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Red Dragon Inn - Dragon's Mark -> Just Desserts

#16:  Author: Eddie BlakeCan Be Found: Drifting PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:03 pm
    —
Devil

You said it yourself you're scared of being alone
You said it yourself that you can crack the code
But the static you hear automatically keeps you exposed on your own
I hope you're ready, steady, smashing through the levy...

...'Cause it's about to get heavy
It's about to be on
Yeah, I'm bangin' slingin' napalm
So nobody move
'Cause I was sent to warn you
The devil's in the next room
~ Shinedown

-----------------------
14 February 2018
-----------------------


He’d said durable, even used the ‘s’ word, which still made her laugh as the clock ticked toward eight, and she stepped out of the penthouse, and into the private elevator which would take her downstairs. One could argue that black leather was always sensible, even if it was Polo Ralph Lauren pants, and boots with a three-inch heel. They had lug soles, that had to count for something. She’d even left her jewelry home, except for the seal that alway dangled against her navel, and, of course, the black and silver collar at her throat. One word. Six letters. One more than his name but it meant the same thing. Clutch in one hand, duffel in the other (he’d said to pack something slinky for later, after all), Tahlia leaned against the wall, and slid a hand behind her back to check the silver daggers strapped there. Something about the message had hinted she’d better dress for trouble.

A subtle chime announced her arrival in the lobby, and she stepped out, giving Brett a wink, and the saucy smirk the concierge ought to know well by now. The metal fittings on her leather jacket clinked against the duffel as she shifted it up on to a shoulder, shaking her head before the smoothly smiling man could move to help. “I got it, thanks...have a good night, sugar.” Juggling for a moment, she slipped a cigarette between her lips, and stepped outside, jamming the pack into the back pocket that didn’t already hold her phone. The flash of flame lit her face for an instant, and she let out a plume of smoke, dropping the larger bag at her feet to wait. She didn’t expect it would be long.

That was perhaps an understatement, it was only a moment after her lighter flared that the delicate sound of thunder ignited. Man made thunder certainly, the kind at the control of Eddie’s right foot and it was going to get much louder before it quieted. If the sound of the engine was enough to have her looking his direction, the sudden illumination of the headlights would zero her in on exactly where he was. It wasn’t dark yet, the sun was still making its presence known in deep red and purple hues along the horizon. It was much harder to appreciate among the tall buildings of course than say at the top of it. Then again it didn’t have to look down jealously at the purple Roadrunner pulling out of that parking spot and circling into the front drive of the apartment building. Tinted windows remained up as he pulled beneath the covered entrance and rolled to a stop in front of the blonde girl. There was only one thing missing, the driving beat of heavy bass through the speakers.

Eddie didn’t get out, he might be in a mood tonight, besides there was a perfectly good doorman standing right there. He looked like he needed something to do. When Tahlia appeared with the duffle, he put his hand out to take it, then dropped it into the back seat. It had been awhile since he’d put anything or anyone back there. Didn’t really have the need to lately, considering where he’d been. “There’s a bottle under the seat.” He said it like she should get it out, and make use of it. A cursory inspection of her brought an approving nod from him and the flash of a smile that belonged on a misbehaving boy. He barely waited for the door to fully close before starting forward again and making a turn onto the street.

One brow quirked up, and she leaned forward without a word to secure the bottle, twisting in the seat to press a kiss to his cheek before dropping back against the leather. Twisting the cap off, she took a swig, and purred, holding the bottle out to him as she unzipped her jacket. “So do I get to know where we’re going, or are you surprising me with a romantic getaway?” Dressed as they were, she somehow doubted it, but she wouldn’t be her if she didn’t tease him a little. Especially not with that bad-boy smile on his lips. She could guess what he was thinking, and the black tank top under her jacket wasn’t designed to let him think straight. Not yet, anyway.

Finally taking a second drag from her cigarette, the blonde shifted to avoid poking herself on her own daggers, and subtly glanced around the cars interior. It was clean...she might have had it detailed at a very trustworthy place she knew of before handing him back the keys, and Eddie hadn’t been back long enough to change that. Not that he would. She was nearly certain the car meant more to him than anything, herself included.

“Eventually, first I think we need to go to church.” It was one of those Saint’s days after all, right? He still hadn’t put on any music, but he was feeling indecisive at the moment on what he wanted to hear. It likely was the last thing that Tahlia had expected to hear out of him, but she knew him pretty well by now and a trip to church could simply be a euphemism for something else. The car rolled on, out of Seaside and across the Marketplace. There was a fantastic view of the harbor as the crossed the bridge into Old Temple district. Maybe he really did mean they were going to church? They were present at practically every corner, displayed in all their radiance. The car just passed them all by as it traveled eastwards along the coast and passed beyond the city wall. It always surprised him how quickly the concentration of buildings turned into forest when he drove outside past the city limits.

There was still the occasional building here and there, still temples to one deity or another though they looked less like places of worship and more like compounds. It took another twenty minutes before he started to slow, and Eddie didn’t have a light foot when it came to abandoned roads. The building was surrounded by walls on three sides, the fourth bordered the water. It did have a large parking lot, which he turned the car into and coasted slowly into a spot. Above the wall the building rose, tall and a lot like the places they’d seen when they’d gone to Yasou. There was even a massive stone dragon fountain jutting out into the parking lot, the pool into which it belched a stream of water nearly cutting the lot in half. There was something familiar about the figure. It was like many others that weren’t nearly so large, but that wasn’t what gave it the feel. The thing almost could have been alive.

“Church?” It never occurred to her that he might not be kidding. But as the car rolled through the evening air, she realized that they seemed to be surrounded by religious buildings, half of them to gods she’d never heard of. Idly, she wondered if this was where dead gods went, if they wandered this planet like everyone else. It had to be the odd shadows, the vague sense of being watched from shadowed enclaves as they passed building after building, with breaks of trees, and the occasional compound. More gods, although these seemed gods of commerce. Smoke wafted from between her lips, her eyes flitting from the scenery to the man beside her. At least until the car turned, and the dragon came into view.

Her hands tensed against the seat, and she tossed the butt of her cigarette out the window. She recognized the statue, and watched it like she expected it to fly at them, and start the whole process over again. This place had haunted her dreams, and she lifted the bottle to her lips, swallowing a few good chugs before licking her lips and flicking her gaze to him. “Eddie...why are we here?” It was imposing enough, perhaps he would just attribute her response to that, and confusion.

It wasn’t a look he’d favored her with very often. At best it would be called stony, if it weren’t for the blaze in his eyes that said he was barely holding the facade of control. “I’ve been thinking a little…” The man was still a fabulous liar, but there was no mistaking that he really meant a lot. “...about your nightmares.” She’d said things that perhaps she didn’t think he’d heard or understood when he’d returned. The worst one...they had [i]you...and I couldn’t save you. All I could do was watch.[/i] He wasn’t a genius, but it hardly took one to understand that. It had taken a while to actually find this place, even if Reggie had done most of the work. The illusion had to come from somewhere, and it was always easier to show a place that was known. “I think this will help us both. Confronting the darkness.” Eddie still hadn’t taken a single drink, it was unusual almost like he’d left it there solely for Tahlia knowing that she’d react as she had.

Eddie opened his door moving to step out of the car. “Come on, I got you a present for Valentine’s Day.” He stood up and closed the door behind him, making his way to the rear of the car and popping the trunk while he watched Tahlia and her internal struggle. “I was a bit surprised when I did find this place, it almost seems abandoned, doesn’t it?” The place was dark, though as the night took stronger hold lights did appear here and there. It didn’t break the eerie silence, the place could tomb what with the lack of ambient sound even among the trees. There were no animals, though it was still the middle of winter. Maybe there was going to be a cold snap coming?

“It...yeah.” First things first. She was surprised the place actually existed, let alone that it was here and he’d found it. Stepping out into the eerie quiet, she shifted phone and cigarettes to interior pockets, her fingers dipping into the front pocket of her pants for a moment, skimming over a silver disk maybe the size of a quarter. Something had told her to bring it tonight, and now she understood why. She left the bottle behind, not that it mattered much. She looked back and forth between Eddie and the seemingly abandoned temple compound, her bottom lip caught between her teeth. Closing her door with exaggerated care,she stalked back toward the trunk, still glancing back over her shoulder at the dragon statue. She couldn’t help feeling like it was watching her. Waiting for her guard to drop. One hand twisted behind her back to recheck her daggers, the other digging into her pocket, wrapping the leather cord she kept the pendant on around her fingers.

“Confronting the darkness...most guys go with flowers, Eddie...chocolates. Jewelry. Not facing down nightmares.” But he’d given her jewelry, hadn’t he - the black pearl currently being set for her into a navel stud at one of Rhydin’s premier jewelers. This was by far the strangest Valentine’s Day she’d ever had. But then...when had they ever done anything normal? “All this and a present too? You shouldn’t have.” She didn’t glance into the trunk, not yet. “But it just so happens I got something for you too…” She pulled out the silver charm, keeping it held tightly in her fist. “I’ll let you go first…”

Eddie looked at Tahlia, she didn’t seem to have anything on her that stood out as a gift. That just meant it was small enough to fit in a pocket. If that’s what she was hoping for, she was going to be pretty disappointed when he opened the trunk all the way and pulled out the drum fed tactical shotgun and handed it to her. “It’s not exactly a dozen roses, but it is a twelve gauge.” He might not have understood the entire point of Valentine’s Day, surely the important part was the twelve, right? “It’s semiauto, so you won’t have to pump after each round… just pull back here.” He took hold of the lever and yanked it smoothly back until the first round was seated and let it spring forward. “Safety’s right by your trigger finger, pistol grips for speed in aiming.”

He reached in and took out a second one that was identical to the one he’d just given Tahlia. “I got us a matched set.” That I’m trouble smile was on his lips again as he set the weapon down and took out a couple bandoliers that had smaller magazines on them, and their usual 9 millimeter pistols. “Happy Valentine’s day Pumpkin.”

It said something about her state of mind that she took it with a slow smile, “You thought of everything.” She wasn’t disappointed, focusing more keeping the tremble from her limbs, or any sign of how her pulse was racing. Her hand smoothed along the barrel, and she set the gun against her hip, aiming toward the ground. She may be more comfortable with weaponry than she let be known, but not enough to dismiss the directions he gave her. Grinning up at him, she blew a saucy kiss in his direction. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Puddin.”

Matched weapons were certainly bigger than her gift for him, but the use for them carried as much weight. Her hand pulled from her pocket, wrapped tight around the pendant, and she looked at it for a moment before tipping her face up to his. “My gift isn’t as big...but it’s...well, it’s one of the few things that’s really mine.” Her fingers uncurled, and she held her hand out, the moonlight skimming over embossed silver, hung from a simple cord. “My mother always said if anything happened to her, this would keep us safe. The night of the fire, I grabbed it...had it ever since. I don’t know how you could wear it, when you change...but it would - something just told me I should give it to you tonight.” She shrugged, suddenly feeling exposed.

“It’s...perfect. Put it on me?” There were a lot of things that he knew it was, and just couldn’t say out loud. He leaned over, pulling his jacket down so that Tahlia could reach his neck. She wasn’t wrong about the changing, there were special considerations that would need to be taken in order to wear it always. Not difficult ones, just highly specific materials that would be required. “Thank you. I can see that it means a lot to you… and that you’re obviously worried about me.” Eddie didn’t have a lot of that from people, most would be happier if something did happen to him. Maybe that was why he took great pleasure in coming through things as unscathed as possible.

One finger held the metal disk to the hollow in his neck until Tahlia managed to put a knot in the cord and he could let it dangle. It slid beneath his shirt, maybe that was more appropriate than having it out and visible, if only because he was pretty sure that was where she’d rather be too. Eddie talked while she worked. “There’s several decent tactical entrances to this place, assuming you can get over the wall. There’s a way into the upper floors, and coming from that direction would give us an element of surprise. It’s probably the smartest way to go in.” He pointed to the roof of a balcony that could be scaled pretty easily. “Normally I’d make you wear a hooded mask… but it’s not going to be necessary for two reasons.”

“Of course I worry about you...you have a positive thing for putting yourself in danger.” Nimble fingers tied the disk in place, taking the opportunity to skim her fingers along his jaw as she let go. He wasn’t wrong that she would rather be under his shirt, or rather, she would very much rather them both be shirtless, naked would be even better. Certainly better than mounting a tactical assault on an unknown foe. Picking up the shotgun, she hefted it, half-turned to look over the facade. It was entirely possible that she might waste her first shot taking out the stone dragon, just to make herself feel better. To make sure the wretched thing would never hurt anyone else.

“Hooded mask? You...oh.” It took her a second to catch up, realizing this likely went along with his not requiring them to wear gloves, or for that matter, the fact that they’d driven his very noticeable car there, and would be leaving the same way. “Why is that?” A moment later, she suspected she had figured out the answer, or at least one of them. “We’re the only ones leaving here breathing, aren’t we, puddin…”

“I never put myself into danger.” He was all wide eyed innocence now. Completely earnest in his insistence that such things just never occurred even as he reached for the shotgun and closed the trunk. “I honestly have no idea what you mean.” He looked from her to the temple and back. “If you’re wondering, there’s about two dozen Mer inside. I may not know why they’re here, but I do know that they don’t belong, and I’m happy to help them remember it.” He may have had a bit of a vendetta to settle as well. Eddie started his walk across the parking lot, oddly he was doing nothing to be stealthy. “And that’s right baby… we’re gonna kill em all.”

“Two..dozen…” No wonder he’d brought extra ammunition. Shotgun held ready, she tagged along behind, which meant, with any luck, that he would miss her squeak of surprise as the bass shook the air. A warning would have been nice, but that was a conversation for a later time, perhaps. There was no argument about killing them all. She couldn’t think of a better fate, and while the one who’d tortured him was already beyond her reach, she was more than happy to make his brethren pay for his sins.

“I changed my mind.” He’d been heading for the the spot on the wall he’d determined was going to be the easiest to get over. He altered his angle heading right towards that dragon fountain. Eddie walked along the side of it, running his hand along the side of the the snakelike body pausing halfway to reach to the bandolier he wore and pull something free from it. He pressed it hard against the thing and kept his walk going right towards the front doors. “Eddie Blake doesn’t hide in the shadows.” To prove it a low rumble broke its way across the air centered on the purple beast. Maybe he’d just been waiting for the right moment to unleash the superbass? His shoulder planted against the intricately carved wooden doors and he gave a mighty shove sending them inwards with a crash that was emphasized by the blast of an explosion that tore the dragon to pieces.

#17:  Author: Tahlia FarasCan Be Found: Here and there, depends on her mood PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:06 pm
    —
Killing Strangers

We pack demolition, we can't pack emotion
Dynamite? We just might...
So blow us a kiss, blow us a kiss
Blow us a kiss, we'll blow you to pieces

We're killing strangers, we're killing strangers
We're killing strangers, so we don't kill the ones that we love
We're killing strangers, we're killing strangers
We're killing strangers, so we don't kill the ones that we love

We got guns, we got guns
Mother *** better, better, better run
We got guns, we got guns
Mother *** better run
~ Marilyn Manson

She was between the doors and the statue when the explosion hit, and she ducked to avoid the shrapnel. It was much better than just shooting the things head off, that was certain. She’d likely tell him that, when they were done. For now, she shook the worst of the dust from herself, and stepped into the darkened hall, bringing the gun up to sweep for any Mer. She had a few other tricks up her sleeve, ones Eddie may not realize he’d seen before. Catching a movement from the corner of her eye, her finger twitched on the trigger, and she sent the figure to its eternal rest with barely a blink.

Figures in scaled armor turned their attention to the doors, half at the ready and even with that advantage gained not nearly prepared enough for what was coming through them. Shrapnel in the form of bits of marble blew through the opening followed by the rising of dust that obscured Eddie and Tahlia from sight. A quarter of them were inside that first vast chamber, thick columns held up the high ceiling. It wasn’t quite so high as the illusion had been, but nothing really could be so vast as what had been offered there. “Honey! I’m home!” The words shouted out mockingly, they wouldn’t understand the reference and so maybe it was lost on them. Then again he wasn’t one to keep silent unless he was sleeping. That still might not be true, he may still talk during his sleep but had no way of knowing for sure.

The shotgun came up to Eddie’s shoulder and unleashed the first of many rounds as he aimed at the Mer closest to him and worked his way around the chamber. It was like he’d tried to tell the Knight, once they would have been on equal footing with the land dwellers. Some of them still adhered to the old methods, but he wasn’t one of those. He wasn’t exactly a land dweller either, just better versed on what was possible. Swords unsheathed, and serrated staffs came to ready but there was no closing the distance between them without taking fire and opening holes through flesh. Together they worked their way through the sanctuary and into an adjoining corridor lined with closed doors.

She’d let Eddie make all the noise he wanted, it covered nicely the intensely hissed repetition of a single word from her lips. Bleed, over and over...none of the Mer that fell would rise, not if she could help it. The nice thing about shotguns is they gave her so many wounds to play with. Careful steps, lips curled into a wicked smile as she aimed and fired, watching the bodies flail and twitch as the duo passed through. She would worry about the blades when she had to. Tahlia stuck close, shifting back to back and walking backwards to make sure no one surprised them as they entered the corridor.

The floor of the sanctuary glistened wetly in the moonlight, and she heard a giggle bubble up from her throat. “Puddin...we might need a shower first, after this. Hardly seems fair, with us armed to the teeth and them with spears and swords…” Especially since they seemed to be sharkteeth and swordfish blades. Not that she was suggesting they drop their weapons and make it a fair fight. Not after what they’d done to him. If they thought she’d done amazing, evil things before...they had no idea what they were in for. On her own, she never would have come here, not for this. Confrontation was never really her way. But this was Eddie’s show.

“Are you accusing me of cheating?” Eddie stepped past the first of the closed doors and held up a hand to Tahlia. He had a grin that couldn’t be undone by the smell of expended gunpowder in the air. “Get on your knees Puddin…” Okay so perhaps he was feeling a little frisky too, but he was staying on task… sort of. He waited long enough for Tahlia to take the low road before turning in and letting a kick loose on the door. Eddie barely got back behind the wall before the projectiles sailed through and hit the wall beyond. The sound of her shotgun going off was enough to keep his eyes down the corridor peppering any of the doors that started to open.

“Gonna be a long way to the top.” He wasn’t complaining, just stating the facts. It was Valentine’s Day and nothing says be mine quite like a room to room assault, right? “You want to kick next time or do you like what I have you doing down there?” Eddie snickered a little at his words before moving on down the hallway to repeat the process at the next opening.

“Cheating? Never...no-one ever said we had to fight fair…” To be fair, she’d only taken one knee, for stability, winking up at him, before sending a blast into the opened room, catching the now-weaponless Mer by surprise. She wondered if they’d ever seen guns before...or if they’d truly expected to win with spears and blades. It didn’t matter. Pale eyes nearly glowing in the dim light, she hissed her own personal curse on them, and then spun up to her feet.

“Yeah?” She gave a little sigh, and shook her head with a smirk. “I thought you liked me on my knees, Puddin…” It made more sense, it would take her several kicks to do what he could in one, and Eddie on his knees was still a really big target. Dropping next to the door, she swept the interior, firing a blast that took out the lone Mer inside at the knees. Up and back down, as they moved to the next. Sweep. Fire. Bleed. There was a rhythm to it, a music that swept beneath their little dance.

Three more doors with that same pattern of assault brought them a few more bodies closer to a clean sweep. The last door was different, here the hinges were on their side. It opened inward, a look through the glass window revealed that it opened on the stairwell. They’d made enough noise to wake the sacred dead, and whatever other spirits might be taking their eternal rest here, but the stairwell was abandoned. Eddie stepped through and listened with ears that heard more closely than they should. “Okay… guess we’re heading to the bottom, not the top.” He’d been expecting the opposite, just one more clue that he wasn’t thinking like an ocean dweller. Of course they’d want to go down… and…

“Do you smell that?” It wasn’t a fair question, despite that they were now slowly moving down the stairs. His words were less than a whisper given at the opening to her ear. “Brine...salt water....” it made sense, there would need to be someplace for them to go that would keep them from starting to rot, that had been the scent he’d smelled so often in the illusion. A fish out of water for too long. Pity he didn’t have a rose bush or six to plant. “We need to control that room.” It had just occurred to Eddie that there might be another reason for the scent of the sea to be down here.

