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[Open] The Forsaken World

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“Jorath my dear, I gave up on expecting to ever see you in a suit when you showed up to an audience with The Lord of Decadence in ripped jeans. Disastrous. There I was, flaunting my finest cocktail dress, and you waltz up looking like you just lost a fight with one of her lions.”

Vaz shook their head from the memory, though there was a smirk lurking somewhere beneath the exasperated tone. The old scribe had been livid at the time, for it had resulted in another humiliating loss of a contract to one of their rivals. But sometimes Lady Luck worked in mysterious ways, and the last thing Vaz had heard of said rival was that they still hadn’t been paid a single coin or scrap of a favour for the souls they had painstakingly collected. Jorath had inadvertently saved the both of them from a colossal waste of time.

 

“Come now. Surely you have the pride to spare.”

Chuckled Vaz, a fraction of the tension easing away from their shoulders at the banter. They were blissfully unaware of the suggestion of envy that their shifting wings had brought about, or the sense of self-loathing they’d sent crawling through Jorath moments before. As far as Vaz was concerned, Jorath had every reason not to trust them. It didn’t mean that the lack of trust didn’t hurt but...it was logical. Sensible. Vaz liked to tell themself that it was a sign that Jorath was starting to absorb some of their advice on thinking rationally. 

“Hm...I suppose. But personally I find that just leads to you becoming a master of none, my dear. It wouldn’t hurt to polish up a new skill from time to time.”

 

How about actually reading the notes about contracts I leave for him?

 

“Or...mm...Improve on some shabbier ones, perhaps.”

 

I have a list. The top entries also include laundry management and identifying whether three packets of potato crisps count as a nutritious breakfast.

 

Vaz pressed a finger to their lips and shushed Fi’Faltuun, not wanting her to distract Jorath any further from his attempts to locate Askee-ah. He wasn’t privy to her thoughts of course, but he could probably feel the indignant bristling against his ear at the very least.

 

“Hm? Admirers?”

The scribe broke away from the quill and frowned over at Jorath, not quite sure where his line of thinking had spawned from. They could sense the firm pressure of his hand suddenly against their back and they twitched in discomfort as it grazed against a few shards of broken feathers.

“Well. Erm. I usually get a letter first but sometimes-“

Vaz was cut off from their analysis by Jorath urging them to move faster, followed by more unusual inquiries. Anxiety started to flicker back into Vaz’s consciousness. They still couldn’t sense any of their unknown watchers yet. Jorath’s shifting glances and jerking head movements gave Vaz a rough idea of where they were stationing themselves, but it was difficult to discern how many of them there were in total.

“I question everything Jorath. I will listen, if I find it a rational line of thinking. Just remember I am Fallen but not grounded. I’ve made fools of those who forget.”

 It was mostly just a boast, really. Something to rally their own nerves for the confrontation they could sense was inevitable. But they needed Jorath to recognise that the old scribe still had a few tricks up their sleeves. They had driven away Ditraxol without the bloodshed after all, had they not?

 

When Jorath requested to do the talking for the both of them though Vaz shot him a doubtful look. Talking was perhaps Vaz’s most infamous line of defence, what else were they expected to do? Their recent words to Jorath about him being trustworthy drifted through their mind once more though, and after some semi-internal debate with Fi’Faltuun the scribe acquiesced with a short nod. Vaz turned to face ahead once more, only to be greeted by the sickly-sweet grin of a lady in a white business suit that was slinking her way towards them while they had been distracted.

 

“...Seen her before. Fear domain. Don’t break eye contact with her.”

Murmured Vaz into Jorath’s ear, scowling as she weaved her way in front of them to block their passage and held up a hand for them to stop. Vaz remembered their agreement and held their tongue as she wandered closer, but they did pull Jorath to a stop beside them. Fleeing at this point in time would be dangerous. They knew that the woman in front of them was better left in one’s line of vision.

 

That did beg the question of why she seemed so keen to reveal herself to the duo though. Was she a distraction? There must be more than one, judging from Jorath’s earlier reactions.

 

Vaz noticed the flicker of their own tail in their peripherals, which was now  hovering over their head like a scorpion ready to strike. Slowly they eased the weapon back, pointing it instead in the direction of a second, unknown aura that was starting to hone in on them from the left. The movements of the hastily-scribbled, rambling prose of a mad-man paused, before taking a few steps back so that Vaz lost track of them once more. The woman before them just giggled at the defensive display, before clasping her hands together behind her back and exchanging the jovial expression for a mocking pout aimed over at Vaz.

 

“Oh dear. Someone’s nervous I see.”

 

Vaz stood rigid, and withdrew the wing they just realised had been pressed against Jorath’s shoulders for the last few seconds so they could fan it out properly. The woman’s lips pressed into a thin line as dozens of tiny, golden orbs started to spawn along the front and back of Vaz’s wing arms. She blinked in mild irritation. The orbs blinked back.

“...Gross. Don’t think that’ll stop me darling.”

Vaz merely tilted their head, mimicking the pout. The woman sneered at them for a moment, before finally switching her attention away from the scholarly demon and towards her other target. Vaz was fine with that. It gave them a few seconds to readjust to the fact they could now see the eerily empty rooftops above and the pavement at their feet at the same time.

“And you must be Jorath. I have a few friends that’ve been rather keen to get in touch with you honey. If you just sit tight there for a moment I’m sure they’ll be here in a minute or two.”

Edited by Lycanious
Changing a line

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Jorath

"Not like we have much choice, do we?" The words wanted to rush out with rough edges and jagged points, but Jorath forced them into something smoother and more like a sigh. Stuffing his hands into his jacket pockets, his fingers brushed against the broken scale hidden within the fabric. The warmth from the fragment staved off the creeping chill. "Are you at least going to introduce yourself? You seem to know us. And what do you have to do with Er'anir?"

 

"Of course. Where are my manners?" The woman gave a flippant wave of her hand. "These days I go by Arga'ettakut. Most just refer to me as Takut, though. As for Er'anir..." She hummed faintly, turning her head to the left before returning her gaze to Vaz and Jorath. Her brown eyes seemed to swirl with hints of green. Jorath blinked, frowning. Maybe he'd imagined it. The brown of her irises was undisturbed. "Well, Er'anir can explain it if she wants to."

 

He arched an eyebrow at that. "She? Undergone one of her changes, has she?"

 

"Ah, yes. I suppose the last time you two had an exchange, she was of the more... masculine, persuasion. Why? Does that change your affections towards her?" Takut grinned. "She'll be heartbroken to find out if that's the case."

 

Jorath swallowed. "No. Er'anir already knows where I stand." 

 

"Do I? I mean, you only left with some rather conflicting messages, my songbird."

 

He didn't want to look over. There was movement at the edge of his vision but most of him wanted to keep his gaze on Takut like Vaz had warned. But as the awareness of ice and ocean began to drown his senses, he pulled his eyes away and to the other demon. Another woman, her skin was paler than he remembered, and no longer pristine. Marred by scars that tore along the side of her neck and face--and continued down beneath the red dress shirt, Jorath knew--Er'anir hardly resembled the individual she used to be. Too much clattered in his thoughts and chest at the sight of her. His breathing hitched slightly.

 

"How are you here?" he asked, once his voice began working.

 

Holding her chin in one hand, she made a sound. "That doesn't matter. Besides, I don't think your new companion wants to listen to an old lovers' quarrel." 

 

Jorath bristled, body stiffening as the edges of the scale dug into his palm and fingers. "It does matter. Last I saw you, you were bleeding out."

 

"Then I guess you should have made certain my head was free of my body." She was smiling but Er'anir's green eyes betrayed her rage. She turned to Vaz, smile flattening into a thin line. "Dearie, how long have you known my songbird? Does he treat you well?" 

 

"Keep them out of this," Jorath warned, his voice low. "Before you do something I make you regret." Despite his words, she didn't move her gaze away from Vaz. For the breadth of a second, he saw how Er'anir used to be, ghosting over her current state. "How are you here, Er'anir? And why?" She shouldn't have survived. There was no way. But then, she had a point. He should have made sure there was no chance of Er'anir being revived. Centuries had passed. Anything could have occurred to bring today to fruition. 

 

She sighed. "When did you get boring, Songbird? You used to be much more lovely. Now..." She made a sound, like a drawn out groan. "Now, you're just all dreary like. Did trying to kill me snuff out your love of life? It makes sense and I wouldn't fault you for it. It's only the natural course of things." Er'anir strode closer. She was shorter than him but Jorath remembered that Er'anir always preferred being shorter, regardless of her guise at the time.

 

Her proximity brought the soft scent of lavender.

 

A pained expression twisted Jorath's features, one hand coming free of his pocket as he took a step back. He remembered Vaz was still there, and the knowledge prevented him from retreating further. But it gave Er'anir the opportunity to touch his face. Cold fingers graced his cheek. "I--" Jorath had instructed Vaz not to say anything. However, that was before he realized he didn't know much of what to say at this moment. The situation was already going in a direction he didn't want. 

 

Again, Er'anir's former appearance transposed itself upon her current form. Dark hair grew lighter into a warm shade of brown and the scars faded away for several seconds. "Stop," Jorath murmured. The chill expanded from his cheek down to his neck and shoulder. His breath fogged in the air. "Stop." This time more firm, accompanied by his hand reaching up to remove Er'anir's and guide her backward. His gaze shot towards Takut, glowering. The woman in white was grinning much too widely. "Enjoying this? Fear domain. I know what they can do. It's why I haven't ****ed around in your area."

 

"Wise. I'm surprised, Jorath. Based upon what I've heard of you," Takut replied. 

 

Keeping his gaze upon Takut, he smoothed out his coat to conceal the quake in his hand. His skin still felt like it was layered in ice, causing pain to lash through his back. To lash through the remains of his shackled wings. "What's your game? Why are you here?" Jorath had forgotten about the other demons in the area. When he remembered to reach outward with his senses, they were significantly closer and encircling them. 

 

"To collect. For revenge. To invoke fear. To pay back a debt. Name it. It's a factor of many things. Someone heard you were stirring up some trouble and decided to watch the fire that'll inevitably ignite." Takut pretended to inspect her black nails, glancing at Vaz and Jorath a moment after. "Rumor is... You've made a powerful enemy after bargaining off some of your Realm to him. We can help you with that. Tell me, has that portion of your Realm returned to you?"

 

S***.

 

Jorath's throat constricted. "You're not supposed to know that." Had someone associated with Takut been following him? How far did the Fear domain stretch beneath others' awareness? There was movement behind him but he couldn't look away from Takut. Where did Er'anir move to? Chilled hands gripped his shoulders and Jorath snapped his hand back, grabbing her and--

 

"You wouldn't dare start something with so many witnesses, Songbird. Would you?" His mouth ran dry and his eyes widened a fraction. Jorath didn't want her at his back. He didn't want her anywhere near his back. "How about you and your scholarly darling just come with us? Somewhere more private? We can talk more without little humans getting in the way. After all, you don't want to hurt anyone, do you? I remember. You used to get so violent. So awful. Are you still that same horrible being? Or did you change like you promised me you would?"

 

Ice chilled every inch of his skin. His gaze broke away from Takut and shifted to Vaz. At first, he couldn't read their expression, that blasted scarf concealing most of their features like usual when outside. In the next heartbeat, something changed and Jorath swore he saw disgust or contempt, maybe both, in their eyes. Even the ones that were visible along their wings. 

 

"What do you think, Scholar? Has he changed over the time you've grown to know him?"

 

[[Cripes this is longer than I thought! I'm going to post Argia separately so it doesn't appear so overwhelming.]]

Edited by ValidEmotions
Very minor typo but it bothered me

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Vaz coiled one of their many-eyed wings forward as Er’anir approached, briefly taking in her appearance and the pained reaction from Jorath at the sight of her. Their gaze lingered along her face and neck, mapping out the terrible scars that marked it and theorising as to what might have caused them. They seemed like bite marks, to Vaz. Or...chains, perhaps. A series of golden chains that cut into the flesh and-

 

The scribe switched their attention back to Takut, and told themself that the mangled appearance of the woman was an illusion. If she was a fear demon worthy of her title, then she would know that the thought of chains would unnerve them. The compulsion to speak, to answer her question overwhelmed Vaz when she inquired about Jorath. Vaz had to mutter a quiet ‘Long enough for you to be on thin ice, my dear‘ under their breath to disperse it. Er’anir’s appearance flickered in response between the several eyes that Vaz was focusing on her. Most saw her with the still-mutilated face, but two could catch glimpses of a second form ghosting it’s way into focus. The overall effect was dizzying, and for a moment Vaz was actually thankful when the demon trained her icy gaze on their own as it forced the conflicting images to merge back into one. 

 

Vaz tried to keep tabs on the conversation between her and Jorath, but Takut was stating to pace in a lazy circle around them and Vaz had to keep reshuffling where their mind was focused to prevent her from influencing their introductions any further. A snarl was etched onto their fanged maw beneath the scarf though, and when Jorath moved to extract Er’anir’s hand from their shoulders Vaz made sure to nudge at him with their elbow, reminding him that they were still present.

