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[Open] The Forsaken World

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He almost scowled at Vaz's advice of what he did or didn't need. It was a sharp impulse, wanting to put them back in their place because Jorath didn't need anyone to save--Shut up, shut up! He managed to keep his lips pressed together, only the barest twist of a grimace flashing in and out of sight. There was a difference between the words filling the space between them and those in his memories. And Vaz had a point about Malvorin. He'd learned that the demon kept himself like more of a looming presence over others instead of as some loud and busy challenger in everyone's faces. Jorath's bargain had even been made without Malvorin saying a word directly to him. The demon had been somewhere in the room, but a proxy had been his speaker. Jorath hated politics. 

 

Letting his hand fall away from his face, he caught a glimpse of Vaz studying him before they turned to a white feather that came from somewhere above. Following its path backwards, Jorath spotted the owl and puzzled over it when it started glaring at him. He blinked. Vaz seemed familiar with the animal, addressing it with not much of a response in return. He attempted to rearrange his shirt again, feeling a little less uncomfortable once the bird flew away. Safe, as Vaz put it. He was inclined to believe them, but he was as yet still very unfamiliar with whose territory they hunkered down in. Xaal'Razuul, Vaz had called her. Fallen Secrets... Odd that Vaz was the only Fallen Jorath knew and there was a second (supposedly, based upon her name) residing here in the city. Well, maybe not all that odd once he thought about it. While he got around in the city, Jorath had the habit of staying around the neutral parts or within the spheres of those he was working with at the time. 

 

"'Novice little pest'," Jorath repeated, scoffing at the descriptor Vaz used for him and allowing it to soften his expression with a crooked smile. "You really considered me green behind the ears back then? I must have had enough skills at least if I was able to pull a mark away from your silver-tongued grasp." The smile faded only a fraction at their question. "Truthfully... at first I thought you were mocking me for my illiteracy. After a few months, I started realizing that you genuinely just didn't know. But by then, I just didn't have the heart to tell you. Frankly, I've been embarrassed to say it." He turned his thoughts to the sensation of Fi'Faltuun tucked behind his ear. "Once I realized you hadn't been trying to mock me, I've been puzzling over what the real reason could be. So far, all I can devise is--" Jorath stopped himself from saying the first one that came to mind. Keeping the belief that Vaz was spying on him to himself, keeping it unvoiced, gave him enough of an excuse to wave it away as just delusion. Paranoia. 

 

"Maybe you intended for me to learn something from Fi'Faltuun or it was to encourage me to make written contracts instead of..." He made a sound and then motioned a hand, gesturing towards the chain on his arm as if it might express perfectly to Vaz was he was trying to phrase. “At one point, I thought it was because maybe you…” Now he trailed off because he didn’t know if he could finish the statement. He didn’t know how Vaz might react. 

 

Remember you’re still trusted my dear. Regardless of her words.

 

Jorath suddenly felt too ill. Rising to his feet, the bone fragments in his lap that he’d forgotten about clattered to the ground. Have you finally changed like you promised me you would? Yes. No. He didn’t know. He tried, again and again, but that didn’t really matter. Did it? The results were always the same. Jorath’s skin itched, though not from adrenaline. Still, he examined his hands and arms to make sure there was no silver coursing along them. 

 

He knew Vaz cared, to whatever degree Fallen beings and demons could care. But instead of it settling him, the idea only made bile rise to coat his throat and his body grow tense. The certainty warred with doubt and Jorath couldn’t sort out which was real. The feather relayed whatever she wanted to Vaz, was held bound to doing so. A good little plant for information.

 

I know who you truly are. I’m the only one who’ll ever understand, who’ll love you. “Truth is, I just don’t know why you gave me Fi'Faltuun,” Jorath mumbled under his breath, beginning to pace. No one else would look at you and find you worth saving. Just a violent beast scaring them away. “I could speculate for days and still be wrong.” You can’t trust them. He almost jerked at the sing-song thought, suppressing the snarl in his chest as he turned away from Vaz. 

 

Part of what made him feel sick was the pleasure tickling the back of his neck at being trusted as thus. It didn’t settle with the sense of certainty Jorath knew, yet conflicted with his doubt all the same. “Forget—“ He cleared his throat, coming to a halt and running both hands through his hair. “Forget I said anything about your quill. Doesn’t matter what I think. You gifted her over,“--he distinctly focused on saying ‘gifted’, willing himself to capture it—“and I intend on making sure she remains unharmed until the day you wish her back.” 

 

No one would ever trust you if they knew what I do about you—

 

He closed down on the fraying traces of thought, wiping away any expression that might betray him and letting detachment reassert itself. Frowning, he looked up and studied the dark clouds, letting it serve as a potential change in matter. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like he could use “a storm’s coming” as a viable excuse. “Is there anything else you’d like to poke at while we’re alone or would you rather we return to the company of others?” That wasn’t fair. Jorath knew that. He’d done his share of “poking” in return. But, for a moment, he couldn’t muster up the energy to be regretful. Aggravation had started to bubble up, pushing out the exhaustion and concern. 

 

Perhaps it was because he was so tired. It took away restraint and clear thought. He could apologize later when he felt more… human, after proper sleep. Human. No, of course Vaz didn’t actually care. Their distaste towards mortals was always easy to see in how they spoke about humans in the years he'd known them. He shouldn't have told them he'd been human once. Jorath hadn’t forgotten how Vaz withdrew their wings with a snap from his touch back in the privacy of his home. How they glared at him despite holding a first aid kit in his hands. 

 

No. Vaz didn’t care.

 

And Jorath sealed away any foolish hope to the contrary.

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Vaz shouldn’t have mentioned the quill.

 

The banter had started off well, so Vaz made the mistake of assuming that the two of them were finally drifting to more pleasant conversation. Vaz had paused for a moment, occupied with trying to find a way to quantify the eons of time they had been dooming the souls of mortals before Jorath came into the picture, and why that indeed made him seem like a mere fledgling at the time by comparison. Their silence extended when he suggested the gift had been one of mockery, genuine hurt flickering in their eyes that he had thought so little of them. Ridiculing Jorath over the written language that had been stolen from him was, to Vaz, the equivalent of taunting them over an inability to fly.

 

Overall though, they had taken too long to respond, and that had left room for Jorath to start running wild on his theories about why he held the quill in his possession. Amber eyes tracked his movements with a guarded expression as he began to pace, gradually darkening as the mind behind them registered more and more distress emanating from the man.

 

Stop it.

 

Vaz was trying. They were trying to listen, trying to record. They spent painstakingly long, long nights embedded in their research, sifting through facts and figures until the mysteries of the world around them finally started to unravel. They wanted to categorise and share those mysteries, they were made to share them. Vaz could whisper Jorath secrets that both Heaven and Hell would, and had, killed for. But they couldn’t solve the very basic, very simple problem of just knowing what the f*** to say to him right now. 

 

It’s his mind. No matter his appearance, somewhere deep, deep inside, there will always be a mind that is fundamentally human and damned in origin. 

 

The cold of the brick behind them seeped into their joints. Vaz could hear the aggravation boiling within the other demon and sense the contempt that was churning alongside of it.

 

And we all know how well your last attempt to salvage the souls of the damned went, don’t we Veritas?

 

The fallen scribe merely twitched at the words this time, their clasped hands preventing them from trying to gouge out part of their halo to silence them. Vaz had always been driven to advise, but the couldn’t prevent their flawed, imperfect self from overriding calm logic and reasoning in moments like the current one. They had chosen the wrong words. They had failed. And now Jorath was just upset with them instead of enlightened.

 

“No. I will cease with further inquiries.”

Mumbled the scribe, once Jorath had addressed them specifically. They rolled to the side and turned their back to Jorath, gingerly beginning to ease themself back onto their feet by using the wall as support.

