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 Howl of the Gathered

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EonArashi
Pen Wielder
Pen Wielder
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Posts : 199
Likes : 4
Join date : 2013-06-18
Location : Somewhere between sanity and reality
Humor : Of course. A humor section. After all, everyone knows that the best way to tell a joke is to have no context, and just improv on the fly *rolls eyes*

PostSubject: Howl of the Gathered   Tue Dec 10, 2013 12:02 am

He had to make his move tonight.  He’d waited over a week, switching from den to den, for his pursuers to lose his trail, but they just wouldn’t give up.  Any longer and they’d find him by process of elimination or even sheer luck.  Frankly, he’d expected as much.  Those Fenrir who were trained as trackers were generally two things: stubborn and prideful.  Throw them together with their instinctive love of the hunt, and they would chase you to the edges of the world and beyond.  It hadn’t hurt to try, though.

The man knew better, however, than to assume he could simply run away.  Any attempt at fleeing the area would be met with an ambush by the full complement of his trailing foes.  The forests of Terrera were his home turf, but the enemy had the advantage of being mostly well-rested and well-fed, whereas he’d been on the run for weeks, forced to subsist on whatever he could dig up and sleep with one eye open on the rare occasions he slept at all. He’d never be able to bolt quickly enough to escape them even with full autumn cover, let alone in the high times of summer.  

A distraction might work to facilitate his escape, but it wouldn’t be a permanent solution.  They would find him again; they always did.  It would only be a matter of time before he was hunted down that way.  He couldn’t afford to let his secrets die with him.  He had to warn the other Fenrir of what Sorigan was planning, before it was too late and the embittered monarch doomed their entire race in a war that could not be won.  He was Venari, Fenrir Sentinel, and he would not fail in his task; his former station and the legacy he carried both demanded it.  

Venari pushed himself to his feet, black cloak swishing around his legs as he paced around the dingy forest burrow that had been his home for the last thirty-six hours.  With simple escape impossible and a distraction unfeasible in the long term, the only option he had was to fight.  Still, a head-on attack would be suicide.  It would be a heroic last stand, something for their historical tomes and legends, but it would be pointless all the same.  Strong as he was, he was greatly weakened from his time as a fugitive, and he would be unable to kill more than half of his enemies before he was cut down, even in his lupine form.  His limited magic would be ineffective; these trackers had been granted immunity to it by Sorigan himself, who was far and away Venari’s better as a sorcerer.  Dominance tricks would likewise fail, as all trackers were trained to resist that reaction by their Alphas, who could draw on far more dominant influence than he could.  

Ambush seemed to be his only solution.  He fingered the pommel of one of his twin short swords absentmindedly, its imbued magic briefly resonating with his own before falling silent.  Venari took that as a yes to his ambush plan, and nodded silently.  He knew better than most just how to listen to his weapons, and treated them more as his companions than his tools; that regard had saved him more than once.

A momentary smile graced his lips, his eyes glowing through the lightless black curtain of his hair.  He was ready.  The Midnight Watcher was on the hunt.

***

Muzan couldn’t shake the feeling that they were being watched.

The leader of the primary tracking and pursuit team of Sorigan’s pack was well and truly paranoid, and even he himself acknowledged that fact.  The younger members of his cell often joked about his paranoia and secretly (so they believed) murmured that he was crazy or losing his nerve after more than a century of service.  Muzan knew better.

Just because you were paranoid didn’t mean that there wasn’t someone out to get you.

Right now, he sat on a log near the fire of their camp, on watch with a newer tracker by the name of Caralan staying just out of sight in the trees were the firelight couldn’t ruin his night vision.  The feeling of being watched intensified briefly, and Muzan glanced over his shoulder pointlessly, unable to see anything in the inky blackness of the woods.  He turned back to the four tents in which the remainder of his dozen-strong team was sleeping, standing and beginning to pace around their small clearing like a caged animal, leather and black scale armor shuffling and clanking.  He certainly felt caged right now, and his instinct was to pace.

A quiet metallic hiss caught his attention, and just as he turned in the direction of the noise, Caralan gave a weak cry and the scent of blood and death washed over the camp.  Muzan’s blood froze in his veins as his suspicions were confirmed in the worst way possible.  “Everyone get up!  We’re under attack!  Caralan is down!” he roared, drawing his broadsword with a dull ring as he took up a position in front of the tents.
 
Muffled cursing and shuffling came from the tents before several members of his team pushed through the flaps, the rest putting on their weapons or waiting for their comrades to clear the way.  Within seconds, all ten remaining Fenrir trackers had exited the tents and formed a loose circle around the campsite.  Muzan nodded; they were professionals, and not likely to be caught off guard easily.  “Murkir, Aldar, Ulric, you three go check Caralan’s watch position.  He’s probably dead, but knowing how and by whom would be an asset.”

The three mentioned trackers nodded and moved in concert towards the treeline while the rest of them filled in the gaps in their formation easily.  Muzan watched them disappear into the darkness, silently cursing the fire and wishing they could extinguish it without leaving themselves night-blind.  

“Caralan is dead sir!” Ulric, his dutiful second-in-command, called back to them.  “Two stab wounds, one through the heart, the other through the right lung; both smell of Viridian mage-steel.  It’s Venari, sir, it must be.”

“Trying to pick us off one at a time?” Muzan murmured under his breath, considering.  “That makes no sense; he knows that we aren’t that careless and that we could get a replacement within days.  Unless…”  His watery brown eyes widened in comprehension.  “Ulric!  All of you, get back here now!”

A slashing sound echoed from the woods, followed by a massive wave of the sweet-iron scent of fresh blood.  Ulric gave a wordless snarl, then a clank like a sword being buried in wood sounded.  A meaty thwack followed, and Muzan felt Ulric pass on as more of the rotten stench of death came forth.

