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[Open] The Forsaken World

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Kansif noted the uneasiness given off by the wolf behind her, and that only made her more on edge. Of course, for the sake of trying to get a friend, she made sure that this didn't show. What did show was a confusion and curiosity as Argia introduced herself.

 

"Harbinger of Dark?" That didn't sound at all familiar. Maybe the harbinger part, but of dark? Did she mean of death? "Like of death, or of actual darkness?" Whatever the case, she shook her head to move on after she got her answer.

 

"Well, glad I'm right. About the green skin, I was born with it. I worship a goddess, and she brought me here after some mortal beings gave us a chance to transport here. However, as the portal disappeared, I felt an almost complete severance with my goddess. I feel kind of naked out here. And I do care about hiding, but being half orc makes that difficult. But yes, zealots, if you can call them that, opened up a gateway for me to be brough there. Of course, they weren't much zealots. I made the slightest of sneers and they ran." She gave a hearty chuckle and smiled a weirdly charming smile for a half-orc. Now, was she changed? She didn't know. She just shrugged and shook her head. "I don't know. Maybe I'll find out later. The most change I feel is not being as connected to my goddess and my spells probably not going to work as well due to that. Though, I'm glad my runes still work." She smiled at that, thankful that her invocations work at least.

 

For a moment after, Kansif watched as Argia tried to answer away her confusion about the cards she received after letting the two travelers know about her waiting for someone. Of course, she sounded as if she was slightly going insane or mad because of her situation. Kansif figured she was in a similar situation to Hrafn and her, so she felt more at ease. A friend, or at least an acquaintance, was all she needed. There were more of them.

 

She looked back at Hrafn and nodded in a show of acknowledgement towards her nervousness. "She's like us. It's okay."

 

The half-orc looked back at Argia and raised an eyebrow at the questions offered. She looked to Argia with a confused look and tried to console her by approaching her little by little, until she was close enough to sit down next to her seating spot. "Uh, I don't know what to do with those cards. They don't hold any magic from what I see, just the quill. And uh... Maybe back in my realm, but I have no idea how far your power ventures."

 

She looked at the quill again and offered to look at it. "May I see it? Don't worry, I won't break it. These are a lot more gentle than these warrior hands look." Indeed, her hands looked very rough and calloused. Her nails also looked fairly strong and thick, and strangely so. Most nails weren't as tough as hers, especially with how long and sharp they were. They were also oddly clean compared to the rest of her skin. Dirt and scars covered her hands and more covered the rest of her body that showed skin.

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A laugh burst from Jorath, a single note, at Vaz's bewilderment. "Wait until you discover what nightmares are like," he said, lips twisting with mirth that failed to reach his eyes. "I'll take a dream any day." He had come to learn, unlike himself, a vast majority of demons didn't require rest. And, when one didn't need sleep, one didn't have dreams or nightmares. Though he didn't need as much sleep as a human mortal anymore, Jorath still needed sleep like he still needed food. And his slumber was nearly always plagued. Dreams would be... a blessing, for his sinning soul. If he even still had a soul, something he questioned often enough. 

 

They fell to silence for some time as Vaz examined their own pamphlet. Eventually, they started murmuring and Jorath glanced at them. He caught their gaze as The Compendium was mentioned. Jorath was vaguely familiar with object, having only seen Vaz handle it once or twice. It was filled with information, memories, and secrets--as Vaz had alluded to before--and Jorath frequently wondered what was held within its pages about him. Each time, the thought made anxiety crawl through his nerves. He brushed it away and focused on his friend's complaint, scrunching his face in an attempt to mirror Vaz's disgust. "The audacity!" It was doubtful Vaz actually heard Jorath's response, having dissolved into Oldspeak rambling that was too quick for Jorath to properly parse through. 

 

He let them rant, paying more attention to the varying tones than the actual words. Just like their writing, though Jorath wasn't literate enough to understand most of the calligraphy, Vaz's speech was no less elegant in their ire. He could listen to them speak all day if he could find the right subject matter to make it happen. And if he could find the right excuse to encourage Vaz to stay so long. As the thought sank into his awareness, Jorath shook his head and stiffened, shoving the idle thing away. Gratefully, something arrived in obnoxious colors to offer an adequate distraction. 

 

Jorath studied the reptiles and their... were they actually glowing? "Askee-ah's friends?" he asked, unintentionally putting voice to the words on his tongue. Vaz grabbed his shoulders and started shaking him. For a hair's width of a second, he started to bristle beneath the touch until his skin and senses registered no threat from the other demon. "Vaz..." he said. They continued on in their hyped up babbling. "Vaz... Vaz, hey." Bringing his hands up, Jorath lightly took hold of their forearms. As he pushed against them, he traveled his hands to theirs and grasped their fingers so his shoulders could be released. "I see them, Vaz." He started chuckling and eased Vaz's arms down to their sides before letting go of their hands. Add one more item to that "chaotic dream" Vaz hated. 

 

Glancing at the raptors, Jorath arched an eyebrow, a smirk betraying his confused amusement. "Well, you're certain to get Argia's attention now. Possibly the attention of every block in a 50 miles radius, too. What's with the neon lights? You look like a rave about to happen." He shrugged a moment later and motioned towards the park. "If you're ready then, we're nearly at the park. You two got names?" He still sensed Askee-ah but the pair clearly weren't her--unless she spontaneously sprouted glowing markings. Which, if he thought about it, could be possible; he didn't know what abilities she held beneath her.... well, scales. He started walking again, minor disruption resolved, and hoped nothing else cropped up to further delay them.

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Gabriel listened intently to Steven and Askee-ah, trying to imagine how she could ever regain the faith of the humans. Maybe if she managed to save the realm that would work but she couldn't do one without the other. "Humans believe that the angels were the ones that took the light from this place,  causing this everlasting darkness. But as I told you I do not actually know what happened, only that it happened because they left. I think the only thing to redeem ourselves is if we can fix all of this." She sighed heavily and glanced at her sword, reminded of her kins' shame. As Steven suggested she change her form her head cocked in curiosity. "Change my form?" Her wings shifted some, reflecting her unease. "What about my wings?" An angel's wings were a symbol of pride. Though she hadn't ever seen it personally, the punishment for a fallen angel was that their wings be ripped from them and they be tossed out from the Heavens, cursed to never return. It was wings that set them apart from the fallen ones. Even though she could temporarily shroud them it only truly worked on mortals. But if would be necessary for her survival... "What did you have in mind?"

 

-----

 

Despite Kansif's encouragement Hrafn still hung back watching Argia warily. As she held out a card to them she looked from it and to her, then down at her paws, and back to her with a look of 'you're kidding right?' With a huff she settled into a sitting position some distance away as they chatted.  

"Why do you have no scent?" Was the only thing she said to her, interrupting their conversation rather rudely. How can she act so friendly in this strange place without knowing who a friend or foe could be? While they talked she instead chose to continue to serve as guard as her partner did not seem to share her keenness. She depended on her gut feelings for survival, and right now it was doing somersaults which certainly couldn't be good. The breeze shifted, bringing her a new set of scents and confirming her suspicions. Someone was coming.

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Vaz trembled a little on the spot as Jorath spoke, eyes frantically darting between him and the rainbow raptors. It took the third repetition of their name before they showed proper signs of calming back down. The demon faltered and silenced themselves, brow wrinkling as they shook their head in an attempt to clear their thoughts.

“I...yes...Alright. As long as you see them too. My apologies, Jorath...It’s been a long and tiresome night for me.”

 

A question over whether this was the sort of thing that would show up in one of Jorath’s nightmares though began to form. Vaz wasn’t sure what exactly prompted it, but it clattered about in the demon’s mind until it had flared into an almost burning sensation that was difficult to ignore. Vaz wanted, almost needed, to know in that exact moment what sort of things plagued the mind of their associate. They needed to pry into that confounding little head of his and sift through all the little glimpses of insights and truths that dreams were said to betray-

 

Their lips pulled tight, Vaz having of found the energy to fight back against the inquiry and force that hunger for knowledge back into the more neglected corners of their mind. Jorath would never tell them anyway. Not if it was anything that would actually be useful for delving into the mysteries of his past. And in some ways that inevitable avoidance could pain the old scribe far more than Illstrund could ever hope to accomplish. No. It was a question to keep buried.

 

Origins aside, you are both demons now. It is inevitable that both of you will serve no one’s interests but your own. 

The voice in Vaz’s head lectured as a further reminder, despite the careful grasp Jorath now had on their shaking hands as he gently pried them off of his shoulders. 

One must really stop getting so invested into thinking otherwise.

There was another chime of laughter from the man, and it sounded like a warm one at last, but the movement still lead to that vague but ever-present tinge of loneliness overtaking Vaz’s thoughts once more.

 

They offered the other demon a half-hearted smile before tugging the scarf back over their mouth. Hands brushed quickly through their own hair, confirming that their horns and other obviously demonic features were hidden away before they buried themselves back into Vaz’s pockets. Beings like Jorath just made it easy to forget that sense of isolation was there, sometimes. Which was a problem, because when Vaz forgot it was there they tended to make foolish, irrational decisions. Things like allying with raptors, or assuming anyone that crashed into the surface of the mortal plane was a fellow Zuul in need of guidance.

 

Their thoughts returned to Argia at that point. They were close enough to the park now that Vaz could feel the slight ebb of a connection to the quill they’d gifted her, so at least she hadn’t wandered too far. Vaz found themself detached, in a way, letting Jorath drive the conversation for once with the Askee-ahs and their new paint-job while Vaz focused in on the quill’s signal. Lojaal was nervous, but a spark of that all-too-familiar curiosity ran through her as well. Argia had found something new to be studied.