 

What do you think, Scholar? Has he changed over the time you’ve grown to know him?

 

Vaz tilted their head in contemplation, trying to hold their tongue this time. Takut allowed the faintest hint of a crease to form on her brow, and made a point of clearing her throat before speaking again.

“I must say, I’m a bit disappointed dearie. I was expecting more of a contribution to the conversation from you. There’s no need to sulk you know, I brought you a present too.”

Vaz flinched as a new silhouette darted past them, casting the shadow of a towering humanoid figure with eight wings briefly upon the wall behind Takut. They had only glanced away from her for a second to fearfully watch its flight-path, but it was enough of a blunder for her to strike. 

 

A thunderous voice began to pierce through their mind.

 

You were devoted. You were diligent. You were loved.

 

It rattled Vaz to their very core, and almost severed their hold over their human shell entirely from the shock of it. They collapsed briefly onto one knee before they regained control over their form, making a wild grab for Jorath to try and steady themself in the process. 

 

But even after all we gifted you, that wasn’t enough to prevent what happened was it Veritas?

 

“SILENCE! Hic non habes potestatem!”

Hissed Vaz, now staggering their way back onto their feet as a language that was strangely soft and melodic for their situation escaped from them. Fi’Faltuun writhed about in a similarly nauseous motion, almost falling from her perch behind Jorath’s ear.

 

And now. Here you are. Alone. Flawed. Crawling upon the ground like the vile little worm you always were.

 

Vaz clenched their eyes shut and clawed at their temples, before one of their shaking hands managed to grab hold of their left horn and clenched itself tightly around the end of it. The flesh at the base of the horn shimmered, as though melting away, and as Vaz snarled for the voice to shut up again they yanked their hand away from their skull and pulled out the horn along with it. For a brief moment a swirling storm of an ink-like substance and smoke was visible in the gash it left, before their human shell knitted itself together once more and hid it from sight.

 

Vaz’s senses dulled. The shadow of the angel and the other auras they could sense surrounding them vanished. But The Voice went silent. That was the important thing. The fallen scribe swallowed the lump in their throat, trying to reign in their rapid breathing as their gaze trailed down to the twisted piece of themself in their hand. Their head snapped back up, frantically locking eyes with Takut once more. Takut just stood there, smiling.

“Ooooh there we go. That got your attention didn’t it dearie?”

Vaz toyed with the horn in their hand, buying time as they glared daggers into her eyes. They took a deep breath, in and out. Think. Vazithrazuul. Whispering into the folds of their scarf, they apologised to Jorath. Because Vaz was inevitably going to be their flawed, disobedient self and start talking again.

 

“What...heh...what a stupid question to waste my time with.”

Began Vaz, forcing an empty laugh to weave its way through their words to cover up for the quiver that still lingered in their voice. They tried to find the willpower to stretch their wings out once more, which had clamped tightly against their shoulders against the onslaught of the Voice. One drifted up alongside Jorath’s back and forced itself between the grip he had on Er’anir’s hand, before fanning out above his head to form a barrier between him and the horrid creature that was still lingering behind them. 

 

“Of course he’s changed. Look at me my dear, I’m insufferable. He has the patience of a saint.”

Vaz reached up towards their other horn and plucked that from their skull too, holding it up against the first extracted piece to form an incomplete ring.

 

“Now me, on the other-hand, I’m a creature of habit I’m afraid. A Keeper of Quills. Thief of Wisdoms. Consort of Vengeance. I certainly have no issues with starting a scene my dears. I prefer it, in fact.”

Vaz flicked their tail forward, letting the arrow-shaped tip click into place to reveal itself as the missing piece of the ring they were forming. The rest of the shadowy tendril that had been holding it faded away, and Vaz pursed their lips in thought for a moment as they held up the cracked, but rejoined, halo and peered at Tukat through it’s centre.

 

“Now. Are you and your lot going to sod off, or do I have to invite one of my own doomed ‘affections’ into this discussion? I’m sure he’d be happy to fashion a new chalice out of one of your skulls.”

Edited by Lycanious

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Argia

She had encouraged Askee-ah to do what was easiest for the raptor. Which apparently were the rooftops once it became difficult to cling to the shadows that beings typically paid no heed to. While Kansif seemed interested in a theater and other buildings, peering through the windows as if searching for something, Argia coaxed her wings to lift her from the ground. "Kansif, there's a side street we can use." She needed to somehow keep Askee-ah in range as well as Kansif. Although, given the silence of the area, maybe the side streets weren't all that necessary. 

 

Looking down at the quill in her hands, Argia slowly opened her fingers and Lojaal'O'Ith flitted free, fluttering near Argia's head and easily keeping up with her wingbeats. "I'm warning you now, I'm not a very skilled flyer just yet. I've never had wings before." She angled towards the rooftops, stumbling in her attempt to land. Her wings beat again, lifting her off the building. Pondering over the request Vaz made about keeping the quill within their discussions, Argia started to wonder if Lojaal had listened to all that had occurred before the park. Oddly, the thought of speaking with an animate quill didn't feel all that strange to Argia. Knowing a being like Vaz, it actually made quite a bit of sense to her. It was highly likely that Vaz received any and all information that their quill obtained. She glanced at Lojaal. "'Whispers of Truth'... You likely don't keep any secrets; they would seem too much like lies, perhaps." It was an idle comment. The quill made a motion that she didn't know how to interpret. Something she would need to study if Lojaal was to stick around for some time. "Perhaps you can help me understand something when we do not have someone tracking us from the shadows." 

 

Askee-ah was maintaining a moderate distance ahead, being more agile than Argia could manage as she was currently. Kansif, on the other hand when she glanced back, was gradually trailing behind. "Kansif?" she called once she dropped back some, drawing closer to the... what had she said she was? A half-orc? Her feet touched the ground, wings curling around as feathers became fabric once more. "You appear distracted. Is there something you are looking for? You're falling behind."

 

Her attention jerked towards the lifelines that faded in and out from notice. A couple came from the rooftops where Askee-ah was, but most of them were at their backs. Perhaps Argia should have encouraged Askee-ah to remain on the streets instead? How foolish of her to underestimate the severity of the situation. Coaxing Lojaal back beneath her shawl, Argia's fingers itched to summon a weapon. Steady. Not just yet. She quickened her pace, motioning for Kansif to do likewise. "We must catch up with Askee-ah and Hrafn. I fear our unknown pursuers are getting closer." Concern found its way into her thoughts, centered around the lifelines close to Askee-ah and Hrafn. Could she and Kansif reach them before something occurred? 

 

As she contemplated how to reach them, their lifelines vanished. She almost stumbled a step at the shock of it. They hadn't died, she didn't think. Their lifelines had just become hidden, much like those of their unseen followers. Even Kansif's lifeline was no longer registering, despite that she was clearly near enough to Argia. "Whatever is shrouding our followers is now shrouding our allies. I can't sense any of your lifelines," she stated, uncertain if Kansif needed the explanation or not. A frown graced her features and, at this point, she summoned her weapon. This time, her scythe came as beckoned and she briefly examined the curved blade, its tip resting carefully just above the ground. She was still trying to sort out the rhyme or reason for when each form of her weapon would reveal itself. Using lifelines as a guide was not possible in this foreign realm. "So be it," she breathed. 

 

"Whoa, hey, there you are." Jorath's voice brought her to a halt. He was jogging towards them from a side street, coming to stop a few feet away. Hands finding their way into his coat pockets, he gave a crooked grin and lifted an eyebrow. "New weapon? Didn't you have a broadsword before?" 

 

Argia felt tension ease away slightly, some that she hadn't noticed earlier. "Hello, Jorath. Yes, I had a broadsword before. Atropos has more than one shape, based upon my needs." She shifted her gaze, searching. "Where is Vaz?"

 

"We found Askee-ah's neon copies so they're with her and the Hellhound wolf. Never did get her name..." He shrugged. "Anyways, I came to get you two because Askee-ah noticed you'd fallen out of sight."

 

Ah. That was good. She smiled, glancing at Kansif. "We can regroup then. Were you able to retrieve what you needed?" When Jorath nodded, Argia dispelled her scythe. "Perfect." She let Jorath take point as he knew where Askee-ah would be waiting for them. After a moment, Argia spoke again. "Jorath, Vaz mentioned the ability to sense auras. Do you have that ability, too?"

 

"Sure. It's rather helpful to have."

 

"Are you able to sense them now?"

 

He paused, glancing over his shoulder and furrowing his brow. "Actually... now that you've mentioned it. Your auras are gone." It looked as if he was starting to bristle at the fact, head turning as he searched the area.

 

"It's not just you. Something's affecting my ability as well." She watched him as he focused on her, a slight nod as his acknowledgement.

 

"We better get moving then. Come on. Everyone else is this way."

 

Jorath motioned for Argia and Kansif to keep up. As they moved, lifelines wavered back into her awareness, at least three popping up at their backs before disappearing again. She didn't like it. Grasping her shawl to make sure it still remained in place as it should, so as to keep Lojaal protected, Argia looked up at the rooftops. She couldn't see Askee-ah, Hrafn, nor Vaz. "Do you know anything about who's following us, Jorath?" 

 

He shook his head. "Not a clue." The demon took a moment to decide which direction to take at a fork before continuing on. "But they're much too close for my happiness. Hopefully Askee-ah's wise enough to get the others moving sooner than later." He darted to a main street, skirting the edge until he got them into another area with no humans. 

 

Lifelines illuminated her senses, unable to remain hidden any longer as the shroud collapsed. 

 

A presence dropped down from above Kansif, while others drew up from behind them. Argia whirled on her heel, scythe materializing as quickly as she could manage, but something slammed into her chest and sent her to the ground a few paces back. "Interesting. Didn't anyone teach you not to wholeheartedly trust a demon you just met?" Jorath's voice hovered over her, his face entering her field of vision a moment after. 

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Kansif hadn't meant to trail behind and when her gaze snapped to Argia landing by her, she nodded in an apologetic way and kept on walking, taking this side street Argia had mentioned earlier. "No, I got distracted is all. I have never seen such contraptions before. What even are movies? Why is there so much color? The most sophisticated thing that isn't magical in my realm are booby traps like tripwires and large catapults and trebuchets. Machinery that doesn't use magic are uncommon at the most, but this is just too much." Her eyes were wide and her pupils have dilated to large proportions. It was almost as if she went into some kind of culture shock for a moment before snapping herself out of it and returning to the objective at hand. "Damn, I feel primitive."

 

She walked along with Argia, clutching her battleaxe so hard her knuckles were turning a pale greenish-yellow. She was getting nervous, and Argia's comment on their approaching pursuers was not helping her feel better about their situation. As soon as Argia wasn't able to sense any lifelines, Kansif's back flared up in pain and she let out a harsh gasp. One of her sigils that allowed her to see the aura on others had seemed to malfunction to a painful extent. She tried using it on Argia, but all she got was more pain and no good results. She held her back as it felt like somebody took a hot metal pipe and shoved it into her rune. Trying to ignore the pain, she whirled around as she heard a voice. Jorath? She wasn't so sure how to react. Where was Vaz? And why now when the both of them can't sense any kind of aura? It just seemed too good to be true. She watched as Argia relaxed, but Kansif still kept her hunched, tense posture. Something wasn't right. However, she didn't know what to think. On the one hand, she didn't know if this could be her salvation and it could potentially lead to that. On the other, she didn't want to he caught with her pants down and be made a fool. She grumbled something incomprehensible in Orcish before following the Jorath she had doubts about. Though, his reaction to not feeling lifelines seemed to confuse Kansif.

 

Did it not affect other demons? No, Jorath said it affected him, too. But that is pertinent information. Why didn't he say anything about it as soon as he arrived? Why wasn't he more concerned? Her mind was swirling with information that she didn't know what to do with it, but it felt sickening trying to comprehend it all. Maybe it was just Jorath. Maybe he was right. Maybe Vaz is with Askee-ah and Hrafn, but even then, they couldn't have found out what Jorath was saying was true.

 

Kansif was having a miniature war within herself. Everything was signalling to her with red flags right in her face, and yet the comfortableness Argia had conflicted with what she felt. Argia knew Jorath for longer, and she was okay with how he was acting. Was he actually him? Kansif felt the hairs prickling at the back of her neck, and her rune wavered from pain to dull ache and she was able to see aura for a brief moment before it vanished again in another wave of pain. Why was she having this issue? She had never experienced this before. She just hoped they could get out of here.

 

Her suspicions came true when they arrived in an abandoned area of the city. Nobody was here, save for the overwhelming amount of auras surrounding them. She felt something from above descend upon her and she swung her battleaxe, her eyes gleaming with rage as her muscles rippled throughout her body. Whatever she hit, the silver side of the battleaxe cut into the creature and knocked it back into the ground. Looking around, the Half-Orc saw Argia get slammed to the ground, unable to fight back as the "Jorath" hovered above her. No. If this was Jorath, then he was very much playing to the side of the demons.

 

She let out a battle cry that sounded distorted, as if she was screaming in both agony from the annoying ache in her back and the realization that they were going to die. She rushed towards the fake "Jorath" and swung her battleaxe silver side towards the imposter, trying to slice his body in half, unaware of what he actually was.

