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AlexisV

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  1. Turning away from bloody thoughts of eating demons, Askee-ah was deeply pleased by Argia's enthusiastic acceptance. ("Then there will be no prey we cannot hunt") She replied. The reply was part of the ritual, but this was a rare time when she felt it might indeed be the truth. Excitement without caution makes for poor hunters. The thought flickered in her mind. Ah, but caution I will have. She arched her neck and tilted her head at Argia's question. ("I was... a maker who was made. An endless cycle. My... sov-ren? My earthly half of keeping is dead. Now I seek a new trail.") It was the purple-eyed raptor who said this, the other had raised her head and begun sniffing the air, and tilting her head to better hear and locate sounds. She couldn't sense the danger the others did, not yet, but she could smell and hear the subtle signals and sounds of the city's night life, both human and animal, being disturbed or coming alert. It added up to give her a sense of quiet tension in the air. She was reminded of the sense of a hunter far larger than herself moving quietly through the darkness, long ago and far away. Both raptors made a quick motion too graceful to be called a shiver, transitioning from a social stance to a wary hunter's bearing. The glowing colors on thier bodies immediately muted, the clean lines of stripes scattering into irregular flecks and patches of barely-visible light, like embers in a bed of dark ash. She inspected the raptor next to her and was pleased enough with the change. She wouldn't be quite as stealthy as if she had relinquished the colors altogether, but she was too proud of them to do that. Her head snapped up when she caught the motion of the... feather? A strange animated feather that flicked through the air as if alive. She had a brief intense urge to leap at it and snap it out of the air with her jaws, and had already lowered her body in preparation to spring. But the thought passed quickly. Likely that was not the right thing to do, especially since Vaz was adressing the quill like it was indeed alive and able to understand speech. She tried to ignore the flutters of the quill and focus on the threat of danger instead. She took note of Kansif's suggestion of a den. ("There is a nest close, hunter-Ksssiff, hunter-Dzziah. A safe place, if we are careful to avoid leading a hunter there.") She hoped that using titles would make up for still not having worked out a good was to say either names out loud. ("I can lead.) She faltered a little. But I don't know a sure path for those who can't climb and jump like I can. ("It will be uncertain.") She added, preferring to be truthful. ("the hunter might find us.")
  2. Askee-ah turned her head to look at Vaz as they asked thier question. She made a buzzing, purring noise, basically a growl pitched high enough not to be threatening. It meant nearly the same thing as a human going "hmmm." She eyed her other glowing self with deep purple eyes. Thier thoughts blended for several moments, and neither was precisely the individual origin of the two sides of her internal debate. Hunter-Vaz agreed to only a temporary pack alliance. Yes. That means he is deserving of some truths. And he is a packmate of Argia's. Human packs are not our packs. Nor demons. They betray, they steal kills and honor from one another. I chose to serve the purpose beyond that difference. Beyond manner and custom and honor. Does Hunter-Vaz serve the same? Her minds were quiet and still for a time. She thought of the many humans of her pack. And of the water spirits, the sentient soul of an ancient oak tree, of humans and one part-human with moderate supernatural talent. And of the archangel Gabriel, waiting at her nest-site not far from here. She thought of the dangers and fears she guarded them from. A not inconsiderable portion were demons and fears of demons. Demons harm. That is the nature they serve. The golden eyes of one raptor flared brighter in the dark for a moment. I can consume demons who harm. Very well. The yellow-eyed raptor chirped after her silent conversation. It was at least easier for her to communicate cryptically than in detail. ("Exact is difficult. I guard many in this city. Some follow my path with me in return. Some who follow are ordinary.") ("Some are stranger than yourself.") The purple-eyed raptor added. ("Perhaps you will meet them, in time.")
  3. Askee-ah fixed Jorath with a brief glance, intense and strangely humorous. ("A show for later then.") She had decided while up on the rooftops observing the colorful city lights that if gore was an inappropriate show of introduction to beings like these, making a show fierceness and killing-prowess likely was as well. The alternative she'd come up with was somewhat lacking, in her opinion. She hoped the colors, as a visible and tangible display of mystical power, would make up for it. As she approached Argia, she raised her head and adopted a formal, mindful posture. Each motion was smooth, but calculated, made with a precision that showed skill and capability in a more subtle way than flashing teeth and flourishing claws. She was mindful as well to move in a way that showed off her glowing colors to the best effect, the two raptors weaving around one another as they came close. ("I am Askee-ah") One raptor called. ("I was once a power that brought balance to nature.") ("But my living kind are gone.") ("I remain. I seek balance still. I seek a pack alliance with those who hunt the same trail.") ("The dawn. Or some other form of balance. This world will die without it.") She had taken turns "speaking". The other raptor gave a sharp hiss to punctuate the last message. Now she crouched politely and waited, glowing gold and purple eyes watching Argia, and glowing stripes radiating rainbow hues into the dark.
  4. At the Searchlight Theatre] "Well if I had to guess, she means taking on a form humans would have faith in. Or at least don't already dislike." Stephen said. His eyes and voice grew distant. " Askee-ah... didn't have many followers at first, only a few people gave her power to take form. Her actions and the word of people who believed spread her following further." Askee-ah made a gesture that indicated he was correct. ("Another form.") She called, and fixed her eyes on Gabriel, calling up a sensation and vision like a breeze through stems of grass or stalks of reed, it started at her awareness of humans' faith in her and slipped sideways, to a fleeting awareness of humankind's connection and faith to other species. Visions of a dog, a wolf, a stag, a tiger, an eagle... Wings, yes. The trajectory shifted, flickering through touches of birds of prey, owls, hawks, ravens. And then to fantastical creatures. Griffons and winged serpents and dragons, and other imaginary beasts. Threads of faith pulsed at each image, half-beliefs of admiration and symbolism. "Do any of these suit you?" Stephen murmured from close by. His voice was strange, mellow and distant, and his eyes were half-closed. "You can change your shape- like... this." His voice caught and the last word came out forcefully, as if he had trouble speaking it. But Askee-ah's vision held, and within it now was knowledge of a fluid sensation, of reforming one's self into something new, and back again. It was easy if you knew how, and had just a spark of power to get started... I LIKE THE ONES WITH CLAWS. Gabriel's sword cut in with a brazen tone. [With Vaz and Jorath] The two raptors eyes each other uncertainly at Vaz's startling reaction to thier new colors. Jorath, at least, seemed to be taking it a little more calmly. Well, there was no time to come up with another display meant to impress, and besides, Askee-ah liked her new colors. At Jorath's smirk and question, she felt a rise of the same mischief that prompted her to chuckle at Zoe earlier. She uttered a short, teasing turn of phrase and gesture that translated roughly to ("You're just jealous not to have a display of your own.") ("I am Askee-ah.") The other raptor called in reply to his second question. ("I am Askee-ah") the first repeated, thought a moment, and added. ("I am many, like rain.")
  5. [Near Vaz and Jorath] Askee-ah glanced at Jorath as he montioned continuing to the park while her other self eyed Vaz. It occured to her suddenly that being coated in demon blood likely didn't constitute a proper appearance for asking for an alliance with Argia, judging by the way Vaz had reacted. She poked the other raptor with her snout and spoke quickly, not including either of the demons in the conversation. Askee-ah caught Vaz's attention. ("Continue. We will catch up to your scent.") The two raptors dissapeared into the gloom. She didn't have the time to clean herself properly, so Askee-ah called to her overmind, to two other raptors. And as she waited, she studied the row of tattoo parlors, clubs, and bars spread out on the street below her. Neon in every color was visible in the storefront signs, a somehow tantalizing warm glow that hummed with a strange kind of life and power. The four raptors met quickly. One was breathing hard form a breakneck run of nearly three miles, but she could rest after catching up to walk with Vaz and Jorath. The raptors sniffed amd called a quick greeting, and more quickly than that Askee-ah's overmind transferred ideas. It didn't take much power, though she could sense, with some irritation, that maintaining the new state would. The two new raptors examined each other closely. Thier muted stripes and patterns, perfect for hiding in the dappled light of forests and helpful for the deep shadows of the city, were painted and splashed with glowing color like the neon signs below. Red, blue, yellow, and bright green, with speckles of moon-like white. One had picked yellow light for her eyes, the other purple. It was awfully conspicuous for traveling unnoticed as the two demons had been trying to do, so Askee-ah tried to mute the power she allowed to flow to the lights. Would they snap out like bulbs did when she'd crunched them? ... No. The colored lights faded to a dull smoldering glow, hardly brighter than distant streetlamps on reflective paint. She wouldn't be able to hide in shadows, but turning them off altogether meant another effort to get them going again. The two raptors quickly raced back towards where she knew the two demons' scent trail would be, and spotted them not long after. She called out a note to signal her return, wondring how surprised they'd be at her new appearance.
