Closed Call of the Wild

Only the brave or the foolish dear to answer

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While Sylira is by far the most civilized region of Mizahar, countless surprises and encounters await the traveler in its rural wilderness. Called the Wildlands, Syliran's wilderness is comprised of gradual rolling hills in the south that become deep wilderness in the north. Ruins abound throughout the wildlands, and only the well-marked roads are safe.

Call of the Wild

Postby Elias Caldera on October 22nd, 2018, 4:47 am

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“Oh lord, is it going to bruise? It’s going to bruise, isn’t it? Unbelievable! I mean come on, who throws a collar? Honestly!?” The swordsman bemoaned between brooding crunches of his cattail snack. He was about to start in again on how he could have absolutely dodged such a stupid surprise if he’d been serious when the telltale din of snapping twigs and rustled foliage alerted him to the wolf’s return.

“Ah, the pup has come back, and with a gift no less.” Elias smirked, shooing away a fussing Maria who had been lackadaisically tending to the Stryfer’s bruised nose with a kerchief. She seemed relieved to be discharged from her less than appealing duties and hastily scurried off to join her husband and daughter who were still busy gathering up the spilled crop that had fallen out of the cart following Sedric’s abrupt outburst and the subsequent chaos that had followed. “I had bet our friend here we’d likely never see hide nor hair of the two of you again after you disappeared into those trees. Looks like I owe you, Sedric.”

The bandit’s response was a groggy groan from his unceremonious seat on the ground. He was lying against the cart he’d only moments ago been hiding in, though now he had a freshly busted lip to add to his already impressive collection of cuts and scrapes, but that seemed to be the least of the man’s troubles. No bindings or shackles held him in place, yet he remained an unmoving heap none the less, and it was evident why. Sedric was... bewitched, for a lack of a better term. His dark and bloodshot eyes were distant, hollow things that reflected the dazed and dulled mind behind them, and it was plain as day to tell wherever he was, it wasn’t here in the present. The shaggy maned bandit wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and the moment the kelvic cat Jessica’s slave had dragged back realized as much, she quickly began limping her way over to his side. The bobcat -Pellia he presumed- seemed much worse for wear after her short stint in the pup’s company. Not that Elias had any judgments on the boy’s method, he was just glad someone had taught the creature how to fetch as well as they did, though given the look in the red head’s eyes, he thought better of saying so out loud.

“Mmmm, in fact,” the swordsman continued, taking another healthy bite out of his reed, “Sedric and I have been talking a lot since you left. Why don’t you tell my friend here what you told me?” He said, finishing with another of his strange claps. To the others it was exactly what it seemed, an odd gesture without reason or purpose, but to the hypnotized Sedric whom Elias had conditioned to its sound, it was like a trumpet going off in his brain. The djed flowed from the Caldera like a slithering serpent, its fangs finding purchase in the befuddled bandit before swiftly injecting its serene venom deep into every crevice and cranny of the man's thoughts. Ever since the hypnotist had taken hold of him, Sedric had been lost in a churning quagmire of Elias’s arcane influence that kept his mind addled and his senses dulled. It made him particularly chatty when properly motivated, and just as the Stryfer had suspected, the poor fool did indeed have something worth hearing.

“I’m… I’m a bandit.” He finally answered in a shaken tone. “I steal, I hurt, I do a lot of bad things. N-n-not because I want to. I got… I got a lot of debts. A lot people that need their piece, a lot of people who need me. And Pellia… Oh, Pellia. She’s a good girl. Too good. Too loyal. Should have never… should have never…”

“Ah, ah, Sedric.” Elias interrupted, giving Rook and abashed and apologetic look, “I don’t want your petching life story again. Just the important part, like we talked about, remember.”

“What have you done to him!” Came a wrathful scream from amidst a burst of light. The kelvic had managed to drag herself to Sedric’s side despite her injuries, and despite her injuries, she seemed more concerned for her cohort than she did herself. Curious. “Sedric! Sedric, snap out of it!” She cried, shaking her partner with increasing violence and desperation to no avail.

“Enough.” Elias snapped. “My patience is not infinite. Do not test it again, woman.”

