"Yin. Graham Douglas. Tamzen Silentflight. Alssssei Cogsssspeaker."
The chorus of voices rolled out from the hooded Kenku, a perfect copy of each being reflected back to their speakers. He shifted, flowing like a rolling cloud of fog in his shadowy form towards the Altar- and towards Yin. She would be permitted, indirectly, to see into his hood and to see the abominable visage that he possesses as he quietly contemplates the Altar. Oh, how his mind failed him! A lifetime of a body that creaked and groaned only to lose his mind as a spirit! It set nerves- Nerves that shouldn't function, he has no glands or organs for them to connect to after all- on edge. At the alrert of Danger, the Kenku's feathers flattened out and smoothed down. This simple thing resulted in Whisper losing most of his volume and his robes shifting as if something beneath them were alive as his stature was reduced to that of a gaunt frame beneath the black of his attire. Truly, in life, he must have been miserable.
Whirling the scythe slowly in his hands, his beak parted;
"You don't look like the monsters in these lands." He echoed back to Yin, shadows flowing down his arms and along the scythe. These shadows formed into a larger cloud that Whisper suddenly turned and slashed the Scythe through; the cloud erupting around Yin and melding her into the shadows as well.
[Action: Spell Slot expended to Cast Invisibility upon Yin].
"Find a place to hide, kill it, fullfill your duty as Guardian!." he declared to the group.
Whisper's scythe stilled in the air, trembling as the magic flowed off him and over Yin. The beak parted one final time, whispering to Yin in a strange kaleidoscope of voices;
"Somethin' dangerous is 'eaded this way, we are not safe here I fear we might not have much time. My name issss... Whisper."
the final voice was once again that wondrously pleasant female voice he couldn't quite recall.
Set on edge by the mounting embarassment the boy felt, the uncomfortable discussion over the radio, and finally by Hanako's callous interpretations of the circumstances, Elias engaged vigorously in the task of chewing his lip. This would not do, however, to placate the hormonal emotion surge this entire series of events has brought upon him. Suddenly possessed of an animation whose energy is only tarnished by the exaggerated movements his lanky form must take to perform them, Elias vigorously shuffled his tarot deck then slid it back into its case and into his pockets once more.
"You get what you put into the world." He said rigidly, perhaps through briefly clenched teeth. He lifts a hand and massages his jaw through the scarf, before shaking his head slowly. "You guys wouldn't get it." He sighs. "But if all you expect to find is a dead body, it's all you'll be looking for. I don't care what you guys think, I'm holding out hope and putting out the energy and effort that he's alive out there and needs help. If you're going to ruin that energy and hope, then do it in your own heads. Saying it out loud doesn't help anything, anyone, let alone us and our search. Let's get a move on."
Elias' frustrated movements carried him like a ragdoll on strings over to Jake where he angrily, though still politely respecting the man's personal space, leaned over to look at the map.
"Caves. Sure, a few within a reasonable distance- but no major ones in the immediate vicinity. I've been to most of the ones you'd see on the state or regional maps, and tried to stay out of any of the small ones in the area just on principle. We won't find anyone talking about where we have and haven't searched; let's just search."
And soon he was trudging ahead, spurred on by myriad emotional misunderstandings and complicated feelings about the situation. The Teenage Dilemma, as it were.
Embarassment. It burns on his cheeks high and pink. A scaldingly hot shower might have the same effect on one's skin as Hattie's rebuttals and Miriam's more professional attention combined. The boy rubs the back of his head and permits an awkward silence to overcome him as he listens in to the older people chatter. After some time, he seems to relax and lets out a breath.
"Sure, miss Holdstead." He said after the conversation had moved on and the crew began to shuffle towards their various vehicles "Though I think you'd technically need to ask my parents permission for anything legally permissible."
He let silence wash over him again as he moved at a slow pace, trailing behind the group of adults. His phone had been buzzing constantly ever since he left his house- Zoey, bugging him for details about Charles Christian no doubt- and even now he fidgeted as it buzzed in his pocket once more. Clicking his tongue beneath his scarf he swatted at his leg in an innocuous manner, attempting to properly silence the device in futility-
Only to stumble mid-step as the query from Hanako. His eyes widen briefly; such an odd question.
"Well, historically speaking, guns have equalized all issues. I wouldn't personally put stock into it making a difference with something like a Roc or Bi-Bon, but a high velocity impact wound would slow down anything physical even if it had some kind of supernatural resistance. Besides, that's what Salt, Iron, Silver, and the protective wards are for; I have complete faith in the Goddess." His words came accompanied by another grasp of the necklace his wore, his thumb rubbing over its well-worn surface in the telltale sign of a longstanding habit. His eyes shift subtly as Hanako's final statement hits him, and he sighs softly.
