The DesertPhantom/Spirit

"Try to kill me, just try. You'll never get the chance."

a character in “Shadows of The Forgotten”, as played by nibblesnbits

Factions, Families, Clans, and Empires

Description

Name: Phantom Spirit
Age: 20
Height: 5'11--tall
Physical: Silver hair, different colored eyes (brown/blue), skinny and has high cheekbones (gives her a royal look)
City: Blackpond-Fugitive

Phantom does have a tattoo on her left hip of a stag leaping and circling her brow is a rich pattern which forms the appearance of a circlet.
she only wears breeches and tunics, to give herself the appearence of a man.

Personality

Theme songs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKi9Z-f6 ... p_play_all
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJqI262YST0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIghrxxhQYs

She has a soft voice and isn't outspoken. She reamins mostly to herself and doesn't trust anyone, not even herself sometimes. Though she has friends they are few and spread out across the land. She likes being a loner but needs something to do with her hands.

Equipment

Weapons: Dagger and sword (she’s only been taught a little bit)

Enlightenment: illusion
Phantom has the ability to change the images that people see around her
ex: making a image of a horse galloping down the street, a dog attacking someone, an archer trained on her victim, the potential to make an army look three times as big as it is
Effects: disorientation and the inablity to walk

Other:
Cloak: normally black or green and rarely brown (use: for hiding)
Pendent: Beautiful necklace that hides right between her breasts: the silver trinket was given to her by a lover long ago
Whistle: High pitched when blown into and causes the dogs to come running to her aid
However when played with care produces a haunting melody

History

Phantom was born into a Nobel family, in Blackpond, but her eyes were said to be a curse and so her death was ordered. The knight meant to do the killing saw her eyes, not as a curse, but as a gift and instead gave her to his brother and wife on the outskirts of town. They raised her as their own and helped her with her enlightenment, her gift being illusion. When she was sixteen her parents were killed by assassins.
Word of her survival had reached the ears of her actual parents and they had gone straight to the king and queen demanding her death. They had sent the assassins to kill her family and then her. Phantom was out in the woods collecting berries when they came and when she arrived home her parents were dead. She gathered up her stuff not knowing where to go. She took her father’s sword and her small dagger. Grabbing her cloak she ran out of the house and out into the farms. There she met a couple heading a bunch of beautiful horses out from the forest. It’s from them that she bought her black stallion, Shadow.
She rode him bareback out to her friend’s house, well really an inn, and stayed there for awhile, working as a stable girl. She loved the work until one day three riders dressed in black from head to toe rode in and stayed at the inn. It was in there that her friends brother, who had fallen in love with Phantom, had overheard them talking about the hunt for a multi-colored eyed girl. He was able to slip out and warn her. His name was Pieter.
She took Shadow and left that night, Pieter's gift (the pendent) secured around her neck. She rode into the forest where she fashioned a whistle out of a reed and trained Shadow to come to the high pitched whistle it emitted when she blew into it sharply. She set Shadow free to roam in the woods before breaking into a house and stealing a bunch of man's clothing. Phantom then returned back to the Blackpond, thinking that they wouldn’t expect her to be in there.
She lives up on the rooftops and sleeps mostly during the day, choosing to do most of her hunting at night. She is always on the lookout for strange things and not much escapes her attention. It’s during the hunts at night that she befriends the dogs, beggars and hunters alike, and trains them to come to her aid at the blow of her whistle. Today she is still sneaking around the city and keeping a close eye on the guards that patrol the streets and steering clear of the knights that ride by.

So begins...

Phantom/Spirit's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Phantom/Spirit
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OOC Notes

Setting: Newhaven2011-12-27 04:01:34, as written by nibblesnbits
Phantom wandered the streets alone. Her head was bowed and she blinked in the moonlight. Her body ached from the two hour ride she had taken, galloping nonstop on her big black beauty. She had just arrived in Newhaven from Blackpond during a hard nights ride. Already she missed the rooftops she knew so well and all the nooks and crannies she could hide in. This place was as foreign as a new land. That frightened her.

She moved through the streets, mumbling silently to herself. She needed a place to sleep and fast. She broke from the main road and slipped down a side ally, and looking back at for people who were walking through it. Her eyes burned, the blue turning silver, the brown turning gold. She made herself disappear, shifting the world around her to match her surroundings. She began climbing up the wall, scrambling and moving lithely as her feet found every tiny flaw in the rock that would help her to the roofs. When she had reached the top of the building she looked down at the marketplace. For awhile she watched the stars before laying down and closing her eyes, sucked into a dream.

[Blackpond- two hours before]

It was night at the clouds blocked the moon, only letting a little bit of light past. It had been days since the attack. She herself had barely left the street unharmed and had very nearly been exposed. Luckily, it was just enough to let her slip out of Blackpond and walk out toward the forest. Her eyes blinked in the dark, the pupil almost enveloping the different colored irises. She placed a small whistle to her lips and blew. A hawk’s cry came from the small instrument, screaming through the trees and then falling still. A short while later it was answered by the whinny of a horse.
Sighing, she sat down on the ground, pulling her brown cloak tight around her face and shivering against the cold as she waited. She didn’t have to wait long until a large black horse came bolting up out of the trees. Sweat dripped down his chest and his nostrils flared, snorting as his hooves thundered across the ground. The moonlight fell across his withers, his hair whipping around his neck and his beautiful tail held high. She stood as he skidded to a stop rearing up and slashing out his hooves at the air. She smiled and shook her head and carefully dropped her hood. Her silver hair flashed, seeming to absorb the starlight as she ran forward to the large black horse.
“Easy Shadow,” she whispered, burying her face against his warm neck, his feet prancing and his breath heavy. She smiled; her heart bursting for the one thing she knew would always come to her. She had saved him from two horse thieves, paying a hefty price for him right after her “parents” had been murdered. He reared again, knocking her back a step and she looked sternly into his face.
“Shadow,” she scolded as his hooves crashed to the ground, “Calm.”
When the horse continued to kick his feet, the beautiful feathers on his feet swaying in movement, she pulled her flute from her pocket and placed her lips to the top. Coming softly from the instrument, music filled the air, the tune rising in the cool night air. Her eyes closed as Shadow gently pressed down on the earth, his snorting slowly calming. She played carefully, his snorts pushing her onward to add a live beat to the haunting melody. The final note rose into the night, shimmering around them even after her lips had left the tiny flute.
“Good boy,” she said running her hand along his arched neck and pulling her body up onto his bare back. She took his hair in her hands, tapping her heals to his side gently. Shadow bolted forward their journey beginning. As she rode she was chased, horsemen on white steeds pursued her, Shadow not being able to out run them. She screamed as one of them caught up, his or her face hidden. He reached out and ripped off her hood, exposing who she was.

[Newhaven-An hour passed]

She woke with a scream, seeing that there was a man standing on the roof with her, her hood had been ripped from her face and her silver hair blew in the wind. She stared at his back and with a jolt of horror saw that he was dressed in head to toe in black. She carefully drew her dagger from her belt, standing and throwing it at her intruder. She watched with horror as it stopped in mid-air and clanged to the ground, rendered useless. As she reached for another one her hand froze and she found she could not move her body.
“Tsk tsk,” the assassin’s voice rasped as he turned toward her, his face covered and hidden in black, “You’re a silly girl. Thinking you could outrun us. Now I have you trapped, defenseless against my enlightenment.”
She watched nervously as he moved forward until his face was right in front of hers. His hand gently took her chin and lifted it, tipping her head back to expose her throat. Her heart raced and her mind screamed. She closed her eyes and changed.
“An’ what the ‘ell are you doin’,”shouted a white rider from her dreams. The assassin turned and looked carefully at this new trick. He kissed Phantom’s neck before turning, drawing out two long blades. She made the white rider respond by drawing a sword as well. Her eyes flickered and she focused on making her apparition doge the assassin’s attacks. She reached for her whistle, praying that someone would come and blew sharply into it, even though it was late at night and most lay asleep. With a snarl the assassin refroze her and stabbed though her only defense. She screamed as it vanished in a puff of white smoke.

The assassin seemed confused for a moment, looking around and then down to the streets, peering into the darkness around them.
“What a pretty trick,” he snarled walking angrily toward her frozen body. She felt the sharp bite of his sword against her throat, a quick slice and a bead of blood formed onto her neck before dropping between her breasts.
“I was going to kill you quickly, but,” he smiled wickedly, an evil glint forming in his eyes, “I think you could use a little pain. And don’t bother trying that little trick of yours again. I won’t fall for something unintelligent twice.”
She looked up into his eyes, frightened and unable to use the whistle. Her body was already drained from using her power and her legs were numb under her.
“Now,” he said, sliding a hand down her cheek, “What to do with you?”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Phantom/Spirit
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OOC Notes

Setting: Valcrest2011-12-27 20:43:05, as written by nibblesnbits
(Newhaven- on the rooftops near the marketplace)
Written by Nibbles and Trickster

Slowly he turned to look at the two who dared disturb his play. He looked them over before laughing and turning sharply back toward the frozen Phantom.
“Another one of your tricks,” he spat, looking over his shoulder before turning back to face Phantom, “I told you not to try that on me.”
She winced as he added another cut along her shoulder, the blood all too eager to spring forward and drip down across her caramel skin. He watched it carefully, ignoring the two figures behind him for a moment before deciding to be rid of them. His eyes glowed with anger and disappointment, turning now to face the two black clad figures.
“So,” he spat, “I guess I will have to deal with now two apparitions dancing from my blades. No matter,” he drew his sword and looked at Phantom, his eyes narrowing as he saw that her eyes remained the dull blue and brown.
Sophie shook her head. "The man thinks we're not real, Bran. How sad." She snapped her whip with a sharp cracking sound, bringing it expertly around to score a thin line of blood down the man's cheek.
"Real enough for you, mate?"
Brandon on the other hand, dove forward while Sophie was distracting the man, rolling smoothly to come close enough to bring his leg around to sweep the other man's feet out from under him. He hit the ground before springing to his feet, and grabbing a dagger from his belt as he backed away slightly.
“Neat trick, Phantom. They can talk and fight back. Tell me, do they feel pain as well? Or is it you who feels it for them,” he growled, not sure if they were real or not. He stepped forward, concentration etched on his face and slight pain from using his Enlightenment for so long. He turned back toward Phantom before spinning and throwing a dagger sharply at the women. The silver blade caught the moonlight, flashing for an instant, flying straight and true towards her breast. Sophie dropped smoothly to her knees; bending over backwards and watching the dagger fly over her. Snapping back up, she rolled forwards and snapped her whip, sending it streaking across the roof and wrapping it around the assassin neck. Throwing herself backwards, she braced her weight in against his in order to give Bran a chance to strike. Bran darted in as well, the daggers in his hands flaring brightly suddenly. He used this to blind the assassin, slashing smoothly and quickly before falling backwards. The man clawed at the whip before unwrapping it, rolling it around his wrist and yanking, trying to pull Sophie towards him. Sophie yelped, tumbling forwards before she let go. The man smirked and dropped it over the side, snarling and coming after her, ignoring Bran. That was a mistake, as he drew a throwing knife and sank it into the other man’s leg. Long used to working together, Bran and Sophie darted and danced, drawing blood whenever they could, wearing him down in tiny increments.

Phantom fought her mind and body pushed against the invisible bonds and she slowly felt her body loosen as the two “heroes” wore down the assassin. Finally she broke free as his body hit the ground and he lay there, covered in blood and panting. But the assassin intended on completing his mission, even on the point of death. His hand reached for the small knife hidden by his breast. With his dying breath his hand flicked back, his fingers letting lose the white rose handle. It flipped through the air, passing right between her breasts and falling to the street below.
Phantom didn’t see it but she felt it as the steal tip slid itself through her apparition. She felt the prick against her chest and her legs give out, her body striking the top of the roof and her hand falling out into a thin ribbon of moonlight. Her eyes watched nervously as the people in black searched for her, not entirely trusting them even though they saved her life. Her body tensed as they walked towards her, slowly carefully. She pulled her hood up over her face, hiding the mark of the nobility on her face and her eyes. When they were in front of her they stopped, looking down through the shadows, trying to see her face and the secrets hidden there.
“Thank you both,” Phantom said quietly, just a hushed whisper. Her hands worked quickly, tearing away at her shirt and wrapping the strips around the wounds, tying them there with her teeth. When they made no move to leave she looked up, slightly fearful of what she might find.

Sophie knelt down, taking a look at the wounds herself. “Looks bad love. Come along with us and we’ll get you all patched up.” Gently the two of them picked up the woman between them, helping her down to the street and to a nearby aid shop. Once she was settled, Sophie sent Bran to go report in.
“Why do I have to report in? I’m sure this lovely lady would feel safer with a strong man like me around.” He smiled winningly down at the woman they had rescued. Sophie just rolled her eyes and shoved him out the door.
“The lovely lady would probably appreciate some quiet and rest after all she’s been through. You can smile at her later, right now, report.”
Bran actually pouted a little bit as he walked out into the cold.
Sophie sighed as she sat down in a chair near the bed.
“Sorry about that. He’s a complete flirt outside of a fight, but he’s got a good heart.” She propped her chin on her fist and snorted. “Actually, I’m probably lucky he hasn’t stopped to flirt with a woman during a fight.”
“He’s got charm,” Phantom said lightly laughing; she grimaced as her ribs stretched uncomfortably and closed her eyes. Her hands shook as they reached up and pulled the hood from her face, blinking at the light and shifting uncomfortably as her silver hair fell down in waves across her shoulders. She looked up into the woman’s eyes, not trusting her completely just yet.
“There is nothing I can do to repay you, but I guess if you ever need help I will be there. A life for a life. They call me Phantom, and Spirit, I give you the liberty to pick whichever one you’d like to use. But first who are you? And what are you?”
Phantom cocked her head slightly, the bangs falling around her brown eye, revealing the mark on her forehead. She didn’t worry about the man who had left or where he was going, she was curious to find out more about this woman. She was awed of her fighting skills and the way the two worked together, one taunting and the other wounding. It had seemed like a dance that they had done many a time and now, after watching it, she longed to learn of both of them. Her eyes stared deeply into the women’s, assessing and analyzing, her soul reaching for this one, all connecting. For once, she found herself wanting to belong.

As she waited for the answer, a burning pain shot through her arm and slowly worked his way through her body. She screamed, not seeing the look of worry on the woman’s face, as her body arched itself up into the air. Her eyes flashed and then she collapsed. Her mind fleeing into unconsciousness, Phantom fell still, her chest rising and falling slowly as the poison slowly began to make its way through her life blood.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Phantom/Spirit Character Portrait: Kirsten Somare
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OOC Notes

Setting: Newhaven2012-01-01 22:51:57, as written by nibblesnbits
Trickster and Nibblesnbits

Sophie snored, feet propped on a nearby table, chair kicked back on two legs and head cocked at what had to be an uncomfortable angle. Bran wasn't sure if she normally snored, but for now he really wished he had some way to record the sound that she was making at the moment. It could be used as a weapon in battle, if they could increase the volume. It was absolutely impossible to sleep through, at least. Well, if you were healthy anyways.
He glanced over at the woman lying in the bed they were camped out next to, finally looking like she might make it through the day. When he had gotten back last night, the medics had been frantically trying to figure out what poison was pumping through her veins and a way to counteract it. Honestly he didn't understand it, he just was grateful that they had been able to figure it out. It would have been very frustrating to have saved a woman and then have her die not more than a couple hours later.

With a sigh, he took a couple of nuts from a bowl nearby and crunched a couple between his teeth. Sophie kept snoring. Cocking one eyebrow, Bran carefully aimed a bit of nut and tossed it, managing to score a hit between her eyes. Sophie twitched, but didn't wake up. Aiming again, this time Bran managed to bounce one off the end of her nose. Again, nothing more than a sleepy mumble. Noticing that the front of her shirt was a bit loose, this time Bran aimed for her neck, hoping to let it slip downwards. He aimed, pulled back just a little . . .
"Do it, and sing soprano for the rest of the week."
Sophie's eyes were open, and evidently she didn't wake up in a good mood.
Bran smiled weakly.
"Sorry?"
She glared and let the chair drop down on all four feet, looking over at the bed.
"How is she?"
Bran shrugged. "Alive? Honestly, if I know what the hell the medics meant when they start talking, do you think I'd be hitting people with sharp things?"

Phantom began to wake, her eyes fluttered open and with a groan she turned her head to look at the women and the man. Her different colour eyes flashed, locking with the gaze of the man. A little shiver shot down her spine, the colour they wore reminding her of a foe she was supposed to be running from.
“What,” she began to say when it came flooding back. She sat up quickly, nearly screaming as her shoulder denied her movement. She shook her head, looking around the room for her things, realizing how much danger she had put these two strangers in.
“Thank you both,” she said, struggling to stand, her legs still weak from using her enlightenment for so long, “But I really must be going.”
When she managed to stand she took a wobbly step forward, looking like a newborn foal before falling forward into the man’s arms. She blushed and stuttered out an apology, again working on making herself stand. She needed to go, and fast. She did not want him coming for her and gaining to more souls as a bonus prize. The man tightly held her arms and her eyes flickered up to his face.
"Stranger," she growled, a little annoyed that he was holding her still, "As your counterpart may have told you my name is Phantom, or Spirit. I really appreciate what you have done for me and I owe you my life, both of you. So here is how I repay that debt. I need to leave now."
She looked over her shoulder at the woman for help; desperation caused her face to fall slightly as she thought about what she had said and how now they were going to question her.
Bran smiled brilliantly as the woman fell into his arms; usually he had to work a bit harder for that to happen. She was ill still, but he wasn't going to argue. But at her words he looked up, locking gazes with Sophie. She looked concerned as well, tilting her head t the side.
"Um . . . . . No." They both spoke simultaneously; years of partnership letting them follow the other's thoughts without problem.
"You really think you're going to run when you can't even walk across the room?" Sophie crossed to the window and closed the shutters, dropping a metal bar down to lock them.
Bran set Phantom down gently on the edge of the bed, handing her her things one at a time. The playboy expression eased from his face and he looked competent and dangerous.
"Only question for right now. Who are we watching for?"
She cocked her head slightly, her eyes pleading with them to leave. She knew that they weren’t going to abandon her to her fate and she desperately needed to explain to someone. Her eyes locked onto his, her lips parting to speak.
“Men in black like last night. They are a group of elite hunters bought by the nobility in Blackpond to hunt me down. Their leader is named Kirsten,” she shivered at the name, “He rides always in a blood red cloak, his men are lesser dressed in head to toe in black. He probably is already here, and if that’s the case then we have already been found. So I beg of you, please! Just go.”
Her eyes flickered to the window, a slight flash of light catching her attention. They were found. She grabbed her dagger and her hood, pulling it tightly over her face to hide the mark and eyes, expecting him to walk in at any moment.

"You sound like a popular person, love; too bad that the whole head to toe black thing will just blend right in around here," Sophie said, waving at the all black uniform she and Bran were wearing. "On the other hand, it's not like we're alone here, is it?" She gestured to Bran and between them they each grabbed and arm and helped Phantom move back further into the building. There were a number of other people in the rooms that they passed, and Sophie signalled them as they walked by; "Looks like we might have some visitors, my friends. Shall we make sure they get a warm welcome?" Several people smiled, doors and windows were barred, and weapons suddenly appeared in hands.

Phantom wanted to flee, not drag others into it, and she felt her adrenaline burn and she loosed herself from their grip, standing on her own.
“We must hurry,” she said spinning her dagger in her hands. She let them lead, running behind them, her eyes burning gold and silver as she changed the atmosphere around her so that hundreds of soldiers were lining the hallways, quickly saying that they were no harm. She slid to a halt at an open window, reaching up to close it. She recoiled as a brown hawk flew through, screaming before turning and flying back out. She slammed the window shut turning to look at her companions.
“They’re here,” was all she had time to say before the shouts came from down the hall.

Kirsten stood at the guard station, watching as there was a flurry of movement from inside. Kie had returned to him and now he sent him down into the fray, looking for the girl. It didn’t take very long until he heard the screech and nodded to his men. They burst in through the door, swords and bows drawn and at the ready. Their eyes glowed in an assortment of colours, all of them having some sort of enlightenment. Kirsten heard the sounds of steal hitting steal and smiled, slipping in through a different door and quickly stabbing through Phantoms apparitions. They wavered and he turned, seeing the flap of a brown cape, his prey was fleeing. He drew his sword and ran after them, his eyes glowing the colour of fire.
His heart raced as he turned the corner, throwing one of the daggers at Phantoms two protectors. He watched with mild amusement as she stopped and turned; the two people disappearing in front of her. He cocked his head slightly, checking her eyes. Her hood had fallen off and she stood proudly in front of him, silver hair cascading down her shoulders and her eyes burning silver and gold. This was the one he had searched for. He took a step forward, his mind pushing forward and into hers with a harsh amount of pressure.
Tell me Phantom, his mind whispered to hers, what do you fear?
Her mind stayed locked to him, he snarled as he realised that someone had trained this girl to shield her thoughts. He knew that she was going to have to be distracted before he got the chance to see her fears. He took another step closer, the screams of men and women echoing behind him.

“Party time," Bran muttered as the aid station was attacked. Smoothly, the entire force inside the station swung into action, some of them glancing uneasily at their doubles but fighting none the less. Those attackers with bows were at a disadvantage, one which the defenders were happy to demonstrate as they flung knives and other small objects at them. Small lightning flashes and clouds of smoke further confused things as the Guards fought with everything they had. The medics proved the fact that you never want to piss off the people who know how to take you apart as they used small razor sharp daggers to inflict slashing blows that bled and weakened those they fought.
Bran pushed Sophie behind him, as her whip was almost useless in close quarters. Instead she pulled out a thin rope with a heavy ball on the end, using it to smash in helm and inflict punishing blows as she spun and darted. Bran almost lost an important part of his anatomy when he got distracted, nearly letting a swordsman land a blow that he would have severely regretted for as long as he lived, which would have been a day or so, tops. Raising one dagger, Bran flared the light coming off of it, using the other dagger to slide the attack to the side.
"Duck!" Bran did so and Sophie's bullet whizzed past him, smashing squarely into the face of the man in front of him. He gurgled oddly and collapsed, the front of his face caved in.
"Remind me not to piss you off." He muttered as he looked around for Phantom. She was the point of all of this fight, after all.
"Don't get dead and that's a start." Sophie snarled as she wrapped the thin rope around another man's neck. With a savage grunt she twisted and pulled, drawing it tight enough that the man started turning red and then blue.
Bran finally saw who it was he was looking for, Phantom and some other guy standing alone down a corridor.
"Oy, asshole!" Bran yelled as loud as he could, while seizing a nearby basin and chucking it down the hall at the new guy.

Kirsten laughed lightly and sidestepped it as Phantom’s eyes faded back, her chest heaving from the effort. She was done but she saw the surprise on Kirsten’s face as Bran and Sophie flashed back into view. She dove forward, sinking her dagger into his leg before sprinting past him and right into another person. He grabbed her and she screamed as he grabbed her hair, yanking her head back by it as Kirsten advanced. She saw him coming and was able to spin her attacker, using his body as a shield as Kirsten pierced his own man through the heart. She swung her leg up, kicking up as another man in black ran to contain her. She smiled with sick satisfaction as she caught him under the jaw and his head snapped back, his eyes rolling to the back of his skull and his body slumping to the ground. With a snarl she tossed the dead man off of her and turned to face Kirsten. His face was modestly shocked but he kicked forward, catching her in the chest and causing her to fall back across several bodies. Her eyes lock onto his.
“Do it,” she snarled, exposing her throat.

"Not a good idea," Bran sang out as he kept heaving bit of furnishings at Phantom's attacker. "I haven't even had a chance to ask her out on a date yet." Behind him Sophie kept mowing through attackers, breaking bones and knocking a few out. With his back safe, Bran leapt forward over Phantom, landing lightly on the balls of his feet. With a flourish he brought both blades up to cross in front of his face, frowning in concentration.
"Gonna hurt," he said softly to himself, eyes glowing as his blades shone like twin suns, giving the shadows knife edges and blinding anybody who happened to be looking at him.
“Don’t,” she cried as Kirsten struck forward, barely having enough time to knock him out of the way as the blade sliced though the air and she closed he eyes. The sword veered wide as if it had a mind of its own and Kirsten looked at it with shock. His brown eyes locked onto hers before whistling sharply and watching as his men retreated, still the others striking them down as they ran. His eyes scanned over Bran before running after his men, still confused as to what happened.
Phantom watched them go before throwing herself over Bran and hugging him tightly.
“That was rash,” she scolded.
"Watch out, not a good idea." Sophie grabbed Phantom and pulled her backwards as Bran staggered around the corner to be rather noisily sick. "He get's nauseous and disoriented after he flares, really cuts into the romantic image." She patted Phantom on the shoulder when she looked worried. "Don't worry, happens all the time."
"But the ladies still love me," came weakly from around the corner, as Bran staggered back, eyes bloodshot and not quite focusing right.
Sophie rolled her eyes. "Yes, yes; you are unequalled in manliness; no mere mortal can hope to match your might, blah blah blah. I've heard it all before and you're not impressing Phantom right now." She gently steered him into a chair and pushed him down, pulling a flask from her boot and handing it to Phantom. "Get him to drink a bit of this while I check things out, will you?" With that she went to count bodies and help the medics patch people up. Phantom shook her head in wonder before opening the bottle and reeling back. The scent it’s self was nauseating, smelling of a strong wine and herbs. She didn’t drink and that was clear as she handed the bottle back to him and she watched him drink it down. His enlightenment was beautiful yet deadly but then again, so could hers and everybody else’s. Phantom turned, the effects of using her enlightenment were starting to hit her and hard. She staggered away from Bran, walking toward the man she had killed through Kirsten and gently knelt over him. She murmured something and gently closed the wide eyes before moving to the man that looked dead. She had caught him pretty heart in the throat but as she put her ear to his lips was glad to see that he was still breathing, shallowly but still breathing. She looked around, searching for someone to call out to when a hand grabbed her collar and pulled her down with a tiny yelp. Her face was inches from the man’s and his teeth were covered in blood as he spoke.
“I told him it was foolish,” he coughed, whispering so only she could hear, “He cannot kill you Phantom.”
She struggled to get away but he held her firm in his grasp. The effort and pain on his face showing just how hard it was for him to maintain this.
“Help,” she cried as his had shot forward and caressed the side of her cheek. Her body froze, itching and tingling moving across her face and scalp for a moment before it was over. His brown eyes now burned green and he smiled up at her gently.
“Learn how to fight girl,” he snickered, growing weaker every moment. His hand fell from her face and his eyes stared off into the distance and his last breath caught in his throat, escaping in a little hiss. She touched her hair gently, the silver strands gone and replaced by brown.
She fell against the wall, looking at her brother, lying dead on the floor. Tears sprang from her eyes and her heart lurched. She had killed the one last thing she had in life to rely on. She cried, tears falling like diamonds from her eyes, splashing down against the ground.
Bran sipped the tonic and grimaced as it slowly settled his system, feeling things slowly realign themselves the way they should be. He was too dazed to stop the 'body' from grabbing Phantom, but that didn't stop him from lurching up and trying to stagger over.
"Sophie!" He staggered over and slid down the wall next to the girl, who now didn't seem to deserve the name 'Phantom.'
"It's going to be ok, darling. Just lean on old Bran here. Just go ahead and cry and we'll get through it." When Sophie finally managed to get to them, he pointed at the body that had grabbed Phantom. "That one's special, treat him right." Sophie nodded and gently checked to make sure he was really gone, then looked over.
"Well, I'm afraid this is the part where we have to start asking for answers. Only because the Captain is going to hear about this and need to know. And I don't want to go against her wishes."
She looked up at them, shaking as the tears fell down her face. Her eyes were wet and she looked a mess. Her brother had given her a gift. He had switched the colouring of her circlet and her hair, the marking on her face shining silver, her hair now brown.
“Ask away,” she sniffled, wiping at the tear that wavered on her cheek. She had curled up against Bran, that was his name and she looked sadly up and the women, Sophie. Sophie smiled gently.
"Well first off, just who are these guys that they want to kill you so bad? At first we thought it was just between you and that other guy, but this," she gestured to the wreckage and bodies lying around. "This is something more. We're not going to throw you out, but we need to know who we're fighting against."
“Alright. But to understand you need to know where I am from. I was born in Blackpond, into a noble family,” she absently rubbed the mark on her head, “My eyes were said to be a curse to my family and so they ordered my death. The knight that was supposed to do it brought me to his brother’s farm outside of the city because to him, my eyes were a gift. They raised me as their own but even they couldn’t hide me forever,” she looked nervously up at Bran before continuing, “When I came home from hunting they had been slaughtered by Kirsten and his men. I thought my brother had died with them, but he joined Kirsten. So I did the only thing I could do. I ran. I knew they would continue to hunt me and with some luck I was able to run into some horse traders where I bought Shadow, my big black baby.”
She shook her head and sighed. Sophie would need more and so she continued with reluctance.
“I lived in Blackpond for awhile and then when Kirsten had found me there I fled to Newhaven. And that is who you’re fighting. Kirsten is being ordered by my ‘family’ to finish the job, to kill me. My eyes may have not been a curse for them as a baby but now....”
She trailed off, anger stirring deep within her as she looked at all the dead and heard the moaning of the wounded. Slowly the colour of her hair was draining back into the mark on her head and the silver began to creep up from the tips and ends of her hair.
Bran kept his arm wrapped around Phantom's shoulders, tightening it gently to get her attention.
"Don't worry then. We take in all sorta strays around here. You're not there anymore, you're here, so things are gonna be just fine." His voice was a bit slurred still and he listed just a bit to the side.
Sophie shook her head at him, but agreed. "You got lucky enough to run into the Black Guard, and we don't turn people away just because they're trouble. Half of us the Captain pulled out of the gutters or the prisons, the rest of us are trying to leave some bad past behind. Or both. We're used to dealing with things that people are trying to move past, and we don't ever give up." She reached over and plucked the flask from Bran's fingers, ignoring his attempts to get it back.

After a moment she levelled a solemn look at Phantom, all traces of humour gone for a moment. "So long as you play straight with us, me and Bran will help you for as long as we can."
Phantom nodded and smiled through her tears, shrugging off Bran and standing to her feet. She had no knowledge of the Black Guard but she was glad she had found a home, for a later date.
“We should go help with the wounded and such,” she pulled Bran to her feet and grabbed her brother’s arms. She began to drag him down the hall, not waiting for help. Phantom began to memorise her options to get out of the building. She needed to find Kirsten and she knew exactly where he would be, just like she knew he would be waiting for her. They had a lot to discuss, like her death. She had fallen for Sophie and Bran, they had defended a complete stranger, and yet she was also afraid of them. She did not want to meet the captain of the guard but she knew it was going to happen. She smiled lightly dropping her brother among the dead, her hair shining silver once again.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Kirsten sat in the tavern in the far corner, his face hidden by shadows. His eyes were staring down into the drink he had gotten from the barmaid. She was a pretty thing but he was still not in the mood to flirt with anyone. His memories were playing the battle over and over again, trying to figure out why on earth his sword had veered wide.
The blinding light, but he had already marked exactly where she laid and her protector had been knocked out of the way by her, but that still didn’t explain why his sword had veered wide. Unconsciously his had touched the dragon shaped pendent and his hand jerked back as he touched it. The dragon was burning hot, and as he pulled it carefully from its hidden place. The trinket glowed and his eyes widened, a memory forming itself in his mind’s eye.
Her crystalline eyes stared up at him, a knowing expression on her face as she saw what her older brother had to do. It was sad but that was life. He raised his sword, getting ready to plunge it down into her chest when she held out a tiny charm.
“For you brother,” she whispered, “It will protect the special one.”
Now he understood. The special one was Phantom, but why and how? He was sure Ari, yes that was the girl’s name, was the special one because she showed no fear. He took a deep drink of his ale, twirling the dragon around in his fingers.
So, he would finally lose a victim, all because she had been protected from him though his sisters enlightenment. He snorted and shook his head sadly, a bit amused at the thought. But then again it did save him the trouble of mulling over what happened, why his pendent was burning and why that girl had shown up here.
He stood as she wandered through the crowd to his table, sitting across from him.
“Glad to see you could escape from your friends,” he growled, taking another sip of his ale as they sat.
“My enlightenment has no limits,” she said, pulling her hood back from her face, “you wanted to see me?”
“Actually, I did. As you may have found out I cannot kill you,” he held up her hand as a smirk flashed across her face, “It is not because of your charm. Rather, the charm place on you by my sister.”
She listened as he explained the death of his sister and what she had said. Her eyes flashed as he showed her the dragon pendent and she gently touched it, her gold and silver eyes flashing back to green and blue. She swore lightly and looked at her former hunter.
“This is very intriguing and I am glad to know that I will have you to stop worrying about. But if I don’t hurry back Sophie and Bran will find me gone,” she stood abruptly as he reached out and grabbed her wrist, tightly.
“I will let you go, but there is a second part. I have to protect you now,” he let her wrist go gently, seeing the tears spring up into her eyes. He carefully escorted her to the door before walking her out into the busy street.
“Well, I will take you up on it. You’re a good fighter to have around. But I will be with Sophie and Bran for the time being,” and with that she turned, pulling the hood up to cover her face and running down the street.

