OoC: Repostin' and hoping you have yours saved. <___<
Sorry for the cheesy title, I like alliteration. :3 Now let's get this puppy started!
Night poured over the world of Medina slowly, like a cool, black molasses, filling in the valleys, and then flowing over the cities, where it wrapped around each light and swirled sluggishly on.
When it came to the farming village of Briarsburg, it rolled out smoothly across the thatched roofs and fields of rye and livestock, bringing sleep to every animal and child's eye. It even, eventually, trickled down onto the small army camp stationed there for the night, dropping particularly heavily on one tired commander.
Ding, dong, ding, dong.
Prince Hunter Merridale opened his eyes. That was the toll of the Choras clocktowers in the distance, he knew. That sound had become so very familiar to him throughout the years...even if he was in the middle of the deepest sleep imaginable, it'd wake him. Strategy meetings at dusk, that was the schedule for a Choras knight in training, whether that knight was royal or not. You were to drop everything you were doing, and hurry down to the meeting room...
He surveyed the camp around him with an eye that had much rather been closed in sleep. It was not, therefore, a really observant eye, but it was enough to notice the sergeant rushing towards him with a report.
"Sir, we have just gotten word of a threat nearby!"
The prince wiped his eyes and sat up, as alert as he could manage. If one of his men approached him this urgently, he always trusted that there was a good reason behind it. "A threat, Collins? What is the nature of this threat? An enemy's troops approaching under cover of night?"
"Nossir! One of the sentries had been told of a prowling beast that comes by nightfall, feeding on livestock and terrorizing villagers. We just brushed it off as mere myth, Sir, the fancies of suspicious housewives and children, but, now..." the soldier's face, underneath his helmet, had been doing its best to maintain a look of professional stoicism, but fright was slowly creeping over it as he said, "...now another sentry has heard a most fearful howl, and..."
"...We've spotted this beast?"
"...Yessir. It appears to be a gray wolf of some kind, Sir, but we believe it's no ordinary creature...some of the men are calling it demonic, Sir. Touched by dark magics. I fear for the safety of the village unless we are to act."
Ah. There it was again...the thing that was causing a slight rift between the prince and his comrades, and this world, even if no one else knew it. This prejudiced view of magic...this idea that it was the cause for everything malicious that couldn't be understood...Hunter was beyond that. His time at the Dome, over now but still sticking with him, had opened his eyes. Magic wasn't evil.
No--sometimes, it was humans that could be evil.
Nevertheless, it was his duty to protect these people. But he'd do it in a way free of this ignorance and hatred towards magic. He'd go out and confront this beast alone if he had to.
"Prepare my horse, Collins, if you would."
Collins blinked. "Sir...?"
Hunter flashed him a reassuring smile, "I'm just going out to have a look, my friend. Worry not."
(OoC: Repost, thanks to hackers... Still Mahalia's first Rp.)
Pulling. Something was pulling on her. Yet, the wolf tried to pull back on whatever held it, its bone toes digging into the ground in vain. To some of the birds nearby, the wolf was pulling itself backwards from the air in front of it, but the undead lupine was losing the battle.
A single step backwards sent Mahalia flying forwards, into a gray vortex that sprang up in front of her.
------ Portal Destination: ???
The ‘cursed child’ of a shapeshifter was thrown to the ground, dirt flew up into a dark cloud, with a couple of sticks following suit. Without her control, the wolf stood up and smelled the air, its wounded body jumping to alert. The trees looked the same as the other forest she was in, but different still. The bushes around the area she somehow fell into had a tint of blue now, the wind was colder than what the teen was used to. What is this place?
This was not where she was before, despite her hazy view through the wolf’s eyes, she saw a dark sky up ahead. The zombie wolf lowered its head and looked around, before a gurgle sounded out. The gurgle did not come from the wolf’s closed mouth, but from inside its ribcage, a white tube extended from an opening near her spine. It’s black eyes were revealed as a cloudy white covering fell back.
It gurgled again, before retracting back into the wolf’s chest. The wind picked up, carrying a scent of people with it, what was left of the shapeshifter’s fur rustled in the breeze. A glint appeared in the black eyes of the creature, and it tucked its torn ears back, then stalked into the bushes nearby.
Another gurgle came out as the undead lupine trotted through the underbrush, as if it was looking for something, before it smelled other creatures here. Thankfully, she was used to that, coming from a clan of shapeshifters. She picked up the scent of wolves, but still was unable to stop her form’s trek into this unknown area.