Edited by Merciless_Medic
made it less metagaming, grammar fixes

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Jorath

Vaz was staying silent, even as the demons asked them questions or taunted them. Despite Vaz falling to a knee and grasping at Jorath's jacket. It gave him something to focus on instead of the intense cold in his flesh. "Is this the company you keep now?" Er'anir's voice caressed his ear, soft and almost conspiratory. "I suppose it's not much of a surprise; you always had to be the strongest one in the relationship. Too much pride to be anything weaker."

 

It took a heartbeat for Jorath to realize that Vaz's outburst wasn't directed at Er'anir, but at something else he couldn't quite hear. Regardless, it wasn't as important as the simple fact that Vaz was speaking. As they spoke, Jorath watched on as the scholarly demon ripped away their horns, fashioning a ring completed by the tip from their tail. Panic wanted to bubble up as Jorath felt Er'anir's attention shift to Vaz, her fingers digging into his shoulders. "Such a beautiful voice. It doesn't hold up to yours, Songbird, but it'll do quite nicely," whispered Er'anir.

 

In the next moment, Vaz's wings spread out, forcing their way in between Jorath and the woman behind him. She didn't hiss or growl, but he could feel her anger at being pushed away. A sigh of relief came free of his lips without intention. A shy, lopsided smirk flickered into sight at the idea of being considered a "saint" by Vaz. He was startled by Vaz's decision, though, the display catching him off guard as they spoke of creatures and skulls. Sure, he'd heard them when they'd stated that "Fallen but not grounded" remark. But he'd been more prepared for something like a dagger or what-have-you. 

 

Er'anir came back into sight, her green gaze switching between Vaz and Jorath. Almost idly, she flipped a lock of hair behind her shoulder. She glanced at Takut before returning her gaze to Vaz. "You would risk escalating things? How fascinating. And what if that escalation you started wound up getting someone hurt? Could you guarantee the safety of those you wish to keep safe?" She tapped her cheek. "We still have business here. How about a truce, instead?" She waved a hand and the presence of the demons behind Jorath vanished. It wasn't reassuring given how they had been shrouded before. There must have been something in Jorath's expression because Er'anir grinned slightly, lifting her chin. "Don't insult me, Jay dear. It's only the four of us now, I assure you."

 

With both hands back inside his jacket pockets, Jorath tightened his grip on the broken scale again and made every inward attempt to shake off the cold that still clung to his body. He tried not to shiver or quake. "Whatever you're trying to offer, the answer is no. Especially not after the crap you just pulled. Now shut up and go." Jorath straightened his back, feeling more like himself once warmth began to return. 

 

Takut turned her gaze towards Jorath, grin fading. "Or else what? How do you know turning us away won't prove to be the wrong decision to make?"

 

"Because neither of you have anything you could possibly offer that is of interest to me." The edge of the bone cut against his thumb. 

 

"And what of you, Scholar?" Er'anir inquired.

 

"Yihautla nant ishtma." Jorath's voice was a low rumble, gaze darkening. "Nil yibavry az otwil."

 

Er'anir laughed, tossing her head back so that her hair tumbled down from her shoulders. "There's nothing you can do to me that you haven't already done, Jay. But please, you're being disrespectful to your friend. They're an intelligent sort. I'm sure they can handle a spot of conversation with ease." Directing her gaze towards Vaz again, she continued. "Besides, they should be allowed to answer for themself. Or do you still prefer to control everything?"

 

At Jorath's silence, she smiled. He loathed that she had a modicum of a valid point, no matter how much he wanted to keep her from fixating on Vaz. However, Vaz had already shown they could react in a way to protect themself. F***, they came to his aid better than he could for them. "Now, what does the Scholar want? Perhaps you would appreciate hearing some of the whispers that have drifted through our quadrant of the city. Hm?" A whistle floated from her lips.

 

And, for a moment, Jorath's eyes glazed over with an old memory. He brought a hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose, eyes shutting tightly. He grimaced and then lifted his gaze up to Takut, curling his lip with a soundless snarl. Takut simply smiled at him, almost lazily. 

 

Er'anir had continued speaking, a portion of her words missing from his awareness. Something about Auris Domniir. "They want--almost--every demon to join them. There are a select few who haven't received an invite and we think we know why. Shall we compare theories?"

 

"We only just encountered them a couple hours ago," Jorath replied, nearly automatically. His hand, the one not clutching the bone fragment, slid free of his jacket pocket, an ease starting to seep into his shoulders. If the women--if Er'anir--were going to insist on belaboring this encounter, he might as well find some way to enjoy it. Or at least tolerate it. 

 

It made it easier to avoid the conflict of thoughts that lingered. 

 

He kept his gaze on Takut, however, only drifting to Er'anir occasionally whenever the pull of her aura fluctuated. 

 

Not yet.

 

Wait for it.

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Vaz continued to ponder Takut through the circular device in their hand, but they froze for a beat at Er’anir’s next question. A grimace tugged at the corner of their mouth. No. Vaz couldn’t guarantee the safety of anyone. No matter how much they tried.

 

Breathe. Anchor your truths. Focus on what is factual, not what pains the least.

 

The scholarly demon gave a sniff, and shifted back their expression to one of a more detached interest in the conversation. They almost proceeded to inspect their nails in the same manner as Takut had done moments before, only to remember not to give her the satisfaction of a second strike at the last second.

“Strange. I thought by your logic I was meant to be the weak, damsel in distress type here. Shouldn’t safety concerns be the other way around?”

Questioned Vaz, flexing the wing that stood between Er’anir and Jorath tighter in an attempt to draw him closer and further the distance between the two of them.

“Do at least try to keep your vile little manipulations consistent dear. It’s such a novice mistake.”

 

When she commented on Jorath’s desire for control, and started to goad him into letting her communicate with the scholarly demon, Vaz felt a wave of doubt mixed with frustration trying to creep its way into their mind. It wasn’t as intense as The Voice from the earlier attack, but somehow it felt just as dangerous as it simmered quietly away in the background. Memories of their encounters with the infernal illstrund started to stir, and Vaz found themself clutching at the marks it had left on their wrist for a few seconds before they rounded up the willpower to properly answer her.

 

“Hm...no...I’m not sure conspiring with some icy old crone is in my best interests my dear. But all of what you have said has been very...insightful, all the same. Feel free to f*** off now.”

 

Takut’s smug expression faltered at the word ‘insightful’ in particular. Vaz rubbed thoughtfully at the chin beneath their scarf as they watched the gears in her head turn. She was calculating, weighing up some unknown, but apparently difficult choices as she looked between Er’anir and Vaz. For a split second, something that lingered behind Vaz wavered into their consciousness. A ripple that snaked its way through the air as Takut was distracted, and began to reach hungrily out for the same wrist that Vaz had been clutching at seconds ago.

 

“...May I offer some parting advice?”

 

Takut just narrowed her eyes. Her hand hovered in the air as though she was torn on whether to beckon Er’anir back over to her or not. Vaz, being Vaz, decided that they would just continue through the silence anyway.

 

“My advice...would be to never place your trust in a knowledge demon my dear. They always think they know better than you.”

 

Vaz suddenly stood rigid and swung the halo in their hand in a broad, sweeping motion to their side. A crackle of raw energy and the sound of metal colliding with bone ricocheted through the air as the ripple rocketed back from the impact. The foggy silhouette of a third demon started to condense into the mortal plane behind them, emitting a horrible, squealing sound as they nursed their now-broken jaw.  At the same time a streak of black and red darted its way out of one of Vaz’s pockets, zipping down the street and disappearing into the nearest alleyway.

 

Tukat wrung her hands in the direction of the new arrival and finally discovered an expression other than a smug grin of superiority, furious that he had overridden her commands to stay back while the two of them toyed with their perceived prey. Vaz locked an iron-grip around Jorath’s arm and propelled themself forward as she clasped her hands over her ears and bellowed ‘shut UP Yax’Othlzhu!’ at the other knowledge demon. The fear demon hastily ducked to the side to avoid a second swing from their halo, and as she manoeuvred behind them Vaz winced and strained their eyes on as many directions as possible. The effect was overall extremely nauseating when it was combined with a desperate run of blind terror, so Vaz just barked for Jorath to pick a direction and allowed themself to be guided along by him.

Edited by Lycanious

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Jorath

 

Pressure from Vaz's wing against his back drew his focus and Jorath took a slight step as directed. It was strange, finding himself shielded as thus, the brush of feathers scrapping faintly against his hair, neck, and clothing. In one moment, he wanted to absorb the sensation. In the next, he wanted to repel it entirely. Instead of lingering on the confusing blend, he soaked in the growing dread that Vaz's voice brought in this one situation. The one time he didn't want to hear their words because he knew Er'anir was fixating on them now instead of him. But Jorath couldn't make himself silence the scribe; he couldn't tell Vaz, of all people, to shut up. 

 

"Whoops. Did I slip?" Er'anir replied from behind the wall of feathers, a pout in her voice and only containing a hint of displeasure. Too sing-song like to be genuine. "I'll put in real effort next time, Scholar."

 

There was a shift in the atmosphere and Jorath started to move. As the halo in Vaz's hand connected with a shrouded demon, he spun out and around the protective arch of their wing, drawing the bone shard free of his coat pocket and slashing downward at Er'anir. She jerked sideways, avoiding the weapon, and hissed at him. Before he could get in another swing, Vaz grabbed his arm and tugged him away. Fleeing.

 

Jorath was fleeing again. Discomfort twisted in his gut at the noxious mixture of relief and flickering sparks of rage that had been buried beneath choking ash. He removed his arm from the other demon's grip, bringing his hand to their wrist and making a decision, any decision, to get away from the others. "I don't know whether to be more frustrated or thrilled that you couldn't keep your mouth shut, Vazithrazuul. That was dangerous for you to say so much around Er'anir." He couldn't keep the growl out of his voice, but he glanced at Vaz with a soft gaze. Words of gratitude wanted to grace his lips but Jorath kept them sealed away. He didn't know how well the words would be received. 

 

Gradually, he started to notice Vaz's struggle to keep up. Jorath eased his pace, searching the streets for an alternative solution. He knew Takut and Er'anir were following them. They had to be. There was just no way demons like them would allow escapees. He almost jerked to a halt, catching sight of something on one of the buildings. Jorath took a moment to inspect it further. The stone was gouged in a trio of parallel lines, another set not too far away and climbing. What were the chances the gouges were left behind by raptor talons? 

 

"We need to split up. Separate Takut from Er'anir. They've already hinted they can brew a nasty cocktail together." He turned to Vaz, anticipating a protest. "You're better equipped to handle Takut. I know how Er'anir works." Looking back the way they came, Jorath grasped Vaz's shoulder and started moving again. He didn't want to linger in one spot for too long. "Regroup three blocks down from here. Hopefully, by then, we can get these ladies off our backs."

 

Argia

 

Jorath stepped backward, dipping away from Kansif's axe and practically dancing out of reach. He snorted. "Come now, really?" 

 

Rolling to her feet, Argia shoved back at the demon that approached. As they stumbled, she swept out with the butt of her scythe, catching their hip and causing them to stumble into the wall of the building. Shock abating, apathy fell into place like an all too familiar coat. She struck at a different demon, this one with messy light brown hair and brown eyes set low on their round face. Curved blade caught their side and tore into flesh with a shlick. They doubled over with a shout, only to be knocked to the ground when the flat side of Argia's scythe slammed against their head and clavicle. She was struck from behind, something slicing across her shoulders before hands snatched at her clothing to throw her into the brick wall. Gasping, she pushed away from the rough surface before concrete or rock shattered against it. 

 

Keeping his distance, Jorath watched as a demon launched himself at Kansif, a dagger in each hand. Jorath jerked his head back with the tip of Argia's scythe rushed into his vision, glimpsing the vague silhouette of his reflection on the dark metal. He grinned and turned his gaze to her. "Why, Jorath?"

 

"I'm a demon. What other reason do I need?"

 

She glowered at him, grip tightening on the staff of her weapon. For a moment, the apathy wavered and she could feel something else beneath it before numbness reasserted itself. Argia darted towards him but the thin demon she had cut got in the way. They grasped at her and grappled for her scythe while Jorath directed himself towards Kansif. The demon with the daggers was making any attempt he could to push her into a corner, any attempt to find a half-decent opening to strike. "Decisions, decisions. Think you'll do nicely," Jorath hummed, studying Kansif. "You look like a proper monster. Almost like a demon yourself. Do you have any sort of a soul?" He made a motion with his hand and the demon that had tried to pelt Argia in the back of the head with a large rock hurried forward to assist the other one in trying to neutralize Kansif. 

 

"What about Ditraxol? Vaz and I protected you from him!" Wrestling free of the lightweight demon, she swept her scythe in an overhead arch and brought the blade down into their skull. Momentum embedded the blade almost completely and the demon perished without much of a sound beyond a thud against the ground. She unsheathed the weapon and turned towards Jorath again. Her knuckles whitened. "Vaz seemed so concerned about you."

