Bearclaw Valley those lions are coming, oh they're coming.
in time you'll taste all the salt in my lungs
2,028 Posts
Ooc — lauren
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#1

when the siren finally made it to bearclaw the last of her health seemed to have faded away. her form was gaunt, her eyes a delirious sheen of silvery venom, and her movements rocking and spasmodic.

she felt like shit. her head burned as if her brain had been replaced with molten lava -- crackling with such disarray that caiaphas, for the longest time, stood before a stone that marked the valley's entrance and pressed her head against the stone's snowcovered surface.

as if to soothe the wildfire-hurt that roared like a furnace between her ears.

every noise hurt, every movement came with a scream of protest. and move she could not do, not easily -- it was as if somewhere a synapse misfired and failed to carry the message from her brain to her body. all she could do was watch helplessly as her body received the garbled transmission and did something different; until it seemed as if she was the captor of her own flesh, and left to watch in a rotted prison room thousands of leagues away.

she felt her body list again, and with a groan slipped against the stone. the snow was cold -- and she was aware of a rueful thirst somewhere in her aching throat. her mind scrambled, screaming to rise -- but it all seemed like far too much effort.. no, if she could just close her eyes a moment, just rest against this cool stone -- and sleep..
this house was my flowered heart,
but my petals have fallen.
i'm going to bring it all back to you
849 Posts
Ooc — Lauren
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#2
astara had hoped when the crone had departed weeks prior, that it would be the last they had seen of her. she knew this hope to be vain, but still, she could not help but fan its little tendrils with occasional fire, laboring over the many ends she dreamed the crone might face.

she was bitterly disappointed then, when she returned to their claim and saw a gaunt figure resting against the stone that marked the valley's entrance. this form, cloaked in freshly fallen snow, looked more like a skeleton than any living thing astara had ever seen. she was instantly repulsed by it, and hackles along her back rose instinctively in serrated blades.

the thing looked so wretched, so sick, that astara was tempted then to end her.. yet a scent, forbidding and most alarming, seemed to coil out malignantly from the siren's hide. it was that scent alone, that kept astara's willing teeth at bay.

she sat down, a dark ghoul among the gently rippling snow. unknown to both of them, this terse reception was not so different from a different, faded chapter of merrick's mother's life -- a small irony that would have caused astara to smile wickedly, if she was so aware.

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in time you'll taste all the salt in my lungs
2,028 Posts
Ooc — lauren
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#3
caiaphas did not hear the soft tread of astara, nor did she stir when the girl settled nearby. she did not feel the burning of her hateful stare, nor did she feel the cold as it seeped through her fur and lit her nerves on fire.

she slept the sleep of the damned, fitful and deplete of any meaningful rest. her mind wandered a harrowing landscape of the inane and the arcane; blackened towers rose and fell in her vision as her dreams spun wildly into the nether; fields of poppy red passed by her mind's eye as a shadow in the distance grew longer and longer until at last its touch reached her feet and she awoke with a start.

disoriented;

her eyes fixed blearily on the dark shape, which took time coming into view. merrick's companion. caiaphas' lips pulled back yet no snarl issued. her throat was triggerless, heavy. how had she gotten so sick, so sick? a madness had set over her, a final madness she could not outrun..

not this time.
this house was my flowered heart,
but my petals have fallen.
this is my book
and i know how to work the spells and charms in it
i know them all
1,618 Posts
Ooc — ebony
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#4
merrick had been dragged aside by the bear spirit in a current of ripples. he had even spent long swathes of tme without astara at his side, preferring solitude in which he might converse with the bit of ursine in his soul. presumably she was angry, for everything she did not understand seemed to anger astara.
merrick was so prideful indeed, to comprehend that he had never seen the way she communed with others, the dance of it; he had only ever seen astara filled with protective fury over those demons he had brought on himself.
her ire was righteous, but merrick, compelled by arrogance, saw only how she had wrapped her jealousy around him.
but never once did the boy question the loyalty of his shadow, never once did he query her love for he or his for she. 
and this swelled in his breast when at last he broke his hypnosis to wend in search of her, and found her, the grim of the valley, guarding with solemn pleasure a broken old woman for whom his heart swelled and broke.
"mommy," merrick mumbled low in his throat, choking off the boyish voice as eyes burst with tears and he ran down to stand above her gnarled frame. she had aged so in the time he had seen her; the dogs-reek of death poured from her pores, but merrick did not stop in his embrace, nor his low moans of agony to see caiaphas brought so low.
 