 

Moving their hand away from the wound to steady themself released a plume of smoke into the air and dripped ikaar onto the pavement beneath them. An abyss of murky, viscous substances and golden specks of light swirled inside the exposed wound, accompanied but what appeared to be small tendrils of shadow starting to reach out into the world before Vaz shifted away from the wall and disrupted the movement. Vaz spread their upper and lower wings apart and tucked their scarf under the feathers of the former, proceeding then to wrap it a few times around their abdomen. A grunt of pain escaped from them as they yanked it tight and started to tie a knot around the ends, hoping the garment would help prevent their alternate form from leaking out any further into the world. It was far from proper first aid, but from Vaz’s perspective it was better than nothing.

 

“I apologise for the distress of having my quill in your possession. She was meant to provide you with answers, not prompt further doubt and questioning. I appreciate your commitment to keeping her safe regardless.”

Stated Vaz, almost robotically, as they secured the scarf in place. Vaz took a shaking step forward and began to stagger further down the street, hand and wing tracing the brick of the wall beside them to steady themselves as they walked.

 

“Come along, Fi.”

Called the fallen angel over their shoulder, not bothering to check whether Jorath had decided to follow or even if he was still listen to them. Fi’Faltuun slid away from Jorath’s temple and turned to face him, wanting to communicate something towards him but having no means available to do-so. All she could do was softly caress her feather against his cheek, droop to hint at her thought-process, before she whisked over to the retreating Vaz and settled neatly into the spot behind their own ear.

 

The shadow of an owl drifted above them once again, though Vaz didn’t give any indication that they had noticed it and just kept walking. The owl perched silently on the railing of a second-story balcony across from Jorath, a curious look in her eyes and what appeared to be a business card now clasped in her beak. With a click from her beak she dropped the card over the balcony, revealing an image of a brush tipped with golden paint on a cream background and the name ‘Xaal’Razuul’ written in elegant calligraphy below it as it twirled through the air.

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Kansif growled as soon as her axe bit the air and then smashed into the concrete below. It did nothing to dent the concrete, but her axe seemed relatively okay for now. The half-orc glowered at Jorath, but she needed to breathe. She needed to remember her spells, as well. She calmed down enough to focus on her enchantments, her eyes turning black as she did so.

 

She turned her head away from Jorath and Argia as they spat at each other, not caring enough to add their conversation to her list of things of be aware of right now. The demons had encircled her and with Argia attempting to get Jorath away from Kansif, she had to use something. Suddenly, a connection appeared. It was weak, fleeting, but it was enough to use a spell. She ignored what Jorath had to say, only concentrating on survival at this point.

 

She concentrating on the shadowy tendrils around her. She summoned black tentacles from around her, swinging themselves widely at the demons around her, trying to grapple them and throw them off. 

 

It was successful on one demon, slamming into the wall. However, the other demon expertly dodged the tentacles by dancing around and on the tentacles, getting out a few blasts of raw energy from the palms of their hands. However, the tentacles aided in blocking the attack, but the tentacles quickly retreated into the dark portals, the dark hatches closing in a blink of an eye.

 

The blast demon rushed forward, their palms glowing with energy. However, Kansif pointed her index finger towards the demon's head, and a blue bolt of eldritch energy erupted from her fingertip. The blue force energy smashed into the forehead of the creature, a cracking sound resonating throughout the area and the demon's head had whiplash, sending its head lolling backwards as the rest of their body hadn't caught up yet. The demon landed on the ground roughly, caught in a daze.

 

Kansif readied her battleaxe, swinging it overhead to cleave the demon's head from its body.

 

[I'll let someone interrupt her]

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The upper floors of Auris Domniir, Inc.

 

"My three. How fare you?"

 

A lazy, whispery voice insinuated itself through the Shadowweaver's mind. The dawn lord hadn't bothered to adress them individually, instead sending out a single collective message to thier minds.

 

The Shadowweaver couldn't hear the thoughts of his brothers, not while he was supposed to be concentrating his full attention on maintaining a visual and supernatural veil for thirty-odd demons, and a hundred and fifty ordinary mortals. Well, the mortals were easy and the demons were practically helping him. The dozen new weapons they carried... less so.

 

And of course, the veiling flickered briefly, exposing the operatives to supernatural detection.

 

The Shadowweaver winced as a shock of death snapped through his magical connection, flooding his mind for a second with a sensation of claws and teeth.

 

He fought free and restored the veil.

 

"It is difficult, Lord." He panted. "But holding."

 

An ugly and wholly disturbing sensation like a salivating tongue licked through his mind in reply. "Yes. I enjoy these teases you are incorporating. These dissenters should know they are hunted."

 

"As you will it, Lord."

 

The Shadowweaver sweated, hands gripped to a slippery orb of crystal on a dias before him. He couldn't avoid letting the veil slip, not with his brother some scant thirty feet above him in the grand chamber, channeling the energy of the dawn itself into weapons carried by human operatives. With each burst of power, too strong to fully contain the echoes of so close to its origin, his control faltered and the veil slipped for a moment.

 

"You are doing well, my three." The demon lord's voice was hungry and proud.

 

"There were four." The Shadowweaver breathed to himself in the darkness of his chamber.

 

"THERE. ARE. THREE." The demon lord's voice shattered his control and his senses...

 

His knees faltered...

 

But his hands did not slip.

He fought to restore the veil against a tide of three more sensations of death.

"And do not forget." A quiet whisper added.


---

 

Near Vaz and Jorath

 

Askee-ah trembled and hissed, flicking blood and ash from her eyes as she ran beside another raptor.

 

Hunter-Vaz is not one of the pack. Or Jorath.

 

The second raptor slowed a fraction to accomadate the first. She was able to run, but not for much longer.

 

Neither has tried harm us. If we must fight a war against demons, it would be good to protect any that may fight for the same purpose.

 

The first raptor panted, straining for the scent. Her companion's sense of smell was deadened and hers was only partly functional.

 

Yes. She agreed. Here.

 

She darted to the left, muffling a cry of pain into a short whistle as sharp pain shot through her leg. Not much farther.

Both raptors skidded into view of Jorath and Vaz.

 

They tilted thier heads, assessing that Vaz, likely, was hurt. One of the raptors sneezed hard at the scent of demon blood.

 

Askee-ah was hardly in good condition herselves, both raptors had open wounds, oozing blood that mixed with ash and stung a crisscross of burns

 

("Come.") One gestured shortly.

 

("Sahhhf, -ick. Move -ick") The other's speech was garbled slightly a choking noise she made when she tried to vocalize.

 

("Move quick. Safe, close, but we are the only protection if a hunter finds us first.")

 

One raptor positioned herself to lead, the other to follow and bring up the rear.

Edited by AlexisV

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Jorath

He watched Vaz get up, almost seeming to stumble in their haggard state. Concern almost made a comeback to wash out the aggravation. Almost. As Fi'Faltuun departed from behind his ear, the feather stroking his cheek and then drooping after a momentary pause, Jorath at last turned his gaze away from the Scribe's back. Still, he grit his teeth together, knuckles whitening as his fingers curled against his palms. He nearly struck the wall but his awareness darted towards the shadow that passed over. He studied the owl before she dropped the card to the ground, using the moment like an anchor, an opportunity to breathe and think. Stooping, he quickly glanced at what was printed upon the card in his hand before turning his attention back to the owl.

 

He frowned. It was the best he could do to avoid scowling at the feathered creature who had done nothing. Jorath wanted to ask about the card but he had doubts about his questions receiving any sort of answer. The sparseness of the card's contents reminded him of Vaz's. Carefully, he slid the card into his pants pocket and turned away, starting to leave the side street. He would figure out the purpose of the card later. For now, he wanted--he wasn't certain. Again, his gaze drifted to Vaz, their figure some several yards away.

 

He knew he needed to apologize, even if that thought was a sliver at the back of his mind. Where was his pride? Or was it his pride that got in the way now? He started to say something, returning to the owl, but the creature was gone. That was frustrating. And typical, it seemed, for many demons. Jorath brought a hand up, feeling along one of his horns until his fingers touched a shackle and trailed down to the chain attached. 

 

I change my mind, Thrayliz. I don't want to go through with this.

 

It'll be okay, Jay. I'll be waiting for you on the other side.