 

The demon slowed their pace as the entrance to the park finally loomed into view. Vaz squinted into the shadowy outlines of shrubbery and abandoned structures up ahead, tracing out vague silhouettes and movements among them. There was a distant profile that looked reminiscent of Argia’s on one of the benches, and the strengthening call from Lojaal’O’Ith further confirmed her identity. She’d found a new friend quickly, Vaz noted, as their eyes settled on the outline of an unfamiliar figure beside her. Vaz glanced between the current members of their party and flicked their head in the direction of the stranger with a raised eyebrow.

“Anyone sense something we should be worried about...?”

Vaz hoped the question sounded like they were merely comparing notes with the others. It didn’t seem wise to let a pack of hyper-intelligent raptors know that they had the aura-reading equivalent of shortsightedness. Or Jorath, for that matter. It had always been rather embarrassing to admit to.

 

As a result it took them another few steps before they even noticed the monstrous creature lurking further away from the duo, whose ebony fur blended a little too well into the dimly lit shadows surrounding them for Vaz’s liking.

“Is that an Alpha hell-hound?”

Vaz hissed into their scarf as they squinted over at the huge, hulking mass of fur. It was either that or a well-trained bear, based on Vaz’s observations. The demon stopped in their tracks, regardless of whether the rest of the party was going to follow suit. They refused to go near something with more fangs than they had for the third time in one night.

“Jorath. Sweet Jorath. Sweet, Enigmatic Jorath. Now would be an excellent time to confide in me that you wrestle bears in your spare time and know exactly how to handle one.”

Edited by Lycanious

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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.")

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Kansif stood still for a moment after Hrafn's blunt question. "No scent..." Kansif muttered and looked between Hrafn and Argia. She certainly seemed peculiar, but she seemed nice enough. She wasn't outright attacking and even though Kansif wasn't as smart as most people give her credit for in her own world, she felt like she could read people decently well. Or so she thought.

 

It was then that two strange people with glowing figures behind them and beside them appeared from the other end of the park. The strange glowing creatures seemed to look like dinosaurs on her world, but she doesn't remember ever seeing their kind before. The other two humanoids, to her Eldritch Sight, were glowing black. She could tell they were demons, as they were only black if they had demonic energy and magic about them. She couldn't discern between the two, however. They just seemed to look like a large blob.

 

It was then that one of them was squinting towards Hrafn and she heard him hiss in his scarf. It was barely audible, but she was able to hear it. An alpha hell-hound? She had seen hell-hounds before (and stared at them in the face without flinching), and she never saw one without flames licking their leathery hide. In her world, they didn't look like Hrafn and Hrafn didn't have the familiar aura of one, either. She just chuckled, a deep chest-filled chuckle and she gave the two a cheeky smile. "Well, glad you guys didn't start attacking me or my furry acquaintance over there in the first 5 seconds of seeing each other. That's good. I'm Kansif Bear-Mother, but she is no hell-hound. At least, not in my world, she's not. She's a wolf from a different world. We came here for different reasons and now we're stuck here with no way out of here." She said this last part with disdain. It seemed like they really had no choice being here and they were just unlucky souls sucked up into the dark abyss of the city's twilight. "Seeing as you are demons, I'm a half-orc. Normally, demons in my world are subservient to devils and they aren't normally this cordial or afraid of creatures. They are more chaotic and try to destroy everything they get their hands on. What makes you two so different? Besides being not of my world."

Edited by Merciless_Medic

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Argia

 

"Death, yes," she replied. "Life, too. There is a balance to be kept." When Kansif nor Hrafn took the offered card, Argia carefully returned it to the minimal stack she held. Some of Kansif's rambling explanations held little to no meaning to Argia. Several questions sprang into existence but she hardly knew which ones to ask first. Though, maybe she didn't need to ask any of them. As she mulled over the words, she realized there were some similarities like goddess for sovereign or runes for sigils. It required a fair amount of searching her understanding of mortal concepts and the variety in their languages. Argia found herself both appreciative and mildly annoyed or confused by such creativity--wasn't one form of a concept or word enough? 

 

Mentally waving it all aside, Argia glanced at Hrafn then at Kansif's hands. "Would it have been wise for my sovereign to provide mortals with a way to detect Death come to collect their souls?" She didn't really know how to address the 'no scent' factoid; Argia hadn't known that about herself. And she couldn't ask her sovereign about it. When Kansif had admitted that she couldn't feel her goddess upon entering this world, a glimmer of warmth eased away a fraction of tension she hadn't realized was there before. It meant someone else possibly understood the worrying silence she felt. Briefly, she wondered if Vaz understood it, too. Part of her, she noticed, hoped they did and it conflicted with the sense that she hoped not. Vaz had seemed invested in Argia being something she wasn't, enough to cause significant, if only temporary, distress. Perhaps Vaz had lost contact with their own sovereign or goddess and suffered in that silence as well.

 

All of it was conjecture, theories and thoughts formed mostly without evidence. Or evidence that Argia was overanalyzing. There was a phrase, however, that humans tended to use--'alone together'. "Kansif. We are alone, together? With no voice to hear from your goddess and my sovereign. We are two beings separated from our makers." Was it the consequence of being in this world? Isolation? A world without its Dawn... somehow, the concept made sense. 

 

Kansif was asking to see Vaz's quill and Argia paused. "Unfortunately, no. I am not the owner of this quill; it has been gifted to me. If you wish to examine it, that is for Vaz to decide." Though, to learn that the quill had a magical quality to it? That was a curious thing to know about. She thought about the word etched into the hilt. Perhaps it was a word of Power or, possibly, a name. Maybe even both. Argia turned when Vaz and Jorath's lifelines at last reached the park. A smile crossed her lips and she stood. "Everything is better, yes?" she asked them, walking towards the demons and their companion. "Though, I am very surprised to see your colorful guest. I thought you the more subtle sort, Vaz." 

 

Jorath

 

As Vaz expressed their weariness, Jorath wanted to say something reassuring or soothing but words failed to touch his tongue. He didn't have enough eloquence to express something of the sort. Instead, the best he could do was give a tentative pat on Vaz's arm and say, "We'll wrap this up quickly, then." When the raptors claimed themselves to also be Askee-ah, the demon took a moment to wrap his brain around the idea and then shrugged. "Alright. That makes it easier at least because I only need to remember one name instead of... however many of you there are," he remarked. "But, maybe I'll just dub you two the Neons." He snorted at their quip. "Hey, I can make a scene all I like. I just think I've attracted enough attention for tonight." Still he grinned, spread his arms sideways, and bowed with a slight, flourishing wave. "But, I promise to put on a show for you sometime later." 

 

They were nearing the park when Vaz spoke up again and Jorath thought about his answer. "Depends on how you want to define "worried"," he said. He could sense two beings alongside Argia, awash with the warmth of a forest under the sun and something else entirely. He would have said more but Vaz stopped and entreated of him whether he knew how to take down bears. "I--That's oddly specific, Vaz. I guess? I mean, I think one of the demons I've had a beef with was part bear but--" He shrugged. "Okay, sure. I can take on a bear and at least survive." 

 

The green-skinned creature started speaking, even drawing nearer, and Jorath frowned. "You're welcome?" He wasn't about to thank the stranger for likewise not attacking any of them. "As for the hell-hound comment. We have a few different types here and, yes, your "furry acquaintance" looks similar to what gets classed as an Alpha." He didn't really know if he should be insulted by Kansif's assessment of demons or not. Part of her was wrong, part of her was right. "Well, we technically have a variety of demons and, I assure you, there are some that match your description. Others don't. I think it's just personal preference within whatever individual power allows." Jorath shrugged. He glanced at Vaz then back at Kansif. "Though, I think there are more demons like us than there are basic demons that serve a darker power and run around on all fours for mayhem's sake.

 

"Anyways. Argia. Vaz and I brought a friend who wants to meet you," Jorath went on.

 

Argia shifted her gaze to Askee-ah with a mild frown. "Your colorful guest? Why would they wish to meet me?"

 

Jorath shrugged. "Beats me. She hasn't said. Now's her chance, though. Askee-ah?"

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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.

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Vaz scoffed at the notion that things would be wrapped up quickly. Nothing about tonight had been a care-free encounter, why would this next one be any different? The demon began to pace ahead of the group as they chattered, swivelling around only when the sound of footsteps following them had paused briefly. Tuning back into the conversation, they observed Jorath mid-bow and promising to put on a show for the ‘Neons’, as they had been dubbed, later on.

 

Oh. Splendid. He probably will too. Why not just waltz right into Malvorin’s domain with a target tattooed on your forehead while you’re at it?

 

Vaz shook their head and sighed internally. They liked to think such grand gestures accentuated their natural sense of poise and charm...but when Jorath performed the same sort of manoeuvres they just looked ridiculous. A smirk twitched into existence beneath the folds of their scarf at the sight of it, in spite of the internalised lecture Vaz had just subjected themself to. For a brief moment they were reminded of why they even cared that Malvorin was on the hunt for such a smug, untitled git in the first place. As Askee-ah replied that it was a show for later, Vaz decided that it was their cue to sniff in agreement and motion for the group to continue following as they turned back around. Vaz glanced at the closer of the raptors and beckoned them over, mumbling at a volume they hoped would escape Jorath’s notice.

Please don’t encourage him. He’s enough of an eyesore as it is.”