 

"Vaz is only concerned with themself, as is everybody else in this god forsaken world," Jorath snarled back over his shoulder. "As you should be, too. Take this as a keen lesson, newcomer. I'm sure Vaz already laid out the rules of this city. Did they not?"

 

She hesitated. The blanket of apathy wavered again, this time revealing more of what lingered below it. "They told me to find powerful allies, to pick a side and lay low."

 

Jorath hummed again. "Sounds just like Vaz. Here's my advice: the only side you should pick is your own. Find powerful allies, sure, but keep them only so long as they benefit you. Then dispose of them once they've been used up. This world is eating itself alive. Survival is all that matters. Simple." 

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“I didn’t have much of an option Jorath! I wasn’t just going to stand there like some terrified little two-wing and watch you suffer!”

Growled back Vaz as they bolted down the street, a little more of a bite to their words than usual despite the grateful glance Jorath sent in their direction. The irritation was directed inwardly for the most part, where Vaz was trying to bury the acknowledgement that they were perhaps not making the most rational of choices right now. They tried to soften their next words, though there was an ire that still undercut them.

“I assure you my dear, I’ll morph it into a mutual danger.”

 

Jorath was right about the protest though, as his master plan for dealing with their pursuers riled up Vaz once more.

“I don’t know Er’anir but I damn well know her kind Jorath!”

Argued Vaz over the top of his plans to regroup a few blocks down. Vaz waved about their halo wildly as they spoke, briefly igniting the air just behind their head with golden sparks as it clanged against the metal of a passing street sign.

“If you think I’m going to let that horrible little illstrund seep any further into your mind then-“

 

Jorath is correct. For once.

 

Vaz paused mid-speech and glowered at the quill behind Jorath’s ear.

 

He speaks in tongues while he slumbers, but sometimes he is coherent. The recordings were non-sensical, not worthy of The Compendium, but now I am beginning to piece them together. She is dangerous, Vazithrazuul. We should learn more, before confronting.

 

The scholarly demon snapped back at the quill in Oldspeak, but the effect was somewhat diminished by the panting breath that kept disrupting their words. Vaz was slowing to a brisk walk, and while they were stubbornly still gripped onto Jorath’s sleeve they could tell they were becoming too exhausted to continue at his pace.

 

I promised I would keep him safe, Vazithrazuul. And I always keep my word.

 

Vaz made a final, guttural noise of defeat and extracted themself from Jorath. Their last point of contact was a final push with their nearest wing, directing Jorath down a smaller side street as Vaz slowed to a stop and doubled over to both catch their breath and give the world a chance to stop spinning. Tukat would only amplify Er’anir’s abilities. And while Vaz dearly wanted to go after her themself they couldn’t deny they had the advantage on dealing with the fear demon instead.

“Fine...just...remember you’re still...trusted my dear. Regardless of her words.”

 

Vaz pointed at the spot behind their ear to put emphasis on their own words, before finally straightening up once and spinning on their heel to face the steadily advancing shadows behind them.

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Jorath
[Sensitive content inbound. A fair bit more of the verbal/emotional abuse/manipulation and physical abuse--particular to violence against women. If sensitive, skip this. I can share dialogue separately if wished for.] 


Staggering from the wing as Vaz nudged him towards a street on the right, Jorath paused at their departing sentiment before turning away and heading off. "Fi'Faltuun, don't let me forget that I owe Vaz big when we finally get a night without trouble," he muttered to her. He didn't know what exactly transpired between scribe and quill, when Vaz had taken to breathless, but no less quick, Oldspeak. It was an argument the feather had won. "I owe you, too. Vaz might need to translate though." It made him wonder, as his sneakers scuffed concrete and his shoulder bumped the corner of a wall from too sharp a turn, who was truly the insufferable one between them. Vaz claimed that status but perhaps both of them were to a fault and the other just somehow managed to muster up the ability to endure.


He slowed his pace, inhaling deeply. As he drew out the exhale, Jorath touched the edge of his awareness upon the weight of his Realm. He didn't want to, didn't think he would need to, but too much of him wanted to ensure he could. Fi'Faltuun's presence behind his ear suddenly became something of a concern. She would become a witness to whatever transpired, a judge for his secrets and sins. It made him feel as if he were in a confessional or something similar. "Er'anir doesn't know about you. Best to let her believe you're just a tool for writing and don't do anything else." He didn't know if the quill would even listen to him. Then again, he was stating something of the obvious. 


"Judge me for my sins as you will...."


"Breathing out a little prayer, are we, Songbird? I didn't think you were the type to still follow a god." Er'anir stood at the end of the street when he turned to face her, only a few yards away. She brought a hand up to tuck hair behind her ear, a faint pout graced her features. "Come. It's just the two of us."


"You assured me of that only a little bit ago and that proved a lie," Jorath grumbled, both hands in his pockets. 


She shook her head. "That wasn't my fault, Jay. It was Takut's. She told me that her underlings would do as commanded of them. The one acted his own, as far as I can determine." Er'anir was stepping closer, hands lifting a little and positioned outward, as if to display how harmless she was.


"You still haven't told me why you're here or what you're doing." He took a step back from her, trying to maintain a basic distance.


"Isn't it obvious? I'm here to bring you home, Songbird. I've missed you all this time. I'm tired of being upset with you. I forgive you for what you tried to do to me." 


He swallowed and brought a hand up to punch the bridge of his nose. "That--that isn't my home anymore. Not our home." Her hand caressed his cheek and he jerked away, smacking at her hand and hissing. "Stop." The creeping ache he'd felt started to yield to irritation. "Don't touch me. I don't want you touching me." 


Er'anir frowned, snatching at his chin. "I will touch you as I please, Songbird." Her expression softened and she started smiling without smugness behind it. A sweet sight that Jorath realized he still missed. "I know how much you enjoy being touched. Your skin is still so soft, even after all these centuries between us." As the chill from her fingers settled into his skin, she continued. "Don't you want to go back home?" Jorath stared at the scars traveling down her face and neck. 


She kissed him just before he could formulate an answer, her free hand clutching at his jacket. Startled at first, the feeling didn't last long before yielding to confused and repulsive thoughts. For a moment, he ignored what felt like ice on his flesh, even as it traveled down from his face. His senses started to flood with an ocean and he jerked his head back, a breath wavering in and out. Home would be... Perhaps not impossible to return to. But damn well difficult. He started to pull Er'anir's hand away from his face, this time scowling at her. "I'd love to return home," he stated, warmth chasing away the chill as his temper began to rise. "But if I remember correctly--" He gripped her other wrist and tore his jacket free of her grasp. "You're the one who took it away from me."


His temples began to itch, a weight growing on his head and chains rattling as his hold on her wrist tightened. Er'anir tugged her arm, eyes widening as she couldn't get free. "Jay dear. You're starting to hurt me. I thought you've changed. Your scholar friend spoke the truth, didn't they?"


Jorath grinned, a jagged and cruel line. "They said I have the patience of a saint. They didn't say I was any less violent than before, lover mine." 


She slapped him across the face with her free hand, snarling at him. "You're still the same vial creature you were before. The same horrible beast that betrayed me when I trusted you wholeheartedly!" Er'anir cried out from Jorath slamming her back into the wall, bracing his forearm against her throat and hoisting her up off the ground. 


"Yes... I betrayed a traitor. The monster turned against the creator when she forgot to make sure its chains were all secured." Jorath's skin was tight, his bones aching. Grabbing the broken spike from his pocket, he drove the tip into the brick beside her face. 


She flinched. "Songbird. Jay. There are witnesses nearby. Humans. You wouldn't want to lose control here and cause unnecessary damage."


Jorath roared, grabbing her throat and scraping her back along the brick as he threw her. He approached as he watched her scurry to her feet. "Let them watch. I intend to be rid of you properly this time. I had toren you apart. When I'm through mincing every inch of your pathetic flesh, I'll hunt down the wretch that brought you back from the brink of death." A throb pulsed through his back and he removed his jacket. Skin peeled away, and spikes started to protrude through his shirt down his spine.


Er'anir fled and he gave chase, closing the small gap far too quickly, and grabbed the back of her dress shirt. Shoving her into the ground, his fingers morphed into claws and his jaw began stretching into a maw. "I will draw out every breath of agony from your lungs." Grasping one of her arms, he twisted and listened as bone snapped, pulling a shriek from Er'anir's throat. 


She writhed under him, trying to turn and look at his face. "Songbird, please--" She cried out from her elbow shattering.


"I warned you that I would make you regret everything!" A red haze crept into the edges of his vision. Claws raked down her face, nearly following the scars exactly.


Er'anir let out a single sob, visibly swallowing back or sputtering through any others. "Jay, listen to me. It wasn't my fault. It wasn't your fault either. It--"


"My fault! Of course it was my fault! You said it yourself: this is my very nature."


"No, no you don't understand! I didn't trick you! I did what I had to because I loved you and needed to protect you! They were the real traitors," she gasped out. "Everything I did..."


Jorath hesitated. In the wash of anger that boiled his blood and weighed him with chains, he paused for a moment longer. The links dangling from the shackle on his wrist scraped against the concrete as he moved his hand away. "What?"


Through the blood on her face, she gave him the ghost of a smile, reaching up to touch the bone of his cheek. "They were going to do what they did to you with or without me. I thought I could protect you from some of it if I took control. I made a promise to care for you when you first woke up as a demon, and I meant to stay by that. But then you turned on me, tried to kill me.


"We always had our rough patches," she went on. "I never faulted you for your temper. I forgive all of your violent outbursts. You were a new demon, unaware of your power. You're still unaware of everything that you can do. Imagine what could happen if you didn't give up pieces of your Realm, if you nurtured it instead. I can continue to teach you."


Jorath was starting to feel ill. His stomach churned. The heat of his rage weakened and cold bled back in. He shook his head, dislodging Er'anir's touch. 


"Look at you, Jay. All torn and breaking apart. Wouldn't you like to have those chains finally removed?"


Frozen. He was frozen where he crouched above her, warmth completely gone. Her hand was against his throat, simply resting as if she might be feeling for a heartbeat. "I--"


"Hasn't it been long enough?" Er'anir questioned. "Don't you think you've suffered those chains--" 


A blur of motion occurred at the corner of his eye and Er'anir shrieked, clutching at her shoulder and hissing out... Something. It wasn't a coherent language. Black ikaar, like ink, dripped between her fingers and then Fi'Faltuun was in his face. Insistent. 


Jorath scrambled backwards. Awkward to do when his legs were mid-morph and not up to the task of bearing his weight.


Er'anir continued trying to speak, a mixture of Common and Oldspeak that had no sensical order. She attempted to claw at him but he grabbed her and tossed her aside, stumbling towards the spike he'd left embedded in the wall. As soon as the jagged edges cut into his palm, heat began returning to his flesh. With a grunt, he pulled the fragment free and then threw it at Er'anir. It pierced through the right side of her chest and she cried out.


He fled from the confined street, staggering and colliding against the walls or trashcan until his body decided to finish its morph into something only vaguely human and mostly beastial. Jorath swept his blue gaze towards Fi'Faltuun, the feather guiding him towards Vaz. He didn't want to be seen in the streets as thus, running on all fours, so he veered to the side and started scaling the closest building. 


Jorath's anger reclaimed its foothold in his thoughts, sweeping aside the internal conflict he would have to face later. 

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Vaz felt a sickening churn in their core as they heard Joreth’s footsteps fading away and felt their connection with Fi’Faltuun wane. They should have followed. Or perhaps they should have lived up to their damn reputation and actually have found a way to talk the two of them out of the situation. Vaz went pale. They had been too irrational. Too flawed in their decision. And now Jorath was paying for their failure.

 

You are a creature of habit Veritas. You fail. You fall. And you do it again, and again, and again.

 

The Voice wasn’t nearly as intense as the earlier thunder that had rolled through their mind, but it still sent a tremor through their corporeal form and almost brought them to their knees again. Vaz winced as their hands clenched around the halo, defying the instinct to throw it aside or split it off into its usual components once more. It had to be the halo. That was the conduit. If they could just get The Voice to shut up for a minute they could figure out where Takut had gone and-

 

A piercing force slammed into Vaz’s side, knocking the wind back out of them and sending them into a skid across the ground. Vaz cried out as the flesh along their forehead and two of their wings scrapped against the rough texture of the road, leaving a glistening smear of ikaar behind and the scent of charcoal in the air. Takut cackled gleefully into their ears as she dug her claws further into the wound at Vaz’s side, far more confident in confronting the scribe directly now that Jorath was out of the way. Vaz gritted their teeth and rolled with her momentum, unable to shake her off entirely but disorientating her enough to get a swipe of their own in with the edge of their halo. Takut screeched as the halo came into contact with her skin and sent a searing pain through her arm, finally wrenching it away from Vaz’s abdomen. A shadowy tendril snaked out into view from beneath the hem of Vaz’s coat and quickly coiled itself around the same arm, wrenching it back until Vaz was finally able to break free from her grasp with a well-timed knee to the gut. The two demons split apart and scrambled to their feet, nursings their respective injuries as they snarled and hissed in their native tongues at each other. Takut was first to venture back into a language they both shared, even daring to sound cordial after her attempts to disembowel the other demon seconds earlier.