 

No, Thrayliz, please-- 

 

He wrapped what he could of the chain around his fingers, grunting as he pulled. Break. Just break, damn it! His flesh burned from the silver chain around his arm. No amount of straining, however, snapped the links connected between his horns. Jorath made an almost soundless snarl, dashing away the image of Thrayliz's laughing grin that conjured itself into his thoughts. 

 

Songbird, my name is Er'anir, now. Do well to remember that.

 

Jorath's hand ached from the metal digging against his palm and constricting his fingers. With a jerk, he released the chain. Rage bubbled back up, filling his senses until it seemed like his nerves were vibrating. He could hear Er'anir laughing at him, a sing-song phrase lifting away from her tender lips. Jorath shook his head. As the wisps of memories broke apart, he looked ahead and found Vaz no longer in sight. Instead, one of Askee-ah's raptors was before him, uttering something that he had a hard time understanding. The overgrown reptile was banged up and trying to get him to move on. Something about protection.

 

He glared at Askee-ah for several heartbeats. "I don't need protection." It was nearly a snarl, hovering just as a growl. "Besides, I doubt you'll be protecting anyone soon in the state you're in. More likely bound to get someone hurt and that'll be your fault." Brushing past the reptile, he stuffed his hands into his pockets and thumbed one of the bone shards within. "I'm a Hunter. Do well to remember that." He picked a different direction than where Vaz had gone, still mindful of the territory he was in. No violence. What a naive little sentiment.

 

Argia + Others

As Kansif focused on the energy demon, her ax was deflected by a slab of concrete, the stone breaking apart upon the impact. The demon on the ground scrambled to their feet, twisting to sweep a foot at Kansif's legs, aiming to at least knock her off balance. More stone and earth flew in small chunks, rushing towards the half-orc's head and torso. Argia darted forward, using the curve of her scythe's blade to catch the energy demon and drag them away from Kansif, effectively tossing them back to the ground with a long gash in their body. 

 

Jorath muttered something before dodging Argia's next strike. "Why are you bothering to keep fighting? I've already made it clear that Kansif is who I want. Heed my advice and leave. This doesn't concern you." He jumped again, avoiding another swipe. As he dodged her advances, he edged his way closer to Kansif. Argia's gaze narrowed but she refrained by saying anything further. She realized Jorath would only take advantage of her response. She struck once more but he caught the blade within sharpened claws. With a jerk, he snapped the curved blade in two. Argia gasped as the backlash rushed outward and struck her. Her scythe dissipated as she staggered backwards. Jorath dusted off his hands. "Now then. No more interruptions." One of the other demons leapt at her, grappling with her and pinning her to the ground. She grunted from the impact and started counting the seconds until she could recover Atropos. 

 

Redirecting towards Kansif, Jorath swiped with the claws of one hand and snatched for the half-orc's ax, intending to disarm her. He struck towards her face, her neck, arms, and chest. Anything he could hit and anywhere he could pinpoint a possible opening. 

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Near Vaz and Jorath

 

The raptors tilted thier heads a little as Jorath refused thier offer. One gave a kind of flared bow that said ("as you will, Hunter") Then, not translating the next part, she sniffed and gave a shake that rolled down her body like a wet dog as Jorath turned away.

 

The other raptor made a gutteral noise, speaking towards Jorath's departing form.

 

("But there is war")

 

The first raptor gave a short, spitting hiss. The raptor that had called after Jorath looked toward him a few seconds longer, then turned away.

 

Then Hunter-Vaz, they will understand-

 

The raptors eyed each other briefly, confused.

 

Vaz. Hunter Vaz is not here.

 

One raptor growled and snapped at the other, more in general frustration than anger.

 

We are... displaced. The first thought, shivering at recognizing similar memories in her overmind. We knew this, but it was long ago. When the sun last rose.

 

A memory, like a half dream, drifted through both of thier minds. Flickers of sunlight over the rooftops. A shimmer, like long distances over the salt plains, but inside. Drifting, swirling, losing form. Retreating, retreating into the spirit realm. Like drifting into sleep...

 

It had been enjoyable, in a way, it had felt right to feel the sun establish a balance, even if she was on the disfavorable side of the balancing. 

 

But this, the energy lingering in the burn wounds from the guns that shot light. It felt like that balance was attempting to restore itself but wasn't given sufficient room or freedom to do so. Instead it was lashing and savage, concentrated too strongly into too small a space.

 

The second raptor shook herself, sniffing several times and testing the air again. Her wounds ached and sent that shivery, sunlight sensation through her body. She tried to fight it, to seperate what part of herself she could from the distortion. Her senses reacted oddly, and she danced in a tipsy half circle as her vision and balance wobbled. Strangely, she found one aspect of Vaz's scent easier to pick up on, though she felt an awareness that if she concentrated on it too closely, her mind would cross the threshold of that bright, heat-haze distortion and into the oblivion of nonexistance. But she could get close enough.

 

He is... He was here.

 

She righted herself in a crouch, snout pointing down a different direction than Jorath had left by.

 

But she stood again, irritated by the idea of trying to find another demon that was probably going to tell her to go away again. We should go back to the nest. Demons' doing is thier own. She sniffed, then sneezed hard.

 

The first raptor stared into the dark uncertainly, debating whether to argue with herself.

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((Think I’m dipping into a sensitive topic here, mostly as an analogy for negative/intrusive thoughts and a destructive habit that’s developed from it. Head’s up to anyone reading.))

 

Vaz was torn on how to feel as Jorath’s footsteps faded away from them. A part of them was relieved, in a sort of sickeningly foreboding way that was similar to when one found an excuse to delay an unwanted discussion. Another part, a smaller part, churned with apprehension over the fact that he wasn’t following them. Vaz told themself that it was an emotion that was born primarily out of self-preservation right now, all part of their grand philosophy of keeping more powerful allies close as it suited them. Hell, that philosophy was what had partially convinced them to put up with the stubborn, foul-tempered twit in the first place.

 

That wasn’t entirely fair to Jorath though, was it? He had a right to be mad at them. He had a right to loathe a being that was so flawed, so self-centred, that they hadn’t even noticed he was illiterate. Vaz had given him a writing utensil for crying out loud. The scribe should have figured it out long before tonight. It made sense now why he always seemed uncomfortable in front of The Compendium, even if he was one of a rare few that Vaz didn’t actively dissuade from peering over their shoulder to read along. Why he never seemed to listen to Fi’Faltuun’s learned advice. Jorath had even pretending to be flattered by Fi’Faltuun’s presence up until now. He had feigned concern for her wellbeing and probably outright lied to Vaz about how their feathers were anything less than repulsive to behold for an extended period of time. How could they not be, if they were only a reminder of the quill that had been tormenting him?

 

You behold the truth at last, Veritas. We knew even you would realise eventually.

 

With the hand that was unoccupied with bracing itself against the wall, Vaz ran their fingers along the shoulder of one of their wings and scowled. The feathered appendages always felt wrong now. Singed, brittle, and caked in an ever-replenishing layer of charcoal that made them seem permanently sluggish and heavy.
 

Well done Veritas. Perhaps there is hope for you yet. Now. What do we do with imperfections?

 

Yes. Vaz needed to be rid of the ruined, weighty feathers right now. They needed to remove the vile sensation that marked them as a traitor to their kind and further fuelled Jorath’s confirmations that Vaz was not to be trusted-

 

Vazithrazuul! Stop.

 

Vaz came to a stand-still with a wince as Fi’Faltuun’s green, dignified script disrupted their thoughts. They found feathers now clutched in their shaking hand. The demon shivered as the icy air surrounding them licked at the raw patch of skin that was now exposed on their shoulder. They could feel Fi droop against their temple in response.

“I should have kept them sheathed.”

Vaz mumbled, prying open their clenched fist and letting the feathers that had been imprisoned within it scatter into the wind. Their attention honed in on one that remained stuck to their palm, pasted in place by semi-dried ikaar. Bloodshot, glassy eyes traced around its burnt and matted edges until long, ink-stained nails found the effort to peel it off and flick it away.