The tone in which his threat carried held a great deal of malice, but the defiant look in Pellia’s eyes said she didn’t care one petch for his threats. It was only when she noticed the way the mage’s hand stroked at the hilt of his dagger did she look to Sedric and her demeanor softened into something more compliant. She lay her head against his chest, finding a place amidst the cheap leather and the stinking, tattered cloth as if she’d done it a thousand times before. “Leave him be.” She muttered. “I know what you want.”

“Oh.”

“The slaves.”

Elias gave the wolf a quick look, his face poorly hiding the delight in his eyes. He was like a child who’d just spotted something shiny in the sand, and now there was no stopping him.

“The one’s who did this to us.” She continued, gesturing vaguely to the plethora of minor wounds that plagued both her and her man. “We stumbled on their little hiding place and they weren't too pleased about it apparently. We’d only just gotten away from them and stumbled unto the path -unto these petching yokels, when we noticed you coming down the road. We did what did just to survive. I know Sedric said some shyke, but he was just trying to scare them. He’s a petching softy. Always has been. He wasn’t going to do anything, honest.” The pale mage watched in disinterest as her hold around Sedric’s limp shoulders tightened.

“Slaves you say.” The Caldera impatiently prodded.

“Yah. We were... negotiating a travel fee with this kid who'd come from the lakeshore by himself. The little shyke tried to give us the slip by running right into the woods. I tracked him, 'cuz tracking is what I do. I got caught up in the chase though, wasn't paying attention. I didn't even notice until it was too late that we had just sprinted head long into a petching trap. it was a whole bunch of escaped chattel, all hiding out together in the bog. They didn’t exactly explain it outright, on account of them being too busy trying to bash our heads in with rocks, but it was easy enough to figure out with all the scratched up brands and the wild looks in their eyes. The kind of look that says they weren’t going back, no matter what. It’s the kind of look I’ve only seen in slaves who’ve tasted freedom before and can't fathom another way to be.” Pellia finished, wiping the moisture from her cheeks and trying her best to compose herself as he she sat upright. A difficult task given that she was thoroughly naked and bleeding quite profoundly, but even Elias had to admit she was doing a fine job of it all the same. She didn’t exactly strike him as a woman use to crying, and he didn’t need his auristics to tell him something bound these two together more closely than just mere necessity.

"They had this… thing. A little arts and crafts project hanging from the tree near where they lived. A bunch of vines and twigs all tied up and stuff. If you’ve ever seen a Vinumia, I think it was supposed to look like that. Might have even convinced us it was if it was dark enough… and my nose hadn’t picked up on the truth. Well, anyway, when they realized their scarecrow didn’t do the job, they started pelting rocks and spears at us, chasing us. We barely made it out of there. We got turned around in all the confusion though. Been wandering the swamp for a while until we finally found the road again.”

“And, while you were there, amidst their camp, I don’t suppose you came across any brewing materials by chance? Say, a large quantity of stolen hops?”

Pellia shot him a confused and annoyed side eye. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She grumbled, her attentions refocused on her bondmate. “I’ve told you everything, Ravokian. Release whatever curse you’ve put on Sedric, there’s nothing more we can do for you.”

There was a pause.

“I suspect you’re right.”

The snap of ice crackling to life carried like thunder across the quiet road. Pellia’s eyes went wide at the sight of the floating, spinning spikes of ice now suddenly at hovering at the Stryfer’s side. “Which means I don’t have much use for you anymore…”

It was Eldrin and Maria's turn to panic next as they watched in mounting horror as three of the five frosty weapons slowly began to turn towards them as well. Elias’s equally cold gaze followed. “Or you.”

There was a moment of hesitation. A quiet, fear filled instant in which the reimancer belayed his hand from giving the faithful flick that would have ended so many lives. Instead, he turned to Rook, expression hard, grim, yet shaded in a difficult veneer of indifference that made it hard to read. “What do you think, pup.” He asked darkly. “Do I have a reason to let any of them go? These thieves, these traitors, these cowards and reprobates. They’ve all wronged me, and thus they’ve all wronged Ravok itself. What should be done with them?”