Tahlia was shaking her head, barely able to smell anything other than gunpowder and the vaguely coppery scent of blood. And then the tang hit her nose, and she shivered. Since the vision, before that, really, the smell of ocean water had made her nervous. What she wanted to do was bury her face in his chest, and drown out the smell with Eddie’s unique scent. Later. After this was done. Down did make more sense - fish didn’t seem much of a fit for heights, and she didn’t think they were close enough to the ocean for them to dive off the roof and hit anything but ground. And that would take all the fun out of it. She wondered if they’d flop like the shark had in the alley.

There were two of them, and who knew how many in the shadowy cavern they found themselves in. The stone became sand, and she could now not only smell the salt water, but hear it, and see it, in the light of what looked to be bioluminescent moss that hung from crags and stones throughout the cave - although it seemed less cave than subterranean pool. Her fingers tensed on the stock of her gun, holding it steady for a moment to check the blades at her back. There was nothing behind them but death...what was ahead, felt like a battle.

Eddie didn’t exactly feel at home here, though maybe he should have been more so here than anywhere. You couldn’t get any more tied to land and part of the sea than in the chamber ahead of them. His nostrils were full of scents, the dank sand mixing in with the smell of the salt water pool and the fresh fish scent that came from the Mer that remained. There was something else there that was familiar though he was having a problem placing it with all the others around him, including Tahlia. He was sure if he got closer he’d absolutely know what it was that hinted itself to him just a fraction beneath the spent powder scent coming from his shotgun. “I need to get closer to the water.” He barely mouthed the words at Tahlia.

Eddie may not understand the why of a lot of things, but he knew on instinct that he had to get there. They’d managed to take apart half the mer that were present. It seemed impossible that the ones in the room beyond didn’t know that something was coming, even if what was a mystery. He pulled the bandolier over his head and dropped it next to Tahlia once he’d removed the pair of pistols. “There’s something...something I need to see for myself.” He was no longer even trying to whisper. Eddie Blake moved into the chamber past watchful eyes striding confidently towards the center of the room and that off scent. With every step it pulled at him, he could have followed it with his eyes closed, closer ever closer as the vague memory of it slowly solidified.

Eddie stopped in the center of the chamber, at his feet the sand was stained red but this is where it had brought him. He’d forgotten what and who were around him, dropping to one knee to let his fingers plow tracts through the sticky granules of sand. When his hand rose once more his palm bore a swath of material the length and breadth of his hand. On the one side sand coated it like paste reddened by blood, the other side was soft against his skin, fur thick enough to shed the coldest waters. He brought the bit of skin to his face, gasping as that memory solidified and a haze over his eyes caused everything to blur. Eddie’s breaths came short and tremulous. He turned his head towards Tahlia, burnt sienna gaze wet and lost as a child’s.

She’d nodded, leaving his weapons where he’d dropped them as she focused her attention on the Mer, some of whom shifted to intercept Eddie on his path. A shotgun blast warned them away, but she realized she couldn’t keep shooting blindly into a crowd if they surrounded him. Bullets had a tendency to keep moving, and she didn’t want to risk wounding the giant. Not if she needed to use her gifts. She tried to keep between Eddie and the walking fish, and keep them away from the water. Or at least that was her plan...until she saw that look. She knew that look - she’d seen it on her own face centuries before, in a moonlit pool. She’d seen it on the faces of her siblings as they watched their home burn. It was not a look she had ever thought to see on his, and the gaze she turned on the remaining band was cold and hard as stone.

The shotgun hit the sand, and in a blink, silver blades flashed in her hands. For this...for this, she wanted to see them bleed, and die, up close. That Harley grin tugged at her lips, and she was moving toward the Mer with smooth, deadly purpose. There was a difference between here, and the rings. In the rings, she did not really try to hurt her opponents. There were rules. There were wards. But here...here there was none of that. There was just her, and them. The blades caught at scaled skin, moving through it as if it was air. She did not care how deeply she cut them, or where, just that she did. Some fell, she had some skill in this, but there were more of them than she could fight without losing ground, and once or twice a blade got past her guard, and she felt it bite, there was a reason she wore leather. “Bleed, you bastards...BLEED” Something so little shouldn’t be so loud, and in response, the sand beneath the Mer matched the small patch where Eddie knelt, crimson, and sticky beneath them as they began to fall, and a smaller handful moved up in their place.

#18:  Author: Eddie BlakeCan Be Found: Drifting PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:16 pm
    —
The Vengeful One

...No forgiveness from all I've seen
The degradation I cannot forget
So sleep soundly in your beds tonight
For judgement falls upon you at first light....

...You'll die
You'll know why
For you cannot be saved
This world is too depraved
When you die
You'll know why

I'm the hand of God
I'm the dark messiah
I'm the vengeful one
(Look inside and see what you're becoming)...
~ Disturbed

Something boiled inside Eddie, it churned and spun, a maelstrom in the deepest ocean whose outer rim was a mass of blades. Their razor sharp edges cut into him, not physically, he didn’t bleed...didn’t bleed blood at least. The keening had started low, too soft to be heard above the clash of weapons, but with each utterance of the word *bleed* it grew, drowning him with the agony of its vibration as the savage edges inside him cut away everything but the growing rage. It oozed in him until it filled every inch of his six foot six frame, and then it burst out of his pores like sweat after a long night of sex.

“Where is she!” Eddie’s voice rebounded off the walls and ceiling of the cavern, but even its volume didn’t give the Mer closing on Tahlia any pause. They ignored him...no, they sought to hurt him even more by taking one more from him. This would not do, no... it would not! Eddie stood up, his ears picking up the sound of cloth being torn. Had one of them gotten through? His hands still held to his pistols, but this was far more personal and required his very special loving touch. They barely made a sound as they hit the sand. Turning, Eddie started towards those who sought to engulf Tahlia leaving them behind as unnecessary as an afterthought would be.

The closest of them was lean, like all the Mer seemed to be. Eddie hadn’t spent nearly so much time at sea as most of his kin, but he’d never seen a powerfully built Mer. He towered over the scalemailed creature, one hand grasping it about the throat and pulling it back and up to look him in the face. Its mouth opened, a yelp constricted by one of his massive hands. That was when he felt the things blade take him in the shoulder. It was an odd sensation, the bite of the edge, the sting of air as the mer pulled it free and readied another such strike. Eddie moved quicker, lunging outwards, it was barely more than a shrugging push and release of the Mer and yet its body crossed the expanse of the chamber hit the weathered stone wall and dropped to the sand unmoving. He reached out for a second one, shaking it when it tried to attack until it dropped its weapon. Then he pulled it right up to his own face.


“I said…” His voice had been deep since it had first changed, but even he didn’t recognize the rumbling that came from his mouth. “...where is…” His hand was massive, too massive, it completely encircled the Mer’s neck. The thing gasped as it struggled to breathe. He was tall, but it had taken too long to lift the thing in his hand, his furred hand. Silver grey fur ran along his arm and Eddie knew that if he concentrated he would be able to feel the movement in the air with every single strand. To make matters worse, the rumble he’d begun with took on a feral growl as he bared teeth that shouldn’t be that large or wickedly pointed. “...my mother?!”

Tahlia couldn’t spare as much attention to Eddie as he deserved, pressed as she was on all sides. Her daggers were coated, slick, so much so that when one stuck, her hand slipped free, and she was left with only the one blade. Only for a moment, as she grabbed a spear heading toward her ribs, and spun inside its reach, killing the Mer with a single strike, and taking the spear for her own. It was unwieldy, but did what she needed it to, her lips still moving, calling the blood from their veins as she twisted and ducked, the sand beneath her feet darkening. Dropping for a low sweep, she realized the Mer around her were either dying, or frozen. Turning her head slowly, she realized that the roaring sound in her ears hadn’t been her heartbeat, or the song of the blood in her veins, but the sound of Eddie’s roar echoing through the cavern. Taking the chance to catch her breath, she found herself instead gaping, her eyes wide. Eddie was...bigger. Different. Different was an understatement. He’d grown over a foot, and those teeth...the fur...she’d seen him as a seal before. Now he was - almost both, but neither.

She was covered in crimson streaks, could feel it drying in her hair, and flaking from her skin. Not her blood, of course. That remained where it was supposed to, even though there were spots where her clothes were split and torn, and so, presumably, was the skin beneath. His mother. Something in the look he’d had last had told her that Eddie, at least, had thought she was dead, until he’d found whatever he’d been looking for in the sand. Tahlia’s heart twisted in her chest, but she’d long ago given up believing in miracles. At least for herself. If Eddie could have one...well, she’d do as much as she could to make that happen.

Frustrated at the silence coming from the Mer in his grip, Eddie tried to shake the information free again only to hear a sickening pop from it. It stared lifelessly at him, something even more ungratifying. He turned his gaze on the two that were closing on Tahlia and his anger boiled once more. “Mine!” He hurled the body towards them, one managed to dodge the incoming mass of dead Mer, the other wasn’t so skilled. It hit him full on knocking him to the sand in a tangle of limbs. Eddie’s form wasn’t far behind that toss, he began to close with the Mer that was still standing. It moved into a defensive position, poised to attack but Eddie ignored it passing between it and Tahlia. He bent and scooped up a fallen spear continuing on a path that put him over the Mer pile he’d just created. Up went a massive arm and down, sending the tip of the spear through both torso’s like wet paper.

“Maybe that’ll help you get the point.” It wasn’t his best line by a long shot, but he was under a lot of stress. Something had happened that he didn’t understand or even know was possible, let alone how he’d managed it. There was no form like this among his people, not even the rumor of it. In his relatively short twenty five years he’d never had this happen and there was the worry that he didn’t know how to get out of it. It wasn’t like becoming the seal, not exactly at least. For that he didn’t have to think about it, he just was it. At the very least, bad jokes aside, he still had his mind. That pass between the Mer and Tahlia had been for her benefit, should she choose to use the distraction.

The remaining Mer had pulled short, and was too busy watching Eddie to see the silver blade that flew from Tahlia’s hand, and buried itself just above the scale armor. The blades were gloriously weighted, she’d have to thank Kal for the gift of them, and make sure she found the other one. She hadn’t Called so much blood forth in a very long time, and she leaned heavily on one hand, watching the gurgling fishman collapse to the sand. Pale green eyes shifted to watch Eddie as he dispatched a squirming pile of scales and limbs, and she let out a sigh of relief. It was done. They’d survived. More than that, they had succeeded. The Mer had no foothold, not anymore, and if not tonight, than perhaps one night soon, the cavern they were in would be crushed beneath the weight of the temple.

If she hadn’t been so tired, perhaps she would have noticed the figure stumbling up from the wall, and barrelling toward her at a run. Not to hurt her, but because she was between him, and the water. Slim, yes, but the figure still had height and weight on the petite blonde. Half-kneeling, she couldn’t move fast enough, not to get out of the way, but she could try to tangle him up enough to keep him on the shore. Try, at least. Instead, the Mer dragged her with him, and she barely managed a breath before he tumbled them both into the glowing pool. The splash drenched the shoreline, and she sank beneath the surface, releasing her hold to save herself.

The sound of their collision was enough to pull Eddie back to the blonde just in time to see her go over the edge and into the pool. He didn’t know what might be down there, beyond the fleeing Mer. Would it seize the opportunity to take her down with it? He couldn’t take the chance that it wouldn’t. He pulled the tatters of his shirt from his body, that ever present jacket of his was gone. That was less of a surprise than what he’d become, some things are just too obvious to be surprised at… like Eddie Blake diving headfirst into the pool without ever checking the depths.

It happened, as it always happened. The instant he hit the water he simply was the massive Leopard seal, sixteen feet from snout to back flippers and well over half a ton of fun. If proof were needed, it could be found in the slowly sinking denim jeans. The only real difference perhaps was that the lichen filled pool may have given Tahlia a far better view of the transformation than she’d had in dark waters. Like this he could bend in ways that would make a contortionist jealous, he turned back on himself heading for Tahlia and taking her arm as gently as he could in his mouth to bring her towards the surface once more. He waited, every heartbeat taking the Mer farther from them, but he had to see her onto the shore safely. Only then did he dive again and not come back up.

At least this time she had the leather between his teeth, and her arm. One arm found the shore, and she clung, turning to meet those familiar terra cotta eyes, and stroke a hand along that enormous head as he let her go, and she hauled herself up out of the water. There was nothing left on the surface to hurt her. Coughing, she dragged herself clear of the shore, and set her back against a stone. She’d seen Eddie leave the water before, and she didn’t wish to be in his way when he returned. At least she was clean, now, or cleaner, the blood washed away in the pool. Eventually, she wondered if the rest of the blood they’d spilled would seep into the water. Truthfully, she didn’t care, as long as the leopard seal returned.

Taking a few breaths, she rose, and searched the sand, and the bodies, reclaiming her silver daggers, and taking them back to the water to clean them. Blood would etch silver if left too long. So would salt water, but there wasn’t much she could do about that. Tearing a strip from the bottom of her tank top, she dried the blades, and set them back in their holsters, and then went to collect the rest of their weapons. Sentimental value, of course. Stripping out of her jacket, she let her hair down, and hoped she’d have a chance to dry out. Beyond that, she watched the pool, and waited.

The Mer had most of the advantages, time gained while Eddie aided in getting Tahlia out of the pool and knowledge of the pathways to take once Eddie was on the hunt. It had another, the ability to breathe underwater but that wasn’t going to stop him from chasing down the Mer. It was injured and that slowed it down tremendously, not that it could have outpaced him anyway. Eddie’s underwater eyesight was superior to many of his own kind, not surprising considering where Leopard seals usually hunted. The odd illumination came from the algae, but it was how it lay that gave away the path of his prey. It spotted him closing in, swam harder nearly making it to the exit and open waters, but Eddie put on a burst of speed. His mouth opened wide and wickedly pointed teeth closed on the Mer. He wasn’t so delicate with this one as he had been of Tahlia. Scale mail shattered under his bite, prompting him to close his mouth even harder until he felt the flesh give way and blood rush across his tongue. Abruptly he changed directions, powerful jaws pulling the Mer sideways and pushing him along back the way they’d come giving a vigorous shake whenever the Mer made any attempt to strike at him.

Time ticked onwards, seconds aged into long minutes with no change coming to the surface of the pool. The waves of their passing had died leaving the pool calm and placid, until water exploded outwards. The muscular neck of the massive seal flexed, Mer filled maw jerking sideways as Eddie treated it like he would any penguin. Flesh tore in his teeth, the Mer’s body came away from his bite and landed hard on the floor of the cavern, exacerbating the injuries sustained earlier when it had hit the wall. A wave of water rose as Eddie launched himself to the sand, flipper becoming hand on contact with the earth and curling into fist as he stood and stalked the Mer once more. He was bare, save for his ever present leather jacket. There were very few times he would ever be spotted without it, and only one who’d had opportunity to don its surprising warmth.

“Where?!” The word was half question half shout, Eddie dropped to his knees and loomed over the prone Merling. The raspy snicker it directed his way was answered by a hard punch to the face. Eddie showed little regard for the needle like teeth that lined its mouth. The blow didn’t bring any answers, nor did the next one perhaps it would have if he’d given the thing a chance to talk, but he was still in that rage. The question would sound half a second before another hard punch hit the Mer square in the face. Eddie didn’t notice when the thing lost consciousness, nor did he stop his assault. It’s face went from bloody mess to flat faced. Its skull broke apart, and the big man didn’t stop punching even though blood and brains coated his fist.


The Mer flying overhead woke Tahlia from her reverie, and she scrambled to her feet. She hardly needed to, since it wasn’t moving, and even if it had, Eddie was right there. Not making a sound, Tahlia watched the seal rise up out of the pool, following his prey. Because there was no mistaking that that was what the Mer had become. The squelching sound of the blows continued long after the snap of delicate bones had ceased. She knew that sound, knew it well, and for a moment, she forgot where she was. Not-so-distant memories took hold, and it took her a minute to recover, one hand rubbing at a hidden scar along her ribs. All the while, the sound never stopped, until there was no way the creature still lived...Eddie might as well have been tenderizing steak. Maybe he was. She’d never thought to ask what he ate out there in the deep blue.

He’d changed when he hit the sand, the fur was gone, and there was a sparkle of silver at his throat, along with a deep red line that hadn’t been there before. Wincing, because testing out how that cord would survive his change hadn’t exactly been in her plans for the evening, at least it had done what she’d hoped - it kept him safe...the only blood she could see was splatters from the bloody punching bag beneath his fists.

“Puddin? Whatever you’re tryin’ to teach him, he’s past learnin’...and I can’t imagine they taste any better than they smell.” She stayed back, not reaching out to touch him, her leather streaked with salt where it was slowly drying out, hair a tangle of waves and salt-flecked curls. “Eddie...baby, he’s dead. More than.” How much it would do to help her nightmares, she wasn’t certain. But now wasn’t the time to mention that. “I have the weapons, your shirt’s kinda shot...and I’m not going back in there for your jeans. Tell me you still have the keys?” Maybe focusing on the minutia would help him come out of whatever still held him in its grip.

His fist halted mid fall, he looked at what he’d done and smiled ever so slightly. One finger came to his lips as he turned his head and looked at Tahlia. It left a streak of red on them, standing up he rolled the body into the pool and let it sink out of sight. Maybe it would find his pants? Doubtful. He’d forgotten, it was easy to do that sometimes, curling a finger at her he stepped towards one of the walls and put his ear to it indicating that she should do the same. The hard stone surface pulsed, something deep inside sounding like a heartbeat that was out of sync. “Close your eyes… and hear the way out.”

When she complied, she might pick up something more over that odd heartbeat. A hard guitar bassline that mingled in, a steady vibration that wove around and through the wall. “Never brought the keys in.” Why would he? The car kept his sense of direction, in a weird way it told him where not to go. “This isn’t over, Tahlia…” She probably already knew that though. Eddie turned and looked across the chamber, searching for something he’d lost. “Where is it?” Had it gotten buried again, there were so many scents in here that everything was mingling together. He moved, heading back into the chamber until he felt the tug on his arm. It wasn’t the one coated in blood, and yet it was still a tentative little thing...just enough.

She’d followed him to the wall, heard that unmistakable thump of bass, and allowed herself a small smile. No wonder he loved that car so much - she should have guessed it wasn’t just for the bench seats and the surging horsepower. She took a moment to lean there, catch her breath, tired, yes, but not enough that her magic faltered. Still blonde, for one, and while the spots where the Mer had gotten past her guard stung from the saltwater bath, they didn’t bleed. Tahlia knew it wasn’t over - how could it be? If someone had told her her mother lived...shaking her head, she realized Eddie had stumbled off, scanning the sand.

She knew what he was looking for. It was there in her off hand, the one not wrapped lightly around his bicep. Tahlia held the skin out to him, carefully positioned fur-side up. The granulation stuck to her palm, a little, but she knew enough to figure out what that scrap of hide was. Who’s it was. “Eddie…” What could she say, really? “I found it when I was gathering the weapons. I didn’t think you’d want to leave it behind.”

Eddie took it from her, and drew it up to his nose once more to inhale. The smell made his breath shudder again, for whatever reason. There was no rage in him this time, no change into something he didn’t begin to understand. “Thank you.” It was a simple two word statement, not nearly enough to say what it really meant. He knew what it was, what it was supposed to do and that it had nearly succeeded. It might have had he gone into this alone. Once he’d have done just that. “She was…” He shook his head, not willing to finish by saying here. “They did this, hurt her to get to me, but they’re just soldiers, barely better than drones. They don’t know anything.”

The ones who did were long gone, had been from the moment the car had turned into the driveway. He could have wished until his hands were full and never changed that fact. “We need to go see someone. I have a change of clothes in the car.” Eddie glossed over certain things, ignoring them perhaps so long as she was. “How much edge do your knives have left?” He pulled his arm from her grasp, only to lay it over her shoulder. His other hand relieved her of some of the burden of weapons she’d recovered. There was urgency in both the question and the way he was imploring her by touch towards the entrance to this place.