Kirsten watched the girl go, shaking his head in wonder and glancing up at the rooftops. Some of his men were running around up there, some on the street. The wounded that had been able to escape were hidden in a safe house and being tended to by his own group of healers. Phantom, she was a puzzle, her mind had been shielded by herself, and someone must have taught her how. However, he would do as his sister had asked her dying wish, maybe learn a little from this girl. He smirked and entered the inn, deciding that he could flirt just a little.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Phantom/Spirit
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OOC Notes

Setting: Newhaven2012-01-31 21:35:54, as written by Essence
Essence was glad to have been down these halls a couple times already, so the appearance of belonging wasn’t hard to pull off when she knew where to go. For the most part, everyone was too busy to pay any real attention to her as she maneuvered through a cluster of pissed off ex-guards men/women. Someone had stepped out into the hall, just as Ess went to pass, making her way towards where she saw several people disguarding uniforms, only to bump shoulders with a woman. Ess’s soft purple gaze met the girls own, an apologetic smile curling her lips as she noted one was brown the other blue. Not daring to pause more than a second she whispered confidently, “Excuse me, Miss..” before turning about, the hood of her cloak falling past her burgundy braid as she walked away. ‘Silver hair...’ she thought to herself with a small chuckle, the irony of the connection just too much to bear. Everything seemed to be connected in one way or another today. First Kirsten, Mageria, Luckas, Ari....and this other woman. What part did she have in it all to play? Ess wondered if she was going to meet Kirsten again and she didn’t know if that would be a good thing. Course she wouldn’t willingly explain she had come across his hunted prey, but maybe it would be a fun tease.


Phantom smiled softly, pulling her hood back up over her face, and was turning to follow Sophie and Bran when she ran into another Guard. Her eyes automatically snapped to the person at fault, her lips parting slightly. She blinked, her eyes flashing slightly as she saw that the woman’s eyes were a brilliant purple and a horrific scar under one eye brought out the color. She shrugged slightly, hearing the muttered apology from the woman as she continued forward. Something struck her then, a shiver running down her spine as she turned back but the woman was already gone. It was a nagging feeling as she looked back, her heart racing. The woman had studied her, not seeming at all shocked about the different colour eyes, the silver hair. Something told Phantom that this woman had run into the Night Hunters, and possibly the girl she was looking for. She wanted to run after her, but Bran and Sophie had stopped and were waiting for her, besides it wasn’t safe to run around the complex alone right now. She marked the girl in her memory, reminding herself to keep a wary eye out for her if anything happened before jogging to catch up with Bran and Sophie.

Ess managed to find the room empty, quietly closing the open door behind her as she scanned the many bins of dirty uniforms, quickly searching for something in her size. Preferring something clean was not an option from what the Guard had mentioned about the Captain getting into a brawl, so something blood stained was needed to make the hoax believable. Slipping out of her boots and cloak she closed her eyes taking in a cleansing breath as she focused on Mageria’s image. Gradually the change began with her hair, the dark red turning brighter in a fiery tone accented with a white streak that sourced from her right temple, intertwining through the braid. The captain was a bit taller than Ess, with more muscle mass in general resulting from the years of battle, her arms and legs stretching out her clothes as her features contorted and meshed.

‘Too bad this is just an illusion,’ Ess thought to herself, a bit jealous of the defining muscle Mageria had, but if things worked out she would soon enough gain strength as well. An illusion this was truly, for Ess would not have any additional strength but her own. Cursing slightly that there wasn’t a mirror for her to confirm her work, her fingers traced along her face, finding the changes in her lips and nose seemed accurate, along with the claw scars on the left side of her face and the one larger that bisected her right cheek.

Faded voices from the distance beyond the door, seemed to get closer as the door opened slowly a cheery woman muttering to another at the current gossip of the Castle.

“..I heard she has to leave by tomorrow night..forever..”

“Not forever?..Blasted Twins..”

“What the hell happened to her?”

“Pondus came back from the dead..”

“You’re pulling my chain..”

“...Have you seen her?”

“No. Figure she could use some clean clothes though, the poor deary.”

Ess’ mind raced furiously not knowing exactly what kind of condition Mageria was in, but luckily the two women who entered the room were oblivious to her current wounds, so Ess just went with it. The women paused in their banter in shock to see Mageria standing before them, slightly hunched over but appearing to be in one piece. Ess managed to manipulate random spots on her skin to take on the developing of bruises as the women stared at her in awe.

“What are you doing out of the infirmary, Captain?” The servant women questioned, only to get a sharp elbow to the side by the shorter girl who whispered... “Shouldn’t be calling her that anymore Dina....”

‘Here goes nothing,’ Ess thought to herself giving a pained smile. “..You know me..I don’t like feeling helpless...I need a clean uniform.” Ess’ voice cracked at first, but she kept her at ease appearance, for any discrepancies she was trying to work out on her voice, could be overlooked from the Captains supposed state.

“Of course...” The shorter women spoke as she went to retrieve a clean uniform to fit ‘Mageria.’ “Glad to to see you’re in better shape than we were told.”

Ess gave a small sigh, trying to give the women a tired smile. “Thank you ladies, I’m sure I’ll be feeling it in the morning.” Ess graciously accepted the uniform, the women hinting that they thought they should be helping her dress, but Ess simply slipped the uniform over her other clothes, pausing here and there with a grimace of pain as she muttered. “That will be all ladies.”

The women nodded, disappearing back out the door, making sure to close it behind them, “I’m going to miss her...”

Ess giggled, as she readjusted the belt and blade along her thigh, slipping back into her boots and draping the cloak back over her form. “Guess I don’t need a mirror after all..” Keeping the illusion she pulled the hood back over her head, mostly to cover her eyes, casually making her way back out the door to meet up with Luckas and Mageria. Ess was amazed how even servants had a substantial amount of respect for the Captain, and wondered what it must be like to have such loyalty from so many. Ess didn’t even know Mageria, but from what she experienced and saw, this women had something about her that commanded such loyalty, given of free will.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Phantom/Spirit Character Portrait: Kirsten Somare
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OOC Notes

Setting: Newhaven2012-02-26 03:33:34, as written by nibblesnbits
Kirsten entered back into his manor as he liked to call it, sitting down by the fire and shaking his head grimly. Every time someone was struck, they would die and so would a little part of him, he would feel their pain. He shuddered as several of his ties were cut loose but he had grown use to blocking out the pain and he leaned back against the red chair. His inner circle was safe, the ones he considered most precious, now stood milling around in the rooms above his head. Erin seemed to be pacing, obviously still upset about the sudden attack on Ari. Alecto was down the hall, his wounds grave but liveable. Catlin was in his room and based on the thunks coming from above, Kristen guessed that the boy was throwing daggers into the wall again. Kirsten shook his head, suddenly too tired to care where the rest were, Sesh surprisingly wasn’t dead, at least Kirsten could feel his loyalty still alive but that didn’t mean that the kid wouldn’t be dead soon enough. The red-orange flame cracked as a black log, covered with veins of shifting red, collapsed under the weight of the others, sending up a flurry of sparks. For a moment, Kirsten’s eyes mirrored the colour of the logs before fading back to the black he was accustom to.

Enlightenment, that was a curse. Something he would give up gladly and without hesitation. He smirked lightly as it struck him that she would have slapped him for even thinking that. She had always claimed that it was a gift, but now she lie in the bottom of a hole in the Lords prisons’, rotting away. His fingers reached up to rub his temples, his brows knitting together with distain. Most of his fighters were enlightened, only his inner circle. The rest were just there, he having given them a dream to make them think they were enlightened. Of course it was all Lichens idea, and surprisingly it had worked. He found that his Hunters could see better, hear things no one would think about, some had begun to move faster and he realised that to some degree everyone was “Enlightened”. They all had some special ability, every person in Valecrest. He snorted and leaned forward, his eyes reflecting the light of the fire and he remained perfectly still as a silent mind whispered into his own.

I guess one could say that we all are...but We channel our ability, making it stronger than the others. Why are you in despair Kirsten, son of Kilter?
You know why, his mind snapped, If I don’t bring back the girl, it’s over. For both of us.

There was the light bell like laughter in his mind as the voice slowly faded, disappearing into the nothingness it had come from. Kirsten searched his mind, digging into his deepest thoughts to find the voice once again. He muttered a curse when he realised that it had gone again, and slowly he stood. Lichen stood beside him, his eyes fixed onto the fire where the images of a girl slowly faded into ash.

“She talks to you,” he said, more as a statement then as a question and Kirsten shrugged.
“Sometimes, when I do not need her, yes,” he looked towards the coercer and smiled slightly. “You fought well tonight, as did the rest of us.”
“It was folly to even try,” Lichen said, his voice as flat and dead as the air around them. “I had the Wolves fighting each other, but there was a...a man,” he paused, choosing his words, “He was stronger than me and I couldn’t keep him out.”
Kirsten blinked, obviously a little taken aback and his eyes studied the man beside him. He was the strongest Kirsten had ever met dealing with minds, strongest and most crafty. To hear of another who was able to disrupt that was......rare, exceedingly so. There was silence, a deadly hush that fell across the room, cut only by the hiss and pop of the fire. For awhile they said nothing, each absorbed in their own thoughts until Lichen spoke again. His voice was soft, almost enchanted as it rang through the hall.

“The archers are falling back, most of our men have retreated, and I hear that the Alpha lay dead,” his green eyes were closed lightly, the shadows from the fire giving his face a sinister look. “Whoever was able to shield me out is now doing so to Ari, the Telepaths can’t find her.”
Kirsten blinked, not at all surprised by what he had heard. The Alpha would be dumb enough to get involved and for a moment, he was honestly touched by the fierceness of the Pack to defend one of its own. That kid, Ari, had done at least one thing right. She had strong alleys now. He thanked Neway, for it was he speaking through Lichen and then watched as Lichen blinked several times and shook his head, clearing it of the Telepath.
“There is some one here to see you,” Lichen said suddenly, his voice still light and airy. “Someone who has given us enough trouble as it is. And she brought a friend this time.” Seeing the looks on Kirsten’s face Lichen hastily continued, his voice darkening, “They lay asleep, both of them.”
“Bring her,” Kirsten sighed, slumping back into the chair as another tremor ran through him, his throat exploding with the feeling of pain.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~
Phantom had tried to lose Sophie and Bran, giving them a lame excuse for leaving. They had agreed, only after she had told them where she intended to go, of course she had lied. She wasn’t going to pop into any of the taverns to look for the girl, but rather she would go Kirsten’s house and begin her search there. The black door had loomed above her and her sharp eyes found the signs of a struggle right beneath her. Scuffs of boots against the stone, several strands of blonde hair caught on the wood of the house, and then blood. She couched down to look at the tiny spot better, swiping the hair out of her eyes as the rain splashed down onto the only dry spot in the city. Her fingers reached out to gently touch it, the dry dot crusting against her fingers. She shook her head sadly; it was the girl’s blood. Phantom doubted that she even knew that she had been injured, or if she did, she would ignore it and keep running until she had found a good place to hide. Her different colored eyes looked back toward the black house.
Phantom thought they would have been a little more conspicuous when hunting but apparently they were not the kill quietly type, no sir. They wanted everyone to know who had struck the blow and Phantom had found herself wondering if that would come around and bite them. She wondered if Kirsten knew the risk he was taking, blowing his trumpets around the way he did instead of sliding around in the dark, out of sight. She looked up to where a curtain moved in the window, the flurry of movement causing her to straighten out her back and she stood, stepping back into the rain as some mental force struck her own. She felt herself falling, her vision fading and then going black.
She woke suddenly, lying on the black stone floor. She slowly picked up her head, studying the white veins that ran through the stone and then her gaze flickered to the wall. It too was black and she realised that the room was incredibly small, a pressing sensation that, she assumed, Kirsten wanted his victims to feel before dealing with them. She shook her head and nearly cried as she found that her wrist was clapped in iron to her ankle and she was unable to move. Her eyes looked to the door, her lips pulling into a snarl as she found not an ordinary door, but one made entirely out of hard wood and the window near the top lined with bars. So it was to be a prison then, she snarled and looked around, her ears catching the curses from another cell, or what she assumed was another cell.

“Hello,” she called, flinching as her voice rebounded throughout the cells and another curse rang out. Phantom shook her head, that voice.....no, it couldn’t be. “Sophie,” she snarled, “If you followed me here...By the Twins.”

There was no answer, but she assumed that it was Sophie with her, but where Bran was... Phantom hoped for the best, that he was not here but elsewhere, and if she was lucky she had only imagined Sophie’s voice.
Her internal conversation was cut as a door boomed open and there was a harsh word followed by a blow and a yelp. Phantom snarled and tore at her bonds, ignoring the pain. She froze when a man appeared at her door, his face hidden by the shadows and after looking at her for while the door swung open. The figure stepped forward and knelt gently over the irons that held her, with a soft word and a click they opened. Phantom flinched as the man gently took her hand in his own and lifted her arm to better look at her wrist. He shook his hooded head, seeing the black liquid smeared around the skin was her blood. His hand reached up and pulled back his hood, Phantom recoiling once again. His black hair fell across his face; it was shorter than Kirsten’s and a touch lighter in colour. Blue eyes, bright and as cold as the sky in winter, peered at her, the pupils big and inky black. She looked up into the face, the sad set of his jaw just visible under the perpetual thin lipped line that most of the Hunters had etched onto their face. She hissed as his fingers brushed across the torn skin, finally realizing the pain that her wounds caused her. She took a closer look at her wrist, studying it. The healthy skin had been rubbed away, layers upon layers and the skin was tinged red around the open sores that wept for her. Tears of rubies, dark and full of life were crushed and smeared across the skin, her sweat mingling with her blood to form a slippery over layer that stung like fire when it was touched. She took her free hand to brush away at a bit of dirt when boots echoed down the corridor and her jailor quickly returned the hood to its former position. Phantom’s eyes snapped up as the footsteps ceased, her face breaking into a pained smile as she saw that it was Lichen who towered over he and her jailor.
“Lady Phantom,” he said flatly, his eyes never leaving the wall behind her, “Kirsten demands your presence, so if you will follow me.”
Her jailor carefully pulled her to her feet, watching from under the shadow of his hood as she walked forward, keeping her wrist close to her side. There was a scream from further on down the corridor and Lichen seemed to snap out of a trance, looking at Phantom as if she were real and then back to her jailor.
“Damn it Makom,” he snarled, giving the jailor a name, “I told you to keep those two quiet until Kirsten calls upon them too. See to it that it is done,” Lichen turned, grabbing her bloody wrist and keeping his face a mask as he lost his grip from the slick blood. Phantom thought she saw him wince slightly before taking her other hand and leading her forward. When they were well out of earshot and up a flight of stairs he turned, stopping them in the hallway. “Phantom, you were a fool to come here,” he whispered, “and fool for fighting like that.” His fingers trailed over the sores causing her to whimper.
“What do you care,” she spat, still miffed about being treated like a prisoner and turning her back towards Lichen.
“Yes, Lichen, what do you care,” came a mocking voice and both of them turned to see Kirsten leaning against the doorway behind them. His face broke into a smile, giving his face that charming, boyish feature that he still had about him. “Well just don’t stand there, Phantom, we have work to do.”
Phantom looked at Lichen. His face was contorted with shock and she guessed such a look was mirrored on her own. Kirsten must have had something go right, something good happen and whatever it was it had to be dramatic. Her hand reached out to touch the green shirt that covered his torso and after several rapid blinks he again took the lead, pulling Phantom behind him into the room. The fire blazed brightly, casting the room with a warm summery feeling against the rain that pelted the window outside. She took the seat that Kirsten offered, next to him at a long table where several of the Night Hunters also sat, their eyes fixed on her and Lichen as they took their seats to the right and left of Kirsten.
“Phantom here is about to become the best thing that’s ever happened to us boys,” Kirsten called, his eyes shining with some sort of mischief. “Phantom, I would like you to meet Erin, Alecto, Catlin, Juma, Neway, and you already know Lichen....Blast it where is Makom!”
“Sir, he is down stairs subduing several of the prisoners,” Lichen said, looking across the table to Phantom. She smiled softly at him, her lips pulling into a thin smile that he returned, his foot tapping hers under the table.
“I know that, but he should be here. Neway!”
“Already on his way Kirsten,” replied a Hunter who had reddish-brown hair and was heavily muscled, so much so that his shirt was stretched over the skin, giving his a massive, almost menacing look. Neway noticed Phantom studying him, truing his blue-green eyes on her face and smiling politely at her. She blushed and dropped her gaze, settling for studying the dark oak of the table in front of her.
“Good, then we can begin and he should be here shortly…” Kirsten paused as if consumed by some thought, the excitement obvious on his face, “This is my innermost circle Phantom, the people I trust my life to. Many times have they saved my life and not only are they my best fighters, they are my friends. I would be dead without them.” Phantoms head shot up, her eyes locking on to Kirsten as she absorbed the information that he was telling her, why though was going to be a trickier thing to find out. She flinched as his harsh voice cut the soft crack of the fire, breaking the hall back into noise, “Now here’s where I will let you in on a little secret: They are the only enlightened ones I have at my command that are truly enlightened. See, if we find a good fighter with excellent position or quality we fore upon them a memory which gives them this…idea, that they are enlightened. So they become, of course we can only do very small things, and unfortunately one of my best trainers was killed tonight by a frightened cur. He was also in my inner circle, gifted with speed.” There was a crash as the doors opened and her jailor, Makom strode quickly across the room settling into the seat next to Lichen as he was greeted by several bowing heads and whispers and Kirsten, who clapped his hands in delight. He shone like a kid who had been given a gift and she shuddered to think that perhaps she had just delivered herself into his hands, gift wrapped and all.
“Alright,” he called, his voice commanding as the chatter died again, “What you all know…is about the Blood Oath.” Phantom saw several turn pale and some even swallow with fear and she shook her head, looking back at Kirsten with curiosity.
“Blood Oath?” she asked quietly.
“It is the binding ritual to the Hunters,” whispered a dark haired man next to her and she nodded her mind clicking in Eric as his name. His eyes smiled at her and she felt her mind slowly come to a rest, her worry gone. She stared curiously at Erin, knowing that somehow he had done this and was about to ask when Kirsten again took over.
“Phantom is about to become one of us.”
She stood, the chair sliding out behind her and clattering against the floor, her eyes blazing with fury. Kirsten obviously enjoyed her reaction, choosing to remain seated as she towered above him, noting how several others had also stood, their hands resting against the pommels of their swords and daggers.
“I will not,” she cried, eyes narrowing as her hands balled up into fists. Kirsten watched her, humor flicking across his face as he tapped the table twice and the rest of his group sat down quickly. He smiled gently and whispered something into her ear, her face growing pale. She nodded then took her chair up from the floor and taking a seat again. Kirsten smiled. One more piece in place.
“May the games begin.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Phantom/Spirit Character Portrait: Kirsten Somare
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OOC Notes

Setting: Valcrest2012-03-20 01:17:24, as written by nibblesnbits
[Somewhere in Newhaven]

Kirsten had gone about his day as he normally would; seeing to disputes between his team, planning the movement toward the mountains and thinking about his prey. However, there was a new sense of urgency as the Blood Moon was nearing and the men around him were shifty and easily angered. Two of them had been wounded from the quick stab of a knife and a couple others had suffered blows. His inner circle stayed calm but even they snapped at the others and stomped around. Kirsten had to deal with a dispute which ended up with one of his team dead, killed by his own hand. The boy was irritating anyways and refused to follow orders, so Kirsten didn’t feel bad when he buried the tip of his dagger, up to the hilt, into the man’s throat. He watched the life flood out of his eyes and smirked, twisting the dagger before removing it, stepping back as the boy fell to the floor. He left it there for his men to deal with.

The fire in front of him was dead. Nothing existed for him except for the soft glow of the embers, making his black eyes shimmer. He ran his fingers through his hair, a smile crossing his lips before fading. He stood from his chair, smoothing down his white tunic and brushing his hands across his pants. He righted himself, moving quickly through the halls and toward the staircase. The Hunters he crossed moved out of his way, giving him plenty of room to move around them. The order had been given for all of his men to remain in lock down. They were confined to the building, each one mostly staying to their room. However, several others he had sent out to ready the inner circle for the Blood Oath. He turned the corner, nearly running over Eric.

“My Lord,” Eric said bowing at the waist and keeping his hand on the hilt of his sword. He rose again, looking Kirsten dead in the eye, “The Inner circle will be ready to move tomorrow morning, Phantom has been placed into the coma as you ordered, she shall not wake till the Blood Moon. The horses are ready as are the men.”
“Good, we leave at first light,” Kirsten growled, watching he bowed before walking briskly around him. Phantom, the one person he wanted to lay eyes on right now and yet the one who had caused him so much grief, she called for him. Hunted for years and marked because of it, now about to become a Hunter. With her it was a cat and mouse game, he Hunted she hid and now…if all the women were the same, Kirsten would end up being the one to flee. He growled and tore open the door. He took one step into the room his hard leader aspect softening as he laid eyes on the back of her sleeping form. Her silver hair lay stark against his red blankets, her face pale and her lips unmoving as her chest rose and fell silently with her breath. He walked carefully forward, his eyes dark with hunger as his footsteps echoed off the ground. Kirsten sat beside the sleeping woman, his eyes roving over her body. His gloved hand reached for her hair, gently stroking the silver strands. Through them he extended his mind into hers, delving into a memory, seeing it through her eyes.

[Flashback- three years ago: Forest]

“Well, well, well,” said a cool voice. Phantom turned around and stared up at Lichen, his body leaning against the branch of the tree he was in. His bow was in his hand, resting lightly upon his side. His lips were pulled taunt with surprise. “Long time no see,” he growled. Phantom had been running from him for a couple years now though they had met on several occasions in the past. It had been almost a year sense she had last seen him, but he pretty much looked the same: light blonde hair, cobalt eyes, and a dark attitude. She had, surprisingly, fallen effectively into his trap though it appeared as if he wasn’t expecting her too. Her sword curved lightly and shimmered in the small spots of light that were able to make it through the thick canopy of leaves that had once sheltered her so well. Phantom was frightened, but she wasn’t about to show it, not to a lover.

“Same here,” she said letting the blade in her hand rest casually by her side. Her mind raced, counting the men that stood around, though her eyes remained locked onto Lichen’s face. He seemed to be struggling to say something, to find the right words and she had to listen hard to hear what he had to say.

"I begged for your life when I found out He had found you. Can you believe he actually thought about it until you took revenge? And now you’re stuck running from me. I have no memory of the “love” we shared, and if anything, I don’t care.” Phantom couldn’t tell if the He was her real father or Kirsten, the Hunter. However, she could hear the tremble in his voice, the whisper of the lie hidden in his words but none the less they still hurt. “He’s ordered me to bring you back, alive. Barely. They also mentioned that I could have some fun with you, however I please.”
A wicked smile crossed his face, his body not moving from its relaxed position against the trunk of the tree. She took a step back, her eyes narrowing into thin slits and her hand tightening on the hilt of the sword. His eyes softened slightly as his men shifted forward, slowly settling into a crouch.

“I loved you,” he whispered, “How long did I look at you and wish for you. Your hair sent my heart pounding, your smooth curves, tempted me, and your lips sang to my own. Now, all I can see is something human.” He spat the word as if it was dirty, his lips quirking into a snarl, “Human! And now to my sharp eyes you are nothing. Why would I choose you, out of all the women I can have if I just asked? You do not arouse me standing in the shadows like a scared rabbit.”
Angered at this, Phantom turned her back to him, ignoring the rush of blood to her legs, telling her to run. Lichen wouldn’t attack, not without seeing her face first. He just wasn’t the type to stab someone in the back. She heard him laugh, a dark mocking tone. She unbound her hair, letting it fall in bouncing waves over her shoulders. Maybe, this would help him remember.

Phantom turned back to face him but he had gone. The silver strands fluttered around her face, passing in front of her brown eye before she brushed them away. Casually she slid forward into a small patch of light and sheathed her sword with a low click. The guard drew back, whispering among themselves, eyes locked onto her face. Her band of royalty stood stark against her pale skin, her high cheekbones giving her face a feline grace to it. Her eyes roved the branches of the trees, pausing on the back of a shadow, it was Lichen. His back was towards her. Seeing her chance to escape she began to pull away when someone in the guard called out to him. He turned back to face her, his face had changed to that of Kirsten.

“You decided to show what you truly look like,” he huffed, “well I must say, you do have a certain charm about you.”
His eyes glanced toward someone moving behind her and she suddenly wheeled sideways and pressed a daggers blade to the throat of an approaching guard. He backed away, his eyes angry. Her body told her to move then and she obliged, arching her back quickly, and letting her hands touch the earth. Her legs followed a short while later and she avoided the two arrows that Kirsten had fired.

“You still got your moves Phantom,” he whistled.

“Come down here I can remind you what I looked like better,” she taunted. In a flash Kristen stood in front of her, his hands resting on her hips. Her hand rose to gently brush his black hair away from his face and she stroked his pale face, letting her hand rest on his cheek. He leaned into that hand as if remembering, his black eyes closing with the contact. Phantom smiled gently, reaching to wrap her arms around his neck. She pulled her body to his. His arms returned the embrace, but only for a moment. Kirsten pulled away, a smile playing on his lips.

“Love,” he crooned, “I think it would be best if I left to my tree, see that wound in your shoulder, its bleeding quite a bit,” he was in his tree before she could blink, “How long I awaited you. How much I still do,” he whispered.
“And here you are, alone, with me, and my arrow in your shoulder,” he laughed darkly, shifting forward into a crouch, “Come to me, it won’t hurt, you’ll be enveloped by me, you will love me and I will please you.”

Phantom was temped by the offer, death and love were said to go often hand in hand. However she wasn’t quite ready to walk into Death’s warm embrace.
“I will never, ever come to you,” she spat through her teeth, the wound in her shoulder slightly bothering her, “not while there is breath in me.”

His eyes flashed and he swung down from his tree.

“You have ten seconds to change your mind.”

Phantom remained silent, her lips sealed as the time vanished.

“That’s too bad,” he frowned, “and to think of what we could have been.” He shook his head in shame, nodding to the battalion. They charged. Sword clashed with sword and sometimes met skin. Several bodies surrounded hers, all Hunters who were dead. There were several cuts and gashes that covered her skin, but she didn’t stop. Stopping meant death. She twirled, using her dagger to slit the throat of her enemy and she stabbed them through their stomachs. Her hair whipped around her face, her lips parted as she took in a sharp breath. An arrow buried its head into a nearby tree, carrying with it a bit of her blood. She balked, pausing her stroke to stare at Kirsten. His eyes were slits and his lips a frown. There was a shout from behind her and she turned just barely blocking a fatal blow to her delicate back. Another Hunter fell, his blood shimmering on the blade, dripping black to the ground. Her shoulders and face were spattered with their gore, her chest heaving as they still moved forward. Madness in the form of laughter bubbled up and danced on her lips. She turned once again to face the Kirsten shadow, just in time to see him knock another arrow to his bow. He released it and it collided sharply with her side. Phantom’s lips parted in a silent scream, her body spinning as she fell to her knees. One she could handle, but two arrows along with the pain every breath she took, was just too much. The surviving Hunters froze, their eyes locked onto the wounded. Kirsten slowly approached. He stood over her and with a smile, kicked the sword away from her hand.

“Bind her, tightly,” he snarled. Her arms were roughly yanked back. Her lips parting with a gasp at the grinding pain the arrows caused. Kirsten turned back and began to walk toward her. He bent down, kneeling in front of her and extending his hand to her face. His hand lightly cupped her chin and pulled her face up. Blue and brown stared into black, eyes met his, pleading. Kirsten’s eyes changed blue, his hair back to the silver blonde it had begun in the dream. Kirsten had been replaced by Lichen once again, his hand gently stroking her cheek. His lips opened as if he was about to speak, but instead his eyes hardened. He stood to his feet and turned away.

“Let’s move,” he shouted.


[Reality: out of Dreamscape]

He sighed lightly, brushing the dark hair out of his eyes. He knew how this dream ended, he had seen it from Lichen as well. Phantom would escape and somehow survive the wounds she suffered, probably from some dammed Wolves. What surprised him though was that Lichen’s face had been replaced by his halfway through it. He smiled softly, standing up to walk around behind her, to the bed that was still unclaimed by her body.

Phantom, the girl who was to be a Hunter caused him pain. She would be the fourth girl he would try and bind to him and each one before her had caused dire consequences. He hoped that her unique ability would help her survive this; he really didn’t want another dead girl on his hands. He stared at her back, looking toward the ceiling and muttering a prayer to the Twins. He spared Phantom one last glance before exiting the room, closing the door behind him with a bang.

[Dreamscape]

Phantom had escaped the hands of the Hunters again, the wounds in her skin causing her minimal discomfort as she ran along. She knew they would wake soon enough to see her missing and she didn’t want to be around in the aria for that. She drew forth a small read, hollowed out by her careful knife to create a whistle into which she blew. The shrill cry of a hawk cam froth from the piece and a moment later it was echoed. Phantom looked up into the tree, seeing a brown specked hawk looking at her. She drew her dagger, having heard of Kirsten’s hawk and threw it forward. The blade sang through the air and a moment later was caught between the jaws of a large black panther. She nearly screamed, staring at the bird-cat that stood in front of her. The creature was as tall as a horse and it made its way down through the branches of the tree, still clutching the small dagger in its mouth. When it was not that far from her, it began to change, fur became flesh and paws became hands until a small girl stood where the panther had.
“Oh I’m terribly sorry miss,” she said bowing and handing over the dagger gracefully before slinking behind the tree and coming back out clothed. “I should have chosen something less dangerous, a kitten perhaps.” Phantom looked at the little girl, her fierce green eyes blinking from under long eyelashes. She slowly sheathed the dagger, her heart thudding in her chest. The girl flashed her smile, and Phantom suddenly felt as if she needed to protect the sweet little thing that had, only moments before, terrified her top the core. The girl held out a small delicate hand, her eyes bursting with a flood of color as her smile widened. “My name is Ari.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mageria Talsheir Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Ari Lupir Character Portrait: Phantom/Spirit Character Portrait: Stephan Kalir
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OOC Notes

Setting: Valcrest2012-05-07 18:52:23, as written by nibblesnbits
The sky hadn’t even begun to lighten when Ari woke. Her eyes fluttered open and she blinked, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness that surrounded her. Her breath rose from her lips in small clouds and she watched the clouds rise and dissipate into the stale air around her. She frowned, not able to discern what had woken her but with the urgency that it had, she was unable to fall back into the warm enfoldments of sleep. Ari slid out of bed, letting her feet hit the cool floor, involuntarily shivering as a spike of cold drifted up her spine. She quickly dressed, pulling on her training pants and a loose shirt followed by her bow and quiver of arrows. Ari knew that she would be out for awhile and that possibly, she would never get another chance to change into something better. She moved quietly to the door, pulling it open and sneaking outside, glancing back at the rumpled sheets she left behind her. A smile crossed her lips and without a noise, she left. The sky above her shone with the stars, the moon casting an eerie glow around the ground. Shadows bowed, reaching their black fingers for the girl as she passed Sean’s cabin. She glided past the door, drifting past like the shadows around her. The woods greeted her with arms wide open, whispering of things unheard and unknown. Ari entered their embrace gratefully, wandering past the trees she had grown to know so well.

It was true that living amongst Wolves was tough work, harder to deal with. They had laws, unspoken and unwritten but as alive as the trees before her now. The stories she had been told of were horrifying, but not true in the slightest. They did not eat their young and drink blood from their victims, in fact they were just plain people. They were as easy to kill as the next person and just as vulnerable to their emotions. However, the strongest person that led them was their Alpha. He was ruthless, a killer and driven by his instincts to protect what belonged to him. He was above, untouchable, and was not afraid to taunt that aspect during their training. Sean was rough, he pushed her until she gave him her all and then he pushed her some more. Nothing she did ever pleased him, she realized with a smirk. Even if she had been lying on the ground, bloodied and begging he would still push her. It would only be through beating him through which she would gain release. It was true, it was tough for her but the thought of finally causing a nick on his arm or cheek, just a tiny scratch would give her the release she needed. That is how she would better herself. And Ari realized, with some taint of horror, that she was willing to do anything to just get a shot at him. Not out of spite, she assured herself. All in all he hadn’t been that harsh towards her considering what she had done. Getting yourself caught after one day of training and talking to a traitor really placed a black mark on your shoulders.

Ari giggled to herself. The whole Pack had challenged her right to be there, to be a pretty little thing that could fight, but with Sesh’s memories floating around in her head they had gotten more of a fight then they had bargained for. She had snuck to him several times during the course of his rapid healing and they had spent time sharing memories and indulging in each other’s company. Those days….were fun now that Stephan and Alex both came as well. She smiled up at the stars, he face going slack and her eyes going blank as a memory consumed her.

[Flashback-Forest: Week one]

“Easy there Sesh,” Ari called holding up her hands to show she was unarmed. The Hunter sat back down, his black eyes still piercing her own. She had found him wandering the woods two weeks ago; still healing even after Stephan had released him in order to search for her. She smiled at him and approached him carefully, smiling as she took a seat across from him on the root of the tree.