The choice, it seemed, was now in the young Kelvic's hands.
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Call of the Wild

Postby Rook on October 26th, 2018, 5:20 pm

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Rook was too tired, hurt and frustrated to give the Stryfer more than a blank look at his cheerful quip about having betted that Rook and the insane bobcat wouldn't be coming back. His wounds stung, and it occurred to Rook that he should probably treat those wounds with something soon lest they become infected. The wilds and the out post weren’t exactly the most hygenic of places, and Jessica probably wouldn’t be too broken up if he got blood poisoning and died. He would tend to them as soon as he could. For.now, he watched the Stryfer and his interactions with the slave with a dull half-interest that with each word began to morph into something resembling fascination. As Rook’s interest grew, so too did the intensity of kelvic boy’s stare.

The bandit’s groggy and incoherent state was the least of Rook’s interest. The wolf boy had seen hypnotism at work, and had even been the subject of it a time or two, although perhaps he had never seen someone quite as taken with it as this man was. This Stryfer appeared to be a talented mage, among everything else. It was a point of interest to be sure, but only a small blip amidst everything else.

Rook felt a small twang of compassion for the slave girl, despite everything he suffered under her, and he felt himself half annoyed by it. These feelings were no doubt more of Shiress’ influence, and simply by merit of belonging to his bondmate, Rook couldn't discount them completely. He could feel his prickles soften slightly at the girl’s sobs, and her desperate clinging to the man’s chest. They were bonded, no doubt. And the girl clearly wasn't being ill treated as bonded kelvics sometimes were. Even in the thrall of whatever it was the Stryfer had put over them, the man spoke kindly of her, and it was clear that she cared deeply for him. It hadn't been so long ago that Rook had been in a similar situation to where those two stood now. It was like looking in a mirror, and seeing his own trials reflected back at him. Who was he if he couldn't sympathize with these two? He would have done the same if he were in their same position.

The mention of slaves made Rook’s eyes widen in surprise and he met the Stryfers look of delight with his own startled stare. Slaves? Escaped slaves? This matter was something that Rook couldn’t help but feel drawn to. The thought of slaves actually managing to escape, of having a society outside of Ravok...it was a fascinating thought. Was it actually possible? Was it real? Both the kelvic and the Stryfer’s priorities had shifted in a fraction of a moment. They had stumbled upon something big here.

When those shards of ice formed around the solider, Rook felt his heart, still thudding with adrenaline, sink into his stomach. What? He was just going to kill them? Rook had far from a weak stomach, and he’d seen Jessica kill plenty of people in his short time in her service. But this was different somehow. Maybe it was that flash of sympathy he’d felt in their shared experiences. They were bandit's. Surely they'd killed before. And yet, Rook still couldn't bring himself to condemn them. And the family! They were citizens of Ravok, weren't they? Even if they had smuggled the bandits.

Rook couldn't be sure that these reasons would fly for this Stryfer though. Kindness wasn't something that occurred to them, nor compassion. Why was he putting this on him? Was this some sort of bizarre test? Why?

Rook found himself speaking before he had fully put his thoughts together. “This family are citizens of Ravok,” Rook found himself saying, as if some strange force had seized his tongue of it's own accord. “If they are to be punished, it shouldn't be up to a single man to decide their fate. And regardless I don't think execution would be justified. And even if it was, killing them would be…” Cruel. Horrible. Wrong. “...A waste.”

Rook’s eyes fell on the bandits as well. The cold blue light of the icicles reflected clearly in their wide and fearful eyes. “The same goes for these bandits,” Rook added. He turned to look at the soldier. His gold eyes were pensive. “There’s something about you that’s different from the other soldiers,” he said quietly. “You don't throw away opportunities. You seize them, don’t you? You’re calculating. I think that you could find a much better use for these people than just killing them, couldn’t you?” His eyes turned back towards the terrified eyes of the ruffians, now clouded with confusion, doubt, and a hint of hope. What assurances could a kelvic slave give s man in power? Rook doubted he could sway this man’s opinion really. He only could only hope he was telling him what he wanted to hear. “Just use them,” Rook said after a moment’s pause. “They’re at your mercy now.”
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Call of the Wild

Postby Elias Caldera on November 9th, 2018, 4:10 am

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Justice.

