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Played by Offline Dingo [PM] Posts: 11 — Threads: 1
Signos: 680
Night Court Entertainer
Male [Male [he/him/his]] // 4 [Year 499 Summer] // 16 hh // Hth: 8 — Atk: 12 — Exp: 16 // Active Magic: N/A // Bonded: Pryna (pygmy dragon)
#11

KRATOS
i'll never be more than a wolf at your door
In the beginning, Kratos had had his doubts after finding Denocte and attempting to call it his new home. The overall atmosphere was somewhat oppressive in a way he couldn’t really explain, the cause of it not one that he could easily place. There was tension across the faces of most he encountered, and one day after growing fed up with the unknown, he’d approached somebody and asked. Their Queen had been taken and held captive by another one of Novus’ solar courts, and the revelation caused Kratos to further believe this might not be the place for him.

Yet there he was, standing amongst a too-large crowd as they watched a trio sing and dance, shouting praise to the one called Calligo. Although he wasn’t privy to the subject of their song, Kratos couldn’t deny that they were talented. Even Pryna seemed to be enjoying herself as she looked on from her vantage point atop one of his curled horns, jovially bobbing her head along to the rhythmic beat of their tambourines.

Abruptly, a scream cut through the air and effectively halted the performance, and soon they were surrounded by distant shouts quickly drawing nearer. Those around him held their breaths, eyes growing wide with fear as the sound of rushing hooves against cobblestone grew increasingly loud. ’Fire! A chorus rang out, the eyes of passersby filled with terror. ’They’re spreading!’ another shouted over the din of panic. Kratos was nearly swept away by the panicked rush of those around him, but he fought against them, managing to find his way to a clearer area. While a majority had fled immediately at the utterance of a fire breaking out, a few lingered, heads surely filled with the same idea he had.

’We have to help,’ Pryna’s familiar voice reigned over the rest, ’The whole place will be gone if it spreads too far.’

Kratos was not a wholly righteous man. The city could burn and leave nothing but ash and ruin in its wake – this was hardly home to him, and it was not his duty to see that anyone but Pryna herself was safe. But, knowing she would make him regret his decision for the rest of his life if he turned a blind eye, he headed off in the direction so many others were running from.

His shoulders withstood the pressure of hurried shoves as more filtered through the streets going every which way, but eventually he found himself staring the blaze down. There were others, two mares with daggers in their eyes standing over one individual while another hovered over the inferno. By some magical means she appeared capable of slowly suffocating the flames below her, but Kratos wasn’t blessed in any such way, and quickly made his way toward the well a phoenix (a phoenix??) had just flown from. Fetching a bucket and filling it as quickly as he was able, he targeted the outer edges of the flame in the hope it would slow its spread.

Pryna, on the other hand, flitted about the opposite sides of where her bonded way, her jaws parting to shoot a jet of icy cold breath onto the raging flame. It hissed as it was doused, lashing out and fighting to sustain itself – which it would for some time, before finally flickering out – or so, that was what Pryna hoped would be the result of their combined efforts.

"Speaking."
credits





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Played by Offline Syndicate [PM] Posts: 33 — Threads: 5
Signos: 315
Night Court Entertainer
Female [She/her/hers] // 8 [Year 495 Winter] // 16.2 hh // Hth: 7 — Atk: 13 — Exp: 10 // Active Magic: N/A // Bonded: N/A
#12

boudika
rebellion sits well on you; like a red coat

The beating of the drums was now her own heart.

In all her years of war with water-beasts, she had never known such fire. Her experience was limited to bonfires and funeral pyres; to candlelight and lanterns, fire that was safe, contained, subservient to the will of its creator. This, this was an entity unto itself, a power as free and reckless as a young god. It carried its own beat of life, its own severity of weight, and it cackled, it laughed. Her lungs were filling with smoke, her eyes stinging with it, everything burning, burning, and all of these things kept at bay by the rushing of adrenaline in her veins. She was naive to Toulouse aside from that first, creeping sense there had been two figures in the smoke—a thought that was quickly forgotten when with a quick glance from her peripherals she found it to be untrue. Abel became her focus after the initial hit connected, taking some of the breath from her lungs, too.

The tempo was changing, changing—quick, urgent, demanding some sort of violent climax, some violent resolution.

