! A decision that will forever change not just your future, but his as well. Can you condemn him to a life on the run, every day looking over his shoulder, never knowing peace again? Or will you do what needs to be done and Make. Your. Sacrifice!

A silence followed the booming exclamation, a silence that was thick and drowning in an unbearable miasma of anticipation. Sorrin turned to Fang, confusion and pain written in the lines creasing his countenance. “Fang, come on.” He chuckled nervously. “Fang. Come. On! Snap out of it!” But the wolf did not answer, her eyes searched the floor, her buxom chest heaved harder with each strained breath of air. Like a venom in her veins, doubt had crept in and begun to spread. Gone was the mighty, fearless gray queen, now in her place something else. Something mortal. Something weak.

As if sensing this, Elias saw the golden tigress incite herself to action. Wearily, the soldier watched in rising mistrust and disquiet as the huntress broke rank and stepped towards him, all hesitation and doubt vanquished from her heavenly features, replaced instead with an alarmingly assured smirk. A finger traced its way across his scars unscathed, and as she leaned and whispered her poisoned words into the Ravokian’s ear, he felt himself unravel.

How did she know that name! How did she know that name?! Eyes, wide with shock and turmoil internal stared in hollow consternation as the Kelvic’s hand began to fall away, unable to process this sudden and disastrous turn for the unexpected. So many questions, so many unanswered riddles, and all them a threat to the woman he held most dare. How did she-

I understand.

Elias seized Zayva’s arm by the wrist before it could escape, a flash of movement, quick and savage.

With dark eyes downcast and distraught, it had was Fang whom had uttered the words that snapped him from his distress. When she looked up at last however, they held only Cainen in their clouded gaze. “I’ve made my choice.

No, no, no, no! Fang don’t do this. Don’t do this! We trusted you. I trusted you!” Sorrin cried, leveling his crossbow against the stryfer whose grasp upon the golden vixen had only tightened, but as the yelling and shouts rang out across the courtyard, it would feel as if they were mere whispers in the wind to the overly bold beast. Elias lifted her arm, forcing the girl closer as he now slowly turned on Zayva’s, crushing, blistering blue eyes cascading down upon her lithe form like a blizzard. She was trapped, frozen still by an ungodly menace born of what could only be an ungodly magic. It was as if a great weight had befallen her thoughts, and as the fear and the panic dawned, the hypnotist’s leaned in and whispered his own secret in her ear.

There are no heroes.

All at once, the world shuddered and stopped.

At first there was not but the darkness. An eternal empty nothing that had no end and no start. Soon however, there came a great howling wind that tore through the night. In the beginning there had only been one, but as time passed -ticks, chimes, or bells?- dozens more were born from the murk. Zayva would recognize soon enough that these winds blew not of their own accord, but instead were being sucked into a great and perilous depth. When she looked to scry their origins, what she found there would shake her to the bone. Faces… Familiar faces, men and women she recognized, even amidst the pangs of pain and fear seared into their frozen features. There were the slaves of Fang’s revolution, but now nothing more than frightened animals, backs arched and mouths forced agape as air gushed forth. She had looked for the source of the winds, and unfortunately, she had found it. In this maw of sheer black, she saw the winds being taken, and could imagine the trees, the birds, the grass and the sun itself all devoured whole by the dark, until at last there was only her, and her alone. Yet even she was not safe from its hunger, and in the end there was nothing but the darkness.

When the tigress reopened her eyes, she would find herself standing where she'd been before, her arm still held outright as if clung on to by another, yet where once the soldier stood, now no one. She was free of whatever terror had been inflicted upon her mind like a vision, but it was difficult to tell how much time had passed or what had transpired. Thinks felt different, there was no doubt, and as she turned around to look behind, it would become dreadfully clear why.

Not everything she’d seen had been an illusion.

As in the vision, so to was it the sight before her; Two dozen slaves, backs arched, mouths agape, clawing at their chests and throats for a breath that would not come.