“Gods above, no,” the commander of the trackers whispered, horror-stricken.  A third of my forces gone; and we can’t even find him.  Why did he run from us for so long if he could kill us all like this?  He shook his fear off like water from his wolf form’s fur as his resolve steeled and logic took over. Venari is weakened.  He’s tired, hungry, and desperate.  We’ve backed him into a corner.  He can’t escape us, and he knows it.  This is just a last stand; he won’t take us all down.  Not like this.  “No one break formation!” Muzan barked to his remaining men.  “Stay alert.  He can’t take us by surprise with all angles covered and the fire at our backs.”

He felt more than saw the mutual nod from all of them, the whole compliment shuffling back and closer together, closing the gaps in their field of vision.  For seconds, minutes, they waited; the waving of branches, the crackling of the fire, and the whisper of the wind were all the men could hear.  Then, without warning, the fire fell silent and guttered out as darkness engulfed the clearing.  

Muzan whirled amid shouts of panic, only for a fluttering form to drop into their midst and slam a short sword through his chest.  

The wounded Fenrir fell with an undignified thump to the ground, hearing the screams of his men as they were torn apart, and the sounds of his enemy’s remaining weapon at work.

“I can’t see him!  I can’t- hurk…

“Dastard!  Show yours-“ -shunk-  “Guh…”

Shing-splat!

Klang, klang, thud, “Hckk…”

Muzan’s eyes started to adjust even as his breathing labored, and he was able to see the last three fall.  Donovic, the youngest of the group, howled his rage at the cloaked figure of Venari and leapt forward.  Venari parried his clumsy haymaker of a slash and released his blade, letting it fall to the forest floor and embed itself into the soft loam.  His hands shot forward, grasping Donovic by the hair and chin, then twisting violently, breaking the reckless youth’s neck with a sickening snap.  Before Donovic’s corpse had even fallen to its knees, Venari whirled and lashed out with a kick at the ankles of his next attacker, the wily elder of their company, Marek.  The aging warrior stumbled, but managed to keep his footing, and took a swipe at his opponent with his longsword.  The much more nimble Venari ducked and rolled forward, snatching up the short sword he had dropped and bounding back at Marek, making use of his speed and lighter weapon as he got inside the elder’s guard, parrying the weakened strike with ease and slamming a headbutt into Marek’s face. The elder of the pair reeled backwards before Venari stepped in again, ending the skirmish with a fast cut across the throat.  

He turned, bringing up his blade in an instinctive block that ultimately saved his life, as Kirio, the last and strongest of their team, stepped in with a fast overhead swing from his claymore, throwing Venari back and making him stumble heavily.  He wobbled on unsteady legs, barely managing to keep his footing as the much larger Kirio blitzed him again.  A furious series of slashes and parries ensued, with the lean and agile Venari being bullied and battered by Kirio’s mass and strength.  With a furious snarl, Kirio gave an even stronger swing, throwing his smaller opponent into the air and sending him crashing heavily into the dirt.  Kirio closed the distance between them in two fast strides, pointing his blade at the downed form of his enemy, who was beginning to sit up.

“Surrender, Venari, son of Atrera,” Muzan heard Kirio order dimly.  “Lord Sorigan has ordered that your life be spared if you rejoin him.  He will have need of your skills in his coming conquest.”

There was silence, then Venari spoke for the first time that night.  “Surrender?” he asked quietly, as though in disbelief.  His voice was deep and raspy, soft from disuse and yet still carrying an undercurrent of strength.  A set of chuckles followed, the fugitive’s shoulders shaking as his extremely long black hair hid his expression.  The laughter ceased abruptly, and Venari raised his head slightly, his right arm tensing subtly.  “Not a chance.”

He rose in one fluid movement, so fast he appeared as a living shadow, and rammed his blade through Kirio’s heart.  The dying warrior let out a rattling gasp; his eyes wide with disbelief as his prized claymore left his hand and impacted the dirt.  He struggled for a moment, then slumped, and Venari pushed him off and removed his blade, flicking it to remove the blood from its silver surface.  He staggered, panting heavily with sweat dripping down his face.  

Muzan noted detachedly that the victorious fugitive hadn’t gone unscathed; Kirio’s last attack had managed to cut into his unarmored chest as it had knocked aside Venari’s guard, scoring a shallow but steadily bleeding wound across his body.  Venari limped forward, sheathing his short sword on his left hip as the spells he’d placed on his person melted away.  Muzan finally noticed that he could smell Venari again, whereas he hadn’t noticed the man’s scent before.  He also moved somewhat slower, and less gracefully than before, and Muzan realized that the magic he’d used had hidden his presence and increased his reflexes.  Another spell released, and the wood in the fire pit crackled feebly before going quiet.   He would have chuckled if he’d been able; their “immunity” to magic from Sorigan did nothing to protect them from spells cast on other people, or objects.  A costly oversight, but he had to admire Venari’s skill in exploiting the loophole, even with such basic magic.

Venari now stood over him, looking down with a stoic expression on his face.  Muzan noticed the unique color of his eyes for the first time; a dazzling shade somehow caught between brightest sky blue and deepest ocean sapphire, backlit by a glow that seemed even brighter than the natural one most Fenrir possessed.  Looking into those eyes, Muzan saw his fate.

Looking into those eyes, Muzan saw death.

I’m sorry, Mara, my love.  It looks like I won’t be coming home after all.

“For what it’s worth…” Venari murmured, his bass voice even raspier with strain as he reached down to pull out his second short sword.  “…I’m sorry.”

The blade left Muzan’s chest, and he knew no more.
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