Tahlia wasn’t big enough to slow him down, and she didn’t even try. Getting out of that blood-stained cavern was on her short list of gifts today. “My daggers? They don’t seem to dull, really, although salt water and creepy fish-guy blood can’t be good for them. Might need to clean them again...why?” She could ask and walk at the same time, although she was having to take a couple of steps to his one. It was fine though, more than.

Looking down at her likely ruined leathers, the blonde shook her head, and spat out a salty strand that stuck to her lips. “Yeah, I do too. Not sure it’s the right kind of thing for a meeting though. Someone said slinky.” She’d assumed he meant dancing, somewhere dark and loud where they could wind each other up until they couldn’t take it anymore. Not...whatever happened now. “Do you think we could swing by my place? Get a shower, something a little more suitable for meeting...people.” One name sprang to mind, given everything, but she wasn’t going to say it first. If they were going to meet the ice queen, Tahlia wanted to look a little more presentable for that kind of company.

“No, but don’t worry, I don’t think he’ll mind.” Eddie put the skin back into Tahlia’s hand. “Think you could make this into one long thin strip?” It would mean cutting it in a spiral assuming her blades were up to the task. If not it might just have to wait a bit. “Then putting the amulet on it… cuz my neck’s on fire here, Pumpkin.” He tugged at the cord that had left a red ring around his throat, but didn’t take it off. He’d do that when the other was ready, and then it would go right back on. “I need to see a man about an iron.” Cryptic as always, it wasn’t that Eddie didn’t want to share information there were just some things he couldn’t really bring himself to say aloud. She would, or should know that about him already. “And trust me when I say, he’s seen you worse.”

She took the skin, sliding one of the blades out as they continued up, and out. “I think so, yeah…” If her hands shook a little, it could probably be forgiven - this was his mother's skin, unless she’d misunderstood everything. And enigmatic as Eddie was, that reaction had been blazingly clear, at least to her. It had been...a very long time since she’d done work like this, but there was an old adage about bicycles for a reason. She set the blade, and then focused on their surroundings, letting muscle memory take over. A long thin spiral twisted around the blade as she worked - not the whole thing, even Eddie didn’t need that much cord. But enough. More than, really. She had an idea, in case he decided to do that half-man, half-seal thing again. Still moving, she held her hand out for the amulet - for her idea to work, she’d need to string it herself. “He’s…” Iron. She only knew one person they both knew who would be able to answer metallic jeopardy. And who had seen her worse than she was now. “We’re going to see the blacksmith.”

A hard tug on the amulet broke the cord holding it, maybe it was the salt water? It could have been, right? Eddie handed it over to her without breaking a step. His expression was an unreadable mismash of emotions. He breathed hard through his nose as though trying to expel the reek of the temple. He should have rigged it to blow, but that would have been far less a warning to those who came to find it. Stay out of the harbor and off the land, or find more of the same. Maybe he should have blown it anyway, to hide what they would understand to easily. He wasn’t done with them, and they already knew the why of it. Eddie nodded as Tahlia latched onto the whom they were going to see. “We’re going to see...my brother.”

#19:  Author: Tahlia FarasCan Be Found: Here and there, depends on her mood PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2018 9:19 pm
    —
Part Two: Rebel

One Last Breath

I thought I found the road to somewhere
Somewhere in His grace
I cried out heaven save me
But I'm down to one last breath
~ Creed

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15 February 2018 3:15 A.M.
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Eddie’d dialed down the stereo to the point where it was more background noise than the ground pounding that he normally preferred. He had a good reason though, it was little and blonde and asleep on his shoulder as he drove. Creed’s One Last Breath was playing softly, it wasn’t something he remembered putting in his phone, probably something Reggie did. He had odd taste. That didn’t stop Eddie from listening to it while he waited at the curb outside of his brother’s shop. It was as good an excuse as any to avoid going in, that would be inevitable though and he knew it. He had another good reason not to move, that would wake her up. She’d barely said four words when they’d started out before dropping off. Guess what they say is true, always kill Zealots on a full stomach, or you’ll end up drained. That was a saying, right? Well it is now.

There was a muffled grumble, and a cheek rubbed against the sealskin covered shoulder. She hadn’t realized she’d fallen asleep, would argue, in fact that it had been more drifting than sleep. The subtle change in the sound of the engine, the lack of movement...she’d caught those even with her eyes closed. Pale green eyes caught the moonlight, and blinked up at him. It took her a moment, wetting her lips and resisting the urge to wipe at her eyes. “Hey…” A short cough, and she straightened, bumping her forehead against his cheek, lightly, and looked around. She’d never been to the shop, but she realized suddenly that she must have walked past it a thousand times. More than. They were back in the city proper, and she only had the vaguest memories of anything other than trees and temples.

So much for putting off the inevitable. It wasn’t that Eddie had a problem with coming here, not much of one at least. He’d been here a few times, but then it had been to get under the skin of his brother. He’d never come wanting, needing something, and that had him wanting to change his mind and go anywhere but here. “Hey there beautiful.” She’d woken up looking far more mussed up than she was right now. “Wasn’t sure if I should disturb you.” Translation, he’d had no plans to either. He cut off the engine and the song just as the singer was saying that there was something left. “You need more time?” He posed the question to her, but he might as well have been asking himself.

Tahlia glanced down at the tears and scrapes in her clothing, skin showing through in a few places, and some of those with angry red scratches. No blood, not really, but the saltwater still stung. Shrugging, she ran a finger along the leather choker at her throat. “Time? No...unless the time includes a shower, puddin. I know you said he’d seen me worse...but I’m thinking this isn’t a social call, so it doesn’t matter so much.” For what, surprisingly, was the first time, she stretched and brushed a feather-light kiss to his lips. “C’mon, handsome...sooner we get in there, the sooner we can get out, and go h-back to my place. This time you get to play nurse…” Eddie, somehow, seemed to have come through everything without a scratch.

The shop wasn’t hard to find, and when it was open neither was the smith despite the low light of the place. It would perhaps be more difficult to push through the scent of Brimstone and the wave of heat that pushed its way through the door when it was opened. There was no bell to signal the arrival of customers, likely it wouldn’t be heard anyway over the ring of hammer on anvil. If you did make it through the heavy air and heat, the sound would at the least give a general direction to where he could be found. Around a workbench or two, past a shelving unit that was occupied by lengths of metal in varying type, just beyond the ceiling support that served to hold up the floor above, the smith worked in relative solitude.

The staccato of hammer strikes stopped abruptly replaced by the sound of a bellows chain being worked. Kruger stood in front of the brazier, the flicker of orange dancing across his form from coals that flared with every pull of the chain. His torso was bare, on the back at least, the front covered by a thick leather apron. Sweat beaded on his skin, rolling down at odd angles as the droplets met with the myriad of scars that criss-crossed his skin. He looked over his shoulder as though expecting someone to emerge from the darkness. It was that wave of heat that telegraphed their entry, a sudden pull to the air that could only mean the door had been breached momentarily. He saw a tall figure and nearly said something exceedingly rude until he realized that Eddie wasn’t alone. He’d save it for when no one else was around to hear it, but doubted that courtesy would be returned. “What?” That wasn’t rude, right?

It had been...ages...since Tahlia had set foot inside a forge, and only rarely then. The heat, after the cool water and the chill outside, made her skin feel tight, and dried her lungs as she tried to take a breath. She ducked behind Eddie, it was just a little cooler somehow, and closed her eyes, taking a few breaths that carried the scent of not only brimstone, but salt and sea and musk. It helped. It always did. She peeked out from behind him again, taking a step to the side to look around. She knew the smith of course...she brushed her fingers along her cheek, and the corner of her mouth tipped upwards. Couldn’t forget a punch like that. They were friendly enough, she thought.

That being said, she’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind to miss the tension. Or, for that matter, that there was something more about the man standing by the fire. Not the Anvil, not here. She didn’t say a word, not yet. Eddie had said he needed to see a man about iron, his brother, he’d said. It didn’t mean Tahlia had any idea what he meant. Or why she was here with them.

Eddie didn’t want to be here for a number of reasons. The smell of the place was always an assault on his senses, the heat was stifling making him wish for the frigid waters of the ocean again. Mostly he didn’t want to come here asking for anything for fear that he’d be turned out…again. Sometimes what he wanted had to be ignored for what he needed to do. His hesitation was more than just in finding words, it seemed to fill his entire form to the point that he wondered if Tahlia could feel it emanating from him as she stood behind him. For all his earlier declaration that he didn’t hide in shadows, he’d have given a lot to have one to stand in now. One that he didn’t feel like was created by Kruger. How did someone so little cast such a massive one anyway?

“Shouldn’t you be doing things with that woman of yours?” Casual comedic, that worked right? It was, well it had been Valentine’s day. His attempt to break the ice only drew a grunt from the other man who still refused to actually turn around and talk to him like he was a person. Maybe coming here was a mistake, but it was one that had already happened. There wasn’t any undoing it, besides if anyone had the right to know it was his brother, wasn’t it? “I...there’s something that I need to tell you.”

“Oh? Getting married or just pregnant.” So much for not being rude, but it made sense to Kruger. Why else would they both be here? “You look like **** by the way. Not her, just you.” Yep, old habits die too hard. Kruger did at least turn around before saying it, his expression was hard as he looked at Eddie, the cocky bastard. He tore his gaze away from the other, he wasn’t glaring, Kruger did not glare! He did however find himself with a need to do something with his hands. His fingers wrapped around the handle of the hammer on the anvil in as non-threatening a way as he knew how. “Out with it, whatever you have to say.”

She could feel it, and a subtle stroke of fingertips let him know she was still there. That, and the burst of bright, sparkling laughter at what was clearly meant to be a barb, although against which one of them, she wasn’t entirely certain. “Neither, Kruger. And thank you, I guess...although if you think I look knocked up, I guess I need to hit the gym more. I could do worse, though.” It was subtle enough, but coupled with the way she stepped out to stand at Eddie's shoulder, the gentle rise of her chin as she looked up to meet Kruger’s eyes, spoke volumes. Such a little thing, but she’d proven stronger than she looked.

She could almost recognize the tension, now. Louis and Lucan had glared and posed like this, from time to time. Looking from one to the other, she canted her head to the side, and gave a brief shake. “Are you two always this friendly?”

“No.” It was said in stereo from both men though their voices in tone and pitch matched in only the way which siblings could, and ended with hard stares at one another.

“I swear, I don’t know why I even bothered.” Bitterness worked its way through Eddie’s words, he stalked forward caring little for the defensive posture that the smith took. He slammed a large hand down on the anvil, pulling it back to reveal what was left of the skin he’d found earlier. He wasn’t waiting for acknowledgement either turning away and heading angrily back the way they’d come feeling only slightly annoyed that he hadn’t leveled a well deserved punch in Kruger’s face. “Sorry that I’m such a **** bother.” He reached for Tahlia in his passing, not nearly as gentle as he wanted to be as he urged her to move along with him. “We don’t need him.”

She’d already had a hand out, knowing Eddie wasn’t in a mood to be patient, but she wasn’t expecting him to grab her by the arm and pull her back toward the door. Tahlia pressed her lips together, by sheer coincidence, Eddie’s hand closed over the same spot his jaws had in the pool earlier. She couldn’t stop him physically, wouldn’t even try. But she could remind him of what he’d said. “Eddie...Eddie you said you had to talk to him about iron…”

Kruger had been ready for a fist, for almost anything really. It wouldn’t be the first time they’d come to blows, and certainly not the last. What he hadn’t counted on was what had actually happened. Fingers that were more callus than anything else ran through the coarse fur that had been left behind. It had been more years than he could count on his fingers but he still knew it...knew who it belonged to. Damn the brimstone for irritating his eyes like that, another thing that hadn’t happened for a long time. “What do you want from me?” His mouth formed the words, though whether they were for Eddie or someone else was impossible even for him to know. Neither seemed keen to answer him regardless of his curiosity. Eddie was still moving away, sullen and well as silent as someone his size could be. Even as he put his hand to the door the locks slid into place.

“You’ll leave, when I give you permission!” The air, once merely stifling seemed to take on greater weight, a vast blanket that enveloped the pair forbidding them from moving further forward. “What is it you think I can do? Certainly not go where you can.” That same bitter tone that Eddie had before came from Kruger now. The old arguments like open wounds that festered instead of healing. “Do you even know where she is?”

The weight of the air pressing into them slowed the petite blonde more than it would a Selkie with a grudge. His momentum kept them going, and Tahlia closed her eyes and tried not to focus on the weight that surrounded her, reminding her of dark nights and water. Tried not to panic, even though there were far too many memories, too many close calls to death. Her fingers tightened in his jacket, and she stumbled, trusting Eddie to keep her safe - it was becoming a habit.

Eddie put a hand on the lock and pulled with everything he had, but the mechanism refused to budge. He tried again to no avail, then reached into his jacket to produce one of those pistols he’d taken to carrying more often.

“You’re just going to hurt yourself...or her. It’ll be faster, easier to just talk to me.” Kruger didn’t guarantee that it would be less frustrating, but his own tone had changed from the obstinate and unwilling to listen one he’d affected before. Maybe it was enough that he’d gotten under Eddie’s skin instead of the other way around this time. Maybe there were just some things that transcended their petty opposition. The growl that came from his brother still managed to make him feel satisfied regardless of the rest.

Eddie planted the heels of his hands against his eyes and rubbed like it was his eyes that were irritated and not him. He looked at Tahlia who seemed in distress, and then towards the smith. Heaving a massive sigh he changed directions again, the arm around her gentler than it had been moments before. The movement away from the door had a steadily decreasing pressure to the air. It was a lot like rising from a deep dive, except that he’d never lost the ability to breathe. “I could just shoot you.” He said the words, though he made no move to raise his weapon.

“You could, but what would your plan be then?” Kruger hadn’t failed to notice that Eddie hadn’t answered his question. That in itself was answer enough, though he had no idea how he was able to read the man so well. The skin was laid out fur side facing the anvil now. “This is her blood?” Eyes of wheat met Eddie’s redbrowns in a look that accentuated the brand Kruger’s left cheek. At the other man’s nod, Kruger fixed his gaze on Tahlia looking for confirmation or maybe he was simply trying to apologize. “There might be a way, but I can’t do it here.”

Tahlia gave a nod, perhaps in answer to either, or both. Her breathing had returned to normal, and the weight had lifted. Her eyes were still a little too dark, and there was a subtle shiver that had her arms crossing over her chest, and leaning into that gentle arm around her. A quick glance upward, and then her gaze returned to the smith. Her bottom lip disappeared for a moment, sucked between her teeth. She wasn’t used to magic being so open...because what else could he mean? But something told her this was not the time for questions. Not hers, anyway.

Kruger squinted at Tahlia when she bit her lip and let out a single small laugh. “4-6 ×10?4 “ He pulled the apron from around his neck, reached to a well used nail and hung it up. From another he pulled a dark t-shirt down and donned it. One thing hadn’t changed at least, he still wore those things in extra medium. “It’s the iron content in blood… for humans at least. I’ll have to figure out the rest on the way.” He said it like there was no doubt that they’d be going...now.

Eddie leaned down to Tahlia, there was almost a satisfied smirk on his lips, one that he was certainly trying to hide. He whispered low into her ear. “I have to see a man...about an iron.” He said no more, letting her try to figure out who had manipulated whom.

Tahlia’s eyes went wide, and she glanced up, lips parted for a moment before she grinned, and then stuck her tongue out at him. There was no real question in her mind that this had gone exactly as Eddie had expected. The moment passed, and she turned back to Kruger, those pale green eyes much more contemplative. It had never occurred to her to think about what was in blood. Blood was blood, and hers to control as she willed...but perhaps there was something to learn here. That was a given. There was always something to learn. This just might be something she actually could use.

#20:  Author: Eddie BlakeCan Be Found: Drifting PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2018 9:22 pm
    —
Shine

Give me a word
Give me a sign
Show me where to look
Tell me what will I find
~ Collective Soul

Enlightenment Park, Kruger doubted anyone would ever get the full punchline of the place. It was his contribution to the city meant as a place where kids could play and home to a library where everyone could learn if that were their desire. The property that had been given to him, once held a community center dedicated to a once and now not so dead Jewell Ravenlock. It had been a gift from her brother for special services. What those were only a chosen few would ever know, that was part of the joke now wasn’t it? At the center of the park rose a spire nearly four hundred feet into the air. It wasn’t the tallest thing in the city by far, but no one could say that Kruger didn’t like to make a show of almost everything. This late, the park was empty, the library closed, and even though he’d urged Eddie to park in the parking lot, the spire was not his goal this evening. There was knowledge to be gained in every aspect of the park, even if it were something so simple as when to just play. Enlightenment however could only be found when you got beneath the surface. The real punchline was that so far as he was concerned.

The library had many doors, there was the main entrance located inside the park, a rear entrance on the street, and several emergency exits which lined the sides of the building. There was another one, concealed unless you knew the way. Fortunately for Kruger he did, mostly because he’d made it, but that’s not really important. More important was what lay beyond that door. He ushered Eddie and Tahlia through it, letting the thing close and become one with the foundation once more. For a moment they were in complete darkness, and then a purple light pierced that veil. The wall was broken at shoulder height (to him and Tahlia) by a vein of crystal which revealed a path that curved inward in a long spiral. Kruger nearly spoke, looking at the two of them before closing his mouth and just starting down the winding corridor. Their walk took them deep beneath the library, Fibonacci would have been pleased with Kruger’s use of his formula which ended at yet another door nearly six hundred feet beneath the city. The glowing crystal ended at a rectangular shape on the wall to which he pressed his hand. The door swung inward, only then revealing how massive it was. Eight feet from floor to ceiling, another six across and four deep. Maybe he was trying to hide something important down there? “This isn’t something I let people see very often.” He shot a look at Eddie as he spoke. “Normally I trust them.”

Tahlia had been quiet on the way over, taking the opportunity to curl against Eddie’s side and close her eyes for just a few minutes. The fight had taken a lot more out of her than she was willing to admit to. Maybe that’s why she stayed quiet as they followed Krugers lead, into the library and down. Tahlia’d never been to the park before, and had no idea there was even a library there. Oops. To be fair, she’d been a little busy.

The corner of her lips ticked upwards at the light, or rather, the color of the light. She might be harboring some sneaking suspicions that the brothers were more alike than either would ever admit. Peridot eyes slid over the stone, and along the path. Something seemed vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t quite see the scope of it. All she knew was that they had gone a long way, and this...this was not a normal space. Kruger’s voice drew her attention, and she started to reply before just shaking her head with a sigh. She hadn’t spoken to her siblings, save Luc, since she arrived...who was she to judge?

Eddie hated driving in silence, though technically the engine made that impossible. Still, he’d turned off the music just in case. Not that he thought Kruger wouldn’t like the music, if anything he was a bigger showboat than Eddie could ever be…if he did say so himself. His brother had remained silent too, much as that irked Eddie. He could tell by the occassional glance in the rearview mirror that the other man was thinking. The stubborn ass wouldn’t share though. Of course he also hadn’t given up the scrap of skin since he’d taken it either, another thing that was putting Eddie out. He’d been the one to find it, now he’d be lucky to pry it from Kruger’s cold dead fingers. Stubborn, selfish...ASS. He had no problem telling Eddie what to do though, turn here...park there...no over there, seriously what was the difference?

The hidden door absolutelydidn’t surprise Eddie. Just because one minute the wall was solid and the next it was a gaping maw didn’t mean he was surprised. The momentary darkness did at least give him the opportunity to send a pinch to Tahlia’s backside, at least he hoped it was hers. Pinching Kruger’s tush wasn’t anywhere near his bucket list. The ambience once that door closed was nice too, everything going from black to a nice purple haze, it was a little known fact that Eddie sort of liked purple… now that song was stuck in his head though. He also wasn’t being childish, like he could be. Not once in the entire long walk did he actually come out and say, are we there yet? He wanted to, the words needed saying, especially since this time he wasn’t the one doing the guiding...or driving. “Jesus, I didn’t know you had access to a bank vault.” Eddie’s tone was sarcastic, and who could blame him really considering what Kruger had said. It wasn’t because the lack of trust had made him wince. That would mean he actually cared what Kruger thought of him. Nothing could be further from the truth...not one little thing.