 

“Do you think he’s fond of you, Vaz?”

Vaz responded with only a gurgling cough, spitting bits of ikaar onto the folds of their scarf. They shook their head, weakly. 

“I hope he is. If you heard some of Er’anir’s tales...Hm. Yes. I think that could be the worst pain I could wish on you, Vaz.”

Vaz lunged, propelling themself forward at an inhuman speed with a few flaps of their monstrous wingspan. Er’anir gasped as the halo slammed into her gut, now pinned against the wall of the buildings behind her. Vaz began to chant under their breath in that same, melodic language that had slipped out of them earlier on. The fear demon writhed about and began to shriek in reply.

 

Vaz’s corporeal form waved from the exertion, cracks forming along the skin from which smoke and ink started to ooze. The eyes along their wings started to shift in position and morph in size, some glowing brighter while others dimmed and faded out of view. They also began to trail further down their feathery limbs, tracing around the cracks in their skin and starting to settle in places like the back of their hand and as a second, smaller set beneath the usual amber set that Vaz could be found with. Golden flames began to engulf Takut, and with a final howl from the both of them she and the flames then vanished abruptly from view. 

 

Vaz collapsed as the fear demon’s aura faded into the air, nausea swirling in their core. They didn’t have the energy for a proper banishment, but they were confident that it would be a few hours at least before Takut was able to shake off enough of their influence to make her return. With a bit of luck it could even take a few days, depending on whether Vaz had mustered up enough power to send her to the vast, winding labyrinth of their realm.

 

I should have saved that for Er’anir.

 

Vaz shakily rose to their feet and tried to stagger down the street, but they only managed to pass a few more buildings before they had to stop. Vaz rested their hand against the nearby brick wall, pausing for breath, only to end up slumping against it with a heavy thud moments later. The demon made a feeble attempt to stand again, but the best they could manage was to pry themself off of the wall long enough to turn their back to it before they bumped into it once more. Shoulders ached as Vaz slid back down to the ground, their monstrous wings flared and stretched out against the cool brick behind them. Slowly they shifted their fingers to the wound in their side and winced, before gingerly resting their halo over it and sighing to themself.

 

The scribe closed their eyes, all of them, and plunged their senses into darkness. They could no longer feel the faint connection with Fi’Faltuun, but Vaz called out to her all the same in the hopes that she would and Jorath would soon answer.

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Jorath

 

He was still too enraged to pull his skin back into place. For a moment, he started to turn around and head back for Er'anir. To finish what he started as he said he would. Yet there was something else that coaxed him to keep following Fi'Faltuun. In the haze that narrowed his vision and dampened his thoughts until he was not much more than fury and hunting instinct, he struggled to identify what fueled his hurry. Where is your pride? You're no better than the savage, mindless creatures that roam the world unless you have your pride. His legs tangled and he tumbled when the thought laced through his head. Jorath snarled at the air around him, attempting to slip his claws between his flesh and the chains that were adhered to it. As he pulled, he let out a roar against the pain that flooded his nerves. All he succeeded in doing was clawing up his skin and decorating the rooftop with blood spatter. 

 

Too enraged. 

 

Despite Fi'Faltuun flurrying about his head, urging for him to keep moving, Jorath restrained himself to pacing. At a couple points, he growled and swiped at the frustrating quill. Oldspeak ground out from his maw, guttural and incomplete--as if he couldn't get himself to form full sentences. Are you Pride or Wrath? Which is it?

 

Both. Neither. He was something else; he could sense it hovering over him like a shadow. But he couldn't identify what it was. Just knew that it was there, simmering and waiting for realization.

 

Are you like this because your pride has been insulted?

 

No. Because I'm shaken to my core.

 

Jorath stopped pacing, staring at the asphalt between his clawed hands. Anger was always easier than fear but he thought he had sorted it out well enough to let his fear breathe as it needed to. Perhaps he had been lying to himself in that regard. He remembered Argia's words. She'd been right, hadn't she? And he acknowledged that at the time. Didn't he? His rage never went away. It wasn't just anger, though. It was agony. A low groan escaped his maw before it turned into a huff. Damn him and his human origins. Damn the lingering tendrils of humanity he desperately tried to cling to.

 

Staggering to his feet, he stumbled to the edge of the rooftop and look upon the street again, eying the humans that milled below without noticing him. Fi'Faltuun seemed to have all but given up in trying to coax him onward, circling around his head or shoulders once it was clear he wouldn't swipe at her again. Through the fabric of his jeans, he could feel the silver chain at his hip emitting heat. He jerked his head to the side as bone shifted and returned his face into something a little more human. Jorath still needed time to grapple with the rest of his proportions but he couldn't afford it. He needed to get to Vaz, now.

 

Even if it meant Vaz would see more than he was truly comfortable with. 

 

Running on two legs instead of four was at least manageable this time, but he still stuck to staying out of sight as best he could. When Fi'Faltuun guided him to where Vaz huddled, Jorath carefully climbed down. He landed on the ground with as little sound as possible. The scribe wasn't in the best state from what he could study. "Vaz--" Jorath breathed, Oldspeak overriding his intention to just speak Common. Lowering himself to his knees and shifting closer to the other demon, Jorath didn't know if he should touch Vaz to get their attention. He didn't even know where he could safely touch them as closed eyes and cracks decorated their form. 

 

Taking a deep breath, he reached forward to gently grasp their arm, intending to lift their hand away from their side. He could smell the charcle of their blood and wanted a look at their injuries. "I shouldn't have taken so long," he said in Oldspeak, still unable to translate to Common. "You were right; we're both eyesores in our current state."

Edited by ValidEmotions

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Vaz remained quiet as they waited, save for the occasional cough as their system ejected little bits of foreign, infernal ikaar mixed in with their own. On the third cough they pawed weakly at their scarf until they were able to untangle it from their chin and neck and held it up for inspection, eventually deciding it was ruined and discarding it to the side with a huff. Their mind began to do that thing where it would switch itself off for a moment, only for Vaz to startle themselves back into consciousness shortly after. It was an entirely unpleasant sensation, something that Vaz associated only with a dangerous level of exhaustion or suffering. During one such moment, something touched their arm and began speaking to them in a not-unfamiliar voice. Vaz woke with a start, jerking away from the sensation and instinctively lobbing their halo at the hulking beast that had suddenly appeared before them. Fortunately for Jorath, Vaz had lost track of which eyes were currently looking at him, so the fractured device only ended up uselessly skidding across the ground away from the both of them with a sharp, metallic twang.

 

Vaz coiled their wings forward to form a barrier between them and the beast. The golden orbs upon the wings danced in an erratic, almost hypnotic manner around the cracks along their flesh, trying to disorientate their new threat until the scribe’s mind has properly registered what was being said to them. The eyes paused. The wings shifted gradually, until one of Vaz’s usual set of amber eyes peeked meekly into view beneath the feathers. It studied the arrival warily, scrutinising their expression and tone to their voice.

 

Contradictory handwriting. Jumbled letterforms, sometimes they flow together in beautiful cohesion and sometimes they split apart into a dishevelled, uneven mess. Free-form and vibrant prose, but...

 

Eyes trailed along the new arrival’s back, taking in the sight of all the chains that gouged into their flesh and the shackles that joined them.

 

...the prose is restrained by lined parchment. Silver ink. Most of the time.

 

He looked less like an eyesore and more just plain terrifying to a freshly-wounded fallen, but now that he was a mere few inches away from them Vaz could tell from his aura that he was indeed Jorath. Vaz slowly folded the feathered barrier out of the way and pinched a hand across the bridge of their nose.

“My apologies. Thought you were a hound. Do not touch the halo. Might burn.”

Mumbled Vaz in Oldspeak, holding their hand out towards the halo and making a beckoning motion. It took several attempts at chanting the words ‘veni ad me’ at it, but eventually the halo rolled itself back over to its owner and Vaz was able to clutch it against their side again. Vaz closed their eyes once more and let the back of their head thump lightly against the brick behind them. They started to reign in the golden orbs, dismissing them one by one until Vaz had returned to just the usual pair of eyes. They couldn’t do much about the cracks in their skin, though some of the bleeding was at least starting to die down.

 

“Just need a few minutes. Not sure I can stand yet.”

 

Fi’Faltuun whisked into view and hovered above the wound, dancing about it in a frustrated manner as though she could somehow intimidate it into healing faster. Vaz gently grabbed her out of the air with their other hand, cradling her against the warmer collar of their jacket. Fi was shaking, and she was silent. Vaz could sense the ikaar staining the tip of the quill, her aura faintly tainted by Er’anir’s own. Vaz scowled, whispering a word or two of comfort before regarding Jorath once more.

“Takut should be out of our hair for a while. I hope you can claim a similar, more permanent victory for your own encounter.”

 

Despite the very real possibility that they were still under threat, not to mention the question of whether Jorath’s morphing anatomy even allowed for it right now, Vaz patted the ground beside them and twitched their head in a silent request for Jorath to sit beside them.

“You should rest too. After all that.”

Anger flickered across Vaz’s features as some of their earlier dialogue started to play in their head once more. Their hand drifted from their halo so it could clutch at the wrist of the other one still curled up to their chest. Briefly they glanced down at Fi, but she continued to just silently tremble away.

 

“...Is there anything you would like to talk about while we wait, Jorath?”

Edited by Lycanious

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Jorath

 

Moving his hand away when Vaz started, his gaze followed the halo as it slid and spun some feet away. Whoops. Jorath hadn't realized they would have such a reaction to his appearance, the multitude of eyes becoming dizzying to look at as wings curled up and protectively around Vaz. Gradually, though, they peered at him through the shield of feathers and started to unfold themself. He shook his head at their apology. Jorath understood what happened. "It's not like I make a habit of choosing this style to dress in." He tried for a crooked grin, failing part way. 

 

Staring at the ground beside Vaz, he wanted to ignore Fi'Faltuun's trembling feather and to pretend like he hadn't quite heard their almost-inquiry. A groan made its way free as he shifted slightly towards the offered space and opted to lay down on his side instead of sit. Because he didn't want to show his back to Vaz, it left Jorath exposed to witnessing the anger in their face. A humorless laugh came up. "If I could, I would have spoken a long time ago, Vazithrazuul..." He gave it a less dismissive though, however, gaze focusing on one of the feathers closest to him. Maybe there was something he could share within his limitations. After all, locking everything away from Vaz's knowledge only resulted in the scribe getting hurt. "No, I couldn't kill her this time. I wanted to and I almost did. However--" 

 

Jorath grimaced as he repositioned himself so the silver chain at his hip no longer dug into his thigh. "Everyone has their secrets. Only some get to choose them." There was a sting in his throat, but not a choking constriction. That was good. "A siren sings and she has much to weave like a storyteller. A fog causes sailors to lose their way, leaving them unable to escape the ruin ahead of them." Briefly, he felt ridiculous and was certain he wasn't making any sort of sense. He cleared his throat. "Much of Er'anir's ability is limited to an individual's voice. The more someone speaks, the stronger her weapon. She's... made bargains at various times to gain additional kinds of power, but they're always temporary. She... I was human and she was a demon named Thrayliz when we first crossed paths. She undergoes a change every once in awhile, sort of like a molt for a bird. Sometimes it changes her entire identity. Er'anir cau--" He sucked in a breath and growled, hand instinctively touching the shackle at his neck when the metal glowed with intense heat. 

 

"A tale has its characters. The hero, the villain. The ally. The trickster who misguides. Who is the main villain though? You never know at the start. You perceive it to be the farmer who beats his horse or the child who bullies the hero. Or perhaps the hero and the villain are allies who split ways." At some point in his partially sensical way of speaking, Jorath switched to Common speech. His rage was starting to subside, edging into something a bit more forlorn. Jorath's body ached and he grunted, shifting his position yet again to try and get more comfortable. The chains and shackles from his wrists rattled and faded until they were gone from sight. "Most times, you follow the perspective of the hero. In others, you discover you are following the villain. But what if a tale has two villains and no hero? Who do you follow comfortably?" 

 

Be careful... He needed to make sure he kept his thoughts aimless. I'm tired; I'm not making much sense. Still, he was on a precarious line. Again, briefly, he felt his throat constrict with the shift in his focus. "Birds that sing are called songbirds, yet not every songbird actually sings. We just call them thus because someone thinks they sound lovely. I hate the taste of copper. Can't get rid of it. Solid or liquid alike. She calls me 'songbird' for my voice, not for the music I create." 

 

His ears became offended at the sound of his claws gouging concrete. "How can one sing about violence? Do they glorify it or lament it? What if it's neither, only regret? And who shall do the singing when two desire to participate?" At last, Jorath glanced up at Vaz's face, a mirthless chuckle escaping. "You must think me mad, so disorganized. Why oh why can't Jay get s*** right? I can't even read or write." He frowned and tried grasping at the shackle at his throat. The best he could do was gouge his own flesh, leaving red to stain his skin and the remnants of his shirt. He scowled, redirecting his gaze again to study the feathers of Vaz's wings. 

 

"How is Fi'Faltuun?"