“I don’t know what you see in me Ari, you or the other two,” Sesh growled, using the small dagger she had given him to whittle away at a piece of bark. He was carving it into a wolf, something he was determined to give to her before he left. “You do realize that the moment I can walk or run we’ll be enemies once again?”

Ari laughed a light bell like sound before reaching forward to examine his leg. Her delicate fingers undid the bandage and she was again struck by the soft glow of the scar she was looking at. Her fingers trailed over the new skin, amazed by his rapid healing. He pulled away, rewrapping the bandage, leaving the carving lying on the cold ground beside him. It was only then, Ari realized, that he was perfectly capable of leaving, but he was staying for some other reason. They both were startled by the sudden cracking of branches and Ari stood, brandishing her dagger in her hands.

Ari she heard her mind whisper followed quickly by the heavy presence of Sesh’s conscious. If you’re caught here….
Get out of my head! she snarled, pushing against his mind until she felt him retreat. Sesh’s warning was true though. Another wolf blundered into their clearing and had caught sight of the girl then.

“Ari? What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at,” the wolf trailed off, his eyes locking onto the boy lying on the ground behind her. “Explain.” His voice changed, from the questioning semi-scolding to the voice that rumbled with anger. She opened her lips to explain then, finding nothing coming forth from her lips. The Wolf was just another kid like her, not much older than Alex or Stephan and she watched as he produced a dagger from thin air. The hell, she thought. It was something most Wolves could do but she still hadn’t figured out how. “Traitor!” he cried, his eyes narrowing as he stepped forward. From the corner of her eye she saw Sesh tap the side of his nose, almost as if he were itching something. Ari smiled ever so slightly, all she had to do was hold out.

“Listen, kid,” she said hurriedly, letting the dagger rest against her hip as he advanced. “I know this looks bad but he’s just a traveler who was injured when I found him…”

“Do you think I’m blind Ari,” he cut her off, “I see the black clothing; you and I both know this is no mere traveler.”

“Alright, you’ve got me there but…”

“You’re helping out the enemy! I knew you were not on our side the moment the Crimson attacks began, I told Sean but he was too blind to see it,” the man growled, advancing now with a look of purpose, “But now I have proof.”

He was getting dangerously close to her and Sesh and so she reacted. He legs pushed her body forward and she collided with the wall of flesh. She stumbled back as did he, the force of the impact knocking the wind from her lungs. Ari cursed, it was running into a brick wall. He was solidly built, muscled, tall and he wasn’t about to lose this fight. His dagger cut through the air and she barely missed it, having to arch her back to avoid the blow to her stomach. His next strike came at her shoulder and she had no choice but to dive out of the way, leaving Sesh exposed. The Wolf threw his dagger, piercing through her shirt and into the ground, pinning her down where she lay. Her own dagger was just out of reach. The Wolf now was advancing on Sesh and she squirmed as the heavy presence fell across her mind again. Her hand, as if on its own accord reached for the Wolf’s dagger, tugging on it with a strength she didn’t know she had and yanking it from the dirt. She pulled herself to her knees, or rather Sesh did and with a flick of her wrist the dagger went sailing through the tree cutting right past the Wolf’s head and burying itself into the tree.
Slowly the Wolf turned, his eyes darkening and his eyes clouding over. He charged like a bull, bellowing out his anger and drawing a broad sword. Ari cursed again and just managed to move out of the way while snatching up her dagger from the ground. Her body turned, her hand rising to block the heavy blow from the Wolf. The impact of the two objects jarred her arm and her knuckles were cut from his blade. He forced he back into a kneel, her arms quivering from pushing against his sword.
Dive now, came a commanding voice. Her strength broke and she dove, just as his sword hit the ground where she had been a moment before.
Turn and face, ready yourself. Here he comes again.
The Wolf turned, but instead of charging he began to circle her, trying to catch her off guard. She held her dagger in front of her, knees locked behind her.
Tell me that’s not your fighting stance. Here. Her body was forced to bend at the knees her lips pulled into a snarl. She quickly returned her face to a mask, wondering how this was happening. The stance felt more natural, like a panther ready to pounce. Suddenly she found that she could be much more agile in a position like this, quicker and stronger. Ari internally smiled, wait till Sean saw how much she had already grown.
Get your head out of the gutter, the voice snarled, he’s coming again.
This time Ari moved gracefully out of the way, using just the slightest of touches with her own dagger to veer the heavy sword away. She danced with him for a moment, always blocking his movements and found herself enjoying the motions.
Watch!
There was a stinging pain on her shoulder and she nimbly moved away, pausing to look at the thin line across her shoulder. She rolled it experimentally, deciding that she could use that arm to fight but it would be painful.
Stay in the fight Ari, don’t get cocky. He’s not playing games here. Now you attack.

She felt her body lurch forward, her hand raise to knock away the blow that came for her stomach. She slid under his defenses, raising her foot to kick him in the chest. Instead her foot changed courses and it struck the Wolf across the shoulder. The man took a stumbling step back, his eyes widening. She attacked again, this time using her dagger to force him to leave his side open. She slid under a wild swing again, punching him in the side and causing him to gasp. He was weaker on his left side, which she finally saw with a little help from the Voice. It was there she would attack. Ari leaped forward, flying around the Wolf with a flurry of speed, watching him cut and parry her strokes. He cut into her side, not deeply but enough to cause enough pain to where she had to retreat and take a couple of breaths.

Almost, almost. You’re fighting with smugness now, keep your one goal in mind Ari, focus on that and you will succeed. She thought about winning, which was her goal when she felt a metal stab from the mind that was interlocked with hers. Not winning, defending. Never fight to win unless you absolutely must.
Ari watched the Wolf advance when he froze, his eyes widening with a blank expression. Without another sound he wiped the blood off of his sword and wandered back into the forest. Ari watched him leave dumbfounded.

“I think I did it,” she cheered and turned back to face Sesh who was pale. Blood dripped from his nose and he casually swiped it away, pulling his face into a tight smile. “I….didn’t do it did I?”

“Make him leave? No. That was me. You were tiring and I didn’t know how much longer I could keep instructing you so that you’d survive.”

“But….he’ll remember…and Sean,” Ari turned back to the way the Wolf went, her eyes burning gold as her body crouched.

“Ari, darling Ari!” Sesh said laughing; now standing beside her with his hand resting on her shoulder. “I swear to you that he will not remember. Your pal, Stephan is already modifying his memory as we speak.”

“How do-”

A moment later there was a shout and Alex came wandering out of the woods followed by Stephan. Both of them had a huge grin on their face, their eyes glowing with boyish expressions.

“Hey there Trouble,” Alex called which promptly ended with him hopping around clutching his shin. Ari smiled and Stephan’s laugh was joined by the throaty chuckle of Sesh. Her toe would hurt later but it was worth seeing the Wolf hopping around muttering curses directed at her. Stephan embraced the wild child, smiling as he did so and tossing a respectful nod towards Sesh who bowed his head in return.

“The Wolf-”

“Has been dealt with and is now headed in the opposite direction having no memory of this,” Stephan motioned to her and Sesh, “at all. Though if Alex keeps hollering like that…”

“HEY! She hit me in the shin where I have a bruise,” Alex muttered coming to stand beside them with a little limp. Ari laughed and his freckled face scowled at her. “You still can’t beat me.”
Stephan looked from Alex to Ari. She had drawn herself taller, her lips pulled taunt as her eyes flashed. She extended her hand out to him, beckoning with her fingers but not taking her eyes off of Alex’s face. Stephan glanced at Sesh who was grinning like a little boy before carefully drawing his sword and handing it to her. The metal glinted in the light, the simple handle molding to fit her hand beautifully. Her hand flexed around it, adjusting her grip ever so slightly and making sure it was balanced. Stephan watched as she lunged forward, sweeping the sword in a careful arc, it looked erratic but to his eyes he could see that she was very much in control. Alex barely had time to draw his sword, blocking the other blade with a sharp clang. With a flick of her wrist his sword was cast aside and she retreated a couple steps. Ari was never good with a blade and as far as Sesh knew, Sean hadn’t even begun to train her out for it yet. So how was it she was beating the man in front of her? His blade came down and hers rose gracefully to meet his, always knocking it away. She made him chase her, follow her around the clearing as she danced and twirled. Finally she hit his sword across the ground with a clang, watching with mild amusement as Alex scrambled to recompose himself. He made a step toward the shiny metal, Ari following quickly. Stephan saw what she was going to do and how Alex would react, a smile spreading across his face. As Ari turned and ran for her sword he lunged for her legs. Her body hit the ground, Stephan’s sword leaving her hand and sliding out of reach as Alex used his muscular body to pull her back under him.

Ari was thoroughly amused and so was Sesh who was silently directing her, showing the move he would make before he did and how to counteract it in a few heartbeats. Her actions were her own, the memories were his. She wasn’t expecting his surprise attack from behind her though; all she was focused on was getting that sword away from him. Hands closed around her ankles and tripped her, her face falling towards the ground. Her first instinct was to reach out with her hands to halt her fall but Sesh took control, pulling her arms up and instead, having her land on her arms. The sword bounded away and she was quickly yanked back under Alex. His large hand pushed her face into the snow as he straddled her back.

“Let me go,” she growled, wiggling under him with every inch he gave her. His legs closed tightly around her sides, pushing into her ribs and crushing the air from her body.

“Say ‘Alex is the best and I am a pup,’” he laughed pushing her face closer to the snow. Ari spat blood on the ground, having bitten her tongue and growled.
Sesh, she pleaded, help me outa here?

Fine, but you owe me double for this.


A memory flooded her consciousness; it was of two boys wrestling. The younger boy was trapped on the bottom and there was a bigger boy pinning him much like Alex held her now. The boy brought his legs up, slamming into the back of the older boy who was then pushed off balance. As the black haired boy fell forward, his hand slipped and the younger boy, which Ari assumed was Sesh, brought the back of his head up. There was a crack as the two boys collided and a moment later, blood was pouring from the nose of the black haired boy. There were numeral curses as the boy’s eyes watered and Sesh was able to throw him off with a simple roll technique. The memory faded and she quickly realized that she was free of Alex who now was swearing. Blood dripped off of his nose and down his face. Bright, red, warm, it sprang from his nose, from his lip as well, falling into the snow. His fingers were desperately trying to get a grip on the top of his nose and for a moment it stopped bleeding. Ari rushed over, already tearing at the white cloth of her shirt, watching as Stephan was packing snow into a ball. They combined the two and handed it to Alex who promptly placed it over his nose. His green eyes were watering profusely, narrowed and angry.

“The hell Ari,” he snarled, reaching out to grab his sword from Stephan.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, her mind horrified at what just happened. She turned her head to glare at Sesh who was smiling softly to himself by the tree. He was the only one who didn’t seem surprised or worried at that moment. Alex continued to swear, cursing her and the Twins as Stephan sheathed his sword once again. He gently looked at Ari, smiled an apologetic smile before hitting Alex on the back of his neck. Alex fell forward, Ari catching him before his face hit the ground again. Sesh was now staring at them intently, a surprised look on his own face. He didn’t say anything as they picked up the red haired, red faced, unconscious person. Ari was getting blood all over her shirt, making it look like she was injured as well. With each of them taking a shoulder and an arm around their shoulder they were able to drag him forward quite easily. Stephan nodded a respectful good bye as Ari took a moment to wave before disappearing into the woods. Sesh didn’t mind being alone, in fact he did enjoy not having to repel the Hunter instincts that were telling him to go for the girl’s throat. He would finish the wolf before leaving. It was all he could do. He, Stephan and Ari all realized that Alex had probably broken his nose but it was good to see her doing so well. He had almost missed the way Stephan had looked at him curiously; obviously he had protruded into Ari’s mind during the fight and had found him there. Sesh knew that his brother would be back to talk to him. Maybe, just maybe, working with Ari this way would better protect her from the things that were about to come, just maybe. He could only hope to the Twins that this would.

[Reality]

The learning telepathically was an interesting aspect; she could see how it was done, analyze every movement and with Alex’s help in their off hours sparring together she had become quite the defender. Alex was a swordsman, one of the best as far as she was concerned. He still teased her about breaking his nose and she smugly remembered heading to training like that, covered in blood. Sean’s face when she had appeared was something she would always remember.

[Flashback- Assassins Camp: Week One]

Ari bolted from the healer and Stephan, glad that they now had Alex under control and were resetting his nose as she went off to training. She had, however, lost track of the time and was already late. Her stomach roared in protest as she passed the food set out, smiling at a little boy who heard her hunger and saw her pause. He extended a dirty hand, offering his bread to her. He could be no older than five. She took it and scooped the kid up with it. She twirled the little urchin, his laughs raising through the crisp air and causing several of the Wolves to stop what they were doing and look at the girl who was now playing with the boy. She stopped and set the kid down, kissing him on the cheek and smiling as he ran off to get another roll. She swept a few of her blonde hairs from her face before standing up from her crouch and biting into the warm bread. Her eyes closed as the taste hit her and she realized that she hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast, much to her surprise. The kid was now explaining to his friends about the curious recruit, dramatizing his adventure by spinning around with his arms outstretched and squealing. They turned as he motioned towards her, before scattering like the changing leaves of fall. She had been staring at them and she worried that she had frightened them. Her heart raced in her chest, reminding her of more pressing matters. Her feet pounded against the earth as she ran, desperate to get there as soon as possible. She didn’t make any more stops, bolting towards Sean’s cabin. She bolted through the door, looking around the room expectantly. It was empty. She turned and ran again, heading towards the clearing where they normally trained. Before she could go far, Ari nearly ran into Sean as she hurried along, her eyes widening as he looked her over. Her shirt was still covered in Alex’s blood and she hadn’t the time to change it.

“Hi,” she said cheerfully, “I'm ready for my training.”

Sean had been pacing around the clearing counting the seconds and the minutes of his time that his recruit had wasted by being late for training. Of course it wasn't only a matter of him being kept waiting, but also a matter of discipline that needed to be dealt with. Time was precious, a split second could be enough to save or take a life, and assassins were required to do both depending on the situation; being late could be deadly. After about twenty five minutes of waiting Sean began to lose his patience, and decided to go see what was keeping Ari. A little past halfway back to camp, he spotted her at a distance as she almost collided with him. One look at her appearance and he could take a guess at what was the reason for the delay. He didn't let it show in his expression what he was thinking however, rather he raised an eyebrow and stated rather sarcastically. "Oh, you're ready, are you?" He smiled. "That's fine, I don't mind waiting for you to get ready. I have time to spare." With that said he began to walk back towards the clearing, strolling casually and in no hurry at all. "Tell me, if someone hired an assassination on a target that needs to be executed in a specific moment, say right before it enters or exits a meeting place, do you suppose sending an assassin who can't show up for her own training in time would be a wise decision on my part? Or do you suppose I could rely on said assassin on a rescue mission if one of our own is caught in a prison and we need to get in and out within a very small time frame in order to avoid detection?" Sean calmly waited for a reply, only turning to face his recruit as they reached the clearing, his eyes clearly registering the blood on her clothes; he crossed his arms over his chest and allowed a discrete smirk to spread across his features. "So, Kid, what kind of trouble have you gotten yourself into that you couldn't make it in time?" He asked.

After she had composed herself from her near run in with not only the Alpha but her instructor, and had smothered the anger for his sarcasm and complete lack of courtesy, she began to listen. He rambled, scolding her or what seemed like some sort of scolding but it was honestly just too light for her to feel really badly. He insulted her timekeeping and her ability to assassinate, or that’s how it came off but she remained in the light happy time from early that morning.

“Hey!” Ari shouted when they were out of camp, “That said assassin is right here, walking behind you with a very good shot at your back, be careful what you say Sean,” she teased, that little bit of guilt for being late fleeing. “And I could probably get in and out of a cell faster than one of your men can, do it and not be seen, until the last moment. That and I can transport that said person in the cell faster than you could run. It helps to have a horse at your beck and call whenever you need it. That AND I would be a trained killer in a different form.” Ari paused, wondering if she had gotten everything over with when she remembered something about assassinating a person at a meeting. Her heart raced in her chest and she began bouncing behind Sean, “A meeting assassination? Tell me you’re going to send me on one! My first mission?!”

She leapt gracefully over a root, excited to train once again with her adversary, now having something he didn’t have. She silently wished it was to be sword play when she ran into him. She looked up into his face, backing away and mentally reminding herself that the small critter that had made the tracks was not as important as watching the hulking figure of the man in front of her. The moon was strong upon her and it seemed to her that he had gotten bigger, stronger, and more powerful. He quirked a smile at her, or something akin to it and she blushed when she realized that he was waiting for an answer.

“Uhh….erm… ,” she stuttered, trying to think of something that didn’t involve the Hunter she was hiding right under the Pack’s nose. “Alex and I were sparring and I broke his nose and then Stephan and I took him to the healers,” she looked at the bloodied shirt, blushing as it struck her how stupid this would sound to Sean. Ari considered Alex a really good swordsman and she figured that Sean knew of this as well. It would make no sense that she had been able to beat him by giving him a broken nose when she had issues handling the metal blades in her hand. She frowned, already preparing to defend her story to the death if need be.

Sean stood staring his recruit in the eyes for a couple of minutes, absolutely sure that she was hiding something. He wasn't sure what bothered him most; the fact that she was hiding something or the fact that it was so painfully obvious. Finally he decided not to insist on what the lie was exactly, but rather use it as an instrument. "We definitely need to work on your deception skills." He stated simply, raising an eyebrow. "First of all: Identifying yourself as 'said assassin' on that hypothetical of mine was rather stupid since I pretty much stated that person to be unreliable, Ari." Sean chuckled. "Threatening to shoot me in the back doesn't exactly help your case either, but that's a different matter. Unless you're explicitly and officially accused of something, do not defend yourself. It doesn't matter if you did do it and you know the other person is aware. Rather you should have simply treated it as a hypothetical and let the subject move on without taking it personally, because questions like these are built to get a reaction out of you." He stated calmly, finding a small boulder and sitting casually on it as if training was the last thing on his mind at the moment.

"That was only the first stupid thing you said in that response." He continued, digging the tip of his boot onto the earth causally. "You also stated you 'probably' can get in and out of a cell faster than any one of 'my men'..." He paused as if re-examining those words. "Probably means shit to me when considering the fact that this hypothetical in question involved rescuing one of our own. Probably means there is a chance I end up with two assassins dead instead of one imprisoned; when you can say, truthfully without a hint of doubt 'I can definitely', then I'll consider seeing it for myself. I also would not send you on such a mission if you refer to people of this clan as anything less than family. It doesn't matter what qualities you have or how much you improve, until you see yourself as a Wolf, you are not allowed to kill as a Wolf." The last statement was spoken in a harsher, and nearly aggressive, tone, but it changed back to its former calm as he added. "That's the real challenge for you, is it not? Family?" He chuckled. "Maybe for now we should move on to something you can handle a little better."

As he spoke, Sean pulled something from behind the boulder he was sitting on, a bo staff that was just about the girl's height, and tossed it to her. "You'll be using this. I know you were expecting sword play, but there'll be time for that. Today, you gave me idle time so I prepared a little something." He let out a soft whistle and three figures stepped out of hiding and into the clearing. They were all dressed in seemingly equal black clothing from head to toe, and had their faces covered by equal dark masks, and armed with identical staffs. The only difference between the three masks was a colored circle at the center; one was red, one was yellow and one was blue. The three individuals stood before Ari side by side in a semi-circle, apparently waiting for Sean's command. "Two of these individuals are Wolves, one is an outsider. Your goal is not only to survive, but to find out which is the outsider." He then launched a throwing knife onto a nearby tree and smirked. "That... Is for when you find him. Be sure which one you pick."

After saying that Sean simply gave a wave of his hand and three figures spread, surrounding the recruit and attacked at the same time.

Ari dove out of the way, her mind racing. What the hell was he thinking! She wasn’t ready for this and now she had to kill someone. She blocked a swipe at her head, quickly adjusting her hands to the center of the staff, really just a giant stick, before thrusting it forward into the chest of one of her opponents. He staggered back and she yelped as a staff caught her hip with a loud pop. The blue fighter was moving in fast as the yellow recovered his breath, the red seemingly to have disappeared. She jumped as a swipe was aimed at her legs and she cracked the staff over the head of the blue, knocking the fighter momentarily to the ground. The yellow attacked then, leaving her just enough time to raise the stick in an effort to protect her face from the harsh blow. The wood cracked with a painful sound and his staff pushed against hers. She pushed back, her arm muscles straining to keep the wood away from her head. She screamed as a heavy blow connected with the back of her knees and her body dropped to the earth. She rolled, the staff hitting the ground right where her head had been a moment before. The red fighter towered over her, his staff pointed down as he aimed for her chest. Her eyes widened as her leg moved and connected with the fighter’s stomach. He stumbled back, colliding into another fighter who promptly pushed him out of the way. She began analyzing their movements, looking for traits that a Wolf would portray but they all attacked with the same aggressiveness. She took her time, running from them, making them chase her around, and sometimes luring them close to Sean to see if one hesitated. She thought she saw a stumble in the reds footing, a scent of tiring and she dove behind Sean as a staff hit the rock where she had just stood. She bolted between the fighters, getting in a good punch into the yellow fighters face. She turned then, and fought. The three converged on her and she helplessly looked toward Sean who looked as if he was enjoying himself. She blocked a blow to her stomach, returning the knock with one of her own as they took a step forward. She spun, her staff colliding with their shoulders and causing them to reel back. She gained nothing though as the blue fighter cracked his staff over her hand. Her fingers cracked and she dropped the staff.

Ari managed to move out of the way, backing out of the circle and using a hint of her enlightenment to move exceedingly fast. She would have laughed as the red’s staff collided with the yellows head, knocking him flat but she was too busy cradling her hand to her chest. She had to find something, something that was material on them that would reveal them as Wolves. The problem was, getting close enough to search them. The three were still trying to untangle themselves as she tuned to face Sean, her eyes widening with horror and anger.

“You’re insane!” she snarled at Sean, her eyes narrowing. Her eyes flickered over his body, memorising every detail about him that could give away what she was looking for.
That’s when it hit her. The ring. All Wolves had a ring, a graduation ring. Stephan wore his around his neck, had proudly told her that all Wolves received one and that’s what made a Wolf a Wolf. She smiled, but only for a moment before the ruthless beating began again. She didn’t know where her bo staff had gone, as far as she knew it was one of the ones hitting her now. She moved fast, ducking into the chest of the blue fighter and embracing him, pushing him back a couple of steps as the other two momentarily paused. She ducked under his arm, regretting it the moment her delicate nose passed his armpit. She reeled back, nearly laughing to herself. She could remember what Stephan’s ring smelled like: cold metallic, and sharp. However, the way they were fighting now she wouldn’t be able to smell anything for a year if she tried to find the ring that way. Fresh blood was staining her shirt and she tore off the bottom of it to wrap her hand, resetting the bones quickly. The fighters were advancing now and she realized that her staff was leaning against the rock Sean perched on. She had to get past three fighters to get there. The circles on their faces were the target; the knife resting on the tree just inches away from her while her staff would be risky. If she killed the wrong person, she didn’t want to know what Sean would do and so she went for the greater risk. She rushed forward, ducking her head as the blue fighter struck, her fingers trailing over the pockets on his pelvis and hips. Finding nothing she jumped a low blow from the red fighter, her foot clipping him under the chin. His head snapped wildly back, his body slumping forward as his face smashed into the ground. She spun round, her braid slapping her across the face and a moment later her jaw caught a light swipe from the yellow fighter. Her body veered off its course, her eyes watering as her jaw screamed in pain. Her bandaged hand gently cupped it as she began to work it back and forth. It hurt like hell but it had been a light blow and nothing was permanently damaged. She turned; catching the yellow fighter in his shoulder and knocking him back a step. Ari felt alive and she took a step forward, only to have the yellow fighter knock her off her feet. Her back hit the ground and with a groan she lay there. Her lungs burned for air and she greedily filled them, her spotty vision coming back. The red fighter was slowly getting to his feet; the blue and the yellow were slowly converging on her. She laid perfectly still, waiting for them to close in.
The yellow came too close and with an angry swipe she cast a handful of muddy snow into his hooded face. He bellowed, stumbling back and dropping his staff. She took the weapon and threw it at the blue fighter who was now running forward, watching as it struck him. He floated back, as she spun and caught the red fighter’s staff in her hand. It stung blocking a blow like that but it was better than receiving it to the head. She twisted on the staff, grimacing as her palm received several splinters. Ari pushed and with her last effort she was able to push the staff away. She bolted toward the rock, grabbing up her staff before settling into a protective stance. Her chest heaved and sweat mingled with blood. She could see that she was taking too long and that if she kept this up, the fighters would soon take her down. That’s when it really began.

She danced with them, flitting from person to person and running her hands across their moving bodies, dodging and blocking blows. She could have sworn she felt something small in the blue fighter’s chest pocket, something that didn’t quite fit as being natural and the same went for the red fighter. Rings, he mind whispered and she carefully selected her target. She split from the pack, throwing her staff at them with a frustrated scream that knocked them back giving her enough time to reach the tree where the hunting knife lie in wait. She jerked it from the tree, the blade flashing silver as it caught the sun. Her arm went back, her eyes pinpointing the center of the yellow circle. Her arm flashed forward, her wrist flicking and the knife left her hand. It spun through the air: handle, blade, handle, blade, handle, skin. The fighter dropped to the ground with a scream, his hand rising to grasp the end of the dagger that protruded from his chest. The other two fighters fell back, looking at Sean for further direction. Ari walked calmly forward; sure of her choice as she reached down to pull the knife from the flesh, her bright green eyes flickered to the red circle on his face.

Sean watched without a word, and without making a single move, only his eyes followed the movements of the fighters, a snicker or a smirk escaping him here and there; This was honestly going better than he hoped it would, but there were visible mistakes. As one of the masked fighters fell, with a knife to his chest, and the other two turned to him Sean finally stood up and walked absently to the fallen warrior. "Huh." He mumbled. "I honestly thought you'd hesitate..." He then turned to the blue fighter and nodded. "Okay, Ryan, we're done."

As Sean said that, Ryan nodded removing his mask, revealing a bright golden light coming from his eyes, partially hidden behind equally golden hair. As the light faded and the man's eye returned to their usual dark green, the other two 'fighters' disappeared, turning to dirt. He smiled at Ari with a rather playful expression on his face. "They're very realistic aren't they?" He asked, fetching his ring in his pocket and sliding onto his finger where it belonged, then digging around the dirt where the yellow fighter used to be and recovering another ring, which he tossed in Sean's direction, where the Alpha caught in the air, examining it for a moment, and carefully blowing any remaining dirt away before slipping it into a hidden pocket on the inside of his shirt; on the left side of his chest. Ryan simply bowed his head respectfully as he walked past Sean, turning to give Ari a playful wink behind the Alpha's back before leaving the clearing in the direction of the camp.

Sean stood listening to the Wolf's footsteps until they were out of his hearing range. Ryan was a very unusual earth manipulator, he could create up to five exact clones of himself made of sand, dirt, mud or clay, and control them with his mind. They were so realistic that, even while fighting them it was difficult to tell they weren't real. While the official test was for Ari to find the 'outsider' unofficially Sean was looking to see if Ryan could fool Ari, and the man had proved to be successful. He would prove to be very useful.

"You did well." He spoke finally, walking over to the recruit and holding out his hand, motioning for her to give him the knife back. "I honestly thought you'd get your butt kicked before you even got to search them. Next time though, don't waste time calling me insane, alright?" He snickered. "To be honest, this was quite tame compared to what I had to put up with when I started. I didn't even tie you to a tree yet." He stated, his tone absolutely serious as he spoke. Finally he chuckled. "You didn't really think I'd let you kill a real person like this during training, did you? Well, only if you had picked the real Ryan, but... The odds were in his favour I think.”

Ari handed over the knife, wiping a bit of blood from her lip as she bent slightly to catch her breath. He was insane! What if she had actually hit a real person? The wrong person could have destroyed her, a murderer of a member of her own Family. Something struck her then, her eyes narrowing.

“You wouldn’t put a Wolf in danger if you knew they didn’t have the upper hand on me,” she spat, her boots creaking as the mud on them broke, the spell of her semi victory falling to bits before her eyes. Her body ached as she closed her eyes, unsure of the mild shock in Sean’s voice that she hadn’t hesitated. Isn’t that what he wanted? An assassin that could kill without hesitation? Her eyes narrowed as the man left, throwing her a wink before ambling off. She hissed, taking in a sharp breath as her side groaned in pain, her ribs popping and crackling. She wanted to shift, but she wasn’t sure if Sean was done with her for the day, though she wished so as her hand screamed in pain. She was sure she would be covered in bruises and she wasn’t about to let the camp see that she had been beaten again. She tossed the bo staff away, watching as it clattered to the ground as she righted herself again. Alex would have a laugh with this one though he seemed to be the only one in the entire camp who could even talk to her still. Revenge on Sean did cross her mind, it had several times and this moment was no exception. A simple praise was all he gave her, his expression remaining that same smug expression. She didn’t know how she felt about him, she hated his guts right now but the Blood Moon was screaming through her veins. She shook her head clearing all of her thoughts.

“You did well,” she mocked under her breath, kicking the toe of her boot into the ground until she had worked a small hole into it. “Still not the hardest fight you’ll ever have. If Cry’s showed up with a mark on you you’d be dead.” Ari mumbled, her voice low and mocking, not caring if Sean heard or not. “I trained harder. Well then bring it on.”
She growled her eyes focused on the ground, her lips curled into a snarl. Ari thought she had done extremely well. She had survived three fighters, defended herself and had lasted longer than expectations. She peered up at Sean from under her lashes, done throwing her tiny tantrum.

“Are we finished?” she asked tersely. “I have matters to attend to, appointments to keep.”

Sean stood crossing his arms over his chest and waiting patiently for Ari to be done mumbling and ask if they were done. He didn't want to laugh, but he couldn't help a little chuckle. "Are you finished?" He asked, raising an eyebrow. "I did put Ryan in danger, kid. There was always the possibility that you'd pick him." He wasn't in one bit fazed by the clear rage in her expression. He knew that if she didn't hate him right now he wasn't doing his job. "But yes, we are finished. I'm sure you're very busy, unlike me." He chuckled. "Try not to be late next time, lest I get creative again." He stated, beginning to walk out of the clearing as he added. "After all, I'm pretty sure you'd rather have the opportunity to take me down, no?"
“Is that a challenge?” she called, the whisper in her head letting her know that Sesh was there, ready to guide her and he began gently soothing her anger. She heard him make some snotty remark about her looking like a puffed up kitten with her anger and she reined it in. This was the reaction he wanted and her mind drifted to the diplomatic science that Alex had been teaching her about. She stood calm and collected behind Sean, her hands uncurling themselves from the balls at her sides. “It’s the day I beat you that I’ve mastered myself, at least that is what Stephan has told me. Why not today? Today is a very good day to win, no? Or are you too cowardly to face me by yourself and instead will put little boys in harm’s way to take the shot for you, Alpha?”

Her voice rang sharp across the clearing, it was bold, possibly foolish to taunt this in front of a trained killers nose, but she couldn’t resist. She longed for his praise, caved it like a starving animal though he never showed any hint to even saying her name unless it was in scolding. He didn’t respect her and so she wouldn’t respect him, not like she respected Franklin. Yes, he was the Alpha, but she was here to prove herself to him, to show her worth and it felt like she never could. So she had challenged him. Now she stood, tall and proud, her chin held high and her eyes flashing. If he took her challenge, it would be interesting to watch, but if he calmly backed away, she would hold it over him. And so she waited.
Sean stopped in his tracks and stood for a moment, his back turned to the clearing as he listened. He let silence linger for a few moments, but after that time passed, he couldn't help but release the small fit of laughter he had been holding in. It lasted for a couple of minutes before he finally turned to face Ari again, still chuckling. "Would you consider yourself a challenge right now, kiddo? Attempting to attack my pride to get me to do what you want is a rather silly way of challenging someone, no?" He smirked. "I thought you had more important things on your busy schedule? You know, matters to attend to, appointments to keep..." He teased. "I would hate to keep you any longer. Besides... I don't want you whining about being tired or wounded after I beat you." He added, turning back again to leave. "Go get some rest and take care of those little scrapes you have. You don't have to do all at once, Ari. Today, you did well. You can master yourself another day." He stated beginning to walk away towards the encampment. "And as you so love to point out, I am the Alpha, and we're at war, so I don't have the time to properly smack you around right now."

Surely, Sean would've complied and given Ari a beating for her attitude alone, wasn't for the fact that he saw this as great improvement when compared to the kid who first walked in there and lowered her head at the first given scolding. He wouldn't deny he was actually little bit proud of her, but that wasn't something he was at all willing to show so soon.
Ari watched him go, stunned into silence. Her green eyes lingered on his back and a small smile actually escaped her lips. She never whined, it just wasn’t her style, and so she knew that Sean was trying to get under her skin but she didn’t challenge him, not again. Her green eyes lingered on his back, watching him intently. She waited until he was gone before picking up the bo staff and leaning it nicely against the boulders before pulling off her clothes and ripping into a large black wolf. She lay on the ground for a moment before standing up and shaking off the pain. She then howled, a low eerie noise that rose up into the cool crisp air before dying on her lips, her nose working the air before sprinting after Sean into camp. She would go check on Alex.