Involuntarily, she began to cough—but pushed through the pain of the heated air in her lungs. Please—Please, they’re getting away. She registered somehow, somewhere, that they needed to leave now. But she followed Abel’s fall—having been taught, having learned, to follow every blow to avoid retaliation—her hooves coming down in sharp, clipped blows near his head, hoping to keep him on the ground. In the same disjointed fashion, it also came to her attention she was no longer alone—Boudika was pleased to see she recognized the mare who had arrived and, if memory served correctly, the other woman was the definition of a spitfire. Boudika had the opportunity to believe him, this barred stranger; but it did not sit right with her, to have seen him standing so clearly in the billowing flame and smoke, not in the act of raising the alarm, not in the act of subduing the flames. There was a wrongness to his presence and Boudika had long-since learned the importance of trusting her instincts. It would be better to take him into custody and ask questions later than simply allow him, if he were a perpetrator, to escape. Morrighan had responded quickly, which Boudika appreciated—the other mare hovered over the potential criminal’s body, her hoof dangerously placed.

Beat, beatbeatbeat, beat

Boudika knew the nature of conflict. She knew inaction was the worst decision they could make. The heat was growing… growing… and her eyes welled with water. ”Shut up,” Boudika barked at Abel, side-eyeing Morrighan. It did not appear as though she recognised him, either, and that was cause enough for Boudika to charge a second time—not to hit him, but heckling, her teeth snapping at his haunch as though to drive him up and froward. ”Let’s take him outside before this entire building collapses, and ask a couple questions,” she declared, yelling over the crackle of flames. The heat was too much— oppressive, heavy, stinging. The flames had grown everywhere around them, and even the entrance seemed to have disappeared into the fire and smoke. Simultaneously, something cracked, and a part of the building’s internal structure gave way, cascading in a rain of fiery embers. Had he stood, Boudika would force her shoulder into his ribs, lowering her head so that a horn pressed ominously into the side of his neck, the tip wicked, curled, and sharp—and pressing forward, forward, running.

”Move,” she commanded, hoping Morrighan would take the initiative to secure the prisoner’s other side. She envisioned exactly how she wanted the next few seconds to go:

They would burst out of the flames, onto the street, covered in soot and coughing from the smoke. Boudika would not stop there, however, pushing, shoving, snapping toward an alleyway. They would push through the bustling activity of frantic Denoctians as they attempted to quell the flames, shouts rising into the air.

There was an alleyway across the store shed, narrow enough to prevent the criminal from escaping. It was only wide enough to turn around in. Had they made it that far, Boudika gestured Morrighan through, to seal the other side, and would follow closely behind Abel.


But Boudika did not yet know if they would make it that far, as she thundered toward the distant night through the smoke and flame, the beating of the drums enveloped by the sound of the inferno.

credits


@Abel @Morrighan @Kratos @Israfel So sorry this took a bit! And Griffin or Layla, let me now if you want anything with Bo changed! It was a bit tough to get them out of the shed, but I tried to give you as much freedom to react as possible <3




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Played by Offline griffin [PM] Posts: 26 — Threads: 3
Signos: 335
Day Court Citizen
Male [He/Him/His] // 3 [Year 500 Winter] // 14.3 hh // Hth: 8 — Atk: 12 — Exp: 10 // Active Magic: N/A // Bonded: N/A
#13

A b e l
I WILL OFFER UP A BRICK
TO THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD, BOY





The last thing he fully hears before the world falls to chaos is the shiver of whisper the golden man (the invisible man) blows into his ear.

Of course Abel does not have time to explain the lie, or the plan he has conjured with the speed that had kept him fed and whole on Denocte’s tsunami-ravaged streets. He wonders if the stranger will understand that there is no catching him, not in the commotion of the fire with the ability to vanish his only with a thought. It was only ever Abel in danger.

And now he is caught.

The bay’s only recourse is to stick with the plan, as the flames and throw shadows and faces into stark relief. Before he can scramble to his feet a second mare arrives, and he is surprised she doesn’t throw up sparks with the speed of her hooves striking stone. He has no intention of answering her, and though his ears are pinned, his mouth is a drawn line and his eyes are dark and glassy with nerves. Abel has possessed a primal fear of fire ever since the pass burned, though the scent of Denocte’s ever-burning bonfires is still a strange comfort.

His chest and face are burning, but whether due to the mare or the fire beyond her he couldn’t say. Shut up, the first mare barks, but Abel has said nothing more.

Still he manages at last to his feet, shoulders hunched and neck arched like an alley dog waiting for the kick. Beyond them he  sees others begin flocking to the building, shadows of legs and bodies breaking the scattered light through smoke. Something like a meteor slashes through the dark sky. The room is filling quickly and the taste of ash is thick on his tongue; Abel coughs.