 

I feel as though sighting your wings was inevitable, Vazithrazuul, given the increasing frequency of your encounters. You would have required them for your encounter with Takut regardless. 

 

“Not if I had properly listened to Jorath. I should have held my tongue, we may have avoided the conflict entirely.”

 

If you were actually capable of holding your tongue Vazithrazuul, I wouldn’t exist. None of my ilk would. Your perceived flaw is just that, one perception. My own is very different.

 

Fi’Faltuun drifted down from her perch and caressed their cheek in much the same way she had done for Jorath moments before. Vaz twitched in response, not quite pulling away from the contact but stubborn in taking any of its intended comfort. They had missed Fi’Faltuun’s rationality, how she would patiently sift through their thoughts and scribble out all the contradictions within them. Vaz had hoped for her to provide some of that stability and security to Jorath as well but...

 

The scrapping of claws on concrete sounded nearby, and a panic washed over the rest of Vaz’s thoughts as they fretted over what new threat was skittering towards them. They were in no position to fight it off. Vaz spun on their heel as quickly as they could manage, wide eyes now blinking rapidly into the night as they searched desperately for the origin of the noise. Their head pounded and their vision started to blur from the abrupt movement. Where was Jorath? Was the noise Jorath? It had come from the direction he picked. What if Takut had already shaken off the banishment and was closing in-

 

Breathe, Vazithrazuul. Xaal’Razuul would have warned us if it was a concern. I will investigate.

 

Vaz swallowed the lump in their throat that had been preventing them from shouting for the other demon to come back and nodded weakly in response as Fi’Faltuun darted away from them. She beckoned for Vaz to follow upon her return a moment later, guiding them down an alleyway as a shortcut until they spotted the silhouettes of two velociraptors up ahead. Vaz slowly exhaled and some of the tension ebbed away from their shoulders as they realised the noise had been Askee-ah. Their relief however was cut short as the stench of blood began to fill the air. Vaz frowned as they watched one of the reptiles groggily pace about and spied the cruel, freshly-made burns that lashed across their scales as they hobbled closer.

“You are hurt my dears.”

Vaz tutted out loud, craning their neck to try and see the extent of Askee-ah’s injuries without aggravating their own in the process. More demons, most likely, if fire was involved. Though Vaz couldn’t make out any distinguishing auras lingering on them. Hesitantly they motioned for the raptors to step closer, placing their faith in their ‘temporary alliance’ with the pack and hoping that the two would remain amiable to the exhausted old scribe.

 

“These look terrible...you really shouldn’t challenge too many demons my dears. We tend to have a lot of nasty surprises. We’ll need to see to these wounds straight away incase there’s something unpleasant lingering in them. Is your nest nearby? What happened?”

Vaz was beginning to ramble in a manner that was mildly disorientated, statements and questions rolling of their tongue without much consideration for the time needed to be set aside to answer them. They needed a distraction from the pain of their injuries. And the fact that their wings were visible. And Jorath. Amber eyes traced over the one that looked less steady on her feet, grimacing at the thought of what might have happened to the two of them. Vaz half-raised an arm towards her, about to inspect a particularly nasty wound along her back, before they realised it probably wasn’t a good idea to prod at a prehistoric predator unannounced and quickly snapped their hand back down to their side.

“Ah. Ahem. Sorry. Are you okay to walk...Askee-ah? Are you all called that? Or do you all have a pick of fear-inducing names like ‘Skull-Crusher’ and ‘Michael’?”

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The first raptor was about to suggest seeking out Vaz anyway, but a dark flicker just overhead distracted her.

 

She twisted her head and snapped at it in a sudden, reflexive motion. She felt the barest hint of a breeze, but her teeth closed on nothing. She tilted hear head and twisted her neck, searching for it... and felt a sharp sting above one eye that made her hiss and crouch back.

 

She shook her head and scanned the area, but whatever it had been was gone.

 

"SSSsssssSssss" She hissed in dissapointment.

 

("Turning. Turning, breaking like waves, like rolling fog and crack of thunder. It should have been sunrise by now.")

 

She eyed the second raptor closely as she muttered to herself, half-gesturing and half speaking in thier minds with images that seemed to be strange metaphors.

 

What? She thought sharply.

 

The second raptor looked to face her. What? She thought calmly, with a tone that suggested nothing out of the ordinary had just happened.

 

Vaz's words and approach distracted them both, and they turned to face them.

 

("We meet, hunter-Vaz")

 

The first gestured formally.

 

("Demons, yes.") She replied, speaking quickly to answer Vaz's questions. ("Fighting, and they claimed war.") The sound of the word was gutteral and harsh. (And humans. Humans with... weapons, like the ones that make thunder and a strike like a pounce and a smell") She paused, remembering that she couldn't communicate what human guns smelled like. (But not those. These hit with lines of bluegold light that burned. I think it is-)

 

("Like traffic lights. Like the rising tide. Like the desert in the cool, split between two horizons") The second raptor inturrupted, speaking and gesturing in a strange, rythmic way. She didn't know whether Vaz could pick up on that particular oddness in her speech.

 

("Walking, yes. We should go.") The first raptor said, picking up on another of Vaz's questions. (A nest is this way, close.")

 

("Names...") She angled her head down and let the growl at the end linger as she led the way to the Theatre. ("Names make things difficult. They seperate one thing from another, and it is better to remain close to myself. More important now, with fighting and injuries.")

 

Those ached, and the injuries to her joints and muscles were starting to set in and limit her capacity for action. She could walk, and fight some if need be, but not much more.

 

Ordinarily she could have called on her stored power in the spirit realm to heal herself, but that was all but spent now and needed worse elsewhere. She thought of how she'd conjured new bodies for convenience just a short time ago, and wished she had that much energy to spare now.

 

Behind her, the second raptor was gesturing and muttering a repeated phrase ("Blood and bright thunder.") every so often, to no one in particular. Trying to speak to her in her mind when she did that brought an uncomfortable, bright, heat-haze sensation. But then it would dissapear and the raptor seemed completely unaware of it herself. She ignored this worrying behavior for now, there was nothing either of them had the power or time to do about it.

 

She began to feel safer as they neared the Theatre and passed into the familiar sensation of a kind of shielding she'd set up. Memories of a forest from millions of years ago. She wondered whether Vaz would notice. Ordinarily anyone but herself would have to be searching the area using supernatural senses to become aware of it.

 

("You look like you fought as well, hunter-Vaz.") She said, finally feeling that it wasn't rude to acknowledge how tired he looked. She was aware that humans and things that looked human didn't usually find it rude to acknowledge injuries or tiredness outside of the safety of a guarded nest or home, but she couldn't shake the habit herself. In the wild, not hiding injuries or tiredness from predators or angry prey often meant death. ("What hunters were seeking you?")

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Draal.”

Came an idle, absent-minded greeting followed by a quick nod of the head in response to the first raptor’s formal address. Vaz was more concerned with her pack-mate at this stage, who swayed in a dazed manner beside her and seemed to have a misty-eyed expression as she tried to elaborate on the other’s answers. The demon’s brow furled as they glanced back and forth between the two of them, finding some difficulty in deciphering both of their movements with the state they were all in. Weapons of thunder and light...Vaz’s mind conjured up old memories of loading up cannons at first, before it remembered the more recent advances they had seen across the realms and reasoned that they were probably speaking of the smaller, handheld varieties of firearm. How curious.

 

“A war? With mortal soldiers? I don’t suppose they were more specific about what it was over were they?”

Asked the scribe. Between the internal squabbles for power and the constant back-and-forth struggle to wrench territory and souls away from more Heavenly forces, Vaz was rather spoiled for choice over which conflict Askee-ah was referring to. The use of mere humans to do their dirty work in particular reeked of a Lord desperate to make a name for themself.

 

One of the raptors agreed to keep moving, so Vaz began to trail after her. They could manage a moderately fast hobble away from the wall now, though their core still lurched about violently with each step and threatened to expel more foreign ikaar at any given moment. Vaz’s brow wrinkled as they tried to concentrate on the replies of the raptor ahead of them, having of already given up on trying to interpret the dizzying movements of the raptor that was falling behind. It was only when the first spoke of names did they try to engage in conversation with her again, swivelling their head around to gawk at her for a moment and see if she agreed with the other raptor.