Kruger just shook his head and stayed silent. He’d been silent most of the time since leaving his shop, he had reasons and they were multilayered. First and foremost, he needed to think about what he wanted to do, what he actually could do and perhaps more importantly how to make that happen. Having Eddie around just gave him a viable excuse that would uphold the image of him being a brainless buffoon. In a strange way he’d never cared much if people thought that about him, that might be obvious from the way he acted in certain circles. It was in some ways a test to those around him to see if they genuinely wanted to know him or simply accepted his minor eccentricities. It was just a pity that Eddie refused to do that and stay away. The massive door swung shut again with a heavy whumpf of air and a rapid fire clicking as multiple locks moved into place. “I’m not paranoid.” It was best to cut off those thoughts before they were given voice!

Echoes followed the doors closing, the purple glow that had guided them downward branched out into an openness that was nearly as long as the distance they’d traveled under the city. They were in the center of a vast corridor whose walls were sixty feet away to the right and left and rose another hundred to an arched ceiling which added another twenty at its pinnacle. There were massive supporting columns and the floor was stone polished to a high sheen. Everywhere the eye looked there were carvings, some simple elemental symbols, others more complex ideas like chaos, order and balance. Most were formulaic in nature, and might as well be a language unto themselves for how tightly packed together they were. Here, unlike the path down the light brightened. It began slowly, almost as though the place weren’t certain that this was what was required of it. Purple went to blue and then to a muted white illuminating things to something more normal. Considering who’d built it, maybe abnormal was the reason behind the confusion.

There were doorways along the corridor, most of them hid their attributes behind closed doors. The light at least made the opposite end of the place visible some five hundred ten feet away, though it was obscured by a solitary column in the center of the subterranean chamber. Kruger took a deep breath and let it out in an audible sigh. The sound was picked up by every curved surface making the entire place feel like it too was breathing. He started forwards walking towards that center column. “There’s rooms over there for you to freshen up in. A bed to catch a few hours of sleep. You should probably do that.” Drawing nearer to the sanctum’s center revealed even more about the place, the center column wasn’t a column at all. It rose up from the floor ninety meters and supported a large circular platform. Above that rose a dome another ninety meters leaving the top of the platform even with the circular opening. The domes ceiling was painted into a representation of the night sky over Rhydin, though somehow the moons which appeared up there were in perfect alignment with the pair of celestial bodies that orbited the planet. “I’ll need at least an hour anyway. You can find me, up there.” He pointed to the platform with one finger, turning toward them and blocking their forward progress. “This is the boring stuff. Nobody really wants to see it.”

Tahlia opened her mouth to protest...but right now, there were other things she needed more than satisfying her curiosity about the smith, and what he could do. She’d seen forges...back when they were common enough to have one on every corner, practically. This...this was like none of them. It felt more like a church - a temple to the act of creation. Some of the designs on the walls, the formulas, she supposed she should call them, looked like the kind of things her brother would scribble as he experimented and tested. They’d never made sense to her, but… “Louis would love this place…” She spoke in a whisper. Somehow the place seemed to insist on it, from her at least. She wasn’t sure either of the other two was capable of whispering. Or at least not what normal people thought of as whispering.

She had a feeling Eddie would insist on being there, without an excuse. Other than that night on the beach, she didn’t think she’d ever seen him tired. Even if Kruger wouldn’t let him up, he’d insist...and something told her this place wasn’t a good place to challenge the smith, if anywhere really was. Turning, she laid a hand on Eddie’s forearm, right above the pumpkin pie inked into his skin. “Puddin...could we? The salt is really starting to sting where those Mer caught me...and I might need help washing it off. Please?” She didn’t mind playing damsel, just this once.

Eddie didn’t once feel the need to duck, that was unsettling enough that he didn’t even say the smartass comment about Kruger overcompensating for his shortcomings. He’d wanted to, really he did but something held his tongue in check. He stopped walking where the dome chamber opened up, and the walls darted away into a pair of deep transepts. It irked him somewhat that he hadn’t known about this place when he’d taken so much satisfaction in knowing everything. The writing was on the wall though, literally, and to Eddie it might as well be Greek. Come to think of it, maybe some of it was. Kruger was too eager to have them leave him alone, it made Eddie suspicious. He wasn’t a suspicious man by any means, not of anyone or anything...usually… with the exception of everyone that is. He wanted to please Tahlia, but just felt like he was being left out of something important. “What exactly are you hiding?” Other than a massive underground structure buried beneath a park.

“Hiding? Nothing. I mean, you can come too, but unless you know about how to integrate Schrodinger's Quantum Mechanical formula on Harmonic Motion via the Unity Molecular formula to extract heavy metal biorhythms. You’ll just get in my way.” Behind him as he spoke the names, portions of the intricate carvings lit up brighter than those which surrounded them. He watched Eddie’s face for a reaction, but the tall man was a study in stone.

“I think… Tahlia needs my help a little more.” He was pretty good at getting those hard to reach spots. Eddie relented to the tug at his arm, turning his back on the smith and pretty much every bit of the spectacle of the building behind him. “Besides, math is for nerds and geeks.” Eddie might admit later that he was in awe of the place...to Tahlia...when no one else was around, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him from getting the last word in against Kruger. Eddie wasn’t picky, Kruger had said rooms, so he went to the first door and pulled it open to let Tahlia go in ahead of him. He shut the door behind them, looking at the little blonde with a half perplexed expression. “Told you he could help…” The words didn’t match the expression in the least, Eddie was a walking talking conundrum.

She was almost used to that, catching sight of that look of his over her shoulder. “You did. Hopefully you two can keep from killing each other long enough to let him.” She was already letting her hair down, and tugging the torn tank top over her head. There was nothing really to be done about her clothes...even torn, this outfit seemed a better idea than the ‘something slinky’ she’d thought she’d be wearing by now. The shower hadn’t just been an excuse, the edges of those cuts were an angry red - salt wasn’t poisonous, just painful. Sitting down on the bed to pull off her boots, she flopped backwards. “Oh god...I shouldn’t have done that..now I don’t want to get up…” It was a surprisingly comfortable bed.

#21:  Author: KrugerCan Be Found: Kruger's Exotic Weapons Armor & Leather PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2018 9:32 pm
    —
Silent Lucidity

I- will be watching over you
I- am gonna help to see it through
I- will protect you in the night
I- am smiling next to you....
~ Queensryche

It might have been longer than an hour before they emerged, and there might have been a few choruses of Eddie’s favorite song in the interim. Tahlia had done her best, dabbing away the worst of the salt from the leather, and taking an extra moment to clean her daggers again. They sat where they always did, in crossed sheaths at the small of her back, a little more obvious now since she’d cut off the tattered lower half of her tank top. Besides, the forge would be warm. Which might also explain the fact that her hair was braided - torn and stained was one thing, she was not trying to referee the brothers looking like a fluffy poodle. Her steps slowed as they gained the top of that spiral staircase, letting Eddie take the lead.

It was just a little over five hundred steps from the floor to where the stairway emerged through the platform above. Kruger knew, he’d counted though his reasons for doing so were more practical than simply wanting to count to five hundred twenty eight. It was a number, a factor that would always need to be included in the work he did down here. There were too many of those variables which needed to be applied. Most of the time he worked to eliminate the unnecessary ones. This wasn’t a night at the fights where more was better, here precision was the key and finding it while worth it, was always a slow process.

The light within the place had dimmed again once Kruger had been left to his own devices. He worked better in the dark. He’d said as much before, but in this case it was just a matter of long habit. Metal was easier to read in lower light, so he’d adapted. When the pair emerged, he didn’t look up. He’d been expecting them, had heard their passage once they began their ascent. The floor of the platform was decorated by a large compass that pointed in eight directions at the same time. Poised in the center of that was a anvil of unusual design. Carved into an intimate scene that was only made more so by what wasn’t revealed. South of that rose a massive black forge, where the anvil was intimate, this piece could only be called ominous with its black burning flames. To the east a system of intricate bellows rested, multiple exhaust ports connected to valves and conduits that snaked away from it in nearly every direction. The western side of the platform housed a massive bath. It held different liquids partitioned apart from one another, though there was the heavy scent of brine reminiscent of the sea. The north end was more simple, a solid looking workbench that held a vast array of tools, though the place of prominence was given over to a large hammer. Next to it rested a meticulously drawn sword in the Daedric fashion. Somewhere in the distance a massive pendulum ticked away, the sound amplified by the design of the entire building. Through it all ran that alien crystal conduit, some runs glowing brighter than their counterparts. The lighted lines cut across the disk of the platform in tight formation then separated as a single string went to each piece of equipment. Overhead the scene inside the dome had changed, the moons were setting and here and there it appeared that the painted stars were actually twinkling.

“I’m nearly done… just need to make a few adjustments.” He hadn’t looked up at them, but he pointed to two marked spots on the floor, one near the bath, the other at the workbench. “When we begin, I’ll need Eddie over by the bath, and Tahlia… you take the spot over by the hammer...please. Sometimes I forget the niceties.”

Tahlia hardly marked that he hadn’t turned around...after all, he was just as likely to ignore her when they ran into each other at the duels as he was to, say, try to give her a black eye. At least he said please this time. Stepping out from behind the Selkie, she trailed her fingers along his arm, and resisted the urge to kiss him one more time. It was a constant urge, and one she tried to indulge as much as possible. But this...this was like Westport, only more important. Time to be at least a little professional.

The tiny blonde moved across the platform, standing exactly on the marked spot, and saluting Kruger’s back with a smirk, and a wink to Eddie. Who knew how long the adjustments would take? Their ‘nap’ had helped more than she’d expected, given how little sleep they’d actually gotten. She was still tired, but the bone-deep weariness that she’d had when they arrived had faded enough to let her focus on what was going on in front of her.

“You’d think that an elevator would have been installed, would have made things easier.” Eddie wasn’t complaining about the climb really. He just didn’t like being told what to do. He would have protested about it and demanded to know why, but then Kruger probably would have told him and that was just way more detail than he really wanted to know about anything. It was better this way, do as he’s told but get a little dig in at the man as he complied with the ever so delicate request.

“So, what exactly is the plan?” Eddie figured he would regret that question, but he needed to know what was expected out of him. Kruger didn’t answer him right away, the man just picked up a large rod and settled it into the blackfire. He was about to repeat the question with a little bit of Eddieism added onto it when Kruger turned around.

“Triangulation.” Kruger said it like it should make all the sense in the world to them, but the bewildered look he got from Eddie forced him to elaborate. He pointed at the quench behind Eddie, though the man probably thought it was at him. He was that vain after all. “Water and fire… that’s her, it’s how we connect.” He nodded towards Tahlia then and continued on. “She’s at Earth, that’s us...it’s actually here more than us. In the middle, that’s where we’ll find her.” Find her spirit at least, that might have been too abstract for them, so he didn’t include it in his explanation. “What we need is the catalyst… something that draws on shared energy. Remember that song she used to sing? The one when bad dreams came.”

“Nope...never had a bad dream in my life.” Eddie was an exceptional liar, he rattled that off like it was the truest thing he’d ever spoken. He broke eye contact with Kruger long enough to shoot a look to Tahlia.

She wasn’t going to say a thing. The truth was, any nightmares when they’d been together had been hers. Water, fire...both figured prominently. But that was now...she couldn’t believe he’d never had one...not with some of the things she knew he’d done. Those were his secrets...their secrets...and she wasn’t about to blab them to Kruger. Even if they were brothers. Tahlia met Eddie’s look with one of her own, pale green locking to those stunning terracotta eyes of his, and the corner of her mouth ticked upwards ever so briefly. He had to know her well enough to read that.

“Fine…” Kruger didn’t believe it for a moment, but this wasn’t the time to argue over dumb stuff or posture with Eddie. “We’ll use mine then, it’ll take a little longer because it’s been longer since...for me. You get to give up the other thing.” Kruger pulled out a vial of reddish liquid that was too thin to be blood. It’s contents were nearly translucent, though the base of the vial had heavier sediment resting on it. He also produced a blade which he handed over. “Just a bit of blood doesn’t have to be much.”

Eddie looked at Kruger skeptically now wondering what the hell he needed blood for. “Some kind of ritual sacrifice? I don’t swing that way you know.” There didn’t seem to be any amusement in Kruger’s face though, not much of any expression really just the bore of his eyes but it was enough to make Eddie take the blade and slice his palm. He let a few drops fall into the vial.

“I’m not sure you understand what sacrifice is...yet. The vial contains the iron I extracted from the blood on the skin. It’s hers, you see? We share some of that, her blood in us, but it’s not a strong enough link...or everyone could do this with half a thought.” Kruger put his thumb over the mouth of the vial and swirled the liquid inside until Eddie’s blood became a part of the solution. “Probably better this way anyway. You’ll be the physical bond, the metaphysical will have to come from me, and Tahlia…” He looked at her as he moved towards the anvil centered between the three points. “You keep things grounded. Nobody moves from their spot until the connection gets made. After that, we’ll see.” Kruger emptied the contents over the face of the anvil letting it run where it would. “Do you know the difference between being attuned, and being tuned?” He turned his attention to the blonde, perhaps he’d noticed her earlier interest when he’d spoken about the contents of blood.

She wasn’t sure how she was going to keep things grounded. But then, she was also decently sure she couldn’t go where they could go. Not without the mark. And that had faded weeks ago. Pulling her bottom lip between her teeth, she nodded hesitantly, and glanced between the two . The knife drew a flinch, not for the blood, but for the memories it brought with it. Another glance toward Eddie, before she swallowed and tried to answer Kruger’s question. “I don’t...maybe?” She took a deep breath, and looked up at the formulas that decorated the walls and ceiling. They still reminded her of Louis. Not looking away, she spoke quietly. “You can be attuned to certain elements. Have an...affinity for them. I’m not sure how you could be tuned to them, but I never could understand Louis after a certain point….”

Kruger nodded as Tahlia spoke. “That’s what we’ve done with Eddie, and our mother. For now, he is attuned to her, or the her that existed when she was...hurt. It’s as close as we can get for now but he will be able to find her when the time comes. Tuned, that’s what I do. Things can be tuned, musical instruments is probably the easiest thing to understand. Composers obsess over them being in tune, but I believe they are never out of tune, they are simply tuned to something else. That car of his is tuned to run a certain way, it can be tuned to run another. For me, if I want something specific forged...something special I tune everything to bring that about. The very building can be tuned if you know how, air pressure, motion, temperature all of these can be changed, and in doing so the active wavelength within this place alters. The point is, I suppose, before this is finished everything within will change.”

There was no end to how far he could take his own musings, still Kruger would have liked to entreat Eddie one more time about the song. He would have liked to spend hours talking about what is and what never should be. There were a thousand things he would rather do than this, but he needed to, and he was all out of time. The liquid he’d spilled atop the anvil had run over the edge like water down a stone face. It moved slowly like it was trying to deny gravity, still it slid across the head of the carved smith letting loose a single droplet from the things face like a bloody tear. It hung in the air for less time than it took to gasp in a breath before splashing to the floor. The place was vast, a droplet like that should have sounded no different than water off a stalactite, a distant ploink and gone.

When it hit, a ripple like a stone in still water moved outwards sending waves through the floor, through the very air. Everywhere the eye could see pieces of the building lit up in that shade of purple haze. A number on the wall over there, letters through the columns, the building itself began to vibrate, and in that vibration came individual notes. Kruger squeezed his eyes closed, he didn’t want to see what he knew was coming, he didn’t want to be seen...not like this. He took a deep breath, even as the bellows opened up and then he started to sing. He doubted that would surprise anyone really, he sang often at inappropriate times. People thought it an odd quirk perhaps, and it was, but it was more to him. He’d explained it as best he could to Tahlia a moment ago, the right song in the right circumstance with the right instrument and nothing was impossible.

#22:  Author: Tahlia FarasCan Be Found: Here and there, depends on her mood PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2018 9:36 pm
    —
“Hush now, don't you cry
Wipe away the teardrop from your eye”


The moment his first words began the forge was gone, but not. He could still feel the heat from the fire at his back. He knew if he opened his eyes he’d still see Tahlia and Eddie standing in nearly the same position and just as equidistant as they had been from him. What was in front of him was different, instead of the domed chamber there was another version of Kruger, and oddly a second voice sang too. It came from the figure in the center of the space, he knelt next to the bed of a small child, smoothing at wild curls with his fingers.

Instinctively Eddie knew that what was before him wasn’t more than a memory, and one that didn’t belong to him. It came out of Kruger’s mind, but he felt like if he reached out towards it that things would be solid. It was something that his brother would never have talked to him about, and he knew that if it weren’t for the current need it would never have been said. The knowing hurt, he wished things had been could be different, but like always when something hurt Eddie his mind started to make mean spirited jokes. He would have opened his mouth and made comments if he hadn’t been so stunned by the song. He knew it, remembered it despite what he’d said before. Voices behind him had him turning around, they were distant and soft though it was clear enough that they would have been deafening if heard close up. They were just echoes through the halls below, or maybe through time. Was that even possible? The sounds of high pitched giggles cut through the air loud yet soft all at once.

...Hard about, Niko me boy! ...Aye aye Captain...Yaaaar!

The laughter continued, but it changed. No longer the peels of a child at play, now it was distinctly feminine. Curiosity had Eddie turning back he wanted to look at Tahlia to see if she’d heard what he had. When he did he was met by another scene, Kruger was there, a far younger version of him at least. That second voice was still singing the words along with his brother, though the tone lacked some of the depth. He was laying in a field, his head resting on the abdomen of a dark haired elf woman that Eddie recognized.

”Your mind tricked you to feel the pain
Of someone close to you leaving the game of life”


The scene faded and was overlapped by another, in the distance the woman rode at the head of a company of soldiers disappearing into a deep woods. It lasted only a moment before bleeding into another. The woman’s head lay on Kruger’s knees, his fingers traced the lines of a face broken and abused which stared up at him blankly. Dried blood coated her throat and did nothing to hide the deep cut that had caused it. A hand touched Kruger’s shoulder, and a tall elf in armor came into view. He looked up at the man, his face a mask of inconsolable grief and pain. Beneath the platform more voices could be heard, still distant echoes through time, but clear and audible to those above.

It was the will of the gods, Aristotle… Gods? Then I’ll kill them all...Do you hear me? I’m going to kill each and every one of you!”

Tahlia didn’t know the song, but it sounded familiar in the way that all songs sung by mothers to frightened children are familiar. It had been...a very long time since her own had done anything of the kind. Since she’d been alive. The emotions struck her harder than she was expecting, and she closed her eyes, pressing her lips together. Kruger hadn’t said she had to watch, just that she couldn’t move. And yet...she couldn’t leave Eddie to face this alone, any more than she had the night in the temple.

Forcing her eyes open, she let out a gasp. They were somewhere else, again...she recognized Kruger, looking much younger than she’d seen him. There were docks, and she could hear the ocean, the song still hiding in the surf and the cry of seagulls. He was on the gangplank of a ship - what she thought of as a pirate ship, masted and grand, creaking with the tide. She’d sailed on a few of them...after touching iron to remove her taint, and console the crew for having a woman aboard. With a start, she realized she was letting her mind wander, and focused back on the ocean, and the ship...and the man who seemed to be leading them all.

...You have no name boy...no family...no clan...because it's what you are...nothing

”There's a place I like to hide. A doorway that I run through in the night.
Relax child, you were there, but only didn't realize and you were scared.”