  6. [At the Searchlight Theatre] The raptor who'd returned Gabriel's sword stretched gratefully as Gabriel untangled the flags from around her neck and foreclaws. She grumbled but made a gesture of thanks in return. She gave a final glare and hiss at the sword, and stalked off with a stiff gait and a mild limp, wanting badly to wash all the sticky and bad smelling substances off her scales. Another of the other raptors made placating gestures and calls to Stephen. ("I gave them a false trail, left them confused and did not lead them here.") "The police again?" Stephen sighed and pinched a spot between his eyes, pushing his glasses up. "Best not to show yourselves around here. Not for a good long while. They're bound to start beleiving you're real eventually." He leaned against the banister railing as the raptors dispersed and settled down. "Oh, yeah." He said, hearing Gabriel's question. "I was going to say, needing belief to be more than mortal sounds a lot like what Askee-ah does. She's here in this world because people believe in what she is, and she goes out recruiting people and defending them to gain... well I guess its more faith than belief at that piont, but it seems to work in a similar way." He got a vaugely uncomfortable, lost look as he spoke, like he was talking about something he wasn't sure would go down well. "She might be able to help... I don't know, I guess she asked you to join the pack and provide belief in her, but she can probably help you figure something out for yourself." ("Yes.") Askee-ah called. She had thought better of trying to pronounce Gabriel's name out loud, and Stephen was too agitated to speak to more directly right now, so she tried out a new gesture word she'd made up, it combined 'being' and 'danger-flier' while modifying the 'danger' gesture in the latter. ("Flier-being is a packmate.") She said ("But it wouldn't be right to guard her forever. I can teach. She can make her own pack.") "Oh?" Stephen asked Askee-ah. "It sounds like people really don't like angels. They believe in them by hating them I guess, but that's not helpful. um." He rubbed his face, then looked to Gabriel. "Forgive me, what did people beleive angels did? Is there anything you can do to rebuild faith people have lost, or prove yourself to the people who don't dislike you?" ("Change.") Askee-ah called, with a tilt of her head to indicate a suggestion. "Ey?" Stephen said. ("If a being is not one with its surroundings, it must change.") Askee-ah gave Stephen a pointed look, and Stephen found himself aware of a flicker of the spiritual nature of what Askee-ah was. Species evolve, adapt thier nature according to thier enviroment so they might survive. Like a flow of water to suit the shape of a pool that holds it. Stephen shut his eyes for a moment, unsettled by the expirience of knowing that wasn't his own idea. But he was finding it was getting easier to just accept that deeply strange things were part of his life now. "Huh." He figured out what Askee-ah was really suggesting fairly quickly. She was smart enough to know that millenia of time and generations wouldn't be helpful here. "Can you teach her that? I know you changed, but I thought that came from how your believers picture you." Most of them, anyway. Even if they're wrong. Askee-ah sniffed. ("That is just easiest.") Stephen looked to Gabriel. "Sorry, it takes me a minute to figure out what she's saying sometimes. I think she can teach you to alter your physical appearance." Askee-ah looked to Gabriel expectantly from the foot of the stairs. ("Yes") she called.
  7. [With Vaz and Jorath] Askee-ah eyed the woman who'd appeared from the green fire uneasily. Normally she would have darted away at the first appearance of this unknown power, finding a more concealed and advantageous place to watch, and attack if needed. But she glanced to Vaz and Jorath first, and neither seemed especially preturbed by it. It would not do to show undue fear to her new ally or thier companion, so Askee-ah held her ground and waited for an indication to attack, flee, or respond in some other way. The two raptors stood a little taller, claws and tails twitching as the woman adressed them, and then looked at each other. Smaalvir? the name seemed... distantly familiar, like a hint of a scent... Ah. A fluttering scrap of eaten memory came to her. A vauge human notion rose in her mind, mingling with her naturally mischevous instincts, and she gave a very low chuckling growl that likely sounded unsettling to humanoid ears. The woman, Zoe, glanced back towards her at hearing that. Her expression was guarded but not fearful. Askee-ah found herself pleased by that, and relaxed a fraction. She folded her claws back and listened, unsure whether what Zoe had to say was any concern of hers. What others would have recognized as spoken flattery and enticements seemed like meaningless ways to extend a conversation to her, and she wasn't impressed by such a roundabout and vauge way of proposing what... appeared to be a kind of alliance? She'd done a better job at that, even with the apparent major missteps in protocol. Askee-ah maintained her polite disinterest until Zoe mentioned something a few moments later that Askee-ah didn't quite follow, but Vaz clearly didn't appreciate. Vaz was an ally, not a packmate, so she didn't posture and hiss defensively, respectfully leaving them room to show that they were capable of defending themselves. But the gaze and attention she held on Zoe became very, very intent. It was only a slight change, shifting weight, tensing her neck, and spreading her claws a fraction, as if preparing to attack but not wanting to make it obvious. A more subtle and more deadly sort of warning. A slight growl escaped the throat of one of Askee-ah's raptors as Zoe reached up towards Vaz, but she didn't move. She sniffed and swept her head sideways as one of the papers Zoe threw in her direction brushed over her muzzle. And then Zoe was gone. Askee-ah watched the place she had vanished from carefully for a few moments, instinctively half-expecting a surprise attack. She then eyed Vaz in a manner that was half questioning, half expressing a recognition of trouble. She didn't like the lingering threat at the end of Zoe's last words.
  8. The posters went up overnight. Or at least what passed for overnight in a world forsaken by the dawn. Police cars, national guard, fire trucks, even the forces of military branches showed up en masse to paste the five foot high, brightly colored sheets to every wall and big enough visible surface in the city. They were all identical, black and purple with gold lettering. It was topped by a curious seal, the upper half of a rayed sun rising above a horizon, with a complex, striking sigil in the sun's center. ORDER SAFETY PROSPERITY BY THE DOMINION OF AURIS DOMNIIR, INC. Two lists of instructions followed, one in human language: Report all unathorized demons and supernatural entities to Auris Domniir, inc. agents. Authorized agents will bear the sigil shown above. Unauthorized reproduction of the sigil will result in death. The second, in demon script read: All demons are to hereby acknowledge the dominion of the Dawn Lord. Normal activities and alliances will not otherwise be disrupted for those who cooperate. You have 48 from this date to comply. Dissenters shall taste the fires of the Dawn. And a third note at the bottom in the human tongue read: A bounty of $10,000,000 offered for the capture of any living angelic being, to be turned in to the nearest Auris Domniir, Inc. agent. As soon as the posters were up, the human law enforcement dispersed. And throughout the city, beings that looked human but were not, (mostly minor demons) each wearing a kind of very short half-round cape, black or purple with the Auris Domniir company sigil emblazoned on it in gold, began seeking out the known demons of the city and offering terms of employment.