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“...Fi says if you swipe at her again, she will make a permanent residence out of one of your nostrils.”

Announced the demon, opening their palm so that the quill could be free. Fi’Faltuun began to drift back over to Jorath, but she made a show of wiping off the blood on her hilt onto his shirt and displaying the pointed tip to him before she tucked herself back behind his ear.

 

Vaz’s mind moved next to what had been said about his inability to read and write, and the ancient scribe gave him a puzzled look. As a being whose entire, infinite lifespan had always revolved around binding precious words to paper and then reciting them with ease, Vaz was struggling to understand Jorath’s situation. They soon replaced the look with a more mournful one, one that seemed to eat away at them even more than whenever they starred at the chains on his horns or the ripped remains of wings on his back for too long. They wondered what further damage had been done to him to have lost such a vital skill.

 

“Believe it or not dear, for me this is perhaps the most comprehensible you’ve ever been.”

Vaz sighed, pulling themself away from the discovery of Jorath’s literacy skills and finally to the story he had tried to weave for them. They lingered in silence for a moment longer, analysing all of what Jorath had said. Ink-stained fingers meanwhile reached out towards him, idle, until they brushed against the hand that was trying to wrench at the shackle around his throat and gently tried to coax it away before he tore up more of his flesh.

 

“I...try not to think in terms of heroes and villains my dear. I’ve played my hand in just about every iteration of the concept, depending on whose telling the story. One starts to find that such labels are superficial. Like titles.”

Vaz began. They pressed the back of their head against the cool brick behind them, their eyes tracing out distant memories in the clouds that swirled above them.

 

“I have noticed that mortals have this obsession with their destiny...about how they’re designated a role in their life that they will inevitably follow. They like to say things like ‘it was the will of the Gods’ or ‘The devil possessed me’, squandering their gift of free will in favour of putting themselves into these small, small boxes with labels and saying that is what I am meant to do and that is what I will always be because of it.”

 

Vaz lowered their gaze, distracted momentarily by the wound in their side and lifting their halo so they could assess the damage. The bleeding had reduced, wisps of smoke and Takut’s ikaar now emitting from it as their human form slowly knitted itself back together. The demon shifted, bringing the halo away from their side so they could twirl it idly in their hands.

 

“They don’t understand that their labels...their ‘truths’ are malleable my dear. Truth is...fluid, like water. It morphs and it changes as it flows between its sources. Sometimes the irredeemable become the redeemed, and sometimes heroes you always thought would stand the tests of time forever, fall from their grace.”

Vaz held up their halo and split it apart with a soft ‘click’, a neutral expression about their face as they starred down at the two larger pieces in their hands. The shadowy tendril that masqueraded as their tail coiled back into view, snatching the smaller piece out of the air mid-fall and whisking away as quickly as it had appeared. Vaz tilted their head, slowly proceeding to fasten their horns back into place as they continued.

 

“My point, L’antiira, is that just because you feel like something is true about yourself doesn’t mean it will always be. Even if every fibre of your being feels as if it is built upon it, things can change. You may find that those ‘villains’ who sing such songs of violence are just...beings. Ready to trip, fall, and then get back up again in an indefinite, non-linear cycle.” 

Vaz closed their eyes again, threatening to slip back out of consciousness for a second or two before they twitched back into alertness.

“Ah...my apologies. I think this disorganised madness is catching on. I’m probably not making much sense either am I?”

Vaz moved, gingerly starting to hoist themself into a more upright position against the wall.

“I think I can manage an assisted hobble now, if you don’t mind getting ink all over yourself. Perhaps we should continue such conversations in a place where we can properly rest at ease.”

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That got a real laugh to beat past his lips. "I promise, it won't happen again. Besides, she's too fast; I'd look like a fool trying to chase after her." Jorath followed the quill's movements as she used his shirt like a towel, threatening him in the next heartbeat. He shouldn't have but he grinned anyways, tilted and trapping a snicker behind his teeth as best it could. Strangely, it felt reassuring to feel the quill against the side of his head despite how new the sensation was. The realization of having left his jacket behind caused him to inwardly lament the loss of Fi'Faltuun's journal. Hopefully she didn't write anything in it that she wanted to keep or remember for later. Hopefully she could recall all of it to place upon new paper. 

 

At Vaz's touch upon his hand, Jorath immediately pulled away, his skin crawling with the anticipation of ice. Regardless, the reaction worked in Vaz's favor and he registered a moment after what the intention had been. He swallowed down the lump that wanted to form in his throat. He listened to their insight, grunting faintly in response to mention of devil possession. That one was, admittedly, a little close and Jorath was too embarrassed--perhaps ashamed--to mention anything about it. Instead, he focused on the bit after it, frowning faintly. "Change? That's something I've been attempting to do but, last I checked, you were encouraging me to feed as I ought because humans are just vile creatures anyways. So, either everyone has an innate nature they cannot escape or do they not?" Jorath didn't mean it as a snide jab, but he felt himself beginning to bristle. He shook his head and ran a hand down his face, feeling his jaw throb as the bone finished rearranging itself and returned to normal.

 

Jorath stuffed down the frustration that wanted to reignite, focusing only on pulling his skin back together and confining everything else again. "I fed upon a woman earlier. All she was doing was trying to help me, like she'd been helping everyone else that came to her door. Lured her in and gave her a false sense of security. Tell me, what sort of wickedness did she possess?" No, no. Stop. That wasn't Vaz's fault. It was his. His eyes glazed over and he murmured, "Thrixna wezlu, nannatuwa." In the same instance, he unraveled the chain at his hip and brought it to his left arm. Almost as if on its own, the chain wrapped tightly above his elbow, glowing faintly and briefly before becoming a steady source of heat. 

 

He jerked himself onto his feet abruptly and staggered as he reached for his back. The spires that traced his spine quivered and rattled as they began to sink back out of sight, piercing his senses with the pain of it. Perhaps the part he hated most about returning to his human guise. Jorath still had yet to determine if he preferred it to happen first or last. It didn't matter anyways as it was mostly random what order anything changed in. In the midst of the convulsion, his back collided with the wall opposite Vaz and shards of bone broke away from the impact. It almost broke the horns protruding from his head but they survived without much damage, scraping the brick instead. "F***," he gasped, collapsing to his hands and knees. A whispered oath started to float from his lips, nearly automatic, before memory of Vaz's vicinity returned and his neck burned from the shackle anew. The words cut off and he switched to cussing in a mixture of dialects that grit out between his teeth. He refused to scream. 

 

When the searing heat faded, leaving behind only a distant ache, Jorath reached up to touch his neck. The shackle was still there. The fact of it furrowed his brow with confusion. It should have been out of sight by now. Why wasn't it gone yet? The chain links on the shackle that had remained after he broke them, all those years ago, clinked slightly with his movement. But, as he found his feet again to stand, he felt them fade from his touch. A cough and a jagged breath in followed. As if he was no longer being choked and could finally take a full breath again. 

 

Running a hand through his hair, Jorath recollected his thoughts and shook his head. He was a mess and Vaz's worry was if Jorath would mind a little ink on him? "You're on the verge of passing out, Vaz. I think there are more pressing concerns than whether or not I'll be able to get stains out of my clothes. The shirt isn't salvageable anyways." He started rubbing the back of his neck, willing tension to leave in largely the same manner as he pushed down his earlier anger. "It'll be better to carry you, if you're set on moving from here. Think you can tuck your wings close enough to your back? Don't worry--I won't be throwing you over my shoulder." 

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“I said their truths were malleable. That doesn’t necessarily mean that any of them try to change.”

Snapped Vaz in response. Feathers bristled as Jorath pointed out the hypocrisies in their actions and their words, and Vaz began to withdraw themself back into the protective barrier they had formed with their wings when Jorath had first arrived. Though they had spoken of mortals, Vaz’s philosophy was still born from the mind of an immortal being that surrounded themself with other immortal beings on a daily basis. Humans were capable of change, of course, but their lifespans were so fleeting that Vaz rarely observed one that could manage it on any meaningful level of their existence.

 

That had always been the problem with humans. They could change but so, so many of them just didn’t and they didn’t care who they dragged down with them because of it.

 

Vaz realised they were quivering beneath the winged barrier, and clenched one of their fists until they were able to shift the trembling motion into it instead. Their mind tuned back in to Jorath’s words, and they peered at him through the gaps in their feathers for a moment before their gaze drifted to the floor. They didn’t have an answer for the woman he had fed upon. Well, not one that Jorath would have wanted to hear at least.

 

Jorath flinched violently upright and Vaz was pulled from their contemplations in favour of being concerned for their suddenly writhing companion. They hesitated to reach back out towards him, remembering the reaction to when they had tried to stop him clawing at the shackle. Instead the ancient scribe just watched on in a mixture of horror and pity, and when his back collided with the wall opposite of them and broke off some bone shards Vaz clamped their hands over their mouth and winced.

 

The fellow demon collapsed, and Vaz leaned forward anxiously to get a better view of the expression on his face. They didn’t know what was being said, but judging from the sprinkling of Oldspeak that was woven into it, it was probably all just a long string of profanity.

“Oh Jorath...”

Was apparently all Vaz could muster up after that display, said in a quiet whisper that was wrought with sympathy for him. They were tempted to crawl over and reach out for him again, so they crossed their arms over their chest to keep them in place and avoid distressing him further with their clammy touch. Eventually, the man seemed to settle down on his own, and returned to a form that Vaz was far more used to.

 

“No...no I might be able to manage on my own if- oh dear.”

Vaz had tried to get to their feet again in protest at not being able to walk themselves away, but after another round of nausea and a coughing fit that expelled more ikaar they decided that yes, perhaps it was best if they could avoid standing for now. The ancient scribe looked over at their wings. For a moment they attempted to sheathe them once more, but that only resulted in knocking themself out for a few more seconds from the strain of it. Vaz groaned as they fluttered back into consciousness, settling on just clamping them tightly against their back as well as they could.

“Afraid that’s the best I can do right now. But I can rest my weight on them, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

They grumbled, already feeling a little embarrassed as they awaited to be scooped up by someone who had clearly been in far worse pain and misery mere seconds ago. The scribe exhaled, trying to disperse the feeling and focus on something more light-hearted.

“Hm. Shame. And it was one of your least aggravating choices of shirt too.”

Sighed Vaz, reaching for their mangled scarf on the ground and showing it to Jorath in a display of empathy.

“...I could show you how to patch it up later perhaps, if you’re particularly attached to it?”

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He could hear the pity, even caught a glimpse of it when his gaze focused on Vaz's features before they were rearranged. It wasn't a good feeling to him, to be pitied. He closed it away though, focusing on other things. Jorath watched as Vaz made an attempt to stand, inching forward when it was apparent they couldn't get their feet to remain under them. When they returned to a seated position on the ground, he glanced at the shards of bone littering the ground. Out of the handful, he knelt down to scoop up a pair and stash them into his pockets. Jorath didn't quite know what to do with the remaining few. He didn't want to leave them here but he also wasn't inclined to keep all of them. There wasn't exactly a trashcan nearby. He sighed and stuffed what he could into his pockets. The one remaining he wedged into the chain wrapped around his arm. Not exactly comfortable but he would make due. Maybe he'll get some sort of sheathe after all this was done.

 

Returning his gaze to Vaz, he watched and crouched before them while they turned their attention to their wings. "S***." Vaz seemed to faint, their body listing to one side before they startled themselves back into consciousness. "It's okay, don't worry." He lightly touched their shoulder, waiting for them to finish their self-assessment before shifting closer. He hummed faintly as Vaz lamented about his shirt, gingerly gathering them up off the ground. Jorath was careful to bring his arm downward against their wings, trying not to crimp or otherwise ruffle the feathers in other directions. He spoke as he coaxed Vaz's arm around his shoulders before hooking their knees. "I'll, uh... think on that. I wouldn't say I'm attached to it, but I might be interested in your earlier offer of showing me how to sew better." Jorath didn't want to admit that the shirt wasn't originally his. 

 

Vaz was significantly lighter than he'd expected for an individual their height. However, despite his surprise, it also made sense. Almost like a bird. Jorath eyed the scarf that Vaz had been so fond of wearing. That was the real fashion travesty of the evening, he supposed. "What's that scarf made from? Maybe we can find a cleaning service or something to restore it." He realized he was grasping at random for something to focus on. It was either that or try to sort out the strangeness of having Vaz against him. Jorath frowned slightly; his skin still prickled from Er'anir's lingering touch. No matter that the chill had been chased away. Maybe carrying Vaz wasn't as comfortable an idea as he'd originally believed it would be. He refused to back out from it now, though, since he was already starting to walk. 

 

Jorath focused on keeping them out of sight from the main roads, not wanting to expose Vaz's vulnerability if he could avoid it. Eventually, "I failed to ask... How's your side doing? What exactly happened to bring you so close to collapsing?" His gaze shifted to land upon the scribe's. They only had their ordinary amber eyes currently, but Jorath wondered about the plethora he'd seen earlier. He was, he found, curious about what Vaz looked like beneath their human guise. He refrained from inquiring about it though. "I already told Fi but, I owe you--both of you." Jorath wasn't quite certain how to phrase it now that he was revisiting the sentiment. 