The concept brought as much amusement to the pale killer as it did unexpected annoyance. Of all the things Rook had said, it was telling that Elias had focused on the part that had to do with him, or rather, his implied limitations. Sure, there had been all the hollow adulations one could expect when trying to sway the mind of a madman like the Stryfer, and while touching in a sense, they were inconsequential. The slight against the Ravokian may or may not have been intentional, but even to accidentally imply that he wasn’t strong enough or important enough to do with these people as he saw fit -that it was not his right to uphold his god’s will on this earth... The inane notion alone infuriated him beyond reason- or at least it should have. Instead he realized he could do little but give the boy the credit he deserved. Young as he was, he’d learned enough of the game that he thought he could play it. His methods were as bold as they were vapid, but the Caldera was sensing he’d found another clue -another piece to this red haired puzzle, and as a result he found himself fighting back a smile all the same.

The pup, for whatever reason, sought to save the lives of those he owed nothing to. There were strangers to him, as inconsequential as every other blank face he’d ever brushed pass in a crowd. Why then did he seek their salvation? Why then did he believe that one man could not and would not be able to decide the fate of others? In his own way Elias’s provocations had been trying to smoke out the essence of who and what this kelvic truly was beneath this apparent veneer of indifference. Angry had been the first and foremost response. Not just at Elias for all his poking and prodding, but in general. Rage consumed the boy, it was clear enough to tell at this point, and with clearly no agreeable outlet for that anger, it had festered into something impudent and poisonous. The kind of directionless fury that quickly set to burning a hole in your belly when it had nowhere else to go. The wolf had grown melancholy and embittered the moment his animal half had been denied to him, making it seem as if he’d been lessened by his human predicament. Then there was the manner in which he’d bloodied the other kelvic girl in their pursuit. Perhaps all these things painted a picture, one that explained why he had said what he’d said. If one man could not change fate, what hope was there for one kelvic slave to change his own?

Now of course, it was very possible the Stryfer was assuming far too much from so few words, and was simply desperate to see things that were not there all for the sake of his own entertainment. In fact, it was almost assuredly just that and all of this was as baseless and uselessly speculator as one could expect, but if Elias was doomed to traveling with this humorless, brooding wolf for the foreseeable future, he would need his distractions, whatever form they took.

“Well this is embarrassing.” Elias exclaimed, flashing one last glance over his shoulder at the boy. “I mean I already went through all the trouble of making these things. It seems a shame not to use at least one of them.” He lamented, motioning towards the still hovering and still very lethal company of shimmering spikes of ice arrayed before him. Then he sighed, and with a wave of his hands, the spike fell limp and lifeless to the ground to the chorus of five relieved sighs in varying tones and magnitudes. “Yet to deny such wisdom, even from one so young, would surely be folly. As the Voice preaches; Rhysol loves and honest fool as much as he does a loyal liar, for all serve the great defiler in their own way.” The stryfer concluded, making the common sign of the church over his chest with a quick flash of calloused hands.

“There shall be no more bloodshed,” Elias continued, taking on a more empathetic tone, “Instead, amends shall be made.” He pointed a finger at Sedric. The hypnotist’s hold over the bandit’s mind seemed to have fallen away at the moment his control over the ice had, and so now Sedric had returned to the world of reality with a start, staring in stupor and a very understandable amount of confusion at his surroundings. “Why are you naked?” He whispered at Pellia, perplexed, but was interrupted when the Caldera’s cold gaze had befallen him. “Empty your pockets. Return to these people all the coin you’ve stolen.”

Sedric snarled in protest, and if he had had the wherewithal to find his footing after his dizzying spell, he would have been in Elias’s face if given have the chance, magic or no. “we didn’t get a chance to- We didn’t rob them, damnit! This coin is ours and I’m not- Ow!” Pellia’s hand struck the back of his head so hard the stryfer swore he heard something rattling around in that hollow pen. “Ok! Ok, gods above…” He muttered reluctantly. It had taken all but a tick under his mate’s irate glare for the man to finally come to his good senses. A moment later and a modest pouch of coin was tossed over to the Cauthons before landing with a familiar jingle in Eldrin’s surprised hands.

“And you,” Elias then turned to the family, who all nearly jumped at the realization that they too were being addressed once more. “I’m sure you can spare some provisions to help bind this kelvic’s wounds.”

“The kelvic that threatened to harm us?!” Maria barked in exasperation.