 

“No names? At all?”

 

Another discomfort bubbled into Vaz’s consciousness, different from the sensation caused by the wound at their side. This one had a far more ancient origin, one that sent a tremor running through Vaz before they became aware of the motion and clamped their wings tightly against their sides to steady themself. The scarf that now served as a mediocre attempt to make a bandage around the wound in their side became hidden beneath a blanket of dark, mangled feathers. 

 

No names. No disobedience. Just perfect, harmonious order.

 

Vaz shivered again. Their mind wandered back towards the encounter that had allowed for the Voice to return with a scowl. Fi’Faltuun fidgeted from where she was hovering beside their temple, repeating Askee-ah’s question when it became apparent that her scribe’s attention had drifted.

“Hm? Oh. Yes, more conflicts with demons I’m afraid. One was a colleague- erm. Well. Someone who is sometimes an ally, sometimes a foe. As for the other one...”

How the Hell did Vaz even process what Er’anir was in their brief but haunting encounter? There was so much of Jorath’s past that had been revealed upon the mere sight of her, and yet she had left behind so, so many more questions to rattle about and fester in Vaz’s mind that they regretted ever being made aware of her. She was something intriguing. Something dangerous. And it sickened Vaz to know that she lingered somewhere in the domain they called home, coiling her fingers around the truth and twisting it to her whims.

 

“...the other knew Jorath. Raven hair, green eyes. Carefully-crafted and controlled prose but no lines.”

 

Vaz lingered on their statement for a few seconds. A rumble issued from them, an unearthly sound that was a few decibels lower than what would be expected from the vocal chords of a human as they wondered for just how long she had been toying with Jorath and whispering into his ear.
“Feel free to do whatever it was you did to poor Smaalvir if you see her.”

They then turned their attention to the theatre looming ahead. Though they indeed burned with more questions, they knew that Askee-ah wouldn’t have any further insight or advice into the matter. Best not to dwell on it for now.

 

“I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting such a quaint choice of nest for your pack my dears. I was half expecting you to lead me to a cave in the forest somewhere.”

Mused Vaz, forcing a tired smile to twitch itself into view as they neared the entrance to the building. They were by no means complaining of course, Vaz was rather fond of the recent trend of moving-pictures after all. Perhaps one of the projectors was even still in tact? The scribe glanced up at the faded address painted on the theatre wall before turning to face Fi’Faltuun as she hovered beside them.

 

“73 Birch Street. Make a note of that my dear we might need it for future reference.”

 

Oak Lane.

 

“Pardon?”

 

It says Oak Lane.

 

Vaz raised an eyebrow and looked back up at the address. The words ‘Willow Avenue’ now lingered in front of their eyes. The scribe stood on the tips of their toes and squinted closer at the words, feeling the vague ebb of the true address beneath whatever magic was clouding it but unable to muster the energy to attempt to disperse it. Oh never mind. Maybe it’s written down somewhere inside. Vaz turned back towards the entrance to the theatre with a huff. Black nails tapped with uncertainty on the handle of the door, Vaz’s mind spinning with thoughts and theories over what to expect on the other side, but eventually they relented and pressed down on it so that Vaz could nudge the door open.

“Right. Erm. I suppose first things first we’ll see if I can help get you two cleaned up a bit, yes?”

Announced Vaz as they stepped inside. Their eyes stayed fixated on the two reptiles, oblivious to their surroundings as they focused instead on the pattern of burns and lashes across their skin.

“I’m getting quite good at bandaging things at least, if I do say so myself. Do you have anything around here that we could use?”

Edited by Lycanious

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Xaal

 

High above the city, a snowy owl trailed after Jorath as he stormed away from the reptilian duo. She was thankful that they just seemed confused by the biting remarks of the chained one, rather than insulted at his impertinence. The owl had seen a handful of the raptors skulking through her territory as of late, and she didn’t fancy her chances with angering a whole pack of them if the two parties came to blows.

 

In fairness to the raptors, the owl didn’t really know what to make of this particular demon either. There was a rage that smouldered within him, overwhelming any other notable traits of an aura that looked like it was struggling just to keep itself from bursting apart. Approaching the demon directly felt too dangerous at this stage, like stumbling across an enraged, terrified beast with its leg caught in a trap. The owl started to wonder if it was wise to have left him a card, but she clung to her initial sighting of him as affirmation that someone more pleasant lurked somewhere beneath his exterior. The sort of someone that was willing to not only associate with the Fallen outside of business hours, but risk being spotted cradling one of them in his arms when he could have easily taken advantage of their vulnerability and slaughtered them. 

 

Such sympathy would surely not be taken kindly by his demonic brethren, if previous history was any indication. That was why Xaal’Razuul had left him her card. It was his choice as to whether he decided to use it to salvage his reputation or apply it to some other wretched element of his life.

 

At the corner of her mind, a familiar call began to echo and distract her from her observations. Xaal turned her head and starred out into the dark of the night, honing in on the faint but desperate cry for help that had pierced through the dull fog surrounding her territory. It had been a while since she had last conversed with Vaz and their quills, a few decades at least if she remembered right, but she recognised the frantic scribbles of this one all the same. Lojaal’O’Ith was a...memorable variation. Shy. Pensive. She communicated only through images and Vaz still hadn’t quite figured out why. But she was as adored as any other quill, and Xaal knew that if Vaz had the capability to sense her right now they’d be dragging themself back into the fray to find her. They would never forgive Xaal if they found out she had ignored their pleas.

 

Xaal glanced back down at the demon below her. Another time. She told herself, swooping lower over his head and fluttering her wings in a manner that dislodged a few more tattered, white and black-speckled feathers. She willed them to drift in Jorath’s direction, hoping he would get the hint to take one of them, before dipping her wing to the side and finally steering herself towards the commotion she could sense further away.

 

As the owl neared her destination she started to fly below the rooftops, weaving in and out among the buildings until she finally laid eyes on the brawl that was unfolding on the streets below. Xaal swooped low and fast, wasting no time in debating who to side with and merely angling herself to scrape a talon across the cheek of the nearest aggressor before rocketing back into the sky. The demon she had struck snarled in response, struggling to keep their hold on the being they had pinned to the ground as they repressed the urge to writhe about from the pain she had inflicted. The skin around the gash she had left behind boiled and burned, prompting a more anguished shriek to ring out from the demon as she darted over the rooftops.

 

Xaal landed with a not-so-dignified skid along the roof of one of the buildings, narrowly avoiding a chunk of concrete that had been hurled in her direction in retaliation. The owl’s form started to shimmer as she tumbled across the rough surface, plumes of golden smoke emitting from the tips of her feathers. The rest of her appearance began to evaporate away, forming an amorphous cloud of smoke with tiny, glimmering lights woven throughout it. The swirling, spiralling mass began to rearranging itself into something more easily defined, condensing into a humanoid shape as flesh, cloth and feathers began to materialise around it. The figure of a young woman soon replaced the owl, dusted off the remaining flecks of glittering dust from her pale coat, then hurried over to the edge of the rooftop. Xaal ran a nimble hand across her temple and flipped the indigo cowl off of her face as she darted forward. Her other hand stretched out to the side, fingers grasping wildly at the air until finally they clenched around something more solid. Xaal glanced down at the ever-faithful bow that had materialised in her hand, admiring how after all these years it still seemed to shine with those beautiful, metallic hues of indigo and gold. Ix’Draal, Vanquisher of Memories was always there to remind her of her place among the mortals and give her confidence in her work.

 

Two pairs of white wings adorned with black speckles, just like those of her avian counterpart, flared out as she posed upon the edge of the rooftop in full view of the rabble below. Xaal had drawn an arrow from her quiver, and took a second to absorb the scene below before she aimed it at the demon whose cheek she had sliced open mere moments ago. The wound was growing worse, now sizzling its way deeper into the flesh and causing thick, golden smoke to start billowing out of it. She hoped the looming threat of another holy-inflicted injury would keep them at bay, or at least give the woman in a black dress a chance to properly fend him off.