Mannie, like her master, was exhausted. This meant travel at a slow trot. Sheer obedience and sense of duty (and perhaps the promise of a few sugar cubes later) kept the mare going through the mists of the night, hooves plodding away through the soft curves and declines of moorland.
She stopped at a seemingly random patch of pinkish heather and perked her ears up, listening. Her nostrils flared as she sniffed the cool air.
"Do you smell a wolf, my friend?"
The horse gave a small whinny, her ears twitching about. She shook her head a little, started back at a slow, sleepy gait, her nose trained to the ground. They had traced around the perimeter of the camp now, and gone quite a ways around the village, but had found nothing. And yet every now and again, Mannie would stop and sniff at something in the wind--and Hunter couldn't let that go uninvestigated, as tired as he was. If there was even the slightest hint of something, he had to find the cause...
Mannie's nose led them to a bramble patch this time. She rooted around for a while, gnawing at the vines. There seemed to be something of interest there.
The prince climbed down, hand at the ready on his spear, and took a closer look. There was a little mark there, he thought, that Mannie was finding the smell particularly strong on. And if he squinted in the darkness, he thought he could make out what looked like a pawprint...
The wolf’s ears perked up due to a sound. Was that a horse? Sniffing the air again, Mahalia caught the scent the animal, and another smell. It was human, and something thudded nearby. The undead lupine approached cautiously, before something rustled the bushes in front of her.
The shapeshifter saw a faint glint of metal in the distance and backtracked deeper into the forest. Her bone toes clicked against a couple of rocks as she moved through the undergrowth. She then caught the scent of another wolf, but ignored it. The undead wolf turned back to hear something slowly approach the area near her, twigs faintly cracked under heavy footsteps.
Mahalia’s sight was hazy, most of the surroundings blended into a dark blue and a slight gray, possibly due to fog nearby. Something made the wolf’s ribcage shudder for a moment, before calming down. She backed up behind a worn rock and a thorn bush.
They plodded along, following the footsteps in the damp earth and the smell of wolf, a little like wet dog, that stood out amongst all the scents of flora and soil. Mannie, when determined to finish a task that was standing between her and bedtime, could be more reliable than any bloodhound; she followed the trail through brambles and bushes, through fragrant flowers and oppressive wreaths of fog, until, finally, Hunter spotted the faint silhouette of a beast against a rock...
He hopped off his steed's back, and dug around in his pockets for some of the leftover, salted venison jerky from dinner. He had a few meaty strips left, and with these in hand, he edged closer to the creature by the thorns, balancing on the ends of his feet so as to be ready to relax or retreat at the slightest indication of hostility.
"There, there..." he said in the soothing voice he used with Mannie, once the wolf had met his gaze.
He held out some of the jerky in an offer of peace, waiting patiently to see what the beast would do. It was hard to see the creature fully in the murky darkness of the woods, but it certainly seemed to be a gray wolf as his soldiers had described...
Mahalia could only see a glint of metal and a pale white circle in front of her. Against her control, the wolf stepped forwards, with its head low to the ground. The man’s voice, she guessed, seemed kind but the shapeshifter wasn’t quite sure. The undead lupine resisted her wanting to back up from the man. It ignored the smell of the meat in his hand, as a low gurgle rang out.
She looked up at the man, and raised her head up, exposing the hole on her chest. She saw a ring of white show from where the man’s eyes were. Worm came out through the opening and extended to the left of the wolf’s head. It tilted it’s head to the right, its eyes were perfectly vertical and blinked at the man. The needle-like fanged mouth opened, “Gurgle.” the sound seemed to hint at confusion and curiosity, combined.
The prince was a little taken aback by the white, puffy creature that appeared by the wolf's head, gurgling at him. Its pale color stood out in the darkness, like the unhealthy pallor of a ghost, adding to the already strange feeling he was getting from the wolf itself... Hunter rallied himself quickly though, and placed the jerky in front of the creatures in case they should want it.
"Hello," he said kindly, his voice not much louder than a whisper. If this was the beast his soldiers had been talking about, he was not seeing the behavior of a hostile creature...instead, it seemed more wary and curious than anything else.
He took another piece of jerky from his pocket, tore a strip off, and planted it closer to him, outside of the brambles. If he could get the creature out into the moonlight, maybe he could understand what was going on better...
The wolf ignored the meat again, and circled around the man on his left. Her bone toes clicked against a rock or two. Mahalia was out in the moonlight now, her wolf form looked as if it suffered various injuries, but they were not wounds at all, just how her other form was. Her right ear swiveled and caught a horse’s snort, her vision through her black eyes just showed a variegated brown and tall thing that stood away from her.