“Yes. That one.” He replied matter of factly, though a bit taken aback by the woman's new gusto. This time it was Maria’s turn to be surprised as yet another pouch of mizas were thrown into her unexpected grasp. “And something for this one too, if you don’t mind.” He motioned to the wolf as she stared at his money. “Traveling with him is a true misery already, madam. I don’t know if I can survive the journey if I have to listen to him moaning and bleeding the whole way as well.”

Maria hesitated, a harsh look passing from Sedric and Pellia, then to the red headed boy who’d risked himself to capture the thief. In the end, the humble woman put aside her pride and her wrath with a tut and a sigh. “I’ve got something that can clean those wounds up in my bags. Give me a moment.”

“Well then,” The pale magician exclaimed excitedly, “I wish you all a safe and merry journey to the outpost. Walk with god and- Oh, right.” He chuckled, stepping over to the cart and, with a single hand, lifted the entire thing off the ground. He motioned for Eldrin to grab the wheel, and the farmer, equal parts shocked and horrified, simply stared for a moment, agape. It took the mage clearing his throat rather expectantly before the old man realized his error, stumbled over to the wagon wheel, and hastily affixed it in place before the mage, releasing his hold of the Flux, lowered the cart back to the road.

“Seriously, what the petch is going on.” Sedric murmured under his breath. “I take one little nap and this is what I wake up to. I can’t leave you alone for a tick, Pellia…”

It wasn’t long before the family were on their way, happy -nay, ecstatic to finally escape the psychotic wizard and his cadre of villainous fiends… and Rook too. Elias waved them off jubilantly until at last they were mere shadows on the horizon. He had never intended to hurt them, truth be told. Eldrin was simply protecting his family the best he could in a shyke covered situation. It wasn’t as if the Ravokian held any ill will against the man for trying to deceive him. While he wasn’t the lord of lies and thus did not benefit from falsehoods as his divine did, he had been raised at the heart of a civilization that worshiped said divine. Lies were just part of life to anyone who called Ravok home. You either got over it, or got swept away by it. If in his position, Elias couldn’t say he would have done any different. Maybe that part of him was Viratas’s merciful mark talking, or maybe it was Caiden’s, either way he felt the bond satisfied and the blood appeased.

As for the other two…

There lives had indeed hung in the balance, and would have been ended then and there if the boy hadn't argued on their behalf so eloquently. Elias turned to them, all humor and mirth faded from his scarred countenance like winter’s snow come summer. “You two,” he said, kneeling down before the pair of still uncomfortably seated bandits “are petched.”

They looked at each other, then back at him.

“If you’re this far north, doing this kind of shyke, to these kinds of people, I can only assume you’ve run out of place to run from whatever it is you’re running from. Safe to say?”

Sedric stirred. “Listen, what business of it is of you-”

A finger jabbed against his lips silenced the highwayman abruptly. “Shhh” Elias warned. “The adults are talking.” His attention then affixed itself to Pellia. The bobcat looked to her bondmate, struggling in vain to maneuver himself away from the impertinent finger now affixed to his face, and nodded solemnly.

“We ain’t farmers or fisherman. If this is some come to Rhysol moment where you offer us redemption through hard work and a new life, you might as well let your boyfriend there finish what he started.” She snarled beneath contemptuous dark eyes.

“Well it’s a good thing I’m not offering salvation then. Just something more steady. More profitable. The boy here says I can use you, so that’s what I intend to do. Unless of course you’re content fleecing coppers and lint from the pockets of Ravokians until eventually the day comes where the wilds claim you, or the Black Sun does?”

“What are you offering?” Sedric spat, finally having freed himself from Elias. It seemed that had been enough to catch his interest.

“Ride back to Ravok, clean yourselves the petch up so you look exactly like what you are, and ask around for a man named Barsavi. Mention his name enough and he’ll find you. Tell him Elias Caldera sent you. He’ll put you to work, earning real coin putting your 'talents' to better use.” He motioned vaguely to the nightmare around them that was the outdoors. “No pitching tents in the rain. No more trudging through the mud and bugs. No more of this amateur shyke.”

Again, they turned to one another, their mundane glances and subtle gestures hiding poorly the intricate messages and secret codes the two had likely conceived over a great deal of time with one another. It was almost impressive really, and Elias had to wonder how much of that was the bond they shared and how much of it was just old fashioned outlaw sensibilities. Thankfully, he didn’t need to understand any of it to know when the two had finally come to a conclusion.

