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[P]  Shedding

Offline Falks Mar 29 2020, 12:00 AM
#1
  • Rogue
  • Age: 50
  • Gender: Male
  • Race: Human
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  • Total Posts: 28
  • Played by: Sbicy
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A breeze softly touches the moor, bending it into folding amber waves. Falks crouches low in the tall, golden stalks of meadow grass, fingers curled around the loose string of his bow. Ahead, a whitetail buck grazes, the shed of his antlers moving with the wind. The bloody velvet creates a tantalizing smell for the animals, giving them an easy trail to follow. The open moor is the perfect place to eat, able to watch from every direction over the flat expanse. Falks stands downwind of the deer, peeking just so as its long neck dips to tear into the grass.

This used to be his favorite spot to hunt, given its popularity among prey animals. He would sit in these fields until his knees ached and his feet went numb, fingers chapped and cut from the taut string of his bow. Rarely he would go alone, and with this roaming thought he catches his sight wandering. Malfius, great a beast as he is, could stalk through the grass silent as a ghost. He would be upon the hidden creatures before they knew he was coming, chasing the foxes and quails from their hovels and giving Falks a chance to shoot a few from the air while the dire easily caught what was on the ground. Even after he'd gained his sentience, this was a pass-time they shared. The Godslayer's intelligence was never in question without his voice, that just made communication easier. He was already built to kill, as were all apex predators were. The mind of a man within the body of a beast. How it was never a fear that the dire would take over before the tampering of their forms was a mystery to him. It was a foreseeable outcome, giving them hands when they already bore fangs large enough to snap a man in two.

Distracted temporarily, he waits patiently until he is back in order before sliding forward just a foot. He is in range of the buck, he just needs a clean shot.

It raises its bloody head, shaking it and tossing strips of flesh into the grass to free its eyes of the blood that drips and the flies that persistently seek moisture from its gaze. That is his opportunity. Falks pulls back the string, hearing the soft creak of the bow that has the buck's ears craning forward and its body stiffening. Nostrils flaring, he lets loose the arrow just as the creature begins to bolt. The high-pitched cry it releases as the arrow gives a wet thunk from entering a tender space between its neck and shoulder sends Falks to his feet. His strides are long and quick as the buck stumbles, stringing another arrow and landing it in the buck's hind leg before it can run. Its muscles lock, forcing it to a limp, as he leaps upon it, the knife on his belt free and plunging into the deer's throat as his arm circles its neck and brings it to the ground. Shocked and unable to fight, it chokes around the blade in its windpipe.

He would have trailed it, were he not sure that something else would snatch it before he was able to bring it down the proper way. This was messier, but faster, and allowed him to quickly cut what he wanted from the carcass and leave it for the scavengers who were never too far behind. Already, he can hear the approach of ravens overhead.

It takes several long, agonizing seconds for the deer to suffocate. The struggle stops as the blood leaks between his fingers, a haunting sensation that makes his stomach tighten in sickness at how little it actually bothered him, and how well he recalled the feeling.

Ensuring that is has perished, he removes the knife and wipes it on the dusty ground. Carefully, he removes the arrows from its body, glad that either of them did not break. Grabbing the long, knobby legs, he stands to roll it onto its back. It is in this motion that his skin prickles, golden eyes lifting to settle upon a figure that was standing not fifty feet from him.

At first, he mistakes him for a stranger. The silence at which the individual had approached spooked the former general, adrenaline dumping into his systems and lighting his nerves ablaze. Seconds pass like hours as recognition rules his panic, facing down a man he once stood beside. Moon-yellow eyes show the wolf in his human shadow, as though trapped within the skin he wore. An old feeling stirs within his chest, fluttering into a tangle with the uncertainty caused by so many years apart and a joint disconnection from the world. The ease at which he once met the man was no longer present, yet lingered in the memories of his bones. Malfius left before he had, driven by some manner of grief, perhaps, or some freedom that he'd never felt he'd possessed. He knew nothing of what he did now, what he called himself, or the company he kept. Still, he cannot help himself and takes a step nearer to his former companion, caution buzzing around inside his skull like a hive of bees.

"Malfius," He starts, his mannerisms still as measured as before, "It's good to see you after all this time. Have you been here all along?" He knows not who he looks upon now, be he enemy or friend. Falks only hoped for the latter.