in time you'll taste all the salt in my lungs
2,028 Posts
Ooc — lauren
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#5
time interminable seemed to pass. caiaphas slept. the shadow besides her never moved from her vigil.

she was awoken by touch — instinctively she made to recoil, yet her body was not hers to command. not anymore. her movements were shaky, her rheumy eyes unfocused — merrick at last came into view in twos. his figures merged in the manner of disturbed water, rippling together like a merged pool.

a groan pressed from her burning throat; she had so much to say, so much to do — and she knew she would never complete her life’s goals. she was dying — it seemed a reality she was unable to accept. how could she have reached the end of her mortal rope? she was caiaphas, the siren that mocked death — and here death had come, to collect his grim token.

it took most of her remaining strength to concentrate long enough to speak; the fever that ransacked her body stole much of her mind, too — soon, there would be nothing left in that brainbox save visceral soup. don’t— she tried to keep from the boy, a bitter laugh pressing her throat that ended closer to a needling wheeze. i have the loner’s fit.. caiaphas had heard of this disorder, once or twice in her life — and she knew the terrifying transformation in store for her. she knew to be near another was to risk them; somehow, that seemed important. she fixed her exhausted gaze on the boy, ignoring his counterpart for the time being.

i will die. her voice seemed implacably tired, and the dullness in her gaze communicated she had accepted this hostile truth. you— don’t let me close, when i go. and.. she sucked in a wheedling breath, as if the last of her strength hinged on what she would say next — and maybe it did.. caiaphas had always been driven by vengeance, even now, on the cusp of death. kill — her eyes danced, her head suddenly rocked to the stone as the muscles in her neck gave out. —them.
this house was my flowered heart,
but my petals have fallen.
this is my book
and i know how to work the spells and charms in it
i know them all
1,618 Posts
Ooc — ebony
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#6
the bear spirit whispered, but merrick did not hear. his anguished stare subsumed every detail of caiaphas' failing body, every stilted movement, the rasp of her words.
she drew from him, and for a moment the boy was angered, his grief frothing to crush him anew. but she was correct; she had never been wrong in the short time that he had known the seawitch.
ever reluctant, the young wolf untangled himself from her stiff thin limbs but could not bring himself to back away; he crouched near in a tearstained hunch.
death to those who had brought them both so low, but it was the spectre of darkness that hovered with consuming desire near the old woman's wasting frame.
was he doomed to have all he loved leave him in some way? merrick swallowed, a sob twisting his handsome features. "i will," he whispered hoarsely in answer to caiaphas' proclamation, lowering himself to the frozen earth as she could not now rise from it.
i will die; oh, how he rebelled against it! but was she not truthful even to the very end? was she not aware of this demise's nature, even as she sought to save him from it?
love, rising fierce to course the fields of his heart — and now he looked desperately for some way to save the crone from the true end that was now coming to claim her, wherein she would be warped and die without an inkling of her true self.
"would you like me to kill you now?" merrick uttered in a shuddering breath, single eye roving caiaphas' wizened countenance for any sign that she would accept.
in time you'll taste all the salt in my lungs
2,028 Posts
Ooc — lauren
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#7
as far gone as she was, she was not so faded to miss the brief glimpse of anger in merrick’s gaze; the way his tears slid from a hardened eye. he would live on — perhaps, in a twisted way, merrick would be her legacy.

she had accepted the bitter truth, yet seeing another wolf grasp with reality’s unyielding permanence was worse — she had been accepting, fine even, up until that moment.