  9. [At the Searchlight Theatre] "Beijing was just my next layover after I left this country, I was headed for an expedition into Mongolia." Stephen replied, picking up a new peice of guaze and soaking it in disinfectant. "I study dromeosauridae, and Mongolia is one of the better countries to find thier fossils. Took forever to get funding for it, and now..." He gave a defeated, frustrated sigh, but there was no bitterness in it. "As for the raptors here, there were always cryptid stories around this city, but nobody in the scientific community takes them seriously. I know I didn't until..." he hesitated a little as if recalling a hard memory. "Until I saw a demon... Hunting people. On the street back by the airport hotels. I ran, and I don't know what came over me, but I got a little hysterical and started thinking how badly built its anatomy was, and how any of the dinosaurs I study could have thrashed it in a fight." He laughed. "I was sure I'd lost my mind when they actually showed up and did just that. Took me a while to feel like I wasn't crazy, but I guess the world is just different now." One of the raptors had sensed his distress and poked her head through the stair railing, leaning it on Stephen's shoulder. "Yes, thank you." He said, petting her snout with his arm to avoid contaminating the gloves he wore. He listened quietly to Gabriel's reply to his question, a faint unconscious frown on his face. The raptor leaning on him raised her head, and looked up for a moment at a crashing sound, and then sirens in the far distance. But he knew well at this point that investigating sounds like that and getting involved could be incredibly dangerous. Askee-ah would warn them if there was danger headed this way. He pulled out a clean peice of guaze from the pack, and a roll of white tape, and taped a bandage over the wound in Gabriel's shoulder. He breathed out. "I hope that'll be good enough. The bandage will need to be changed every so often, and let me know right away if it starts feeling hot or hurts more, or if you start getting a fever, you know, feeling your body is hotter than it should be. "And you don't need to be sorry, thank you for telling me about what you know." He said it a bit grimly. "Askee-ah has adopted quite a few humans but between us, the best explanations I've heard up till now were guesses and conspiracies and nonsense." All the raptors in the room stood up and came alert, and even though he hadn't seen them, Stephen did at the same time too. One of the raptors turned to him. ("Stay") She gestured. ("You are protected") The raptors left quietly, alert but not in a rush that signaled a real emergency. "Well." Stephen said in the quiet gloom. "I think we can provide you with help. What I know of the way Askee-ah gets power sounds a lot like what-" He was cut off as the theatre doors exploded violently inward and slammed against the inner walls with a crack like a gunshot. Stephen jumped up in panic, but it was only more raptors that had come barreling through, about eight in all flanking one in the middle who was hunched over, partly wrapped in a string of brightly colored flags, smelling strongly of a mixture of motor oil, antifreeze, and smoke, and coated in an odd mixture of debris. Her claws looked odd for some reason- And then she gave a sudden, jerking hiss and a string of what Stephen knew to be raptor curse words (though they hadn't been translated) and a blurring, liquid silver motion flashed around her and coalesced into a single shining form of a sword. It rang resonantly as it clattered to the floor, pointing directly at Gabriel. It glowed with a not-quite visible power that seemed... smug. Stephen stopped gaping, and folded his arms. "What is this?" He demanded. The raptors avoided his gaze and grumbled irritably, and the one in the center spit more curses, extending her power at the end to translate a final unmentionable one, and a very angry call that meant ("I am helping.") The theatre doors fluttered weakly closed, thier sturdy construction having survived the raptors' entrace (and not for the first time.) A few moments later a vehicle with a siren screamed down the street and then on into the distance.
  10. Stephen's eyes went wide for a moment when he saw the wound in Gabriel's shoulder. But he studied it with calm seriousness. "You're healing much faster than a human would, I'll tell you that much. But... yes, I'll get the supplies." He turned toward the stairs, pointing to the steps near his stack of books. "Have a seat if you prefer, I'll be back in a minute." He hurried up the stairs, taking the steps three at a time, and left Gabriel in the semi-gloom of the theatre entryway for a while. (The raptor who had brought her there had left to patrol outside once she was sure Gabriel and Stephen weren't going to fight.) He returned a while later lugging a heavy frame pack. "I was on my way to Mongolia when all this happened." He gestured vaugely at the sky. "This was supposed to be my last airport stopover before Beijing. Instead the flight got cancelled and me and all my gear got stuck here." He huffed and swung the pack against his knee, setting it to rest against the staircase banister. "And the raptors... well... that's a long story." He dug into the pack for a squarish nylon bag. "I can only do the basics I'm afraid, just cleaning this and try to keep it from getting infected." Before he started to clean Gabriel's wound he moved back behind he "Let me look at the back of your shoulder here..." He gingerly moved the jacket off that shoulder. "Ne exit wound." He winced a little. "Still, you're barely bleeding. You really ought to go to a hospital, but..." He paused, thinking for a moment. "I don't know if it would be safe. Its kind of a mixed bag out there how people feel about magic and people with wings, and hospitals are getting a reputation for making people dissapear just for being around them. Demons and angels and the like, I mean." He unzipped the nylon case and got out gauze and disinfectant, put on a pair of gloves, and began to clean the wound in Gabriel's shoulder. "This is probably going to hurt a bit, sorry." He hesitated, then asked. "Do you know what happened out there? Why the sun stopped rising, and all the rest?"
  11. [in the Searchlight Theatre] Askee-ah was pleased Gabriel had found the nest satisfactory in spite of the commotion of its other inhabitants. She noticed Gabriel tense at the sight of the other human. She couldnt guess precisely why the angel was worried, but she thought it best to resolve the uncertainty now rather than later. ("Safe.") She called to Gabriel, and then called more loudly over to the human. He looked up, listening and watching Askee-ah speak. "Oh, hello." The man adjusted his glasses, made a 'begone' gesture to the raptor who was hissing a rude noise at him, and stood up. He stooped again to put down his sketch pad and pencils, and walked toward Gabriel. "I'm Dr. Harkon. Stephen Harkon." He held out a hand, looking a little out of his depth as he noticed Gabriel's wings. But he politely avoided looking too obvious about noticing "I'm, uh, not particularly religeous." He said it as though not quite sure whether to be apologetic about that. His other hand brushed the metal raptor's claw on the chain, and he smiled from a place of warm, genuine humor. "Funny how that works out." He noticed the blood that showed on Gabriel's shirt. "Are you hurt? I'm, um, a doctor of paleontology, not medicine, but I've got some first aid supplies in the back... Trust this lot not to show that they notice." He gestured to the raptors. "Its an instinctive response for them, prey animals don't like to show vulnerability so they tend to assume that if you're not falling over you're fine." One of the raptors hissed at him. "I said what I said." He shouted back. "I've seen how big your fossils are." [In the alley with Vaz] Askee-ah was pleased that she hadn't scared Vaz badly enough to totally ruin her chances of making an alliance, even if Vaz themselves claimed not to be strong and didn't seem to find a full alliance suitable. Askee-ah was interested in allying with Vaz from the standpoint that they smelled and felt powerful, even if she didn't know what that power was or did. But she didn't know how to explain that idea at the moment and was too tired of talking to figure it out. ("This is good. I will wait.") She gestured and called in response to Vaz's agreement. One of the raptors crouched and scratched at the ground. She could always eat Vaz if she was unsuccessful, they smelled full of intruiging ideas. Argia likes them though. Perhaps that would be unwise. She tilted her head again as Vaz smacked thier arm against the ground, consulting with her overmind about her success in tracking Jorath. Parasites. Perhaps its parasites. She thought. That was less dangerous, though she would have to be wary about getting too close. It was too bad there no longer seemed to be bug-picking-fliers in the world. ("Your packmate is with me- ... No... I know where your packmate is.") She stopped and tried a different, less confusing location-tense. ("I will ask him to return.") [In a different alley with Jorath] Askee-ah stepped aside, favoring her leg a little but refusing to let it show too much. ("You are not sick with madness-fever. This is well.") She said opaquely in response to his greeting, (leaving the implications of that for Jorath to figure out on his own, or not) and preened herself in a show of unconcern. A note from her overmind tugged at her awareness. Perhaps its parasites. She eyed Jorath sharply. She could almost feel her skin starting to itch, though she made no move to show it. Hmf. He seems the type. She thought to herself irritatably. Then another, stronger call in her mind, which she passed on to Jorath out loud. ("Hunter-Vaz seeks you. I can lead you to them.") 0