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Vaz hissed through their teeth a little as they were hoisted into the air, but otherwise allowed themself to be manipulated by the other demon without further protest. They still felt a bit ridiculous being carried about in such a manner, but at least Jorath hadn’t decided to just lug them over their shoulder and start walking. Vaz let their tired mind settle into a sort of dull fog, a semi-alert status that was mostly invested in appreciating the warmth surrounding them and a demon who could tolerate the close proximity while it lasted. They only nodded in response to the shirt comment, before slowly stirring themself from their contentment to properly listen to Jorath once more.

 

“Hm...no...no it was already falling apart. I think such a wash would just disintegrate it at this point, it’s older than this coat even. I’m due for a new one.”

Mused Vaz, though they still pouted down at the bloodied scarf in their hands. 

“Just erm. Feels a tad unpleasant not wearing it out in the open like this. Not as much as the wings, granted, but still. Unpleasant.”

They decided that the scarf would at least be useful for applying pressure to their wound as it’s final hurrah, so they folded it up and tucked it between themself and Jorath to hold it in place. 

 

“Hmph. The wound will heal, despite my foolishness. I lost sight of her as we were fleeing. Enough for her to pry her way into my mind for a few seconds and skewer me with her claws during the distraction.”

Vaz paused for a beat, the words of The Voice echoing faintly in the distance. Idly they reached up and rested their fingers on the surface of one of their horns. Lips pressed thin as they contemplated removing it once more, but soon after Vaz managed to convince themself that the sound was merely a memory and nothing more. They rested their free arm back over their chest, drumming their fingers against it in thought until a smirk signalled the end of their silence.

“I don’t think she realised my halo still has its charge. Took all the energy I had been building up from our encounter, but I used it to banished her. Hopefully to my own realm, she could be lost for weeks in there!”

Vaz started to cackle at the thought, the horns on their head beginning to melt back into their skull as their nerves calmed. Briefly their eyes locked onto Jorath’s as he looked over at them, now pensive.

“I should invite you by some day. It’s otherwise a rather lonely place most of the time. Especially when the quills are busy.”

 

He is not crafted for The Archives. He would be lost in seconds.

 

“Oh, he’ll be fine, Fi. We’d find him eventually-actually remind me my dear, how long can you go without food and drink again?”

Vaz frowned, utterly serious in their inquiry. Their thoughts drifted to what little information they had gathered about human nutrition and how much of Jorath’s anatomy was still affected by it. They almost missed his follow-up statement about his gratitude. A single eyebrow raised.

“Mm...yes. Well. Couldn’t very well leave you there now could I? I enjoy all these little encounters between us Jorath, I’d be most upset if they ceased.”

Fi twitched against Jorath’s ear, and Vaz cracked another grin, this one of a more scheming nature than the previous one.

“I’ll save my favour for a rainy day, perhaps. Fi could use another inkwell though. A nice gold one, to match her hilt.”

 

Edited by Lycanious

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Jorath wished he still had his jacket. It wasn't a scarf but it might have been able to help Vaz feel more comfortable. He decided to move on from that one, half-aware of what the scribe was doing with the ruins of their scarf. A slight rumble entered his voice when he spoke next. "You're not foolish. I could have waited for a better time to suggest splitting up." He missed Vaz's movement to touch their horn, only noticing their silence as it dragged out. Just as he started to believe they'd fallen unconscious, their voice graced the air again. Jorath grinned, a timid and bewildered expression. "I hadn't even realized you still had your halo. Quite a surprise, your display back there? I was prepared for you to draw out knives or some **** but a halo? And creatures under your control?" Jorath gave a huff of laughter, forcing down the discomfort the thought of Vaz taking control of who-knew-what-kind of creatures started to awaken. "Had I been in a better state, I would have thoroughly enjoyed the unexpected exchange. You definitely have a particular flair that's enjoyable to watch." 

 

"Your realm?" he mumbled. How Vaz spoke about it and responded to something Fi'Faltuun said gave Jorath the suspicion that this realm was a bit different from what was typically understood of realms in this world. At the more serious question from them, he took in a slow breath. "It depends on the cards dealt me and how I play them. As well as which 'food' you're referring to. Hypothetically, I can last several years without mortal food and only need water every once in awhile at minimum if... If I feed appropriately off of mortals themselves. In reality, on the best average, it's a handful of weeks for mortal food and water. My... other needs fluctuate too much because of circumstances I find myself in." It was the awful balancing act he had to participate in and, most times, he just blundered through it. 

 

Who would have thought you'd find yourself here, in this precarious dance, Jay? Where did you step so wrong? 

 

"A gold inkwell. I'll see what I can find. Does it actually need ink or just kept empty?" He knew Fi'Faltuun could write on her own but he never really understood where all the ink came from, how it all worked. Jorath caught Vaz's expression. He recognized it and he frowned, slightly, a bit of worry itching at his skin. "Maybe I should be concerned for my well-being... It's never good for whoever you're plotting against when you have that kind of grin. Are you certain you're not secretly a Hunter yourself? Or maybe you're a Trapper disguised as a simple Scribe." He wanted to eat his words as soon as they left his lips. Though he originally meant it in jest, his voice seemed to fade at the thought of that kind of treachery. His shoulders started to tense and hunch up involuntarily before he could grapple with the reaction and shake himself free of it. 

 

Glowering at the chain on his arm as it burned a little hotter, he turned his gaze forward again, keeping himself from witnessing any of Vaz's expressions. "Scribe. You burn with questions. Do you want to hear the answers, regardless if their truths go against your desires? Or do you want the answers that would be kindest to your ears?" Jorath scowled at something unseen. "What will you do once you know the truths that have remained buried for centuries? If truth is as malleable as you claim it to be, how do you reconcile the truth you interpret with the truth that was implied?"

 

Almost at random, he murmured, "Have you ever wondered what would occur if someone like Ditraxol was in something akin to Malvorin's position of power?"

Edited by ValidEmotions

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“I suppose I was a bit melodramatic back there, wasn’t I? But such behaviour does have its uses. One tends to either be believed or underestimated, both of which can sway handsomely in one’s favour.”

Vaz trembled with more mirth, and reached up to motion to something on their horns only to realise that they had sunken back out of sight. No matter. At least now it felt like there was one less element of themselves that was exposed.

“Hm...my halo is only a fraction of what it used to be, I’m afraid. There was a time I could have just said a word into the right ear and had them all crushed like ants but...Now it’s little more than a glorified discus with terrible reception.”

Jorath’s talk of summoning creatures puzzled them though, as Vaz hadn’t noticed anything of the sort during their display. Vaz could, in a better state of mind, conjure up things like parchment to write on and books to glean through. But the only living ‘creature’ they had any sway over was the quills, which were more-or-less autonomous. They decided to file that question away for now, dismissing it as another illusion on Takut’s behalf.

 

“Ah...Yes. I see. Good to know.”

Vaz chewed at their lip and glanced away, only just realising that Jorath’s typical sources of nourishment was likely not something he wanted to linger on right now. Although, really, when did Jorath ever want to linger on the manner in which he survived? 

“I...um...think I have some books that might...ease things?”

Offered Vaz, hesitantly, as their mind flipped through various files and pages and tried to recall what they had available. 

“Just um. Just little things though. Things you can do to extend your energy reserves. Perhaps you could borrow-Oh. Erm. Perhaps we could read through them together, later? I’ll even waver my usual fee as thanks for dragging my sorry self half-way across the city.”

 

Vaz wrinkled their brow as Jorath started to slip back into the odd, cryptic style of speech that Er’anir’s reppearance seemed to have inspired in him. It reminded Vaz far too much of their own attempts to dance around a subject manner. Their face fell, observing the sudden detachment in his voice and the tension in his shoulders that seemed to ignite the illstrund on his arm. The sensation wasn’t nearly as painful as when Vaz had to bear it themself, but it was still an uncomfortably hot piece of metal that was currently pressed up against their wing. It forced them to shift about, trying to rearrange themselves into a position that was no longer in contact with it to little avail.

“I wasn’t...I wasn’t planning anything nefarious my dear. I don’t...I don’t think I’d make good on either of those roles, for starters. My ability to read auras is...flawed to say the least.”

 

Never trust a knowledge demon. They always think they know better then you.

 

 “...If you’re asking me whether I prefer the honest truth over something that will pain me less, I think you already know the answer to that Jorath.”

Sighed Vaz. There wasn’t much they could do right now, tangled up as they were, but slowly they reached over with their one free arm and patted it against his sternum. They weren’t sure if it was effective at all, or even all that comforting any more, but they hoped it somehow reached through to him all the same.

“Sometimes truths will hurt, Jorath. One can wallow in the agony and the misery of it all their life or...come to terms with it, learn from it, and only then can they begin to look to the future for ways to change it.”

Their hand hovered, before slowly coiling itself back against their own chest as Vaz dwelled on their own words. Perhaps offering advice was not a good idea in their current state, given that their attempts to calm and comfort the other demon seemed to just be riling them up in some way.

“I will listen. But it will be when you are ready.”

 

Vaz was confused by whether the question of Ditraxol and Malvorin was a change of topic or not.

“I...imagine you would get something akin to the oafish brute that currently sits upon the throne of Vengeance? Aggravating little pest. They’re just lucky that the rightful owner of that throne has standards.”

Vaz stewed for a moment with a very sour expression, before realising that they had rambled off into a tangent Jorath probably hadn’t been planning for and tried to roll back to his original inquiry.

“Sorry...yes. That would be an unfortunate combination. Why do you ask? Are you planning on confronting the both of them together?”

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[[I ended up really needing to get some sleep last night :'D Otherwise, I would have posted lol]]

 

Jorath was silent. It wasn't that he didn't know how to answer Vaz's question about confronting Ditraxol and Malvorin. He knew his answer to that. It had to do with his uncertainty about their advice and the idea that Vaz might have something--anything--that could delay a need Jorath resented having. In the brief moment they had touched his chest, his gaze had flickered down and, shortly after, Jorath's expression eased reluctantly into something a bit more tired. Finally, "I suppose I did know your answer. I didn't meant to doubt. I guess I just--" Jorath didn't know what he meant for to happen. He understood that Vaz was a speaker of truth and that they preferred truth in kind. But-- He shook his head, trying to dispel the whisper in his head. Vaz was not Er'anir. They couldn't be the same as Er'anir. 

 

They're not-- 

 

"No, I don't plan on going after Ditraxol and Malvorin at the same time. I might cause trouble on occasion but I do what I can to avoid starting anything I might not survive." He pursed his lips slightly before saying more. "Well, doesn't mean I don't get caught in such situations because someone else started it. Both of them, combined, are more than I can handle, admittedly. At least... with how I currently am. I'm sure if I--" Jorath clamped his mouth shut. Er'anir's 'what if' was in his head. Making a sound and clearing his throat, Jorath gave a strained smile. "I'm just asking a hypothetical, is all. Are you ever going to yield more insight about this Vengeance person? I am very curious about that "consort" title of yours." Now his expression turned a bit more genuine. "Although, you don't have to share if it's embarrassing or whatever." 

 

He stopped walking as he came to an intersection that didn't lead to another out-of-the-way street. And because he realized he'd forgotten to keep track of where Askee-ah's trail had been leading. Not wanting to admit that he was distracted, Jorath focused instead on how he was going to proceed. Both he and Vaz were visibly a mess and bound to attract some level of attention if he walked out into more populated areas. Granted, plenty of humans were already aware of the demon population. It wasn't the human attention he was concerned about though. There were more than enough demons who would happily jump at the chance of exploiting other demons during a state of vulnerability. He'd rather avoid such confrontations at this point but he'd do it if push came to shove. 

 

Still, Jorath tried to shift through his memories, attempting to recall who's territory they might be in. There were pockets of neutral spaces throughout the city but they were scattered and often small. Difficult to find if one didn't stay up-to-date on the changing domains. Jorath could do a little better at remaining informed, himself, in that respect. How long ago did they leave Takut's stretch of influence? Did Jorath even know how large her sphere was? Fear was very often a subtle thing. He made another little sound, growing frustrated with himself. He should have been paying better attention.

 

He focused on what his senses could tell him. Tired as he was, it was a strain to do and, whether fortunately or not, he couldn't find much. It still wasn't reassuring, most especially now after having encountered an entire group of demons who could shroud themselves. He felt too exposed because of it. "Have you recovered enough to conceal your wings? At least for a little bit until I can get us somewhere less noticeable?" he asked Vaz. With all of the Auris Domniir posters up and about, he didn't want misinformed humans to mistake Vaz for an angelic being--no matter that it was partly true.

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Vaz’s lips pulled tight as Jorath inquired about the Lord of Vengeance, despite the fact that they shouldn’t have been all that surprised that he latched onto their tangent. They glanced up at him, mulling over how much they wanted to share. A terrible element of Jorath’s past had just been agonisingly dragged out in front of a knowledge demon. A knowledge demon that, regardless of whether they wanted to or not, he probably knew would be forced to catalogue those details later on into The Compendium. They felt obliged to at least offer him a tale or two in kind.