He wonders if his partner is out beyond the city walls now, breathing clean winter air tasting of pine. He wonders how Raum might choose to kill him, if Isra does not first.

Abel shivers despite the mad heat at the thought of the unicorn queen. She could place him at once; he was there in the cave when she woke. Sometimes, when he dreams, he is driven awake with the feeling of a thousand hornets stinging at his skin. Such paltry smoke as this could never smother them.

The boy wonders then if either of them can win, or if they can only drive the rest to their deaths.

It is not the time for such thoughts. He shakes his head like a man coming out of a drug haze, smoke a physical thing in his nostrils and his eyes still stinging with tears. One of his ears is trained on the horned mare, listening to her plan for him as his skin itches with a heat not even the Solterran sun could match.

He jumps at the crack of a beam, the rush of sparks like fireflies or hornets. There is a pit in his stomach and acid in his throat and he walks stiffly ahead of the mare, making no attempt to evade her. Abel is only concerned with one escape right now. There is still chaos. There is still time.

Somewhere in the night a dragon screams. Beneath that, like a heartbeat, is the sound of the drums, and Abel searches for the light of other fires too large to be the Night Market’s customary celebrating. Between his ribs his own heartbeat is shuddering, lungs heaving in air that burns cold but clean. It is a relief, like dunking his head in a barrel of frigid water. It helps him think.

Abel has memorized every last dog-legged dirt street part of the city. He knows the map of it like he knew his mother’s markings, and he recognizes the alley the mare shoves him toward.

Though he makes a faint show of resisting, as soon as he allows himself to be pushed into the alley Abel darts forward like a ship-rat, dark and quick. Here his small stature of all angles is a boon, and the boy doesn’t glance back as he takes a hard turn through a doorway of black cloth - the back entry to one of the Crow’s final haunts before Raum killed the last of them.

The dim bar is empty, its patrons spilled out into the chaotic night to see why the drums beat with such urgency. Tables are scattered and littered with half-empty mugs of ale. Beyond the front door Abel can see a crowd beginning to gather - and it is that he heads for, and a last grab at freedom.





x | x





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Played by Offline Layla [PM] Posts: 27 — Threads: 4
Signos: 10
Night Court Soldier
Female [She/Her/Hers] // 4 [Year 499 Fall] // 14.2 hh // Hth: 10 — Atk: 10 — Exp: 12 // Active Magic: Fire Manipulation // Bonded: N/A
#14

Morrighan

Around them, things seemed to erupt into more chaos than they had when she arrived. Horses everywhere were running around and screaming as if they were just realizing what had happened. One particular voice caught her attention as it drew near and became louder. When she turned to see who it was, her eyes narrowed and she could feel the heat intensely rising from her hooves. Out of everyone who could have shown up to help, it had to be her.

Israfel did not seem to notice, but Morrighan certainly did. Her ears pinned back and she had half a mind to push the other mare into the flames. The nerve she had showing up here and helping them when she truly could give less of a fuck. That was made clear back in the ancient temple and yet, here she was. Morrighan was convinced this woman just liked to make a scene and be the center of attention.

Unfortunately, it appeared Israfel would be of use with how well she could control the fire. Watching this made Morrighan even more upset. There had been a time where she could do the same thing (likely even better), but this new land had snuffed her power out. A small flame ignited from underneath her hooves, but within seconds it was gone.

While the other man joined Israfel with water to stop the fire, Morrighan's attention went back to the task at hand. She had not immediately heard Boudika, but then the sound of the building collapsing brought her attention back. The mare was giving orders to the man, moving him towards an alley and gesturing for Morrighan to secure his other side. Before she could do so, he managed to escape.

"Shit!"

Without a second thought, she was racing after the stallion, having taken note of the turn he made. It leads her into a bar with terrible lighting and a mess everywhere. She ignores it, tossing aside a mug as she lunges at the man who is heading for the main door. She aimed in hopes of knocking the man down with her front hooves or, at the least, the impact of the heat would burn his side and perhaps cause him to stagger. She tried to position her body to block him from the front door.

"Too much of a little bitch to stay and fight, huh?" she spat at him, her eyes wide with anger. It was speculated that he was involved before, but now it was obvious with how he had ran. "Did you orchestrate all this or are you just some sick follower?"

Hopefully Boudika had followed suit and would be in the bar soon as backup. For now, she would focus on the man and do everything she could not to let him slip away again.