She’d find Freya next to her, the wolf brought to one knee and just as wide eyed and paralyzed with confusion as she was, but the mother looked not back at her, but instead at the Caldera not a few feet from where they reeled. In his ebony grasp struggled Sorrin, feet dangling off the ground even as he fought in futility against the gauntlet tightening about his throat. He reached for his crossbow, but it was gone, a shattered mess of splinters upon the floor at the pale mage’s feet.

Elias turned to them then, dark eyes piercing into theirs, and smiled. A warm and gentle thing that belied the pure madness behind it. “I'm proud of you. You’ve made the right choice.

Sorrin dropped from the Stryfer’s grasp, limp and unmoving as he fell. As the hawk hit the ground, so to did every other member of his followers, all at once collapsing together.

I knew you would.” Elias rasped lovingly, as he moved to seize hold of Zavya next.
Last edited by Elias Caldera on January 30th, 2019, 1:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Elias Caldera
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A Better Way

Postby Zavya on January 30th, 2019, 5:21 am

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When Elias grasped her arm and stared at her in muted horror, Zavya laughed—the sound was desperate and hopeless, but at least she’d managed to get to him before he killed them all. That was something… right? Even if she’d doomed herself with the words she’d spoken, she’d cracked that icy veneer. It was an accomplishment, even if it was her last one.

Panic coated the air in a viscous mixture of doubt and fear, and though she’d scored a minor victory, the tigress was not immune to its effects. Pandemonium was about to break loose, one way or another, and here she was, held between the monster’s jaws. Wasn’t that just a perfect metaphor for her life? At least I’ll die quickly, she thought with an edge of hysteria, staring into those crazed azure orbs with the clarion certainty of her own demise and fighting the wild urge to laugh again. Better than what I could have hoped for otherwise…

I’ve made my choice.

The others Kelvics broke at Fang's simple, but loaded statement, shouts of terror, fury, and uncertainty permeating the panic-saturated air—Sorrin’s voice rising above them all as he begged the wolf to see reason. But Zavya understood, even if the others did not. She’d never doubted Fang would choose her son in the end, if it came to that. Faced with such a terrible, impossible choice, would the tigress not have done the same? Love—true love, that kind that came without costs and conditions—was worth protecting. She’d only hoped it wouldn’t come at so high of a price.

Golden eyes closed briefly in resignation even as the mage pulled her in closer, knowing now for sure that coming here had been a death sentence, after all. As she drew in a breath that she was certain would be her last, suddenly she felt her gaze dragged into glacial pits of terror and frenzy, setting her thoughts and core aflame with the need to run, to hide, to get as far from here as she could…

Then, everything froze.

Reality warped and morphed into an inescapable darkness the Kelvic couldn’t even begin to fathom that surrounded her and the world besides. Howling wind interrupted the blackness; wind, more and more wind everywhere she looked, everywhere she turned. Wind mixed with faces, faces contorted with horror and agony, faces she knew. The wind took everything it touched, destroying the darkness as it sprang forth from the silent screams of those unbearable faces. Zavya backed away from the macabre scene, desperate that it should not take her. The tigress then ran, ran and ran without moving an inch, until there was nothing and no one, and she knew herself lost…

Zavya came back to reality with a gasp, molten eyes opening in shock. Her hand grasped at air, slowly falling back to her side as she tried to decipher what had just occurred. She found Fang at her side in a similar pose to what she assumed she looked like herself, the tigress assuring herself with a sigh of relief that the wolf was safe. The others who’d accompanied her, on the hand… the same couldn’t be said for them.

The slave looked on in horror as the others clawed at their mouths and throats, the vacuous source of wind from whatever magical vision the sorcerer had wrought upon her. Why had he not simply done the same to her as he’d done to them? I think you’ve saved my life again, Shiress, she thought to herself as her gaze turned back on Elias, who held the struggling Sorrin at arm’s length. Zavya wasn’t sure if revealing the woman’s name boded well for her in the long run, but she couldn’t imagine why else he would have spared her the same fate as the others.

When Sorrin fell to the ground, so did the rest of the makeshift army and at first glance, Zavya was sure they were all dead. When the pale soldier moved toward her next, she backed up in slow, stumbling steps—sure she was about to meet the same end. Perhaps not so lucky, after all…

“No, stop, not her!”