 

Xaal sent a spark of golden light shimmering down from her hand, along the stem of the arrow, and towards the tip where it was ignited in a loud crackle of raw energy. One of the demons looked up at the sound and the burst of light that had accompanied it, still groggily stumbling to their feet as they clutched at the wound in their chest. They winced at the sight of her, then turned and barked out what was presumably a warning to the other demons as they pointed in her direction. Xaal wasn’t certain over what they were saying, it wasn’t in Oldspeak or Common, but there was enough alarm in their tone to suggest that at least one of them was successfully intimidated by her presence.

 

Xaal glared down at her audience with an expectant look and wriggled about the tip of her bow in an impatient manner. Her final warning for them to call off the rest of the demons before she started firing.

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Jorath
He wasn't certain how large the territory was. A "no violence" rule likewise probably meant Jorath shouldn't target any hapless humans until he was somewhere neutral or back home. How long had he been walking? As he made himself focus on something that wouldn't loop back to Vaz or to Er'anir, his temples began to ache. About time. He clenched his jaw against the growing pain while his horns gradually receded from view, his hand coming up to comb fingers through his hair. The motion left the dark strands in disarray but he failed to care, more occupied with the hunger beginning to undercut the rage-induced exhaustion. 

Jorath still didn't recognize the cluster of streets he navigated through. A downside to aimless movement. It made him anxious, his pace slowing until he came to a stop and his gaze roamed across the surrounding environment. There were people on the street ahead, their unperturbed patterns of habit reminding him that his clothing was in a state of chaos. Practically unsalvageable unless there was some unique magic in sewing it back together. 

"I'd be happy to teach it to you some day." 

Vazithrazuul's voice flitted its way back into Jorath's thoughts. A sigh escaped his lips as he eyed his shirt. Gradually, the fabric faded out of focus, replaced by the charcoal dusting him. It was like brush strokes along his shirt and the skin on his arms. He ran his fingers over the particles, watching as the dust trails turned into smudges. Strangely, Jorath couldn't decide if he wanted to be frustrated or amused by the mess. Something came to his awareness, pulling him away from the charcoal as it flew near his head. Jerking, Jorath caught sight of the owl from before. Hadn't it left? Or had it been following him this entire time? 

It beat its wings, dislodging a few feathers as it passed close by once more before flying off elsewhere. What was that all about? A feather landed upon his hair, tumbling to his shoulder where it clung to his shirt. Plucking it off, he studied it and his thoughts drifted to Fi'Faltuun. "I f***ed up," he mumbled. Tucking the feather behind his ear, he couldn't help but notice how different it felt. Reaching for the chain around his arm, he unraveled it and passively glanced at the faint traces of heat that still clung to his flesh. He reattached the chain to his jeans, resuming his path out of Xaal'Razuul's territory (if he was even still within it).

Gradually, he found his way back to familiar streets, albeit dangerous ones. Near the edges of Takut's influence, he aimed for the alleyway his jacket had been left behind in. It took some time, trying to recollect details he'd glimpsed in a hurried state of mind. Jorath spotted his jacket, crumpled upon the ground and near one wall. He briefly eyed the blood that pooled nearby and the smeared streaks along the bricks of the building before moving forward to gather up his coat.

It felt too light.

Frowning, he shuffled the cloth around until he could find the pockets, rummaging through and swearing when the yielded nothing but pillaged emptiness. Fi'Faltuun's journal was gone. Shoving his arms through the sleeves, Jorath yanked the coat into place upon his shoulders, a scowl twisting his features. Stupid, stupid, stupid.... He could retrieve it. Couldn't he? Should he? His hands were quaking and he clutched at the edges of his coat to try and hide it. Nausea started to churn in his stomach, provoking him to pinch the bridge of his nose while he leaned against the wall. Too much. 

He failed to keep the nausea down. Coughing after all of it stopped, he unwrapped his arms from around his midriff. My songbird isn't feeling well. I know just what'll make you better. Pushing off from the wall, he staggered a few steps before regaining his balance. Hunger jabbed at him for his attention. You know it's your favorite thing. What do you say? Rubbing his face with a hand, traces of charcoal still smudged against his fingertips, Jorath sucked in a breath and focused on shutting out everything. All that lingered was a thought, an echoing of words driving him forward. 

"It would be the most useful thing they’ve ever done with their pathetic little life."

Argia + Others
She just needed a few moments more. As Argia grappled with the demon on top of her, she attempted to search for Kansif, trying to see if the half-orc was doing any better. The angle was bad, though, and she couldn't locate her green-skinned companion. All she could do was listen to the sounds of a struggle. Jorath's voice had faded into nothing when he stopped speaking. Pressure started to build against her palms and she sighed inwardly; Atropos was nearly restored.

A shape swooped past, striking the demon pinning Argia before it darted up to the rooftops and out of sight. It was a welcomed surprise. While the demon snarled and cried out from the burning wound, she shoved him back, rolling with the motion. Her scythe reformed as she hurried onto her feet, giving her the ability to swing the curved blade and cut through flesh. There was a sound and another shout filled the air. Glancing over, Argia followed the pointed finger up to the rooftop.

It was only a brief moment that she studied the newcomer, her attention returning as a demon rushed by. They didn't strike at her, only moving at a sprint to leave the area. A language Argia couldn't translate trailed behind. Looking towards the others, she watched as most of those that remained did something similar, dispersing in various directions after hissing or uttering something nasty towards the winged individual above.

That left only Jorath.

He gripped Kansif's clothing, her form slumped as she grasped at his arm. Beaten and battered as Kansif was, Jorath appeared to have been dealt significant blows. Blood smeared from his forehead and down the side of his face, there was a gash in his side and shoulder, a new tears in his clothing. Argia took a few steps towards him, scythe poised. He scowled at her and then at the woman above. With a growl, he threw Kansif at Argia and fled, the trace of his lifeline disappearing from her awareness.

Atropos dissipated as she caught Kansif with a grunt, stumbling a step before dropping to her knees and carefully holding the half-orc as best she could. Kansif seemed to be unconscious, though she breathed steadily. That was good, at least. Directing her attention at the new arrival now that the threat of the demons had gone, Argia frowned. She didn't know whether the tension in her shoulders was from adrenaline, unease, or anger. Perhaps a combination. "Who are you?" she said.

There was movement beneath Argia's shawl and Lojaal’O’Ith came free, flitting about her head before flying up to the stranger in white and indigo. The quill hovered about the woman before drifting back down to nestle in her shawl once more. "She is safe?" There was a soft flick of bristles against her shoulder. Argia hesitated a moment further, wanting to trust the quill on the basis it could not lie.

"Vaz is only concerned with themself." Take a demon for their word? And what about a quill? A sigh floated from her lips. What was this that she felt? Her body felt heavy. Perhaps this was the exhaustion that mortals had spoken about? Strange. It was almost terrifying to acknowledge. Overwhelming when it topped off the uncertainty of a foreign place with foreign and powerful beings.

"What is it that you want?" Argia asked, keeping her tone neutral though she had hopped for the curious side of pleasant.

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Xaal

 

Though it was perhaps a rather unbecoming expression, Xaal couldn’t help but let a smug grin plaster itself onto her features as the demons started to scatter. She hadn’t realised her reputation as a formidable adversary had followed her so well into this realm. Though, granted, perhaps they had no idea who she was and it was just the shock of having their nightly brawl interrupted by what appeared to be a four-winged angel that had done it. Xaal’s grin faltered at that thought. It was an unpleasant notion, wondering what exactly the humans had done to warrant being abandoned like this. The angels Xaal remembered surely wouldn’t have given up on a realm so willingly.