@Boudika @Abel @Israfel @Kratos Sorry for the delay! Hopefully this works

"Speaking."
credits






now the dark begins to rise
save your breath, it's far from over
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Played by Offline Syndicate [PM] Posts: 33 — Threads: 5
Signos: 315
Night Court Entertainer
Female [She/her/hers] // 8 [Year 495 Winter] // 16.2 hh // Hth: 7 — Atk: 13 — Exp: 10 // Active Magic: N/A // Bonded: N/A
#15

boudika
rebellion sits well on you; like a red coat

A part of Boudika had always belonged to the malicious whimsy of fairies or dragons; a siren had sang to her once, perhaps, and drowned out her better parts. A kelpie, too, had whispered promises; and her heart lusted for them with all the wanton need of a lover starved. This left her a beast in both the best and worse senses. It left her numb to pain and real, genuine fear—not philosophical fear, but the fear that turned one’s blood to leaden weight and bound them fast to where they stood. Boudika did not know that fear because when she felt it, like the stirrings of something too-light and too-airy in her veins—a feeling that would soon become heavier, heavier, heavier—it was, instead, transformed into action. The adrenaline awakened her senses to their most heightened form. It was the fear that made her feel alive, fear of failure first, fear of death once or twice, fear of the unknown and unknowable—and all of them, breathed into her, made her alive, alive, alive.

Alive like a fistfight. Alive like a battlecry. Alive like a final, gasping, breath.

Hers had never been the concerns of generals, spies, or governors. Hers had always been the simpler life of the cadet, the soldier, the second lieutenant. Hers had always been the immediacy of the people, the immediacy of her individual action, the immediacy of the battle.

And so, when Able’s capture did not come easily, her heart leaped with joy. The primordial, ecstatic, orgasmic pleasure of the hunt—the chase—the fight—became her everything. Yes, run! her mind cried and her body already, with no prompting, reacted.

She had been a fool to trust someone she did not know to secure his other side—and that was a mistake she would not make twice. The alleyway was too narrow for her to pursue alongside Morrighan and so Boudika pivoted in a full circle, rearing out of the alley in a gargantuan leap. From there, Boudika took a chance and galloped toward the street-front. The alley, she knew, must access the rears of multiple store entrances—and she knew Denocte just well enough to know which side of the alley was backed by warehouses with no back doors, and which one met the bustling marketplace. Boudika had no idea which building he may have leapt into, if any, but as she ran she kept her eyes fixed sideways, catching abstract glimpses of open doors and windows, or closed ones—and then, two dark, rapidly moving silhouettes.

Boudika almost ran past them—but she dropped her haunches and nearly slid, instead, pulling herself into a hasty and inelegant halt. Unknowing if Morrighan’s offensive had worked, Boudika plowed through the open doorway through the crowd gathering to defend the fires. Multiple horses cursed and leapt sideways, but she remained undeterred—entering the room snorting, head tossed, still made devilish by the light. She would immediately move into whatever position was unoccupied by Morrighan, whether that be the front of rear door… and, not one to bother with interrogation, kicked out at table leg. It snapped audibly, and she raised it with her natural telekinesis. “You shouldn’t have ran,” Boudika said, blandly. “This would have been easier for you if you hadn’t run.” She simply side-eyed Morrighan, hoping for back up but not expecting it. Simultaneously, Boudika stepped nearer to Abel, had it remained enclosed in the small space of the bar. As she did so, she lashed out with both her tail and the broken table-leg—aiming the leg at his head, and her whiplike tail at his haunches.

This was them. The drums at their summit. Her heart, elated from the chase and exuberant from the run. The cries of the fire outside, the roar of a dragon, all of it irrelevant to the piercing clarity of this moment. It was what a sheepdog lived for—the thrill of hunting wolves.

credits


@Abel @Morrighan @Kratos @Israfel UGHH I AM THE WORST this took forever <3 ! And Griffin or Layla, let me now if you want anything with Bo changed!




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Played by Offline griffin [PM] Posts: 26 — Threads: 3
Signos: 335
Day Court Citizen
Male [He/Him/His] // 3 [Year 500 Winter] // 14.3 hh // Hth: 8 — Atk: 12 — Exp: 10 // Active Magic: N/A // Bonded: N/A
#16

A b e l
I WILL OFFER UP A BRICK
TO THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD, BOY





Abel’s escape does not last long.

He hadn’t really expected it to - he wasn’t a boy who had that kind of luck - but if there had been no part of him that thought I can do this than he never would have tried at all. For a few moments sweet as air after being in a cave (a cave of stalactites, a cave of hornets-from-bones) all the noise around him faded to background chaos and his heart soared above the smoke and he could see the route he would take out beyond the city gates and free, free, free.