  12. Askee-ah regarded Vaz, crouched atop the dumpster with what appeared to be wings much like Argia's and Gabriel's flared out defensively. That was unusual, a demon's wings were usually skin membranes like those of the deadly saurian fliers she remembered from ages past. And she realized that she had indeed botched her entrance, Vaz appeared to have been terrified rather than impressed. She knew she needed to change her approach if she was to be successful here, but that realization clashed with her instincts to show proper decorum by looking as fierce and unafraid as possible. The end result was a rather sheepish mannerism when either of the raptors made an occassional motion of fierceness-posturing out of instinct. She made the motions to speak with Vaz. ("I was extinct, yes.") The two raptors hissed and swooped thier claws and tails to each other for a moment. Askee-ah carefully structured her power so that Vaz was not privy to this conversation. At last both raptors turned back to Vaz, extending her power again and making the motions and calls to speak. ("I desire the strength and fierceness of my pack run alongside yours. A greater pack can bring down bigger prey.") One if the raptors punctuated that with a spitting hiss and a claw swipe. ("I seek the territory-path the winged-danger-flier called her own. You are packmates yes?") It occured to Askee-ah that the gesture for danger-flier could apply to Vaz just as well, but they had seemed to work out what she meant. She tilted her head as Vaz smacked thier own arm against the wall, worrying they might have caught madness-fever from Jorath. They certainly had Jorath's scent, maybe they'd been sharing a kill or had both eaten prey infected by the sickness. She would have to keep a close watch on them, if they agreed to an alliance. ("I seek the territory-path she seeks.") Askee-ah answered, shaking herself a little. Talking to humans and beings that looked human meant working out how to stretch her native language in convoluted ways it was never intended for. Raptors didn't ask such complicated questions. She tilted her head at the mention of "Kirit" and "Meztli." They might have made good raptor names, accounting for differences in pronunciation, but she didn't know them. ("No.") She made a gesture. ("I am Askee-ah.") Both raptors "said" this in sync, to drive home the point. ("We can't track her scent through the sky") One of the raptors gestured and called, both to the other raptor and to Vaz. ("An alliance for now? To seek her?") The other gestured. [Elsewhere] Askee-ah found the site of Jorath's kill some time after he'd gone. The demon's scent led through a doorway and into a building. A heavy, fierce, predatory sense of a hunter permeated beyond the door, she could admire that, but the room also stank of that sickness that worried her. A human's body lay there in the close space, untouched save for a pair of wounds. Askee-ah crouched and sniffed. One smelled of a bite, but not even a part of the corpse had been bitten off and consumed. In her mind only a truly degenerate hunter would kill and not eat what it killed. She sniffed at the body again. No... it was... drained. Empty of life essence. Dead things were more so than living creatures, obviously, but some amount always remained with a corpse, the lingering forces of decay and fleeting scraps of power, like the knowledge she found in demon flesh. She stood and puzzled over that. Could a being eat only the life essence of its kill and leave the rest untouched? It seemed very strange. Askee-ah didn't want to linger. She paused by the doorway of the building, listening, then quickly darted through it into the gloom between streetlights and windows. From there she picked up Jorath's scent again. She followed him for a while, watching carefully for erratic behavior, fear of light and water, and any sign he might suddenly attack the humans he shared the streets with. She couldn't see any of those things, but that wasn't a sure indication he wasn't sick. Askes-ah knew more than well enough how sickness spread through a pack, from pack to prey, from prey to other packs. It was part of the natural order, and ordinarily she wouldn't have thought anything of acting to stop the flow of that, indeed she *couldn't* have chosen to if she was still as deeply linked to the natural world as she had been. But she had changed, and without realizing it had decided to act on what she considered an importance beyond the natural order. If Jorath was infected he risked infecting the rest of the pack she sought alliance with, and he would have to be killed quickly. Jorath seemed to pick up on her presence, looking over his shoulder now and then. Curiously, he chose to move into a less crowded area, an act of deliberately choosing the ground for an encounter. In many situations that might have worried her, but for this one it suited her intentions well enough. She guaged the distance from the rooftop carefully. It would be a very long leap with a risk of injury if she didn't land just right. She would have to take a good deal of the force of the landing on her own body, not wanting to kill or injure Jorath uneccesarily. She moved swiftly and pounced. The demon's senses alerted him, but not quickly enough to escape. His movement meant Askee-ah didn't land perfectly, the impact hammered into one leg, but she still flattened Jorath to the ground with one killing claw pressed above his heart. She stuck the end of her muzzle close enough to his face to nearly touch him, baring her teeth and sniffing deeply, glaring with one eye into Jorath's own, looking for a particular involuntary eye movement that marked the mental degredation of madness-fever. No. Jorath's sickness had a source, clearly, but it was not the one she had feared. She hissed and tried to extricate herself where she had landed atop the demon.
  13. [Elsewhere] The sidewalks were reasonably empty, and once Askee-ah began openly strutting between the pools of streetlight they became completely empty very quickly. She scanned for danger with the little amount of free movememt she was allowed, hissing and snapping to herself. On top of it all she deeply resented the riddiculous gait the sword gave her. A while later the sword picked up on something her vision had briefly swept over. FALSE PROPHETS Unsure what those might be, she glanced back. An open space filled with rows of shining cars with colorful lettering in the windows. Flags fluttered from the eaves of a square building, where the words "GIANT SAVINGS" were painted in the windows. A huge wavering humanoid figure holding a club stood atop the building. "Not a real creature, silly sword." She had been dissapionted to find the inflatable figures weren't real prey as well. THEY PROCLAIM SALVATION BY A FALSE IDOL Askes-ah didn't have the slightest clue what that meant or why it might be bad. The sword sounded earnest, but it sounded that way about everything. Unhappily, Askee-ah's feet veered off her current path and started toward the brightly lit windows. WE SHALL SMITE THEM AND BRING THEIR TEMPLE TO RUIN Askee-ah had already tried losing her balance on purpose and shutting her eyes so the sword couldn't "see" through her (it was an unpleasant, itchy sensation) and other tricks. They worked to keep the sword from moving her feet but she was powerless to regain her own control. So she hung on grimly as the sword carried her forward. She'd expected to make for the front doors but the sword had other ideas. With two kicks, the blades on her killing claws sliced an effortless hole through the steel frames and glass windows, and she leaped into the brightly lit, oily smelling office, slipping a little on the tile. The sword carried her into an awkward leap that landed on a wooden desk with a colossal BANG. There were several humans inside, and they had all become very still. One dropped the small black object he had been holding to his ear. And then the room flared in a blinding light, and sourceless words in a familar brassy tone thundered through the room. REPENT, FALSE PROPHETS. KNEEL BEFORE THE LIGHT AND THE GLORY. With nothing she could do to the contrary, Askee-ah gave in to the path of chaos she'd been carried down and punctuated the words with a screeching battle cry. Two of the humans did kneel. One dived behind a desk, and one crouched to one knee, both hands scrambling for something at his waist. GIVE UP YOUR POWER AND YOUR WEALTH FOR THEY SHALL BE AS ASH. "Don't shoot, just take the money, don't shoot!" A frightened, thin voice from behind the desk called out. There were fumbling, banging noises, and a steel box was thrown up over the desk. It slapped down on the floor and popped open. A ring of metal and a flurry of greenish leaves burst from it. The other man who hadn't kneeled had drawn a small shiny black object from his waist. His arms tensed, and a moment later his expression pained. The sword's voice crashed inside Askee-ah's mind. GOOD, SEE, THEY ACKNOWLEDGE AND GIVE TRIBUTE Askee-ah tried frantically to assure the sword he was not. The man drew back the black object, ran a thumb across it, and pointed it again. A deafening POP and a burst of fire flashed from it. The window behind Asked-ah shattered. Another bullet whined past her, and a third shatted a light fixture before the sword realized the danger. But now it was disoriented, it made her backtrack to run, she fell off the desk, righted herself, blundered into a window, slashed and shattered it with her claws, and finally leaped through into the night. She dented the hood of the nearest car as she landed on it. A loud rising-falling screech started emanating from it. Another gunshot rang out behind her. She scrambled for speed, blade-wrapped claws shredding the steel of the car, and jumped to the roof of another, and another, leaving honking horns and ruined body panels and general chaos in her wake. She hit solid ground and ran until well out of sight of the car lot. Annoyingly, the sword resumed the irritating gait it insisted on giving her. It wasn't long before the lights of another used car lot, unfortunately with similarly worded sale advertising, came into view. AH. THERE ARE MANY SUCH TEMPLES HERE. And before Askee-ah could say anything to the contrary, the sword spoke again. WE WILL BE MORE SUCCESSFUL WITH THE NEXT ONE. 0