 

————

 

As Vaz found themself lingering at the entrance to the park, they huffed at Jorath’s unhelpful contribution. Ambiguity was not the answer they needed right now.  

“I’ll just assume ‘liable to skin us alive’ isn’t on the cards, then.”

At least the bear question had provided unexpectedly better insight, and Vaz turned to quirk an eyebrow in Jorath’s direction at the conclusion. Truth be told, Vaz had just been hoping if they referred to the beast as a bear enough times they could somehow trick themselves into thinking it was one. They hadn’t been expecting a confident reply.

“...Hm. I always imagined a bear to be roughly on the same level of threat as one. Am I wrong? I...I steer clear of the hounds.”

Hellhounds tended to have a blind, rabid hated of anything of a less-than-infernal status, and there was some unknown, lingering remnant of Vaz’s old life that sent them into a frenzy whenever the scholarly demon got too close. To say that Vaz was nervous around anything remotely related to the canine family as a result was an understatement.

 

Vaz kept an eye trained on the beast as the more humanoid stranger began to approach them. Their stance stiffened as they felt their trench-coat tighten in the back, stretching against the tip of a wing that was trying to poke its way into corporal form beneath it. Vaz frowned, yanking sharply forward on their collar so that the meddlesome limb was forced to melt back into nothingness. Centuries had passed, and still the troublesome things insisted on materialising as part of the flight response Vaz was currently trying to pummel into submission. Amber eyes tore away from the creature. Maybe if Vaz just pretended it wasn’t there they could ignore the faint, but persistent instinct to take wing and have a decent conversation with the woman that had begun to speak to them. Even with all the weapons at her disposal, she seemed amiable enough, and apparently didn’t have any qualms about divulging interesting little factoids about herself before Vaz even had a chance to introduce themself. If it weren’t for the unflattering description of their kind that followed it, Vaz would already be warming up to her. 

 

“Jorath is correct. The term demon is a rather loose one that applies to...hm...well I’ve recorded hundreds of variants so-far. It would seem your world has only been privy to a small fraction of them. Even between the two of us, I could fill an entire book on our differences alone.”

Vaz brightened at the thought of that, eyes sparking with a soft, golden glow for a second before they dulled to their usual amber. It had been a while since they condensed a section of The Compendium into something more palatable for mortal minds. A comprehensive guide to demon classifications could very well be a niche that hadn’t been filled yet. Vaz turned to Jorath to vouch for their opinion, but the movement had let them catch sight of Argia nearing them and the question died somewhere in their throat before it could be voiced.

 

Draal, Argia. You seem very popular around here my dear.”

Vaz walked a brisk, short loop around her before answering any of her questions, gaze lingering briefly on the persistently red hue of her shawl but otherwise spotting no indication that she had been harmed by her new acquaintances. Lojaal’O’Ith’s thought process flickered briefly, shyly, into Vaz’s mind so that she too could confirm she was fine. Vaz hummed an absent-minded noise of approval in response. At last, some semblance of relief washed over them and they swivelled around to face her once more.

“Everything is...adequate. I am sorry for dismissing you in such a disorienting manner. Such an incident can be difficult for everyone involved, so it was best to distance you temporarily. I trust you will be respectfully discreet about what you saw, yes?”

 

Vaz twitched their head to the side with a sigh as she was directed towards the raptors, watching one of them approach her in their peripherals.

“Believe me, the surprise is mutual.”

They listened on as the raptors made their pitch to Argia, appreciative of the fact that they had decided on a more subdued introduction this time around. Why they felt that leaping out of the darkness covered in blood and guts was a better way to earn Vaz’s trust was a mystery to them. More fanciful tales of how demons worked, no doubt. It was almost as though the angels had never left.

“I erm. Confirmed that you and I were pack-mates when they asked, if that clarifies anything. Jorath too. I think it’s the equivalent of a friendship.”

Vaz tilted their head in thought, contemplating just how many of the strange, hive-minded dinosaurs were out there.

“Askee-Ah, if you don’t mind me interrupting here, have you made this sort of offer to any other groups yet? I’d like to know a little more about who exactly the members of your pack are.”

 

 

 

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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.")

Edited by AlexisV

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Kansif understood the balance bit at least from Argia. Which was a good thing. Gotta keep the balance. Even she understood that, and her tribe was known for taking land and killing people. Her ramblings though was something she was going to have issues with, as she kept forgetting that this wasn't her home. It's not going to be daylight and, for some reason, even though she didn't have the connection she had from her goddess she still thought that maybe she could be normal. Have some normalcy here. But no, no... She was going to be wrong.

 

She looked on at the woman oddly as she asked the question of letting a deity tell mortals that their souls should be collected. Why would any god or goddess tell mortals about their death? It should be a fleeting quickness of life fleeing away to greener pastures. She shook her head to such question, not wanting to say more about the matter. She was a simple humanoid, and such questions would be good for someone who could comprehend the actions of such deities. All she knows is that deities ask for mortals things and, if they do said action, they'll get rewarded while others get ignored or punished. Though, on the topic of being alone together, it took Kansif a moment to realize what she had meant. Looking up at the stars, a sudden crushing loneliness descended from the stars and she sighed, nodding. Yes, yes they were.

 

She looked on at the demons, clearly finding them amusing. Of course, on the subject of demons, her aloofness was noticed by her own conscious and she realized what she had insinuated. She chuckled sheepishly and was clearly upset. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to demean you two in any way. I just found it odd. I'm.. Still not used to being away from home. For some reason, I still believe I'm home even though the connection with my goddess is fleeting at best. Though, I wouldn't mind looking over a nice listing of the differences of demons in other worlds. I may not remember it when I get back to my place, but I do like to learn."

 

She watched the conversation between Jorath, Vaz, and Argia and realized that they had all met each other. Along with that, she watched as the glowing velociraptors conveyed their thoughts through strange telepathic messages.and the flashing neon colors. She had never seen the spectacle before and was oggling at the show before shutting her toothy underbite of a trap. Due to one of her sigils, which began activating sensing the presence of a foreign language, she understood what they were conveying. The raptors wanted to seek a pack alliance? Well, the more the merrier in her opinion
 

"Well, the more the merrier, I guess. Especially in this world. Who knows what may lurk around the corner?" Despite her aloofness making the last statement contradicting, she did seem fairly aware that there was evil. She can see it cloud over the city like a depressing, oppressing mist. It was then that she realized that they needed to go. The hairs at the back of her neck were standing on end.

 

Her danger sense was acting up.

 

"We need to go." Her eyes were now determined and focused as she reached for her greataxe, the dual heads shining with different metals. She was obviously spooked by something further towards and within the city. They needed to go. "Hey, raptors. Do you guys have a den? A lair? Maybe we can use it for a base." Knowing wild animals, they usually have dens. She didn't know what a den in an urban setting would look like though. Maybe under the buildings? Like the sewers? She thought that maybe animals wouldn't live in there, even if the sewers were clean. Hell, demons might actually live down there.

 

She grunted in anticipation and began to walk cautiously forward. "If we want to be safe, we should stick together." She then stopped and looked back at the raptors. "Please, if you a have a den, take us there."

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Argia

Discretion? Mulling over Vaz's possible motivations, Argia nevertheless gave a brief nod in acknowledgement. "I do not see what could bring about so many... individuals," she murmured. A day--or night?--of certainly interesting players. She didn't know how to judge the interactions. At least no one was--er, well, almost no one had shown anger towards her. Though, she wondered if she should count Ditraxol, given his nature as a wrath demon; he was angry at everyone it seemed. "These interactions are strange but I think I enjoy them." The words were more of a mumble, an idle thought with an undecided intention. 

 

She refocused on the raptors, Askee-ah as Jorath had introduced. An entity of balance! The discovery thrilled her. "You understand the importance! Of course I will join you as an ally!" The words rushed from her tongue before she could ponder over the blind agreement. She had no reason to distrust the raptors. Askee-ah had not harmed her fri--Vaz, nor Jorath. "You said you 'were once' someone that brought Balance. Are you this world's sovereign of balance? Or do you serve a Maker?" 

 

"We need to go."

 

Almost simultaneously with Kansif's statement, several lifelines flickered in and back out from Argia's awareness. In the glimpse she got, she couldn't count how many there were but they were too close to dismiss their disappearance as a factor of distance. She turned slowly, eyes scanning the empty streets in one direction and the shadowed park in the other. "Vaz, Jorath. Did you sense them?" Vaz had mentioned that they and other demons sensed auras. However, she was still trying to determine if lifelines and auras were the same thing. Jorath growled something and she couldn't figure out if it was an unfamiliar language or just a string of nonsensical sounds. "Is that a no?" she asked, bringing her gaze to the demon.

 

"It's not a yes." Jorath's lip twitched into something like a smirk or scowl. Perhaps both. "I agree with Kansif; let's get moving, now." 

 

As the demon started walking, Argia frowned. "Wait, where are you going?"

 

"Don't worry about me. I'll catch up to the rest of you; there's a pitstop I need to make first." Jorath turned as he spoke, effectively walking backwards, and ran fingers through his hair before giving a half-wave and turning to face the direction he moved in.

 

"At least take someone with you. We don't know how many there are following us." 

 

He barely glanced over his shoulder. "This is private. I'm not about to show any of you where I'm going. Vaz already knows more than anyone else."

 

"Well, then take Vaz so you don't have to expose yourself to additional people." Argia watched as Jorath halted, his brow furrowing. She started to grin, lifting her chin slightly. "Vaz? Are you willing to go with Jorath? If not, I can."