[Reality]

Her face leaned against the cool touch of the tree, her eyes blinking slightly as her night vision flickered before coming back. Sesh she had lost, she remembered returning to the clearing a couple days later and finding nothing but the carving of a wolf that had a strangely feminine look. It was the size of her hand, very detailed and absolutely a beauty to look at. The she-wolf had her head thrown back into a howl, her nose dipping over her shoulder as the chest was puffed out. One paw was raised off the ground and the tail dipped low before rising in a husky’s curl. There were strange wind like marking carved into the tail and the elbows and knees of the legs. There was a pattern, stained red with what could only be blood under the eyes and along the face to spread across the body in the wind like designs again. Today that wolf sat in her window and only Alex and Stephan knew where it had come from. She sighed and blew a kiss to the wind, sending a quick prayer to the Twins to keep the boy safe. Somehow though, she knew that he was alright because she dreamt of him. Through him she watched the different ways to win a sword fight, an archery competition, a fist fight. Her feet moved deeper into the woods, bringing her further away from the safety of the Pack. She was sure that soon she would be able to beat Sean. Her stamina had increased greatly, her swordsmen ship as well. She could defend from almost any attack without using her enlightenment. Sean had been very very adamant about her keeping her enlightenment a secret. That didn’t mean that she still didn’t practice with it, in fact she did every single day. Stephan had taken control of her private training. She and Salji fought as snow leopards every day and for the first few days she returned beaten, battered and bruised. Luckily her enlightenment hid any mark of when she had injury. She sighed as she remembered the rough day of training.

[Flashback- Assassins camp: Week one]

“Clear your mind Ari,” Stephan growled at her and she lowered her black ears flat against her skull, roaring at him. “You have to become the animal entirely to beat Salji, give in to your instincts.”

Her tail flicked back and forth with erratic twitches. The cat across from her was sitting on his haunches, licking a bloody paw, his eyes sparkling blue as he looked at her face. She curled her lips at him as he purred.

“Ari/ Changer,” the cat growled, “What my bond mate says/tells/ speaks is truth. You must clear/empty your mind/head/soul of human thoughts. Become cat.”

Ari flicked her ear in annoyance; all the animals she had ever communicated with had talked just like this. The annoying choppy voice she assumed came from her human side but perhaps not. It didn’t matter anyways because it made no sense. She had been holding this form almost for a whole day. This was supposed to be her rest day but it appeared that Stephan had different plans. She stood, shaking her pelt and walked past them, her claws digging into the snow under her. Salji stopped the cleaning of his paw and watched her intently.
Stephan watched the Ari-cat leave, watching with intent eyes. He could tell that she and Salji had communicated, her ability to fight him had become better but she still hesitated on the swipes, on every moment she could make. However, Ari had made huge progress. Slowly she was losing herself within the form. She was Becoming, melding her Ari self with her animal. He could tell by the way her ears flattened across her skull and her tail movements. At first she had continued to bark, to growl, to try and speak using her voice but now she was relying more on her body to convey messages and emotions. Stephan was proud of her, she could now hold her animal form for two days without help from any type of bark and he wondered if that could very much help the Wolves. They had no horses and Sean could get a lot more done more efficiently if he was able to ride with a Wolf whenever he needed. Stephan nearly laughed at the thought of the enemy finding itself faced with not only a skilled Rider but a horse that seemed to know how to fight and dodge attacks. War horse, he laughed. Ari turned to glare at him, the shout of his laugh echoing annoying across the snow. As if in scolding, she turned and ran towards him, her body slinking across the ground as her jaws opened. Her body sprang in the air at the same moment Salji saw what she was doing and leapt for her body. Her paws curled up under her as her body twisted out of the way, almost reversing her direction backwards as Salji missed her. Stephan observed the two as they circled each other, Ari batting at the snow in front of her. Both of them had their teeth bared, the white fangs shining like daggers inside the powerful jaws. Fur bristled, hisses and swipes were thrown back and forth, each cat watching the other. Salji pounced first and Ari rose to meet him in the air, standing on her hind legs as she swiped a paw across his face, he returned the swipe with a kick, the giant tails flailing to keep the cats balanced. Salji pushed her back towards the small cliff behind her, forcing her in that direction with vicious claws and teeth. Stephan watched as she fell, tumbling off the rock. He ran forward through the snow, Salji leaping off the small rock himself. He slid off the rock, landing on the ground. What he saw made him smile.

Salji was pressed up against the wall, Ari prowling in front of him, teeth exposed. She leaped forward as the other cat made an attempt to block her. Her jaws closed around his neck and like a small kitten he went limp. She released him a moment later and he stood. Ari had done it. Beaten her foe by giving in. As she had fallen her animal instincts had ripped their way through her humanity and she had landed on her feet instead of her back. After that it was only a matter of moments until she had Salji, a much bigger snow leopard, up against the wall and later in between her teeth. She felt good, proud, and still she was able to flow between forms. The large cat watched appreciatively as she moved back into leopard form.

“Ari/Changer,” he purred, his blue eyes sparking with admiration, “you did well. It is the same for all creatures/animals/ prey. Become/change/ be them and you will succeed/win/vanquish. Stephan/ brother is proud.”
Ari turned, her eyes bright green. Stephan was smiling at her nodding in approval. Her heart warmed, this was about as much praise she received from anyone in her training. Sean rarely gave it, Alex only smiled when she did well, but Stephan was the one who made her heart glow whenever she trained. Slowly her cat form bubbled and her skin seemed to turn inside out as she began to shift. It was a horrible thing to watch, the turn of fur to flesh and the whole time she whimpered and twitched. Stephan waited until she had finished, lying there upon the snow with her eyes closed. He gently removed his cloak, throwing it up into the air and letting the light fabric settle around her. He didn’t touch her just yet; he knew that she was extremely sensitive right now to any sort of contact as her skin was brand new. That explained why scars never really marred her permanently and why marks of trauma faded into oblivion. The only thing that never left her were the markings on her face; if anything they seemed to glow brighter when she changed. He watched as her shivering ceased bending down to touch her face gently when Salji leaped forward, snarling. Stephan stepped back, his lips curling into his own snarl as the cat stood protectively over the body, tail flicking back and forth. His black ears were pressed tight against his skull and the fur along his back rippled. The cat’s massive paws were close to her skin but not touching and Stephan blushed as he realized that her skin was still very sensitive to any stimulation still.

“Alright, alright!” he growled, sitting down in the snow next to Ari and in plain sight of the cat. “You’re so freaking protective of her and she’s not even your species,” he grumbled, scooping up a bit of snow and playing with it in his hands. Salji relaxed, flicking his tail as if in annoyance, before bending his head to blow a kiss of air across Ari’s face. Stephan thought he saw her lips pull into a smile, but when he blinked her face remained perfectly relaxed. He reached out carefully, his eyes focusing on Salji as the cat watched the approach of his hand with intensity. Stephan gently touched the girl’s shoulder, watching as the cat curled his lip, before leaping over the both of them. He padded off into the trees, his fur bristling as he went out on patrol.

“Ari,” Stephan whispered, shaking her shoulder gently, “Come on Ari; we’ve talked about this recovery thing. You need to have it go faster or you’ll never be able to use it on a mission.” He heard a mumble of something, her body slowly rising off of the ground and he quickly averted his eyes until she had pulled the cloak tight around her body. The silver in her eyes was fading, the little tendrils slithering back into her pupil until none of it remained. She blinked, shaking her head and stretching out her muscles with a popping noise. Stephan flinched; he could only imagine the pain she had to deal with though it bothered her less now than it did a while back. Now that the physical part of their training was complete, she could have the rest of her day off, even though Stephan knew she would continue practicing. However as he stood to leave her hand reached up to him and pulled him back to the snow, her eyes troubled.

“Stephan, there’s something I have to tell you,” she said before leaning in and whispering her darkest secret into his ear. His eyes widened with surprise, his lips pulling into a thin line as he realized how dangerous this information could be and making a mental note to bring it up to Sean.

“You’re telling me that this….” he trailed off as she shushed him, her eyes wide with terror.

“You can’t tell a soul,” she said sternly, her eyes locked onto his until he crossed his heart. She felt a little better, such a burden was not one she liked to bear on her own, and as Stephan had taken to her Enlightenment training, she felt like he needed to know. She had told Sean many things, but not this. It was something her enemies could use against her, the one thing she couldn’t heal from. As her mind wandered upon it, she absently stroked the pink scar on her arm.

[Flashback-Assassins Camp: Week Two]

Hooves struck the earth, kicking up puffs like tornados with the sound of thunder. A throaty cry split the air, her head tossing back the obnoxious hairs that had found their way in front of her eyes as the rider on her back kicked into her sides causing her to squeal. She bucked, throwing her hooves forward and nearly throwing her rider. His hands pulled hard on the reins and forced the bit back into her mouth, his whip slapping her flesh. Ari screamed and reared, his hand pushing down on her neck forcing her back down. Her hooves twisted, her body coming to a stop as she pranced in the snow. Her black body was foamed with sweat and her muscles trembled under her. Her nostrils flared and her eyes rolled, the beautiful silver tinged with green. Her rider smiled, reaching down to gently stroke her neck, his large hand offering what little comfort it could against the gash in her side and the bloody spittle that foamed from her lips. She groaned as he gently squeezed with his knees, forcing her to walk forward. The saddle squeezed her body and the unfamiliar weight of carrying someone frightened her. The bit forced her to move around, tugging her lip and pulling her head one-way. Her body obligingly moved. Her tail drooped, her head low as her nose brushed the ground, too exhausted to hold it up anymore. Stephan watched from the tree, having watched his rider try Ari. His eyes burned, and he snarled swinging down from his branch. This was the fifth rider he had tired, the first one to have not been thrown by Ari’s terror. He had no experiences with the horses that were wild except when eating them so he didn’t even bother trying to ride her. His rider turned to stare down at him, his black hair hanging in his face, loose from the pony tail. His face was calm and he rode the Ari-horse with unmatched confidence, his hand on his thigh.

“I told you any horse could be broken, even a mare like this one,” he called tapping Ari on her shoulder with a loud slap. She stopped, and snorted, her eyes narrowing. “I’ll take her now as my reward, just like you promised.” He jerked on the reins, forcing her head to move as he chomped on the bit. She tensed as be bent forward slightly to see her face. The reins went slack. She twisted her head, grabbing hold of the reins and jerking them from his hands. He gripped with his knees as she reared up; tangling his hands into her hair as she leaned even further back. She screamed a challenge, her hooves striking the air as her back hit the ground, her grounded rider now rolling out of the way. It took her a moment to pull herself up to her feet. Her head snaked out toward the man in royal clothes. Her teeth missed inches from his flesh as he bolted, instead grabbing a mouthful of his clothes and ripping them. She snorted with pride as he bolted before trotting back to Stephan. Ari was immensely proud of herself, her eyes shining bright as she rubbed her head against Stephan’s back.

“That’s the fifth guy you’ve thrown today,” he laughed, reaching up to rub the velvety feeling of her nose. “”I don’t think you’re ever going to be ridden well enough by those you don’t allow.”
She tossed her head, whinnying into the air as he gently took the reins that were dragging on the ground. Ari shook, casting off what remained of the riders that had taken her challenge. She knelt, giving Stephan an easy way up onto her back and he took it, gripping lightly with his knees as she stood. He was not like the other riders, treating her like an animal but rather as the person she was. She wouldn’t dream about throwing him as they rode into the Pack Camp. People froze in what they were doing staring up at the big black horse that had wandered so casually into camp with Stephan on top. He guided her toward his cabin, dismounting at the door with a flourish before entering.
Ari stood outside, shaking her head with the jingle of bells, slightly changing her appearance to make her fetlock longer, the feathers around her feet thicker and her hair longer. People were staring curiously at her, a couple kids wandering over to gently touch her muscled flanks. She once again saw the kid who had given her his role and she bent her head to gently bump his hand with her nose. However, before he could respond to the pushing of her nose, the cabin door opened Stephan exited. The kids fled, the Wolves returning to what they were doing in the first place. She tossed her head, taking a step back as Stephan gently took hold of her reins. She peered out from behind her fetlock, her eyes hidden beneath the black tangle of hair. She stood perfectly still as Stephan looked towards her, his thoughts unreadable.
Stephan was proud of the way she looked. She had filled herself out while he was inside, slightly alternating her appearance. She was much bigger than she had been, her sleek coat sliding over her thick muscles. Her coat shone with health and her hair fell down across her withers in neat waves. Her tail nearly dragged on the ground and was likewise wavy. Her huge feet were now hidden by white feathers and on her nose, there was a white mark that almost looked like a wolf’s head. Stephan ran his hand over her withers and flank, her head bowing slightly to look up at him from under her fetlock. He smiled as her body twitched, further showing how toned she was. Ari let out a low whicker, her velvet lips brushing over Stephan’s hand gently as if looking for a treat. Her head then tucked into her chest, her beautiful long neck arching as the light flickered across her coat. Stephan smiled and mounted back up riding her back out into the woods as fast as possible. He pulled her back through the trees, bringing her to a small deer path that wove between the tall trunks. He let her loose then, and she roared forward, running until she couldn’t go any faster. This was the joy of her enlightenment and Stephan had shown her that. There was nothing and no one that could stand in her way, not like this. She felt the power surging through her veins and she tossed her head, hearing the shout from Stephan as he clung to her mane. She didn’t stop. She was free.

[Reality]

Ari nearly giggled, her eyes settling back down to the emerald green shade they normally were. Training with Stephan was always a joy and now that she had grown up just a little, it was normal for her to train with Sean. She had stopped flirting with him, choosing now to remain silent unless spoken to, choosing to answer with a nod or a shake of her head. She had some wisdom now, that was no problem and she had proved herself to many Wolves the night the Crimson had attacked. Just a freaking recruit had turned the tide on a fight, saved two lives and had taken many, in fact it was a night just like tonight, cool, crisp and foreboding.

[Flashback- Forest: Week Two]

Ari woke in a cold sweat, her body twisted and wrapped in the sheet that lightly hid her body. She was alone and her eyes blinked as she adjusted them to the blackness that the Twins had cast across the skies. Something wasn’t quite right and she hurriedly got up out of bed. Earlier in training that morning, Sean had told her something about the Crimson attacking sporadically and a hunt was going out every night to cover the basic inlay of the camp and keep the sleeping Wolves safe. She crammed her feet down into her boots, pulling them up above the knee before securing them tightly around her calf. Her shirt quickly followed and as she hurried out the door, she had snatched up her bow and quiver. The door closed silently behind her and like a ghost she ran past the other cabins, rushing down a small deer path that she had found previously and into a clearing where she kept her greatest treasure. The horse wasn’t sleeping when she arrived, its big black neck curved in an arch as it galloped around inside the small arena she had build from fallen trees. Ari passed through the thicket, raising her hands as the horse came charging towards her, sliding to a stop a couple inches away from her.

“Easy boy, easy,” she whispered stroking the stallion’s neck and rubbing his forehead. She slipped under his chin, wrapping her arms around the sweaty neck as the horse quivered against her. Sean didn’t know a thing about this, neither did Alex and Stephan was too busy readying himself for his trip back up to the mountains to spend much time with her anymore. He was her little secret, her treasure. “Sheggar,” she crooned, backing away from the horse she had trained when she was little. His black hooves struck the ground, his muscled body twitching at every noise as his ears swiveled and his nostrils flared. Something was definitely not right and she quickly snatched up the bridal from the hole in the tree. He took the bit willingly, opening his mouth to receive it and bending his head down so she could simply slide his ears under the leather. She walked over to the gate, Sheggar’s body staying in the center of the ring until she had walked back over. He knelt to the ground as she slid her leg up and over his bare back, her knees gripping his sides as her fingers wound into his mane and gripped the reins.

“Ha,” she hissed, giving him a little kick with her heels and he surged under her. His back body burst through the trees, stretching out as he galloped toward the danger. He was a war horse, her war horse and tears fell across her smiling lips as his hair lashed against her face. Rider and horse became one, moving and breathing together, finding the paths and trusting each other to lead the other to safety. They were a team and Ari felt her spirit soar as together they slowed to a walk. The warning hit her hard then and she dismounted, tying the horse to the tree before climbing up it. From the height she was at she could clearly see the forest floor, but nothing moved. She began springing from tree to tree until she saw a Wolf, perched, his head bent as his bow was drawn. She made it to him, and he started looking up into her face and the bow on her back.

“Two trees over, wait for the signal,” he growled and she obediently moved to do so. She made no sound, disturbing nothing as she used her Enlightenment slightly. She crouched against the oaks trunk, stringing her bow and knocking an arrow.
Ari’s green eyes watched sadly as the Crimson attackers moved silently beneath her tree, following the path on which she had, not only moments before, had been walking on. Her eyes flickered silver and her teeth sharpened, becoming more catlike. It wasn’t until the last Crimson had moved past her, that the signal was given. Her arm pulled back, the bow groaning softly as it stretched and bent before she loosed the arrow. It sang through the air, a soft hum before the scream split the silent air. Her arrow had dug its barbed head into the thick muscles of the man’s back. The party turned, several running back to check their fallen comrade, falling right back into the trap. People screamed as arrows fell down upon them in a rain, several of the Crimson breaking away to flee out of range, some trying to draw their bows and throw daggers up into the trees, only a few of the random shots hitting home as her own people’s screams joined the Crimson. She continued to shoot down into the swarming mass of people, her arrows flying straight and true as Ari made sure she was hitting her targets instead of the Wolves that had leapt from the bushes to join the fray. There was the harsh clash of steal against steal and the gurgle of people whose throats had been cut and their screams never reached their lips. She was quick, her arrows sliding through the air like ghosts, burying their heads into a Crimson who stood behind a Wolf his baked raised and ready to strike the woman down. She saw the sharp nod of thanks from the woman before she dove back in, her blades shining black in the night. Her arrows were able to save a few but still she gagged as a scream punctured the air. Her hand swayed as her eyes caught the horror of the skirmish and the silent glide of a Crimson as it fled into the woods. Cursing she released and arrow but it veered wide and vanished into the darkness of the night. A horse screamed as she sprang from tree to tree, her eyes burning the same bright silver of the nonexistent moon, their light beautiful and deadly. Her clothing ripped and she shifted on the fly, her black body slinking forward as her cat paws dug and gripped at the bark of the trees. Her bow was draped across her chest, between her paws and up along her stomach. Her quiver was tight against her back as well; the stretchy band that Stephan had created had shrunk to tightly hold her quiver in place. She followed silently until the Crimson had come to a stop. His head turned to look over his shoulder, his chest rising and falling as his eyes looked back over his shoulder toward the screaming of the skirmish. She growled and leapt from the tree, landing on top of the warrior and digging her claws into his shoulders. He roared as his body went down, her paws pushing free and back into the darkness of the trees. She completed a quick shift, something she had been privately working on and she drew a long shirt from her quiver, pulling it over her head as she stepped forth from the bushes, her bow resting by her side. He was standing, his sword drawn and ready in front of him.
They circled each other their eyes locking and their bodies trembling, only one was coming out alive. He darted forward and slashed upwards catching her off guard. Her bow had caught the brunt of the force, the blade clipping into the bow and causing a knock into the soft wood. His hand moved quickly, with inhuman speed as he jerked his sword free and raised it above his head. She barely had time to dive out of the way before the sword cut into the earth where she had stood only a moment before. He cut, dove and sliced his way around her. She dodged and dove, each time his sword coming closer to her. With a sudden outburst he charged at her arm before stopping and instead kicking her to the ground. She looked up along the shiny metal of the steel into the eyes of the man as he pressed the tip of his sword into her neck.

“What do we have here,” he taunted, kicking away the bow from her hand as he pressed his sword harder against her skin. “What are you,” he growled his eyes glimmering with mischief.

“I’d rather die than tell you,” she cried as his sword sliced a small line into her neck, her eyes widening with fear.

“You’re a Shifter Ari, a most rare and delicate gift indeed,” the blade of the sword moved up to her nose, flicking away a strand of hair from her face. “You know that no one knows you’re here right, that I could kill you quickly or personally deliver you to Dastan and Indrani and the Wolves wouldn’t know until your blood soaked the sand. Tell me Ari, do you fear me yet?” He smirked, the corners of his mouth twitching with the hint of a smile as moved away, carefully pulling his sword away from her but keeping it in hand. She sat up at his urging, her eyes locked on to him as he paced around her. Something in the way he walked was familiar, the way he moved and it was then that she noticed that his side was torn open and bleeding quickly. She watched until he stopped in front of her again, bending down and burying the tip of his sword into the dirt. He reached up and pulled his hood from his face, smiling wickedly down at her, her heart going cold. Hair fire red, eyes green as pine and skin as freckled as a baby deer’s back, Alex peered out at her from behind his wild hair.

“Like it?” he said spreading his arms and smiling. As she moved to hit him his arms moved, pushing her shoulders back and pinning her to the earth.

“Traitor,” she screamed, her body twisting under his.

“Enough Ari,” he growled, a sad smile crossing his lips, “You mistake me my love. Sean asked me to help guide them here, to bring them to the trap, I was kidding about bringing you to the Crimson, but you shouldn’t be out here. Not alone.” He waited until she had quieted under him, nodding her head before slowly letting her up. Ari settled, willing to believe him because her nose and instinct told her to. Besides, he was bleeding pretty badly and he needed medical attention. He stood with a groan, sheathing his sword and laying his hand across his side. “I need to get back to camp, as quickly as possible Ari, perhaps…”

Ari shook her head, she wasn’t about to shift for this, her pride was hurt and she pulled herself up. It wasn’t a moment later that a Crimson came running from the trees, her eyes flickering to Alex and then back to Ari.

“Alex…stop toying with her and get it over with,” she snarled, her blade dripping with blood. She saw the confused look on Ari’s face as Alex stood and walked over to her, placing his arm over her shoulder. She could hear them whispering, seemingly to argue when he turned back, drawing his dagger from his pocket. Ari pushed herself back, her eyes narrowing.

“Alex…”

“Tell me you didn’t give her the whole, ‘Sean sent me here’ speech. You did! And the wolf girl fell for it?” the girl smiled her eyes laughing lightly, “Oh sweetie, you really thought that he was on your side? Well it seems that Cry’s really can get to anyone huh, should have listened to Sean.”

Ari blanched, her heart breaking as her dagger left her hand and collided with the woman’s chest with a sickening crack as blood frothed from her lip as she collapsed to the earth. Alex turned away from the body and a moment later, his life was taken too. Ari turned; giving a sharp whistle as Sheggar came running from the brush. Her ‘War’ horse, reared up, pawing the air before walking close towards her and bowing his head as tears from her eyes fell upon his velvety nose.
She had killed one of her own, but even she knew that Alex had been missing for quite some time. He was her first friend, the best fighter she had known and now he was dead. She wasn’t sure that he would willingly go against his own family after doing so much for her and her training, and so she pulled Sheggar forward, forced him into the kneel that she had taught him and dragged Alex’s limp body onto the black horses back, the arrow that had killed him snapping in two. She pulled herself up behind the body, kicking her heels into Sheggar’s side and riding forward towards camp. On horseback it didn’t take long and she soon rode straight into the midst of the Wolves, all roused from their sleep by the sounds of fighting. Sean was up as well, looking none at all collected this morning. She dismounted, taking a cloak to gently drape over Alex’s dead body. She approached Sean, not bothering to hide her tears as her fingers clutched desperately at the bow in her hand and the reins in her other. Her quiver lay empty across her back, attesting to her joining in the battle but she didn’t care. So it was that she walked forward in the early morn, already her day seemed bleak.

"War always takes a toll." The most spoken phrase in the history of Valcrest it seemed, but never more true. The fighting had died down and now the Crimson that were left alive were retreating back to the desert, leaving their dead behind. Sean was torn between the honorable gesture of letting the mercenaries claim their dead or the gesture that truly expressed his current feelings, which would be using the corpses to feed the campfire, or the forest animals. If he spoke only for himself he'd choose the latter, but as he spoke for the clan he was bound to do the honorable thing and leave the enemy's fallen warriors by their border to be properly laid to rest.

At this point Sean was hearing accounts of injured and dead coming from several Wolves who simply passed him with a word or two of information. Workers had been ordered to aid in gathering bodies and aiding the injured. Those with medical knowledge or skills, were tending to wounds the best they could, since the Pack and the White Shadows were currently estranged. When it seemed everything was going to finally be quiet for a little bit, the ever increasing sounds of murmurs reached his ears and his head turned in the direction they were coming from. In the exact moment he caught sight of Ari and then the sight of the dead body she was bringing along with her, whispered words caught his ears. "Sean... It's Alex." Sean didn't turn to look at the person who gave him the information, but he recognized the voice as being Donovan's. At first glance one could assume that both Ari and Alex had a run-in with the Crimson and he ended up dead. One would assume that, but Sean could tell by just looking at the girl that it hadn't been as simple as that, so when two Wolves moved towards Alex, he waited for them to lay the man down near the fire and for one of them to check his pulse and make sure the man was really dead, but halted them before they took him to be prepared for burial. "Leave him for now." He stated simply. The men flinched slightly, but obeyed.

Sean heaved a weary sigh and walked past Ari, finding Franklin and whispering something to him before finally turning his attention to the recruit. Feeling now the stares of the Pack becoming more numerous and more intense, he simply put a firm grip on her shoulder and led her into the leaders cabin. Once the door closed he released her and moved to sit across the wooden table. "Alright, Kid... What happened? He asked, looking up at her.
Ari watched as Alex was taken away, hearing the mumbles from the Wolves. She didn’t take her eyes off of his body, not even as Sean took her by the shoulder and lead her away into
his cabin. Ari didn’t want him to see her cry and she slowly tried to pull it together sending an angry swipe across her face. The grime for the battle was smeared across her face and she looked at the Alpha sadly.

“I killed him,” she whispered, a horrified sound in her voice.

Sean sighed, a slightly bitter chuckle escaping him at the answer. "Yes, that much I could tell for myself." He went silent for a moment, watching her expression as if trying to read the story in her eyes. "Listen, Ari, You have lied to me a lot since you got here. There are times when I can overlook that, because assassins have secrets and that's just a given fact. No one who wanders in here comes from a happy place or is fond of sharing, so... I overlook things here and there when circumstances allow. This is different, however. You killed a Wolf, and an Active assassin of this clan. I know that, the people outside know that, and had Alex lived whatever he said happened would most likely be accepted as the truth. He can't speak for himself however, do I'm left to decide what the truth is, and your words are all you have to shield you now, so use them wisely. This is not a test; you know what the punishment is for traitors." Having said that he stood and wandered into his room, less than twenty seconds with a bowl of water and a clean cloth, which he sat on the table before sitting again. "Sit down, wipe your face clean, take a breath, and then tell me what happened."

Ari took a sharp breath, or more like several before she had the courage to sit down and reach out for the cloth and dip it into the bowl to wash the grossness from her face. It was only then she realized that she had a gash above her eye brow that was dripping blood down across her cheek and some into her eyes. She held the cloth to it, gritting her teeth at the pain that was there. She knew there would also be a direct knife line on her throat and it occurred to her that she just might be able to manage to pull it off with just that little bit of evidence. When she was sue that she could hold her voice steady she began to tell her side of the story, sticking straight to the details, no emotion in her voice.

“He...was with them, the Crimson and he claimed that you had asked him to lead the Crimson into the trap. I...I believed him and so I didn’t attack until a girl came out of the woods and she was obviously a Crimson. They went off, talking or arguing and I couldn’t hear them. He... came back and then attacked. I didn’t hesitate, I couldn’t they would have shredded me,” she cried, hysteria rising in her voice. She steadied herself again, seeing the look on Sean’s face. “I killed her first and a moment later my arrow pierced his chest. I panicked and shot, but he was already walking toward me. I didn’t stand a chance Sean. If you need me too I can take you back to the woman, show you exactly what happened and then you could see for yourself what happened. Or if that still concerns you then please, by all means send in a telepath to read my mind, I’ll willingly do it too. I would have run Sean, not come back here to face the punishment.”

Her eyes were pleading, her face a mask against the emotions threatening to boil up inside of her as she removed the red blood from the cloth with a quick rinse in the water in the bowl. She focused her attention there, doing the repetitive emotion to help calm her nerves. Every sound made her jump though and it took an amazing amount of energy to keep her from bursting into a cascade of tears.

“He was my friend,” she whispered, flinching as someone walked past the door.

Sean leaned against the table as he listened, unable to conceal just how tired he was, but his eyes were not losing track of Ari for a split second as she spoke. "He was your friend." He repeated, once she went silent. "Alright, well, I already have asked Franklin to read your mind... He says it works better if you don't expect it... And I don't find it at all hard to believe Alex would have done this. As you know, the clan is currently split, not even those on our side are entirely on our side or permanently on our side. It's just how it is." He stated simply. "Perhaps he was your friend up until that moment, Kid. Maybe he would still be your friend today and for a few more days if you hadn't been there. However, the moment he took a stand on the other side, he wasn't your friend anymore. If he was a traitor, then you did the right thing." He stood from his seat and walked to the door slowly. "You'll take Franklin with you to the woman you killed, he'll be just outside and I advise to not go anywhere without him for now." He told her, walking out of the cabin and closing the door after himself.

Heads turned and people stopped in their tracks as they saw the Alpha walk towards the body. Sean didn't give much explanation; all was very clear when he knelt down next to the fallen Wolf and removed the ring from his right hand. As he stood he simply muttered an order to one of the men who had laid Alex down by the fire. "Take him to be buried with the others." Alex was not formerly accused of treason, it couldn't be proven, and the man was unable to tell his side of things, therefore he would still be buried as a Wolf, but he wouldn't take his ring with him to the Afterlife.

Ari kept her eyes on her hands, looking up at Sean as he left and then she stood, placing the rag down on the table. She could have shifted, could have changed to heal the wounds in her neck and face but she would rather the wolves see it and decide that she was innocent. She stared out at the people, taking a steadying breath before stepping out the door and walking straight to Franklin, she didn’t want to have anything to do with Alex’s body but she couldn’t help but spare him a glance. Her lips parted in a silent prayer, a blessing, forgiveness.

[ Wolf Pack Camp]

Ari still didn’t know how Alex could betray them like that, how he could betray her. His death was meaningless and it stung like fire when she thought about it today, salt in a wound. He was just a boy for the love of Twins! Though Ari looked towards the sky, she knew that he was up there, laughing down upon the Wolves with hatred unmatched. That’s what she had seen in his dying breath, a look of triumph and of hatred.
Were her people really that hated? Did they even deserve the hatred directed at them? Ari thought not and she shook her head forcefully as her eyes caught sight of the deep rich brown coloring of a hawk. It made her think of Phantom and her hand reached up to gently touch the beautiful necklace that the strange sprite had given her. They had met in Newhaven on one of her training missions and Ari couldn’t help but to remember how much they were connected. Sisters almost. She stroked the stone, smiling as she remembered that day.

[Flashback-Newhaven: Week three]
“We have received your order, we will dispatch the birds this afternoon with the messages,” the man whispered in her ear. Ari was sitting at the tavern drinking her usual when her man came up out of nowhere to personally deliver the message. However, his appearance was extremely dangerous.

“It’s been too long,” she whispered as he took a seat next to her, raising his finger to alert the bartender to his needs. She took a long sip of her own drink as the bartender slid the man a large glass. The man didn’t pause to snatch his drink and he brought the brew to his lips.

“Delivering the message is my obligation,” he said into his drink before taking a sip. Ari snickered at the look on his face. Only the drink could ruin his day and confuse him. Even she couldn’t screw it up unless she started something here and now.

“Please give the plans to Stephan and me,” she said, finishing her drink quickly.

“I will send the message to Sean and you,” he growled, obviously not at all pleased with having another person involved in the transportation of the information. “It’s very dangerous to be dealing in this and laws are laws Ari. Your little scheme could cost the Pack.”

“You can’t leave a Wolf behind but I’m sure there have been plenty of Wolves that are now rotting in the ground where they shouldn’t be. I’ve left a wolf. I haven’t been arrested,” she muttered, now playing with the rim of her cup. “Besides, Sean is too busy with his own planning to worry much about me. I expect those birds soon.”
Ari stood, tossing some coins down onto the table before noting the small piece of pie she had ordered before she had been disrupted. Sprinkled with some sort of spice, Ari loved the pie. However, she left the thing lying on the table, pushing it towards the hooded figure next to her. With that, she left.
The dealings were done, Sean should receive a bird saying she had completed the task given to her but she would get something much grander. She and Franklin had been in the city for two days. The whole week however was spent in the cities and already she longed for the openness of the woods and the freedom they offered. Blackpond had been the main stay of their trip. It was there that she had learned of the many different hiding places, people she could trust and who to be aware of. It was one of the last places she wanted to return to though. Newhaven she had already explored on her own, and Franklin had let her roam loose, letting her arrange the mission in a tavern of her choosing and to her own devices. She had to contact the man she was looking for, set up the meeting and then make sure everything was in order and surprisingly, the Wolves that were supposed to be keeping an ear out to see how well she could do this hadn’t heard a thing otherwise they would have jumped her or her ‘informant’.

