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Shreds of (in)humanity

 
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Cooper Gallows
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm


Joined: 10 Jan 2012
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 11:56 pm    Post subject: Shreds of (in)humanity Reply with quote

Well, it only gets harder from here, man.

Jake Ives was a prophet.

In a quiet moment on the Owl’s back patio, had Cooper fired down a shot and lit up a cigarette, stealing a breather from being around anyone else during in the evening bar activity. It was Sunday and with all the recent civil unrest, the drinking crowds seemed to be thinning out early. Casey had sensed his pensive mood and left well enough alone. Claire had reluctantly made the voyage to get the twins from Cordelia solo but was expected to return sometime soon.

Soon.

The future. That was the crux of problem wasn’t it?

Belle would be here soon and Jessica would likely arrive some time after, if she hadn’t already taken to lurking in the shadows. The former, his daughter (sort of but not really), had asked for it and when he had broached the subject with the latter, had been more than a little surprised when she assented with little more than an affirming grunt. No questions, no yelling at him for Another Him impregnating Her From Another Reality. Maybe it meant her curiosity had gotten the better of her and she had some small interest in knowing what it was like being a mother. Maybe it was just a matter of making it easier to get close enough to him to stab him for the entire situation by proxy.

The latter seemed more likely.

And then there were the events of the previous evening to consider.

“Gaia’s Breath,” the cowboy muttered and lit a fresh cigarette from the burning butt of his last before dropping it into the nearby ashtray. He turned the heavy weight of his scrutiny towards the moons through a heavily overcast sky, looking for an answer that wasn’t to be found in the heavens before lowering his attention to the nearest collection of shadows. “You sure weren’t jokin’, Jake. S’ everythin’ great, worrisome, dauntin’, and hopeful in one neat little package, tied with bow. Surely means ***’s comin’ off the rails soon. No doubt.”

The shadows didn’t answer him but it wouldn’t have come as a surprise to know that Jake could hear him. Hell, the Reaper seemed to damned well hear everything. A snorted laugh expelled twin jets of pale gray smoke from flared nostrils and, for just a moment, Cooper fancied himself a dragon. The amusement was broken when he heard the shouting coming from the front of the Owl.


The wards on the building would hold, of that Casey was certain. She could feel the veritable thrum of their power like the prickle of static across her skin. It had been slow for a Sunday, the dinner crowd was thin and the stragglers after that dotted the bar and a single table on the floor, spaced just enough to give her a decent circuit to check on them all. Ed had been sent home early, leaving Casey alone to close up shop in a few hours. It wasn’t fair to keep him there when the tips wouldn’t be enough to make it worth it. A round of drinks delivered, she returned to her perch behind the bar, her time used to scrub down the empty expanses of counter for the millionth time. The rag was left to sit when one of the Owl’s regulars signaled for his check. The ticket was printed and tucked into a leatherbound booklet but before she could set it down, a burst of shouting outside drew half of the pub’s attention. The protests had come in waves but they had mostly settled down in the wake of the Safe Haven declaration made for the Sassy Owl Saloon and many of its neighboring businesses along the block.

“Sorry about that, Jim.” She said sheepishly, finally delivering the check before skipping out from behind the bar to head for the front windows to see just what the fuss was this time. Unlike the birth of the protests, she had nothing to worry about after the windows had been replaced. The tempered glass had been thoroughly enchanted to make sure there would be no repeats of the first time. Hands to her hips, Casey leaned up on her toes to peek out. Down closer to the market’s center, a pillar of flame sent black smoke high into the sky but it seemed to be contained. Hardly a threat. Violet eyes swung back down the street to the opposite end. A throng of “anti-non-human” activists had made a human blockade across the street, preventing the passage of a pitch black SUV and a second car further behind it. They were armed, though what with, Casey couldn’t tell. The sound dampered by the closed windows and door, she still could just barely make out what they were yelling as they accosted the driver of the familiar vehicle.