The wolf turned it’s head to the brown thing, which she linked as a horse, while Worm popped out of the open hole in the right side of the undead lupine’s ribcage, and kept an eye on the man. She noticed that he had turned with her, but she focused back on the blurry form of a horse, which it moved back, she guessed. Wind picked up and caused the remains of wolf’s fur to follow its direction, from her right.
The beast had come out into the light. It was, as Collins had said, a gray wolf, and... he could see where the idea that it was demonic had come from. The wolf was in horrible condition--bones exposed and gashes and other injuries everywhere--but it was still walking. That alone would make the people here suspect sorcery or deviltry of some kind.
The prince watched as the beast edged closer to Mannie, the horse just neighing and regarding it as one animal to another with cautious interest.
The white puffy creature... now that it was out in the light, seemed to be coming from the wolf, like some sort of maggot lingering around the wounded beast, feeding off whatever it could get. It was a worm, to be specific, and it was watching Hunter closely as he eyed its companion. He couldn't be sure if that look was threatening or just careful... he was still trying to absorb what he was seeing. How was this wolf, who was so clearly hurt, still moving? Still standing, even?
Could this creature... be like Johnny Bones? An undead of some ilk... prowling around without rest, dead to the eye, but still alive somewhere deep down...
Under the beast's damaged jaw, where a patch of skin was missing, Hunter could see a collar. He couldn't see it very well from this distance, but it was there, and that had to mean this wolf had some contact with humans... no other species would feel the need to label or brand an animal in that way. He tried stepping a little closer to the wolf to look at the collar more closely, all the while staying wary of the worm...
The wolf’s left ear twitched, and turned her head to the side, noticing that the man was moving closer to the her. Mahalia wanted to back away form him, but her other form resisted it. The collar on her neck slid down slightly, as Worm decided to retreat back into the undead wolf’s ribcage.
He could be getting close to kill me…! But I can’t move, even if I tried… Why did I have to have a cursed form? The wolf continued to watch the man’s approach, and turned to face him, slightly. Curiosity seemed to keep the wolf still, but it suddenly stepped back.
The man’s voice came out in a kind whisper, “It’s alright. I won’t hurt you.” His words made the wolf stop and sit down. Worm gurgled again, from within the ribcage this time, it sounded like a curious whimper of sorts.
A cow nudged a farmer awake, mistaking him for the bale of hay he was sleeping against in the murky darkness. He had fallen asleep at suppertime, the day's harvest so big that he couldn't pull himself away to go and eat, and the exertion had gotten the better of him, carrying him off to dreamland. Now, it was well past nine, by his reckoning, and no doubt that the wife and children would be worrying. It was time for him to leave the fields and head back towards Briarsburg.
Sometimes, it was said, the nighttime fog played tricks on the sleepy mind. Made you see things that weren't really there, twisted familiar shapes into forbidding ones... as the farmer waded through the stalks of rye, coming up to the small stretch of woods, he thought he saw, beside a man and a horse, some other beast... it had four legs, and...maybe it was just the mist, but what looked like two heads. He'd been hearing stories of some wicked beast prowling around at night, slaughtering livestock and scaring the townspeople--was this it? Was it preparing to attack this hapless man and his horse right now?
There was no time to think. Pulling out his crossbow from the satchel on his back, he slotted a bolt in and let it fly through the fog towards the creature. It was too hard to see where it had gone, but he heard a horse whinnying a few breaths later, and then, retreating hoofbeats. Had he slain the wolf? He couldn't be sure.
He shot more bolts.
Back where he was targeting, Prince Hunter Merridale was trying to convince the wolf to follow him and his horse to safety.
"I know not who is shooting at us, but if you come with me, you will be out of harm's way! Please, follow me!" he pleaded. He couldn't be sure whether this beast was friend or foe, but... there was something different about it, and he certainly wasn't going to let it be killed or injured before he found out what. At the very least, he had a feeling it was not the wolf from the stories, and didn't deserve this sort of treatment. He just hoped it would run along with him.
"Come, into the woods for cover!" he called to it, motioning towards the trees with his hand.
Worm retreated back into the undead wolf after the first bolt flew by it. More came at her, and the wolf evaded them by darting to the left, before seeing the man and the horse head into the trees. Mahalia heard what he said before more bolts came at her.