She pulled her brown hood tighter around her face, a smile spreading across her lips and she merged into the market crowd. It was done. She had won without a fight and she wanted to laugh with joy. Her shoulder collided with another and both turned a quick apology escaping lips at the same time. The two girls’ eyes locked and without another word, Ari was dragged willingly across the square and into a side alley. There was no fight to be had, both were just amazed to see each other here of all places.
Phantom had been hit while walking around, buying things for Kirsten and his minions, held on a short leash since she had been initiated to him. There wasn’t any hope for her, not now. Or at least that is what she thought until she had run into the green eyed girl. She snatched her hand, pulling her towards the alley and the girl followed willingly. Now here they stood, face to face, both of them smiling at each other.

“I dreamt about you,” Ari whispered, her smile radiant in the dark.

“I’ve been searching for you for moons now Green Eyes,” Phantom gushed, “Call me Phantom.”

The two studied each other, not understanding really what brought them together but Ari trusted in the Twins and she was willing to embrace their path for her. The two on silent agreement exited the alley, perfectly content to walk along in silence.

“What brings you here Green Eyes,” Phantom asked gently.

“I'm training to become a Wolf,” she answered simply, shrugging her shoulders. They walked the rest of the way in silence, both learning about each other from just the movements and the dreams they had of each other. There were no more spoken words, just a built understanding, and a friendship coming from nowhere. Phantom stopped before the road that led to the Night Hunters residence, tuning back to Green Eyes.

“I have a feeling that we’ll be in touch Green Eyes,” Phantom said with a smile watching as the girl nodded and then began to walk away, “Wait!”

Ari turned back, watching as the woman with silver hair set her basket down upon the ground reaching up to pull something around her neck to give it gently to her. Ari took it and watched the girl disappear before opening her hand to find a beautifully sculpted silver dragon, curling around a ball that at first looked blue but slowly became green in her hand. Ari tucked the trinket into her pocket before melding back into the crowd.

[Reality]

Ari still didn’t know what Sean thought when he had received the bird telling the whole thing. Things that Franklin had told she had been tested on were: set up, presentation, communication, meeting point, exit, and if any of the Wolves had heard about the meeting. She hadn’t so much gotten a good job and it occurred to her that she should approach Sean and ask him that. She smiled and decided it was time to head back when Stephan came bolting from the trees. She screamed but his hands covered her mouth before the sound could actually resonate and awake the sleeping Wolves.

“Ari! Ari, please be quiet,” he cried, eyes wide until she calmed in his gasp. “Come with me fast! We’re going on a trip just for you.”
His eyes were bright so Ari didn’t hesitate to send a sharp whistle to the sharpness of the night. She was answered with a low whicker and a moment later Sheggar came running from the trees. Together they both mounted up Ari’s bow resting across her lap as the rode off into the night. Sheggar loved the night rides and Ari just adored them. She had to be careful though; Sean didn’t exactly like the idea of a horse running around camp. She was uncomfortably aware of how close Stephan was behind her, his body pressed tightly against hers as he guided them toward the place where he was taking her.

It was a long ride and Ari was very happy to dismount. Sheggar was panting and Stephan turned to her, smiling happily at her.

“There’s and Archery game going on in a camp not too far from here. But unfortunately they don’t like Wolves very much which means you’re going to get in there as something else,” Stephan smiled as a grin spread across her face and she listened eagerly as they went over a plan to get her in past the guards. Then after a short time sleeping, the plan was set into action and Ari’s journey began.

Essence didn’t budge when Tala awoke from slumber and quietly stepped over Ess, snout first peeking out the folds of the tent. If someone saw the scene, the wolf stood as if a statue, inching bit by bit until her head only peeked outside the tent, a constant breath cloud appearing from the end of her nose against the early morning chill. One paw pressed against the frosted ground and she paused, ears twitching on alert. The fire was still burning away, crackling through the pine which gave off a comforting aroma even Tala took the time to sniff at before she was fully revealed to the night. Something or someone was about that she was not familiar with, catching the scent her furry body huffed in a muffled bark before she sprinted away from the tent and over the bridge away from camp.

The wolf began her rounds on the outskirts of the camp, passing through a trial that was guarded by archers and such hiding in the trees. “..Look another wolf...” A male voice whispered from above.

“No....that’s Tala, you idiot...” A woman’s voice retorted.

Tala paused, not quite understanding what the voices had said, except she understood ‘wolf’ was another name for her. She sat momentarily on her haunches, tilting her head up at the trees as if she were going to speak to them. A minute of silence went by and when she looked back along the ground, the wolf picked up a curious trail along another set of paw prints in the bits of snow left amidst the traffic that trail received. Tala tilted her head back, blue sapphire eyes closing as she released a lonely, almost eerie howl into the night.
Stephan had mastered the mental training and he had, as she had slept, poured his wisdom into her own mind, teaching her how to calm herself and deal with the pressure that he had a feeling that Ari had made it. The guards hadn’t done a thing as she slipped past, the bow and the clothes she would need were tied nicely to her underbelly, the rope hidden in her fur. When she was sure she had just made it past she slid out of the contraption, letting it fall to the ground with a muffled click. An eerie howl sounded and she raised her black mussel to answer. It was a wolf, there was no doubt about that and Ari assured herself by sending her own call higher and higher until it hit a screaming note. There she cut the call, the sound lingering in her ears, haunting and dark. She nosed at the parcel, her black ears swiveling in the dark when another wolf howled again. Ari felt the longing of her animal instincts and so she ran forward through the trees, hoping that the sight of a wild wolf would make her brave, able to face down her fear. She ran out her eyes burning silver as her tongue lolled from her mouth, colliding with a white wolf. She tried to stop, her paws scrabbling against the ground as the sharp scent of humans overwhelmed her. The snow was hard like ice and she slid across it, yelping as the snow cut her paws.

“Watch out,” she barked, her shoulder connecting with the wolf’s own and knocking both of them to the ground.

Tala wagged her tail when the night cried out in response to her call, bolting forward at her maximum speed, enticed by the sound of kindred she soon tore through naked pricker bushes only to collide with another wolf. A startled yelp escaped her as she spun around in a circle, her claws curled, trying to stop herself, finally rolling to a halt on her side. Tala whined at the black wolf before getting to her feet, instantly her nose began grazing fur, picking up a curious scent causing her to sneeze suddenly. Tilting her head in a slight daze, Tala readied herself on all fours the hair along her back spiking up at attention as she barked furiously at the other wolf. It didn’t make sense to Tala why this creature looked like her but the smell was off...that and she was in ‘her’ territory. After a moment she paused to sniff in the wolf’s direction once again, as if she was second guessing her blue eyes.
Ari wrinkled her nose, her canines flashing in the moonlight as she got a whiff of the wolf in front of her. She smelled strongly like humans but yet there was no doubt that she was a full blooded wolf. Ari quickly came to the conclusion that this wolf belonged to someone at the camp and she slowly wagged her tail, lowering herself to her stomach and crawling forward to lick under the she-wolfs mussel. She whimpered an apology, before standing to her full height. It was with some great amusement, that she was much taller than the wolf that stood a few paces away and she couldn’t help the humanlike laugh that came from her lips. Her black nose slowly worked the air; her silver eyes flashing as she quickly figured out that she would have to remain on her best wolfish behavior if she was to survive this encounter. Oh Ari was sure she could take on the white wolf, erm grey now that she stood closer, but it was the humans that could be within earshot that worried her most. She gave a wolfish grin, not knowing what to say or do.

Aiden knew he should have gone to bed hours ago but he couldn’t get his mind to simmer down. Not being able to shake that feeling Luke left him with, he had taken to the Captain’s words and was keeping an eye on things, which meant watching Ess and Tala from a distance or up close. It was obvious most of the time when he was around, as he wasn’t one for spying and didn’t want to come off as a creep. Ess may not have been fond of it per say, but she didn’t say anything to Aiden about it, not even once.

Aiden had just reached his cabin, determined to fight his insomnia when a familiar howl erupted the darkness, sending a shiver through his spine accompanied by a solemn smile which he quickly shut as his dried lips cracked from the winter chill. At first he thought nothing of Tala’s song until it lingered longer than expected as if it were searching. He turned about, pulling his hood tighter around his neck as another strange howl answered back in a mournful cry. Without a word he shuffled through the snow in the direction of the wolves, a few moments later distant barks blended into a painful icy wind. He would cut across the tiny cliffs and cabins imbedded into the hills, crossing the bridge away from the center of camp.

Tala whined, her tail wagging on and off in spurts as she twitched her head not quite letting the other wolf touch her per say. After a moment, as if satisfied she yipped dripping her head and front legs into the snow, her tail end rocking back and forth happily, pouncing left to right of the her new friend. Prancing circles around the wolf she bounded off expecting chase, drifts of snow catching in the wind as she tossed it aside in her play.

Ari was thrilled. Here she was playing with a wolf, a domesticated one but a wolf none the less. Momentarily she forgot about the contest, finding herself full of energy that she had spent last night training with Stephan. She consoled herself with the knowledge that she was technically training and she leaped forward. She barked, running forward past the wolf, her body stretched out, a black streak against the snow. She tuned, bounding back, her paws slapping the snow. The two played, tangling with each other, spraying each other with snow and spinning and whirling with the snapping of teeth and the sharp barks that cut through the cold air, the ice crystals breaking under the weight and harsh tears that the Wolves dug into the snow.

Aiden followed the sounds towards the river, gushing and bubbling beneath the bridge, he came to a stop just as he crossed, leaning against a wooden pole tied to the rope railing. Carmel eyes sparkled listening to the wolves play in the distance, tiny figures appearing along the tree line as they broke through into a clearing. A sombre smile curled his lips as he stood for some time, basking in the comfort and tranquillity Tala was feeling at that moment. He would have never been able to understand how free she felt at that moment unless he could ‘hear her.’ Tala chose to stay with people for the most part, the profound love she had for her friend Ess was something Aiden may have been a bit jealous of, not every knowing what that felt like. But in that moment he understand how ‘guilt free’ so to speak, Tala felt for giving in to her instincts and focus only on the moment and not where Ess was that second.

Gradually Tala and her furry companion made their way closer to the river, Tala leaping clear over the larger wolf barking as if to command her to follow. The winds had changed and Tala could smell Aiden just at the bridge, her mind reaching out to his as she whined up at him, nuzzling his hand when she finally found her way at his side. Sitting on her haunches, panting heavily her tongue curled out of her mouth like a snake, misty breath clouds fogging in front of Aiden’s face as he squatted beside Tala to scratch between her ears. “Who’s your friend Tala?”
She turned her head barking at the black wolf behind her, showing her the human was not a threat.

Ari was confused. One moment they had been playing through the snow, snapping at each other’s paws and tail and ears, not a care in the world, and then the white wolf had left. Now she was alone. The moon smiled down at her, her black pelt shining in the soft bathe of its light. Her ears priced forward, her black paws shifting nervously on the crust beneath them, the crunch of the snowflakes ringing in her ears. The halo around the moon covered most of the sky, vanishing from time to time behind the light dusting of clouds that helped block the radiance of the stars. Wind ruffled her fur, its cold fingers working its way deep into her pelt and touching the skin with a shiver. The trees behind her lay dead and bare to the elements, having shed their colourful coats long ago. Their white bark was no match for the luminosity of the snow which cast the moonlight back up upon Ari. From afar it looked like she was shining, her silver eyes matching the bright radiance of the snow around her body. The wind whispered through the trees and for a moment Ari thought she caught sight of Salji running through the dark needles of the pines behind her. His bright blue eyes were locked on hers but in a flash of black spots he was gone, and Ari was never quite sure if she had actually seen the big snow leopard or had only wished that he was there. She leaped forward out of her trance as she heard what she thought was the twang of a bow, followed by a scream. Ari bolted after Tala, her much bigger body quickly overtaking the other wolf. The eeriness of the woods fled and was replaced with the pounding of her feet against the snow, the flap of her pink tongue as it lolled from her mouth and the whips of breath that formed little clouds but were ripped apart before they could truly come together. She slowed her mad dash as she carefully picked her way over the boulders and toward what looked like a bridge. She slowly followed Tala across, wondering if it was just another chase before she slid to a grinding halt. Ari smelled the human, her ears flatting against her skull, her lips curling into a snarl before seeing that obviously this wolf knew him. Her black nose worked the air, not relaxing as her body padded closely forward. Tala. So that was the wolf’s name. She shook her pelt and her eyes gleamed. Thank the twins, maybe this would be her ticket in. She extended her nose out to the man’s outstretched hand, shying away as his mind brushed against hers. Het long black tail tucked between her legs, and she whimpered. If the man had been standing, Ari’s head would have been almost level with his hips, but as of now he was below her. Her silver eyes peered into his own, never once blinking as she assessed him, before opening her mind up to him, flooding him with thoughts, sensations, and a sense of being trapped.
Aiden’s eyes widened at the unusually large wolf before him, his fingers not reaching further as he wanted her to come to him. He let her take in his scent, keeping perfectly still expect for his eyes and smile as he took in the strange wolf’s silver gaze catching the moonlight, the comforting orb sneaking peeks out from behind the cloud cover. “Hey there...I won’t hurt you....Tala would kill me.” He snickered, Tala yipping in agreement while she moved to sit behind her new friend, the obvious size difference was indeed quite comical. Aiden’s brows narrowed a bit perplexed as he tried to read the black wolf, getting mixed emotions that were not quite normal in comparison to Tala there. Something was voided from instinct, conflicting with the fear he most certainly saw and sensed. It was almost as if there were two...“What...are you?” Aiden whispered in awe, unable to understand the creature when he should of, just as easily as breathing came to him. Turning towards Tala they shared a brief moment, Aiden simply nodding; it wasn’t in satisfaction but more the passing of any tension that may have lingered inside him of a present threat. “Tala seems to like you....” His continued to whisper, his voice resonant and mellow in a similar tone he took with the children of the camp.

Ari took a step back before sitting on her haunches; she didn’t really know what to do. Communicating her predicament would be difficult and she didn’t want to end up with a dagger in her throat tonight, not while there was still life pumping strongly through her veins. Of course could this, man, attack an unarmed girl? She sniffed the air again, smelling fear and smirking. Yes, it was a wonder to have a Beastspeaker trying to read the mind of a half wolf half human. The expression on his face was priceless as he tried to ask her what she was, as if she could talk. She let him think about it for a moment, still conveying the thoughts that she choose before slamming her mind shut with the soft pine smell of a girl, that and a pair of bright green eyes. Ari smiled, her tail wagging. Yes he would do, strong, brave, curious, not to mention kind of cute. She moved forward again, extending her paw to touch his knee gently with it, almost in a handshake. She sat there for a moment, her silver eyes conveying the almost humanlike expressions on her face. She yawned, her eyes sparkling green for a moment as she reared up screaming. Her body curled inward as she leapt away from the man, her teeth snapping the air. Ari tore at her paw, and when the sharp thorn had been cast out her eyes settled back to silver, the green fading almost as fast as it had appeared. Her form stopped blurring and she settled back into a black wolf. She bowed her head, her hackles rising before seeing the tiny branch attached to the man’s pants. He hadn’t tried to attack her she realized, moving slowly out of her attack position. He probably had been walking through the most deadly thing to her ability and had picked it up along the way. She, being the wolf that she was, didn’t notice it until one of its poisonous thorns was lodged in her paw. She didn’t bother to try and pull it off, if he had been paying attention he would have momentarily seen her human form, but she wasn’t yet ready to shift until he asked her to reveal herself, that or she just got tired of trying to communicate this way. However, the poison was spreading through her body at a surprising rate and she couldn’t hold back as her body began to wither and convulse. Slowly her wolf scream became human. Her fur fell and bones popped and groaned as she shifted, muscle reforming with sickening crunches and flesh with a soft hiss. She lay there in the snow, the wind caressing her bare skin as the moon smiled mockingly down.

Aiden had lost his balance in his squatting position, falling backwards only to have Tala barking frantically before him. One moment the black wolf and him stared into eachother’s eyes, Aiden reading the immense intelligence behind them, a paw almost the size of his own hand resting on his leg; the next a piercing scream of shock and pain unraveled into the night, echoing a haunting array of human and animalistic vocals. One hand instantly rested the hilt of his blade at his side, his other outstretched palm flat, silently signaling the creature to stay back. He couldn’t read what the being was thinking, but he knew others would be stirring from their beds at the commotion. “Tala!...Back...Tala!” Aiden commanded, trying to get the wolf to settle a bit, his jaw dropping when he swore his vision was playing tricks on him. If that large creature attacked him, it would be a brutal fight, one he may not survive, yet she seemed to settle once she realized he was not going to make any sudden moves. “Tala?...Captain!” Aiden commanded in a gentler tone this time, his furry friend not hesitating as she spun about in her tracks, bolting further away from the river into the center of camp. He knew something was wrong...something was not right. Another curdling scream burned into his mind, his hands slapped over his ears wanting to block it out. He pushed himself to his full height, towering over the seizing creature, her body popping and splitting as it changed into the naked image of a young woman collapsed against the snow. At first Aiden stared, a strange smile planted on his lips as it started to make some sort of sense and when he hearted the shouts of others who had awoken and the mixed yips of Tala and what only could be Puppy, Aiden snapped out of it. Drawing his sword in one hand, he managed to wiggle out his jacket, gently draping it over the girl’s body for modesty’s sake, his smile shifting into an annoyed glower. Another stranger in the camp, someone who had quite a useful talent and was able to sneak by unnoticed; except for Tala of course. This would not go over well with the Captain.  Mageria had been inspecting the armory, such as it was, when the combined barking of both Tala and Puppy summoned her outside. Grabbing her sword in one hand and slinging her cloak about her with the other, she dashed outside to see what was going on. Tala was dancing in place, claws digging into the snow; once she saw Mageria, she jumped forward to gently tug on her cloak. Taking this as a request to follow, Mageria ran off after her. It was only a quick run over and around a couple cabins in order to get to the bridge by the river.

"Aiden? What. . . . what do we have here?" Mageria was somewhat unsurprised to find what had to be a naked young woman lying in the snow. She knelt down, Tala and Puppy on either side of her, to see what had wandered into camp this time; Aiden quickly reporting what had happened.

"Another lost wanderer? One who managed to get into the heart of our camp with almost no trouble. That's not something I like to hear." Her gaze darted over the girl; child almost. Some sort of wound on her hand, other than that she seemed to be ok beyond being unconscious. No, there was something lodged in the flesh of her hand. A thorn. Almost absently,
Mageria used the blade of her dagger to pry it out; glancing at it briefly before tossing it aside.
With an annoyed sigh, Mageria stood up, glaring downwards. Briefly, she considered letting the intruder just lie in the snow, but she couldn't talk herself into it. There was the slightest chance that she was simply the child of a nearby village that had been lost in wolf-form had come to them for help. So instead she ordered her taken to the medic's cabin and laid on one of the beds; bundled up in blankets, while she perched on the next one over and watched their latest stray carefully with Puppy at her feet and Aiden leaning on the wall nearby. Looking helpless didn't make one helpless and if this girl showed the slightest hint of a threat she would make sure that she was eliminated quickly and cleanly.  Ari felt her lungs burn, her body hurt and she couldn’t move. The moon’s light made her shirk away, every sound was like the sharp crack of a whip to her ears, every scent no matter how sweet burned, and her tongue felt dry and cracked inside her mouth. The cold air soothed her hot skin, the fire deep inside her slowly settling as her senses began to dull. She could feel the inside of her body still rearranging, her vocal cords slowly melting away only to be reformed. The transformation was harder to complete and she had to remain perfectly still as everything finalized or she could be stuck. She didn’t will her change faster; she couldn’t have if she wanted to. The poison was making everything so much slower as her body fought against it, trying to stall its progress and rid herself of it like it normally did with her scars. She shivered as she felt the soft fluttering of a cloak around her body, most likely from the man she had only known as a wolf. She knew he was doing it out of modesty but it still made her nerves scream.  She quaked as the bark of the dogs and wolf reached her and still having a bit of her wolf voice she whined, begging them to please be quiet and to her relief, they actually listened. Others were around her, she could feel their heat and their breath stroking across the air to her skin but there was one presence that demanded more respect than the rest and so it was there that she turned most of her attention. Her scenes focused there, regretting it almost immediately as the thorn that was hiding in her paw was dug from her hand, causing her to reflexively curl into herself, her hand clenching as her mind fled from the pain that was pressed upon her. She would have fought, would have screamed as the others came and picked up her body and carried her. But of course they didn’t know, didn’t know how much pain the slightest touch caused and Ari snarled when she thought of all the bruises she would have because of them. More blankets, she thought before she disappeared.
Her bright green eyes fluttered open to the warmth of what looked like the medic’s camp and she discreetly smiled to herself, she had made it, whilst shying away from the woman sitting on the cot next to her. She was glad to see that the man was still here, his golden eyes locked onto her, calculating and cold. The two canines were here as well, the wolf’s eyes not as judgemental as the dogs, but Ari knew she had the same smell to the wolf, and hopefully it would remember her as a playmate and not a threat. Her eyes flicked over to the woman, looking in great detail at her, slowly putting pieces together to mark her as Mageria and she silently thanked Franklin for his little bit of training. She knew that Wolves would most definitely not be welcome and she was gladdened that she was not yet marked as a Wolf, and no one could tell unless they really dug for it. The change had ended though there was still a dull ache and she brushed the hair out of her face, her wide eyes peering around the cabin and glancing fearfully at Mageria.

“Thank you, m’lady for rescuing me,” she whispered her voice cracking at the use and Ari blushed, “But, I’m afraid I’m very lost. Where am I?”
Tala at first had sat at the foot of the girl's bed, whining curiously, not sure what to make the change in her 'friend.' Aiden had managed to quiet the wolf, watching absently the strange wolf-girl with a narrowed gaze, yet the flicker of light in his eyes hinted to his curiousity. He kept quiet when the girl spoke, the dark circles beneath his lids giving the obvious clue to his lack of sleep that was piling up on him. Without taking his eyes off the Captain, Aiden whispered, “Captain....it will be light soon..and there is much to do for the archery contest...With your permission, may I by releaved to my cabin before I join the others with the preparations?” Aiden stretched from his position against the wall, “I could get Zane...or one of the others if you'd like?” Mageria tilted her head to the side, studying the young girl for a long moment before she spoke.

"Of course, go get some rest. Don't worry about waking anybody else up, I think it can handle it." She reached down and absently scratched Puppy between the ears, digging in her fingers as the wolfhound leaned into the caress. She watched as the man left, closing the door firmly behind him. Then she turned back, eyes shifting a bit from a dark blue towards a green.

"As to where you are, my dear. That's a bit of a difficult question to answer. You're about half an hour's ride north of Newhaven. There's a village or two within about a day's walk from here. Are you from one of them? We'd be glad to help you find your way back, if you simply wandered too far astray." Absently, she flicked the clasp on her cloak, swinging it off and to the bed beside her. This revealed the fact that she had one sword slung across her back and a short sword at her waist.

"Although, I'd like to hear how you found your way here. We thought we were quite well hidden and instead it seems as if there are signs hung in the trees."

A brief smile suddenly crossed her face. "Although, I will grant that you might want to get something to eat and perhaps something to wear before you tell me the extent of your travels. It is a bit disconcerting to defend yourself while completely unclothed and hungry, is it not?"

“M’lady, that would be kind indeed though it has no effect on my fighting skills,” Ari couldn’t help the glow of colour that momentarily flushed up around on her cheeks. She pulled the blankets closer around her body, a little unnerved at the sight of the two swords but Sean had trained her well and she was sure that she could handle this if it got out of hand. “Excuse me for being bold but, it is hard to fool a wolf. Nothing is hidden to us. I know the forest inside and out and when changes were whispered from the animals and the trees,” she shook her head, a little smile flickering across her features, “It was not difficult to hunt you and your kin down. But the reason I stray into your camp is not for gloating’s sake. My brother has a telepathic ability and there was some buzz about an archery competition, which I see he was not wrong about. Mageria, it would be an honour to test my skills against your archers.”
Her lips pulled up into a brisk smile, her eyes lightning as her hands briskly played with the edge of the blankets. She was studying the room as it were, noting how many people there were in the beds, of course most of them would be injured, but her eyes never left Mageria’s.

“I brought my bow and there’s a change of clothes out in the woods as well,” Ari cleared her throat noticing the almost questioning look on the Captains face, “I don’t travel without some supplies for when I’m human. I was taught better than that.”

Mageria tilted her head to the side, her eyes suddenly flashing from a sapphire to ice blue. There was a, tension to her body; a readiness to explode into sudden violent action. Both the warhound at her feet and the wolf at her side tensed as well, hackles raising and low growls rising from their throats.

"If know my name, then you know who and what I was. Which means that I'm forced to wonder just what makes you feel like wandering uninvited and unannounced into my camp. And if your brother is a telepath, then you cannot say that you didn't know who we are. Which means I really must wonder, what is it you seek here?" A slash of a smile crossed her face. "Please don't lie to me. You've told me once that you were lost and once that you hunted us down. The archery competition was thought up just a few hours ago, which means that you two must have been in the area to begin with, watching us. So. Are you insanely foolish or just insane?"

Ari wanted to laugh, really just throw her head back and let it out, joyous and loud and sweet. However, it would be foolish to do so in front of an extremely anxious ex Newhaven Black knight. Instead she chose to swallow her insane giggles as that question of insanity presented. Ari had never thought about her sanity and now that the question had been presented she really considered it. Crazy? Yes, there was no doubt but it wasn’t because she chose it, but rather because of the foolish mistakes, the reckless decisions she made.
“Aren’t we all a little crazy? I would not say I am insane, just foolish and not even that. Inexperienced.” She could see the Black Knight inside of the woman was restless and the tension was disturbing the animals quite a bit.
“I mean no harm against you or your people Mageria,” Ari tried to soothe, her voice low and almost pleading. “Sometimes it is better to approach with the false appearance of a hurt, lost, embarrassed little girl than to wander into someone’s camp seemingly knowing all that they are. It causes disturbances and that can lead to a knife in your belly before you can truly explain who you are and what you’re doing there. Excuse my actions if you disapprove of my methods but seeing that I have little experience in diplomacy or any human contact, I would say that I was doing pretty well. That is until I misjudged who you were. But that mistake has been cleared.” Ari paused, not letting Mageria in on who she thought she was and what she had been taken for. Her eyes flashed sliver and she sent a calming noise, to high for humans to hear at the two canines and they seemed to settle, if only for a little while. Ari continued, her eyes glowing green again, “As for my brother being a telepath; he was headed up toward the mountains and just happened to be passing by this general aria when the ‘shouts’ from the minds of the people engulfed him. That’s how he learned about the competition and he knows I can hit a squirrel in the eye when we hunt so he figured that I would enjoy being able to show off my skills. Is it a crime to want to come forth and test your skills against the best? A crime to have a dream?”
Ari smiled softly, warmth seemingly about her and she let out a tiny sigh. This was going to be difficult, that much was obvious.

"First lesson of dealing with extremely paranoid people. Don't contradict yourself within five minutes. We tend to pick up on things like that." Mageria didn't relax any, but she didn't seem to be as ready to kill at that moment. "It's no crime to want to prove yourself, but if you can't even keep your own lies straight then you're not going to survive for very long. You might get further in the door, but you'll end up dead all the same." She drew a deep breath, almost forcing herself to relax a bit. There had been some disturbing reports from Newhaven; that combined with a few other things had left her constantly on edge. And now this child had walked into their camp, seemingly for her own reasons, but who knew what they really were? She fixed the young girl with a ice cold glare, studying her reactions.

"Now, I'll give you this one last chance. You say you don't mean any harm to me or mine, but at the moment we have several guests. Given that we would respond to a threat against them the same as we would one of us, can you say that you mean them no harm as well?" “I come only for the games. I swear it, on my honour.” Ari nodded her head gently, bowing it for a moment with respect before her eyes met the cold stare of the woman’s. Mageria sighed. "Very well then. You may stay for the contest. Please stick to the common areas and guest quarters, I'm afraid I don't know you well enough to trust you in the restricted areas. Treat everyone with respect and we can talk again after this is all over." She went over to a cabinet and pulled out a set of cloths, leaving them on the foot of the bed. "Let somebody know when you leave for your gear, have them walk out with you. There's room for you to lay your bedroll in one of the guest cabins." She nodded and turned to leave. "And . . . good luck latter today."

Ari nodded and watched Mageria all the way to the door, shouting a quick thank you at her back before slipping out of the blankets and then sliding on the clothes that were at the bottom of the bed. She pulled them over her, shivering at the feeling. They were stiff and tough against her skin after being a wolf and she couldn’t help the small whimper that worked its way up to her throat. She turned to see that Mageria was still there and Ari huffed out a breath of relief. “Mageria,” she called, walking forward to stand even with the woman, “Would it be alright if we kept my appearance hidden from the others? I don’t want to be seen.”

Mageira raised one eyebrow curiously. "And how did you want to do that? We don't get many visitors as it is, so a new face tends to stand out." She let out a sigh, sending a plume of white upwards, pulling her cloak around her tighter. Things kept getting more and more tangled. "I can see you wanting to perhaps conceal your name or your gender, but there's no way that you're not going to be the subject of some curiosity." War. It was a deadly conflict that should have been avoided. A warning to the people, both good and evil, to the solider, the civilian, the martyr and the victim, it began with a lie and was now fought for the truth. No one didn’t feel its effects. Prophets, liars, honest folk, the leaders, the pariah, the victim and the messiah all suffered and Ari did too. It was not her fault, yet as a Wolf the Crimson saw her just as guilty of murder as those who had run into their camp and slaughtered their people ‘on orders of Sean’. Being the only Wolf within a couple miles around the aria, inside a camp where the Crimson could be as well, and Ari having met a couple before the war, made her incredibly vulnerable. She didn’t like that feeling at all. If they were here she didn’t want to run in and look just like the silly little girl they had met so long ago. An easy kill. No. She wanted to be who she was now but she dare not show her face, better to go as a man during the day as Stephan had suggested, just in case. The trouble was explaining this without being caught, tripping on her words and letting it loose that she was a Wolf. “I know. It’s just that I have made plenty of enemies and acquaintances who may not take kindly to my appearance here. That is if they happen to have wandered into your camp as well. I would just feel safer, with your permission of course, to walk hidden for now, dressed as a man.” Ari knew it probably sounded silly to the woman in front of the door but Ari didn’t know how else to put it and she was already working out an answer for the question that could be on its way, though she pleaded to the Twins that Mageria would be too tired to continue and she smiled at the woman.
Mageria suppressed a sigh and cracked her neck to the side, stretching the kinks out. "If you have enemies that are that angry at you, that might be here in camp, why in the Twins name did you decide to stop by? If winning means that much to you, you're in the wrong line of work." She slowly looked the girl up and down, arms crossed in front of her. "This is the best I can offer. I don't know what you've got going on, or with who. But so long as you don't cause harm to my people, this will be something of a neutral zone. What you all do away from here, that will be up to you. But it won't be happening here. So you can dress as a male if it will make you feel safer." She looked away over her camp, her people resting safely for the moment. "Just remember this. You give me reason to regret my offer, I'll nail you to a tree myself." Her gentle smile didn't touch her eyes, which instead showed a glimpse of the lengths that she was willing to go to in order to protect her people.

Ari nodded, watching the woman leave before slipping out of the bed and walking carefully out the door and back into the blistering cold, or what felt like blistering cold. She found the nearest awake person and walked up to them, putting on her most innocent face while calmly asking if they would escort her around for a little while. Of course they agreed, even bowing slightly, a twinkle in his eyes as he led her out across the bridge. After she had crossed it her feet struck the earth and she ran off. She didn’t stray from her path, didn’t waver until she collapsed into the snow and pulled out the precariously wrapped items. She didn’t quite understand why she needed the boy to follow her and it occurred to her that perhaps Mageria had misunderstood and thought the gear was all outside the camp borders. Oh she would have been even more furious to see that Ari had been able to sneak them inside the boundaries. She cradled the fur wrapped bow and the clothes that Stephan had lent to her before she left and she stood just as the boy rounded the corner and nearly collided with her.