Elias’s advance, combined with that crazed look in his eye, broke Fang out of whatever trance she seemed to be in, leaping to her feet and grabbing the Stryfer’s arm. Her own eyes were filled with tears, so like his had been not so long ago. It was a broken expression, one that did not sit well on her proud face. “Please,” she whispered, pleading for the understanding that had sparked between them, if only so very briefly. “She might not be the family of my blood, but she is the family of my heart.” Her grip tightened, calling upon his impassioned speech on family only chimes before. “Not her.”

Zavya watched Fang with an almost worshipful expression, her heart aching at the force of the wolf’s plea. Here was again another example of that love—the love without chains and borders that in her soul, the tigress longed for so desperately. Had Kelvics been able to bond with each other, she had no doubt she would have given her life to the wolf at that very tick as surely as she’d ever give it to anyone. Indeed, the wolf was the family of her heart, as well. The only family she’d ever known.

Had Elias heeded Fang’s fervent bid for mercy, Zavya would slink back, desperate to make sure his hands did not touch her again. Whatever he’d done to her before, whatever spell he’d put her under, she had no wish to repeat the experience. She could still hear that howling gale consuming the world, and she was sure she would hear it again in her nightmares for weeks to come. Assuming she still had the weeks to come.

Nearly forgotten by all but Fang, Amanda and Cainen came forward from where they’d been standing, the Nitrozian’s face smug and triumphant, and the young Kelvic’s decidedly… not. Nearly tripping and falling in his haste to reach her, the boy ran toward his mother, throwing himself in her grasp when Amanda let go of him at last. Shuddering, Fang stroked her son’s back, holding him tightly enough that Cainen felt his joints might pop. Not that he was complaining. He hoped she’d never release him again.

“Oh, my boy, my precious, darling boy,” she murmured against his hair, breathing in that sweet, clinging scent unique to him alone. The scent that all of this had been for. The scent that called her home. If she could have, she would have drowned in it.

“They’re not dead!”

The surprised, yet infuriated voice of Amanda interrupted the touching reunion, their collective attention turning her way. Her fingers were against the still throbbing pulse of Sorrin’s neck, her face set in grim anger. While all were confused, none were as shocked as she was, standing from his limp body and walking over to the others. “What the hell is the meaning of this, Caldera?” she demanded of the Stryfer, beady little eyes glaring up into his own. “They’re rabid beasts, and they should be put down!

As if to assure herself what Amanda said was true, Zavya ran over to the nearest Kelvic, the one who’d pointed out to her the oil on the roof. Kneeling and leaning down over his body, she listened over his mouth for breath and was surprised to hear it still came. Even if she didn’t share the same fury the Nitrozian bitch did, she certainly shared her perplexion. Elias obviously could have killed them all… so why didn’t he?

“Why did you leave them alive?” Zavya asked cautiously, adding a much calmer voice to Amanda’s. She stood from the prone form of the fallen Kelvic once she’d assured herself again that his chest still rose and fell. “What was all of this for if you’re just going to let them… us… live?” She looked at Elias curiously, but still maintained a hefty distance between them. After his display, she had no wish to be within easy reach again. Not that it mattered. Apparently.

“Because there’s still something he wants,” Fang answered wearily, one arm wrapped tightly and protectively around the young one in her grasp. Amanda and Zavya both turned to look at her, the scientist’s face set in a sneer. She was just as curious as to his logic as they were, albeit for different reasons.

The boy’s eyes were wide and disbelieving, flicking between the two women, the Stryfer, and the unconscious army around them at an alarming speed—obviously still trying to decipher what had happened. You and me both, kid, Zavya thought sympathetically as she looked back at him, before turning her attention to his mother.

“Something he knows I wouldn’t give if he’d just slaughtered them all.” She moved closer to Zavya as she spoke, though it was clear where her words were directed. “He knows that my gratitude for my son’s life, however genuine and deep, has its bounds. Even though he’s won, even though he’s thoroughly proven he has us all in the palm of his hand, our friend Elias here knows how to play the game.” At last, she turned that unnerving gaze off of her tigress companion and back onto the black-clad warrior.

“Isn’t that right, Master Caldera?”


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Zavya
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