 

“Well...no it’s not...it’s not embarrassing but...’Consort of Vengeance’ is one of my old, old titles my dear. It was born of rumours and gossip. A product of a rather dull century. The scandal of a Lord being tangled up in the affairs of a zuul of all things was just the sort of entertainment my associates were looking for. Regardless of its validity.”

Memories of drunken sea-shanties sung in old, fireplace-lit taverns graced their ears for a moment. Vaz sniffed, glancing away with a frown over at the path ahead of them in an attempt to look like they were scouting for trouble.

“Well. At any rate. Such speculation can become bothersome to deal with. Tiring. It started to get in the way of things like Contracts and claims to Thrones and...hm. It was just easier to start avoiding each other, I suppose.“

Vaz paused, pensive, after that. Eventually they rolled their head back over to look back at Jorath, a spark of mischief lurking somewhere beneath their bittersweet expression.

“I still use it as a title because I like to see the panic in the eyes of any clients that try to short-change me, only to be told that I have a rather personal relation with Vengeance. Remind them that I am unable to lie on top of things and it can be dreadfully entertaining.”

 

Though he hadn’t voiced the concern, Vaz’s attention also drifted to that of the territory they were in when Jorath came to a stop beside another Auris Domniir poster. Fortunately for Jorath, Vaz was far more diligent in keeping track of the various territories and spheres of influence that their kind was carving out of the city. Gingerly arching themselves back, it only took a moment of starring upside-down at the words ‘Hawthorne Ln’ written on the sign beside them and conferring with Fi’Faltuun before Vaz had some idea of whether they could start to relax.

 

“...I believe we’re in friendlier territory now, if you need to take a break my dear. Xaal’Razuul requests little of those who wander through her domain, but peace and quiet is one of them.”

 

Vaz then rolled one of their shoulders, muttering a string of curses under their breath as the wing it was connected to defied any attempt to sheath it. At least the attempt to do so wasn’t immediately rendering them unconscious any more, which the scribe took as a small victory.

“My apologies Jorath. I would conceal them if I could, but I think we’re stuck with them for a few more hours at least. Are they becoming uncomfortable? I imagine the texture is horrendous.”

The scholarly demon moved about to try and flatten down some of the more brittle, spikier areas of their wings where some of the feathers had been snapped in half. Fi watched from her perch behind Jorath’s ear, silently disapproving of the fidgeting. She twitched erratically when Vaz bent their arm back and started to pluck a few broken shards from where the base of their wing connected to their shoulders.

 

“So. You’re not planning on confronting the both of them. I find that a sound decision my dear.”

Continued Vaz, reminded of Jorath’s earlier statement as their long, black nails traced along the wing that Ditraxol had injured from earlier in search of more bits of feather to discard.

“But that still leaves the question of what, exactly, you do plan on doing. Granted I am vague on the rules of your realm, but it would be unwise to think that I missed the earlier comments about parts of it being in his possession. Should we be concerned by that?”

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Vaz's response wasn't something Jorath had expected. He didn't know how to react to their shifting expressions and apparent mood. "Oh, well, if you need someone at any point to tell this Vengeance persona--or anyone else for that matter--to back off the rumors and lay out what really happened, I don't mind being the intimidation." Jorath allowed himself a grin, revealing his teeth, without turning his features into a scowl but still sharp and hinting at violence. A moment after, the expression faded and he worked to maintain his hold of Vaz as they shifted to look at something. 

 

The slight sag to his shoulders was automatic and he noticed it a second after it occurred. "I'll be alright to keep moving." Regardless, it was tempting to linger when they had the chance to do so now. He couldn't guarantee a similar opportunity later until they'd reached Askee-ah's promised nest. Vaz started fidgeting with their wings, revealing to him that they couldn't conceal them yet. "No, no. It's alright. Your feathers are fine; I'm not bothered by them." He couldn't stop Vaz from picking at them with his arms occupied as thus to carry them. Jorath could feel Fi'Faltuun's aggravated motions against his head. "I only asked because of the posters this new Domniir group plastered everywhere. Some of them say something about capture and angelic beings. And it looks like there's money involved. I didn't want humans thinking--" He shook his head. He wasn't literate, but he was more than familiar with wanted posters, regardless of their design. All it took was recognizing a Commonspeak word or two--and the numbers made it easier. 

 

Jorath tried not to linger on the memories of images of faces he didn't know--but still recognized all the same. He dispelled the lingering ghosts. Perhaps taking that chance to rest would be a better idea after all. He had already lingered at the edge of the side street for some time. Vaz's question was a convenient enough switch--albeit an unwanted one--that gave Jorath the excuse he could use. With a sigh, he stepped back away from the main street a little ways. At the very least, he wanted to mostly be outside the notice of the general population. Slowly, he knelt down and set Vaz on the ground with their back against a building. Situating himself beside them, he heard the click of bone against concrete wall and leaned forward, running a hand through his hair. He didn't need to but he still brushed his hand against one horn, just to confirm what he already knew about its presence. 

 

"About that... I'm not certain. Usually, upon breach of a bargain, the piece either returns to me or is severed entirely." Jorath frowned, bringing his gaze down to his shirt and idly plucking at the tattered fabric. "I typically us--" His tongue froze in his mouth and the air seized in his throat. Too direct. A moment after, it was gone and he pinched the bridge of his nose. "A reluctant master inherits servants he did not ask for. What is he to do with them? The trick is that there is an unknown correct answer, but all the known ones seem just as right. The danger is discovering what the wrong choice is.

 

"I mean..." Jorath continued, eyes now tracing the imperfections on the wall opposite to him. "The core of my Realm is fed by something that's global. Just as you have your wealth of titles, I have... many names, that mortals refer me by. They depend upon it--me--far more than they realize because it can be as subtle as Fear. Hell, it's often tangled up with fear and gluttony and greed and pride. But also genuine hope and desperation. It's a messy amount of demonic political overlap that I hate dealing with.

 

"It can also be fickle as all ****, let me tell you." Jorath made a derisive sort of snort. "I still wonder how I became deserving of having Fi'Faltuun in my possession but I don't know how aware of the irony of the situation you are. 'Fortune' is in her name. Fortune, or maybe luck more specifically, is what mortals call out to me for. Maybe that's why none of my bargains with other demons seem to work out as desired; everything goes to the mortals in my Realm." 

 

Something about his last statement didn't sit as comfortably as it should have, as if there was a side of it he couldn't see. His silver chain warmed again and, reflexively, he slapped his hand over it. Jorath transitioned the motion into grasping the spike fragment and pulled it free, studying the surface and its not-quite-perfect edges. "Malvorin's the first one to retain a portion without severing it completely from me after a botched job. I don't know what that means for me or anyone around me. I don't know what it means for Malvorin since--" He paused on his next words, realizing he couldn't convey them as he wanted to. Too close to saying something he shouldn't be revealing. His bargains were private affairs. "Are rulers born with their power or is it their people who give that power to them? Kingdoms war for power, so what are treaties but a division of that power? Even if the division isn't equally spread." The chain gave him another warning, his throat tightening to a near unbearable degree. It made him cough and draw in a raspy breath.  

 

When the sensation subsided, he sighed involuntarily. "I doubt Malvorin can really do anything about it. It's still technically mine, but I can't make use of it until it returns--if it does. I suppose it all depends on whether Malvorin believes there's still a way to rectify it, so to speak." Turning the broken spike in his hand so that he could grasp it at both ends, he grit his teeth and snapped it in two. Oldspeak muttered out from his lips, a mess of dialects. Chastising himself. Jorath wasn't at all pleased with Malvorin's hold of the bargained portion. While he'd rather the piece be cut off thoroughly, too much of him also wanted it back. His chain burned against his arm in kind, and he swore he heard Er'anir whispering amongst his thoughts. Still in Oldspeak, he murmured, "A bird is greedy, wanting as much of the open sky to itself for its pleasures. Jays are the worst and nastiest sort about it." Abruptly, he stopped and gave a shuddering breath. A hand moved up to cover his eyes, blacking out everything so that Jorath could focus on the feeling of the ground beneath him and the wall behind him. And Vaz beside him. 

 

Eventually, after drawn out silence, Jorath whispered, "I will deal with Malvorin, starting with Ditraxol, on my own. You and Argia are tied up in my mess by mistake."

 

[[Whoops. I realized I had a spot of inconsistency regarding Jorath's illiteracy and him seeing the Domniir posters xD I'm so glad I had earlier mentioned he can read a couple words between Commonspeak and Oldspeak. Makes it a lot easier to patch over/fix lmao.]]

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“No, no, there’s no need for that my dear. I am saddened by our parting, not wrathful. He...he had a lot to lose, compared to myself. I don’t fault anyone for wanting to try and salvage that.”

Their expression warmed a little at Jorath’s claim, unintimidated by the menacing grin plastered over his face but appreciating the sentiment. It only faded to a more neutral, empty tone after they had looked away and had time to absorb Jorath’s reaction. Vaz found it troubling that Jorath instinctively assumed that there was something he needed to defend them from.

 

“Oh. Mm. That.

Was Vaz’s reply in regards to the posters. Jorath’s reassurance that the feathers weren’t bothering him seemed to fall on deaf ears, as Vaz continued to trace their hand over the arm of their wing as they spoke. At this point they seemed to have run out of broken feathers within reach, and Vaz was now starting to pick at the softer ones that were still fully intact.

“I find what typically happens my dear is that the well-informed will recognise my description and dismiss such reports. Those who somehow have skipped the memo on my wretched nature are ill-advised enough to be below my concern.”

 

Jorath moved to place them down, which forced Vaz to repress the urge to keep preening in favour of shuffling about the extra limbs to make room for him. Vaz fidgeted with their hands as they listened on, a glazed look in their eyes whenever the other demon spoke in riddles that they didn’t yet have the time to properly unravel. Realms were fascinating to learn about for the old scribe. Each one was a grand feast of new information, governed by rules and political situations that rendered each one unique. Jorath spoke of his realm as though there was a life still breathed into it, troubled and fractured as it sounded. Things lived in his realm. It sounded nice.

 

Conversation drifted to Malvorin’s plans and Vaz frowned, knitting their fingers together and bringing their hands up to their chin in deep thought.

“Hm. Malvorin doesn’t sound like the sort to hold onto territory for spite alone, surely that’s a waste of resources and focus, no? I suspect he’s planning to do something with it my dear, even if he has yet to find a satisfactory use for it. A power grab, perhaps? If I was him...yes I’d take a subtle approach. Leech off the world like a parasite, injecting little bits of one’s influence here and there until-“

Vaz broke abruptly from their hypothetical plotting, realising that Jorath had been quiet for a while. Gaze shifted back towards him and they starred at the hand across his eyes. Vaz had seen humans do a similar thing when distressed, usually to hide the fluid that would leak out of their eyes, though the ancient scholar couldn’t tell from this angle if Jorath was doing it for the same reasons.

 

“Jorath...I realise my brawling skills are rather lacklustre when it comes to Ditraxol, but Malvorin and I are of the same domain. If he has the opportunity to do-so, he will confront you on the battlefield of your mind my dear, not physically. And...”

Vaz chewed at their lip, unsure of how to phrase things in a way that didn’t sound patronising.

“...I worry for you, if that should happen. Not because I think you a fool but...he will seep into any crack in your mind he can find and take delight in drawing things out as slow and as agonisingly as possible. You need to take someone with you at least. You need an anchor. Would it not be best to make it someone who knows his ways and-“

 

Vaz paused at that, as a flutter of white caught the corner of their eye. A single feather drifted down towards the ground beside them, twirling on a light breeze until Vaz plucked it from air. The demon looked up. The silhouette of a snowy owl perched on the rooftops above greeted them, her golden eyes silently observing the two of them. Vaz lifted their hand and twiddled their fingers in a half-wave at the bird. The owl squinted at the motion, before twitching her attention towards Jorath beside them. Vaz jabbed a thumb in his direction and shook their head, though it didn’t seem to dissuade the owl from glaring suspiciously at him all the same. Her attention seemed fixated on the bone fragment in his hand in particular.

“Just passing through my dear. Pax. Had a nasty run-in with one of your neighbours. I don’t suppose you’ve seen any velociraptors around here, have you?”

 

The owl responded with a slow, unhelpful blink, before spreading her wings and taking off over the rooftops just as silently as she had arrived.

 

“...I have no idea if that was a yes or a no. But we should be safe here, for a while.”

 

Vaz leaned back against the wall, lips pursed in thought as they stewed over their conversation and tried to remember what they had just been discussing. Fi’Faltuun twitched again, and a coy smile drifted across their features at her reminder.

“I’ll admit, I did do a bit of snooping around on you after our initial encounter. Had to find out more about the novice little pest that had charmed away one of my targets, you see. I found surprisingly little but...names like ‘Lady Luck’ and ‘Faltuun’ did pop up from a few recounts. I suppose they were on my mind when I was picking out a quill for you.”

Vaz rubbed at the bottom of their chin, curious.

“Why do you think I gave you my finest quill, Jorath?”

Edited by Lycanious
Remembering how basic grammar works.

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