The voice accompanying Kruger turned high and reedy and the words came with soft sobs from the child laying on a bed of straw alone in the dark. Eddie held so tightly to the bath behind him that his forearms ached. He was barely aware of it, and had no idea when it had begun as he watched the massive red haired smith restrain the boy and whip him. The vision...he knew better, but it was easier to deal with if he didn’t call it a memory...was so vivid that he could smell blood in the air, and the burning of flesh as the brand burned its way through the skin of the boy’s face. Easier to say boy too, it removed him somewhat from the already overwhelming emotions for what he was seeing. Eddie wanted to close his eyes, he would have except that he’d already seen too much and knew it would just keep playing across his eyelids.

Another hint of blood hit him, and the smell of burnt flesh but it wasn’t coming from in front of him. It was clearly in the direction of the forge, but the singer never stopped and the song did not falter. The voices were closing in. Where once they’d seemed far off to Eddie, they were getting progressively closer to his hearing at least though the next one left no doubt in his mind. It descended from above, a hostage of the massive dome freed from captivity with that same reedy tenor.

...C...call...me...Ish...mael…

”I- will be watching over you. I- am gonna help you see it through.
I- will protect you in the night. I- am smiling next to you, in Silent Lucidity.”


Eddie ignored the impossible scents. He almost hadn’t, but the child’s voice was gone now. It wasn’t even a male voice anymore. He knew the sound, didn’t have to see the form of Kruger stretched over the lap of the singer to know it was their mother. She looked down at her burden, fingers smoothing out wild curls. The red of her hair burned like fire, and her eyes were so green they almost hurt to look at. The focus of the images between them changed, settling on her face and zooming ever inwards until everything turned black as it swept into her pupil. A shaft of light slammed into the anvil from the center of the dome. It rotated on itself, opening like a scroll and revealing a cluster of islands in a deep blue sea. In sudden bursts it zoomed in on the place dropping closer to the water, then descending far beneath the waves. All at once it altered, a small well lit chamber appeared though it was impossible to tell from the angle where the light was coming from. Sitting on the edge of a bed was the woman whose face had just been seen. She raised her head as though aware that she was being watched, her eyes seemed to look right at the three of them and recognition flashed through those too green eyes. Her mouth moved, sound came from all around them again in a harsh whisper.

Help me.

Kruger had said not to move until the connection was made, he’d also said they’d know when it happened. If the whisper hadn’t been enough, the maelstrom like portal that appeared in front of Eddie certainly was. Water was all he could see, still he didn’t hesitate. He simply took the step forward that would carry him through it.

It only took Tahlia a moment to make the connection, realizing who the woman on the bed might be, and a moment later, why Eddie liked her better blonde. She took a step to follow him, biting back the cry of his name. It couldn’t be that easy - could it? Bottom lip pulled between her teeth, she shot a panicked, pleading look over at the smith. She couldn’t let Eddie go alone - but Kruger had said she had to be the anchor. She didn’t think she could stand by and watch again, unable to do anything. Tahlia didn’t understand exactly what was going on, and it was that that kept her feet in place, not wanting to risk breaking whatever anchored that portal - and leaving Eddie with no way back.

“Kruger...please…” She didn’t love the quaver in her voice, but she couldn’t hide it. It was that important to her not to let him face this alone. Not that she knew what she could do to help. She just knew that she had to try…

Kruger opened his eyes, green gold orbs looked straight at Tahlia. His face burned and he could feel the blood running down his back, old wounds opened up for him to relive. He didn’t let it stop him, it wasn’t that it didn’t hurt in fact it hurt every bit as much now as the first time he’d ever felt the lash or the brand. He’d already lived through the pain once, doing so again was just easier. He knew what she wanted and thought he understood why, stopping now would alter the intended result perhaps fatally. What he needed was for her to listen, to understand.

If you open your mind for me,you won't rely on open eyes to see.
The walls you built within come tumbling down, and a new world will begin.


She needed to see what was and what needed to be, to let go because there was nothing that he could do that would let her go where she wanted to...not physically at least.

Living twice at once you learn, You're safe from pain in the dream domain.
A soul set free to fly.


No longer limited to his place by the forge, Kruger moved towards Tahlia. He didn’t speak, just kept the song going as he approached. He put one hand behind his back drawing it out and raising it towards Tahlia’s forehead. Red liquid clung thickly to his thumb, he used his nail to draw five lines on her forehead, one vertical and four horizontal beneath it like an arrow pointed downward and that’s exactly what she did. He caught her as she collapsed, lowering her gently to the floor. Part of her was still standing, that part which could endure the where she so wanted to go. “You’re in between, not here or there but both. He can find her, but you can find him...but I’m going to give you a head start.”

Tahlia looked down at her body, and took a breath, trying to give herself a moment to adjust...and then tried not to panic that she couldn’t breathe. Right. Her body was lying on the forge floor. And breathing. “This is like the temple...only not.” She’d have to adjust on the move. She didn’t have time to learn to walk, not with Eddie heading into who-knew-what. She could feel the tug - could feel where he was. But there was something else first.

She turned her focus from the portal, back to the smith, with what she hoped was a smile. “Thank you.” Looking around the forge for the moment, she realized he was technically the only leg of the triangle left standing. “What will you do? While Eddie’s doing what he does, and I...do what I can?”

Kruger acknowledged the thank you with a nod. He withdrew the hammer from its place and turned from the prone form of Tahlia, from the incorporeal aspect as well and stepped towards the black fires. He took up a pair of tongs and withdrew the rod he’d placed earlier. “Me? I’m going to make an entrance.” He wore a cocky grin as he looked at Phantom Tahlia, and jerked his head towards the open portal. The glowing rod was placed atop the anvil, but he waited for her to step through before sending the hammer down. It went off less like a bell than it should have sounded, more like a gong though the shockwave that spread outward struck the walls of the dome and amplified. “Welcome back my friends...to the show that never ends.”

#23:  Author: Eddie BlakeCan Be Found: Drifting PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2018 9:24 pm
    —
When I’m Gone

There's another world inside of me that you may never see
There's secrets in this life that I can't hide
Somewhere in this darkness there's a light that I can't find
Maybe it's too far away, maybe I'm just blind
Maybe I'm just blind

So hold me when I'm here, right me when I'm wrong
Hold me when I'm scared and love me when I'm gone
Everything I am and everything in me
Wants to be the one you wanted me to be
~ 3 Doors Down


Lumira

Forgetting was easier than Lumira ever thought it would be. She’d forgotten things, the taste of free air, the kiss of the sun on her skin, she’d lost them and more. Right now she’d even forgotten how much she hated the name Lumira, preferring to leave the first two letters off. No one called her Mira now, no one called her anything. She clung to the things that she refused to lose, family but they all thought her dead by now surely. It was impossible to tell how long she’d been held, they’d moved her often in the beginning believing that someone would come looking. If they had, they’d yet to find her. She’d tried to mark the days on the wall only to be taken away and forced to start over again. There was light the sort that dominated so many of the temples of her people. Not that these were her people, but the bioluminescent orbs were a shared luxury. Of course there was only light, it had taken getting used to in order for her to actually manage to sleep but she had. She still dreamt too, that was something they couldn’t take away from her. The bindings made it harder, bracelets of gold chained to a golden collar around her neck. Mira had grown used to its weight while she was awake, though she still woke herself up with a hard yank when the nightmares took over the dream.

The collar and cuffs served two purposes, yes they kept chained to an iron ring on the wall, but the arcane symbols that lined them kept her from reaching her abilities. She could still change, they needed that, but her command over fire and water were squelched. Sometimes she dreamed that she still held it, or that she was walking free. Sometimes she dreamed of the attack that came out of the depths only this time everything didn’t go black even if she did wake up in the same condition. A dream had woken her, but it wasn’t that one, it wasn’t the nightmares either. There was a song in her dream, a distant memory that was sung so powerfully that Mira had woken herself up humming it.

“How are you feeling today, better?” Mira hadn’t heard the turn of the key in the door, her mind was so full of the lullabye that it actually drowned out real sounds. It was the same routine, the faces changed often enough but always this was the same. She’d seen this mermaid before, here of course but somewhere else as well.

The woman spoke kindly to her at least, that was more than any of the others would give her. Not that Mira ever spoke back, not even to the pink haired maiden. Why should she when she could see what was in store, the empty vials on the cart that would soon turn crimson as they bled her to keep her weak. Mira thought she was past reacting to it, but the song, the sight, the sensation of the needle being forced into her arm pulled a sob out of her.

Help me, Mira sent out a silent cry to the mother to anyone who might be listening, flinching as the needle bit deep and red began to fill the vial. It wasn’t the pain that had her reacting, but the sudden darkness that encompassed the cell. Her nurse didn’t seem to notice, pulling free a full vial and pushing a new one onto the needle. Flickering light barely broke the darkness with an odd purple hue that danced along the walls, not her walls…theirs...his.

Mira hadn’t seen the faces of her sons for longer than she could guess, but there they were. Eddie’s dark eyes fierce...angry...so very angry. He was there, and then he was gone, it was the other face that held her visage now. Long as it had been since she’d seen Eddie, it had been far longer for her oldest. He looked so much older now, but there was no mistaking those eyes of green and amber or the anguish that filled their depths. Kruger’s mouth moved, she could read his lips, hear the words bleed over the song in her head, I will protect you in the night, and Lumira began to laugh, long loud and hysterically.


The mermaid had stopped, looking at Lumira like she’d finally broken on the inside. The commotion had the door banging open and a second woman entering older and wearing a face that was far from happy. “They’re coming…” Lumira squeezed the words in between gales of uncontrollable laughter.

“Has she gone mad, Mother? Surely by now she knows that no one is coming.” The words were barely out of the young mermaids mouth when the room began to tremble. The vials of blood smashed against the floor when the cart overturned. The pink haired acolyte had to grab hold of Mira’s bed to stay on her feet. She looked to the older woman for some kind of sign, fear linmed her eyes.

“I have to go, we all have to go to the the sanctuary.” Lumira’s laughter echoed down the halls long after the heavy cell door slammed closed and the lock was engaged.

#24:  Author: Eddie BlakeCan Be Found: Drifting PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2018 7:04 pm
    —
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain

Love is like a dyin' ember
Only memories remain
Through the ages I'll remember
Blue eyes cryin' in the rain
~ Oesch's die Dritten

Ysabeau

Ysabeau knelt in silence, breathing in the vague sent of the incense, just a hint of salt, and something that wouldn't be recognized on the surface - the kind of plants that grew in the deep and dark, and took planning and preparation to recover. It was part of what made them sacred. She didn't use this one often, but after the trials...Nim and her tricks, her insinuations. After all that, and everything she'd seen in those wretched visions when the Mer had gone over the edge, she needed the time to sit and contemplate. To center herself. So she had taken a bath, washing herself from head to toe in silence, and then set up the altar. Incense. An abalone shell. One of the bioluminescent globes to light the space. And a pendant. One of a pair, although the other wasn't accessible to her. Nim had that. Held it over her like a threat. But maybe...maybe if she helped the shaman achieve her goal, she could get it. It wouldn't mean anything to anyone else. Wouldn't bring him back. But it would be something.

Taking a deep breath, the cosain focused, or rather let herself unfocus - Kaelin was never far from her thoughts. She'd simply grown adept at hiding that fact from the others. Beau didn't need to close her eyes, not anymore. Not to summon his face, or the sound of his voice - even if it had been more years than she thought possible. But she still sought his counsel. And, if she were honest...she wasn't entirely certain it was all drawn from her memory. He was part of her, true - he always would be. But sometimes, it felt like he was truly there with her.

"What's wrong with your face?" The words came from nowhere, half jokingly and half serious they were accompanied by sounds and scents of the sea. He'd often said that everything began and ended there, but in the literal sense the black sand beach created by pulverized obsidian had been that. Kaelin had never appeared there before, and maybe that he was there now had something to do with where Beau's mind was. The dark expanse sparkled in sunlight, as it had the day they'd met, and the one they'd parted on. Here and there massive stones of the substance rose from the sand and out of the water making it clear enough what had created the odd beach. "Never did like you with that one, always seemed like you were ready to bite someone...usually me but I can honestly say that shouldn't be the case this time."

As Kaelin spoke, his frame solidified, starting as a mere shadow hidden amongst the black crystals and slowly becoming statuesque. He was still a shadow, but that was mainly because he stood with his back towards the sun. It was the best place to appear from after all, ask anyone. "No, my guess is someone closer to life than me, if only a little." The dark outline twisted, head turning to gaze around at the site that had manifested with him. "Two hundred years, and you still come here when you're upset." He stepped closer, his footfalls sounding in the granulated glass though he left no footprints in his wake. As he neared things became clearer. Kaelin had never been what people would call lean, a mass of shoulders arms and chest on a form that didn't quite top out at six feet. You'd be hard pressed to find any fat over the muscles, then again maybe Ysabeau was idealizing him. That wasn't impossible, right? Where his eyes really that blue, or his hair quite so dark despite that hints of silver that wove through it at the temples? Was he really here, or was that just the bits of him that he left behind? The entire thought line might not even be his own, but he'd play his part, pretend that it was, live a little longer though he was ages gone.

"It's home, still, Kaelin. It will always be. In no small part because...you're here." She couldn't help the smile. He'd always been able to do that. "And no, it's not you. It's her. Again." She very much doubted that he would need a clarification on who she was. Nimsu had always been a thorn in Ysabeau's side, and Kaelin had often had to be the voice of reason. "Do you know what she's done, leannán? She's been hiding your...successor. Letting him grow up wild. Untrained. And now...now that he's slipped her leash and is charging around like a bullshark through coral...she wants me to step in. To befriend him. Guide him." She let out a snickering little laugh. "Get him away from the talamh faoi cheangal baineann he's got himself attached to. I thought she was controlling him, now I don't know."

For a moment, she simply stared at him, taking him in the way she always had. Maybe she was idealizing him a little. She had in life, why should it stop simply because he'd gone. "She still blames me. She'll always blame me. Punish me. For what happened. But this...the Mer cosain is dead. He went mad...and I think...I think Nimsu is trying to start a war." Beau ran a hand through her hair, and sighed, reaching a hand for the pendant that was always around her neck when she sought him out. Here. In the place that had meant so much to both of them. Better to remember him like this, than the last time she saw him.

"Home." Kaelin settled onto the sand, looked to his left and pointed. "That's where I found you, too wild a thing to be tamed easily, and over there is where you told me you loved me, and I told you little girls don't really know what that word means. Up there is where I kissed you the first time and we... " His voice trailed off, and he turned his too blue eyes back to her. "But we're here, and this is where I bled out in front of you. I can only believe that we're here because of the uncertainty you're feeling." His hands idly began to hollow out a patch of sand between them. "Hiding him from who? Likely she said from you, but that's just Nim and you know you have to look beneath words meant to hurt. Perhaps it's the why of it that matters most?" A rogue wave broke and bulled its way across the sand infiltrating the space beneath Kaelin and filling the hole he'd been digging only to recede and leave a crystal clear pool behind.

"You say that the Mer was insane, but haven't we always been a reflection of those we serve? When I was alive the others always said I was far too bold, and maybe I was but we were strong then... the Roane. Look at you, cautious to the point that you unwittingly allied yourself to that insanity, so I wonder if war can really be avoided. I wonder what the benefit of Nim's choice to allow my successor to run wild." Kaelin dipped his hands into the pool, bringing them out with palms upright. A globe of water rested atop them, it should have been as clear as when it was formed, yet at the center of it there was motion. Figures struck out at one another, most unfamiliar, though Beau would recognize a pair of them, at least until the taller one became something altogether different. "Even setting aside his mistress of earth and stone and their relationship as a secondary concern, can you deny the obligation that The Mother has placed before you?" Kaelin's hands dropped away, the ball of water remained where it was playing out a scene of immense carnage. Whatever held it into place imploding as the transfigured form dove headlong into a luminous pool.

For a moment, she was distracted, following his gestures as he pointed out their own little map of moments. Remembering them as her eyes found each location and her mind supplied the memories that went with them. Good memories, most of them, now at least. Except that last. The place where they now sat. The spot she'd held him as he died, and for a moment the pool was red, and she could see him lying there again. Taking a sharp breath, Ysabeau closed her her eyes and shook her head, sharply, definitely. It was easier, normally, to be in the spot than to see it. To not talk about it. But now...well, now it seemed she was going to have to deal with all the things she didn't want to.

"Of course there's benefit. He doesn't bow to the Mer the way we were all trained to do. The way they expect us to. He's...cocky. Like you were. Bold. Daring. Someone made sure he knows his heritage - but he's as comfortable on land. Very little respect for authority." The description made her cringe, but he wasn't wrong. "He got Nim to put the mark on her - his little landwalker. It took Jax. And then he took the reptile...and walked away. The Mer thought...we thought...she was controlling him. But then...maybe that's how she could see? I couldn't get him out..." She wasn't sure why she felt the need to say these things - she was talking to herself. To the face she missed more than the smell of salt and sun-warmed sand. Except that it helped. It always helped to talk to him. It always had. Even when he reminded her that Nim was the one who had brought them together - convinced him to train her.

"I know war is coming. I know it's inevitable. But I don't know...I just don't know if we're strong enough. Even if Nim can convince her grandson to be what she wishes him to be..."

"Did you ever consider that it matters little what Nim wishes? After all..." His words were turned suddenly silent. Kaelin's lips still moved but the force of his voice was overtaken by the echoes of a massive gong. Sound reverberated from everywhere and nowhere at all tearing at the landscape toppling trees, shattering stone. His expression turned instantly from wizened counsellor to that shocked expression she'd only seen once before. The light dimmed as shadowy fingers slid across the sun curling into a massive fist and drowning everything in darkness... all except for eight points of light in the sky where once the sun had dwelt. There was a pattern to them, a distinct shape that could only have been put there on purpose. The Ara glowed white hot, it would be the last thing Ysabeau would see before being thrown from her meditations...that and the imprint of Kaelin's clutching hand on the sand.

#25:  Author: KrugerCan Be Found: Kruger's Exotic Weapons Armor & Leather PostPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2018 8:29 pm
    —
Hells Bells

I'm rolling thunder pouring rain
I'm coming on like a hurricane
My lightning's flashing across the sky
You're only young but you're gonna die

I won't take no prisoners won't spare no lives
Nobody's putting up a fight
I got my bell I'm gonna take you to hell
I'm gonna get ya satan get ya
~ AC/DC

Nimsu


The aisleway stretched before Nim bathed in a light so pink it was like the very air was blushing. The walls of the citadel rose high on all sides, their translucent surface colored by the first to arrive. That was how it had always been, though this looked like something out of a child's daydream. Perhaps it was. She hadn't arrived first on purpose, her mood far too dark to let the celestial temple mirror her. The faces she took in were known to her, mostly at least. There did seem to be more and more youthful visages among the Matrons. It almost felt like some vile plot. Perhaps it was to be expected, now that they were led by a child, one that Nim had made certain to arrive after. She took distinct pleasure in the veiled whispers that traveled in her wake.

Before taking her place she curtsied out of respect for the position, certainly not the holder of it. This place had been here for centuries, its inner sanctum always in flux as it grew or receded according to the amount of minds brought within. It had been larger, would be again, but this meeting was sealed to the matrons, their acolytes left behind in the waking world to tend to their needs. Had the acolytes been invited, there was no doubt in Nim's mind the chamber would have been as vast as Roane Island itself. She looked to those near her, the other selkie women who were looking back at her with stern admonition. They were only jealous that they hadn't the skin to do the same themselves. Even as she sat, the light dimmed. A glance to the sky through the ceiling showed the rise of a storm. Not unusual, this place had been created because of such storms along the Aether. Theirs were not the only minds capable of reaching here, and it was prudence that had erected the safe haven.

So enthralled by her musings, by the memories of her own first visit to this place was Nim that she nearly missed when the Àirde na Gaoithe began to speak. "I call upon the Mnathan of the Rokea to give the blessings." Nim had been about to rise, traditionally it was the oldest among them who gave the blessings, that always meant her when she attended. This was flouting tradition, it was a jab meant to wound and it had done that. Murmurs rose among the matrons, clearly none had expected this...none save Tilda who rose on cue and spoke the sacred words. The slight had Nim seething enough that she was only marginally distracted by the rise of storm clouds over the sea beyond the walls.