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Vaz watched the spectacle of the two raptors holding their private debate, a scowl forming on their face as they tallied up how many pages they were now going to have to revise in The Compendium just by observing them. A part of them wished Askee-ah was as conversational as the half-orc woman they’d just been introduced to so that they could get a better explanation out of them. The other half of them however was starting to think that it was for the best, lest the odd creatures find another way to add to the stress of needing to scratch out all that horrible, vile misinformation they’d stirred up from their beloved tome. They grumbled from the thought when the duo finally included the rest of them in on the discussion once more.

“Yes. Perhaps at a more appropriate time then.”

 

They turned from the reptilian duo, half-way through planning out their suggestion for Argia in their head when she startled them with a sudden, enthusiastic acceptance of Askee-ah’s offer. Vaz responded with a strained guffaw that morphed into a quieter clearing in their throat. They were torn between wanting to share some of her joy at finding a similar mindset in this strange new world and reminding her to be more cautious before rushing into loosely-defined alliances. Especially if she was potentially dragging them along for the ride as part of their earlier agreement.

 

Kansif’s warning prevented them from dwelling any further on that decision though.

 

‘We need to go.’

 

Vaz bristled, instinctively turning on the spot to survey their surroundings but finding just the usual shadows and general gloom of the night. All the same, Vaz wasn’t about to argue with the sudden suggestions to leave the park. Not if it was against the combined danger instinct of hardened warriors, ancient souls, and a man who apparently couldn’t take more than three steps in any direction without somehow embarking on a life-threatening adventure in the process.

 

Speak of the devil, Vaz was hesitant to let Jorath slink back out of sight. They narrowed their eyes at him when he stepped backwards, trying to discern the reason for his sudden desire to distance himself. Was he trying to avoid encountering whatever was out there? Or did he sense more than he was letting on, and was planning on making a beeline for it? 

 

“I would prefer if he didn’t stray from the herd at all.”

Vaz sighed, wrinkling their nose at the very thought of it. Jorath may have his secrets to keep, but the fussy old demon wasn’t going to accept that as an excuse to go gallivanting off on his own when there could be half-a-dozen of Malvorin’s goons waiting to ambush him the second he swaggered out of the park. Vaz glanced around at the rest of their party, weighing their options, before their gaze drifted back to Argia’s. She was undoubtedly handier with a blade than Vaz would ever hope to be, that was reassuring, but Vaz wasn’t sure if leaving her and Jorath unsupervised was a wise decision. They were still figuring out the nuisances of Jorath’s lapses in self control, and they dreaded to think of what could happen if there was any risk of a relapse tonight for the poor sod.

 

Vaz edged a few steps closer to the other demon. 

“But if you must, Jorath, then I wish to accompany you. Far more sensible. Lojaal, you are happy to stay with the group, yes?”

The quill in Argia’s possession twitched into life at her mention, realising that she was no longer expected to stay dormant in front of all these new faces. She sprung into the air, trembled a little, then performed a dipping motion that mimicked a ‘check!’ sign. Vaz replied with a light chuckle, coaxing her back towards Argia with a wave of their hand.

“Indeed, it would seem that she has taken a liking to you and your new friends here. ‘Much to discuss, much to learn’.”

Announced Vaz, fondly regarding the quill as it attempted to wriggle under Argia’s shawl where it was safe and warm. 

“Lojaal’O’Ith translates to ‘Whispers of Truth’. So please do include her in your conversations, she enjoys finding answers for the people that listen. And she’ll ensure that I find my way back to the rest of you.”

 

Vaz shifted their gaze back to Jorath, more confident in splitting away from the group now that they’d had the chance to properly introduce one of their quills. They untucked one of the arms from their pocket and held it out expectantly to link elbows with Jorath’s own, hoping that the overly-friendly gesture would help put him at ease with the decision. Or, at the very least, give him something to roll his eyes at and focus his ire on before begrudgingly letting Vaz follow.

“Promise I won’t be my usual, pompous, critical self about whatever it is? For once?”

Edited by Lycanious
Grammar fixes

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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.")

Edited by AlexisV

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Kansif waited until everyone had settled on what they were doing. Shifting the weight of her battleaxe around, she looked through the trees. She wasn't all that good at picking out shadows in the darkness of the trees, but she was at least trying to be careful. After Vaz and Jorath were set on going with each other, and Askee-ah, Argia, (and possibly Hrafn) were set on going with Kansif, the half-orc warily walked on. A nest nearby? And a hunter? Not knowing how strong these "hunters" were, Kansif was pretty much ready for anything. Adrenaline was pumping through her veins at an incredible rate from the prospect of a battle and she was going to love cleaving through this so called "hunter". She then spoke up to Askee-ah, trying to reassure her with her words. "If it is a hunter you fear from being spotted, don't worry. They'll likely won't be any match for me. I've fought many a creature before in my time and they all fell before me." She seemed serious. Her jovial attitude was discarded for a more battle-hardened humanoid. Her voice carried strength and resolve, the experience of many years fighting for her people and homeland. Her voice, while being cheery and normal sounding before, was now deep and foreboding with a hint of a devious growl, as if she was wanting this "hunter" to arrive and at least try to hurt her and her new found acquaintances and letting herself get lost in the bloodshed for just a moment.

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Jorath

Despite potentially better judgement, Jorath found himself waiting for Vaz. It wasn't as if his feet were adhered to the ground, or as if something tied him down where he stood. He just didn't keep moving. And he didn't really have an available explanation for it. Probably just amusement undermining the inconvenienced irritation he put out. While Vaz introduced Lojaal’O’Ith to the others, Jorath swept his gaze across their faces, interested in their reactions. Askee-ah looked like a cat that was ready to pounce on a bird whereas Argia appeared stunned before regaining her composure. It made him smirk and reminded him of his own discovery to Vaz's living quills. 

 

Which brought his thoughts to the coming encounter with Fi'Faltuun. He already knew the snooty quill was going to rat him out. Honestly, Jorath was still puzzling over why Vaz would give him such an object. His theories ranged from spying on him to being extremely unnecessary. "Gullible" and "stupid" never stood on solid enough reasoning when applied to Vaz. He watched Lojaal tuck herself into Argia's shawl. He focused on the motions as the woman lifted a hand up to carefully rearrange the two-toned fabric until the quill was safely concealed within to avoid the uglier theories of Vaz having sinister intentions. Whispers in his head that almost jingled or clattered like metal links.

 

“Promise I won’t be my usual, pompous, critical self about whatever it is? For once?” 

 

Jorath shifted his gaze to the scholarly demon again, the phantom noises falling to a less noticeable murmur, and took in the sight of their offered elbow. "I like pompous and critical. It gives me a reason to preen under your attention." The words strode off his tongue before he could filter them. He gave a crooked grin to cover up the slip and hooked his arm with Vaz's so that the two of them could start walking. 

 

Argia

She definitely had no expected the quill to come to live. It startled her but, a moment after, also somehow reassured her. She also found herself pleased with being let in on the knowledge of the quill's nature. "I will be sure to involve her. Thank you, Vaz," she replied. While the two demons set off, Argia turned to the rest that remained. "Lead in the path that best suits you, Askee-ah. I believe we can follow well enough." Her shawl began to shift and morph into her new-found wings, the mangled feathers quivering with the movement. "Lojaal'O'Ith, you may wish to remain in my hands." Though she was entertained by the notion of a living quill, she realized she felt a bit silly addressing it directly. "I unfortunately do not have pockets. I think I shall find a new outfit at a better time to accommodate." Cards and quill in hand, she looked to Askee-ah.

 

[[Woof. I don't know??? Argia's just gonna follow from the air as best she can :V She'll have to land eventually though and continue on foot. So maybe the wings will just help her jump across buildings. Yeah, that'll work.]]

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“Strange. I didn’t think you needed a reason to preen.” 

Vaz answered the goofy-looking grin with a twitch of a smile, even if they found the choice of wording slightly confusing. Tolerated Vaz’s presence, was probably what Jorath meant. Same way he was now probably just tolerating the way that Vaz had latched themself around his arm the second he made the mistake of offering it.

“Bloody cold.”

Grumbled Vaz in partial explanation. Demons had a frustratingly common tendency to be excellent sources of heat, but rarely did the opportunity present itself for Vaz to leech a bit of that warmth for themself. Most just recoiled and made an unpleasant noise if Vaz so much as accidentally brushed past them. Jorath by contrast was...a welcome change of pace, to say the least. Even if he was just humouring the lonely scribe and their general disregard for personal space.

 

Conversation from the rest of the group began to fade into the background, and Vaz hooked their chin briefly over their shoulder to glance back at them as the duo started to walk away. A noise of concern rumbled quietly through them as they rounded the corner of the abandoned play structure and lost sight of their new-found acquaintances. Argia was not the fallen angel that Vaz had mistaken her for. But all the same they couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt at leaving her behind after their agreement. And they held no ill-will towards the rest of her party, even in regards to the overgrown mutt that had been watching in on the conversation. They hoped Askee-ah would keep her word and lead them safely to this ‘nest’ that she spoke of. 

 

“So. I hope this is a quick detour L’antiira. Where exactly do you plan on taking me?”

Asked Vaz, tuning their thoughts to the journey ahead. 
 

“I should warn I can be an expensive dinner guest.”

They had a bit more faith in Jorath not to have split off for want of a glazed donut of course, but their amusement at the thought of it helped to distract from the unseen threat that was apparently lingering somewhere nearby. Vaz uncoiled one of their arms from their portable heater and pulled at their own collar again, placing extra pressure on their wings until they resigned themselves back into staying sheathed. The fresher wound in their wing stung as Vaz shifted about, and it reminded them of their initial encounter with Ditraxol tonight. Perhaps they should mention that to Jorath.