“You said ‘ride?’”

Elias smiled.

A few minutes later Sedric and Pellia were mounting up on the soldier’s horse, their new mount aimed to the south with the goal of riding away in the opposite direction of the Cauthons, off to Lakeshore outpost and from there, the eternal city itself. “Don’t make me come looking for my horse.” Elias warned as he had pulled the last of what he needed from the colt’s saddles. The beast was clearly uncomfortable bearing strangers upon its back. For a long time now it had only ever known one man’s weight, and that had been Elias’s. The mage couldn’t imagine what the moody animal was thinking now that it was oppressed by two unknowns, one of which smelled intensely like blood and bobcat. In response to the stryfer’s threat Pellia instead turned to the collared wolf that had chased her down. “Or what, you’ll send your attack dog after me again. I wouldn’t say no to a rematch.” She remarked with a grin and curious purr underpinning her words. Her wounds had been bound up at this point thanks to the strips of cloth Maria had provided, sloppily of course, but at least she wasn’t bleeding on his horse.

“Remember, three miles further down the road, look for the markings on the trees if you wanna find those slaves. Its subtle, but it’s there. Looks like some kind of flower. Follow ‘em west until you find the old, gnarled tree like I described. You can’t petchin’ miss the ugly thing. Got faces growing out of the gods damned bark like some kind of nightmare. You’ll find your runaways not far off from there.” Elias nodded, appreciating the recap but finding it unnecessary. His mind had been focused like the crosshairs of a bow the moment the notion of runaways had first slipped past her lips. He knew what he was about.

“I’ll see you around, ‘pup.’” Pellia hissed before Sedric put his heels to the horse’s flanks and set the two of them off on their journey back to civilization.

Elias watched them go, silent as a bubbling concoction of excitement and dread welled within the barrows of his belly. “You noticed how they didn’t complain about money for the fair after I took their coin?” He asked, eyes still affixed to the horizon. “Either they managed to sneak some by me somehow, or they weren’t worried about being able to get themselves a boat.” There was admiration in his voice, like a proud parent watching his kids go off on their for the first time. "Those two might indeed prove useful to me." That… or those two cocksuckers just rode off with your horse content to never see your ugly petching face again. A little voice in the back of his mind chimed in. Elias ignored it.

“Ah, you feel that, slave?” Elias proclaimed with arms out wide. “That is the hand of providence guiding us to glorious purpose. How else to construe our good fortune?” He smiled. A whole colony of escapees! The notion was so delicious the swordsman struggled to stem the tide of drool from betwixt his thin lips. Oh the prize they’d reward him with if he could successfully return every lost head of cattle to the masters they belonged to. Who knew how much coin, adulation, and favors he’d acrue for himself if Pellia was telling the truth -she was, no man had successfully lied to the aursit since he’d learned the smell of it- and there were as many of them as she claimed.

“Your dour demeanor just might be bearable if the grand luck you bring holds up.” The stryfer guffawed as he began making his way down the road. He expected the boy to follow, and to hopefully do something about his injuries now that he had the instruments and supplies to do so, courtesy of the family they’d just saved. Elias had to wonder if he’d ever see those folks again. Would the outpost be everything they hoped, or would its promises provide little comfort to the ruination of its veneer of prospect that was the cruel and comfortless reality of things. Would they even reach the place to begin with, or had the wilderness already devoured them whole as it did everything else? The thought of such things made the Ravokian wonder about his companion’s fate as well. How had he taken the news of slaves who'd freed themselves from bondage… how would he react when it came time to do whatever it was his temporary warden demanded of him. It was an inquiry worth resolving before it was too late.

“You saved those people.” Elias declared after a little while of walking and silence. "I would have killed them." He continued in no uncertain terms. "I would have killed the petch out of them and not given the matter a second though, but you... You saved them. Why?” He asked suddenly. “Why stick your neck out for strangers and criminals? What do you gain from such a gamble?” Was now a good time to let the boy know that it was ass on the line if the stryfer never saw his horse again?