Gaia, the High Matron, hadn't even waited for Tilda to finish before taking her place on the elevated dais. There wasn't even time for those congregated in the hall to mutter their ratifying Ahmens. "These are grave times daughters. Times of Woe." The last word pulled Nim from all other thoughts. She jerked her head back to Gaia, boring holes through the girl with her eyes. That word was important, it was planned...it was another stab at Nim even though she wasn't bleeding. "The Mother has spoken to me... and now I, as her voice speak to you." There was usually silence in this place among the others, but this one was deafening. "Time's wheel has spun full circle, what was must be again. As in days long forgotten, we must abide today."

"Speak plainly girl." Nim had had quite enough of the equivocations being spouted, so much that she'd included the word girl, been rude rather than respectful... even of the position. Glares came her direction, most of those from the fresh faced women. The others were wise enough not to look to Nim at all lest they be lumped into Gaia's rebuke. They knew enough not to even show surprise when it never came.

"There is to be a culling..." The words hung in the air, they were powerful enough to pull the eyes of those glaring at Nim back to Gaia. "We have grown arrogant, and the Mother is displeased with us. Her requirements are harsh, but just. Decimation for the Rokea, the Mokolo, the Whalekin, Dolphinians, Amphirites and Squidlords..." Decimation, one in ten would be destroyed. No one had the willpower to look anywhere now but at Gaia. "Blasphemy, heresy, and rebellion mark our days, daughters. For the Selkie Nation, the mother requires more. Two in every five will be given over to her. The mammalian Cosain and all initiates shall be terminated, the acolytes shall be removed, as well as all females between the ages of twenty five and fifty. Those children orphaned by the culling will be adopted into Mer society for indoctrination."

Through the shock of Gaia's revelation, the true depths of the storm outside were dawning on Nim, a hurricane smashed itself against the citadel's walls. Walls that remained that pale pink blush, that shouldn't be. Everything in Nim's experience with the place told her that the walls should reflect the dismay of the women within. She could see it written on their faces, each and every one... except for Gaia. Why should she feel anything? "You'll pardon me for speaking out of turn..." Nim steeled herself for what was to come, she seemed to be the only one capable of thinking. There were several of her sisters who looked ready to pass out, not that she blamed them. Her hands gripped the tops of her legs, and she pushed herself to stand. "But I notice that the Mer are taking no concessions, sacrificing nothing...again."

"We...daughter, are devout. Never wavering in that devotion. The mother rewards that, and gives us the task to oversee the sacrifices of your own people." Gaia stood a little straighter and locked her eyes onto Nim's. "Our piety makes her happy, in turn she grants protection, just as she provided this place for all our protection against the storms without!" As if in agreement with the girl, lightning split the sky in six deadly bolts that came down one after another to strike the surface of the sea.

"You say piety? Don't you mean fear? You fear the strength we possess, the lengths to which we'll go to in order to further the Mother's cause. You fear what will happen to those left behind as we move forward in her embrace!" The weather had nothing to do with the things that Nim was feeling, even if it was an almost perfect reflection of the tangled turmoil of thoughts and emotions inside her. As she finished a massive bolt of lightning tore through the sky and attached itself to the pinnacle of the citadel with a force great enough to send cracks through the crystalline surface. It was enough to let in the sounds from beyond the walls, rather the sound. The tolling of a great bell pushed through the cracks setting the crystal to vibrating violently before it shattered like glass and pushed her consciousness from the plane.

Nim had caught a glimpse of Gaia's face before being thrust back into her body. Shock, something or someone had broken through, someone that Nim needed. What would it take to secure their help? Her attempts to regain the metaphysical plane were met with a solid wall that she was unable to penetrate... on her own at least. She pulled out the medallion coveted by the Obsidian's Cosain, sliding it gently over her head to dangle upon her chest just over her heart and tried again. Her focus was channeled through it, adding its strength to her own. Slowly she bore through the unseen barrier emerging into a darkness broken by a dull violet glow which seemed to emanate from everywhere at once. A figure stood in those depths, short but powerful. His face was hidden from her, though as she neared him it became clearer to her. It became one with which she was familiar.

"You..."

"You seem surprised, perhaps this is more than you thought një gur capable? You weren't wrong, I am a stone and much more. But that isn't why I let you come here. You're here to answer my questions this time." Kruger's hand held onto a hammer, the head of it touching against his chest with the word my.

#26:  Author: Tahlia FarasCan Be Found: Here and there, depends on her mood PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2018 11:14 pm
    —
Head Above Water

So pull me up from down below
'Cause I'm underneath the undertow
Come dry me off and hold me close
I need you now, I need you most
~ Avril Lavigne

Tahlia

The darkness never receded, it just lost that purple hue in favor of something more like a lightning bug glow. The opening to the portal was no longer visible, though if someone stood there long enough they might feel the hint of a breeze signifying that it was indeed still present and open. The sounds of a hammer still rang on, though its origin had shifted position and the timing of the blows was off by half a beat. Shelves stood in odd places within the new space, all of them laden with the bits and pieces that made up sea life. In stark contrast, there were a number of spaces which held iron bars and from the sound of the ringing that was the material being worked currently. The space between the strokes was filled with the sound of chanting, though the language was either dead or something far from common.

A large man stood over the anvil, his hand holding to a long handled hammer, he was burly but something in the greying shade of his skin spoke of age. From time to time his head would lift, attention drawn to the second figure in the room. His distraction with her didn't seem to hinder his ability to work any, a clear sign that he'd been doing this for a long time. The other, it was just as clear, had not. She was as obviously youthful as he was aging, his gaze held a certain fondness for the kneeling girl. Her attire was a long robe reminiscent of catholic nuns except that she wore no cover. Her hair hung in wavy lengths of cerulean and viridian highlights. A second sound broke the rhythm of the room, another bell coming at discordant measures to the smith's hammer. It was enough to draw the chanting woman out of her work.

"I have to go. I'll return to finish when I can." She rose to her feet, revealing a handful of weapons laid out on the floor, then crossed the room to place an almost chaste kiss on the smith's cheek.

"More meditating, Angelfish?" His tone was rimmed with disappointment, though the kiss did give him a bit of a smile.

"I only do what the mother wills." She raised the back of her robe, covering her head and glided from the room.

There was a sigh from the smith as he watched her go, head shaking. "At this rate I'll never get all these weapons blessed... kind of a strange time for meditation, it's barely past breakfast."

Tahlia stepped from the portal, automatically ducking behind a rack of weapons - some complete, some obviously in progress, watching the scene before her with sharp eyes. She didn't know how visible, or not, she was like this, but it didn't hurt to be cautious. She assumed that if Bo had been able to sense her in that god-forsaken torture dream, others might be able to as well.

Blessed weapons...war had been a near constant reality, when she was young, and she remembered the priests offering blessings and absolution to the soldiers. Still, it was a piece of information she would have to hold on to, glancing around the space as if to note details, but really just to see if there was anything distinctive. She could feel a subtle tug, a direction,nothing more, but the warmth of it gave her no question as to who it was drawing her to. Ducking down, she snuck along the wall until she gained the door, glancing back for a moment to make certain the smith was back at his work before she slipped through the doorway.

Motion caught the smith's eyes, he got a glimpse of someone...something... retreating through the door. He balled up a fist and held it against his stomach, certain he knew what was happening. "The girl can't cook to save her life... got me seeing things. At least she's pretty."

There were more than a few hooded forms moving along the hallway, though the door to the smithy seemed to be the last one in this particular corridor. The light wasn't blinding, but it was certainly much brighter than the forge had been. The sound of the bell seemed to intone through very walls of the place, perhaps something in that smooth pearlescent finish acted to amplify the sound. They were lined with brighter versions of the glows that had been in the forge, here and there a tapestry hung. Most of these depicted a domineering woman as she appeared to be commanding the waters to do her bidding, or standing over sea creatures with a loving expression on her face.

The corridor bent inward, yet never seemed to rise. This was not a ramp but something that ran along the outer wall perhaps. The hooded women veered to the right through another doorway. There was another a little further down and to the left, here too was the hint of brimstone and something more. The hint of a whisper saying it would help to see it through.

Tahlia was certain the hooded figures would be more likely to notice her, so she bypassed the doorway on the right, smoothing one hand along the wall, and kept her eyes on the figures. They looked like the ones from the cavern, only unarmed. At least, visibly unarmed. One passed close by, and the blonde held her non-existent breath. There was a rush of forms, and she pressed into the wall, edging herself behind one of the tapestries, one depicting the Mother (she assumed) gazing down on her children with love. It didn't seem to match the vibe of the hooded figures, or the buzz of war. More likely the other...the one she could see hanging just across...who seemed...well, the angry god of the Old Testament she'd grown up with.

Beyond the door a stairway rose, that it did not also descend was telling in a way that there was no further down to go.The scent, the sound both disappeared within that pristinely carved staircase. Whether they had been real, or simply tricks played by the mind once inside they slipped away. From here, there's only one way...up. They might be gone, but there were other things reaching out for Tahlia, one in particular really and if she had a doubt she'd find that the pull became stronger the closer to those steps she got. The steps were steep, and bent around two more times before stopping at a closed door. It, much like the walls, was slightly opaque, the stout hinges indicated that it swung inward, and perhaps that it was heavier than it looked. A window of sorts rested halfway between the top of the door and the handle. It wasn't like the ones she'd be familiar with. There were no seams, and the substance wasn't glass. It was designed to be there, a distinctive oval shape which seemed to have had the pearlescence drawn out of it.

She followed the pull, closing her eyes even though it didn't really do anything at all, and feeling her way along the smooth curve. She nearly walked into the door, stopping just short, and blinking at it for a moment, still disoriented by being both present and somehow...not. Rising up on tiptoe, she peered through the opening, scanning the other side for a hint of what was ahead of her. Assuming she could get on the other side of the door.

Another corridor ran forward from the door. Here the walls had been siphoned of the milky tint as well, though what was beyond them was difficult to see. To the left everything was dark, like the sky at night when clouds covered the stars. To the right another wall was visible through the windows. The angle making it obvious that room on the opposite side was deeper than the floor, like they'd been put in place to observe something happening below.

There had to be some code, or sequence. Leaning up and in, she tried to see what the other side of the door was like, if there was a key, or a lock...or something. So focused on looking over - she nearly fell flat on her face when she went through the door, and stumbled a few feet down the corridor. Glancing around, she was incredibly thankful Eddie hadn't been there to see that, or anyone else for that matter. Turning, she reached to close the door behind her, only to realize that it had never opened. Huh. Maybe Kruger had been right about looking through things.

A panoramic view was offered through the window to the left. It was definitely outside, and yet even more confining. The darkness was unbroken from above, from far below rose a glow that pulsed in shades of crimson. It came from thousands of small, at least they appeared that way from here, shapes lining....the seabed like rows of rubies. If there were any doubt about this place being beneath the water it would be removed as a shape swam uncaringly past. It's coloring was bright, the kind of thing found in tropical waters... or fish tanks. The view to the right was less open, the windows looked down into vast central chambers. There were creatures swimming here too, less ornately colored and at least half their measure was humanoid. The first window revealed a nursery, dozens of forms small enough to be nothing other than infants which zipped back and forth within.

Each window looked down on a similar scene, though the creatures within were bigger, presumably older and progressively less innocent in nature. No longer were the caregivers a reasonable facsimile of land nannies. Now they were weapons instructors and the students the size of five year old children. The corridor sloped upwards, the chambers deepening as the children increased in size. They broadened out to accommodate the ever more aggressiveness of their training. Upon the walls were diagrams of different species from both land and sea. The final window looked down upon groups of young adults engaged in combat against each other under a massive banner reading. Flosh Klin Emo Cosain!

Tahlia could read the words, but not understand the language, save the one word. Whatever the rest was, she suspected it wasn't good. She continued along the path, pulled inexorably onward. To say the scene below gave her goosebumps would be an understatement, or at least, it would have if she wasn't just...a projection. Maybe an illusion. She hadn't really had a chance to ask Kruger, not that she expected him to be any more forthcoming than his brother.

Shaking her head at the thought, she kept moving. She had to find Eddie - and then, then she wanted to get out of here.

The corridor bent sharply to the right, the windows becoming the same clouded color that most of the place had been up to this point only to end at yet another massive tapestry. This one, like all the others had a maternal figure on it, though unlike the others it depicted her healing the injured. To the left was another set of stairs, whatever was happening to the right would be inaccessible. The pull was growing stronger, it came from the stairwell, and yet it wasn't strongest there. Its greater urging was to move forward.

Tahlia stayed alert, moving cautiously across the hall. She still wasn't sure how visible she might be, or might not be. Angling toward the steps, she slowed as the tug that was leading her didn't seem to follow. Two steps toward the stairs, and it was at her side. Turning, once than once more, she found herself facing the tapestry. Closing her eyes, she spun, following the pull, only to end up exactly where she'd started. It was drawing her to the tapestry. The one showing the Mother caring for her children. An infirmary? Was Eddie hurt? But...she couldn't see an opening, but then, did it matter? Just as she moved toward the wall, she saw it. A shadow along an edge that was darker than it should have been. The slightest movement. A sign. Taking a deep breath, she stepped through the tapestry, hoping it wasn't a disaster.

Hidden behind the tapestry, a low tunnel swept away and upwards. There were signs that it was used often, the biggest being no dust on the floor. It was the perfect height for someone small, anyone too much over five feet tall would need to stoop to traverse it. The tunnel, like so many other things in the place was a worked spiral, though another opening existed in the wall not too far away from this one. The darkness in it said that it too was covered, quite possibly in the same way. As Tahlia worked her way upwards she would see there were many such openings, all of them hidden behind a curtain of thick woven cloth. Still, it's not always what's ahead that is the danger, but that which comes from behind. Glass shattered in her wake, the sound of porcelain hitting stone punctuated by a terrified shriek. "Mother protect me from Misery Woe!" The call was frail despite its volume, tremulous words from an aged throat.

"What is it Nianni?" A second voice full of authority asked.

"A spirit, sister, the dark one... the destroyer roams our halls this day!" The presence of the other woman had done nothing to pull the panic from Nianni's voice.

"Calm yourself you old fool, your eyes are old and are playing tricks on your mind. There's no way the destroyer could pass through our hallowed halls. Where is your faith?" The stern voice began to reprimand the old woman, but even that died away as another sound carried through the tunnel. "Get someplace safe, Nianni...maybe you did see something after all."

"You see! I said what I saw... she's here to consume the blood of our children!"

The crash of glass pulled the tiny blonde up short, staring at the crone in surprise. That name again. She wasn't sure where to go - at least the older sister didn't seem to be taken seriously. Making her way along the corridor, the blast of a horn sent her hiding behind a nearby tapestry. Maybe in wasn't her the old one had seen...or perhaps she'd tripped a wire, or some kind of alarm. In between the lowing bursts of sound, she could hear footsteps. Too quick and sure to be Nianni, it had to be the other one. For the moment, Tahlia needed to play it safe. Besides...there was something familiar about the rhythm of the tones...

There were a lot of voices now and footfalls to match the quantity. They remained outside of the tunnel, almost as though they didn't know this accessway existed or surely they'd have been inside. "Livyatan..." was said by more than one voice though another was asking where it had come from. The steps behind were closing and ahead there seemed to be nothing less than filled chambers and corridors.

"Here it comes!" Boom, the impact could be felt as well as heard, the entire complex shook under the impact of something that had to be massive. Ahead and behind the footfalls became the sound of bodies hitting the floor. The tapestry behind which she was hidden also shook, though it was with the impact of a body against the other side of it.

Tahlia ducked, looking up at the cracks spiderwebbing across the ceiling...the opalescence of the walls shimmering with the impact. A single word breathed out - a name she uttered often, and with every ounce of hushed joy she could manage. He always did know how to make an entrance. Ducking out from behind the tapestry, she looked out over the room below, then up, squinting in the sudden shadows. Ghostly lips pulled into a smile, realizing that it wasn't clouds, but a whale the size of a battleship blotting out the light...surrounded by alarms and chaos, the blonde stood still, waiting.

Large sections of the ceiling collapsed inward towards Tahlia to shatter as they impacted the floor. Some did more than simply become bits of thick shell scattered across the corridor, pinning Mer unfortunate enough to have lost their footing completely. There were still plenty stirring to life, their progress marked by the scuffing of weapons on the floor and the tinkling of shifting detritus as bits and pieces slipped noisily from the slowly rising forms. The hornblower had stopped, likely as out of sorts as those in the space beyond the tapestry, though the bell still tolled. It rang out a couple of times before being followed by a voice from above.

"Ding Dong... Avon Calling! I got just what your faces need!" Another impact, this one significantly smaller than the previous. It likely didn't register on the richter scale at all, the poor sap that felt the full weight of one Eddie Blake, he only had a moment to really get a feel for what just happened. What followed were the sounds of some kind of blunt object making contact with some almost solid objects, if a little hollow or squishy.

#27:  Author: Eddie BlakeCan Be Found: Drifting PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2018 8:13 pm
    —
Symphony of Destruction

You take a mortal man
And put him in control
Watch him become a god
Watch people's heads a'roll
~ Megadeth

Eddie

Control is an illusion, Eddie Blake already knew that quite intimately. That didn't mean he wanted to give up his illusory control, and yet that was exactly what he'd done the moment he stepped through the portal which had manifested before him. It might have bothered him less had he given it over to someone other than his estranged brother. Maybe they wouldn't have dropped him fifty feet above the blue green ocean surface. Then again, had he simply stepped into the water he'd never have seen the massive nautilus on the horizon. Eddie had no choice but to trust that Kruger had done it for that reason. He'd had no choice in relinquishing his control either considering it was he who had manipulated Kruger into action, or had he been allowed to do so?

Eddie could do a lot of things, he knew the right things to say to get whatever reaction he wanted. He wouldn't have known how to do this, hell he didn't know that this was even a possibility. That wasn't a fault his brother had, though the list of faults was long and Eddie could...had recited them off to him on at least one occasion. He knew one thing about the smith, he never asked if something was possible, he asked how do I make it possible? Eddie managed to consider all of this in the amount of time it took him to impact the roiling surface of the sea. Then he changed, and swam hard towards the place he knew held his mother. He could sense her presence like a beacon.

He'd been to this place before, once, going there simply because he was ordered not to. That had been at night though, not while dawn was breaking like now. Eddie had managed to use that to avoid the sentries, something he was sure wouldn't happen this time. Not because he was incapable, no, far from it. Eddie was looking forward to it, there was a score to settle, there were several scores that needed settling. It had, after all, been his duty to protect his people but when his closest family needed him he'd been away doing his own thing. There were two layers of defense that needed to be penetrated. A pair of circles one within the other and rotating in opposite directions, but he had a plan. It required a lot of swimming, but was necessary if he didn't want his presence to become known. It was still too early for that. His plan required him to swim in opposing directions to the Mer, to take the outer sentry and then alternate his direction to take the inner so that no one would be missed. His own arcs had to push wider and wider the more he took down. He met the first one from their flank, swimming in fast and deftly separating head from shoulders at the neck in one quick snap of his jaws. Then he dove deep and took the next from below. It wasn't all their fault, yes they were out there to keep watch for danger, but it wasn't Eddie Blake they'd had in mind. There were still plenty of monsters in the sea who considered anything smaller than themselves to be food. This was the specialty of the sentries, to defend the fields of ruby colored fertilized eggs, to kill large predators which would attempt to prey on their spawn, or turn them away if they couldn't manage the kill. Eddie was large, but he was barely a blip on what they were looking for and he used that to drop the sentries like so many dominos.

It wasn't necessary for Eddie to take all of them, it never would be beneath the surface. Put enough blood in the water and there would come a frenzy. Let the Mer wonder why the white tips had shown up, by the time things were settled there wouldn't be any evidence he'd been there. It would also pull the rest of them away as well, and leave him free to approach the giant shell. He was home free, except for one tiny little detail. There was no way inside. He'd circled the outside close enough to feel its outer surface brush against his thick fur, and could find not one break in it big enough to allow him access. The main entry was far deeper, and far too active for him to have a prayer of getting in. Besides, his mother was much further up. He could almost pinpoint her exact location simply through that odd pull at his senses. To make matters worse, the higher he went the thicker the shell walls became.