"Yeah. Let's get going after Chuck. Anything beats walking." Was all he seemed to muster as people discussed the tranportation options. Idle hands seeking refuge from fidgeting mannerisms stuff themselves into his pockets; mitten'd fingers feeling through the salt and iron shavings in one pocket, the other gripping the tarot deck he always kept within reach. Feeling the familiarity of the cards in his hand seemed to calm him and bring him back to focus. He pulled out the deck, and despite the mittens on his hands he quite deftly shuffled the cards as remnants of salt fell from his woolen hands. He shut his eyes briefly, whispering quiet words to himself.
Find Chuck, is taking a car a good idea? Group too large, need to reach the reservation, danger afoot.
Chariot VII. Multiple meanings, a blend of purposes. Seven is itself a magic number, rife with representation and meaning in the natural world and supernatural purposes. Within the Tarot it emphasizes creativity and indivuality. His eyes narrow a bit at the card, digesting this. The Chariot, whilst upright, shows control, determination, and success. The crescent moons present on his particular brand of the deck also represent something coming into being; a spiritual transformation. The array of stars also shows a connection to divinity; Divine Will, as it were.
He thumbed over the card before sliding it back into his deck.
"On second thought, I think we should just walk it out. Chuck probably didn't go missing in a car; we'd have found signs of that or someone would've seen something by now. Zoey and I can't leave town without a dozen people calling our parents, so yeah. Taking the roads would just make us miss any clues we might come across- and besides, we can't all fit in one car and splitting up would defeat the point of being in the group. Let's go by foot. I've got a feeling it's the best choice we have."
Individuality, Action, Determination. He let Magic take root; half of magic working was believing in it after all, and the card had said these things would lead to Victory.
Boats. It had to be boats. No, not a jaunty march through the mountains, nor was it a stroll through the daisies- it was boats. Frelayne looked skyward and permitted herself the briefest of prayers as she gazed sunward. Not a soul could call Frelayne Ildered a coward, and neither could they call her a fool... So long as she was on dry land. Horseback? Dignified. A party? Downright civilized. A stroll through a flower meadow? Positively charming. On a boat? Newborn deer caught in headlights and struggling to keep down last night's dinner.
Oh yes, on this venture she would need all her wits and training at hand. It would not do to make such a poor impression after the incident in Training*. To her credit, when Frelayne stepped upon the boat it was in a gallant stride and with a straight back, a stiff brow, and a damn fine impression of someone whom she imagined to be grizzled. Or, perhaps, seasoned. In short, she looked far too serious and far too clean. Luckily for everyone else, there would be little time for her strange antics upon the trip.
Most of it she'd spend leaning over the side of the vessel retching up whatever meager meals she could manage to stomach, or staggering about the surface of the ship in an effort to continue her duties. If it weren't for the occasional burn of Magicka for telekinetic assistance and her unwavering sense of pride to accomplish her tasks she'd have been a downright detrimental travel companion for the squad on this stretch of the journey. Her days spent shivering and sick. Her nights spent frantically cleaning and scrubbing at her robes as she could find the time. Her meals quiet, trembling hands guiding morsels to forcefully parted teeth. The only solace she had on this trip was the brief glimpses she managed of the statues along the Karth River.
By then she'd began to steady her footing and had finally learned that, yes, it was going to be this cold in Skyrim. And yes, it did indeed get colder.
Ysgramor- Talos- Gormlaith- The Dovahkiin! It was enough to fill anyone with a patriotic fervor. So much so that Frelayne seemingly forgot she was supposed to be seasick and, perhaps, she even managed to walk along the deck without swaying for a time. It was a frequent relayed order to Frelayne to stop 'gawking' and to pay attention, there were scouts afoot. After a mere moment of incensed and quiet, withering, anger Frelayne's inferno of patriotic pride was cooled and the training she'd been instilled with was reasserted as the dominant force in her mind. Soon she was recaptured by incessant illness- but at least she was alert and watching the far shores. Something she could do well; gazing at the stillness of the shores seemed to calm her somewhat, and the rest of the trip was spent under the austere and watchful eye of a now stationary Frelayne.
It wasn't until the boats docked that people began to remember why Frelayne was even along. One of the few members of the legion with a presentable uniform after a long journey at sea-river-ice flow-Hell, she made quite the striking figure. Thick hair brushed well and bundled into a tight, serious bun; uniform somehow clean and unsoiled by wrinkles or sogginess, the white and black standing out in a very contrasting manner on her preciously maintained attire as opposed to the fading or mixing greys of the rest of the legion; staff in hand, reminding all that she, in fact, is a mage.
And a damn good one at that, she liked to think. Modestly, of course.
She exerted herself mildly to make short order of her squad's debarkation process- an affair rendered easy by the burning scent of Magicka emanating off the woman and accompanied by the sight of telekinetically maneuvered crates- so that they could free themselves of work and enjoy a little more free time before the marching began. Now that was something Frelayne was good at; marching. Equal parts transport and parade, the tall woman's features and personage appeared at times as if it was bred for a sort of marching. Just not military marching. She could keep pace easy enough- the training had seen to that, after all- but it was clear from her shifting expressions that every muddy step or imprecise splatter from a nearby comrade was steadily working up her frustrations.