 

The archer shook her head to dispel her thoughts and pointed her arrow at the last remaining demon. With their auras muddied and the chaos of the scene before her, it was only now that Xaal realised exactly whom she was starring down at. Confusion rolled through her as she locked eyes with Jorath. Just by a fraction she eased the tension in her bow, unsure of whether she was looking at the same man she had been trailing after mere moments ago. Demons had an endless supply of tricks up their sleeves after all, there was just as much a chance that this was an imposter as there was a chance that this was somehow the real Jorath. Regardless, she couldn’t just stand idle and let this one attack someone right in front of her, but she also didn’t want to risk shooting someone who was somehow important to Vaz. Well, maybe important. She knew the scribe well enough to recognise that their parting conversation with the man had deeply upset them somehow. Maybe they wouldn’t care if she fired.

 

Regardless, Xaal had hesitated on her thoughts on the matter for too long, and that gave this version of Jorath a chance to flee. Xaal lowered her bow and watched him go, leaving behind a trail of questions that she hoped the people below would have an easier time answering.

 

When the one in the black dress asked for her to identify herself Xaal tore her gaze away from the alleyway and peered down at her. She was a new face, and while Xaal could tell she wasn’t human from the way she wielded and dispersed the scythe she wasn’t quite sure what sort of being she was dealing with. Some sort of witch, maybe? Xaal wasn’t even going to bother guessing what the green-skinned lady in her arms was. She had no idea there. Golden eyes darted over to Lojaal as she fluttered up towards Xaal, earning the quill a polite nod of the head in response. Lojaal copied the sentiment with a dipping motion through the air, brushing lightly against her cheek in thanks before whisking back down towards the ground to hide out of sight once more. 

 

Taking the quill’s actions as a cue that it was safe to approach, Xaal hoisted herself over the edge of the building and drifted downwards. She made no sound from the movement, despite landing with considerable force upon the ground a few feet away from the battered duo. With her free hand she fished around in the inside chest-pocket of her coat, withdrawing another business card with the name ‘Xaal’Razuul’ printed on it in answer to her first question. She walked forward, holding it out for Argia to read before she stooped to properly assess the state of the second individual. Xaal dismissed the bow in her hand with a puff of golden smoke and reached for Kansif’s neck to feel for her pulse. Still strong. She looked like she was losing a lot of blood though.

 

What is it you want?

 

Now that one, that one was a bit trickier to answer. Xaal glanced between her and the woman in her arms, an apologetic look gracing her features. Her immediate thought was that she wished she had been quicker, as she may have had the chance to prevent the mortal from being injured to such a drastic degree. She was well beyond the simple bruises and grazes that Xaal was capable of healing out in the field. Xaal’s shoulders sagged, but she straightened herself back up a moment later and clasped her hands together in a business-like manner as she switched her attention back to Argia. Mentally berating herself for her tardiness would only delay getting the injured one to safety, after all. 

 

Now to answer her question, and hope that her attire wasn’t indicative of the same old-fashioned mindset that a certain mutual acquaintance had when it came to modern technology. Xaal reached into a side pocket of her quiver and withdrew a very old, very weathered looking phone from within. She flipped the lid open, tapped out a message into her notes, then held it out to Argia to read.

 

‘Guardian, want to help  o :’) Can carry somewhere or look out for danger? Can you heal?’

 

She gave Argia a few extra seconds to read around the faint but numerous scratches across the screen before bringing the phone back to her chest and continuing to type.

 

‘Who are you - more friends of Vaz? Why are you all fighting?’

Edited by Lycanious

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Argia

The woman approached, holding a card out for Argia to read: Xaal'Razuul. Having a name now for their apparent ally, she watched while Xaal'Razuul inspected Kansif. A soft, sad look crossed the winged woman's face. A gesture Argia wasn't certain she had expected to see. In the next moment, Xaal'Razuul stood and retrieved a phone, typing into it before revealing its contents to Argia. Pricking at the back of her thoughts was the wonder of this woman writing versus speaking. There were a few possibilities. "A Guardian?" It seemed familiar. She would have to sift through her memories and knowledge to recall why at a later, better suited, time. For now, "Healing is... only something I can do for myself. I cannot bring healing to others, only death or ensure its delay until the time is proper."

 

Shifting her hold around Kansif, Argia started to rise and draped Kansif's arm around her shoulders while she reached to hold the half-orc's opposite side. It was, perhaps, a bit awkward at best given their differences in height. Kansif, please wake. Carefully, she guided Kansif to the side of the alleyway, resting her against the wall while Argia sorted out the best way to proceed for safety. "I can carry her, but I might not be able to do much else." She turned to the woman again. "You type upon a cellphone instead of speak. Be it for a vow of silence or because you are mute, you need not say. However, if you know sign language, I can converse with you still. It may be easier than relying upon a phone as we travel." Mortals had so many questions or phrases of anger and vulgarity, and just as plenty of languages to express them in. She had learned all the languages that she could because there were moments with dying mortals that made it... sorrowful and worthwhile. Strange how she didn't notice that until now. It would be something she needed to ponder over later.

 

It was difficult to know how many of those same languages were in this new world that Argia could understand, but she had been conversing with ease with different individuals already. Up until the demons began using a strange language she'd never heard before. Transgressing thoughts. She needed to return to Xaal'Razuul's questions. "Yes, we are, at the least, acquaintances with Vaz. I am Argia and she is Kansif. The demon was Jorath..." She frowned, glancing in the direction he had fled. "I--I don't know why we were fighting. We were trying to head for Askee-ah's nest as a place to regroup away from Ditraxol. However, Jorath said he needed to make a brief stop so he and Vaz split off to return later. I don't know where Vaz is and Jorath came back without them."

 

Shaking her head and focusing once more on how best to carry Kansif, she crouched and touched the half-orc's shoulder. Kansif stirred slightly. "We must find Askee-ah. She's the only one that knows where her nest is at. You wouldn't happen to have seen any giant, somewhat bipedal, reptiles anywhere. Have you?" She glanced over at Xaal'Razuul as Kansif made a low sound. If Kansif could get enough consciousness, carrying her would be easier. But it wouldn't be the end of things if she stayed unconscious. It would just make an odd sight if Argia had Kansif over her shoulder. There were some benefits to coming into conflict with celestial beings and other kinds of creatures on a more regular basis than Argia typically preferred.

 

Perhaps there was a different idea that Argia could try. Raising a hand and brushing her fingers along her shawl, she felt the fabric grow brittle as it morphed into feathers. However, she hissed faintly when her wings began to unfurl, feeling scrapes where the ground had cut at fabric before. Healing. Of course. She hadn't fully been attentive of each hit she'd taken. Green sparks and smoky wisps floated on her exhale. Shortly after, her wings stopped aching and she could extend them in full without stiffness. Reaching for Kansif, Argia again draped the half-orc's arm over her shoulders and wrapped her own arm around Kansif's back. A couple beats from her wings gave Argia the leverage to hoist Kansif to her feet. 

 

Lojaal’O’Ith, no longer able to stay beneath a shawl, came to hover near Argia's head, weaving only to avoid being buffeted by her wings. "Thank you, Xaal'Razuul," she said, starting to take the first few steps to locate Askee-ah. Maybe Askee-ah might find them first. It would certainly be the best scenario. But Argia would have to function on the assumption that they'd need to find the raptor instead. It was better to start moving than to linger in one spot, especially if Jorath had intentions of returning for a renewed assault after recovering from the unexpected change to events. 

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Xaal performed a half-hearted shrug and twitched the corner of her mouth up in an look of mild dismay. No external healing magic. What sort of witch didn’t think to store a few healing balms or scrolls about her person at least? Poor thing must have been caught off-guard. Or maybe she was some other kind of entity entirely? It was hard to tell at this stage.

 

The fallen being trailed after her as she hauled Kansif over to the nearest wall, occasionally turning on her heel to scan her surroundings for any lingering demons. Xaal was surprised by Argia’s following words, but at her prompt she slipped the phone back into the quiver and indeed began to motion with her hands instead. Rarely had she come across an individual that was fluent enough in even the Commonspeak variant for her to use, to the point where Xaal tended just to skip right to the use of the phone or a notepad.

 

‘Good. Easier if I keep my hands free. But I can carry her too if you need it?’