“Hey,” she snapped, her eyes flashing as she felt her bow bend and twist with the collision. He muttered something about trying to flee and Ari laughed and apologised for her hasty reactions before he led her back towards the guest cabins. He showed her in and helped her get comfortable even helping her slice her hair off so it was cut boy short. She watched him leave before settling onto her sleeping pad. Tomorrow would bring whatever came her way; she could only ride the current now and rest her eyes for the Tournament.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Phantom/Spirit Character Portrait: Kirsten Somare
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OOC Notes

Setting: Valcrest2012-07-30 07:03:34, as written by nibblesnbits
Kirsten watched the village burn. Red orange and yellow flames licked their way up wooden and straw houses, the fire snapping and growling like a beast as it consumed everything in its path. Black smoke rose high above the clouds as a beacon for those who dared near the sight. Of course, no one dared to try and stop the flames as they rose higher and ate more. People had long since fled into the soft comfort of the forest which, Kirsten thought with a smirk, would soon burn too. This wasn’t his first burning; he had already burned two other villages, trying to bring the Wolf Girl, Ari, out. The forest would be his next target if he had heard nothing. His black eyes watched the fire, reflecting and mirroring the blaze as his soul took fire as well, burning internally.
Phantom silently rode up behind the Hunter, her horse’ feet gliding over the grass like a shadow. The horse was speckled, much like Kirsten’s as she slowly dismounted and her black cloak swung around her shoulders. Her different colored eyes were striking, her silver hair hung lose around her face as she turned her head toward the heat of the flames. The Hunter’s body was turned away from her, his hawk nowhere in sight as his silhouette stood black against the wall of flame, his black hair occasionally swaying from the wall of heat that blasted against her horse and caused him to take a couple of jittery steps backwards.
“Phantom, come stand beside me,” he whispered, not turning as she took a couple steps forward until they stood side by side.
“Kirsten,” she said dipping her head into a bow, her hair falling like a curtain over her face, breaking past the barrier of the hood and face cover. She moved stiffly, the black leather pants and black shirt caused her some discomfort and it would take some getting used to before she was able to move as fluidly as Lychen and some of the other Hunters. “It’s been done.”
“Any sign of her?”
“None.”
He sighed and turned his head towards her, grinning as his eyes flashed blood red.
“Well, then I think it’s time we headed into the forest,” his lips pulled into a thin line as Phantom nodded her head and moved back to the horses that had started to graze. Her body still burned from the Blood Moon, the fire that was likewise eating the village was eating her inside and out. She shivered and stuck her boot into the stirrup and swung her leg up and over the horse before kicking the animal into a canter down the hill toward the rest of the men who were still terrorizing the villagers that hadn’t been so lucky as to escape.
Kirsten watched her go, his eyes melting back into that familiar red as the fire seemed to bolster his power and his cloak flapped irritably against his back as another wave of heat struck him. Things seemed to be going his way. The fires burned hot and quick, devouring everything in a belch of black smoke that he could replicate and make bigger. Not lying about the size of the blaze, the stretching of truth he thought with a small smile. The girl would have to move fast to stop him, that or the Wolves themselves would have to move against him and that sent a spike of pleasure down his spine. Killing was something he could do, and well. Almost like a small hawk, no one saw him until it was too late. He whistled sharply and the small black dot that hovered over the flames tilted, heading his direction. Kirsten stood, watching as Kie glided down to perch on his outstretched arm.
“Hey you,” he whispered, tapping the small bird on the bottom of his beak, “Warming your wings?”
The hawk gave a loving coo as he nuzzled his head onto Kirsten’s chest, flapping his wings as if to answer. Kirsten smiled and gently bounced his arm, watching as the head bobbed up and down like a nod. Kie was a special bird, found by Kirsten in the woods after being kicked out of the nest by his younger siblings. Now, what had then been a scrawny and hideous fledgling had grown into a huge beautiful fighter. Normally Kie’s rich feathers would be deep brown and speckled with small white flecks, however now his wingtips were streaked black from the smoke and his body was spotted with soot. It was a fitting color for such a magnificent animal. Kirsten double tapped the bird and with a massive jerk of his arm, sent Kie shooting up in the air as the cloud slowly began to disperse, giving Kirsten a clear view as the bird circled once overhead before diving into the forest. It was time.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Ari Lupir Character Portrait: Phantom/Spirit
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OOC Notes

Setting: Valcrest2012-11-27 21:09:43, as written by nibblesnbits
“So, we’re going in to burn the camp of the esteemed Wolves. Funny isn’t it?”

“I don’t see what’s so damn funny about it.”

The two men were sitting on watch for the evening, their backs to each other as the fire lay dead beside them. What had once been a roaring fire now lay broken in red smoldering embers, the wood all used up against the cold and the two were now relying on their own warmth to keep from freezing.

“Well, here we are, a small band of ‘Rebels’ bending to a leader’s will going to destroy perhaps one thing that had been in Valecrest since the beginning of time. It’s funny that the new replace the old.”

“That’s life. Besides, we’re not here to wipe them out, just get the girl.”

The one man shrugged and fell quiet; the only sound around them the shifting of the night creatures and the soft pop of the hungry fire. A group of eight people lay around them, their leader leaning against the roots of a tree, her back pressed against the bark of a tree.

“Do you find it odd that Kirsten is using a girl to catch a girl?”

“No.”

The talkative one fell quiet and Phantom relaxed slightly. Leave it to Lichen to steer the conversation away from her. The new recruits were always talking. It was odd for a female to be part of the Knight Hunters, but she wasn’t the first. That much she knew. Where or what happened to the woman before her remained a mystery. It didn’t matter anyways. She was bound to Kirsten, and likewise he was bound to her. She shifted in her sleep, opening her eyes a crack to survey her surroundings. Though she may have appeared to be asleep against her tree, she didn’t sleep. She just didn’t feel the need too. Lichen turned to look at her, his kind eyes staring into hers understandingly. She smiled at him shyly, for a moment before falling back into her sleep like state.

“So, we’re just out to find the camp.”

“Yes.”

“That’s all?”

“Then we’ll burn it.”

Phantom listened to the carefree chatter, her mind whirling on finding the camp. It wouldn’t be that hard, they had Kie to guide them in the right direction. Phantom wasn’t worried too much. It was the sneaking in. In fact she believed that they were already being watched.
She almost didn’t notice the creak of a branch, the drop of a small twig to the ground. Her hand reached to her dagger, her eyes traveling up the tree a few feet away. There. A shift of movement, much too large to be a cat. Her sharp eyes caught sight of a hand, a human hand. There was no doubt in her mind that it was a Wolf. Perhaps they had been following her band sense they set foot into the forest. But seeing one here, listening in on the Watchers conversation made her start. If she moved to attack now, she would alert the entire camp around her to the fact that she wasn’t asleep. If she didn’t then it was possible that the Wolf could carry word to camp ahead of them. Then it could very well come down to a fight. Her lips curved into a thin smile and her hand moved away from her hip. And for once she was able to fall into a deep sleep.

"We could take them now, I'm just saying. They obviously plan to make a move."

"Not yet, Sean wants to let them get closer. If they're any good they know you're watching by now and you can't surprise them anyway. Not to mention, we want at least one alive to give us answers."

"These... They are the same people who invaded the Inn, aren't they?"

"Yes, Ryan."

"Do we know what they are after?"


Silence followed the question and Ryan shifted uncomfortably in the tree branch where he'd been perched on.

"Franklin?"

"Just... Follow your orders, boy. Let me and Sean worry about what they're after."


Ryan held back a sigh and gestured to one of his companions to let him know they were meant to wait. Quietly he watched as the gestured was repeated and passed along to all the Wolves in his group. There were seven of them, including Ryan himself, but using his enlightenment he could increase their numbers considerably and it was his honest opinion that it would be better to attack the intruders before they came any closer; according to Franklin it was not what Sean wanted to do though. He wanted them closer to camp so they'd have less chances to escape. Ryan wasn't fond of waiting, but so be it... The Alpha's word is law... They'd sit and wait and watch for as long as they were told to. They had someone ready to shoot down their bird the moment they stepped close enough, and that would be their signal to move. Until then... It was his job to keep eyes and ears open in case their visitors did something unexpected. His gaze was, at the moment, fixed on the woman who had been leading them towards the camp; he couldn't tell for sure if she was awake or asleep, but he had caught her momentarily reaching for a weapon and that was a clear sign that she was far more alert than she led on.

In Ryan's mind he couldn't understand what would be so important to these people that they would foolishly invade on the Pack's territory that way. In his eyes, they were either extremely foolish or incredibly sure of themselves, and either way they were as good as dead. Still, Sean seemed to see it differently, and that led him to act with more caution than he usually would; the Alpha was many things, but a fool he was not. The assassin slowly ran one hand through his blond hair, pulling a few annoying strands away from his eyes, not daring to look away from the intruders and their little camp, a cold breeze suddenly blowing across the tree branches and causing him to shiver only slight, one hand clinging to the tree as it swayed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Phantom was wide awake the next morning, her boot nudging the backs and sides of those still asleep. Then she stood, her back to the tree’s where they had been watched, as those she had woken placed their hands over the sleeping victims’ mouths and woke them with cold steel. Phantom smiled softly as she heard the sharp intake of breaths as their skin was split and blood dripped down like rubies from the cuts that now ran along necks. It wasn’t enough to kill, only enough to scold them for waking so late. The sun had barely risen and they were nearly there.

She turned, walking briskly forward to one of the men who were on duty last night, his fingers brushing across a particularly deep neck wound. Her delicate fingers slapped his hand, knocking the pressure away, her other hand tilting his head back forcefully as he growled. Her fingers smeared the blood across his pale flesh as she coated the tips of her fingers in blood. With one quick swipe across her face she smiled at them. His blood shone in small waves across her face, red glistening the same pattern was repeated on the other faces as her fingers moved gracefully over Lichens face.

“Kirsten is a genius,” he said with a smile, blood glistening on his face like his own wounds, one of the stripes dripping down his cheek giving him an added element. Phantom nodded and turned to oversee the reading of camp. They were all dressed in black, dark and hidden in the early dawn light. Their faces were all painted red with brother’s blood and as Phantom pulled the piece of cloth from her pocket she smiled evilly. The red tear was specifically Ari’s, the fabric matching the blood that now rolled down faces as their eyes all turned to look towards her. Her blue and brown eyes glittered as they silently drew weapons and knocked arrows. Without a word she moved forward and they all followed, moving like ghosts through the trees, coming closer and closer to Ari’s home.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The cold brush of air, the light touch of winter clinging to the air as spring threatens to take hold against the heavy cruelty that winter has imposed. Ari loved spring. It was a time of rebirth, of beauty and of life. The birds would be all back, the trees thickening out into green leaves and the people would all awaken as the ice melted from their bones and the sun once again set them free to flit about the land to their hearts content. The land would come alive, and once again winter would be held off until another year passed. Even still, the winter was beautiful, white and clean, snow softly balancing on the boughs of trees. Oh, and they looked dead, but that was not the case, no, not one bit. Instead the trees were in a silent slumber, tucked under the blankets of snow and the soft caress of cold wind, brushing the white flakes to send them descending like stars upon the ground. Like a mother, the winter had ruled with a harsh hand, but not an unfair one. Spring was on the move, it was already marching against the purity that was winter, ready to muddy it up with heat and melting. Green would overtake the white, muddying her skirts as she fled away, and spring would not stop there. Instead, he would take control, chasing winter out of the lands until all that remained were roaring rivers, treacherous slopes, and slick mud. Even then, wars will rage and men will be on the move again. Death came with winter and it marched on with spring.

Ari snickered. Death was an equal to life, why should she be afraid of death? It was better to accept it than live in fear of it. After all, that was almost everyone’s greatest fear, death. Ari sighed, watching as the breath of air swirled in front of her face in a creamy cloud, floating up to vanish into the air as she moved. She was being worked to death. Since that moment she had met Ella, she had been put to the test. Not only was she cleaning floors and furnaces, but also cooking, changing sheets, polishing armor, washing clothing and fetching hot water. Castle life was busy, and after today, Ari was sitting pretty high on the list. Sean better be proud, she thought with a smirk. She was working her tail off to finish everything and get noticed and now, everything was set. Her hands rose to the sky, stretching out towards the heavens as she skipped out of the castle walls, free for the rest of the day. She loved the open air and the freshness, on the way out she had even passed the queen, stopping to wave even if Ella didn’t see her. Ari wasn’t concerned, she would find away eventually. Air turned her way down the path, kicking snow out of her way as she carefully directed herself towards the woods. She needed time for a run, a good long stretch that nothing could halt. Carefully she pulled the cloth of her scarf closer around her nose and mouth, hiding her face behind it as she readjusted her hood. After all, winter might be losing, but that didn’t mean that is wasn’t damn cold.

She glided over the snow, vanishing amongst the trees almost as fast as she had left the path. Her boots crunched, her body shivering as she built up her energy, silver light flooding her eyes as she blinked several times. Her lips twitched as her teeth grew sharper, her shoulders rolling as the wolf rose to the surface. Her hands trembled as she prepared to shift; her body was tingling, her muscles rolling when another body collided with hers. Ari fell to the ground, her yelp cutting the silence of the white before a gloved hand was quickly pressed to her mouth. Sharply she was turned, her shoulders pinned back to the ground as she found herself starring into a pair of bright blue eyes.
“Who are you?”

“Who are you?!” she growled, the silver in her eyes fading to small rivers that lined the green.

“I’m asking the questions girl. Are you a Night Hunter?”

“What? No! They’re trying to kill me.”

“So you currently have no knowledge of the group of them that are heading into the woods as we speak?”

Ari stared up at the man, dumbfounded as she quickly shook her head. She was at a loss for once.

“Surprised that we know?”

“Oh get off of her Liam, she obviously doesn’t know. Besides, she’s one of us.”

“What makes you so sure? Huh, Alexi?”

“This is none other than Ari Lupir, recently adopted by the Pack. I was there at the party, she’s a good singer,” Alexi said, offering a hand to her. She took it and he pulled her to her feet, nodding towards her with an apologetic smile. Slowly she brushed the snow off of herself, pulling back up her scarf. The man Alexi had referred to as Liam stood slightly off to the side, hi shoulders bunched and his hand crammed inside the pockets of his pants, his brown eyes angrily looking at her.

“What are you doing out here?” Liam demanded.

“I’m getting something for Sean,” she shot back in a huff, he voice closer to the growl of the wolf. Alexi put a hand on her shoulder and she quietly wondered what she must have looked like from the outside as she reined back in her temper. Wolf didn’t like to be startled, it made her edgy, then again this was family and they were trying to protect the woods from the-

“What was this about Night Hunters?”

“A group has made their way into the forest, nothing we can’t handle, but Sean is letting them get close.”

“Too close,” Liam mumbled.

“Now, what were you getting for Sean?”

“Just some Intel, nothing too big for my first mission.”

“Just some Intel, she says,” Liam mocked quietly, Alexi’s head turning to glare at him. “What type of Intel are you bringing back for our Dearest Alpha?”

Ari took a small breath, her eyes narrowing at the tone he had taken. Obviously this man wasn’t quite in line with Sean’s leadership but that wasn’t what bugged her. What made her hackles rise was the way he had said “our”.

“None of-”

“Liam, mind your tongue! Ari doesn’t have to tell us anything about her mission. It’s not your place to ask anyways,” Alexi snarled, causing the younger one to shrink back slightly. Ari stared at the older man; he was probably in his forties, a thick black beard covering his face and dusted over with ice from his breath. He was still in good health, his muscles bulging under his clothes and as she sniffed the air she caught the sweet scent of something she couldn’t place. He turned back to her, taking a kinder tone as his eyes went from green to brown.
“Sorry about him, he hates the cold weather and hasn’t had anything to eat today.”

Ah. So he was Enlightened. She nodded slightly, trying to look impassive.

“Liam, get back up in that tree and get something to eat. We’re going to be here all day. As for you Ari, I suggest you stay away from the borders or be very careful today. Everyone is on high alert and not all of us were able to see the Ceremony. And I’m guessing that you do not have your ring, am I right?” he waited until Ari nodded quietly before continuing, “I thought so. I’ll let you in here for a run if that’s what you were going to do. But make sure you come out this way too.”
“How did-“

“Enlightenment,” he smiled, tapping the side of his head lightly. She smiled at him, waving as she walked deeper into the forest, ripping into a White wolf the moment she could. The pain had lessened and amazingly, the transformation had taken less time to do. She shook her coat, pink tongue lolling from her mouth as she cocked her ears.

The forest was holding its breath, even the birds had stopped chirping and on the wind she caught the scent of blood. Her head turned as she caught the sound of Alexi scolding Liam, her lips pulling back in a grin as she galloped off. Her feet glided over the snow, her nose taking in every scent she could possibly analyze, her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth as she ran. Enlightenments were perhaps the best ting the Twins had ever gifted. She could run, be free, change into whatever she wanted all the while surviving and thriving. There was Franklin with his booming voice that echoed through your skull, Stephan with his ability to contort wills, and Alexi with the power to read minds. He front paws tripped over themselves as she fell forward with a yelp, the realization smacking her squarely in the chest. He could read minds. Alexi could read minds! And he had read hers! Her paw fell over her nose as she whimpered. That meant he knew what she was doing and who she was and what she was all at once. He could have seen her mission and if it was out then…then Sean would be very upset. Only she and Donovan were supposed to know what was going on! Her head shook as she lay in the snow, carefully checking to see if she had injured herself in any way. When she was satisfied with the result she stood, shaking herself off before pacing.

Alexi seemed like a good guy. Someone who trusted Sean, maybe even liked him, so it wasn’t that big of a deal, right? She huffed as she looked toward the sky. Her nose worked the air, catching scent of her and Doni leaving the forest, a memory consuming her.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
FLASHBACK

Donovan yawned as he absently kicked a pebble out of his path, crossing his arms behind his head and lazily looking up at the tree branches above as he walked, smiling idly at the morning sky as it shone its bright blue amongst the browns and greens of the trees. Half of his mind was going over the task he would need to perform and the other half was wishing he was still in bed, sleeping away the fun of graduating. It hadn't been too long since he and Ari had left camp, and he was a little oblivious to the fact he hadn't really made any conversation and was rudely ignoring his company; his focus hovering between thoughts of a nice bed and inner questioning of the reasons why Sean needed eyes and ears in Newhaven Castle after all. He wasn't told of anything specific he was supposed to look for, only to keep an eye on the Captain of the Whites and knowing his brother; if he wasn't telling everything it probably meant it was serious business.

Ari padded quietly ahead of Doni, her eyes fixated on the path ahead of her. She had shifted back to her human form a little while into the journey, taking his stillness as an unease of talking to a wolf. Yet still he had made no attempt to talk to her so neither had she. Her bright eyes surveyed the forest around them, her nose taking in the changes of the wind and the paths that animals had taken the night before. Her neck felt bare without the ring hanging around it and though she tried to shake off the feeling, she couldn't ride herself of the sense that they were being watched. She'd rather not draw it to the attention of the rude or tiered; she wasn't quite sure which yet, boy beside her. Instead she moved forward with more caution, her senses sharply focused on getting everything finished without a hitch. Learn, study, report. That was all she had to do, Doni would take care of the rest. Her eyes flicked back to him, catching sight of his arms behind his head, eyes fixated on the sky above with a stupid grin on his face. She felt a pang as she saw a likeness to Sean in his demeanour. Is this what the Alpha had once been like? Carefree and young? She smiled at the thought and her soul steeled its self with the thought of his own troubled being. She wanted to help Sean, but how?

It was a bit further down the path when the silence finally became noticeable to Donovan, and he shot Ari a momentary glance as he realized that maybe he was coming off as rude somehow. Doni didn't consider himself all that good with people, and making small talk was not exactly his favourite thing, but he didn't like misunderstandings. Ruffling the back of his hair and yawning yet again, he lowered his arms, his hand fiddling with his belt as if searching for the small quiver that usually hung there, finally he broke his silence. "I heard you beat an archery contest out where the former Black Knights are camped... Is it true Ali was there?" He asked, a curious tone in his voice; his full attention now on the girl. "I heard... A man named Vane Ross was also there... The man is somewhat legendary. One of the best archers out of the Newhaven army. I'd be proud as hell to just lose to a guy like that. Last information we had on him said he was dead though..." Doni said, only slightly confused by the conflicting information as he shrugged. "He was probably hiding out... That seems to be somewhat of a trend nowadays."

Ari jumped slightly at the sound of his voice, her lips pulling back into a small smile as she calmed her heart. She had almost forgotten that he was even there. She slowed her pace so that she walked beside him.

“Ali was there, I couldn’t forget her face if I tried. She was my main competition. I didn’t recognize anyone else, and names were kept quiet for the most part. I do remember faces though, that and smells.” Ari paused as if remembering, her fingertips tingling with the longing of her bow and the thought of the beautiful quiver she had left in the doorway of her sleeping place. Slowly she shook her head and cast a smile at Donovan, her eyes bighting at the memory, “It’s true that I won. Snuck in and out as a black wolf and no one saw what I was, at least I hope so. See, I dressed as a man. I sure as hell didn’t want anybody tracing me back to the Pack. That could have been dangerous. As for a man named Vane...it didn’t stick if he was mentioned by name. But maybe....” she paused again as if considering something important before she turned her attention back on Doni.

“There were a bunch of men, but there was this one. He was tall, with black hair. He looked pretty wimpy besides the fact that he drew his bow pretty steadily. Oh, and he had a scar. It went from his chin to the tip of his left eyebrow,” she shrugged, “Maybe I could describe him, but this one stood out from the crowd. Perhaps I should return one day and ask?”
She was joking of course; the strong scent of his unease was only slightly masked by the smell of, well, pond scum and she wanted to belong and make the kid feel easy around her. Small talk was not his thing, based on his smell, but from experience, small talk turned to big talk. Maybe, she thought with a timid smile, I can have him laughing at the end of the day.

Donovan grinned some at the thought that crossed him; Ali hated losing, he remembered that about her clearly, and this was probably eating her up inside. After what she'd almost done to him, the thought of her being beaten just made him happy. It was little in comparison, but it was something. Thinking about the description Ari had given him made Donovan suddenly realize he was never told what 'Daemonos' looked like. Sean had talked about him quite a bit, but mostly of his skill with a bow and his military records which were quite impressive. "Hmm... That could be him, maybe, I don't know what he looks like really, but hey... Maybe in the Castle I get to find out." He said in a somewhat eager tone before wincing slightly, thinking that he should probably not mention the assignment so openly without being able to know who might be lurking. He didn't want to make any mistakes with this, he knew it was important, even if he didn't know why exactly, and he wanted to get it right. Once he was done mentally scolding himself, he gave a little shrug. "I'd like to have been there; even if just to watch, although... I'm pretty sure I'd do nicely in a competition... It's in the blood. Six generations of archers." He stated, rather proudly. "Sean is really great too, he just doesn't show it for whatever reason."

Ari laughed lightly, her eyes mirroring her sudden elevation in mood. She kept still for awhile, thinking carefully about her next move as they continued in silence, her mischief plainly showing on her face as she shot Donovan a wicked grin.
“I’m sure if we bugged Sean enough he could and would have no choice but to hold our own little competition. That is if he ever wanted to get the two ‘kids’ off his back,” she said, her voice almost mirroring Sean’s with some difficultly at kids. “I’d like to challenge him to that. Sean, the Alpha of the Wolfpack. Men and women rise and fall at his command and he who shatters the moon with his call. And on the other hand we have Donovan, little Wolf in comparison to his brother, yet stronger than the earth it’s self.”“ Ari grinned; glancing to see what Donovan’s reaction was before continuing. “Then there’s Ari, the REAL wolf, winner against Ali and slayer of training, obnoxious and yet as cunning as the fox in the woods. I can already see one of us possible beating him...and I can guess his response.” She scowled and pulled one of his faces from her memory, contorting her own face to try and mirror it. “Congratulations on the tournament, Kid.”
The smirk faded off of her lips and she cautiously looked toward Donovan.

Donovan was beyond amused by the thought of challenging the Alpha to an archery competition, especially considering he had been holding out on Sean a bit himself; it would be great to see the look on his face if he lost. He didn't even have to worry with trying to picture it because Ari's impression was pretty accurate. So much he couldn't help a small laughing fit. "You... Paint quite a picture, huh?" He laughed. "Well, I'm sure if I ask Katelyn to help nag him about it, he'll do it. She can melt him into doing anything." Donovan playfully rolled his eyes. "It's a little sister thing. Gladly she's not younger than me and that makes me immune."

"But in all seriousness, sometimes it is good not to show your strengths. Sean might hide his skill encase he ever does get challenged to leadership, or if a spy manages to slip into the Wolves ranks. I'm not saying that's the case, but you never know. All I know is that's what he told me our first day. Save your greatest weapon for last, don't give it away; hold it back until the last possible moment."

Hiding his hands in his pockets Donovan gave a small shrug as he found another pebble to kick, this time kicking it not out of the path, but only a bit ahead before taking another step and kicking it again. "Aye, Sean says that a lot. I think this is maybe out of spite or something though... And you didn't hear this from me, but when Ali came into the Wolves our father took charge of her archery training and that pissed off Sean. He trained on his own and he never touched a bow where others could see him. Seems foolish, but things like these make sense when you first think of them, and became habits before you can realize how silly they truly are. Like trying to single handily kill a woman who survived three assassins far more skilled than yourself." He stated, pointing at the missing bit of his ear Crys had sliced off after his pathetic attempt on her life. "I suppose I still owe you a thank you, for trying to help me out that day. I was a tremendous idiot, considering my situation." Again he shrugged, still kicking the small pebble across the ground as he walked.

"Donovan," Ari smiled, she had won! Donovan was laughing, her first step was done in befriending the younger boy. "When I was younger, my parents tried to kill me, or at least my mother did. My father did something else that was...much worse. That's how I figured out I was enlightened. Getting revenge for something like that haunts me to this day. That's why it is a curse. My enlightenment has taken away almost all those I have ever loved. It’s like I have no control over my Change sometime.
I wish I could have done what Sean did do. Just run away, practice something beautiful and peaceful until I had mastered it. Sometimes, running away is the best thing you can do."
Ari frowned and took a moment to kick the pebble that Donovan had been playing with a moment before, down their path a little further. What life could have been for her then? Death came too easy to her parents; it was the simplest thing she had given them, the easiest way to go. What if she hadn't killed them? Would they have suffered more at the loss of her? Doubtful. But what she had done was mercy. Killing them was so much easier than letting them rot their time in the prisons of Newhaven or even Blackpond.

She woke inside a dark room. There was a door. She tried to stand but quickly found that her legs wouldn’t work and she crashed back to the ground with the sound of rattling chains. There was pain, so sharp that she wanted to scream, but found that all she could do was release a breathless plea. Stabbing, ripping, burning, her body writhed as muscles remembered their pain. She bit on her lip, heard the door open as she finally was able to scream. Then it was as if everything went black.

She shook her head quickly and saw that Donavan was looking at her.
"Sorry, got lost in the past. Donovan, listen, you don’t need to thank me. After all I was pretty rude considering I had no idea who you were. All I knew is that you were in trouble and needed help. Ali could have cut you just because she wanted to. I kept her distracted, kept you safe. It’s what any good Wolf would do. And I wouldn’t say you were an idiot. You were brave for going out on your own without Sean standing over you. Brave, but stupid. Not an idiot. You just shouldn’t have missed,” Ari shrugged, her long blonde hair fluttering against her arm as she turned to stand in front of him, stopping their walk. “I know that you’re worried about Sean and Cry’s. I am too. She haunts him. But I am willing to promise you something right here, right now. One day, you and I will finish what Sean started. I’ll chase her down to my dying breath.”

Donovan heaved a small sigh and nodded along to Ari's words as she told him of her parents, quietly examining her expression as she spoke with just the corner of his eyes. There were things he felt the urge to comment on, but didn't thinking it would maybe be an intrusion. He also wasn't sure he agreed with the statement that running away was the best to do. For what he knew and seen... It wasn't even remotely possible to actually escape the past. So running away would just be running for the sake of running and that seemed to him as an unnecessarily exhausting way to live life. At this thought, Donovan was sure he heard a whimper from the girl and turned to face her, raising an eyebrow questioningly and keeping his eyes on her for a little while longer, even after she'd brushed off her own reaction.

At the mention of Crys and Sean, Doni finally starts speaking again with a little half-smile. "Oh, I forgot... You met her haven't you? What did you make of the former Alpha?" He asked curiously. "She can be very intimidating sometimes, I remember... After our older brother died, that was about three years ago... I pointed a knife at her and she just turned to me and told me to go ahead, but that I needed to openly challenge her first or I would be committing treason. I didn't; couldn't. She pushed me further though... Said that she'd pretend I challenged, like she gave me permission, and then she offered me her sword and encouraged me kill her with it. Of course by then I just wanted to get the hell out of there and I didn't do anything. I'm still not sure if she was mocking me or if she really meant that... Either way..." He sighed softly. "I don't know how this between her and Sean will end, but for what he tells me... He'd like it to end with them. I respect that, but I don't see it happening. The clan will react if Sean gets killed, and if he takes Crys down... You've met Allison, and there are others, who won't hesitate to come after Sean for it. Funny as it may be... Everyone is better off while those two are still around to fight each other; it's almost like peace, only not." He laughed, casually looking over his shoulder as he noticed he walked over his pebble without kicking it along. "What worries me is what happens if one of them wins, even if it's Sean, and I think that's what worries him too. He doesn't say, but I know that he would have made a move by now if it didn't."

"You care for him," Ari smiled softly, looked away and blushed. "He's a good Alpha. He took me in. And I owe my life for that. Sean can be such a good man sometimes. Stupid and irrational when the situation takes control of him, but he has a good mind."
Ari brew a huff of air past her lips as she cast her glance heavenward.
"Cry's, though I hate to say this, also has a good head. She's clever. But also like Sean, from the secrets I’ve caught, she also lost it when the situation ruled her. It's like watching two Alpha Wolves fight, no pun intended. They're both wicked smart, both cunning, each one willing to wait the other out. But here's the problem. One day someone is going to sneak in and take the Pack for themselves.
I've seen it happen. That or the Pack leaves. It's funny to watch really."
Ari smiled and then shook the memory from her mind. Her feet moved faster as she made up for lost ground and slowed only when she was dead even with Doni. She cast a glance toward him, reading his reaction before she continued.

"I can already tell you how this one ends. One of them is going to lose their mind and get rash due some unprecedented circumstance. Then, the other will move in for the kill at that moment. One of them is going to have to go, like you said. Then, there's that whole issue with loyalty and fighting clans. Cry's followers and Sean lovers," Ari coughed a bit and then hurriedly added, "And of course his loyal ones. So many could die..."

She sighed and closed her eyes for a moment.

"I really don't know Doni."

"I care for him. I'm his brother... Comes with the job." Doni stated, amused. "Well, everyone has a good side and a bad side, and my brother... Let's say that his good side is just as good as his bad side is bad. And there's nothing in between except indifference, and that is, trust me, the worse side of him. He tends to treat his enemies with some level of respect, as for those people in the middle... He can be a cruel son of a..." Donovan shrugged and went quiet for a moment, his gaze falling ahead where the walls of Newhaven would soon appear in the distance. He hoped he could pull off his part of the mission without any problems. Newhaven Castle was the worst possible place for an assassin to get caught. A while after Ari finished speaking he sighed and spoke again. "The Pack's fate in my brother's hands... Oh boy..." He grimaced, playfully. "Twins help us all." He snickered, shaking his head, silently hoping Sean could keep it together.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Franklin opened his eyes grinning ear to ear like a fool as he belched, slammed his mug on the table and left the mess hall. None to quietly, he made his way towards Sean’s cabin, whistling as he did so. Oh boy was Sean going to love this. He knocked on the door, slipping inside as he looked at the Alpha. Sean was sitting at his desk, chewing on a cold piece of rabbit meat as he looked over some reports... The attack on the woman Bana has saved failed, and one of his assassins had deserted in the process. It was a mess, this whole thing was just a ridiculous mess... And now he needed to hunt down this guy for treason. Not lifting his head as he heard the knock on the door, recognizing it as being Franklin's, he waited for the man's footsteps to enter before mumbling. "Tell me that whatever you have to say is not a problem... I have my share of those right now."

"You should really look into the no news is good news ya know?" Franklin smiled, taking a seat oppisite of Sean, "It’s all about Ari."

"Thought I said no problems." Sean snorted, his tone mildly amused as he looked up from the desk to look at the man, "What did the kid do now?"

“First she was caught by Alexi and Liam running into the woods. Had a bit of a mix up but Alexi got everything settled. He let her run for a bit. Shoulda seen what was in her head. Apparently, she and Doni have been scheming," he winked, not giving Sean too much information.

Sean nodded, an intrigued look on his face as he wondered what those kids could possibly be planning behind his back this time. "Scheming, huh? How lovely, I clearly made a smart choice by teaming those two up." He spoke, a bit of playful sarcasm in his tone.

Franklin’s smile vanished as he took a more serious tone, eyes narrowing, "And the so called Night Hunters are heading this way as we speak. They got up early and the trap has been laid."

Sean took another bite of his food and chewed on it quietly before moving on. "And that's actually good... Hopefully this goes smoothly for a change. Remind them to capture the leader alive, if possible... I have some things to ask."


Franklin nodded and then smiled again, his thoughts turning to Ari as he laughed lightly, winking at Sean.

"You did the right thing by taking that kid in. Sometimes I wish you could see what she's thinking about."

He stood, stretching as he made his way toward the door.

"Anything else?"

"Nice to know at least I did something right." Sean snickered. "But no, nothing else... Just watch yourself out there... You wouldn't want to fall and break your hip, old man." He teased.

“I’m taking that as an insult and you will pay for it later! Old man my ass,” Franklin snickered, closing the door behind him. His eyes closing as he looked toward the sky.

You know what to do.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Phantom lead her company forward, the bodies tensed. Kie flew forward, gliding low over the trees before flying back. They were getting closer. She nodded quietly and they quietly knocked arrows as their eyes lit up. Like deer they moved forward, quickly yet without making a sound. She raised her hand and Lichen repeated the gesture further down, all the men slowing behind them as their finger tensed over their arrows.
“What is it?” Lichen whispered quietly, watching as her hair blew across her face, her lips moving under her mask as she shook herself.
“Phan-”
She flinched as there was the twang of a bow, the whistle of an arrow cutting through air and then the thud as Kie came tumbling from the sky with a screech. His silver wings tossing bits of light across the ground. There was no time to call for calmness, no time to call out orders as a rain of arrows fell from the surrounding trees.