  14. Down in the drainage ditch, hidden by obscuring brush and darkness, two raptots made short work of the demon they'd hunted down. They killed it quickly but ate with an uncharacteristic messiness, and for raptors that was a thing better not described or contemplated. Askee-ah didn't particularly like the taste of demon or need nourishment from it in the normal sense, but she made a point of eating what she hunted for the sake of hunting. That had led her to discover by accident that a demon's mortal flesh occassionally retained flickers and sparks of insight and information she could consume. There wasn't much of it in this demon, unsurprisingly. It tasted mostly of excuses and ineffectual anger, though there was a flicker or two of some basic but useful information about the heirarchy of demons. The two raptors looked each other over and were satisfied that they were both spattered and streaked with bits of dark blood and gore, smelling like the inside and outside of a demon. A tinge of beastial rankness, wet ashes and flame, scorched metal and the sharpness that often marked intensely flammable chemicals. They scrambled up the steep concrete bank of the ditch, the cold air chilling and starting to dry the blood that coated them. They left the remains of the demon spread over a rather wide area of the drainage ditch, and the physical and metaphysical stink of it wafted up through the air. Unfortunately it would not go unnoticed, though Askee-ah was long gone but the time it was discovered. It was a short, quick run across the momentarily deserted arterial street, up to the rooftops and out across the city. The two raptors sniffed at the air as they ran and leaped, and it didn't take them long to pick up the scent of the demon and the other unknown winged being they had left earlier. Less careful than a hunt, but still wary, Askee-ah followed the scent trail. She smelled demon blood in it (it was hard *not* to smell demon blood, coated as she was in it) but this matched the scent of the other demon she pursued. Before long the trail intersected with that of other demons, one that she had just recently encountered... What had his name been? She scratched an itchy bit of drying gore from under her jaw. Jorath. He smelled... fierce, angry, twisted, pained. It was a sick sort of smell, mixed in with that of the pair she pursued. Askee-ah worried a little. It reminded her of madness-fever, a sickness that could send a whole pack into a frenzied, increasingly erratic state before it killed them. Often by driving them to attack prey more than capable of defending itself. But then Jorath's path diverged from the scent trail they needed to follow. The raptors paused and looked down between the gap in the buildings. They couldn't easily see the demon Vaz but they could smell and hear them. Askee-ah wanted to follow Jorath but her current objective couldn't wait. Askee-ah's overmind took over the descision, drawing up her power and releasing it. Wind and shadow and whisps of steam from a roof vent congealed. She needed raw power for the rest of the components, but it was enough of a start that it didn't cost her too much. A flicker of the raw power of creation, the same force within seeds and eggs, swirled in the wind and faded away. And a new raptor crouched there on the rooftop, skin bright as though it was newly shed. The raptor blinked several times and sniffed at the air. Jorath's scent caught her attention. follow, yes. She stood and walked a circle on the roof, as if unsure of her muscles at first, then leaped the gap between buildings and was gone. The first two raptors looked back down into the darkness. It would be a difficult climb down, made more challenging by the fact that she needed to make a good entrance here, and not alert the pair too soon... One of the raptors misjudged a step halfway down. Claws scrabbled on brick and metal, and she looked at the ground and to her companion. Close enough. The two raptors leaped down in a wave of hissing, jaws wide and claws spread, ducking and weaving, adding fierceness and swift motion to the show of being covered in the dark blood and scent of a recent sucessful hunt. And being demon blood, it was meant to command respect from this demon who smelled of not-inconsiderable power. Askee-ah gave a harsh, high call, accenting it with a taste of her power, for show and to grant her audience understanding of her speech. ("Mighty-hunter-Vaz.") It was somewhat more of a snarling buzz at the end than when a human pronounced it, but Askee-ah was pleased she could pronounce the demon's name out loud. The ritual greeting would have been difficult otherwise. One raptor gave a rattling hiss, claws spread and body low to the ground, tail pointed nearly vertical. ("We seek a pack alliance.") The other raptor balanced at her full vertical height, her tail nearly touching the dirt and her fearsome eyes some ten feet above the ground. She called a complex series of notes and whipped her tail to one side. ("To right the dawn and night and dawn.") The other gave a slippery five-note call. ("For the path-that-is-balance.") One of the raptors paused. She looked to the other, snarled and burbled, and made a ducking motion followed by a buzzing noise. ("Where is the winged-danger-flier? Gzzia?") The other raptor stilled and blinked, looked at Vaz, its companion, and back to Vaz again, with a growing sense she had, perhaps, not set this up as well as she'd thought.
  15. Askee-ah had slowed her pace and dropped back to walk beside Gabriel. She was only a few rooftops away from her nest-building, a place that belonged entirely to her and a few dedicated human followers. A few raptors always stood guard over it and she felt safe enough now to slow down and be a little less wary. Any predator that knew the ground it hunted would know this place was guarded, and any unaware one would be in for an unpleasant surprise. She considered Gabriel's answers in silence for a while. She was something more than mortal, Askee-ah could sense that as well as make a connection to the guardian spirit stories humans told about angels. But Gabriel didn't sound like a species-soul like herself, if she didn't know about the nature of death. Some kind of guardian spirit that wasn't connected to a species, to nature itself? That idea seemed deeply puzzling to her. Askee-ah thought for a while, a settled on the easiest answer she knew how to give at the moment, a melodic call of three high notes. ("Like rain.") That was a mortal raptor word, but the subtlety would need a different kind of explaining. She made a quick leap and turn to land just ahead, facing Gabriel more directly, meeting the angel's eyes with her yellow slit-pupilled ones. She called up a scrap of her vision power. The sensation of the cycle of rain, viewed from the spirit world. How it rose from the seas and formed clouds and fell, travelling down stones and rivers to the sea again. Then she overlaid a brief taste of the cycle of the species she had once watched over and been part of. Mortal creatures that raised chicks and killed prey, slept beneath tall plants and drank the rain, and in turn died, were hunted and eaten. Thier flesh fed other hunters, thier bones fed the earth and the plants thier prey ate, thier blood and broken eggs returned to the rain, and the cycle continued in shelter and prey and water for new eggs and new raptors. Viewed from the perspective of the spirit world, the essence of the mortal being's spirits flowed in a cycle just as the essence of rain and earth, sparks of awareness passing from incarnation to the spirit world and back again, sometimes in the form of individual raptors, sometimes as part of Askee-ah, sometimes as new species or parts of the earth. They belonged to both the raw energy state and the mortal world that was blind and unknowing of the spirit but called neither a permanent home. Because that was what nature needed to sustain itself, and created by needing it, just as Askee-ah had been a creator of balance because balance was needed. She *was* a part of the cycle, created by her efforts to sustain it, her struggle for the survival of her species just as each mortal struggled and fought. Or she had been. The vision faded. Askee-ah panted a little and shook herself, she'd spent more energy and gotten more drawn into the explaination than she'd intended. She looked to Gabriel expectantly for a moment before she began walking again, hoping her explanation would help the angel's adaptation to what she supposed would have to be a life like her own. A thought nagged at her. humans don't follow cycles like this. If they did you would have become part of the human soul-species as soon as you gained a connection to them. Askee-ah sniffed and put that thought aside as they neared her nest. It was a dilapidated but sturdily-built five-story structure made of honey-colored brick. Most of the upper windows were fully intact but any within a stone-throwing range of the ground had been long ago broken out and boarded over. At the ground level a torn awning flapped in the wind over what had once been a grand theater entrace in art deco style. A faded sign jutted out from one corner of the building, inset letters once filled with neon tubes and light bulbs spelled out the words "Searchlight Grande Theatre" Askee-ah pushed throught the weathered, brass-clad double doors. The entrance room wasn't especially large but it was built to feel vast, with a double sweeping staircase leading upward to the theatre room entrance. A few working lightbulbs twinkled above the crystal veils of old chandaliers. The room would have had an air of mysterious, stately granduer if it hadn't contained, among other things, two raptors noisily fighting a tug-of-war over a rug they'd probably stolen from a storefront. And at the foot of one staircase sat a man holding a large sketchpad with a drawing detailing the bones and range of motion of a dromeosaur's forelimb. He wore glasses, a metal cast of a raptor's claw on a chain, and clothes suited to long hikes. He was apparently having a heated discussion with another raptor holding out both forclaws and waving them in a jazz-hands fashion. "Yes I know you never had this kind of wrist mobility but I can't just *not* cite my work based on the existing fossil data!" He yelled, stabbing at the sketchpad. Askee-ah sniffed and flicked her tail in a fashion of defeated irritation, and gave Gabriel a rising-falling call, a head dip and a synchronous motion with foreclaws and tail, followed by several low chirps, and a look upward to where a second floor staircase continued upward from the first. ("This is our nest, come and go as you please, it is safe. Sleeping places to rest are up there.") One of the raptors lost its grip on the rug and crashed into an old drink cart, spilling metal tumblers and trays everywhere in a cascade of noise that echoed and reverberated through the room's vaulted ceilings. Askee-ah made a low grumbling noise in the bottom of her throat. She scratched the tiles twice with her left foot claws. ("Far up there.")