The noise is thunderous as the paint mare bursts into the bar after him; the air is full of the tang of smoke and liquor. Her hooves catch him across the side and he whirls like a cat, sucking in a tight, shocked breath at the burn of the blow; her blue eyes seem to glow like sapphires and he falls back a step, his eyes darting like a coyote’s between her and the doorway. Abel pays no more attention to her words than he would at the bite of a horsefly, only turning back his ears and snapping his tail. All he can think is There is still a chance -

And then the other mare looms up out of the smoke like a devil, big and made bigger by the strange burning light of the night, and Abel knows that he is beaten. The snap of the wood is loud as a shot in the dim tight space of the bar, and the boy ducks his head just below her swing and reaches up with his telekinesis like a hand to try and slow it. Her tail he can do nothing for; it falls across his haunches like the blow of a whip, but Abel has suffered worse than that. What is one more bar across his shoulders, his legs?

He does not cry Stop, does not say Please. The bay only backs up into the corner he has been pressed too, shoulders hunched like a cornered dog, his dark eyes staring somewhere between them both. No more does he look toward the door for escape; there is chaos around them yet but Abel can only hear Toulouse’s whisper just inside the shell of his ear.

I’ll be sure to send Raum your regards.

He thinks: I will be reported as a traitor twice-over and I will be killed for it.

There is no more Abel can do to fight - he is small, and unarmed, and possesses no magic or weapon of his own. Only his wits, and his weary ragged stubbornness, and neither of those were more than average to begin with.

When he closes his eyes and slumps against the rough wood of the wall it is with relief and not exhaustion.





x | x





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Played by Offline Layla [PM] Posts: 27 — Threads: 4
Signos: 10
Night Court Soldier
Female [She/Her/Hers] // 4 [Year 499 Fall] // 14.2 hh // Hth: 10 — Atk: 10 — Exp: 12 // Active Magic: Fire Manipulation // Bonded: N/A
#17

Morrighan

Thankfully, it was not too long before Boudika stormed through the doors and into the bar. Somehow she was more pissed than Morrighan, which was surprising. The mare tossed her head and snapped off a table leg to thrust towards the man. It didn't hit him, but it came pretty close. Morrighan's eyes widened; apparently it wasn't a good idea to get on this one's bad side.

Boudika snapped at the man for running and side-eyed her. She narrowed her eyes back and turned to the man who was now slumping down against the wall. He was showing his defeat pretty well, but there was no telling for sure if he'd try to run off again. Though at this point if he did, he'd be a dumbass.

Of course, he didn't answer Morrighan's question from earlier and it was clear he was going to be a complete pain in the ass through this entire ordeal.

"He's not talking, but he's our only link. We need to make him talk somehow…" she said to the other mare, her expression growing darker as she glared at the man. "Maybe take him back to the Court, let everyone take a swing at him?" She smirked, wanting so badly to make him bleed. After all, he deserved it. At the least, she struck him down pretty hard and hopefully he would get through his skull not to mess with their Court again. Once more horses knew who this man was, he was sure to find out.

@Boudika @Isra something quick to move things along!

"Speaking."
credits






now the dark begins to rise
save your breath, it's far from over
Reply




Played by Offline nestle [PM] Posts: 249 — Threads: 32
Signos: 565
Night Court Sovereign
Female [she/her/hers] // 6 [Year 497 Winter] // 15.1 hh // Hth: 30 — Atk: 30 — Exp: 66 // Active Magic: Transformation // Bonded: Fable (Sea Dragon)
#18

Isra and the two beasts



There is both anger and smoke running through her veins. All her blood is thick with it, slow moving, until each moment she walks with rage feels like an hour. It feels almost sentient, as if in this unicorn cage there is Isra, her magic, and this new beast moving slow like a snake through the mud. Once she wanted to divide them or perhaps find a way to make herself be nothing more than Isra the queen with stars in her eyes and a moon in her heart.

Now she welcomes them, and tonight she lets them run wild in her core.

The world trembles around her. It becomes. Wood turns to rock, to new steel too cold to burn, to everything on which a fire cannot feed. Her magic becomes a nightmare for the fires and her heart becomes a terror for each horse that set their evil eyes towards her city. Ahead she can see the boy run for freedom.

Raum's. She would know the shape of him until the day she dies. When she sleeps she can still see his youthful eyes hard with hatred. Some nights she still wakes with the cold sweat of betrayal across her brow instead of a crown. And maybe, she thinks then, a broken heart is the only crown queens wear in the end (broken hearts and the darkness that remakes them).