 

“Actually, I don’t suppose you know what this does, do you?”

Inquired Vaz, rummaging through their pockets with their free hand until they found the thorn-like implement they had removed from their flesh earlier on. They held it out at arm’s length like it was a foul-smelling sock, dangling it from the tips of of their long, ink-stained nails. It still ebbed with Ditraxol’s aura, and Vaz took the opportunity to scowl at it for a moment before they reached over and shoved it into Jorath’s hand so they wouldn’t have to hold it any more.

“Ugh. Horrible. Look how hard he scratches into the paper!”

Vaz hissed. They returned their hand to the arm of their companion, wiping off the remnants of Ditraxol’s aura onto his sleeve as they rambled about how much of a uncouth brute the wrath demon was.

 

“I had the displeasure of running into Doris earlier tonight, near the shopping centre district. And he was livid my dear at having of lost sight of you. Decided he’d take it out on Argia and I. Moronic decision, obviously. Argia looked like she could have disemboweled him in an instance.”

The demon pursed their lips in thought, glancing up at the rooftops and the eerily serene street behind them. No sign of a certain wrath demon, despite Vaz’s attempts to rile him up and bait him into revealing himself. Perhaps the unknowable, lingering lifelines surrounding them were another entity entirely? More goons of Malvorin? Vaz felt a sudden heaviness in their head, and sighed as the tell-tale signs of nervousness manifested and sprouted into their horns once more. The scholarly demon really needed to invest in a large, wide-brimmed hat of some kind.

 

“So...Malvorin. Current title bearer of ‘Lord of Insanity’. Quite possibly the second greatest knowledge demon to have graced this realm. I don’t suppose you have any further insights to share about him or his goons, hm? Or at least an action plan for ensuring your head stays attached to your shoulders?”

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"I have a reputation of humility to maintain." Jorath lightly touched the center of his collarbone as he spoke and glanced at Vaz, feigning as if he were shocked by Vaz's remark. "Having a reason makes me look less like an arrogant a****le and more like a confident individual." His gaze lingered upon the other demon as they practically clung to him for warmth. The concept of touch was basically a foreign one for demons in general. To Jorath, there was a familiarity to it that he refused to acknowledge on most days, especially when it was Vaz. It left him conflicted and confused at best. And appreciative of the fact that Vaz was looking back the way they'd come instead of at him. 

 

He sucked in a quick breath, picking at the small noise that Vaz made. "Concerned for your new friend? I think Argia will be alright. You'll have to share how it is you two even crossed paths at some point." Running his free hand through his hair, Jorath replied with "my home" in the brief space of silence between Vaz's question and their humorous retort. He grinned again. "You should have told me you wanted dinner. Now I'll have to see what I've got in the pantry and try whipping something up to your exquisite standards. I think my bread is on par with that in a 3-star restaurant. Nah, nothing too long. Just need to grab a couple items if we're planning an extended stay elsewhere." 

 

"Hm?" Jorath shifted his attention to Vaz's shuffling, eyeing the thorn delicately clutched between their fingertips as if it might bite at any moment. Then it was shoved into his hand as the scholarly demon scowled and hissed, words of contempt filling the air. Jorath frowned, uncertain if he should study the thorn or continue watching his companion as they went into further, more sensical, explanation. Doris? Who the f--Oh. "That would have been a fight I'd happily buy tickets to," he muttered, not really intending to interject while Vaz was speaking. Jorath's attention had finally turned to the thorn, brow furrowing.

 

There was dried blood flaking off the thorn. 

 

"Something of a plan," he said, the words idle and distracted. "Still winging things." He turned again to Vaz, noticing their curved and broken horns first. Vaz hadn't admitted it outright, but Jorath had picked up on the subtle pattern of unease. Was subtle still the right word when it resulted in a noticeable, visible, detail? Eh, semantics. Not Jorath's biggest concern. Lifting the thorn up slightly, he said, "It's covered in blood. Did Ditraxol stick you with this?" Ridiculous question. He already knew the answer. (Okay, he more just suspected the answer than anything else.) Releasing his arm from Vaz's hold, he turned to face the other demon fully as he continued. "Show me where. Has it healed completely?" 

 

Anxiety crawled down his spine, mingling in a pit with the faint touch of dread. Working with--for--Malvorin in the close manner Jorath did required learning specifics about the other demons Malvorin kept in his employ. Ditraxol being one of the more important ones given proximity alone. Whether Ditraxol was aware or not of how much Jorath knew, Jorath recognized the thorn and what it possibly entailed. However, Vaz hadn't shown anything... of the drastic sort. Perhaps the demon wasn't affected by the thorn's influences. Or maybe the simple fact that the thorn wasn't lodged in Vaz's flesh was enough to prevent more dangerous outcomes from bearing fruit. 

 

He had to think over their most recent exchanges, had to examine Vaz's behavior in the past few hours. Hard enough to tell what might be out of the ordinary for an eccentric individual like his companion. Well, as eccentric as a demon could get, given the strangeness Jorath had been witness to over the centuries. But he liked to believe he knew Vaz well enough to recognize anything out of the ordinary. Didn't he? Not important, not important. The thorn wasn't in Vaz's flesh anymore. That was the good bit of news. Focus on that. Vaz had been stuck with a thorn and nothing terrible resulted from it. He forced himself to hold on to that. Stuffing it into his jacket pocket until he could decide how to be rid of it, Jorath reached for Vaz's arm. "Let's just keep moving. Don't want to stay in one place if there are unknowns trying to close in on us."

 

Still, Jorath altered the route slightly, taking a couple unnecessary turns and side streets until they left behind the quieter sections of the city. Ahead, the rundown neighborhood of condos that Jorath used as shelter came into sight. Vaz only had knowledge of Jorath being associated with the location because of a mishap that occurred during a job they'd both been roped into by another demon. Had to have been the second or third time their paths had crossed. Briefly, Jorath wondered how it was that most of what Vaz learned of him seemed to typically occur during some blow up or bout of poor luck on Jorath's part. Strange coincidence that was. Although, it made an incredible amount of sense, too. 

 

Pulling out a set of keys, he quickly opened the door and yielded the right of first entry to Vaz, softly closing the door behind both of them. Within, Jorath was greeted by the disorganized atmosphere of a lived-in space. It wasn't messy with trash or broken furniture or the like. But loose sheets of paper were oddly scattered about on various surfaces, including the floor, and various objects cluttered the coffee table. "There should be something in the fridge if you are hungry," Jorath stated, returning to the earlier humor with a more serious offer. "Your feather's been writing stuff while I'm away. Never know what she's writing about, though. I think she got particularly bored at some point because there's a page or two where she seems to have tried out different fonts or something." He spoke as he moved through the single-story building, stepping from the small front room into the hallway and then to an even smaller bedroom. Now, where was Fi'Faltuun? She was always particular about where she wanted to rest. His boot wasn't good enough, apparently. 

 

The pocket-sized journal he'd gotten specifically for the quill was left open on his bed, new writing etched across the otherwise pristine pages. He grabbed it and tucked it into his jacket. A streak of black darted through his vision, into the front room. Of course. Jorath followed the feather back to Vaz and watched as she flitted about the other demon. "She's lying if she mentions anything about being stuffed into a backpack with dirty laundry." It wasn't his fault he hadn't seen her or realized she'd been tangled up by mistake. 

 

Besides the quill, he'd come to get something else. Hopefully Vaz would be too occupied with Fi'Faltuun to take notice. Swiftly, and quietly, he searched through the drawers of a nightstand and relieved it of the 9 mil and the broken scale it held. With a click, he checked the gun before stuffing it within his waistband at his back while the scale went into a pocket. Jorath, unfortunately, didn't have any extra magazines for the gun--so he refused to rely on it. However, with Ditraxol bearing down on the back of his neck, it likely wouldn't hurt to have it within reach for the time being. 

 

His gaze lingered on the other nightstand. The back of his thoughts prickled with the urge to be quick. But they were weighed down with tension. He turned away and strode out of his bedroom, only stopping at his dresser to grab a random shirt to cover for the delay. "Should be good to catch up with the others unless you need to stop for something."

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“Same old tale. She fell out of the sky. I investigated. We briefly experienced a small existential crisis together and I suppose we’re friends over it now.”

Summarised Vaz. They took a breath, commanding their thoughts to settle. Jorath was probably right about Argia being fine, even if the voice in their head begged to differ. 

“I feel as though an explanation of how you befriended a pack of psychic velociraptors would make for a much more intriguing story.”

 

“The wound is...bearable.”

Clutching at the folds of their coat, Vaz tried to dance around a more honest answer as they found Jorath turning to face them. Their nature demanded elaboration, better analysis of the thorn and what it was capable of, but the thought of withdrawing their wings for inspection held them back.

“I will heal. Eventually.”

They announced after a brief pause. Vaz started to walk again in the hopes it would prompt Jorath to drop the subject.
 

They hummed in thought as they spotted the series of condos up ahead, contemplating the size of the buildings and their proximity to the park. They had yet to establish a more permanent residence in this realm, preferring to drift between the quaint little cafes in the shopping district and the library across from it. Vaz wondered briefly if they should question Jorath on the rent, but decided against it as they entered one of the buildings. The demon always ended up gravitating towards grander places anyway, something with more room to stretch. Vaz paused by the entrance to instinctively remove their scarf and coat after they were invited in, silently taking in the sight of the mediocre living quarters with forced neutrality. At Jorath’s direction they nodded in thanks and headed towards the kitchen, folding and placing the two articles of clothing on the bench so they could properly rummage through the area for snacks.