 

Gestured Xaal, finding Argia’s claims to be dubious given how heavy the other woman looked to be. She skipped over the inquiry as to why she wasn’t able to speak directly to Argia, merely wrinkling her nose to indicate that she didn’t really want to dwell on such thoughts right now. It was a question for a safer place. Xaal then knitted her brow together when Argia confirmed that the demon she had sighted was indeed Jorath, her mind tracing back towards the earlier encounter she had with the man as she tried to piece two-and-two together.

 

‘Strange. I saw Jorath in my territory very recently. He was with Vaz.’

 

Xaal rubbed at her chin and sucked in air through her teeth in thought. Again, no sound emitted from the action.

 

‘But I think they had a fight? First with demons. Second with each other. Jorath was very angry.’

 

With a flourish, Xaal motioned towards the alleyway that ‘Jorath’ had disappeared down and shrugged her shoulders in an exaggerated, confused manner. Perhaps this ambush had been what the fight was about? Though she had trailed after them for a while Xaal had only flown close enough to catch the tail-end of the conversation, and most of that seemed to revolve around Vaz being told to mind their own damn business in some fashion. Again. If Argia had been entrusted with one of their quills it meant that attacking her was now off-limits to any of Vaz’s business associates - could Jorath have violated that agreement?

 

Xaal swayed on the spot, feeling a mild headache coming on. She decided these were more questions that would be better answered in a safer location.

 

‘The dinosaurs? Yes. I have seen them. There is a nest near my territory. I will take you there.’

 

The fallen being then pointed her hand down a different alleyway and started to motion for Argia to follow, but the movement died half-way as she witnessed the shawl lifting off her back and forming into large, feathered limbs. Xaal went slightly agape, blinking in disbelief as she switched her gaze to the wings at her back and studied the red and black-hued, tattered feathers. She didn’t recognise their shape or pattern, but given how many years had passed since she last set foot in her old home it was reasonable to think that some new faces had since materialised.

 

‘Angel? What role? Guardian? No! Collector! You have a scythe!’

 

Asked Xaal, her burst of excitement both overriding Argia’s attempts to thank her and making her hand movements much more quick and frantic. Lojaal’O’Ith trembled in response, wriggling in a manner that looked like she was trying to write out an ‘x’ into the air multiple times. Xaal however either didn’t notice the gesture or failed to understand that the quill was trying to gently correct her.

 

‘Are there more coming? Did the angels change their mind?’

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Oh. Right.

 

As it had been with Vaz, so it seemed again that Argia's newfound wings were a source of confusion. But as Xaal'Razuul worked through possible ideas of what Argia was, she realized there was hesitation keeping her from answering immediately. Collector. It was the same role Vaz had claimed her to fulfill, a close-enough adjacent for understanding. Was it really a position filled by angels in this world? She recalled Vaz's hurt and felt... anxious, about being a source of betrayal to another being again. "I am sorry, Xaal'Razuul, but I must be a disappointment. I am not an angel, nor am I a demon. I am merely a Harbinger. I used to not have wings before being brought to this place. Death is my role and I do gather mortal souls when the end of their life comes, yes. But, I fear I am not what you were hoping for and cannot provide the answers you are seeking." Her wings shifted slightly, lifting and lowering as if to emphasize something Argia couldn't interpret yet. There was much she still needed to learn about wings and flying if she was to be stuck with them indefinitely. 

 

With, hopefully, the clarification made and understood, Argia returned to Xaal'Razuul's earlier comments. Her gaze followed Lojaal's movements as she frowned. "A fight with other demons?" There was a disconnect. Jorath looked unscathed when he first appeared at her and Kansif's sides. On the other hand, when she crossed paths with him the first time as he was dealing with Ditraxol, he showed signs of being in a fight before finding time to recover from it. She had to assume he had healing abilities of some caliber. But how fast could he heal? And what was the outcome of this other fight? 

 

Doubt settled beside her anger towards Jorath for his assault. Frustration at her lacking knowledge about the rules of this world also started to rise. "Xaal'Razuul. How far away from here is your territory? Do you believe Jorath could have recovered from that other fight, left Vaz's side, and gotten here to assault us in the time it took you to leave their trail and arrive here?" She needed to know of the possibilities before reuniting with Vaz. There was a, at the very least, rocky but working relationship between Vaz and Jorath. And, despite that, Argia had detected a small level of fondness from Vaz towards Jorath. Some strange quality of acquaintanceship or friendship. The last thing she wanted to do was potentially distress Vaz with incomplete information. Even if it was clear there had been an argument between them that left one or both in a rage, Argia didn't know what either individual might do with said aggression. 

 

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

 

His words, with his voice, from his own mouth. Except Argia understood that mortals always had reasons; none of them were ever evil for evil's sake, even if such concepts of Good and Bad were... rudimentary, at best and always something Argia was never part of. Would those same notions apply to the demons in this world? Good and Not Good, Bad and Not Bad. They are not one and the same, nor are they direct opposites. Kirit and Meztli always spoke of such. Jorath must have had a reason to assault them. Something wasn't falling into alignment as it should and Argia hoped that Vaz might be able to enlighten her further.

 

Moving in the direction that Xaal'Razuul had started to indicate before going into her excited flurry about the angels, Argia frowned again at the thought. And, though she kept walking--the sooner they found Askee-ah or her nest, the better--Argia asked, "What happened to the angels? What would they change their minds about?"

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When Argia began to correct Xaal her face fell, the energy and rapid motions of her hands dying down alongside of it. She glanced down at her leather boots and scuffed one lightly upon the ground as she processed the rest of what Argia was saying to her. It was a foolish conclusion to leap to, really. There were lots of other beings and creatures out there with wings like her own, though Xaal had never heard of a ‘Harbinger’ before. Noticing the droop in Argia’s wings when she looked back up, she quickly went wide-eyed and straightened up her own posture once more. Xaal’s wings stretched out and fidgeted in response, an attempt to look casual while she tried to brush off the disappointment from her answer.

 

‘That’s okay. I’m sorry. You’re not a disappointment! You seem really interesting actually.’

 

Urged Xaal, quickly trying to force a smile onto her face for the sake of her newfound acquaintance. Wide eyes darted between her and the green-skinned being draped across her shoulders, now wondering if she was another ‘Harbinger’ despite the significant differences in their appearances. Perhaps, like Collectors, Harbingers also worked in pairs? The one called Kansif did seem to have a vaguely demonic look about her, though she emanated very little of the power one would expect from the role.

 

Thoughts of demons and their wide range of appearances and abilities lingered in her mind as Argia turned the conversation back to Jorath. Xaal wrinkled her nose again, indicating that she wasn’t sure whether she had a definitive answer for the Harbinger.

 

‘My territory is not very far, if you can fly. Jorath is new to me. Demons can do many, strange things. Maybe?’

 

She had a few theories of course, but they were easier to delve into when she wasn’t checking over her shoulder every few seconds to make sure they weren’t being followed by their earlier attackers. And Xaal had little doubt that Vaz, with all their research and experiences at their disposal, would have a far better grasp on the situation regardless. Apprehension started to churn in her core as she began to walk. She and Vaz had built up a long, complicated set of agreements between the two of them when it came to dealing with each other’s associates and mortal lives in general. She couldn’t help but wonder what Vaz would do or say to them if they suspected Jorath had stepped outside of his boundaries.

 

 Xaal sighed and shoved aside the concerns for later, switching her focus on mapping out her path back towards her territory instead. She wasn’t sure whether to be thankful or not for the change of topic when Argia began to ask about the angels, given the circumstances for why Xaal had been so ecstatic to have brought them up in the first place.

 

‘The angels have left this world. Very bad sign. I think if the angels have left something dangerous for them is here. Too dangerous to fight for the humans. Too strong for floods or famines to remove.’

 

Xaal shivered as she mulled over her own theories, her feathers prickling as the lower set of wings clamped against her back from the sheer thought of it.

 

‘But different realm. Might be different rules. Might be different angels. I came here to try to protect the humans instead, but also to find out more. That is why I summoned Vaz.’

Edited by Lycanious
Had a brain-fart, fixed a word that didn’t make sense.

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