“Run!” someone screamed a moment later an arrow pierced through the soft flesh of his neck as his body sagged to the ground. She didn’t need to repeat his order; her men were already heading for the base of the trees, using their enlightenments to target their victims. She twisted to see Lichen at the base of the tree, his eyes narrowed as a moment later an archer threw himself from the branches. One of the boys was using fire to catch the limbs on fire. She was surprised and a little amazed to see that the Wolves had taken their surroundings and dressed to match them exactly. They wore clothes that were ash grey, streaked with the colors of the surrounding aspen and birch. Their faces were painted over as well making them hard to spot. Her men were dropping quickly, arrows impaling arms and necks. She looked at Lichen, his knee bent as he muttered something and several of the archers revealed themselves. Instead of shooting at them though, their arrows turned, singing their song of death before crashing into the chests of others.

“Protect Lichen with your life or I swear I will kill every last one of you!” Phantom cried, watching as her Hunters, all in black, blood shinning on their faces moved to form a circle around the man, his blonde hair ruffling in the slight breeze. Already three of her men lay bleeding on the ground and there wasn’t one who wasn’t wounded. She watched as Lichens archers were shot down, leaving three of the Wolves dead. The forest became as still as it was before, no one daring to move as Lichen slowly stood, holding his hand to his head.

“Report.”

“The archer fled. No other brain activity in this aria. I think we got them all,” Lichen groaned quietly, shaking his head. Phantom knew he got headaches when he used his Enlightenment, but it never happened this quickly.

“They were strong,” he smiled, as if knowing her question. Phantom nodded and walked over toward Kie. The poor bird’s neck was broken from the fall, the arrow sticking out of his back. With a small sigh she jerked the black feathered arrow from his chest before laying him on the snow. Kirsten would kill her for this. She slowly stood, brushing her silver hair back under her hood and tightening the black mask she wore around her face.

“Let’s-” she paused, her head turning as she gasped. Running through the trees were ten wolves, leaving her five men shaking where they stood.

“Arrows!” Lichen barked, watching as those that could still draw a bow could, raising them as a volley of arrows stuck the wolves, passing though unharmed.

“Again,” he screamed, the spectral images before him roaring as they charged forward, and leading them was a damn wolf.

“It’s Ari!” Phantom called, watching as her men let loose another volley, the Wolves only trees away. Again the arrows passed through unharmed and the black wolf drew back its teeth as it ran forward, leaping mid air to turn into a girl. Volley after volley fell as her men turned and high tailed it, their arrows doing nothing to the wolves that were running after them. Phantom’s eyes widened as she too turned and ran, her body melding into the trees as her eyes burned bright.

Ryan kept his eyes on his image, the ‘men’ chasing after the Hunters. He didn’t know how the wolf had gotten there or who was creating that image. He didn’t worry about it. The image faded, all except the girl who kept giving chase, and left him feeling light headed, but now it was up to the rest of his men. His image should have done the job in herding the Hunters the right direction. He dropped from his tree, running forward through the snow. He could hear the screaming ahead, his heart racing as he picked up the pace, drawing his sword. Two of his wolves melded from the trees beside him, running forward to make sure that none of the Hunters tried to double back. He ran into the clearing, skidding to a halt as a Hunter ran towards him. The boy was wild eyed and shaking as he tried to knock back Ryan’s sword. The kid didn’t stand a chance. He raised his eyes to see the woman standing back to back with someone, his black hair sticking to her hood as together they managed to fight off three of his men.

“Saved the hooded one!” he roared, watching one of the archers take aim against the man. Before he could take the shot, a white wolf blasted from the trees, jaws agape and claws outstretched. The man was knocked back, thrown back into the snow as he screamed. Ryan didn’t watch his eyes were locked onto the woman who was cursing, but he heard the gurgle of a failed scream, the snap of teeth and the growl that came from the wolf. He nodded and her whirling body froze, the man behind him staring calmly as his eyes went from brown to black.

“Bind her, let’s get her back to Sean,” he nodded, turning to look at the carnage that was strewn up around the snow, blood leaving its red stain against the most virgin thing he could think of, “Someone count the bodies, there were eight of them.”
The Wolves moved around, rolling over people and slitting throats for good measure. Counting to themselves as they racked up the body count. He watched as the girl was pulled through the snow, fighting and kicking until one Wolf had enough and she fell unconscious with a quick pinch to her neck. It was better that way, then she wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of where she went into camp. One of his men walked calmly up to him.

“There are only seven bodies.”

“What?”

“Seven, not eight. Do you think-”

“We’re going to have to tell Sean.”

Ryan looked toward where the white wolf had been, the same thought crossing his mind. He walked over to the body, bending down to see that the entire throat had been ripped out. There were bloody paw prints leading off into the trees. Slowly Ryan stood, running his hand through his blonde hair as his lips pursed. Sean was not going to like this. He was not going to like this at all.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crystal Rivers Character Portrait: Jake Turner Character Portrait: Allison Blake Character Portrait: Sean Fletcher Character Portrait: Ess Character Portrait: Phantom/Spirit
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OOC Notes

Setting: Newhaven2012-12-19 04:50:45, as written by Blackbird26
Allison snickered softly at Ess' remarks on how it had been a good idea to bring her along, carefully withdrawing her bow to where it usually rested at her back, her eyes only momentarily glancing at the dead man as she followed the woman out of the alleyway and back into the busy streets, looking around casually as if expecting to maybe catch a familiar face amongst the crowds. "Seems like pretty standard girl bonding to me." She stated with a nod. "Except maybe for the dress part, that was a first... But there has to be a first time for everything I suppose." She pointed out, watching with curiosity as Ess changed her hair. "I would have let you have him, I knew you were aware of him, but... I hate backstabbing... In every sense of the term... So I guess that was just one very unlucky bastard."

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[Forest, heading towards Newhaven]

“What a lovely little forest this is! Don’t you think? Isn’t it lovely?” Lizzy sang happily, literally skipping around her brother’s pacing as they made their way through the trees of the forest, heading for Newhaven.
“Mhm.” Adam mumbled, rolling his eyes impatiently at her permanent giddiness.
“You... Need to lighten up, Addy...” Lizzy pouted. “You’re not pleased with the assignment? I thought you liked Newhaven.” She questioned, standing before her brother and walking backwards, matching his pace. “I like Newhaven... It’s such a lovely city. Truly lovely, isn’t it?”
Adam mumbled incoherently under his breath, shaking his head to flick a strand of blond hair away from his icy eyes. “Suppose so.” He replied snorting quietly and swiftly getting around his sister, fastening his pace to leave her behind, a smirk escaping him as she huffed in annoyance behind his back.
“Adaam!” Lizzy whined, pouting and running to catch up with him. “Don’t walk away from me!”
“No delays.” Adam stated. “You’re too slow!”
“I am so not sl-” Lizzy silenced suddenly as she spotted the two men who stepped out from the woods to block their path. She turned and noticed two more men appear behind her as if to circle them both. Not seeming too fazed by the situation she sighed and turned to her brother, ignoring the threatening figures. “What do you think Addy; Wolves?”
“Don’t think so.” Adam muttered, his eyes flickering a silver lining forming itself around the blue of his irises. “No delays.” He repeated to her in a tone of warning.
“Aaaw.... Can’t we play for a moment?” Lizzy pouted.

“HEY!” One of the men shouted to catch the twins’ attention, lifting a heavy crossbow and shooting a bolt just past Lizzy’s head. “Shut up, or next one goes between those pretty eyes of yours.” He warned. “Now pass us whatever gold you have on you and no one gets hurt.”
Lizzy stared at the man with a fake expression of fright for a few seconds before laughing loudly and turning to Adam in a questioning way.
Adam nodded in response to her unspoken question. “Fine.” He whispered, turning to the man who had just spoken. “I’ll pay.”
Lizzy smiled cheerfully at Adam’s words as he pulled his coin purse and dropped it to the floor, a considerable amount of coin scattering through the floor. “Sis.” He called, nodding towards the dropped gold, patiently waiting for Lizzy to drop her own purse besides his. As the second coin pouch hit the ground the coins made their way out from it on their on, rolling across the ground one by one like a line of ants until both purses were empty. The trick seeming to amuse the thieves as they simply stood watching the coins travel across the floor to Adam’s will, not making much of it as all the coins assembled into a pile of melted metal that rose into the air. It was in the next second that they realized their mistakes; a second too late. In a fraction of a second the mass of melted gold split in the air; a fraction of it flying towards each man, all of the simultaneously dropping to the floor. Three of them dead with a differently shaped projectile embedded to their foreheads, right between their eyes. The fourth man; the one who had shot towards Lizzy, was still alive, however, emitting sickening choking sounds and muffled screams as the melted gold had forced its way into his nose and down his throat, cutting off his air, and solidified there. Adam didn’t give the man a second glance as he simply kept moving on down the path. “No delays, sis.” He repeated, calling after Lizzy who had stopped to watch the man’s life drain from his terrified eyes. Giggling softly the woman ran to catch up with her brother, cheerfully returning to her previous subject of how lovely the forest was.

===============================================



[Just Outside Newhaven]

Crys had walked most of the night and most day, but she had paced herself and took a few breaks here and there, in order to avoid exhaustion. In Newhaven she could rest, right now the last thing she needed was to get caught camping out in the forest. It was way past noon when she began to near Newhaven, and the afternoon was progressing fast; it was a lot later than she expected, but still considerably in good timing all things considered. There, as she was almost reaching the city... It was then that she was halted by the indistinguishable galloping sound of a horse moving straight towards her; a familiar horse. She froze in place as the horse’s pace slowed and cheerfully made his way to her. “Shadow!” She greeted opening a wide smile and lovingly stroking the horse’s neck. A shiver ran down her spine as she could feel the rider’s presence not too far, a presence she had not felt this close in a very long time... Not far behind and approaching... Crys sighed wearily; Jake was someone she had been searching for and hoping to avoid at the same time. She didn’t know what she would do, or how she would feel exactly when it came the time to speak to him again. She would have tried to avoid him even now, but she was so happy to have found Shadow again that she didn’t have it in her to leave the animal behind. Besides... She knew this meeting was bound to happen eventually, whether she liked it or not.

[Flashback - Desert, approximately 3 years ago]

“We should buy a farm.” Jake announced suddenly, breaking the silence that lingered in the chill desert air.
“What?” Crys laughed. “What would we do with a farm Jakey? You’d be bored in five minutes.”
Jake sighed softly, looking up at star-filled sky above. “Probably... It’s still a pleasant thought though... That maybe we could get away and have a quiet peaceful life together... You know, without all the conflict...” He tore his gaze from the night sky to glance at the woman lying beside him on top of a large boulder; Dastan had told Jake of this spot, of how it was close enough to camp to be safe, and far enough to be quiet, high enough to be out of sight, isolated, and he knew that while he couldn’t truly make the world around them disappear, this was pretty damn close. “... Just you and me.”
“What a very, very, pleasant thought indeed.” Crys whispered softly, absently reaching for Jake’s hand beside her, her fingertips slowly tracing the lines of his palm as she closed her eyes and let the conversation slip into a comfortable and familiar silence. Jake had a point; it was pleasant to dream, to toy with possibilities even though she knew the reality of the situation. If she was perfectly and completely honest with herself, she knew that settling down somewhere quiet was something she was incapable of, and even more incapable of it than her was Jake, still... It was a very pleasant thing to do; to dream of things they couldn’t have right now. Maybe one day, if things were to change, but she wasn’t sure of what to believe in when it came to War and Peace nowadays. Sometimes it was actually easier to believe that Valcrest would never see better days.
“What are you thinking?” Jake asked, now turning his face to look at Crys, a questioning look in his eyes as he tried to read her expression.
Crys opened her eyes and smiled playfully. “I was thinking that the silence was really, really, nice.”
“Oh, sorry.” Jake chuckled. “I’ll shut up, if you want.”
“No, no...It’s okay.” She sighed softly, moving her hand from his to brush a strand of hair away from his eyes, gently stroking his cheek with the back of her hand. “Can we have an apple orchard?”
Jake closed his eyes at the touch of her hand, momentarily forgetting the world at the one simple gesture. “huh?”
“At the farm... Could we have an apple orchard?” She asked. “I always liked apple trees.”
“We can have all the apple trees.” Jake chuckled, nodding along to the words.
“Oh! And puppies, we should have puppies!” She added. “And... Shadow. Shadow would love a farm, don’t you think?” She asked,
“We can have puppies... And I will find Shadow for you... And anything else you want.” Jake replied, an amused chuckle escaping him at Crys’ sudden and unexpected excitement over the idea. His amusement faded however when Crys tried to readjust herself upon the the rocky surface, letting out a painful groan in the process. “Hey, hey... Take it easy now.” He scolded, rolling onto his side, and consequently closer, to face her.
“I’m fine, Jakey.” She assured him.
“Alistair said you should stay in bed yet another week...” He argued.
“No... He said I should have another week’s rest... I am resting.” She snickered, realizing that Jake was not convinced. “Jakey... The wound is nearly healed, if I didn’t die so far... It’s not going to randomly happen now, okay? Can you just stop being all tense, please? Hmm? Pretty please?” She asked, poking his side playfully.
Jake sighed in defeat, leaning forward and pressing his forehead against hers as he whispered. “I’ll try... Can’t promise though.”
Crys smiled. “That’s fair. So... Can we have a pond?”
Jake laughed out. “Sure... Do you want a pink pony too?” He teased.
“Why would I care what color the pony is, silly?” Crys chuckled. “And no, I already told you... I want Shadow.” She stated, running one hand gently through his hair. “What about you, what do you want?”
“Me? How about we put some sharks in the pond?” He played.
“Sharks only live in the sea Jake...”
“It’s an imaginary farm... What does that matter? I want sharks... Oooh, and a dragon! I always wanted a pet dragon!”
Crys burst into a fit a laughter at his words. “Oh, come on, a pet dragon? Now you’re just talking crazy, Jake.”


[Reality]

Memories are a funny thing. When someone dies, it’s the good memories of the good moments that get you by, that keep you from falling into the void a person leaves behind when they are suddenly ripped out of your life forever. When that person leaves willingly, and living, however, the good memories only hurt more than the bad... They make you wish to drown in anger... To dive into that void and let it crush you. They make you wish you could erase your past if only not to feel. Suppose suicide would fit into the leaving category, except for one thing: when a person commits suicide it means they don’t want to live anymore; when they simply leave, it means they just don’t want to live with you.

Is it an absolutely selfish and despicable thing to rather see someone you love dead than to allow them to live without you? Yes, it is. It surely is. But in the moment... It just doesn’t matter; in grief, nothing matters. All one can hope for is that the moment passes, that the wounds heal, and that was just what Crys was afraid of; that the moment hadn’t passed completely, that those sickening, despicable, selfish feelings were still hiding somewhere inside and seeing Jake again would bring them back to life in the most unpleasant way. She was terrified of how angry she still was.

“Hello.”

Bloody hell.

. . . .

Jake was taking a rest, sitting against a tree, not at all in a hurry to return to camp, watching Shadow quietly graze not far from him. It was the middle of the afternoon, and a lot later than he planned on leaving the city, and a lot later than he promised Irvin he would be back, but it was really nice to just sit there by himself. The man sighed, stretching lazily and cursing under his breath at the ache in his body; result from yet another poorly slept night. He has lost Darren after they parted ways at the Inn, but he didn’t make too much of it, they would eventually see each other again at the Nest, and he didn’t see Darren as someone who would get into any particularly concerning messes. Under the shade of the tree, Jake was just thinking he might be able to relax, when all of a sudden Shadow lifted his head, gave a little snort, and began to gallop into the woods.
“Shadow! Where are you going?!” Jake called, jumping to his feet and running after the horse for a good distance before catching up with him on a small clearing. “Shadow what the hell is wrong with y-” Jake froze in place when his eyes caught sight of the redhead woman standing next to Shadow. “Crys?” He whispered, blinking a few times; a dumb look on his face as if he couldn’t quite believe his eyes. Crys didn’t turn to face him, or pay him any mind at all, she was occupied with Shadow; stroking the horse’s neck and speaking to it in a tone just soft enough so Jake couldn’t make out her words. He knew she had to be aware of his presence, but still tried to be as quiet as possible for some reason as if he feared that she would suddenly run away if he made a sudden move.

Jake hadn’t seen Crys in two years, only two years although it felt like a lot more now that she was standing right in front of him; a cheerful smile lighting up her expression as her focus was fully set on Shadow, it honestly made him envy the animal for a moment. He knew she wouldn’t smile that way for him... Not anymore. “Hello.” He greeted, stepping forth from where he had stopped to stare.

Crys’ smile faltered just a bit. but otherwise she didn’t express her feelings as she replied. “Hello, Jacob. Long time no see.” Her voice was just as void as her expression as she turned her head to face him for a moment. “It was nice of you to let me know you had Shadow. That spared me the time I would have spent looking for him and the little bit of sadness I would have felt when that search led me nowhere.” She snorted angrily, turning back towards Shadow, running her fingers lovingly through the horse’s mane. “Oh, wait... You didn’t do that, did you?”
“I’m sorry... Didn’t occur to me you’d still be looking for him.” Jake mumbled apologetically. “I just thought...”
“Forget it. He’s happy with you, so it’s fine.” She stated, the same emotionally void tone in her voice. “Suppose you’re better with animals than you are with people... That’s surprising.”
“I’m learning.” Jake stated simply. “Besides you can’t bribe people with apples, right?”
“You can’t buy an animal’s affection Jacob.” She replied. “You have to earn it.”
“That was a joke.” Jake sighed, running a hand through his hair absently. “Sheila said you were looking for me?”
“That was over a month ago.” Crys replied, pulling away from Shadow and turned to face Jake, her smile slowly melting away into a severe expression. “But of course, you weren’t there.”
“I was incarcerated, Crys. I would’ve given anything to be there... Anything.”
Crys snorted a laugh. “That... Is so hard to believe. I don’t even have to bother with telling you why, now do I? And yes you were incarcerated, but let’s not forget it was your stupid idea to get locked up in the first place... Or were you foolishly expecting me not to be aware of that? And sending messages through unknown telepaths, Jake? Lena would beat you senseless if she ever knew of that act of stupidity.”
Jake winced at the mention of Lena, he couldn’t get over the fact she had died while he was stuck in Blackpond. “Well, I didn’t have much option... I needed to get the message out... And why bring this up now, huh? Why bring Lena up now? Are you really that angry that you have to use this to hurt me?”
Crys shook her head slowly, reaching out to place one hand in Shadow’s muzzle as the horse nudged her for attention. “How can you ever think I would say anything just to hurt you? I would never do that, no matter how much you truly do deserve it.” She sighed. “Suppose it doesn’t matter now, what I have to say... If you wanted my opinion you could have had it at anytime.”
“Please stop...” Jake protested, taking a step closer to her. “I know I messed up, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want...”
“‘Messing up’ is a humble term for what you did... And what is it supposed to mean when you just disappear one day? Huh?” She sighed softly as she took a step back from him, stopping herself as she felt her voice began to rise, giving Shadow one last friendly pat before walking around him in the direction of the city. “I have something to do in Newhaven, and I really don’t have the time to argue right now.”
Jake waited for her to walk past him before turning abruptly and grasping her arm.“Wait, why were you looking for me?”
“That was a month ago.” She repeated, her voice nothing but a whisper as she turned to face him and pulled her arm out of his grip.
“So, that’s it... Moment’s passed?” He asked, taking a step towards her. “...I’m still looking for you.”
“I didn’t know I was hiding, Jakey.” She muttered, leaning towards him instead of pulling back like before, locking her pale green eyes with his. “I thought the invisible one was you, and the blind one was me. Now I’m not so sure anymore.”
Jake was silent for a moment, lost in thought as he looked into her eyes. The tone behind all of the resentment in her voice was a painful one, and knowing he had caused it made him absolutely sick with shame. Throughout his silence she was unmoving, as if patiently waiting for a justification, an answer, one Jake simply couldn’t give; there was nothing to justify the way he had ran, hid, like a coward... There was no answer. Finally he broke his silence by changing the subject, in a way. “Why don’t you take Shadow with you?” He offered, his voice sounding a bit weak. “He seems to miss you...”
“I’m glad... Someone does.” She replied forcing a smile. “Are you sure though? I might not return him... And disappear...”
“He would be in good hands... In the safest place I know... And I would do nothing but envy him for the rest of my days.” He answered with a soft smile he was sure she would perceive. “Still, I know you will return him.” He slowly reached out as if to touch her cheek, but stopped himself knowing she wouldn’t allow it. “You and I know it; because you... You are so much better than me.”
“I wouldn’t be so certain if I were you.” Crys mumbled. Heaving a sigh she took Shadow’s reins and nodded. “I’m sorry about Lena, Jake. I really am. I talked to Annie, and... She said I should talk to you about what happened. She said she couldn’t talk about it.”
Jake sighed. “Yes, I see...” He mumbled. “Are you going back to the Nest once you’re done with your business?”
“Probably.” Crys replied.
“Then we’ll talk there, if that’s alright with you. I’d rather not discuss this here.”
“I should be back there by morning... I’m going to stay in the city for the night, and suppose I should find something fitting to wear to a party.”
“You... Heard that voice too?” Jake asked, a tone of concerned shock in his voice. “Are you sure it’s a good idea to go there? I mean... Those people tried to kill you...”
“So they have...” Crys replied, a little smirk crossing her features. “Eventually they’ll see why they should have done a better job. Besides... What good is a party if no one’s enjoying it? I take it you’ll be there, right? Only someone with an absolute lack of common sense would escape the dungeons just to attend a party offered by their captors.”
Jake snorted a laugh. “Would it surprise you to know I’m not the only one planning on doing that?”
“Nothing you say surprises me anymore, Jacob.” She replied, a stern look in her eyes. “Just watch your back for once.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it... I don’t think anyone is that interested in me Crys, but... I might have given away a bit more than I’d like while I was there last time.”
“What is that supposed to mean, Jacob?”
Jake sighed, shaking his head and beginning to pace his way towards the encampment. “It means that it may not be a good idea for you to go, but... Since you will either way... Just watch yourself out there.” He warned. “I wouldn’t want to see you hurt.”
Crys snickered at his words. “Oh well... You can always just close your eyes, Jacob. It seems to work for you.”
“You’d think.” Jake mumbled, shaking his head as he walked away.

---------------------------------------------

[Wolves’ Camp - Early evening]

The sun was moments away from being fully set when Sean entered the cabin. The windows on the wooden shed were shut tight for obvious reasons and as he closed the door after himself there was no light in the room except for a fading orange light slipping in through the crack underneath the door. It wasn't usual for the Wolfpack to take a prisoner, to Sean's recollection there were only two occasions in the clan's history when that had occurred, aside from this one, when answers were needed and there was no other way of obtaining them; a last resort, that's what it was to let an enemy living and breathing inside their home.

After locking the door Sean took his time with carefully lighting a couple of candles, setting them on strategic points around the room so there was just enough light for him and the prisoner to be fully visible to each other. The woman was at the moment motionless where she sat, bound tight to a heavy chair, head hanging low as if she was still unconscious, although he couldn't be sure if she was in fact, or simply faking it. Once satisfied with the light, Sean dragged a chair to a spot right in front of where the woman was seated, the back of the chair turned to her, just far enough that even if she broke free she couldn't reach him fast enough to catch him off guard. Finally, he sat down, straddling the chair and leaning against the backrest, his eyes examining the bound figure before him, still unsure if the woman was awake. Even so he spoke, his tone casual and nearly uninterested. "So, I wonder... Will your friends bother to come for you? I know one got away... I'm sure there are more of you, although not sure exactly how many... What's your policy on leaving someone behind? Is it somewhat like ours or is it more like 'fuck it, she's probably dead by now'?"

Shuffling boots, the creak of the door opening and closing followed by the soft illumination of candle light. She paused in her efforts to escape, wrists bloody with her struggle as she kept her head bowed, her hair falling in front of her face like a curtain. Its silver strands caught the light and played with it, casting shadows against the wall as someone moved around the room. She quietly closed her eyes, holding her breath as a chair dragged across the floor, the tramp of heavy boots alerting her to the whereabouts of her interrogator. She flinched slightly as the cold sound of his voice cut through the air, and her mind saw the image of a man studying his fingers with a bored facade. She raised her head slightly, just enough to see him from under her lashes as she watched his lips. Numbers. Friends. Policy. Plans and plots. It was all pretty simple and standard.
“You are being extremely rude,” she said softly, her eyes flashing. “If you want answers, I demand to be treated better; after all I am still a lady.”

Sean's seemed to sparkle in amusement at the woman's words, Sean had been taught while still in training that words mean absolutely nothing when compared to what they hide underneath, the first words of a conversation and how to speak them were a subject he had spent plenty of time studying in his youth, for the simple reason that he had always had a problem concealing his emotions in situations like this... He wasn't sure if he had learned by now, but he was certainly not going to allow himself to be bound in order to find out. "You remind of a friend... Or alternatively someone who wants to slit my throat; lines become blurry after a while in our line of work." He stated calmly, the amusement growing in his eyes although his voice remained void of any emotion. "You invaded my territory with the intent of doing harm, and all things considered; I'm being as polite as I'll ever be." He said, eyes fixed on the woman before him. "Now... Unlike the City armies, we don't have a standard procedure for how to treat captives, but personally I have a policy of treating people with the respect they prove to deserve... You've not been touched once brought into this camp, not harmed further, you will be offered food, water, and medical care as needed in due time... By the time I leave you, it is possible you may not even be tied up anymore, because honestly... You are in the heart of the forest surrounded by hundreds of trained killers whose lives were threatened by what you and your companions have done. These fours walls and my orders are the only things keeping you from what they may think you deserve. I take it rope is the least of your concerns." Sean stopped his speech and casually scratched the back of his head, heaving a small sigh. "With all of that said... Let's start this again, shall we?" He asked, the amusement not leaving him as he spoke. "My name is Sean... You may address me as such, as Alpha, or any other cute name that may pop in your head such as 'son of a bitch', 'sadistic bastard'... Murderous asshole seems to be a popular one even though not quite accurate... What should I call you, miss? Or would you rather I give you a 'pet name' as well?"

“Phantom, nothing more nothing less,” she scowled, her eyes narrowing, “and thank you for the lovely reminder of where I am and what predicament I find myself in.”

She flipped her hair out of her eyes carefully, leaning back against her seat as her eyes met his, so flat compared to hers with their dull colors, yet they shone with an amusement that made her want to rip out his throat. She blinked, smiling gently.

“Shall I answer your questions Sean?” she sneered slightly, her hands curling into fists as she examined her wrists, “They will keep coming, with or without me. Kirsten will be upset that I am held. He will be furious if I end up dead. There are a couple more of us than you would expect: twenty in the inner circle, more on the outsides and those in the reserves. We won’t stop until our prey is had, much like your Wolves. We stay unemotional, detached, far away from those that we love, we know no love, and we hunt for the thrill of a kill. The whips of our masters are behind us, driven by a man more powerful than you can imagine and, above all, lead by a man who will be twice the one you will ever be, Sean. Now you tell me, where is that little wolf of yours?”

Sean sighed an impatient sigh, letting out a cold laugh as he shook his head. "Yes, yes... You people are oh, so scary... Not like we've never heard that before around here." He muttered, seemingly bored by the woman's statements. "All you did really was mention all the reasons why you will fail. Perhaps they have worked so far, but you've never faced anything like the Wolfpack before, and I am sure of it because of how you so thoughtlessly threw yourselves into our territory." Resting his chin over his arms he smiled at the woman. "There is one thing that puzzles me, Phantom, it really does... If the kid is all you're after... Why didn't your beloved leader take her in Newhaven, instead of warning me to help her? Why didn't he take her before she took the oath? Before I was bound by my honor and my blood to protect her? Does he have a death wish, hm? Or was there some other reason? Because... Your little friends out there didn't have to die, you didn't have to be here, all he had to do is kill her when he had the chance. Now though... She's a Wolf now... Which means that even if you succeed in getting through each and every one of us to reach her, which I have a feeling is your plan somehow... If she learned what we taught her, you'll just wish you hadn't. If she didn't, well... then you win, but I wouldn't bet on it."

Phantom stared. Kirsten...protect her? Ari? Her puzzled look seemed to amuse Sean as she bowed her head, lip curling.
“Why? Because Ari is weak. She’s careless, thoughtless, she makes mistakes Sean. You know it, I know it. Kirsten knows it. We like the hunt but an easy one...isn’t as filling. You know it and so do I. Why fool yourself? That kid will be dead in less than a month!”

Sean shrugged dismissively at Phantom's arguments on what Kirsten's motives were, as if he didn't believe her or didn't care, it was uncertain which. "Well, all I know is that he was very convincing in urging me to go help her... Compelling words for someone who seeks nothing but a better hunt: 'Keep her hidden, even from me'... 'I can't disobey my orders even if I want to', was very compelling indeed... You know, I'm not one to go for these sorts of things, but if there' something I know is the look of a man who is questioning his own actions. Maybe it was just a momentary thing... A moment of weakness... And it's passed now, but without a doubt he could have ended this right there... Now things are different. The kid may be all that she is, but there's one thing she's not anymore... She's not alone. That weak reckless kid has about two hundred brothers and sisters sworn to protect her, or die trying. As a group, we are a force to be reckoned with. Better Hunters have tried, I can tell you that for sure." Straightening himself up in the chair and lifting his head, arms still resting on the backrest of the chair, Sean smirked; a slightly wicked and playful look in his eyes as he spoke softly. "Life is a gamble, you know... It isn't fun unless you have something important to lose. So this is what you and I are doing now... You're betting on Kirsten, and I'm betting on the kid... Soon enough we'll see who wins. The only question left is; What are you playing for?"

His question caught her off guard. What was she playing for? She had no horse in the race, no qualms against this man or Ari for that matter, in fact, she had sworn to herself to protect the girl before the blood moon. Now would she break that promise for a master? She frowned, closing her mouth quietly as she looked around the illuminated space, her eyes wandering as she toyed with her enlightenment. It wasn’t like she was going to need to walk very far anyways. The girl she had met so long ago in the market stared out from the shadows, bright green eyes blinking as her lips pulled back into a soft smile. She let the image fade, twisting her head back around to stare at Sean. She could have made the apparition suffer, but what was the point. She couldn’t deem people’s nightmares and Sean wasn’t the type of person that should be played with lightly. Her eyes closed as she sighed gently.
Kirsten wasn’t evil, he wasn’t cruel and it didn’t surprise her that he had been so adamant about keeping Ari alive. They had met as children, crossed paths and what she had gathered from Lichen, were almost lovers in Kirsten’s twisted way. Her death was now on his hands, he had to do it, and the higher head wanted it so. Kirsten couldn’t turn away, neither could she. She was bound right? So why did she not feel his niggling presence in her mind? Why was the bond so weak in here? She looked back up at Sean, his lips pulled back in a smirk as the silence dragged out. Her eyes softened, her voice quiet as she asked the first thing that came to her mind. “How much is she worth to you?”

Sean didn't blink or flinch at the question he was asked, and surprisingly so. Maybe this would have been unclear to him a year or so ago, but right now it wasn't something he needed to think about anymore; it was simple. Family. "Everything." He stated simply. "That's what family is worth. Nothing less." Casually, Sean pulled a dagger from his belt, still sheathed, and occupied himself with keeping it perfectly balanced on the tip of his index finger as he examined the woman's expression for a few silent moments before speaking again. "You don't really want her dead, Kirsten doesn't really want her dead... Then, who does? Because I feel maybe I should take care of this problem once and for all instead of fighting you lot and sit here waiting for it to find me again. Who is he?"

"I don't know."

Sean nodded, pushing himself from his chair and gripping the knife firmly in his hand. "Suppose I'll have to find someone who does then, won't I?" He spoke, casually leaving the sheathed knife in the spot where he had been seated. "This didn't have to be my fight, Phantom... Honestly, I'd rather it wasn't, I have my own problems... I'm not the kind of guy who needs to go around defending others, but... Since Kirsten made it my fight, by the time it's over, no matter how it ends... I'll make damn sure that whoever started it knows exactly what kind of man I really am." Sean sighed, giving a polite bow to the imprisoned woman and smiling. "It has been a pleasure, Miss Phantom... We must do this again sometime. Perhaps once you've been treated better?" He asked, a slight mocking tone to his voice as he tilted his head to one side, looking down at the woman. "Within a few minutes, my sister will come bring you food and water... She will take this knife and cut your ropes... You will be allowed to leave this room if you so wish, but you will be watched at all times, and will not be extended the same level of courtesy again should you try to leave the encampment. Are we clear on those terms?"

“Crystal,” she growled, her eyes flashing murderously.

Sean tensed slightly at the name, eyes narrowing at the woman. "How do you know that name?" He asked, picking the knife from where he'd left it as an afterthought.