This is what I worried about the most, being attacked. I have to follow him, even if I don’t know him. A bolt nearly hit her in the head, before more barely graze her back, one nearly strikes Worm. The wolf darts into the bushes and slowly works her way over to the man and the horse. She looked up at him for a minute, wondering what would happen next.
"We have to get away from here. The townspeople and farmers will be frightened if they see you."
The wolf just stared back into Hunter's eyes... he wondered if it comprehended anything he was saying. It had at least known to follow him into the woods... maybe it had some idea of human speech or gestures.
Mannie galloped on, leaping over thorns and bushes. The prince could hear the wolf's breathing behind them... normally the sound of such a beast would be alarming, but at the moment, he was glad to hear it. The creature seemed to trust him enough to follow him this far. And by now, they had lost the farmer and anyone he might have brought back with him.
Hunter slowed Mannie down to an easy trot, brushing aside a few branches in their path as he tried to relax and compose himself again.
"Come," he said calmly, looking back at the wolf, "there's a stream not much farther from here."
Mahalia looked at him and the horse, and just continued to slightly trot along with them. At least it’ll give us a chance to rest… Where am I anyway? As they walked on, the fog became thicker, as the trickling of water sounded nearby. The sound seemed to echo in the fog, or at least that’s how the wolf heard it, looking left and right as she continued to follow the man and the horse.
The forest gave way to a dirt lined stream, she could barely see the glinting of moonlight on the water, which seemed to destroy most of the fog that lingered on the water. She heard something thud to the ground, and looked to see the man hop off the horse, before he turned his head towards the undead wolf. Mahalia couldn’t see it due to her blurred vision, but he grinned at her, before walking over to the water’s edge.
Hunter filled his cupped hands with cool, clear water, and took a long drink. There was much light here, under the wreaths of fog, so close to the ground... the moonlight was dancing across the stream's surface, like a water-skeeter of silver. There was other colors too, in the light... they made vague shapes like diamonds of blue and green. Something about them seemed strange, but then again, the nighttime woods would do odd things to your eyes sometimes...
The prince thought he heard a low murmuring somewhere, turned around and could see the wolf's ears pricking up, as if she heard it too. It was hurried, and sounded as if it was in a different language... the voice was certainly human though, and not too far off.
A sparkle in the corner of Hunter's vision made him glance back towards the diamond-shapes in the stream. They were gleaming brightly now, rising a little from the ground to spin like a line of starlight that was in orbit.
They were magical circles--hexagons, he realized then. He had no time to wonder if it was a witch or wizard, friend or foe, before the wolf and he were caught in the light, a tingling sensation running through their bodies. The man had no clue what this spell was going to do to either of them, but... he desperately hoped it'd do them no harm.
The light around the wolf held it still, but Mahalia could feel something odd happening. Before she had a moment to think about what it was, her vision went black. The wolf’s body was entirely obscured in a red glow, blocking whatever changes took place. The glow expanded a bit, before slowly vanishing.
The cursed shapeshifter came into view, kneeling on the ground, still unable to move. Her dark gray hair hung down in front of her face, while the rest was pulled into two ponytails which fell forwards, and formed a V on her pale white neck. Her hair ended in a curved line of blood red at the tips, while her ponytails ended like a fox’s white tip on its tail, except hers was blood red.
Her white, long sleeved shirt hid much of her red fabric pants, minus a couple of gray leather Xs running down the sides, while the teen’s pale fingers barely poked out of the scalloped edges on her sleeves. Mahalia shuddered, not knowing what would happen next, and unable to see if that man was with her or not.
It was a strange feeling--it ran through you in a way that couldn't be explained, like music, and made you want to move. But rather than dance, or sing, you felt you needed to shudder. It could make you hot and cold all at once--and tingly, or numb. Opposite sensations all thrown together in one place--that was magic.
This spell that had been cast on Hunter and the wolf was the full experience. It needed chanting, and magic circles--and charms too, the prince could hear now as the person who had cast it moved about. It was having some strange effect on the beast... when the lights finally faded, and the magic subsided, there was no longer a wolf there, but a girl...
Hunter felt no different aside from the uneasy feeling that someone had trickled cold water down his back--a sort of after-effect of the spell, he thought--and the curiosity that now gripped him as he realized that he was correct about his wolf friend. She was different. He just hoped she wouldn't be afraid...
When the magic circle finally disappeared altogether, the wizard who'd cast the spell rushed out from some bushes, a staff decorated in silver rings jangling as he ran. He stood for some time, staring at Mahalia, before either of the two noticed him.