 

Jorath is the most unpleasant buffoon of an assignment I’ve ever had the displeasure of being associated with.

 

Dark-green, elegant script flowed into Vaz’s consciousness as they stooped to glance through the selection of food available in Jorath’s fridge. Vaz smirked and angled away from the feathery blur of indignation in their peripherals so that it couldn’t see their expression.

“Surely you jest, Fi. Did I not once assign you to a demon of gluttony?”

 

Guldrakvir listened. Guldrakvir kept things tidy. Guldrakvir didn’t lose my inkwell and replace it with a shoe.

 

“Horrendous. I shall talk to him about the shoe.”

Vaz replied, still idly sifting through the contents of the fridge. They could hear Fi’Faltuun rustling angrily near their ear for a moment, but something then seemed to catch her attention and distract her from the ramble she had been working herself into. Vaz opened their mouth to ask what was wrong, but hastily scribbled handwriting flooded their thoughts before they had the chance to speak.

 

You are tainted by infernal ikaar.

 

The scholarly demon grunted, all mirth draining from their expression. They pretended they were suddenly enraptured by the ingredients listed on an expired milk carton.

 

 You must unsheathe and allow the wound to breathe. Now. Or it will fester.

 

Vaz hung their head and stepped out of the way of the fridge door so they could slam it shut behind them. Fi’Faltuun was unperturbed by the sound it made. Instead the quill just floated expectantly in the air beside them, letting the old scribe squirm under her observations. Vaz glanced back at hallway Jorath had disappeared back into and chewed at their lip again, but the concerns they were about to voice were interrupted by the impatient quill beginning to prod repeatedly into their forehead.

“Yes, yes, alright!”

Snapped Vaz, waving her away. They knew she was right. But that did little to dissuade the vague anxiety swirling about in their core as they unfurled all four wings into the mortal plane. Vaz strained to keep them folded so they wouldn’t smack into anything fragile, but their monstrous size still resulted in sweeping most items off of the kitchen bench and nearly breaking the light fixture above before Vaz could properly reign them in.

 

Vaz left the mess of scattered kitchen utensils and scrambled papers alone, acknowledging them only with a resigned roll of their eyes to the heavens. Instead they just reached for their coat and unfolded it out onto the bench-top, exposing its charcoal-covered interior. The demon then rummaged around in the kitchen drawers until they found a pair of scissors. Hardly the best tool for the job, but they doubted Jorath had anything more sophisticated stashed away anywhere. Vaz leaned in, brushed away a few feathers that had become lodged in the semi-dried ikaar, and started to make a slit in the back of the clothing item. For a serene moment they were lost in their work, listening idly as Fi’Faltuun fed them a recount of her past few days, and they flinched in surprise when they heard Jorath start to approach the room once more.

 

“Ah. Yes. Erm. Good. Just a minute, please.”

 

Vaz kept their eyes trained on the coat in front of them, continuing to carve out their best attempt at a straight line down to the bottom edge of the fabric. The distraction of needing to modify their choice of apparel was a fortunate one, in a way. It meant they wouldn’t have to see whatever visceral reaction Jorath had to witnessing the mangled state their wings were in for the first time. It also meant that they didn’t notice Fi’Faltuun twirling elegantly in the air beside them, choosing to hover over the spot where the thorn had been extracted so that she could draw Jorath’s attention to it.

“Do you have a sewing kit by any chance? These blasted things are making me ruin a very expensive coat for them.”

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Lycanious

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Jorath had laughed at Vaz's summary of their starting encounter with Argia. That laughter had covered for the lack of an answer to the talking dinosaurs when first asked. Now, with dark feathers filling the space of his small home, it wasn't the talking dinosaur that urged for silence. He staggered a step backwards, the tail end of his words quickly followed by Vaz's voice. Jorath had no reason to feel the twisted sting in his gut--it wasn't like Vaz had kept their origins a secret. Hell. It was literally in their name.

 

It was his fault for allowing himself to practically forget the truth. Stupid, Jay. 

 

Forcing his eyes back up from the ground, Jorath studied Vaz, taking in the dual set of ebony wings. A knot of tension loosened at the mutilated sight of them. Better. No, Jorath didn't feel better. He'd never seen their wings before until now, only the occasional lost feather. And he could understand why Vaz would keep them so thoroughly hidden. No matter that he felt like he'd been blindsided (though he shouldn't have), he also felt--

 

Fi'Faltuun's fluttering pulled his attention to a more localized area on Vaz's wings and, given that he wasn't able to access the quill's thoughts like they could, it took him a moment to realize what she was doing. Jorath started forward but Vaz's question caused him to pause. After a moment, "I should have something." He stared at the spot in Vaz's wing Fi'Faltuun indicated a second longer before turning back towards his bedroom. Torn clothing wasn't an unfamiliar occurrence to him, but that didn't automatically mean he was prepared with a way to fix that. Think. For once in your waste of a life... He rummaged around in the closet and under his bed, finally locating a disorganized container that--mercifully--contained an assortment of needles and thread. Hopefully Vaz would be okay with either lime green, hot pink, or (more likely) the navy blue. 

 

He stopped by the bathroom on his way back, collecting the first aid kit he maintained better than the sewing materials. Uncertainly, he edged around Vaz and their wings, glimpsing the ruin of his kitchen and frowning. Well, at least it wasn't anything important. "I've never been much for sewing...," he apologized, passing the container over. Jorath studied their face briefly, even their broken horns, and clamped down on the sickening feeling that stirred. Looking elsewhere, he moved away from Vaz in order to return to the demon's wings. "I need to look at that wound." 

 

Mustering up frustration was quick work. Seeing the state of the gash made it too easy to do so. Fi'Faltuun continued to hover and flit about, closer than Jorath liked and prompting a half-hearted swipe at the quill to encourage her to back off. "Stop that. You're in my way," he growled. On a normal day, he didn't care about whatever Fi'Faltuun wished to judge him for. But he knew how to dress injuries, including ones that were fully blown with infection. Fortunately, Vaz's injury wasn't at that stage. As he opened the aid kit, his thoughts drifted back to Vaz's question about how he encountered the velociraptors. And the brief sight of a poster with large, bold lettering on their way to his abode: AURIS DOMNIIR, INC.

 

He'd seen something about turning in angelic beings, hadn't he? You've no allegiance to either side, Jay. What's it matter?

 

His tongue felt like lead, regardless. 

 

"Askee-ah stumbled upon me," he started, taking out a strip of dry gauze and pressing it against the gash. Only a moment after did it occur to him that he wasn't certain if human remedies had any sort of affect on a Fallen being like Vaz. Too late now, he might as well just follow through on all the steps. "I was... investigating something as well." There wasn't much bleeding that needed to be stopped at this point so he grabbed an antiseptic wipe and started gently cleaning the edges. "She'd been chased into an alleyway after getting shot at by some humans in suits. We were in the middle of introductions when the overgrown reptile interrupted." 

 

The gash probably didn't need any bandage coverings and Jorath figured there was a reason Vaz revealed their wings besides just stretching them out. So he kept the bandages in the kit, closing it up and throwing the used materials into the trash. Trying to decide if he should share the presence of an angel in the city to Vaz was a dilemma Jorath couldn't sort easily. So he continued focusing on their injury, trying to hold onto frustration and gear it towards Ditraxol and the thorn in his pocket. Could the thorn be more responsible for Vaz's erratic behavior than a simply long night? They mentioned encountering Ditraxol shortly after Jorath started running from the wrath demon. That was... several hours ago. Unless the two crossed paths again before Jorath spotted Vaz and Argia, the thorn must have been planted upon that first meeting. But how long was it until it was removed? He disliked not knowing and he doubted Vaz would be able to tell him accurately enough. 

 

If they were going to be grouping up at this nest where Askee-ah resided, the chances of encountering Gabriel were too high. He might as well prepare Vaz. "The woman I met, Gabriel... She's an angel flirting dangerously with mortality." Setting the kit aside slowly, so as to focus on the motion and avoid noise, Jorath continued to frown. "She took up Askee-ah's offer for protection in exchange for belief or faith. However you want to classify it." The memory of the encounter made something ugly rear its head at the back of his thoughts, a sense of hunger or eagerness flickering into awareness. Jorath made a point not to look at Vaz until he reigned it back in lest the desire in his gaze betray him. "Almost made a bargain with her before Askee-ah appeared with either perfect or inconvenient timing. Depends on who's looking at it and how. She's desperate for power but doesn't know how far she's willing to go for it." But I know how to play on that, don't I? I can encourage her to go too far. Angels are too inexperienced with temptation.

 

Jorath shook his head, cleared his throat, and ran a hand through his hair again. "I don't think the thorn from Ditraxol was in your wing for too long. If it were, you'd be showing more concerning signs from his influence." He sucked in a sharp breath. Influence. Malvorin could--No, no. He couldn't. The demon might be powerful but he wasn't a god. Still, Malvorin's strength rested in the convincing nature of his illusions. Illusion wasn't the right word to call them but it was what Jorath had in his lexical arsenal. And, at any rate, much of what he knew was fed from rumors and the bit of surreptitious surveillance he could commit to without getting caught too much. So why would Ditraxol try to poison Vaz with a thorn? Well, why would the wrath demon do anything? Pure pettiness and simple rage, most likely. 

 

Despite reassuring himself of that, Jorath couldn't escape the whisper of unease crawling across his flesh. 