  16. It took Askee-ah some time and much determined searching, but she found that she'd strangely enough been fairly correct in both her ideas about Gabriel's sword. It was wedged tightly between bars halfway up a decaying fire escape, and was indeed a sharp metal claw like she remembered, or more like a long straight branch with the broken segments of two smaller branches sticking out of it. It was also alive, and very angry. Askee-ah had poked and nipped at it carefully as she balanced halfway between a window ledge and the railing, tail askew for balance. Her jaws closed on the handle as she tried to tug it free. WHAT ARE YOU A blazing, brassy voice rang in her head. She tightened her killing claw around the railing and clutched at the bars with her foreclaws in sudden effort not to fall off. She stared at the sword and bared her teeth, feeling silly. It wasn't breathing and definitely didn't look or smell alive. She closed her jaws carefully around the handle again, tasting salt and sweat. Nothing. She tried to tug it free from where it was stuck. YOU ARE NOT ONE OF THE HOST. YOU SHALL NOT WIELD ME The voice crashed and clanged in her mind. "I will not!" Askee-ah snarled, stubbornly contesting with the voice and refusing to let go. "I will return you." YOU ARE A SERVANT OF THE HOST? Askee-ah could barely hear her own thoughts inside her head, but she decided it was a bad time to assert that it was sort of the other way around at the moment, though she would have used a much more equal term like "packmate." "I know your keeper." She mumbled and huffed, and growled and hissed for breath as she tried to get leverage on the handle. YOU WILL CARRY ME TO HER The sword snapped free with a sharp sound, more of its own accord than from her efforts. Several cut peices of steel railing clattered and rang on the ground below. Askee-ah held the sword handle awkwardly in her jaws, and tilted her head to look up. She started to climb and the handle shifted, putting painful leverage on her teeth as she tried to manuever and not drop it or cut herself. She worked her neck and jaws and tried to jam the handle against the back of her mouth, but the length of the sword tangled against the fire escape's support structure a few feet later. Askee-ah growled and tried to tilt her head to manuever the awkward thing around the steel strap- AWKWARD? THE GLORY OF THE HEAVENS IS AWKWARD TO YOU? Askee-ah shut her eyes and waited for the clanging echoes of the sword's scolding to die down in her mind. She contemplated letting sword drop and leaving it there. I WAS WITH THE LIGHT AND THE GLORY MILLENIA BEFORE YOUR KIND WALKED THE EARTH, ANIMAL Strangely, this didn't dissuade her from wanting to spit out the sword handle. AH. I WILL MAKE YOU A WORTHY SERVANT. Askee-ah had only a moment to worry about what that meant before the sword melted and slithered, like a very fluid snake, out of her mouth and around her neck. It clung to her skin like rainwater, she shivered and smacked herself against the wall in reflexive panic as the metal crawled across her. BE STILL. The sword commanded. It slithered down her forelimbs and legs, around the base of her neck, and up over her head between her brows. Then it was still. She sniffed and shook her head, but the metal stayed firmly affixed. She caught sight of her claws, they were wrapped in shining, very sharp looking metal. She tried to lift a claw and examine it, but it stayed firmly stuck to the railing. NOW YOU WILL CARRY ME TO HER Of thier own (or the sword's) accord, Askee-ah's limbs started to carry her downward. She hissed and made unhappy sounds as the sword's command nearly overbalanced and let go at the wrong moment, some seventy feet above the very hard concrete below. The metal at the base of her neck tightened threateningly. BE QUIET ANIMAL. THE LIGHT AND THE GLORY OUTLASTS DEATH. That was not very reassuring. Askee-ah didn't fear one of her vessels dying in the conventional sense but she still avoided it on the basis that it was usually an awfully unpleasant expirience. The sword got her to the ground at last, and struck out toward the rather busy sidewalk at the end of the alley. Askee-ah growled unhappily and tried to tug herself free of the sword's direction, without success. DO NOT FEAR. THE SYMBOL I MARKED YOU WITH PROCLAIMS YOU A HOLY MESSENGER, NONE SHALL TRY TO HARM YOU. Askes-ah doubted quite a lot that the sword knew what it was talking about, but she didn't have much choice... ((Hope you don't mind my interpretation of Gabriel's sword having a (somewhat overzealous) personality when left to its own devices.))
  17. Askee-ah sent a mental note to her higher mind, to have her raptors try to pick up Gabriel's scent and find this "sword" she was missing. Askee-ah wasn't quite sure what it was, "sword" was normally a kind of very sharp metal claw, but the way Gabriel spoke of it finding its way back to her, maybe in this case it was a symbiotic species like the pets humans kept? She considered Gabriel's words. She had heard humans talk about angels, and made a connection quickly to pictures and stone figures of winged humans she's seen. Ah, that's what they are. Humans regarded them as guardian-beings like herself, with the sense that they were mythical rather than having real flesh and blood forms like Askee-ah did. And there had been a few words and muttered ideas of angels being gone from the world. She remembered a small side passage that would allow them to continue and started walking again, a little more slowly this time. She considered Gabriel as they walked. A supernaturally powerful, but definitely physical being like herself, one that looked tired and lost. Askee-ah flicked a claw, waved her tail and trill-chirped. ("You must be far from your home territory.") A thought, both happy and dark occured to her suddenly. After all, humans made pictures and small figures of dinosaurs too... She dipped her head, cocked it, and made a low, harsh, drawn out sound. ("Was your species extinct?") She continued with a musical sort of trill, bounced from one foot to the other, and left her mouth open for a momeny before repeating the low call, less drawn out this time. ("Humans thought of me and brought me back from death.") She dipped her head twice and clicked. ("Maybe you too.")