"Would you like some?" A bloody hand gestures to the deer hidden in the folds of the moor--a golden shroud for the dead.
Offline Malfius Mar 30 2020, 4:46 PM
#2
  • Rogue
  • Age: 37
  • Gender: Male
  • Race: Dire
  • Rank: Cult Leader
  • Total Posts: 22
  • Played by: Onii
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Autonomic.
A slip of time, a lack of cognition; an autopilot, clear in the sharp lenses of his eyes and the stoic, looming presence. A peculiar God in a suit, hands toying with each other behind his back. Like an obelisk in the field, an apparition or some machine waiting for a prompt. Watching, unmoving, perhaps for eternity if he'd never been addressed. The scent of copper wound through the space between them, the imagery of the succulent fallen possessed by a familiar face eliciting a plethora of memories consisting of hot summers and tall grasses, of impulsive swims and a mouthful of feathers. Of long strides, as far as his legs would take him, cutting off groups of deer or buffalo with an expert twist of his body through their ranks. Of marks in his shoulders soon forgotten once the bear fell and his eyes locked onto the prize with pride.

What lingers?
As their like-toned eyes met, the same in all ways except the most crucial ones that could not be placed, the answer to that may have even eluded The Antigod himself. Like stepping back to a memory that had been a b a n d o n e d, or stepping forward to watch how time had left it in shambles. The climax was behind them, and all the titans who played a piece in chess were scattered beside the board, some of which who'd even been shattered on the floor.
The man before him appeared like the latter.
Half of his former self, perhaps less, down like a racehorse who'd overstayed his welcome on the track. Simultaneously nostalgic, and pitiful. What could be said about the Archduke, though? A rebirth, some would say, while others would say he'd been killed years ago.

The Dire was no longer looking at him. Through him at one point, and then down at his worn hands, almost accusingly like he'd still seen stains that he'd failed to properly wash off for 5 years, or like he'd mistaken the stains left by the deer for older ones on his hands. The silence was deafening, almost caressing and solid, and time seemed to stretch on forever like it waited with bated breath for him to make the move he'd been considering more and more as the seconds went by. He notices the uncertain step forward, nonverbal language meant to test the decades' thread of familiarity that they'd woven together, but he doesn't initially return it or respond negatively.
He simply allows it.

"Malfius," it was like a crack of lightning in his head, slicing through the droning's increase. A treacherously-splitting attention span was immediately drawn up to the man in the most present, literal sense. "... Have you been here all along?" A peculiar question that asked for two different answers. Malfius made this clear with a faint but there crease of his brows, saying "..All along. Do you mean living here, or watching you?" as they were very different questions, though the answers may not be all that different. He'd disappeared when the Straw King had occupied the throne, still, long gone with a name that had no longer been uttered. There had been word later on that the King had perished and yet here he was. Here they were. The older man had seemingly not changed at his core, but Malfius... Even if it couldn't be accurately pinpointed, even if it was intangible, s o m e t h i n g had changed. Like everything he'd done was that much more pointed, aware, involved in the chain of events than a man who'd once merely glided through life, reacting to it as it happened. The gesture brought his eye to the freshly-caught meal, but they didn't stay long there. "A little won't hurt," he responds with a fond ghost of a smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes. This time he approaches, deceptively idle like a guest who'd just been invited in the an unfamiliar home that they were all too willing to explore. Cordial yes, but something was off.
Offline Falks Mar 31 2020, 11:37 PM
#3
  • Rogue
  • Age: 50
  • Gender: Male
  • Race: Human
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  • Total Posts: 28
  • Played by: Sbicy
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Already, Falks feels greater distance between them than what he can judge with his eyes. The man that stood in the rolling golden grass looks past him somehow, through him, as though waking from a dream and realizing where he was. Their immeasurable history dangerously sways the sensation he receives from the False God, an uneasiness that is akin to mistaking a scarecrow for a man.

The ground is growing wet from the buck's seeping throat, edging toward the toe of his boot. Falks knows better than to leave a trail, and slides his foot back from the red he feeds to the soil. Its smell is heady, even on the silky warm breeze, and ignites the adrenaline still burning in his system. The mask this man wears is one that Falks longs to see cast aside for him--for a friendship that opened his eyes to the light of his hypocrisy and cruelty. A selfish wish, for he let the man go and did not pursue in the name of said friendship. Why would he want something he himself never gave? His passivity was often his downfall, though his action had no greater reward, it seemed. Was it not best for the man to be free of his shackles and find out his true place in the world? Had that been a wise decision to allow him to make on his own? As with many things, Falks can shift under the weight of responsibility. He was not there to stop Sullivan and her cull, he was not there for Malfius (whatever he has become now), he was not there for Hati or for Skoll. All of these people who he pledged allegiance to that he had failed.