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Jorath had gone quiet when he entered the room, so Vaz had difficulty guessing what sort of thoughts were rolling through his brain. Repulsed ones, most likely, if the sound of him taking a step back was any indication. But to the demon’s credit he was quick to recover and politely leave in search of a sewing kit instead of bombarding Vaz with questions. It was one of Jorath’s more endearing traits, sometimes. The fact that he wasn’t constantly demanding answers from a being that was obliged to hand them over.

 

“Yes. I figured as much. Sewing is a useful skill though. I’d be happy to teach it to you some day.”

Muttered Vaz as Jorath returned and slid over the container of sewing supplies. They pulled the box closer to themself and inspected the contents, pausing when Jorath spoke once more.

 

I need to look at that wound.

 

Vaz bit back the urge to snap ‘no, you don’t’ and finally glanced up at the man who had retrieved the sewing materials for them. For a fleeting second Vaz was on the defence, a wary look etched onto their face as their wings tried to find the room to properly flare out. But then their eyes flickered to the first aid kit held in Jorath’s hands, and the unease started to retreat to the back of their mind once more. Vaz broke away from the glare, embarrassed, and returned to the coat they had been working on. They didn’t vocalise a reply. But the tension in their shoulders subsided, and the injured wing made a half-hearted attempt to stretch out to give Jorath a better angle while the others folded out of the way.

 

Distraction was needed, so Vaz started to pick through the meagre options of thread and buttons available to them. They chose the navy-blue spool, of course, but the buttons were a harder decision to make on the grounds that Jorath had apparently decided ‘pink goes good with green!’ and based their entire selection around that theory. Vaz shook their head and started to stash a few of the supplies into the pockets of their coat, reasoning that they could always be replaced at a later date.

“My apologies for the mess. I’m concerned I’d just make more of it if I try to gather everything back up.”

The scribe mumbled, now starting a second slit along the back of their coat. They flinched as the gauze made contact with their flesh, but managed to suppress the rest of their complaints to only a mild hitch in their breath whenever contact was made. Fi’Faltuun started to scold Jorath for the reactions with a series of exaggerated flourishes through the air, so Vaz pointed her towards the scraps of paper on the coffee table until she acquiesced and left the other demon alone.

 

“Horrible beings. I hope she was okay.”

Spat Vaz, tuning back into Jorath’s words as he started to recount his story about the woman he had run into and the humans that had been chasing her. Vaz had a lot to say on the subject of humans, and even on a good day very little of it was flattering. Humans were fickle. Humans were cruel. Humans could be given the world, and they would still demand that it wasn’t enough for them.

 

They then remembered what Jorath had told them, about how he had once been human.

 

Vaz reflexively jerked the wing away from him before they could stop themself, folding it tightly against their back alongside of their other feathered limbs. Jorath seemed to be finished with it anyway, closing up the first aid kit and now tidying up used bits of gauze and tissues. The fallen scribe glanced over at the gash, watching as tiny wisps of a smoke-like substance began to escape from it. Traces of Ditraxol’s aura mingled with the smoke, before disappearing into the air around them. The wound did feel better. And the smoke was a good indication that their system was now properly filtering out whatever the wrath demon had injected into it.

“Thank you. I know they’re unpleasant to behold. I appreciate your diligence.”

Interrupted Vaz, softly, before they held up their coat for review. Hardly a professional job, and Vaz still needed to tidy up the ends, but it would do for now. 

 

Carefully they extracted themself from the kitchen and slipped the coat and scarf back over their shoulders, not an easy feat in the cramped conditions they were restricting themself to. Vaz almost missed the next part of Jorath’s recount as they adjusted their attire.

“Hm, power. That’s such a common one isn’t it? Well that should be an easy bargain to- I’m sorry. Did you say Gabriel? As in archangel Gabriel?”

Vaz froze. And then an empty sort of laughter started to ring through the air. It started off nervous, and rose dangerously close to hysteria at one point before it settled at a quieter bitterness.

Gabriel is a merciless storm that masquerades as a tangible being. I know of reports that claim they have decimated entire armies with their sword alone. Couldn’t have been them. You would be dead, Jorath, if it was them.”

 

That did bring about the question of who exactly Jorath had run into though. Vaz was suspecting, or perhaps just hoping, that she was something along the lines of a Guardian‘s apprentice, or maybe a messenger. One that was hiding behind a more grandiose name for safety while they gathered up a few of their belongings to take back. Yes. That seemed logical. Vaz swallowed the lump that had been forming in their throat. They switched their attention back to Jorath, looking downright exhausted at this point. 

“Remind me to try out that ‘sleep’ thing you do, once we find a place to settle for the night. I feel like I need it.”

The old scribe sighed. They certainly didn’t feel like leaving the building at all. If it wasn’t for their debt towards Argia they probably would have just collapsed face-down onto the couch beside them and bribed Jorath into letting them sulk on it for a few days. The temptation to still do-so was almost maddening. But a promise was binding in Vaz’s world, even without the backing of a proper contract, and if they had to add getting threatened by some irritatingly over-eager, two-winged, twit of an angel to their list of what had gone wrong tonight then so be it.

 

“Come along, Fi. We have a giant lizard nest to find.”

Fi’Faltuun twirled elegantly through the air and landed perfectly in the outstretched hand of her scribe. Vaz dwelled in the pose for a moment, absorbing some of her confidence, before they faced Jorath and reached over to carefully slide the ebony-hued feather behind his ear.

“Please keep her with you this time, L’antiira. It’s important to me that you do.”

Vaz patted at the man’s shoulder and stepped away from him towards the door, pausing as their hand lingered on the doorknob.

“...I don’t suppose Askee-ah actually told you where the nest was? Did she?”

Edited by Lycanious

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He should have said something in response. About Vaz's wings. But Jorath was too focused on trying to sort out exactly what Vaz meant when they called their wings "unpleasant". There were too many possibilities implied, not enough verbal context for Jorath to properly gauge Vaz's thoughts on the matter. Leave it to the demon of knowledge to put Jorath on literary thin glass because of their tendency to both be vague, metaphorical, and literal--often simultaneously. So, all he ended up doing was stare at the other demon, watching as they attempted to replace their newly adjusted coat on their shoulders. "Sure, anytime." It was the best he could respond with instead of leaving silence to hover in the air for too long. Then, "And don't worry about the mess. It's not a big deal. Materials are replaceable." 

 

At their laughter, Jorath frowned. He hadn't thought about the archangel when the woman introduced herself. Suppose he should have questioned that a bit. She did mention a sword but it hadn't been with her at the time. However, weren't swords standard issue for angels? Maybe not important. Jorath didn't linger on it very long and refocused his concerns on Vaz. Their haggard state was a vulnerability he didn't see all that often out in the public sphere. "What do you do as a means to recoup? If it isn't sleep?" he asked. He wanted to ignore the gentle brush of fingertips against his temple from Vaz tucking Fi'Faltuun behind his ear. He'll have to figure out a good way to keep the quill safely on his person to oblige the other demon's request. He didn't know how much of a good idea it would be now with Malvorin actively sending demons to hunt him down.

 

Turning, Jorath almost reached for Vaz's elbow to stop them from exiting the condo but they were already halting on their own. "Askee-ah? Oh, uh... no, no she didn't. But I don't think it'll be too hard to track down a raptor. I mean, not many feel like ancient forests in this city," he stated. "Besides, she's almost just as good a hunter as I can be. If I make it easy enough for her, she's bound to locate us." Now he smirked, putting out a smug sense of superiority to cut through the haze of uncertainty he'd felt earlier. 

 

It crawled back to the forefront and his smirk faded, gaze lowering as he turned his face away. "About your wings..." You and your dumb mouth, Jay. The realization that Vaz might not want to linger on the feathered appendages didn't occur until after the words graced the air. But it bothered him, for reasons unknown to him, to leave without saying anything in response to Vaz's earlier remark. "Whether you meant to or even wanted to... Thank you for trusting me enough to bring them out." The words sounded a lot less ridiculous in his head. Rubbing at the back of his neck, trying to ease the knot of discomfort--he couldn't decide if it was embarrassment or unease from the delicate situation he put himself in--Jorath let out a soft sigh. "They're not unpleasant. To me. That is, I mean--" He clamped his mouth shut, trying to prevent completely bumbling what he was trying to convey. "I mean, yes they're in a mangled state, obviously, and unpleasant to look at but I don't find... you--your wings--" Jorath gave a derisive snort, shaking his head. "I'm not really a qualified judge on what's attractive to look at." He reached up and gently took hold of Fi'Faltuun, studying the ebony feather. "But I like your wings. The feathers are...." Who was he kidding? He didn't have the right way of expressing anything further. 

 

Sighing again, he placed Fi'Faltuun back behind his ear and gave Vaz another crooked smile, this one small and timid. "You're far less of an eyesore than I am." The compliment was followed by silence for a moment, a silence that Jorath disrupted with a flustered wave of his hand and light cough. "Anyways, let's go dino hunting. Maybe we can make it a game? Place some bets? How much you want to put in the pot that we find Askee-ah before she even notices we're there? I'm calling ten bucks she won't know it until we jump her." He leaned past Vaz, grabbing the doorknob so he could open the barrier that blocked out the rest of the world. 

 

[[Okay! So! I don't know if Vaz actually has their wings out still and folded against their back or if their wings are back in hiding so I... just left it unmentioned.]]

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The tired old scribe looked sheepish when Jorath asked what their typical pattern of rest and recovery was. A small part of them recognised that their usual approach was probably not the answer he wanted to hear from them, as it was one of just burying their head in their work and ignoring things until they faded into obscurity once more. A crease formed in Vaz’s brow. What did they do to recoup?