“Humor me with this idle supposition if you would. Me, I think you’re just a big softy. Behind all that growl is just a dog who can’t bite. Not when it counts anyway.” Elias mused out loud. “I beheld your bloody artistry upon the kelvic girl. You did a number on her, but considering what she’d done to you in return, I’m surprised you didn’t go further. Maybe you couldn’t. Maybe you never have. In fact, I’d wager to say you’ve never gone for the throat before, have you slave? Never been forced to take a life to save your own. Never could bring yourself to finally satiate that primal side of you that just wants to rip some motherpetcher to pieces and watch the light fade from his eyes… I’m sure you’ve gotten that feeling before, right? That urge.” Elias made a point of smiling and making eye contact as he proposed the question. It was as if they’re conversation -his mockery and incessant nudging- hadn’t even skipped a beat since their talk before the cart.

“You’d be surprised what one man can accomplish when he abolishes the fear that grips his heart and resolves himself to meaningful purpose. The great things he can achieve. The terrible atrocities he can justify. You said before you’re a good listener. One who watches and learns. You know what I’m talking about then. With the Ebonstryfe, you’re in the company of people who’ve grown very good at forgiving themselves quite readily for the things they do in the name of their savior. You think you could be the same as them some day? Just as cruel, just as heartless? It might be easier on your conscience… I think you saved those people because you don’t know another way. Maybe you would have been able to sit by and grit your teeth if I hadn’t given you the choice in their fates, hadn’t put their lives directly in your hands, but like a bastard I did, and you acted as you saw fit. Makes me wonder, how will you act when you find yourself in that situation again, upon that precipice that decides whether or not lives are spared, or lives are snuffed out, and the only thing determining which way you’ll fall is one life standing in your way? What then, hmm? Do remind yourself its not your fault and turn aside, or do you bare your fangs and bite the petch down…”

There was quiet for a while, merely the patter of footfalls and the chattering of wildlife in the distance to fill the silence. “Then again,” Elias chimed in once more “My ramblings could be full of shyke and there could be more blood on your hands than even mine. Which is good enough reason for me to be taking that dagger back now, if you don’t mind.”


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Elias Caldera
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Call of the Wild

Postby Rook on March 5th, 2019, 9:29 pm

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Rook's entire body was coiled tight as a spring as the soldier lamented his waste of magic. Rook had no real read on this man, one what sort of cruelty he was capable of. He was a Stryfer, and that was enough for Rook to know that the man was capable of terrible things. The wolf didn't trust the man as far as he could throw him. He was dangerous. Even when the sigh of relief escape from the wolf's mouth as the magic was cast away, Rook did not let down his guard. It was very like a Stryfer to gain temporary trust, only to save it for a harsher cruelty further down the road. The slightest drop in guard could leave Rook open for hurt, and he would not allow this man that. The soldier might still hurt him, but he would not do so with Rook being unaware of what fate befell him. Rook ignored the compliments, reading them as the farce they were, and stayed silent, watching the scene unfold with untrusting, cynical eyes.

Maria looked towards Rook with obvious distaste as the soldier commanded, with the guise of a suggestion, that she help to patch Rook's wounds. However, she was not foolish enough to defy the Stryfer, and in addition to patching up the bobcat girl she also offered Rook a poultice and some strips of cloth torn into makeshift bandages. The cynicism departed from Rook for a flash, giving way to the wolf boy's natural curiosity. He lifted the parcel of medicine to his nose and inhaled slowly, allowing the scent of herbs to tickle the back of his throat. The smells were unfamiliar to him.

“What is this?” Rook asked. Behind the layers of an overworked slave forced to manual labor his body was unused to, there remained an analytical, curious mind that still remembered his days off working a shop filled with the pungent scent spices and herbs.

Maria glanced at Rook, doubt and uncertainty flashing across her face. “It's a healing salve...you put it on your wounds and bind it with the bandages.”

An unimpressed glower met the woman's words. “I know what a salve is,” Rook growled. “I mean what is inside it? What herbs?”

The woman faltered, eyes wide. Apparently it had not occurred to her that a kelvic could possibly have any knowledge of such things, and her response was so dubious that Rook wondered for a moment on whether he should doubt it. “Burdock, to clean the wounds...and milkweed to stop the swelling and bleeding.”