"Is...is the lady a werewolf?" he stammered, his face a frozen look of wide-eyed shock.
"I... do not know," Hunter replied, his voice betraying nothing but calmness.
"D-did my spell work then?" the wizard gasped, clutching his staff excitedly to his chest.
The prince gave him a polite but confused smile.
"N-nothing I try ever works, b-but, methinks I have finally succeeded! I wished to catch an animal and see if I might turn it into a lady, and at long last, something has gone right!"
"I...I see. Well, then... I am very glad for you, Sir Wizard. This is no doubt a very impressive feat of magic, for which you have every right to be proud. But, ah... could you excuse me a moment? I'd like a chance to talk to the lady, if you wouldn't mind..."
"The wolf?" the wizard blinked, "I don't see how she could use language when I just changed her, but... don't let me deny you, Sir."
Picking up his long green robes with the haughty air of an expert performer who's just done an amazing trick, the lanky mage walked back towards the bushes, leaving Mahalia and Hunter alone again.
Mahalia’s vision came back slowly, but her hearing was still working, she turned her head slightly to the right. Catching the sight of a person coming towards her, the cursed shapeshifter stood up quickly and stepped back, her head still hung low as she backed away from the two people in the area. A small whimper escaped her lips as she exhaled slightly.
The man in armor stopped his approach, while the cloth wearing one just stood back, observing. “Are you alright, miss,” the armor man asked with a slight grin on his face. His tone seemed to be caring, yet worried like a parent would be to a child.
“….Yes…” Her voice was just above a whisper, but carried her fear and worry clearly. The cursed shapeshifter stepped back even more, her steps seemed shaky. The other man, who held a stick with metal rings on it just continued to watch her, almost gawking now. The armored man looked confused for a second, before nodding to her, still smiling.
He spoke again, using the same tone, “That’s good… What is your name, miss?”
The teen focused on him entirely now, and stopped backing away, “My… name’s… Mahalia…” A sudden jingle caused her head to quickly look in that direction, her collar had shifted slightly when she moved, the stick the other man held was the source of the sound.
“S-She talks… but-but h-how…? She’s just… a wolf,” the cloth wearing man seemed to be startled by something, and his face paled slightly.
The man that she had followed turned to him, before looking back at the cursed shapeshifter, “She’s not just a wolf, Sir…”
She suddenly spoke up, not really intending to, “I’m… not a wolf… I’m a-” Mahalia stopped herself, now with her face trapped in a look of worry and fear, Can I really tell them…? I’m not even that, according to my clan,… I’m a child… Should I, tell them…?
“You’re a what, Miss Mahalia? You don’t have to be frightened, no one here would want to hurt you,” the armored man grinned again.
“I’m a… shapeshifter…” is all she said, her voice actually rose from the near whisper that she used earlier.
The gawky wizard blinked twice, and turned his head shakily towards Hunter, as if to reassure himself that he was not the only one who'd heard what the girl had said.
"W-would you be so kind as t-to pinch me, sir?" he stammered, wringing the hem of his robe with his thin hands, "because I think that I may be having some sort of s-strange dream..."
The lump of an Adam's apple that was as prominent on his neck as a mouse skittering up a pantleg bobbed up and down as he swallowed nervously and glanced at Mahalia once again. He had thought his spell had turned some wild wolf into a girl... but now, if the absurd thing she had said was taken as truth, didn't that mean that he'd just failed again...?
Merlin the wizard didn't want to confront this possibility. His once confident posture shrunk back down to a dejected slouch under his tall hat, and he stayed quiet and jittery as Hunter took his usual competent grasp of the situation.
"A shapeshifter, you say?" the prince said to the girl, a curious yet friendly smile on his kind face.
She just nodded, a shade timidly.
The reassuring smile stayed on the man's face. "That explains many questions I'd held then, milady, but now... new ones arise. Have you... any idea of how you reached this place?" he asked, choosing his words with care. He didn't dare tell her at that moment that she was most likely in an entirely different world than her home one, for fear of worrying her anymore than she might have already been.
“I… was pulled here… somehow…” Mahalia replied meekly, remembering what happened, or at least what she felt, since her vision was bad then. She looked at the person with the stick nearby, before the armored man spoke.
“You were pulled here? That’s odd…”
Nodding, she looked back at the cloth covered man, who was hunched over looking upset. “Um… sir, you… helped me to turn back… since I’ve… been trying…and nothing happened…”
He looked in her direction slightly, before raising his head a bit. “R-really…?”
The shapeshifter nodded, but still stayed away from the two men.