“Show your face, you coward! Get out of the car or get out of the city!” The thump-thump of something heavy hitting the Jeep failed to break the windshield which only further infuriated the tangle of rioters. Casey jerked the front door open. The yelling spilled into the tavern.

“Down with Dragon’s Gate you non-human bitch!” The windows may have been reinforced but the headlights weren’t. One flickered out as it shattered. Casey paled when she heard one shrill voice point out the children in the car. Bastard mutts, they called them. The tender wasn’t the violent sort but that didn’t keep her from heading back to the bar, reaching over the counter for an aluminum baseball bat that
had been stashed there in light of the protests. Once in hand, she headed back for the front door.

“S’ goin’ on, Case?” Cooper stepped inside just in time to spy the retrieval of the bat, his half-formed smile dying as dark brows lifted in disappointing curiosity. He weaved his way around the tables to catch the lithe blonde half way to the door, one meaty hand reaching out to catch her just above the elbow. “Slow up there, darlin’. S’ no point it takin’ it out there and just makin’ it all worse. Let them idiots sort themselves out. The peaceful ones’ll come inside if’n they’re of a mind.”

“It’s disgusting, Cooper,” Casey replied, giving him a furtive look over her slim shoulder before turning her attention to the growing chaos outside. “Everyone’s looking for a reason to hate everyone.”

“Welcome t’ the world as we know it.” His smile was a sad one.

The blonde bartender had something on the tip of her tongue when the door opened, raising the volume of the disturbance outside while admitting some new faces. The came in pairs and trios, a mixed bag of disheveled refugees from the worsening tensions outside; they were human and not, from dark skin to tusks to normal brown eyes to pointed ears. They only thing that stayed the same was the apprehension on their faces when they saw the big, burly man and the woman with the baseball man, both purely human as far as anyone was concerned. It was the cowboy’s smile that disarmed them in the end, crooked and inviting the moment he divined their intent, and gesturing towards the back with a big hand. “If’n you’re lookin’ t’ get away from all the drama out there, grab some seats in the back and ‘round the corner. Casey, why don’t y’ get everyone somethin’ warm t’ drink, compliments’a the Hangman’s owner, and then kill the lights. If’n they think we’re close or givin’ up, they’re less likely t’ cause mo’ of a stir. When *** dies down, everyone who’s here can step on out the back way.”

When a single blonde brow rose in askance, both of Cooper’s hands came up. “Claire’ll understand, all things bein’ considered. Just get these kids sorted and kill the front lights.”

“I think I saw Claire’s Jeep out there, Cooper.” She paused long enough to inform him before moving to do what he asked. “People were throwing things.”

“Claire’s a smart one,” Cooper replied, but was slipping a hand into his pocket to retrieve his phone. “Chances are she’ll move on and take the twins over to the Hangman, wait a bit, then circle back when it’s died down.” The pink-haired warrior woman was smart but she was also stubborn, leading him to bring up her number and swing his thumb across the little touch screen to begin the call. The phone was pressed to his ear, his dark eyes glued to the goings-on outside with a growing unease.

“Darlin’, s’ that you and the kids out there?” The first of the Owl’s lights were dimming and then dying, throwing long shadows across the floor.

“Yeah, Casey spotted you. Looks like things’re heatin’ up. We took in a few who didn’t want nothin’ t’ do with either side, but I gave her the go-ahead to shut things up fo’ the time bein’, just hang out and given the others some place warm and away from the nutjobs. I know you’re safe in there, but why don’t y’ get turned ‘round, take Alex and Avy over t’ the Hangman. I think Belle and Oz were havin’ at early little date thing over there befo’ she was gonna come over here and J… naw, I won’t warn Jess off. Chances are if she’s here and any’a those people get too close, she’ll do fo’ them worse that they could ever do fo’ eachother. Just… naw, m’ good. M’ gonna fire up another smoke and maybe step out front, tell a few’a them t’ get off m’ lawn and see if that don’t steal some attention from you. Get turned ‘round and go, okay? ...Yeah, I know. Love you too. Now go on and git.”