Rook filed the information in the back of his head, and accepted the parcel with a nod and a thank you and examined the poultice with his eyes. The substance had been ground up, perhaps by mortar and pestle, until it had become a thick, creamy substance of a sauce-like consistency. It had been wrapped in a parcel of brown paper for transportation. Applying the material was simple enough, and took minimal time. While the Styfer showed off his magic (for surely it was some sort of magic that allowed one to lift so heavy an object single-handedly?) Rook yanked off his shirt and slathered the substance onto his stomach and chest, where Pellia's claws had bitten into his flesh and bound the wounds with the strips of cloth provided. It was far from a pretty job, for Rook's strength was in the identifying of the herbs more than the application of them, but binding wounds was not a terribly difficult thing to accomplish, and he managed it well enough. By the time he had finished, the family was well on their way, and Rook watched them disappear into the distance with dispassionate eyes.

The Stryfer's confrontation of the pair of bandits earned a touch more interest from Rook then the family had. The interactions between the pair made Rook's heart twinge uncomfortably. Empathy was not a feeling that came naturally to the wolf boy...or at least it hadn't until recently. But the interactions between the bobcat girl and her bondmate brought a bittersweet tang to Rook's tongue. The way the two interacted was nothing like himself and Shiress, but that touch of intimacy between them was far too familiar for Rook to ignore. He missed his bondmate, desperately. There was a loneliness struggling in his soul that the wolf boy could not ignore, and his current predicament only made the situation more unbearable. He had to endure...for her. This whole damned situation was just one more brick in the metaphorical road leading him back to her side. Rook held that loneliness deep inside of him, swallowed it down, and kept his face impassive throughout the exchange of words. The last thing he needed was his captor catching wind of his situation.

Rook didn't quite know what to make of the Stryfer taking his advice to heart; even less of the man seeing the pair off on top of his horse. Perhaps horses were a copper a dozen for one like the Stryfer. That was the conclusion that made the most sense to the wolf. Why else would this man risk his possession on the conclusion Rook drew? He knew his opinions were bound to be meaningless to the soldier. Still...what did he have to gain by trying to win Rook over? It could be as simple as cruelty, or something more complex that Rook couldn't get fanthom...regardless, there was no trust there, even with the gesture. Pellia's challenge merely drew a growl from Rook. “Anytime,” he retorted, and watched as they rode away.

The Stryfer's eyes had a strange shine of pride as he watched the pair ride away into the distance. Rook hadn't been paying enough attention to the situation to consider the possibility of them squirreling some gold away from the soldier's keen eyes, but he nodded at the man's speculation. “Most people are more useful than they look on the outside,” Rook said. “People just don't know how to use them.”

The Stryfer proffered his good luck in Rook's presence; more half compliments that didn't pierce Rook's dour exterior. The wolf didn't allow himself to think about the fact that the pair of them were going after escaped slaves. The matter was... distasteful. But what choice did Rook have in the situation? The road stretched out before them, footfalls echoing the inner mumblings of weary anxious minds. And naturally, the Stryfer bridged the silence. Rook found himself biting back a sigh. Did this man ever shut up? He really liked the sound of his own voice.

Rook watched him out of the side of his eye, face forward towards the road, and quietly endured the man's supplications. When there was finally a pause, Rook found himself speaking, without hardly thinking the words.

“Death is...wasteful,” Rook said. “The Ebonstryfe hardly seem to think twice about killing someone. You just admitted that you would have done the same, just now. But corpses aren't worth anything. There's value in life...and I don't mean something stupid like sentimental or moral values. If corpses could build a city, then the slaves would have all been murdered a long time ago. And no matter how worthless someone seems, there's something valuable in everyone. It could be skills, knowledge, information… whatever. Everyone has something, you just have to look hard enough to see it. And if you can find a way to get someone to support your ideals, to follow you, than their something becomes yours.”

Rook glanced at the Stryfer, through the corner of his eye. “I haven't killed a person before,” he said. “But I'm a hunter. It's part of who I am. I didn't kill that girl cause I saw the use in her. For all her growling, she values her life. And so does that man. Being given their life means something to them, and being given opportunities means even more. If you're right by them then they'll be loyal. Maybe they've never had someone be good to them before.” Rook paused a moment and allowed the noise of the forest to fill the silence between them.

“I don't think I'd care about killing someone if I had to,” Rook said. “If there was no other way, I wouldn't care. But usually there are other ways. Death is final. Life leaves possibilities.”
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Rook
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