  18. [Near Gabriel and Jorath] Askee-ah waited for Gabriel and Jorath to finish thier exchange. She eyed Gabriel's wings, made a small noise of consideration to herself like a tiny growl, but figured that Gabriel was likely too tired to fly. In Askee-ah's oldest memories, tired fliers were easy prey, and there was no telling whether what hunted them could fly too. Besides, she couldn't work out a way to say "let me know if you can fly." The only native word she had concerning fliers was a danger call. Humans talked about flying sometimes but she'd never seen one do it, and didn't really believe they could. This particular situation hadn't come up before. Askee-ah scratched the ground with one foot, made two loud clicks with her throat and jaws, and swept her head in the direction she was going. ("Follow, I will lead.") She set off at a quick walk, glancing behind her now and then to make sure Gabriel was keeping up. Her nearest nest wasn't far away, but she needed to take much a longer route than normal to avoid busy areas where they might draw unwanted attention, while still allowing Gabriel to keep up. She turned to Gabriel as she paused to consider the route ahead, and dipped her head, flashed both sides of her muzzle, and gave a short trilling call at the same time as she scratched the ground with her right foot. ("Where do you come from? What sort of being are you?") She had asked in a way that meant one or the other or both in a single question. Humans liked to talk while they traveled, perhaps Gabriel would too. [Elsewhere in the city] Askee-ah woke in her nest high above the display cases of the natural history museum. The museum was open now. Several of her human packmates were here in what amounted to a devotional capacity, peering at the fossils and informational tags and imagining a world and creatures long gone, and some not so long gone. One of them was the museum's senior security guard, who always made sure the back door was unlocked for her. She could sense him keeping watch over the visitors and displays, always alert and aware, yet relaxed to be at his most perceptive. Askee-ah appreciated his almost raptor-like mannerism. (In addition to fossils the museum housed a small wing of rare ancient human artifacts. These were occassionally the target of cult activity and vandalism, so the need for alertness from the security guards was real.) And the other visitors in the hall were rarely unawed by the display of enourmous dinosaur bones. The proximity of both types of humans gave Askee-ah a pleasant wash of belief, fresh and alive-seeming like the air after a lightning storm. The three raptors untangled themselves from thier cozy heap and crouched in the dark, taking amused pleasure at being quiet enough not to spook the humans below as they stretched and groomed each other, and thought about what to do with thier "day." Askee-ah's upper lip bared a little at that thought. Someone needed to right that imbalance, to bring back the dawn. And she wasn't the "right" being to do that, but perhaps none in this world were. The two somewhat-mortal raptors wished to go explore the city and patrol with thier kin staying under the overpass, she made no objection to this. This vessel of hers was far away from where she had left Argia and Vaz anyway, and there was something she wanted to do before finding thier trail again. A higher part of her mind was always aware of each of her raptor vessels and thier proximity to each other, as naturally as existing and breathing. It took her no effort to find the raptor nearest to her intended goal, perched on an apartment block that was a frequent target of extortion-minded demons who didn't yet know better. And indeed, not far away was the fresh scent of two demons. The nearby raptor hopped across the rooftops and ran a steel tightrope over to listen to them. A powerful demon in stylish and slightly eccentric dark purple was berating a slightly smaller one dressed like a cheap insurance salesman. The small one hissed and bluffed like a hunter trying to convince itself and others that it was not afraid for being unwilling to face danger Askee-ah sniffed. It was one she had chased and scared off from somewhere long ago, she couldn't remember if it was from this building or not. The larger demon wasn't having any of it. It broke into human language, out if frustration or an attempt at mockery. "There ARE no rivals here, can't you feel that? Have you gone totally mortal? Malvorin will NOT be pleased if you let this one go!" It snarled and spat a final curse. The smaller demon's composure broke for a moment, showing a shiver of fear. Askee-ah lashed her tail like an expectant cat. It was right to be afraid. The larger demon stalked off, and the smaller slunk into the shadows, nearing the building with what it might have thought was a hunter's hidden grace, but wasn't far off from the slinking fear of prey trying to hide. That raptor waited for the other from the museum to reach it. She stalked up a narrow alley, hidden behind a large stinking dumpster that would confuse her scent well enough to get close, very close... The demon leaned against a corner, peering up at the lighted windows of the building Askee-ah guarded. It watched for a long time, breath tense, trying to calm itself. At last it felt sure enough of itself to keep going. And then it heard a noise just behind it, jumping a little. It looked back to reassure itself that there was nothing there, and screamed like the star actress of a slasher film (Askee-ah quite enjoyed those movies) as it caught sight of a raptor with teeth bared and claws outstretched, leaping over the dumpster just behind it. It ran. Askee-ah chased, angling around it and chasing it to the alley where the other raptor waited. She pounced, grabbing claws full of the demon's cheap suit jacket and shredding it. The demon fled as fast as its meagre supernatural speed could boost it, shedding guises and glamors that hid its horns and tail. Comically tiny wings burst from its jacket and beat frantically as it ran, the two raptors in close pursuit as it blundered into an arterial and was nearly run over by several cars. Horns and tires and the demon's voice screeched. The two raptors scaled a traffic light post and ran across the outstretched beam, the heavy light pendants bobbing and waving. The first raptor pounced and flattened the demon, them leapt aside as headlights swept across it and a horn blared. They let the demon run on, stupidly, into a more secluded area and then trip down a drainage ditch. The hunt from there was a short one.
  19. Askee-ah flourished her claws in a pleased gesture. Gabriel caught on quickly. She wanted to ask what manner of being Gabriel was and where she was from, and other questions too, but paused and considered the alleyway. She didn't think of it as somewhere inappropriate to wander or as a place of danger like humans did, but it wasn't very defensible. Gabriel and Jorath *had* both been hunted recently, and the predator that had pursued them might find their trail again. Askee-ah was strong, but not strong enough that she could disregard threats as she pleased. (And in her mind, the world would be terribly boring if that were the case.) She dipped her head and made a series of short, quiet calls, almost like a quick phrase of human language, if humans spoke on raptor syllables. ("Do you have a safe nest to return to?") It was a normal raptor phrase so it was easy to say and she didn't need to work out a questionable translation to adapt it to the way humans thought. She was glad there was at least some overlap in communication. She dipped her head lower this time, scratched the ground briefly with one foot, and made a click-call-snap. ("If you don't I can lead to one.") As an afterthought she gave an eerie sort of whistle-call. ("Danger may come.")
  20. Askee-ah looked to Gabriel, touched a foreclaw to the end of her snout, and chirped. "Desire, yes." She looked aside for a moment, and tilted her head to look at the demon directly with one eye. It was a mildly judgemental gesture (she forgot that she was granting the demon that much understanding of her speech.) She dipped her head, growled while making a complex motion involving foreclaws, body, and tail, and snapped her jaws twice. "Act wisely then. You are hunted." She looked back to Gabriel, whistle-chirped and touched a claw to her snout again. "I ask this." Askee-ah stretched out her power in a new way, it was tenuous but potent. She called up a vision of forests, of a lost world of ferns and strange trees and flowers, of dusky shadows and earthy scents. She showed raptors living there, a tight-knit family group that hunted and cared for each other. Connection, bonding, family. She made them seem achingly real, and gave wieght to the reality that this existance needed outside power and help to exist. Not like an all-devouring pit, but like any natural creature that needed food to sustain itself. The image she called up needed to be beleived in by more than just herself. "This is me." She spoke in the vision. "This I offer." She made the vision one of a hunting pack, fierce and proud and indomitable. She gave a taste of the swiftness and cunning she was capable of, and above all, that the recipient who believed would be protected as one of the pack. Askee-ah's vision came and went quickly, almost more like a potent memory than a drawn-out waking dream. She crouched politely, waiting for Gabriel to process this. Her packmates usually came to her already harboring belief in the nature of raptors, and a good amount of her power came from passive beleivers she had no interaction with. Usually she only needed to prove her existance and ability to provide protection to gain devout packmates. The uninitiated were a little more tricky to recruit.
  21. Askee-ah followed Vaz and Argia, leaving two raptors behind as there was only a single route to safely follow them unseen. She listened closely to thier discussionuntil they entered a brightly-lit building. She tilter her head to scan the ground, and carefully circled the nearby rooftops, but there was no concealed pkace she could listen from. Jumping down among humans who weren't her followers would have caused a terrible commotion and ended the conversation she was interested in, so she retreated. She was a little dissapionted she couldn't hear more, but what she had heard was interesting, very interesting. More than a few things plucked at her with a feeling like plucking the thin slippery wires that sometimes stretched between buildings with her claws. The other two raptors joined her, ad together they made thier way across rooftops, down ditches, through open flat spaces spanned with double ridges of shining steel (the tracks of loud and annoyingly inedible beasts) and up again through the city. The two somewhat mortal raptors paused to greet one of thier kin who guarded a homeless camp under several overpasses, and had been the silent terror of an unsuccessful private security team tasked with removing the camp. Greetings done, Askee-ah's three raptors moved onward and upward, running on the edges of overpass and offramp medians over hundred foot drops and unwittingly giving drivers more stories to add to a local cryptid "myth." In her mind Askee-ah chewed over what she had overheard, like a leg joint with hidden scraps and marrow, and at the same time felt chewed on herself by the information. At last she reached the place she sought, a tall stone building with huge pillars and the words "natural history museum" spelled out in brass letters over the entrance. One of the service entrances had never been locked to her, she set a claw on the handle and pushed her way quietly inside. From there she leapt up into the roof structure, and made her way to a nest overlooking displays of bones and painted murals. The three raptors crouched and sniffed at each other, and finally curled up there in the warm dusty shadows. Askee-ah slitted her eyes and thought. Balance. One was a keeper of order and balance. They said this world lacks a power to enforce it. Askee-ah had guided her species, influenced them in small ways to keep them from detroying themselves in one way or another, directed thier evolution and adaptation to the changes in the world around them. She was a being of balance, a keeper of order. No, you were. She thought to herself. I was them and they were me, we created each other. But they are gone. The sky had turned dark and ash rained down, an endless winter... She peered at the gloom through the windows high above and whimpered unhappily. But your children live on. You mated with a male, like and unlike yourself, so long ago. A new species hatched, and from them came feathered fliers that still live on. You can scent thier kinship. But not me. I do not live on in a living species of my own. That was never your place. Species and guardians of species have gone to death before you. But I live on, my half of me. Living now like an individual of my species would have. There was no answer to this. I am something different than I was. She thought. This world still needs balance, it is dying without it. It was not my place to guard the balance of the world, that was not what made me, I looked after my own, like I look after my human pack. But humans know thier pack is bigger than those they count as friends and comrades. She thought about that for a long time in the silence.