resting against that cold slab of stone, caiaphas’ milky gaze settled upon the hunched form of her mercy-killer. a weak smile pressed her lips — how befitting, to have her end be so far from her home.

the sound. she was sick — so unfixably sick — yet homesickness lurched in her heart as she thought of the battered shore. hers. ending it all here seemed tempting — gods, she was so tired.. she was ready to slide from this failing body, to free herself from the constructing heat of her fevered mind... but there was one last thing —

no, the smile faded, her eyes growing distant. so bound was she by her own tirelessly warped sense of revenge, that she could not consider dying before blood was exacted in her name. she hoped, when she turned, that her crazed body would take her to easthollow. fuck them — they deserved to suffer as she was suffering. in a way, wasn’t this all their fault, anyway?

even now, the hate that rose to her heart was full of indomitable fury.

do not stop me.
this house was my flowered heart,
but my petals have fallen.
this is my book
and i know how to work the spells and charms in it
i know them all
1,618 Posts
Ooc — ebony
Master Warrior
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#8
it seemed he was killing everyone who saw fit to see past his lamp-gaze to the serpent, and who accepted his inner coiling as they might the moon or the rain or yes, even death.
basilisk — salt dripped once, twice, from his chin onto caiaphas' matted fur. and yet he could not touch her; yet he nodded at her wish to be let alone, at the old iré rising witchcraft and eldritch within her.
he did not know if he could even have carried out his offer; he had briefly considered dragging the woman off to drown her, but as she lay with head pillowed upon stone, merrick understood he could not do it.
for the first time, the prospect of death at his hand was undesirable, and all culminated in the dread that he could no longer control what happened to caiaphas now.
"isn't there anything i can do?" merrick begged, perhaps selfishly; he dared dip his crown to nudge the edge of one crusted paw, wallowing in the snow alongside her as he agonized over ways to refuse her relinquishment. 
his one eye shuttered now as the smile dipped from her lips and she went off to some place in her mind he could not follow, if only for a moment; filled with anger and grief and the simpering of a small boy, merrick fought valiantly to keep the sounds out of his throat and thus out of her ears.
he could not stop caiaphas from leaving, but the boy refused to accept that he would be bereft once more.
"did i ever tell you," he whispered, crazed, desperate, biting back another choking sob, "that you saw more of me than my own mother ever did." 
in time you'll taste all the salt in my lungs
2,028 Posts
Ooc — lauren
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#9
she was too tired to hold on much longer. it had taken a supreme amount of concentration -- an exhausting amount -- to be somewhat coherent. her tongue labored, and her throat burned -- meanwhile, flames licked at the edge of the siren's vision.

thank god for that ice-cold stone; caiaphas pressed her agonized head to it, unfeeling of the tears that fell from merrick's brow. she knew what was not spoken -- she would die, but he would continue on, holding the memory of her like a fire hidden in his heart.

if that was the way of the world, so be it.

her eyes closed in response: no. there was nothing he could do but stand and watch -- and god willing, maybe point her furious husk in the direction of easthollow. her vengeance would be his burden to bear. in that regard it was more curse than heirloom, but if anything was true of this world, it was that merrick was wickedly capable of carrying out wishes on her behalf.

an admittance fluttered in her ears, prompting one of her closed eyes to open slowly, blearily. that smile cracked -- painful, and short -- but so sweet. "good." the siren managed, her voice but a whisper on the rising winds.
this house was my flowered heart,
but my petals have fallen.
this is my book
and i know how to work the spells and charms in it
i know them all
1,618 Posts
Ooc — ebony
Master Warrior
Master Missionary
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#10
no.
no no no no no no,
and the bear spirit was muttering again, chunnering that merrick must not allow her to leave must consume her flesh must shed her blood shut up shut up shut up shut UP SHUT UP
she was withering transforming dying fading dissolving before his eyes he was panicking clinging weeping choking sobbing crying crying crying oh
caiaphas his jaws formed but 
"mama," came instead.
and surely she was wilting breathless swift and savage beneath the weight of his misplaced hope and the title he had never been able to give to anyone in his life.
that was how he would remember her; merrick swiped furiously at his dripping nose with a paw as he watched the woman winnowing into chaff, while he himself could do nothing to stop it.
i love you
"i'll make sure they know your name before they die," the boy promised, for that was love between he and the old woman, how it had always been.
and it would be her epitaph, if merrick had his way.
in time you'll taste all the salt in my lungs
2,028 Posts
Ooc — lauren
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#11
mama. a network of synapses sparked, awoken memories swirling like the receding face of unknowable galaxies. caiaphas' eyes flickered, registering that double syllable with the scarcest of movements.