Isra follows at a distance, although her hooves quicken to the drum of rage beating a tune in her bones. The beasts are running in her, and when she enters the bar the windows turn to steel bars that let only the moonlight and weak fire-glow through. Her eyes not not waiver from the boy resting almost broken against the wood. Isra does not want to smile. “Welcome home.” The words are flat and her heart breaks a little more to say the word home in such a way.

But tonight is not for breaking, her beasts remind her. And so she turns towards Morrighan and the mare she does not know. “Tell me what happened.” No, her beats say, tonight is not for betrayal.

Tonight the moon in her heart shines for vengeance and the stars in her eyes are burning hot enough to become small suns.


" And it hurts, in every part of my body. "







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Played by Offline Syndicate [PM] Posts: 33 — Threads: 5
Signos: 315
Night Court Entertainer
Female [She/her/hers] // 8 [Year 495 Winter] // 16.2 hh // Hth: 7 — Atk: 13 — Exp: 10 // Active Magic: N/A // Bonded: N/A
#19

boudika
rebellion sits well on you; like a red coat

Boudika watched a transformation take place, as the drums slowed their beat within her raging heart. She recognized the change; it possessed all the familiarity of family, and it occurred, simultaneously, within her. He narrowly dodged her blow toward his head and retreated a few steps, only to slump against the wall.


And there her eyes bore into him, in his defeat. There, she could not help but see herself only months ago, drenched in rainwater and exhausted from her flight. She had thought, if she could run far enough, fast enough—they would not catch her. But they had, and Boudika had known when defeat had come there were no powers on earth to save her from her fate. Perhaps she had more in common with a criminal than she would ever like to admit.


Her ear flicked toward Morrighan, and then she broke her concentration on the stranger. Before Boudika had a chance to answer, Isra appeared, like vengeance. In doing so, the old bar transformed—steel bars erected themselves, accompanied by words that ought to have been warm, ought to have been comforting, and instead were cool. Welcome home.


Boudika’s tongue worked numbly, now. She wanted nothing more than to become a dancer again; she stared forlornly “I was close to the fire. I smelled smoke almost immediately and ran for it… When I arrived, I saw him before he could flee. Morrighan appeared and we chased him down. Something wasn’t right, about him being there.”

And she wondered—she wondered briefly, ephemerally, as her rage simmered to nothing and her heart grew empty, what had driven the boy to dance to the drums.


credits


@Abel @Morrighan @Isra … I don’t know why I didn’t realise it was my turn xD my apologies <3




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Played by Offline griffin [PM] Posts: 26 — Threads: 3
Signos: 335
Day Court Citizen
Male [He/Him/His] // 3 [Year 500 Winter] // 14.3 hh // Hth: 8 — Atk: 12 — Exp: 10 // Active Magic: N/A // Bonded: N/A
#20

A b e l
I WILL OFFER UP A BRICK
TO THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD, BOY




He does not meet their eyes, does not look up, even when he can feel the burn of the paint’s gaze on him, the violent promise in her stare. He finds, with surprise, that all his fear is gone; maybe he is too weary for it, or maybe he has used it all up, these last few weeks, these last long months. It would be good, if terror were a thing you could run out of, if even dread (round and heavy in your belly like a cannon ball) flaked away with time and familiarity.

Then, of course, there is the knowledge that he deserves all they heap on him.

It isn’t until the light in the bar changes that he turns his dark eyes up. Then the air feels too dry on his tongue, all the moisture burned out of it, as the glass turns to iron and becomes a cage. He knows what it means, he knows who is coming -

he presses further into the wood, but when the queen speaks he looks her in the eye. Just for a second, long enough for those words to fall around him like two dropped coins, or like a sentence.

Raum had convinced him that she was the monster, the unnatural thing, both savior and source of Denocte’s woes. See what becomes of a fairy-tale? he had said. To Abel, magic was a frightening thing, rare and strange; he had been a child at the fall of the last regime and well remembered the stories of the gypsy-king and his regent’s dragon. When word had passed up from the inner city that the new queen had found a dragon of her own, it was perhaps the final stone to tumble from Abel’s altar.

But when he looks at Isra all he sees is a unicorn. And when she turns away from him, he is relieved, but he is something else too.

He hopes it is fear. If it isn’t, this dark and barbed emotion crouching within him, then he knows it is something worse.

There is nothing now to do but wait.




x | x





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