The fifteen foot leopard seal that was Eddie swam to the surface. He needed a few minutes to rest and regroup, well that and think some very nasty thoughts about how his brother had left him in this condition and forgotten to give him a mouthful of explosives to plant. He could almost hear Kruger in his head asking him laughingly why he was called Fast Eddie.

Because I am! Eddie would have yelled it to the clouds if he could have in this form without too much concentration. There was more laughing in his brother's voice, and the rage he felt had his ears ringing.

Then prove it. He shook his large seal head trying to clear that laugh and the ringing. It didn't help. The laughter was gone, but that sound remained. No amount of shaking would make it go away, there was no reason for it...unless it was really there? Eddie dipped his head beneath the waves once more, sliding his body into the water after it. It was really there, not a ringing...no this was more of a ping. That he could pick it up above the surface could only mean something massive had made the sound. An idea struck him, it was dangerous perhaps even suicidal but it was all he could think of. He began to swim once more, away from the nautilus and the pull of his mother. He swam directly towards the place where that sound was coming from staying near the surface and keeping a very wary eye in the waters beneath him. Despite his attention to the depths, he still nearly became a casualty of nature. He'd gone about ten miles tracking the sonar pings that blasted out in waves and was considering giving up when the ocean moved. It started small as so many things do, and all too quickly the shape grew charging straight up...at him!

Eddie changed direction a full ninety degrees and dove downward at the shape, that maneuverability of his saving his hide as he barrel rolled and twisted his way around the massive two meter horn that dipped out at him. The Livyatan was fifty meters long from its tail to the tip of its horn, its open mouth revealing rows of conical teeth in a maw wide enough to swallow a Great White... or a large selkie with a big mouth. It was another six meters across, and was moving fast. For all its size and speed, it lacked Eddie's ability to bend and change directions.

Then prove it! Eddie heard the three words again only now wondering if they were as real as the Livyatan had become.

You asked for it, brother. Eddie had often said he was the fastest thing out there above or below the water. It wasn't because of his species, if it had been he'd have been chased down on many occasions. It had nothing to do with what Eddie Blake was, and everything to do with belief. He believed absolutely that there was no creature in the ocean that could catch him, and none that he couldn't take from behind no matter how great the head start. Of course he'd never actually encountered a fully grown, hungry, Livyatan before either. Eddie did the only smart thing, he ran, of course he was followed very closely by that mammoth creature, but like every other time he'd been tested, when it looked like he was about to be swallowed up he found another burst of speed, an additional gear to shift into that left the Livyatan's jaws closing down onto nothing. It would have been a fun game, if it weren't life or death. Several times he'd managed to get far enough ahead that the creature started to drop its pursuit of him. Eddie needed it to follow him. When it started losing interest he'd send a series of whistles through the waves to keep it in pursuit, just like an underwater Pied Piper.

The giant nautilus grew on the horizon as they closed with it. Eddie went straight for it, making the Livyatan renew its efforts. It expected to trap him there, likely as it had done countless times in as many places. What it didn't expect as it exploded from the water was the way Eddie shifted, or that his hands would reach out to grab hold of that massive horn. It hadn't expected to land hard on the exposed shell, or the way it went from being solid to insubstantial. Had it been a bit more sentient it may have even been insulted that the once seal let go of the horn to land lightly just in front of its mouth. The Livyatan thrashed twice, but that only opened the hole beneath it even more. It heaved once with its tail hard enough to pull its massive body backwards to slide down the outer shell of the nautilus and impact the water once more.

"Ding Dong! Avon Calling!" Eddie yelled the words as he dropped through the space that he'd worked so hard to create. He was feeling more than a little cocky, and why shouldn't he? He'd just won the most epic race that ever graced the sea. When his feet hit the floor he swept up a macuahuitl, Mer were down all over the corridor, many trapped beneath the detritus from the ceiling. Eddie never gave them the chance to recover, swinging his newly acquired weapon with a certain merciless accuracy. For the barest instant he thought he'd seen Tahlia, except that she was transparent and clearly that meant she wasn't here... except she was still there when he finished his sweep of the corridor. "This thing's about as elegant as a barb wire wrapped baseball bat named Lucille." He dropped the macuahuitl to the floor, turned towards the apparition and frowned. "What's the matter with you? You trying to get yourself killed?!" Not that he hadn't just played chicken with a monster... but that was different!

She'd never been so happy to see anyone in her life. She took a deep breath, not that she needed to, and just watched him work, clearing the hall with that signature Eddie Blake smile. At least, until it was replaced by a look of concern. One pale brow arched on the holographic face. "Um, baby...that was a whole lot of fish you were just driving." Tahlia was fairly certain she wasn't at risk of being hurt, she wasn't entirely certain that she was really there. But here and now, well, that conversation could wait. "Couldn't let you have all the fun by yourself, now could I?"

#28:  Author: Tahlia FarasCan Be Found: Here and there, depends on her mood PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:23 pm
    —
Poor Unfortunate Souls

If you want to cross the bridge, my sweet
You've got the pay the toll
Take a gulp and take a breath
And go ahead and sign the scroll
~ Poor Unfortunate Souls lyrics (c) Walt Disney Music Company


Eddie had never been here, not inside here at least and yet he knew exactly where he needed to go. "You could have, but I didn't expect that you would want to." He reached out to take Tahlia's hand only to have it pass right through her. How had he missed that she was practically transparent anyway? "Do I want to know what's happened to you?" He probably should have phrased that differently, because yes he did want to know. "Stay with me, I'd hate to lose you in here." If that were even possible in her current state, he was about to head out when he heard the creaking groan echo through the corridors. That wasn't a major concern, it was the sound that followed which had him start to worry. The inrush of the sea was distinct even at the distance the sound needed to travel to get to the dynamic duo. "Oops..." He would have made a quick grab for the blonde, if he hadn't already been thwarted once by her lack of solidity.

Turning back towards the essence which pulled at his chest like fishing line, Eddie stepped over the fallen Mer and those things which would have his feet bleeding. His path becoming a winding twist of doorways and corridors that undulated anglelessly, though even as he moved forward he couldn't keep from looking over his shoulder to check on Tahlia.

"Your brother. He did - something like that mark Nim put on me, so I'm here, but...not. I guess cause the whole...not one of you, thing?" Tahlia shrugged, staring at her the way her fingers closed over nothing. They were ghosts to each other, in this place, but she was there and he could see her, and somehow that was important. She couldn't hold on, but she was as close behind as her much smaller strides could keep her. Habit had her murmuring a single word under her breath, hoping to erase the crimson footprints in Eddie's wake. "And before you say anything, I asked him to." Begged might be closer, but now wasn't the time or the place for a conversation they'd been so good at avoiding.

The rush of water was a backdrop as they made their way through the smoothly curving corridors, trusting the big Selkie to lead the way. She was pretty sure she couldn't drown like this, but really, why test that theory? Hopping over a splayed figure (possibly landing on its head just to make herself feel better), it took her a moment to realize that the corridor had somehow gone from simply clean to pristine, and there was a subtle scent in the air she could only describe as antiseptic. Nose crinkling, she resisted the urge to touch anything, and took an extra few steps to stick just a little closer.

Abandoned pathways stretched out before them, their normal occupants pulled away to other places whether that was dealing with the flooding below or the Livyatan that someone had managed to enrage mattered little to Eddie, so long as they didn't get in his way. It wouldn't last, he knew that much, hell he could hear voices ahead and see where this particular hallway became an open area. Navigating around it would have been pointless, the pull would bring him back here again. He stopped at the edge, putting his back to the wall and pointing to a closed door in full view of the chamber just around the corner.

"Liandra's always saying the most horrible things about you." The voice was clear, strong, and quite young. It came from a novice acolyte who, judging by the smell, was delivering food.

A second voice came from further into the chamber, this one deeper, full of experience, and a bit of ire. "Girls who gossip are a bore, dear. I'm certain they've told you I don't like a lot of blabber... so run along, before I teach you what idle chatter's for."

The tray the acolyte carried hit a tabletop hard enough to indicate that it was done on purpose. It was followed by a haughty huff and solid footfalls heading down an adjoining corridor. "Ugh! She's such a witch!" It likely wasn't meant to be heard, but the low chuckle from the other woman said that she'd gotten exactly what she wanted.

The witch in question tilted her head, not turning to look at the edge of the hallway, although it was obvious there was no-one else to whom the next words could be addressed. "Come in, come in, my dear...we musn't lurk in doorways. I know why you're here, of course...you have a thing for a certain Selkie...not that I blame you, he is quite a catch. But - you're just a little landbound, aren't you. And...you aren't quite all here either..."

Tahlia looked over at Eddie, and mouthed a question. Not quite a question, since she took a half step - after all, what could the witch do to her in her current state?

He certainly didn't like that the woman seemed to know that much about Tahlia and her current state of unbeing, but it was clear that she only sensed one of them. Then there was the matter of the ring of keys that glinted their all too solid presence on a desktop. Eddie was of two minds, on the one hand he was more than happy to make a play for them himself but he knew he wouldn't get more than a few steps before he was wrapped up in some sort of spell. The acolyte's accusation of the woman being a witch may have been more accurate than a simple insult. He nodded at the keys, hoping that Tahlia would understand what needed to happen.

She did, and nodded ever so slightly, masking the gesture by tucking her hair behind an ear, and stepped out to where the witch could see her. Tahlia had yet to see an old Mer, or one who wasn't in fighting trim - this one was neither, her face crinkling at the edges, and drooping into a jowled jaw that kept nodding after she had stopped. "How did you know I was there? And...why I was there?" She wouldn't mention names...the sea hag didn't seem to fall for the Misery Woe myth that had had the sister in the infirmary screeching. Making her slow, gravity-mimicking path to where the witch stood, she purposefully angled her way along the wall, hoping the other woman would turn to track her.

"The girl wasn't kidding when she called me a witch. I fortunately know a little magic, and I use it on behalf of poor unfortunates...like yourself." The zaftig figure shifted as they'd hoped, moving toward Tahlia with what was meant to be a reassuring smile.

Timing was everything, knowing that didn't make waiting any easier for Eddie. There would be those who, if they ever heard of this, would chastise him for sending her out there into danger[/]. They were the same people who believed that women weren't [i]capable of handling it too. Maybe they weren't always wrong, there were plenty of women who needed to be constantly protected. Of course there were plenty of men with the same issue, and those same people would often look down on them. There's nothing wrong with being afraid, what was more important was finding the strengths in those people and using it.

It was true that there had been the occasional rescue, but Eddie had faith that Tahlia was more than capable of anything. It didn't make it simpler to let it happen, but that was exactly what he would do. He observed, as stealthily as he could, the interaction between the shade and the admitted witch, letting things unfold as they would. He was ready to step in, should the need arise, but she knew what was needed and slowly the little blonde managed to get the witch turned fully about. That left him to do his part, at least his bare feet were quiet on the floor though he was conscious of every step and the way his skin seemed to want to stick to it. Probably whatever they used to clean it? It didn't matter, what did was getting the ring of keys without them making a sound to call attention to himself. It wasn't much different than picking a pocket, just a bigger sleight of hand illusion. Once he had them in his palm, Eddie moved silently towards the door and began to test the different keys in the lock.

Tahlia kept both of them in her sight, her bottom lip caught between her teeth, every inch the damsel looking for a magical cure to whatever was a step beyond a long distance relationship. "So you could...help me? How?" Eyes wide, hands twisting in front of her, those angelic looks of hers sold the act with only the barest effort from her. She just needed to keep the witch focused. Eddie could do the rest - would, she had no doubt. She'd never seen him fail.

"What you need, dearie...is to be part of his world. I could do that for you...you'd make a very pretty seal. Such...lovely golden fur...Let Orsine help you get your Selkie, pet...after all, who knows what he's getting up to while you're sitting on the beach, just waiting for him to come home. There's a lot of fish in the sea, so to speak...fine, strapping male like that probably has a mate in every cove..."

Eddie looked away from the door for a moment, using touch to insert the keys. He frowned at what the witch was saying, a look was sent to Tahlia to steady her resolve perhaps to let her judge for herself what was true and what wasn't. His fingers gave a twist to the key which turned, he could feel it pulling the bolt of the lock open. He left them in the door, turning all the way towards Tahlia and Orsine. He'd thought the *woman* was a fable, maybe he should have known better but she just seemed so...unreal... growing up.

He moved away from the door, it was time to put the witch in her place as defiantly as he could. Eddie still had the advantage of being *unseen*, the irony wasn't lost on him and he'd likely point it out later. Now he just needed to keep the witch's offer from taking hold. He kept his progress slow, the room wasn't huge but there was a lot of space to cover between the door and them, too much if he betrayed his presence too soon. Enough that Orsine would be able to get the drop on him and who knew what she would unleash?

Anyone else would have missed the wink before her eyes went wide, her attention on the larger-than-life figure of Orsine. "Do you think that would help? He's been away a lot, lately...and there's this...one..." A little truth, just enough to season the lie. As secure as Tahlia often seemed to be, she couldn't compete with the ocean, and she knew enough not to try. Eddie wouldn't respond to a tight leash any better than she would. "But I wouldn't be able to change back..."

Who knew what snapped the witch's attention away from the girl, and toward the door, and the giant Selkie standing between her, and it. Rage contorted her features, and power crackled across her skin as she pointed a shaking finger at Eddie. "Ainmhithe díograiseach...you dare too much!" Lightning gathered in her other hand, rising to send it flying before turning with a speed surprising in one of her age and build, and sending that ball of destruction toward the tiny blonde figure who'd served to distract her.

"You go too far, Witch!" Eddie could take being the focus of Orsine's ire, at least he thought he could, but the woman turned the intention of her assault on Tahlia. "No!" He was too far away to interfere, half a step it might as well have been a mile for all the good it did. He'd gotten his hands on Orsine, used every bit of the strength in his body to pull at her and force her away from the little blonde. Too late...he'd been too late... that shocked him, left him uncertain of how to proceed. His foot came up catching Orsine in the stomach and sending her careening towards the table he'd so recently liberated the keys from.

There was desperation in his expression as he turned back to Tahlia certain to find her a quivering mass of electrocuted flesh. Eddie knew he should have kept his focus on Orsine, but that just wasn't something he was capable of doing. He didn't care what happened, not if he'd brought the blonde to harm. "Baby?!" He stepped forward, dreading what he'd find when he felt the implosion of heat across the exposed skin of his legs. He winced, expecting to become little more than charred Selkie, only to hear Orsine hit the floor next to his feet. It was enough to pull his gaze back to discover the fierce gaze of the redhead standing in the now open doorway.

Tahlia's instincts had taken over, throwing herself to the side, and down before she remembered that she...wasn't really there. Still, who knew what magic could do to her, in whatever state Kruger had sent her here in. Brushing off non-existent dust from her illusory form, she stood up just in time to see a blast of something vaguely purple ripple through the air, and send the sea witch Orsine plummeting to the floor. The flames aimed at Eddie's back hit the strange smooth surface below their feet, and faded. There wasn't time to react, just stare in shock at the figure that had emerged from the cell, eyes only a few shades darker than her own, and crimson locks that reminded her of centuries past, and people long gone from her. Facing down the witch she'd done without a thought, this woman...made her nervous.

"I'm ok, baby. I'm pretty sure it would have just gone through me but..." Stepping closer, she reached for him, cursing under her breath when her hand went through his. "I'm ok. Did she get you?" Later, maybe, she'd find herself a quiet moment to process just how many times she'd nearly died since meeting the Selkie, nevermind that she wouldn't change a moment of it. Right now...there were more important things.

Habit, had him putting out his hand for Tahlia to take hold of, or was it instinct now? Either way he was unable to feel the solidity he was looking for. Her voice pulled his attention away from the form of Lumira and, after several moments of high scrutiny, finding the smile that would answer her questions. "Right as rain, Pumpkin." He wanted to put his arm around her protectively before going to where his mother stood eyes glaring at the unconscious witch lying prostrate on the floor. Those eyes moved to him and in turn to Tahlia softening ever so slightly as she gestured for the two of them to come inside the chamber with her.

Eddie would have preferred that connection which he was being denied, probably something done on purpose just to injure him. He'd have things to say about that later. In lieu of it he moved forward placing himself between the redhead and the blonde as he moved into the room past his mother who closed the door behind them. "You should dress more appropriately, Edward Jain Blake...this isn't the time to go about with your bits hanging out."

"No no... you're right. Let me go back and find my pants... just wait here a little longer...mother." The last word was a mixture of sarcastic formality. She'd started it calling him his full name like that. You'd think she'd be a little more grateful and less critical, she might as well have asked if he was wearing clean underwear when he got into an accident. "This is Tahlia...she's... with me." He indicated the woman he was unable to make physical contact with. "This is Lumira, my mother...who's much nicer than she seems, just under a lot of stress I think." Despite the greeting he'd gotten, one that he really did understand it was just hard to accept easily, Eddie hugged Lumira like he hadn't seen her in years...like he'd believed she was dead only to discover she wasn't.

#29:  Author: Eddie BlakeCan Be Found: Drifting PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:28 pm
    —
Such a vague explanation seemed perfectly clear to her. They were what they were, and she doubted there was ever going to be a label that fit them completely. Suddenly very much reminded that Eddie was, well...as nature intended, she made very sure that she was looking up or at his mother. At least until the other woman was engulfed in the kind of embrace that brought tears to Tahlia's eyes and had her finding the small chambers design fascinating. It certainly wasn't the most awkward 'meet-the-parents' moment she'd ever had, but it had been a very long time, and none of them had ever meant quite this much,

"I can't say I blame her, Puddin...and it's very nice to meet you." Bringing her eyes back to where she suspected the woman's face was, she resisted the urge to curtsy, biting her non-corporeal lip as she tried to at least look like she wasn't a mass of nerves. Eddie wasn't the only one who would have preferred the comfort of contact just at the moment, and it was nearly certain the smith was going to be in for it the next time she saw him. After the reunion. Tahlia had some idea what this moment meant to all of them, after all.

"You're the one who has them making warding gestures. I'm not sure that you are quite what I expected. Of course I only had the pieces of conversation to go by." Lumira's eyes practically glowed as they fixed on Tahlia. Whether that was from the presence of friendly faces or the reuniting with her family was open for discussion. It was the healthiest of her attributes at the moment. The imposing figure who'd struck down Orsine, upon closer inspection, was a little too pale. Her hair, a stark contrast to that paleness lacked the kind of fullness and luster that regular care would have brought out. There was a thinness to her fingers and the rest of her as well. She was fed, but obviously not nearly enough to keep her healthy. "What did you do, E.J? It hasn't been so long that I don't know when I hear a crash that you've broken something." That crash had been impossible to miss, having shaken things up even here.

"It wasn't me...I was just trying to get out of the way." Eddie's tone was awash in complete innocence. It wasn't really his fault that the livyatan had broken the place, right? He looked at Tahlia for help to corroborate his story, because witnesses held weight! "We don't have much time though, the lower floors are taking on water... for some unknown reason." He was still affecting the angelic look that had only lost a little of its power because he'd grown up. Something else that wasn't his fault. "I can backtrack to where I came in, but... I don't think we're getting out that way." It was a little too high to reach that hole. Just a few meters or so.

Tahlia managed to hold the smirk at bay long enough to nod in support of Eddie's version of events. After all, she couldn't swear that he hadn't been innocently minding his business when the sea monster happened to attack. It wasn't likely, but it was possible. "Uh...yes. Apparently. I'm not sure why, but that does seem to be the usual response. I don't think I'm what any of them expects, either, if that helps."

For the first time, the true weight of where they were, and the predicament they were in hit her. "I...have no idea. We obviously came in different places." Tahlia closed her eyes, trying to retrace her steps. "I had to go up to get to where I met you...there was a...forge." Of course. "If the lower levels are flooded, it probably is too. But I didn't come in through the same portal you did..."