Not bothered by the frigid winter weather, Cooper cast his jacket only a glance before stepping out with just his short sleeves, pausing just outside the door to light up another cigarette. The crowd had grown in a short time. The idiotic and poorly orchestrated civil unrest that had festered in the city late seemed to attract crazy like flies to a dung pile or crazy, desperate women to Jochin Nagadari. It all seemed to pop up without warning or reasonable cause, like bad fan fic or a popular television drama in a mid-season slump. The analogies prompted a brief smile but the reality was right there in his face. People, human or otherwise, has lost their Gaia damned minds. There were the signs, of course. Humanity or bust! All humans should burn! Angry shouts, bottles, bricks -- Jesus, there was even a torch or two and one enthusiastic moron with a pitchfork. Where not engaged with one another in verbal and physical conflict, they had taken to surrounding Claire’s Jeep, pushing up against it to scream obscenities at her and the children she harbored within.

The hair on the back of the gurahl’s neck rose, his shoulders hunching and his posture gone rigid. It had been nearly impossible to suppress the low ursine rumble that built deep within his broad chest. The last lights at the front of the Sassy Owl had flickered out, leaving his a half-shadowed monolith against the backdrop of its storefront.

“S’ cuse me!” Cooper called out to the milling mob only a dozen feet away. There was perhaps fifty yards between himself and the Jeep, which had slowed from its steady plod to a disconcerting idle. It hadn’t turned yet. “Hey! I said hey! Owl’s closed, so why don’t y’ all find some other place t’ haunt t’night and smack each other ‘round. S’ nothin’ worth yo’ time here.”

He wasn’t a small man by any means, but neither were some of the protesters, many of whom wheeled about at his bellow to face him.

“Hey, I know that guy! It’s the inhuman bitch’s lover! How’s it feel to be a traitor to your race?”

“What? #@%! You! Claire can do better than this human scum and his inferior genetics!”

“Whoa,” Cooper put his hands up, fresh smoke drifting from one corner of his mouth, opposite where the cigarette was pursed. The shadowy ink on his thick, trunk-like arms writhed with a little less subtlety. “Don’t much care what any’a y’all have t’ say. I’d just take it as simple decency if’n y’all would take it somewhere else. Make a party’a it. Could cut up some bedsheets and go burn a cross or a pentagram in someone’s yard. His name’s Mesteno and his address is five-five--”

A bottle shattered against the building’s wards, half a dozen paces behind him.

“Right. So, no hittin’ the bigots with KKK jokes. Got it.”

A honking horn drew dark eyes away from the mob before him and towards the jeep. Its progress had been halted and a steady press and counter-push of bodies massed against was causing the chassis to rock from side to side. What remained of his attempt at a smile and good humor faded, and Cooper crushed out the cigarette before starting towards the jeep. And the crowd blocking his path to it.

“Y’all need t’ move,” he warned them, his bearded mouth twisting in a growling scowl, the words spilling free in a growl. “Now.” Two big hands started shoving people aside.

He was dimly aware of the shouted response, a very cliched “Get him! before a surge of heavy bodies sent him backwards, men rolling over him like a wave, and the blows of angry fists raining down.


Last edited by Cooper Gallows on Mon Feb 13, 2017 12:10 am; edited 1 time in total
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Claire Gallows
Eternal Light
Ancient Wyrm
Ancient Wyrm


Joined: 21 Feb 2013
Posts: 1157
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Jobs: City Guard, Sword for Hire
Can Be Found: The Sassy Owl Saloon or Underwood Manor in New Haven
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Claire couldn’t rightly run them over, as easy as it would have been. They were misguided but stupidity wasn’t a punishable crime (unfortunately). Her gaze checked the rearview, the glare of headlights from the car behind her reflected back at her and making her mouth purse into a tight pucker. The Jeep’s console lit up, a twangy ringer piped through the vehicle’s bluetooth connection to tell her Cooper was calling. It didn’t surprise her. With her foot hovering over the gas pedal but not quite depressing it, she punched the call button.