for all of her holding these thoughts close, they faded -- like the vivid imagery of a dream, or water rushing between her clutched paws. merrick stood alongside her, but he was soon among the faceless many -- his tears gone to waste along the arctic snow.

caiaphas said no more. her energies had been spent in entirety. now came the total eclipsing of the soul -- the surrendering transcendence of herself to death.

when caiaphas rose again, it would not be her that walked this earth, but a shell. a planeswalker, here in body -- but the spirit had fled long ago.
this house was my flowered heart,
but my petals have fallen.
this is my book
and i know how to work the spells and charms in it
i know them all
1,618 Posts
Ooc — ebony
Master Warrior
Master Missionary
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#12
in her last moments, caiaphas saw him again. and merrick finally broke, dam shattering; he sobbed with sundered heart to see her go, pouring out the last vestiges of his living soul into the mud alongside her slight frame.
when she woke the woman would be gone;
her spirit has left her flesh, spake the bear, and the boy's weeping left him in small hurried shakings of his shoulders, little shudders as the eruption of his sorrow began to die beneath the earth of him.
caiaphas was gone, but she had not chosen to leave, and merrick comforted himself with this as his single eye rove tearful and solemn toward her quiet face.
indra had chosen to leave. nunataq had chosen to leave. perhaps tadec had done the same, but caiaphas had not.
mama was no more in the gnarled body that lay alongside him.
merrick rose. a single rivulet of salt had cut a dark sodden path through the fur of one cheek, but the boy swallowed his sobs and smiled once, tremulously, at the withered she-wolf who had shown him for a moment the only love he had ever wished for indra.
the glow of it died with her.
understanding that when she woke again it would not be caiaphas at all, merrick sighed heavily and stumbled unseeing away from the rawboned crumpled frame, heart weighed but knowing that for the first time he had not been knowingly abandoned.
each step a betrayal; twice he almost ran back to her. but he forced himself along, away away away away, until he came to stand alongside his glowering raven.
he faced away, distantly, pausing only a moment to convey he would depart now, before the ground began to course beneath merrick in a headlong run. 
i'm going to bring it all back to you
849 Posts
Ooc — Lauren
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#13
astara wished dearly the woman would accept merrick's offer, and rid them of her once and for all. it was a tremendous mercy, one she did not believe the hag deserved. the crone declined, much to astara's dismay. her gaze flitted ruefully from the crone to her lover, never once losing their sharpness.

soon, the woman would no longer be with them. astara had no divine understandings of the rot that coiled within caiaphas' body, nor how consuming that fire would burn -- but she understood this: caiaphas was good as dead. a deep part of her, basal and instinctive, was terrified of what that bag of putrid hate and taut skin would become, come dawn. another part of her, the far bigger part, was gleeful to witness so horrific a transformation.

tomorrow, merrick would be hers' again. no competitors. no sharing. not even poison could have done the trick so sweetly - though astara thought whatever disease it was caiaphas possessed it must be potent indeed to undo her so cruelly. so messily.

and so without dignity.


she smiled wickedly to herself, the expression gone by the time merrick turned his tear-crossed gaze to her. now, she simply pressed her shoulder to merrick softly, as if consoling him for his loss. as if to say there there, it will all be okay -- while she played a wicked dance behind the scenes.

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