"They're all superstitious." Lumira released Eddie as she said the words to Tahlia as if that was enough to explain everything. "That's the way we're supposed to go, that's what I was told anyway." She stepped back and looked at her son. "Pay attention, and do what I do." She pushed aside the blankets on the bed they'd given her to reveal a pelt as red as her hair should be. Picking it up she didn't even drape it over her shoulders, it just seemed to come alive and mould itself to her cladding her in leather from ankle to neck. There were gaps, her arms were bare, and the length of her back though this was at least covered by her hair. "Do you understand?"

Eddie concentrated, attempting to mimic what his mother had done and was only half successful. His long coat had melted away, sliding down his torso to become a pair of pants that didn't look nearly so protective as what Lumira had managed. He gave a small shrug to her. "Best I can do... now who told you where we needed to go?"

"Your brother was here just a bit before you... sort of here...mostly not." She put a hand up towards Tahlia as if that should explain enough. "He said to follow her." It was clear by her expression that there had been other things said that she was holding back. "Something about not being able to maintain multiple doorways." It made more sense to her, having heard what Tahlia said about coming through a different portal. It may have explained that much, but there was a lot more going on than met the eye. Her eyes shot to the door, having caught the movement of the knob. Even if she hadn't seen it, she'd been in here long enough to recognize the sound of it.

Tahlia exchanged looks with Eddie at the mention of his brother. She might have also snuck a rather appreciative look over his now bare torso, because, in all honesty, who wouldn't? Especially since all she could do was look. Maybe that's why he'd done it? It only distracted her for a moment. Dragging her eyes away at the sound of someone, or something, on the other side of the door, the blonde cursed softly. Lumira was in no condition, and while she and Eddie were a force to be reckoned with - they were both unarmed. What she needed, was a weapon.

"We need to get out here first..." The hand tugging at her braid was reflex, and just happened to twist her head enough to catch a glint of metal coming through the wall - no more substantial than she was. It was...something, at least, and with only a second's hesitation she reached out and took hold of the hilt. The blade gleamed, slightly curved, somehow both present and not. "Hey, Puddin...your brother is a little creepy..." Who else could have done it? Glancing over at Lumira, she gave a little shrug. No offense meant, but she didn't think there would be much argument either.

Showoff was the word that Eddie was muttering, regardless of the fact that he was standing there half dressed. That was something entirely different! The door opened filled by an armored Mer leading his entry with the tip of a long spear. Eddie was quick to grasp the shaft and yank it to the side leaving the intruder wide open for Tahlia's new little friend to find a place to poke him. Far from the aggressive attack earlier, this one had Lumira backpedaling to wall the first real indicator that she was far from recovered. She had put everything into that single expulsion of fire and water.

It was strange watching the blade move forward its form as translucent as the wielder and yet the Mer's physical body felt the impact and subsequent tearing through armor and flesh underneath. It was a display that Eddie would have marvelled at even applauded if the feat hadn't been engineered by... showoff supreme.

The Mer didn't really have a chance, they couldn't touch the blonde wielding the the strange blade - although the sword itself seemed to stop them from touching her regardless. Tahlia tried, at first, simply to keep them back, to give them space to plan. Soon enough she realized that they weren't going to give up, and just...let them out. The holographic girl and her strangely solid weapon wasn't enough to break their ranks, even if there were murmurs of 'Misery Woe' from those who were face to face with her.

Puffing her hair from her eyes, she changed tactics, peridot eyes taking on a silvery gleam as her movements shifted - now she was on the attack. A tight spin of her wrist took a blade, and the hand it was attached to, and a step had a Mer falling in half to the ground. She had no idea how long she could keep it up, the energy sustaining her had to come from somewhere. Nothing landed on her, nothing touched her, she moved like a deadly ghost, pausing only to glance back to the two Selkies - Eddie might recognize the look on her face from a different time and place.

Eddie's grin was for the little blonde murderess, he did like to watch her move. There wasn't space for the two of them, which was mirrored by the way the door forced the Mer to come in one at a time. It didn't take long for him to be able to join her though, the hand on the spear fell away allowing the big Selkie to take it for himself. Its reach let him attack from further back, the tip alternating between low and high thrusts. He kept the point moving in and out, circling lazily or swift and tight. He'd have preferred something a little louder that had an even better range, but there were no shotguns or pistols in this place. Even if he'd managed to bring one with him it would have needed a thorough cleaning if it were to function after the swim. He took what he could get, and used it with deadly intent.

Together, he and Tahlia pushed forward through the door and into the room beyond. It was slow, but a glance at his mother said that slow was all she was going to manage. A hint of anger burned through him, the evidence coming from a particularly vicious thrust that tore into the throat of one unlucky Mer whose breath bubbled wetly out of the hole left behind. Once they'd managed to clear the path, he put an arm around Lumira taking her weight so that they could move a little faster. "If I get us back to where I came in... can you find where you did?"

Her braid wrapped around a shoulder, the sword coming down at her side another Mer gurgling to the floor behind her. Second battle of the night, assuming it was the same night - time had lost all meaning. There was more blood than even the wounds they were inflicting would justify, every nick and cut flowing freely, responding to the soft hiss of a single word. She couldn't Call at her full strength, assuming she could tap into it, if she was honest, she was afraid to do harm to Eddie, or his mother. "The forge? I think so...through the infirmary, and then down. You two can get through the water, but I...ohh. Duh." She'd blame the golden strands twisted and tied down her back, if anyone asked.

"I'm not here. I don't have to breathe. Right." She looked nervous even so, remembering a night that seemed very far away, now. Her own skills she knew, even if she didn't understand them - the magics she'd been exposed to here were still so very strange, and the fear of drowning had stuck with her. "Is she...?" Tahlia didn't know how to ask if Lumira was going to be able to change, or for that matter, make it to the surface if the portal wasn't there.

Lumira nodded as Tahlia came to the realization that she had no need for air, not as she was. "Keep that in your mind, if you panic so too will your physical form." The words were tinged with exhaustion but it didn't keep her from offering the girl a smile... did she dare think of her as a girl? It seemed she already had, though something about that felt odd. "I'll be fine... probably better in the water than here. Swimming takes far less effort, there's less need to fight gravity." The explanation came in soft spoken words that held no malice for someone who was so obviously from the land.

Their path to the place where the ceiling had collapsed in was blessedly empty, but sounds traveled to them. There were more of the Mer ahead, the sounds increasing with every twist or turn. Eddie started to slow his pace, checking corners now instead of blundering haphazardly around them into the mother knew what. The place where he'd met up with Tahlia was quite occupied, though there didn't seem to be any soldiers among them. Craftsmen worked frantically to close up the breach that someone had created. "Maybe we can slip by them?" His voice was barely audible for fear of being heard by unintended ears.

"As long as there aren't any squid..." The response was barely audible, and not something she could take the time to explain. Not now. Maybe once they were back, with wine, or something harder. After everyone had had a chance to recover. A swift glance to Eddie for reassurance, and she took a needless breath. The short nap earlier was wearing off, but she had to keep going. Once she had her own body back...flushing slighting, she gave Lumira a grateful smile - her explanation was a great deal less judgemental than Nim's.

"They seem focused - no one saw me before except the sister, and the witch. Maybe they don't care?" True, there little group looked different, but the workmen seemed intently focused, and the only eyes she saw stray from the work were aimed upwards, scanning for the return of the monster. "Let me try...I can scout ahead, see if I can find a path through..." She hadn't let go of the blade, and the twist of her grip said that she would clear the way if necessary.

#30:  Author: Tahlia FarasCan Be Found: Here and there, depends on her mood PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:32 pm
    —
Cochise

Drown if you want,
and I'll see you at the bottom,
Where you'll crawl on my skin
and put the blame on me,
so you don't feel a thing.
Go on and save yourself, and take it out on me.
~ Audioslave

The tools might be different, but their use was quite similar as workmen spread a mortar like substance into the gap. It wasn't exactly mortar, the hue and consistency were as pearlescent as the walls. Eddie didn't want to think about how it was made, or where it came from. He nodded to Tahlia, it made sense to send the one person who made no noise to scout ahead. "Just be careful." He knew he didn't need to worry, but that didn't stop him from doing so anyway.

"It'll give me a chance to rest up a little for the next stretch." Lumira put her back to the wall and slid down til she was sitting on her heels. She watched as Tahlia moved off, doing everything she could to prepare herself and not be the reason that they ended up getting caught. "She seems nice. You deserve someone nice." She didn't catch the grateful, if confused, look that Eddie gave her.

"She's whatever she needs to be." He mumbled the words, keeping his eyes on where Tahlia had disappeared to.

The tiny blonde blew a kiss back before she disappeared behind a pile of rubble, carefully picking her way with an eye to how easy the path might be, not only for Eddie, but for Lumira. It was probably for the best that she didn't hear the description - it would only have made her laugh, and lose her focus. Glancing up, there was no sign of the creature, and no sign of patrols. She just had to trust what they had been told. So far, showoff or not, Kruger had been as good as his word.

Right now, Tahlia was being exactly what she needed to be, what *they* needed her to be. It was took much to ask that there were no guards at all, but she was swift, and silent, moving up on the one left behind to make certain he was alone. The path beyond seemed clear, as far as she could see. It wouldn't stay that way. Carefully making her way back, she caught Eddie's eye, and gestured, certain he would be able to follow even if she wasn't right ahead. Not wanting to take the risk that the guard would hear Lumira's more audible approach, she crept back to the guard, breathing out a single word as she sent the blade through his back, and used the relatively solid weight of it to carefully lower the body to the ground, away from immediate discovery. No sound, and somehow the blood pooled slowly from his butchered heart. Holding her breath, she tried to listen past the sounds behind her for any alarm, and heard...nothing.

Silently, Eddie reached for his mother, lending her his strength to help her rise. The progress was slow, anathema for him. He would have preferred to go at this fast and hard, but what more would you expect from someone called Fast Eddie? This entire thing plagued at him, pulling him from his own believed strength, that and having to watch the frailty of someone who had always seemed unbreakable. He found himself, even as they quietly moved down that first least dangerous hallway, hoping that something would happen...anything that would put him into a place where he was far more comfortable. In a different situation, there hadn't been many, this urge of his would have pushed him to make something happen. It made a sick kind of sense perhaps, Eddie didn't like feeling vulnerable, or avoiding things that were better faced head on with a grin and shout of something foul. In a way it was him pushing away those things that were better for him.

Those feelings didn't disappear as he led Lumira through the opening hidden by the massive tapestry. They lessened, slowly seeping out of him in order to make room for the next time...and the next. He looked over his shoulder at the shrouded entrance like a man expecting trouble to find him that he'd thought left behind. They moved through the spiraled corridor, that prickly feeling on his neck subsiding even as a certain amount of trepidation began to rise at the sounds coming ahead of them. Water still surged down there, another of those unfightable enemies. At least this one was an old friend.

Lumira concentrated on every step she took, not wanting to become the reason for their getting caught, and yet she managed to marvel at the gaping hole and the fractured fault line descending down the wall. It had even managed to crack the floor, though that was too fine, its edges pressed too tightly to leave room for light to flow through it. It was more than she'd expected to see, though if she were being honest with herself not so much that she was surprised. Her son had always been bigger than his peers, and even those several years older. He grew quickly, and with that had come all the awkwardness of rapid growth. He'd tripped often, broken things unintentionally, messes had followed him until he'd managed to get used to his own size. She'd never thought about it back then, perhaps she should have but the sight before her seemed right in a way. This is what it looked like when her son intentionally broke things.

Tahlia stayed in the lead, glancing back occasionally to check on their progress. Rescue missions were not something she was familiar with, as a rule. The last time - the last time had been in a cold, wet dungeon in another world, almost another life, and she had been the one being rescued. She was deadlier, now, if not much bigger. Looking back was nearly like looking in a mirror...with a shake of her head, she focused, her steps slowing as they approached the training grounds, and the sounds of battle reached her ears. It had a different tone than before, more frantic, desperate, even. Holding up a hand, Tahlia crept forward, blade at the ready, and glanced down to the rapidly filling enclosures. If they hadn't been fish, she might have worried, but it seemed the denizens of the deep were taking the offered opportunity to get a little of their own back.

Lumira couldn't help but feel something for the scene below, her gaze had been drawn there whether through the sound or some sense of foreboding from an unknown source. The predatory sea denizens were not large, the break wouldn't allow for anything large to push through. It didn't hold back the numbers though, the forms below were certainly trained but there's always a huge difference between training and reality. She wished she could want them all dead, would have perhaps if they weren't children, older perhaps, teetering on the edges of adulthood but children nonetheless. She watched as they formed defensive squares against the influx of hungry tooth filled mouths, fascinated even as she was disturbed by what was happening. She kept moving, their progress was still within her ability to keep up moving by feel at the moment while her gaze was trained elsewhere. She kept moving that is, until she ran smack into Eddie's back. His form was stiff, like every muscle he possessed was suddenly bunched up, coiled and ready to spring into action.

Coldness burned its way through her, its source beginning at the very tips of her toes where the first touch of rising water washed over them. She looked at that, and was reminded of what it looked like when water filled a bathtub by slowly increasing degrees. It was the low growl that she felt from Eddie as much as heard that managed to direct her attention forward. The corridor extended further by quite a bit, there was one break some distance ahead and instinctively she understood that was for them. It wasn't the way that had them halted, but what shared the path with them. Lumira felt Eddie start to move, and grabbed his arm tightening her grip desperately when it seemed he was trying to pull away.

A massive figure stood in their way, eight feet tall and heavy with corded muscles. Its mouth was filled with wickedly serrated triangular teeth. The Rokea had transformed only halfway, and the head that lifted from its shoulders was that of a shark, but Lumira knew it to be the one who had brought her here so long ago. It was the same one they always brought in when they needed to move her from one place to another, though it had been some time since she'd seen Jax. She didn't know why, only that his disappearance had incensed many of the acolytes. She knew she didn't have the strength to hold Eddie back, not with her hands at least. "Don't...please."

Tahlia stood between the two giants, frozen, her eyes locked on the Rokea much the way a sparrow watches a snake. She wasn't a harmless songbird, though, and the smile that wreathed her face was more predatory than anything that of sang like she did ought to be capable of. The blade was slowly twisting in her hands, rising slowly into position. She could hear Eddie's growl, and it kept her from backing down.

"Do not engage." There was a sluggish tenor to the words, the kind that could be found in any drunk in a tavern, or to one on the fringes of exhaustion.

Eddie pulled his arm free of his mother, and gripped the spear in both hands. "We can take him together, Pumpkin."

The voice pulled her up short. She knew what it was. Knew who it was, even if she'd never heard it sound like that before. "But...we can beat him. He can't touch me, and Eddie could take him..."

"That's what I said..." Eddie started to cut off Tahlia, then looked at her to see who she was looking at. It wasn't his mother. "Who are you talking to?" This was hardly the time for insanity to set in.

"Regardless, you're running out of time." The words dimmed in volume, and if it were somehow possible felt more like a groan.

Eddie began to move forward, there would be time later to figure out what was going on with his little blonde.

Pale green eyes remained locked on the half-shark, and there was just the barest shake of her head. "Your brother says we're running out of time. Baby...he sounds tired..." She still thought there was a chance.

That may have explained Tahlia's sudden insight into things, but it certainly didn't shed any light onto how they were going to manage to get past the big Rokea without time wasted on a fight. He needed a moment to think, to assess the situation...a second or two to resign himself to tell Tahlia to get his mother out, that he'd see her soon as confidently as he could muster on short notice.

"Where did you come from?" Jax's voice rasped its way past those jagged teeth a fiendish facsimile of the one that had last been heard by any of the trio as the giant Rokea looked at them...except he wasn't looking at them, his eyes seemed to Eddie to be focused on something else altogether.

"No!" The shriek came an instant before Eddie could manage one of his irreverent retorts. It came from his mother of all places. Perhaps she knew his plan? The rising water between them and Jax splashed three times at different intervals which began in front of them and ended half a stride in front of Jax. There wasn't even a heartbeat between that final splash before the massive figure was blasted backwards down the corridor, his mouth striking for no visible reason.

Lumira had felt the faintest brush of air against her skin, nothing that might not be expected considering where they were and what was happening as the cold sea infiltrated deeper into the warmer space of the corridor. It was the smell that didn't belong, the barest hint of heated sulfur which told her what was happening. Visibly nothing had changed, she didn't see the form that had emerged from the corridor that had veered off to the left. That didn't stop her from knowing it had run past the trio, despite never viewing the words that blazed off the dark material of its shirt which read The Anvil eats Fish for Breakfast! She had heard what Tahlia had said, and understood the danger of what could be. "You'll have to carry me from here." It was the only way to speed up their pace.

It seemed only Tahlia had front row seats to this show. The shirt made her laugh - both brothers had a positive gift for showmanship, even if they'd never admit it was something they shared. If only she had more of an understanding of what was going on. Part of her wanted to go after Jax, a big part...the rest knew he wouldn't have done this if it wasn't absolutely necessary. "Baby...?"

Eddie wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth, not when he was in a hurry at least, no matter how odd it was to watch the Rokea fighting with nothing. He nodded at Tahlia letting the spear clatter to the floor and turning to hoist his mother. She wasn't wrong, this would allow them to move much more quickly. "Lead the way, baby." He fell in behind the blonde, surging forwards with his burden and not thinking twice about how the area right around Jax appeared to have the red tinge of blood in the water. He wouldn't have the time anyway, because the now unblocked doorway showed why the water was rising above their ankles. The stairs had disappeared beneath the incoming sea like some kind of sinking ship.

The little blonde hissed a word as they drew closer...blood in the water meant she could do that at least. The translucent form paused at the stairs. She knew she wasn't there, and yet...water and she didn't have a great history. But it was the only way out, and the faster they got out, the faster this would all be over. At least she hoped so. Not for the first time, she wished she could touch - she was trying to listen to Lumira's advice and not panic, but the touch of Eddie's hand would have done a lot to keep her calm. Shooting a last look over her shoulder, she gave him a soft smile, and moved forward into the water. This way out, apparently.

Eddie was careful, carrying his mother slowly into the rising water rather than plunging in like he normally would. The change came for them both at nearly the same moment. It did manage make things better for Lumira, as she'd said there would be less pressure from being forced to stand. Though it did nothing to assist in communication between the two selkies and the transparent Tahlia, who seemed to be balking at being submerged in salt water. Eddie poked his head out of the water to look at her and chirp whistle reassuringly. She knew the way... they needed her... he knew she could do it! Likely she understood none of it.

The water didn't so much as ripple as she stepped into it. The chirps didn't translate to words, but she could guess Eddie was being encouraging. Taking an unnecessary breath she moved deeper...not finding the resistance she expected. The water was like air, and she realized that she wasn't constrained by normal movement. Watching the two selkies for a moment, Tahlia launched herself forward - at least this time, she couldn't drown.

Being in the water had a healing effect on Lumira, it didn't make her whole by any means, but she felt stronger than she had in a long time. Normally she'd delight in the sea, perhaps marvel at how Tahlia's half there form moved so swiftly and maybe even try to play. There was an urgency to their swim, one that she was unable to explain to either of them in any language. She pushed herself to keep up with them without charging ahead into places she didn't know. If she had she'd have left them behind, in fact it was the moment at which Tahlia made the last turn into the forge that she did just that. There was a figure in there, a burly Mer who stood in contemplation of the disk feebly pulsating in his workspace. Lumira used her considerable size to bowl into the smith, pushing past him through the rupture to disappear.

Tahlia watched the seal-Lumira send the Mer tumbling, and paused, watching the gateway flicker. Moving close, she laid a hand on the giant head of the leopard seal behind her, knowing he couldn't feel it, but wanting the moment anyway. The way out dimmed, and then brightened, and she knew they didn't have much more time to lose. Hopefully Kruger would be waiting on the other side, after all, he was only a little more there than she was. Blade still in hand, she darted back to the surface.

Eddie couldn't feel the touch, that didn't mean he didn't appreciate what it would feel like. He let out the briefest of whistles, then watched as Tahlia took her run at the dying gateway, following along in her wake and maybe almost playfully colliding with the mer who was trying to right himself as he passed into the portal moments before it disappeared completely.



Red Dragon Inn - Dragon's Mark -> Just Desserts


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