“Darlin’, s’ that you and the kids out there?” Cooper’s voice emanated from the speakers. In the back seat Alex clapped.

“Papapapapapa!” He called. For all of her anxiety, Claire couldn’t help but smile.

“Yeah, how’d you guess?” Her left foot held fast on the brake as her right revved the gas as if it might encourage the clashing protesters to get out of her way. The warm glow radiating from the Owl’s front windows began to dim until a neon Open sign was all that remained. Cooper’s explanation thereafter more than made up for it, his reasoning sound in drawing in those seeking sanctuary from the violence. The books could take the hit for the night if it meant keeping them safe. He offered to make enough of a diversion for her to get out of there though she still hadn’t figured out just how to get around the car behind her who had taken to laying on their horn out of frustration over what she could only guess was the lack of forward movement.

“Cool your jets, a-hole! I’m trying!” She gestured with a hand as the car flashed their high beams. The dark tinting on the Jeep’s windows likely made it nothing more than a shadow but it was the thought that counted. When she looked forward again, Cooper had stepped out, his dark silhouette soon illuminated by her remaining headlight. He always had such a peaceable way about him that she was certain it would be broken up before long. What she hadn’t anticipated was just how far it had escalated. Leave it to Rhydin to crank it to eleven. Cooper’s mouth was moving but she couldn’t hear what he said. Still she watched a bottle sail past him, felt the Owl’s wards as it brushed off the shattering glass. Helpless, Claire punched the horn, a single burst that inadvertently drew attention back to the SUV. Someone tried to open the passenger side door but found it locked. Fists pounded against the windows and the toddlers in the back fast lost their previous elation over hearing Cooper’s voice over the speakers.

“It’s okay, babies. We’ll get outta here in just a--” The first rock of the car made her stomach lurch, the second set her heart pounding. A quick tap of the gas pushed the Jeep forward a few inches, dissuading a handful of would be assailants. But where they faded back into the mob, others took their place and when hands and shoulders pushed against the vehicle’s side, she felt the shocks groan. In the backseat, Alex’s tears rattled her nerves almost as much as the wide silver eyes that met hers as she caught Averia’s gaze in the rearview. Claire crushed the heel of her hand against the horn, laying out a long and loud note that renewed the purpose in the gurahl’s step. It also tore the protesters’ attention in half, the loudest taking aim at the man since they could actually reach him. The Jeep, when upright, was a rolling fortress. She and the kids were safe within its confines so long as they didn’t unlock the doors, but the threat of it being pushed over was fast becoming a reality that she needed to address. And soon.
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Cooper Gallows
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm


Joined: 10 Jan 2012
Posts: 42
See this user's pet
Can Be Found: The Caelum Manor guest cottage or wandering
1847.86 Silver Crowns

Items

PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 1:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pain.

Cooper’s world was pain. It was remarkable, in its own way. A very corporeal pain. Tangible. In the dim recesses of his mind, it served as a positive reminder of his link to the physical world. Not all was lost; it was the universe’s own bittersweet way of saying: You’re still here, Cooper Gallows. It’s not done yet. A maddening laugh squeezed out between wheezes as he searched for his breath, caught completely off guard by the dogpile, his anger still a small kindling fire in the pit of his stomach. Fists and something harder (was that a pipe?) collided with his stomach and ribs, struck his head like they were ringing a bell. Inhumanly strong, the gurahl struggled against the oppressive weight, shifting it and beginning to roll to the side so he could regain his feet. One man was thrown clear of the pile like a discarded soda can before a full body collision swept one of his legs from beneath him and sent the pile crashing back onto the street. He growled again, but the heat in the threat was still minimal. It would take more than some second rate donnybrook to break the cowboy’s cool resolve.