Phantom had no idea what had pricked him so, a name? Phantom was a bit taken aback but also joyful. She had found a way under his skin, all through a name. A name with history, the way he slowly picked up his knife from the chair across from her told her that much. She kept her face passive, just a lip quiver giving hint to her smirk. “Who?”

Sean hesitated, a slight twitch in his expression showing that he'd just realized what he'd done, his hand tightening around the knife momentarily before relaxing. A few moments more passed before he shook his head slightly letting out a laugh. "Of course... Stupid of me..." He laughed a little bit louder for a few seconds before taking a deep breath and calming himself. "I would be beyond shocked if you knew her... It was a good reminder nonetheless." He smiled, returning the knife to his belt and turning to the door to leave.

She watched him go with a touch of relief, with him gone she could keep working on her bonds and free herself but the moment his hand touched the door she was overcome with a sudden touch of fear. What would happen when he left? She would be dog chow. Her eyes widened as she scrabbled to hold him for a few moments more.

“Don’t you want to know Ari’s deepest fear, Sean?” she taunted lightly, smiling as she did so. “Of course I shouldn’t tell you...but I could. Wouldn’t it be great to know everyone’s greatest fear? You could see how they thought of you, for I’m sure you stalk the nightmares of many of your men. And what is your deepest fear Sean?”

Her body lurched forward against her bonds, her face relaxed and calm as her fingers gripped the wood. The pain was coming through; trickle by trickle she could feel their terror and their deaths. With a snarl she pushed it back again.

“Is it the fear of a leader; the fear of failing? Or do you fear Crystal?" she paused for a moment, slowly collecting her thoughts until the words slipped off of her tongue and there was nothing she could do to stop them.

"I fear for Ari,” she said quietly.

Sean halted, fingertips slipping away from the door handle as he sighed softly. "You know... My father always used to say that there is what you tell yourself is your greatest fear, and then there's the actual fear behind it... The one you never know about until it's too late. To face that fear is to live or die..." He spoke, attaching the sheathed dagger to his belt before pulling the blade out of the leather, quietly making his way to cut the woman's bonds. "...I was born an ill child, Miss Phantom... I lived. I was face to face with the biggest threat to ever cross paths with the Wolfpack as he killed my mother, but I lived. I have disfigured a woman in front of her children, I've dishonored my father's memory, I've pushed my own brother to his death... I've put a knife to a child's neck for the simple purpose of causing a reaction on someone I hate... There are more people out there after my head than I can possibly count... I've been at this too long to waste my time with fearing people... Even Crystal." Sean spoke, a soft tone to his voice as he made his way back towards the door, simply leaning against it instead of leaving right away. "Do you now? You seem very unsure as to how you actually feel... Or perhaps you believe it doesn't really matter?" He shrugged. "Maybe it doesn't."

“You don’t know what it’s like to be me, or how I feel Sean. You couldn’t even imagine some of the turmoil that I face every day.”

Slowly Phantom rubbed her wrists, nursing them as she stood. Her body involuntarily stretched, her joints popping quietly as she smiled gently. Her eyes narrowed as she turned her attention back to Sean, her muscles bunching and her fingers twisting into claws.

“But since you brought it up, tell me this. When you’ve burned towns and slaughtered them: when you’ve tortured someone to plead for their death and then torture them some more: when you dream about your victims faces: when you shoot down an innocent: when you hunt someone down and then make their death slow: when you use a child to practice your Enlightenment no matter what the cost, even if they end up dead or mangled; or even worse, use a child to accomplish your own goal by training them yourself, and then sending them off when you know that they won’t probably make it for very long. At what point do you draw the line? When do you draw a line between morals and duty, Sean?”

"You know..." Sean started, scratching the back of his head casually. "...When I was being trained, I was told that either I would feel for my victims or I would not. Both were acceptable as long as I got the job done, and then my instructor said that... Whether I feel remorse, or feel nothing, the moment that changes it's time to stop. To me that means that lines are drawn when you wake up one day, look at yourself and wonder what you have become, and what you stand for really. I've not reached the point when I had to kill someone and felt remorse. I don't remember my targets' faces. I don't care. It's morally justified for me to kill a person because another wants them dead, while for many people out there what we do is reprehensible. Point being; morals are ambiguous, while duty is not. My duty is to make sure contracts are fulfilled and my people are protected. I don't care who I have to kill, torture, blackmail, or manipulate to do it. If at some point that changes... It'll be my time to stop, if you catch my drift." He smirked. "For me the line is drawn when I no longer see a point in sacrifice, when it turns out I'm doing this simply because it's what I know and not because it still holds any form of meaning. That's the reason the War will never end, and the world will never change... Because people cling to what they know in fear that if it's gone they won't have a purpose in life anymore... And I would prefer death to becoming one of those people; a ghost of someone who used to stand for something."

Phantom was honestly surprised. She had been planning to pounce on him and try and make a run for it but his words gave her pause. She kept quiet, body relaxing. He had given her something to mull over and her eyes closed gently. Perhaps, this wasn’t the worst thing to have happened to her; here she could think, could do some soul searching. Let her silence dismiss him. That was what she needed now, time and peace.

===================================================

[Newhaven Castle - Late night]

“Could you fetch me some more tea, lad?” Donovan muttered in a mocking tone under his breath as he walked. “I’ll show you tea! I’m not a goddamn servant girl... Idiot noble piece of shit... Why won’t he just go to sleep already.... If he asks me for one more cup of tea, I swear to all the Gods, I’ll...” The boy halted in the middle of the dark hallway, taking a deep breath to calm his nerve. He couldn’t do anything to blow his cover, he had to play along... Even if all he could really think about was how badly he wanted to break that idiot’s bones for treating him like his personal slave. If Doni didn’t know better he’d think Sean put him in this assignment just to mess with him. Once he felt his temper was in check he moved on, walking slowly around a corner down a path he assumed would eventually lead him to the kitchens... He was in no hurry to return to his post and stand in the corner listening to whatever bulshit the man he was supposed to protect decided to ramble about while working on his reports; what the man had to report was beyond Doni’s understanding, he didn’t recall seeing the man doing anything all day. If anything, with the assignment Donovan had gained a great deal of respect for Castle Guards for not becoming homicidal in the process of babysitting lazy noblemen.

Once again, Donovan halted; this time however was due to a faint light coming from a crack on the door of a meeting room. Quietly approaching the door he stopped when he could hear a woman’s voice coming from the room; a cold tone of mockery lingering in the air at her words.

“We made ourselves perfectly clear last time, Mr. Bennett.” She hissed. “Wasting our time with yet another reminder is a rather unwise course of action on your part.”

“I can assure you Miss, threatening me further will not protect your cause... I know what is at stake, I took precautions.”

“Oh, really hun?” She chuckled. “You took precautions!? Oh, no! Whatever shall we do?” Her voice changed to a more serious tone as she continued speaking, a seriously threatening tone. “We had a deal with your... Heh.... King... Because some of his goals fit the Brotherhood’s plans. New management, new rules... YOU get nothing, because YOU are no longer useful to us. If you want to ensure that your delightfully pure blood will continue coursing through your veins, you will keep to your insignificance. Do you understand me, George? Play dead, or you will be; that’s the deal.”

The man mumbled something in response, too softly for Donovan to hear, which only caused more laughter from the woman.

“We have plenty of spies, we have Brothers and Sisters all over the city, we don’t need a greedy dumb politician for that.” She stated. “Be warned, Georgie, love, or next time my brother will be the one handling the situation... And as you can see; Adam is not much of a talker.”

At those words another man spoke, in an inaudible mumble.

“Alright, alright... We have a deal!” George agreed, his voice suddenly panicked in such a way Donovan was certain he was shown something awful.

At this point Donovan was sure the conversation was ending, and it would be unwise to stand there in the hallway so he quickly continued on his way, but apparently not fast enough as he heard the woman’s voice call behind his back before he could get far enough to pretend he couldn’t hear her. “Hey, boy... Get over here.”

Donovan stopped in his tracks and slowly turned to face a blond woman clad in all black clothing, standing in the middle the hallway. She seemed... Nice... And she was pretty... Pretty was an understatement... She was gorgeous. “M-Me?” He mumbled.
“I don’t see others boys here, do you?” She asked with a smile. “Have you not been taught that it is wrong to eavesdrop, hmm? I would threaten to cut off your ears, but apparently, someone has already started.” She smiled, walking her way to him and flicking him on the ear Crys had sliced with her throwing knife. “I’d say, you should... Buy me a drink for your intrusion.”

Donovan blinked a few times, staring at the woman with a bit of confusion in his eyes. “I... I can’t. I am on duty, Miss. I have to return to my post.”

“Come on now... What is the worst thing that can happen if you slip out for a drink, hmm? You can’t honestly believe someone would want to kill a silly little councilman.”
“Says the woman who just threatened one.” Donovan retorted. “Not just any little councilman, if I did my eavesdropping correctly. Mr. Bennett is the Head of the City Council.”
“Handsome and smart... My lucky night!” Lizzy exclaimed cheerfully. “Georgie and I had a misunderstanding, that’s all. Everything is settled now. Strictly business related. Sometimes one must be.... Aggressive... To get the best results. Don’t you agree?” She asked, teasingly running her index finger down the side of his face to his chin.
“I... Suppose...” Donovan replied, finally able to look past the woman and noticing the tall blond man glaring at him in silence; like a statue. “I think your brother wants to leave.”
“I’m not stopping him if he wants to leave.” She smiled. “What about you... What do you want?”
“Suppose... A drink won’t hurt... I know a place.” Donovan stated.
“Lovely.” Lizzy stated. “If you are going to be my date for the night, what shall I call you?”
“Uh...” Doni flinched at the use of the word ‘date’, feeling an uncomfortable warm feeling spread through the back of his neck and reach his ears. “Kevin.” He answered.
“Kevin... Hmmm... No, you don’t look like a Kevin... Why lie to me sweetie? There’s no problem with giving your name. My name is Elizabeth, call me Lizzy... And my brother’s name is Adam. Now you give us your name.”
“Donovan.”
Lizzy smiled sweetly wrapping one arm around the boy’s shoulder and leading him through the hall. “Very well, Donovan... Let’s go have a drink with us.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Phantom/Spirit Character Portrait: Kirsten Somare Character Portrait: Stephan Kalir
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OOC Notes

Setting: Valcrest1 week 20 hr ago, as written by nibblesnbits
“Tell me a story.”

With a scratch and a hiss, a flicker of a flame sprung to life, illuminating the curve of a soft jaw, stubble casting shadows across the curve of a pair of lips. A smirk turned into a smile, a deep shadow cast over the face the light flickered on before fading out, casting the world back into oblivion. But only for a moment. Stephan watched as the match flew through the air, only to land in the fireplace. His steely eyes stared as the straw and dried grasses caught, curling and withering into themselves as red embers ate away at their energy, releasing it as light. But such little fuel wouldn’t sate the sickening hunger of fire and it quickly grew as it began to tear into the logs with snarls and growls. Darkness fled, terrified by the ferocity of the flames, and with it ran cold. Stephan carefully tugged up at his hood’s end, his eyes moving from the fire to the face of his victim. It was one of Sean’s petty She-Wolves and she blinked against the sudden light that filtered through the room.

Let her see, Stephan thought quietly to himself, looking around the furnished room with an almost bored expression on his face. It was no dungeon, hell, it wasn’t even a prison. It was Kirsten’s living room. Everything was red and gold; the carpet on the ground, the curtains drawn over the windows outside were satin red, much like a ladies dress as it flowed gently to the ground. He hated it. The only thing that really brought a splash of color was the pelt of a white wolf draped over the back of the couch his feet were resting on. His eyes scanned the heads on the wall. Bear, Wolf, even the full body of Kie was screaming downwards, talons outstretched and silver wings casting off a light glow. On the shelf below the bird was the statue of the black and white wolf fighting, the white one so cowardly looking, Stephan half expected the damn thing to come to life and hurl itself into the fire.

“Where am I?”

Slowly Stephan pulled his eyes from the fire, pulling his boots off of the couch and to the floor, moving slowly and deliberately to stand just above the Wolf. She’d had her fill of the room, and he let his own presence sink in as, for a brief moment, she struggled and fought against her bonds. It was really of no use and he tried to hold back a smirk as her struggle caused her wounds to reopen. Blood dripped and spread across her shirt, and pants, flowing over the blood that had crusted over the table and now threatened to drip onto Kirsten’s floor. With a sigh he placed his hand on the center of her forehead, watching as her struggles suddenly ceased, her eyes going blank.

“You’re safe for now,” he purred, pulling a chair closer to her face as he put a foot up onto it. “You only have to do one thing. Tell me a story.”

As he spoke he ran though her mind, nudging softly at memories as her time as a Wolf. Even as he did so he bumped into a different consciousness, his eyes narrowing until it identified itself as Sesh. He wasn’t a telepath, but Coercion certainly had its perks. He rummaged around in her head, looking though her memories and thoughts, pulling forward a memory of something silver, a dancing face, and strange whispers in the night. Suddenly her eyes opened wide, round orbs growing to the size of the moon before her lips began to move.

“Get out of my head, bastard!”

Stephan retreated with a small hiss, his eyes narrowing as the sudden flurry of thoughts in her head had him feeling nauseous. She’d been playing this game all week. His hand rose up and her jaw clenched, waiting for him to strike when his hand stopped.

“Is this how we treat our guests?”

A shadowed figure moved forth from the shadows, pink lips pulled back to reveal teeth bared in a familiar smile. Black eyes were slightly obstructed from the unconcealed windswept hair beneath the blood red hood. Even so his eyes still held a sense of cunning and wit as for a moment they burned red. Stephan lowered his hand, the metal claws coming from between his fingers curling and rolling to prick his palm as he stepped away. Kirsten nodded encouragingly and then tossed a meaningful glance towards the door. Stephan frowned, wanting to protest. However, he was bound by the blood moon to obey and that’s just what he did.

Kirsten took a seat in the chair, his arms gently resting along the top of the back rest as he placed his chin on the back of his folded hands.

“You poor thing. Stephan can be a bit harsh,” his hand moved to gently touch her bloodied cheek. There was no doubt she would scar from this; Stephan was a bit too fond of his claws. Scabs had formed over the three parallel slashes and as he pulled his hand away, some of the dried blood stuck to his fingers. Carefully he brushed it off as he sighed. “You know what we want, I’m very sure that you have a general idea. Won’t you tell us?”

“You’re all monsters!” she whispered with a small shudder, the clenching of her jaw causing the scabs to crack slightly.

“Monsters?! My dear little Wolf, we are only trying to find my friend. Won’t you help me find her?”

“Your friend?”

“Her name is Phantom and she has the most beautiful hair, like starlight. Surely you’ve seen her around camp.”

“No, but I’ve heard of her,” she paused, thinking for a moment before shaking her head, “I don’t think anybody has seen her except Sean and a few others.”

“So, she’s being locked away then?” Kirsten frowned, thinking about the torture she was probably facing. If he could feel her connection thought the pack boundaries then maybe he could soothe her pain, lessen it with his presence, if only slightly. His eyes flickered back toward the girl, her eyes riveted away from him toward the door. Stephan stood in the entryway, his eyes blank and empty as he carefully brought in a bucket sloshing with cool water.
“He won’t hurt you anymore. A beautiful thing like you shouldn’t have to face such treatment. Let him help you,” Kirsten nodded, watching carefully as Stephan placed the bucket on the side of the table, coming towards her flesh with a damp cloth. At first she flinched as Stephan did his best not to rip open any scabs as he tried to clear away the spatters of blood that offended Kirsten so, but slowly her body relaxed and Kirsten smiled, “See, not so bad is he?”

“I guess not,” she bit her lip, the thought also crossing her mind that Phantom, this mystery girl, was perhaps being tortured. She hadn’t been in camp since the girl had first been brought in, but she wasn’t one to put pain past Sean. “She’s a friend you claim.”

Kirsten nodded.

“And if I help you you’ll let me go?”

Again he nodded.

Quietly she let out a sigh, blowing back a strand of black hair that had fallen over her forehead, “I’ll help you. I’ll even escort you to where she’s most likely being held.”

“You would do that? For me?” Kirsten sounded aghast, his eyes blinking, threatening to smile, “Thank you! So very much!” he did his best to look over-joyed, something that he rarely was. Tears glimmered in the corner of his eyes and Stephan paused in his work. Kirsten’s eyes flashed, warning him to look away and he did, continuing to cleanse her skin.

“Please, tell me more about my dear friend Phantom.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Cold, the freezing air caressing blue skin, shaking so violently it was no wonder that her body didn’t rip apart from her muscles contracting. Her torn clothes were loose around her boney frame, her teeth chattering as her stands of hair hung limp across her cheek. Phantom lay inside the cave, her eyes closed, violently shaking. She’d escaped, she’d survived, she’d fled. And now, she was dying. Not like it mattered; not anymore.

Her breath rose in a thick swirl above her head, body trembling. Curse Kirsten. What had he done to her? She flinched, her breath catching right before her lung released the oxygen with an explosion of air. With it came blood, and lots of it. Like a fountain it sprayed from her lips, projected further by the air and spit behind it. Like a painting it coated the wall, raindrops on the ground, spattering randomly across the snow. Phantom stared at it. How curious, she thought as her fingers tried to reach the nearest spatter of her own blood, that such a thing could bring such warm color to an inhospitable world. The sight of her own blood gave her comfort rather than fear. She blinked, frosted eyelashes closing quickly once as the spots of her own blood remained in her vision, and when she opened her eyes, everything she had was now gone. The snow, the cold, the blood dripping from her mouth and oozing from the various pores of her body like black tar—all of it had vanished. She sat up and gasped.


Flashback

“Phantom, come here child.”

She stood, her little silver braids on either side of her head bouncing as she ran towards her mother. She fell into the arms of the woman, her eyes closed as arms wrapped around her body and pulled her close against her bosom. Her mother smelled of flax and lavender, her soft brown hair running all the way down to her lower back. Her eyes, bright blue shimmered with happiness as she stroked Phantom’s silver hair. She was wearing a grey dress and a white apron, her brown hair pulled back into its typical braid as her lined face smiled.

“What have you been up to, trouble maker?”

“Mamma! I’ve just been playing!”

“Oh? With who?”

“Jeremy and Sasha,” Phantom declared proudly, “I beat them at tree climbing!”

“You did? Well aren’t you a little squirrel,” she smiled again, looking up as, for a moment, Phantom’s father stopped raking the earth and came to stand beside them.

“Squirrel, eh?”

“Yes Papa!”

“Do you know what we hawks do with squirrels?” he waited till she had shook her head before turning his hands into talons, “We eat them!”

He lunged forward, grabbing hold of her as she squealed. Mother laughed too, watching as Father swung her around, pulling up Phantom’s shirt and blowing his breath across her belly as she screamed. Mother was upright, laughing as her dirty hands pressed against her hips, her body bouncing with the force of laughter. Finally Papa stopped trying to eat her and instead let her fly, running around the field with her body ridged in his arms and her arms out to the side.

“Easy now Eler, Phantom! Don’t you go hurting your back. There’s still seeds to be planted,” Mother called and her flight ended, Father putting her back gently onto the ground. He smiled and ruffled her hair as she thanked him, bouncing off to dash back to Mother. Phantom took the seeds and began, one by one, placing them into the earth that had been opened up to receive them.


“It’s me?” she thought suddenly, pinching her arm to make sure that she hadn’t been dreaming. When she opened her eyes the vision before her hadn’t changed, and her eyes brightened.

“Mom! Dad!”

She began to run, arms reaching forward and out, unable to contain her excitement as both of her parents rose from their hard work and looked directly at her. Arms outstretched she went to fall into their own open arms, only to fall face first into a pond. She rose, sputtering and shaking as her arms fell around herself.

“What the—” she thought sadly, slowly pulling herself up out of the water. The breeches and shirt she wore was soaked through, her body showing through the lightness of her shirt. She stumbled forward a couple of steps, dragging herself from the water when she saw it. Two children next to what appeared to be a massive horse.

“Have I gone mad?”



“Easy on his back side there, don’t jab your heels in.”

Phantom nodded curtly, her head bobbing as under her the horse whickered. He was black as night, his coat shimmering with the reflectiveness of a raven’s wings. Shadow’s eyes blinked as the bridal jingled, colored like chocolate and deeper than the lake nearby. The horse blinked and his tail swished. Below her a boy kept his hands on the chest of the horse, brown eyes looking upwards toward her own.

“Are you ready?”

Again she gave a little nod and the boy stepped back, giving the horse room to walk as Phantom’s legs dangled across the back, gripping with her knees—not her heels.

“Alright Shadow. Walk on.”

The horse jumped forward, leaping off of his two back legs as soon as she had finished her words, galloping forward with such a spurt of energy that she had remained exactly where she was, hovering for just a moment before crashing onto the ground.

“Phantom!! Are you alright?!” the boy called, running forward to land beside her. She gently touched her breast, massaging the tissues before giving a little nod.

“I told you to sell that horse back!”

“NO!” she cried suddenly, watching as the beast turned back and came round to gently whiff the grass beside her, “Shadow is my horse.”

“He’s too dangerous Phantom!”

“You promised to help me learn,” she cried with such a defiant voice that the boy’s angered expression grew soft. For a moment he stared at the horse whose nose was now clutched tightly between Phantom’s arms, unmoving besides the small twitch of his tail and the surprised flick of his ears. He suddenly smiled and gave a small nod.

“If that’s what you want,” he stood, holding out his hand to the eighteen year-old girl, watching as she let go of her horses face to pull herself back up. She brushed the dirt and clumps of grass from her skirt; pigtails bobbing along her skin as behind her the trees rustled.

“Are you sure you want to try again?”

“Gimme a boost,” Phantom said quickly, watching as he linked his fingers together to provide a platform for her bare foot to step on. With that she hoisted herself back up onto the horses back.


She remembered now. This was the day before the riders came. She was learning how to ride Shadow, her beloved war horse. Back then, nothing could have stopped her. She’d found a home with the boy teaching her how to ride, who gave her all the help she could ever ask for and the pendant around her neck. Her fingers wrapped around the small wood carving of the horse and as she did so, a smile carved her face. It was a reminiscing smile, one far and lost upon the face, often going unnoticed by the person who wears it. Phantom could feel it, growing faster as her heart beat in her chest. Were these just memories?


Shadow slowly walked forward, the boy at his shoulder holding the leg of the girl. Phantom was beaming and it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen before. Her different colored eyes met his grey ones and he smiled, her cheeks flushing for an instant at the touch of his fingers on her thigh.

“Go Shadow,” she whispered and clung tighter to his body as his muscles bunched and he leaped off back in the direction of the inn. She spared a glance over her shoulder and saw the boy there, standing still with a look of disappointment. She had hurt him galloping away like that, but how could she allow him to see her face. A face that was a red as a sun. Her eyes snapped forward and a moment later she was galloping away on the back of the wind.


She’d never told him. Never had got the chance to tell him exactly how she felt before he’d died the next day. With a face of determination Phantom removed herself from the trees, turning in his direction as her eyes glimmered and her cheeks became flushed.

“Estel!” she cried, walking towards the boy who suddenly turned to look at her. He looked older. Estel, the boy, had become a man in a turn. His hair had been braided and pulled back along his scalp, coming together to form a short ponytail near the top of his head. He was dressed like the inn keeper’s son; simple brown breeches and an open V shit that fluttered softly in the breeze that was stirring from the lake behind her.

“Phantom?” he responded, cocking his head as he took a couple of steps forward. She beamed, suddenly. Maybe this wasn’t a memory after all. He ran. Arms outstretched she also reached for him, her breath quick as tears began to cloud her vision and stream down each of her cheeks. If this was death may the Twins never take this away, this happiness that suddenly filled her heart and left her feet light across the ground. He grabbed her and with a twirl set her down once again.


“Jesus woman. Wake up!”

Her eyes opened and around her the world burned. Estel held her arms, his eyes panicked as he tried to lead them away. The wood crackled with flames, hot and angry they licked at her night clothes and his own. The door had been bashed down, knocked away from the hinges by the man who did not yet know his fate. What was happening? She blinked, body trembling as a moment later he was shaking her.

“Come on! Out the window!” he was pulling her towards it, eyes shimmering and flashing with the flames that swallowed up her bed, pushing everything insight to its hungry maw. With a thrust, Phantom had pushed out the glass to her window, her body franticly clawing out onto the straw patched roof. Below her the stables burned, sparks flying like light bugs through the air, smoke burning down her nose and throat, choking her body and vision. She was coughing, the heat was searing at her flesh, Estel’s hand so tight it was like a vise as his masked hand fell over her nose and mouth. For a moment she could breathe. The air was split with the sounds of people screaming, burnt to death in their tombs as beams fell and crumpled outside their doors, locking them to their deaths. Even the horses had not been spared such a fate, their straw stoking the fire until it rose far above their terrified heads before crashing down upon their backs. Mane burnt, fur was singed away in the blink of an eye, and flesh was left beyond the harsh blisters that rose like warts before bursting—it was burned and charred to darkness and death.

Phantom could have handled the smell—she’d singed her own hair and skin once before so she was no stranger to the putrid order that now seeped into her pores and wafted to fill the forefront of her skull. It was the sounds that got her to her knees. Lichen fell beside her, holding her shoulder and trying to urge her on. Nearby the sounds of animals kicking desperately at stall doors, crashing and smashing their bodies against the wood and beating their noses and chests bloody, filled the air. Pure terror rang in her skull like the shriek of an unplayed flute. However that was not the worst of it. Terror turned to pain, blistering and blackening as the fire leapt from one horse to the next, exhausting the mount to bones and cracked meat.

People were rushing to the stables, those that had managed to escape the fires, but were beaten back from the explosive heat.

“Shadow!” she screamed, Estel holding tight to her shoulder as around them the roof threatened to fall.

“We have to jump!”

“Jump?”

“Jump!” and with that Estel shoved her from the top of the roof and onto the ground below. Her arms flailed, legs kicking and wiggling as her eyes closed and her body landed with a sickening crunch.


Darkness now. Yet everything in her body ached like she had jumped from the height of a cliff. Tears ran down her cheeks. So they were memories. Nothing but the horrible memories of her life all collected into one terrifying moment. She didn’t want to remember. Life went by quick enough and she had thought she had suffered enough. Did the Twins not think so?

Her eyes fluttered as a cool breath of air touched her body. She could see herself lying there—broken and crippled off in the trees. Estel had long since gone and as she watched, she couldn’t believe her eyes.


Phantom was buried. She was deep inside the safety of the forest, surrounded by the coolness of the breeze and the greens that made up the pines and the leaved trees. Her eyes were closed, her breath shallow and ragged—hair singed and face so coated in mud. Her nose wrinkled and her body coughed softly as her eyes opened. She was surprised to find that her mouth and nose had been covered in a damp cloth, and even more surprised to find that she couldn’t move to pull the cloth from her face. She began to struggle, her eyes widening as she looked down. Her entire body, minus her head, had been buried under the earth.

“Help!” she screamed, feeling the weight of the earth sink against her lungs and crush the air from around her limp limbs. Phantom did not have to wait long. Almost as soon as her voice had stopped echoing around the air she could hear, and feel, the drumming of hooves against the ground. Closer it came till she could hear only the snort of the horse and the light tinkling of bells. Before she could get out a nervous hello she was quickly face to face with the most wild and uncivilized girl she had ever met. Perhaps only just fourteen, the girl’s brilliant green eyes stared unafraid into Phantom’s own. The girl cocked her head, hair so long that it created a curtain for both of their faces and so matted, Phantom wondered if instead of hair they were actually pieces of rope.

“Erm…can you help?” Phantom asked as the wild-girl cocked her head. Then without warning she began to pull the earth up with her fingers and nails. She moved like a dog, pulling the freshly dug earth off of her body little by little. Finally the wild-girl was able to free an arm and as time passed Phantom began to help unbury herself.

“Ari,” the wild-girl said suddenly, her eyes meeting back to Phantoms with such a rich shade of blue that Phantom, at first, thought that she had imagined that the girl had green eyes. No, not a girl-Ari. That was her name. Phantom smiled and pointed to herself.

“Phantom,” she said and a moment later the horse that Ari had been riding was pushing its muddy face into her own. She gasped and nearly fell over—the horse was stepping on her still unburied legs and Ari was quick to react as she began to whicker and make the same noise as the horse. Phantom stared. So she was crazy. That was nice.

Phantom was just about to start screaming when, even more to her amazement, the horse moved. She stared at Ari, her eyes wide as she blinked.

“You can talk to animals?”

“His name is Shadow. He says that he knows you.”

“Shadow?” she watched as the horse swiveled his ears forward at the sound of his name. So it was him. Just coated in mud. She looked at Ari, the girl who was clearly enlightened and could speak to animals.

“For the burns,” she said suddenly, picking up the earth and rubbing it on her arm. Phantom stared. So this girl had managed to save her horse and her all in the same go? Before she could say anything Ari rose, spoke a few words the horse and stood. Without another word the girl made her way back into the trees. She didn’t come back either.


End Flashbacks


Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Ice. The elements had touched her all, claiming her back into the circle of energy. One thing becoming the next and Phantom was sucked deeper into the frozen wasteland. Her eyes had once again opened to the icy caves, shimmering blue and green from her breath as beside her head a small pool had formed from the heat of her lips. Around her she could see the shoes and bare feet of those surrounding her. Her eyes flickered up, wisps of steam circling above her head. Water crystalized as it left her breath, fluttering back around her as snowflakes that fell onto her flushed skin. Her hands were clutched to her chest and the first pair of eyes she met were Kirsten’s. He looked at her sadly, his dark red eyes filled with a lovers longing.

“You poor dear,” he said, watching as she quivered on the ground.

“Go away!” she snapped, “Let me die in piece, free from you and your evil!”

“Relax,” he purred, taking off his cloak. As it fluttered over her shoulders, Phantom realized that it had become transparent. It settled lightly over her shoulders and soon she found she was able to stand once again, without pain. The icy world around her had vanished and she was sitting upright in a field. All around her was the stagnant air of this word, decorated with the red colored poppies that dominated the majority of the landscape. Her eyes flashed, and Kirsten smiled, warmer now, his cheeks were flushed with color and those red-red eyes were slowly changing to brown.

“What are you?” she asked, nervously watching as his pity rose into that of a small smirk. Beside him, she finally noticed a woman with green eyes. She was holding his hand and smiling gently, holding the reins to a horse. “Ari?”

The woman nodded with a small sad smile, reaching her hand for Phantom’s. So Kirsten had completed the hunt. Ari would be dead…Phantom suddenly shook her head. Were these just memories as well? Were the Twins teasing her?

“No Phantom,” Ari said with a small sad smile that could have torn the heartstrings of any man, “You are in the Red Meadow.”

“Red Meadow?”

“It is the true crossing between the worlds. Come with us.”

“Who are you?”

“We are the dead,” Kirsten said with a wicked grin, “We are the forms of your memories.”

“Memories?” Phantom asked. Ari gave a small nod, her fingers twitching softly in a beckoning moment. She waited till Phantom took it, pulling her up from the sitting position on the ground. With the touch and a breath of air Phantom could suddenly see. The haze that had blurred the vision of the meadow had vanished and every flower was now defined in perfect detail. The stagnant dead air had been misplaced and a cool breeze stroked along her face and ruffled the strands of her silver hair. The three ahead of her no longer appeared like ghostly apparitions, white with read soulless eyes. They had regained their color. Ari’s blonde hair as gold as honey and Kirsten’s eyes so light they were a ruddy brown. Their lips were flushed and cheeks pink with life and blood. Phantom was so taken back by the sudden change and beauty that surrounded her that it took all of her strength not to cry.

“Does that mean I am dead?” Phantom asked nervously.

“You are in the Meadow. The in-between. If you want you may pass on, or you can remain here longer,” Ari explained gently, “All you have to cross over into the trees.”

“What’s behind the trees? Are the Twins waiting for me? Do they really exist? What about the old stories?”

“Hush!” Kirsten snapped, “None of the living may know what lies beyond.”

Phantom could feel him withdrawing, his eyes flashing dangerously as he looked around almost nervously. Ari had also grown a fearful expression on her face, but she stood her ground heroically. Phantom frowned slightly, her brows knitting together in confusion. Was now her time? Did she really have a choice? Her eyes turned behind her, looking back towards the grey light where she knew the ice lay in wait. Around her it became warmer; she could move her fingers and nervously she reached out to Shadow, running her finger along his jaw and nose. Could she really leave this?

That’s when she saw them.

Phantom didn’t have to say anything, both Ari and Kirsten split apart and soon she was wrapped in the warm embrace of her parents.

“Mother! Father!”

They held her tightly, smoothing over her hair and holding her tightly as she finally broke into joyful tears. Behind, Kirsten and Ari stood watching, their eyes smiling as they watched their embrace.

“Is he here too?” she asked excitedly, turning with her parents toward the trees. There she saw a face. Green eyes were laughing at her, a flash of white-blonde hair. She didn’t look back. Phantom went running towards the trees, tears running down her face and her mouth calling his name as she neared the trees. As she leapt over the bridge between grass and trees a hand clasped hers and both Estel and Phantom vanished.

Outside the wind began to die down, releasing from the confines of the cave a small giggle and a sigh. The snow ceased to pelt the skin and from the top of all the tallest points came the giggles of the unknown, celebrating the end of the snowstorm.