The blood on his hands is wet, always.

"I have lost some of my touch if you have been watching me. Is it that you live here?" A question sits upon his tongue, unspoken, then why haven't I seen you?

He pulls a long stalk of grass from the ground, root and all, and uses it to further clean his blade. He must do something with his hands. Their eyes refract two sides of the same coin, how either of their destinies could have split and gone. There were many roads, some would argue, but Falks questioned fate and its workings. Malfius agrees to his offering, striding near in a manner most unfamiliar. The Wanderer feels himself tense every so slightly, his muscles coiling like tight springs. There was, somehow, too much at ease with the way the God moved, too fluid and precise. He moved like a serpent.

Falks is careful as he steps aside, offering Malfius the knife should he want it. Their fingers do not brush in the exchange, and Falks chides himself on wishing for the contact of a friend so badly. Golden eyes watch as the False God begins his work, the air growing pungent with the gore being spilled onto the ground.

"I didn't believe a word of any rumor that spoke of you being dead. Too clever for that." He offers a fleeting smile, then takes a knee beside the man slowly. There is a pause again as he collects his thoughts, something that has not changed in his behavior at all. He rarely spoke without being exactly sure of what he wanted to say, as everything was meaningful. "I have missed you, my friend. Did you find what you were searching for?" Assuming he was searching for anything at all. Falks allows his gaze to be sincere, perhaps making a great mistake in letting in a wolf wearing the fresh, dripping skin of a sheep.
Offline Malfius Apr 3 2020, 4:02 PM
#4
  • Rogue
  • Age: 37
  • Gender: Male
  • Race: Dire
  • Rank: Cult Leader
  • Total Posts: 22
  • Played by: Onii
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A wired, thoughtless machine. His thoughts are empty, or are they full? There are times when the cogs can be heard, the electricity they generate humming through the tense, thick air between them. But they are either so minuscule or so vast that they cannot be described by text, nor can it be guaranteed that the Dire himself is even consciously aware that he's thinking anything at all. A black hole of things suppressed, repressed, regressed, a swimming thoughtlessness. Tendencies or desires were rampant even if the wheres and whys themselves were not precursors in his head. But again, none of this can be assumed. But if the stillness of his expression and those sharp eyes are any indication, it can be assumed that both everything and nothing is running his mind during this interaction. It was nothing like the way he used to look at The Grey General, an almost-uncharacteristic swagger worn like a perfume for his familiar company, extroverted and antagonistic. So canine in nature, prancing around the man he'd always had even before he'd been given a human form, pushing his buttons in the most harmless of ways. Jabs both verbal and literal, the two were infinitely young and foolish when in their more energetic moods.

Deceptive. Almost heartbreakingly so. Because with the same arms they used to wrestle and embrace, they'd also used to slaughter thousands at a time, even more if one included the orders they gave distantly, uprooting children and burning them in front of their elders before they too were beheaded. Vicious cullings, the morale of racists bolstered when in their esteemed presence. The Grey General and The Godslayer, highlights of Svalbardian military and royalty both. A man who'd become a King, and a wolf who became a God. How poetic that now they were this; like a thoroughbred and his greyhound partner, stripped of name and acclaim. Rogues for one reason or another, washed up by will or by not. One of them was more designed to regret these things, though, wasn't he? The other doesn't ruminate. If anything, he's found a way to use it still.
Or, maybe it uses him.