  22. Some distance away from where three raptors listened as they carefully followed the pair that called themselves "Argia" and "Vaz", another one of the raptors that was Askee-ah caught a scent in the chilly air. There were a few truly civilized emotions and social conteacts Askee-ah understood well. That understanding had come as a bargain of neccessity, almost but not quite like the hunt for food. Askee-ah was, or had been, the oversoul of an entire species of living creatures. They were gone. And with them the source of her power. But the instincts left behind had suited her well as she hunted and scavenged for new sources of belief and belonging. The scent was of blood, of adrenaline from fear or conflict. Mingled with a scent carried on the near-physical spiritual plane Askee-ah thought of as home. A scent of pursuit, of beings who were hunted. The raptor jumped lightly down to the ground and carefully padded through the gloom of an alley. She scanned her surroundings cautiously with yellow slit-pupil eyes, careful not to spook the humans she sought. She sniffed. Two humans- no, not... for a moment Askee-ah stilled in confusion. A momentary wierdness reverberated through her mind like deja-vu or double vision. A demon and a human-like supernatural there, a demon and a human-type here... Sense asserted itself again as Askee-ah's mind categorized that she was indeed observing four different beings. (Thought not quickly enough to save one of her other raptor-vessels who'd been briefly caught by the confusion and slipped off a narrow railing, landing in an unhurt but deeply awkward heap that elicited laughter from a gang of street-children she watched over.) But the raptor in the alley recovered herself without so much as a waver. She stepped out if the gloom to adress the two beings (one had just called itself "Gabriel") dipping her head, swooping her forearms in half-circles (claws politely tucked) and giving a low, friendly call. Here she called up one of the few direct uses of her power, she could grant other beings the ability to understand her speech if she chose. "I am friendly." She had said. Then she gave a modulated clicking trill, a whistling call, tilted her head to show a red stripe on the side of her muzzle (as one might do to greet a pack-mate), and gave an almost hoarse, quiet version of her name-call "Askee-ah." "I offer protection to you. I am Askee-ah." She'd never offered protection to a demon before, but this one smelled of recernt pursuit, not of pursuing and malice like the ones she hunted. She was bold enough to try offering him protection in exchange for belief. And she didn't recognize the scent or the nature of the other being, but she already counted the odd half-human and minor benign spirit among her followers, those arrangements had been good ones so far.
  23. The three raptors had climbed fire escapes and window ledges up to the rooftops, and from there tracked thier quarry silent and unseen. They'd almost had a good chance to pounce, once or twice, but the demon was walking close to crowds of humans. So she hung back, scenting the air and watching with eagle-sharp eyes as the demon came briefly into view between gaps in buildings. She'd loosed a bit of her power and given two of her raptor-vessels a flicker of free will and independant thought. It made them more cunning hunters, though somewhat less than immortal, and they would complain if bidden to return to non-existance. She enjoyed the sense of kinship they gave her most of all. Few of her human pack could join her hunts in anything more than a rudimentary fashion. Askee-ah leapt quickly and quietly from one roof to the next, eyeing the demon a few blocks away. She could sense that none of the humans on the ground were her believers, (there was one in the building beneath her, but he was asleep in a nest.) but she had learned well enough that humans placed heavy significance and symbolism on things that caused them to be hurt or distressed. Trying to fully consider it gave her a uneasy kind of existential headache, but it meant she didn't want to fight a demon where there was risk of injuring humans that might become packmates. Even if she didn't want to think too hard about why she took that action. After a while the demon rested, examining a colorful leafy thing. Askee-ah liked to play with those, and sometimes they hid tasty treats. Perhaps the demon was looking for bugs to eat. A flicker of shadow fear washed over one of the raptors. She felt it flinch and give a small call of alarm that rippled through her own mind. Memories older than old, of scythe-like wings and stabbing beaks that brought death... Askee-ah shook herself. She was bigger and more powerful here, big enough that even the biggest fliers would hesitate to attack. And she had never seen one of those fliers here, besides. Still, she was startled when she saw the dark winged creature that flew overhead. She stood tall and sniffed the air after it had passed. Getting a scent from a flying being was uncertain, but it didn't smell like a demon. The three raptors watched it intently. It seemed weak, injured or sick perhaps. Uncharacteristically, the thought of following it to take advantage of that, to attack and eat it, didn't cross her mind like it would have just a few months ago. But the raptors were curious all the same. And they were quick to note the demon was too, they had given up thier bug hunt and headed toward where the flier had come to ground. The raptor on Askee-ah's left darted and leapt from one rooftop to the next to quickly circle around. She saw through it's eyes that the flying being had landed, that the demon was approaching it. The other two raptors made thier way forward as stealthily as they could. Askee-ah crept to the edge of a rooftop, hidden in the shadow of some kind of shiny metal contraption. She listened intently. It pained her to try to understand human complexities, but she felt drawn to do so at the same time, like a strange sort of hunger. So the raptors crouched and waited, the hunt put aside for a new curiosity.
  24. One of the vessels that was Askee-ah chased a man through the deserted streets at breakneck speed. The man was fast, but not fast enough. He'd threated one of Askee-ah's pack, demanded... food, or life essence, something of that nature. Much of the complexities of human life escaped her comprehension, though she was slowly learning. She screeched and pounced, claws grappling at the man's collar and clothes as he tried to scale a chain link fence. She hooked a killing claw through a hole in the fence for momentary balance, then leapt back as the man fell. She could have easily and precisely ended his life with her claws, but she was careful not to deliver a fatal injury. One thing she learned early on was that humans considered all other humans part of pack, a very large pack with very loose loyalty, prone to infighting as if deeply bereft of an alpha pair to provide order. But humans were still loyal to the pack, even to packmates who hurt them and tried to rob thier share of food. They became upset if those packmates were seriously injured or killed, even if a packmate had done something unforgivable that made it not a packmate any more. Askee-ah was powerful, and could divide herself into almost numberless raptor-vessels, but she was one, and the humans of her pack were many. So Askee-ah abided by the strange agreed upon rules of her pack, as complex as they were. She hissed and growled and tore at the man's clothes and nipped at his flesh, making an excellent show of attempting to capture and kill him and just barely missing her marks. The man tired quickly, and she allowed him a chance to escape. He probably wouldn't return, and if he did, her packmate (one of *her* pack, she thought with fierce pride) could call on her again in an instant. One of her was still at that human's side, standing guard and providing comfort. The human wasn't a skilled fighter, and was frightened and demoralized. The Askee-ah that had let the man go gave a satisfied trill, and bobbed her head a few times, cleaned her claws against her hide, and trotted back the way she had come. She had noted a scent-trail during the chase, finding it again with some difficulty in the damp weather, though it was reasonably fresh. Humans were not to be hunted for sport. But demons had no such protection, and consuming them often provided her fragments of knowledge and power. She summoned three more of herself in the gloom, and began to follow the trail.
  25. Askee-ah was born from the remains of gods gone so long from the earth that nature itself had forgotten them. Sparks of belief, and awe, and reverence from the strange new creatures of this world gave her life again. For a long time she only lived in the waking world in repetitive ceremonial portrayals that offered her no free will of her own. But she flitted through shadows of fear, and stalked the dreams of her believers. Her believers gave her size and strength and ruthlessness beyond the measure of the god-bones she was born from. And they gave her something terribly powerful: a undeterred belief that she was a nearly unstoppable force against any strength man had to offer. For a long time she was no friend to man. She was a hunter, a wild and savage creature without human morals, and her believers loved and feared her for these qualities. But in time, a new ceremonial story was written, one of companionship and empathy, and belief in that was lightning-quick and strong. When the sky darkened and fear came, some few called on the beloved terror of thier nightmares to protect them from the strange new powers that stalked the streets. So Askee-ah's gained earthly forms in the shadows of the city, to protect her followers, her pack. As her presence became known and felt, her power and beleivers grew. And after an absence of over sixty-five million years, velociraptors walked the earth again. [Ooc: Askee-ah is a single "entity" controlling many physical vessels, which can phase on and out of existance at will, and when called on for protection by her believers. Movie theatres and natural history museums are her holy sites.]