“I...don’t usually have the time Jorath. Um. Sometimes I read? Or watch those newfangled moving picture things. I like to curl up into a nice warm, quiet corner of the world somewhere and just stay there for a few days.”

 

About the wings...

 

Oh, there it was, the inevitable question phase. Vaz lowered their arm and mentally prepared themself as they met Jorath’s gaze once more. The scholarly demon had a lot of stock answers-that-weren’t-really-answers in store for why their wings were in the state they were in, not to mention why there were four of them instead of the usual two that most mortal interpretations seemed to focus on. Vaz however hadn’t really been expecting to be thanked as a starting point, of all things, and it threw them into a confused silence that left Jorath rambling for a while to fill it.

 

“Trust is a rare commodity among demons, Jorath. I dare-say the fire-born majority are outright incapable of comprehending it.”

Vaz began once they found access to their own tongue again, though they were still a little unclear on what exactly it was planning on saying. 

“...But...thank you for being an individual I can place it in all the same. You are L’antiira, Jorath. Even with all of your unread, hidden pages. I hope that some day, perhaps, I can earn your trust in turn.”

 

The demon’s gaze shifted to the wings at their back and then over at Jorath once more, uncertain, as they processed the rest of what the other demon had stumbled his way through saying. 

“...Hm...Yes. I suppose you are a terrible judge, then. But you’re far from an eyesore my dear. You just need a less horrendous sense of fashion.”

Fi’Faltuun twitched in a way behind Jorath’s ear that Vaz had learnt over the centuries was her equivalent of rolling her eyes. She was also being uncharacteristically silent though, so Vaz wasn’t sure which one of her demonic companions was prompting her reaction. They had a suspicion it was both of them.

 

“But I suppose we can just be a pair of ugly, snarky gits together then. We shall start a club for it. Ditraxol can even be the mascot, the most repulsive of us all.”

Vaz exhaled, using that line of thinking to bury their anxiety about exiting the home and steer the conversation towards something more light-hearted. They were thankful for Jorath’s choice of topic, and twitched the corner of their mouth in thought of the bet.

“You against a pack of highly-evolved, chameleonic, presumably apex predators? Sure. I could use a new scarf. 10 ‘bucks’ she finds us first. Another 10 if she’s waiting for us outside.”

Vaz pursed their lips in thought as they angled themself through the door and outside of the condo, trying to figure out if Jorath was referring to the coins or the papery-ones. They were soon distracted by the fact that their wings immediately reacted once the cool air hit them, stretching out to their full size for what felt like the first time in...weeks? Months? Some ridiculous number of days. For a fleeting moment it almost felt refreshing. And then the feeling of nausea started to creep back into Vaz’s consciousness as their senses registered that the wings were visible to a public audience, and they quickly snapped back to a less noticeable position along their back. At least it was dark, which let the charcoal-coated feathers blend better into their surroundings. Vaz tried to convince themself that maybe, if one only glanced at them, they could even be mistaken for a long cloak. They just hoped that Askee-ah’s nest was somewhere nearby, where they could finish healing and then gather up enough energy to sheathe them once more. 

 

I sense that we are being watched.

 

Vaz heeded Fi’Faltuun’s warning, grabbed Jorath by the arm, and wasted no more time walking at a brisk pace away from the condos. 

“Alright, Hunter-Jorath. Go ahead and impress an old scribe. Perhaps I can then find you a less perilous line of work as a Seeker?”

 

((Oops, sorry should’ve specified. Yeah I plan on keeping them visible for a while until further notice.))

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That stung.

 

They didn't mean it that way.

 

Locking away the hurt and the guilt that Jorath felt, he focused on grinning, focused on Vaz's assessment of his "sense of fashion". "Oh come on now, you know you wouldn't have me dress any other way. Unless you want to test drive seeing me in a suit or something?" Part of him considered doing so, just to see what sort of reaction he'd get from Vaz. Scoffing, Jorath gave the idea of Ditraxol posing as an Ugly Demon Club mascot a more serious thought than originally intended. "You know... I think he'd actually agree to such a role with the kind of ego he has. Too bad he's not as gullible." 

 

So Vaz was betting against him. Not much of a surprise as it wouldn't have been much of a bet otherwise. A new scarf for Vaz? Strangely, the idea almost entertained the thought of tossing the bet to make it happen. Almost. "You wound my pride, Scribe." He tsk'd, feigning a slight pout before returning to a smirk. His gaze became half-lidded. Briefly, he wondered about the way Vaz's wings flared out then snapped back in. It filled his ears with the sound of rustling feathers and brushed his hair with displaced air. It caused an ache to throb through his back, piercing bone and muscle alike. Was that jealousy? 

 

Jorath shook himself free of the sensation when Vaz took hold of his arm, pulling him into motion as they spoke. "I quite enjoy my current line of work. And, besides, I like to consider myself a jack of--most--trades." Regardless, he found himself appreciating the sentiment of Vaz wanting to get him away from dangerous things. Rearranging his arm so that it hooked more comfortably with the other demon's, Jorath inhaled deeply and stretched his senses outward as he exhaled. Again, his eyelids seemed to grow heavy. "Askee-ah favors the rooftops, I believe. It was how she followed me before, where she was when I sensed her. And, it seems the best way for a large raptor to stay outside the notice of humans in the city streets." 

 

Looking upward, he didn't see her nor sense her aura. Out of range, then, unless she had a way to shroud herself. Much like their unknown stalkers. It was a brief flicker just as before, but he could catch two, possibly three, in the heartbeat they were there. Tension rolled into Jorath's shoulders and he again moved his arm, this time to hover a hand at Vaz's back. "Tell me, do you have any admirers you might be expecting to see while we look for Askee-ah?" He glanced over his shoulder, studying the street behind them. When he returned his gaze forward, he caught sight of another Domniir poster, this one simply emblazoned with the group's symbol and a basic "We Want You" type slogan. 

 

There was that flicker again. Longer.

 

"Faster," Jorath breathed, quickening his pace as his hand pressed against Vaz's back. He figured it had to be the same trio, but they all felt too uncannily alike to accurately tell. The distance had closed some degree, with one of them starting to get ahead. "I need to know: how much will you do as I say without question?" Mostly, Jorath was concerned with whether or not Vaz would run away if he told them to. Especially if Jorath remained behind. Another flicker and only two came to his senses, off on his right. His gaze shot towards them, not finding anything. Rooftops. Still no one. The auras were gone again in the next breath. They'd been less identical than before.

 

Jorath thought he recognized one. Had to be paranoia, though. He'd killed that one a long time ago.

 

A few more streets and they would hit an area with activity. If they could get lost in the crowds, Jorath could use it as a chance to assess who was following them. "Their shroud is fading," he stated, more to just say something and avoid falling into the grasp of silence. His gaze narrowed. Silver tendrils snaked through his flesh from the adrenaline. He wanted to find out who thought to try hunting him, and whether or not it was from some foolish sense of pride or if it was just pure ignorance. Either way... he thought, lip curling slightly. 

 

The shroud was gone as soon as Jorath's foot touched a street that murmured with activity and vehicles. Two distinct auras trailed behind them but another pair had edged ahead and tangled with the crowd. The muck that had covered them, making them all feel impossibly identical, melted away and revealed what their auras should actually be. His set gaze turned into a glare, a soundless snarl. He definitely recognized the aura that felt like ice and watery depths, that dripped and cracked like glass. They wouldn't dare. Not out here with so many to witness....

 

Doubt undermined the thought. "Vaz. Let me do the talking this time."

 

[[An aside: I discovered that my phone displays the pretty cursive that is Fi'Faltuun's thought/speach whereas my computer just shows "handwritten" type font.]]

Edited by ValidEmotions

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Kansif looked back to see Argia and Askee-ah conversing before Argia changed her shawl for wings. Interesting transformation. She looked on ahead, the noises ceasing. Her slightly pointed ears didn't hear anymore unnatural rustling. Her eyes got used to the darkness now, and she scanned the area. Nothing. The coast is clear, but she wasn't so sure how long that was going to last.

 

Looking back, nodded at both Argia and Askee-ah before walking forward at a brisk pace. Her shoulders hunched and her body low, her legs carrying her quickly enough to make some sound on the leaves but nothing too loud. They had to get into the city. She didn't have a cloak to hide her features, so she was going to have to be careful.

 

Luckily, she made it to the outskirts of the city after the trees revealed the modern style with electricity and neon signs. In fact, this was incredibly new. What was this? What were those things lighting up the streets? How did they work? Was it magic? And the brightly colored signs of a language she wouldn't have known if it weren't for one of her sigils on her back. Open was what it said, but the other sign next to it couldn't be translated, probably due to not having a word for an item so beyond her time. A "movie" was something she was not familiar with.

 

She looked back to Argia, wondering if she what this word meant, but decided not to worry about it. There were other things she needed to worry about, like the potential danger around and her need for a cloak. Maybe this "movie" store had a cloak?

 

Looking through the door, it was barred. Well, the door was metal and glass, and in a style she was not used to. Peering through, all she could see were aisles holding strange "tablets" with art and pictures decorating their faces. These "movies" were weird.

 

She gave up on this store, as it clearly did not sell a shred of clothing. She huffed before setting off down the shadowy road, peering over her shoulder to look behind her in a cautious manner before gazing ahead, keeping on high alert. There wasn't a whole lot of people out right now. Wonder why that was.

Edited by Merciless_Medic

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