"I have lost some of my touch if you have been watching me. Is it that you live here?" A soft tilt of his head. Inquiring, or amused, or something in between. Like being infatuated by some quirk at hand. Of course you have. His instinct remembers for just a moment a hyper awareness of Falks' breathing; its speed, its sound, its consistency. An automated attention to listen for how winded he was after a hunt, if at all. A preparation for the scheduled degrade. As for what Malfius thinks of this reaction, who could say. The comment was almost nostalgic in some bitter sort of way--how heavily they'd ruminated on the older man's shelf life, concerns of his ability to keep up in bars or hunting and eventually the field of war. It was fated to come down eventually, long before it would for the Dire. "Not personally, but..." a tease, an unfinished thought that clearly had the punchline sawed off. These woods were easy to keep track of through eyes not his own--The Ahkura were useful for that. A man, woman or child, an animal or something that looked like an animal; so many avenues led back The Antigod's crown of ears. "The Hinterlands? Sometimes I'm in the area. ..Sometimes I am not. ...You know I could never stay still for long." It's the first glimpse that he'd really remembered or thought anything of the finer details of their dynamic. Malfius was either breaking his back trying to keep things together or pacing holes into the floor until he'd figured out a way to do that. Especially as The Mad King descended into madness more and more, the Archduke slept less and less. A desperate obsession to all he could, even more than he could, all to remind the Svalbardian people why they both loved and tolerated him as the nation's only Dire. As the Dire became more vicious and as the genocide tightened up to cull them, the weight of the responsibility to remind them of his exemption ran his mind even in his sleep.

No defection. No infection. Good boy, good boy.
Good boy.

But even as he'd said that, the way he moved was not indicative that this was ever true of him. Because he approaches with creaking grace that was so uncharacteristic from the long strides in the past, or the swaggered skip over to slide in next to the man. He moves like a stalking cat, hands behind his back, heel first onto the grass like he's sizing up a dance partner. His eyes fall almost immediately to the glistening blade when it's offered to him even if his reaction to grasp it is not nearly as quick. Their hands don't touch, and there's no attempt on either half to change that despite how Malfius can practically feel the man's hand wrapped around his wrist in a shorthand embrace as a greeting; more binding than a simple shake. Tight and informal, followed by a friendly and brief tug war against each other's grip at their wrists.
None of that. Instead there was a knife, and Malfius watches his own distorted reflection in the silver.

He takes it in stride, as always. As with everything thus far, for the 5 years. A brisk smile graces his face as he steps over as casually as the serpent can manage, spreading his legs over so that he could step half over the buck. Situating himself like someone who had done this a million times before, starting at the chest where the sternum was a guideline on how deep to keep the knife the rest of the way down. It was a leaner animal than the ones he'd caught before, but there was still a sizeable amount of give when the skin was tugged which made it incredibly easy to pull that skin and fat away from the packed meat itself. His eyes were lost in the act as were most of his senses, the hearty scent of fresh meat tightening his throat and greasing the joints of his jaw. It's impossible to know if he hadn't heard Falks or if he'd chosen to ignore him, but he says nothing about the rumor of his death. Perhaps he also thinks nothing of it as well as he reaches the very tail end of the buck, then grabbing an open flap of skin without hesitation and peeling and cutting it away from the sticky fat and membrane. It came away like a bloody coat, the plump musculature glistening up at them. One side was ripped completely back like a simple duvet, and without pause he worked on the other. The slightest sound of the skinning was rampant, above any sound the man beside him could make, the scent and imagery overpowering to nose and eyes both as well. He moved autonomously, a focus on both the here and not.
Until...

"I have missed you, my friend. Did you find what you were searching for?"


It would the be the most sudden he's moved thus far in their reunion. A snap to attention, a turn of his head to the man that he'd only now noticed was close--crouched down, a smile on his face. Falks was met with eyes bereft of similarity aside their hue, hollow beyond their beauty. And Malfius, in return, was met with eyes that were full, notably, of exhaustion and sadness. Weighty and tangible. The blankness was alike that of madness, chaos trying to choose how to proceed. Like he'd heard the most asinine thing in the world and had no words to react to it, or like all the world's people had suddenly begun speaking a language he didn't know. Unpredictable, was the word. The knife is dripping in his hand, brandished more like a weapon now than ever before. Held for strength, not precision, but whether he noticed that change from when he was skinning the buck.. who could say. But Falks brought more to his attention than he maybe should have.

Malfius slowly rose up to his full height again, his shoulders bending back just a touch further than they naturally rested when he stood. He hadn't taken his eyes of the man still crouched, his chin tilted down ever so slightly as he loomed over him. The silence was longer than it would have been between most dialogue held with most people, but sure enough there was an answer after what felt like many minutes. "...Yes." It was a very unceremonious answer, and the level of honesty there was impossible to read. "Did you really miss me, Falks?" Some frightening sliver of humanity laced that more than the dichotomy of the previous one-worded response, the words inflecting just enough to detect some level of bated interest. Almost innocent by comparison to the way he looked, the way he talked, the way he moved, the way he...anything, now.
Like a rewind to years ago.