The anger, when it finally came, boiled up and over in slow motion, like in a movie. He heard the horn, a long bugling note that was killed with the sudden collision of another vehicle into the jeep. There was a heavy crunch, followed by the screaming of rent metal and a victorious howl from half the crowd.

“No…” It was a simple word, devoid of his typical southern drawl, but with so much more power. The smokey black ink on his thick arms writhed violently, curling away from his flesh and peeling off like small chips of old, weathered paint; they were a last commandment broken and thrown into the dark sea of the penumbra. Beneath, color glowed and then it shined, a budding and vibrant red and gold from his left arm, silver and blue from the right. Fire and lightning danced a mystic dance for him, caressing like an old lover. Reassuring like an old friend.

And angry. Oh, so angry, for what was being done to that little spark of life inside…

Cooper could taste his own Rage, like a starving man given bread.

The vibrant, glowing ink sleeving his arms flashed violently and then every light within a hundred yards was suddenly extinguished.

A collective cry went up from the rioting protestors, first in surprise for the robbery of the light and then again for the terror of the unknown. Smaller outbursts echoed around them where the sudden collisions of thrown bodies were met with surprised outrage. Around them, darkness had become a vacuum, sucking away all of the light into some unknown place. Electronic devices stopped working, destroying in-progress attempts at recording the violence, cell phone flashlights winking out and stealing away the fleeting hope of bringing order to the new chaos. The rumbling snarl was the first clue given to the masses that something worse was occurring, a harsh baritone thing that rattled the nearby windows in their frames, and sent the hearts of all but the most courageous into their bowels. It filled the area around the Owl’s shopfront, everywhere and nowhere, a phantom menace that, for a few pregnant moments, seemed devoid of physical form. The light returned slowly, but in the form of the twinkling pinpricks of shining stars, given life in seemingly random locations, like twinkling, monochromatic faerie lights on a background of midnight. But there was nothing random about the lights and soon enough, like some ominous constellation, they had outlined a gargantuan form.

The streetlights well beyond the periphery of the crowd sputtered and winked in some semblance of a fight for light, illuminating pockets of people at random but only briefly making it farther forward. It did nothing for the once rioting masses when the great beast lunged out of the darkness first. The heavy thump, thump, thump of forward progress preceded it, a midnight mass of coarse fur and rippling muscle, teeth like tent stakes punching into flesh like damp earth and scythe-line claws cutting bodies down like harvest wheat. Where rioting protesters were sliced open like ripe fruit, they were crushed beneath stomping, clawed feet or batted aside like irritating vermin. People screamed and scattered where they could, trampling one another to escape the wrath of the giant creature that was as much bear as it was man. Massive claw sank into the battered chassis of the car that had slammed into the driver’s side of the jeep to t-bone it, causing the agonizing screech of more torn metal before a hulking tug on the vehicle saw it ripped away and tossed towards the fleeing mob with little regard for who it struck.


A figure or two disappeared from view, yanked backwards into the nearby alley. Their screams cut short into gurgled wet gasps because a slit throat from an Italian Chemist would prove to be a more merciful death than being mauled by the hands of a bear.

The gurahl’s rage didn’t begin to abate until he had hunkered down next to the jeep, throwing the occasional mauling backhand to anyone unwise enough to stumble within his reach, while dark chocolate eyes peered through the windshield with an all too human concern and familiarity. “Claire,” he stumbled over the word with an ursine tongue, hot breath steaming up the window and serving to remind Cooper of the state of things. Little by little the fur faded away, the monster shrinking by steady degrees until only the man remained to use still unfathomable strength to pull both doors off of the jeep and toss them away. “S’ okay.” The words came out in panted breaths as he reached for them, his family. “You’re safe. S’ okay. Everything’s gonna be okay. I got you.”

He had them. All of them.

The cost didn’t matter.
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