With an expert flick of his wrist, Malfius flips the knife and slowly offers the blade back to its owner for him to finish the skinning.
Offline Falks Apr 16 2020, 12:20 AM
#5
  • Rogue
  • Age: 50
  • Gender: Male
  • Race: Human
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  • Total Posts: 28
  • Played by: Sbicy
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Falks is torn between what he knows, and what he does not. In the subject of war, making decisions based on a lack of knowledge was a hazardous risk, one that would easily separate the mind's of a lucky man and an informed one. Time taught him wisdom and temperance, mistakes gave him pain and a future. The Malfius he knew was not the one standing here, now. In spite of his later efforts to protect those around him, Falks could not save everyone from themselves. Good men and women break from war and tragedy, and had the Hound not experienced both simultaneously? Had he not been stripped of an identity? Told all his life what he would do and who he would be? To watch that direction grow mad and lose its way, how was he to fair? The death of the king had taken its toll on him, perhaps worse than any other, suddenly free of the chain to which he had been bound.

Falks had no intention of making the man feel trapped, like he was meant to serve the new face below the crown without hesitation. Many told him that he was weak when Malfius left Svalbard, unable to keep the dog controlled or obedient. He was a spineless man that skulked in the shadows with cats--Panther King. Yet, no matter what jibe or judgement they passed upon him, he never sought to break the silence that his friend had created in his absence. It was not his place, and Malfius had been upfront with his desires--at least to him. If he wished to remain in contact, he would have.

And he didn't.

Is that where he faltered, Falks wonders? Was taking the hands from him a message wrongly received? There was no way for him to know, even if he were to ask outright if his actions had hurt the other. He was not entitled to honesty after all this time, nor was he ever.

Malfius takes his knife, reaching over the yawning chasm between them to retrieve it from his grasp. It slips with ease, yet Falks is uncertain as to how such a simple exchange could feel so cold and mechanical. His eyes stray to the face of his companion, searching the newly formed lines and familiar edges. Certain as he was that this was, indeed, a man, he could not help but think he were facing a false replica: merely the skin of Malfius stuffed tight with straw.

The silence that settles is almost another physical presence, crawling across his skin like electricity. It sparks at the end of every nerve, a sensation of danger that can not yet be seen. The knife cuts into the flesh of the buck, filling the windy moor with the slick sounds of gore. Its glassy, black eye stares up at him, blood clumping its lashes. Unlike the pristine, practiced hand of the God Slayer, the antlers remain in dripping tatters, not so sharp a contrast against the pink muscle exposed to the air. Moments like this were comfortable, once. Basking in the triumph of a successful hunt and the meat they would cook together in that same evening. Playfully arguing the validity of rare or well-done venison.

When he chances to fill the air with words, he does not expect the quick reaction. He almost hears the pop of his bones with the suddenness of the motion, suppressing his urge to react down to the pit of his stomach. His smile falters at the edges, unable to navigate the space inside the other's eyes. Still, he does not back down or show his uncertainty, merely playing it off as any would if there is significant delay to a question asked. Waiting for the answer, he lets his eyes follow Malfius as he stands, mirroring the action so that they are always of equal height. The reply is singular at first, hinting at no clear sign that he wished to elaborate further. It stirs something within Falks' chest, something close to a pang of longing, but it was hard to say.

The steel blade glistens in the light when it is offered, dripping with a thin layer of blood. A glance to it, and he reaches out with both hands. One takes the knife, and the other grasps the man's forearm in a firm hold. Their old greeting, tethered by the threads of fate that sought to pull them apart. He stares into the dire's gaze, not allowing the stranger in them to push him away further than he already was.

"Have I ever lied to you?" He relinquishes his arm, the lingering warmth tingling across his palm. "Thank you for assisting me, by the way." A pause which he takes to wipe the blade off on the tall stalks of grass, "I am glad that you have found what you sought, and that you appear to be well. Assuming that you aren't suffering from cancer." A joke chanced again.

Falks makes quick work of the meat, cutting away what he wished with practiced grace and wrapping it. "Do you have a place of rest nearby? If not, we can use mine."