Seeing the Legate assuaged the rising temper of the woman; high ranking authority was something that always had this effect on her. Privately a need to compete, to posture and position and challenge, always arose; openly, a deference, reverence, a catering whimsy and delicate personage always rose to the top. She had no interest in challenging the Legate, no interest in testing his mettle or sampling his personality, but those inclinations were always there. The noble-bred and tutor-instilled need to maneuver and court and intrigue.
They'd almost been buried over the years. The hard days of travel on the road, the dangers afoot, the required violence at times, the sweat and callouses accrued- all of it had formed a hard shell over the noble upbringing and mixed with it to form the modern woman of Frelayne... However there were times and places that the shell broke and she couldn't help but hint at the higher station she came from. Seeing the Legate, regally portrayed in the splendor of Ysgramor, was one such moment. If she'd had a harp, she'd positively have strummed it. Perhaps even peeled a few grapes. Thankfully, with neither at hand, the demure woman had but a brief moment of a soft smile and a delicate swoon before she regained herself and returned to proper marching order.
By the time she'd regained her thoughts, she found herself in the midst of a scattering and scrambling crowd of soldiers attempting to escape into the city before the Legate could-
Ah, yes. There we are, she thought to herself. The order to Stand. That was something Frelayne did exceptionally well; standing at attention. The way she stood very much so made her seem as if she was someone used to being in someone's attention. A natural charisma flowing through features and body language even as turmoil of scattering comrades faded around her. In a strange way, bereft of magic, Frelayne was like a bastion of properness in this chaos- it certainly helped that she was taller than most others around her. The Legate's begrudging permission, brought about in her eyes at realizing he was too late to stop the exodus, gave him a rugged sort of authority to Frelayne's eyes. Crack the whip, but let the horses guide themselves. She could see the merits to the style. Nobody wanted a daft horse after all, and this would be a simple way to weed out the chaff before the seriousness of their circumstances could force the subject in a critical manner.
Frelayne's height was not the only bastion of purpose in the chaos, however; soon Dallio made an effort to address the squad directly, and the woman once more stopped to appraise the company she was in in her own quiet way. She was by no means a rude or unsociable person, but there seemed to be distinct quirks in how she spoke and dealt with others for sure- things she'd claimed came as part of upbringing in the higher echelons of Glenumbra Society as a Hairdresser. She even offered to give people haircuts, though so far none had taken her up on the gambit. The first to speak up was the Dunmer- she could not recall his name immediately, he was a quiet one who she felt was paying more attention to everyone else than they were to him- and, indeed, his question was a most prudent one!
But her attention was swiftly stolen from the Dunmer. Sejanus earned a fleeting glare from the woman- crass language was second only to unnecessary mess in her wrath, and outright rudeness was a swift way to get on her bad side. Choices flowed through her mind, and just as she resolved herself to let it pass for now and to remember this situation for the future Sergeant Dallio's demeanor portrayed much of the same. And then there was Injald.
Once more that bold smile, her features shifting unbidden to something a little softer in the face of such high station and authority. The training kicked in, her posture shifting as she struck a powerful salute. Her eyes flickered to follow his indicating hand- if that giant slab of a thing could be likened to what the rest of us mere mortals have called hands, she thought to herself- and she folded her arms behind her back. Edward Gonard and Tylmaesa. Interesting. Part of her wanted to step forth and demand inclusion in whatever special attention they were receiving- but the practical part of her mind managed to wrangle that in and put it back to sleep. Gonard was a good sort, Breton stock, and proper upbringing. He'd represent the squad well enough- and Tylmaesa was almost a mythological creature to Frelayne. Every so often she had to make sure that the towering auxiliary wasn't a dream she'd concocted. She relaxed as the Legate made his exit.
But finally the chaos was calming, and she offered Dallio a sympathetic smile as her features returned to normal. It could be hard maintaining your own authority when your superior was so stifling, hard to read, and seemingly valued haste and results over the direct chain of command. In an effort to maintain the required respect and hierarchy of the squad, Frelayne offered a partial, but respectful, bow to Dallio as she stepped forward.
"This is most kind of you, Sergeant. It is a debt then, to be repaid when next we receive our wage as well as with duty upon the march." Her words flowed with an elegance as she shifted the staff in her hands, an idle twirling of the object accompanying her flowery language. "I certainly know whose name I will be toasting tonight, and to whom the blame for my hangover will go come the morn."
She laughed. It was a strong laugh, but also faintly musical.
Frelayne thrashed. Kicked. Clawed. Her struggle was explosive in its violence- a surprising force erupting from deep within the tall woman's body. Panic, adrenaline, and an ancestral, perhaps even primal, fury at her circumstances rising within her. She could not see, and scarcely could breathe- but her ears worked fine and she recognized some of the voices around her.
"Oi, she ain't so prim and proper now is 'e?" That idiotic drawl was Tomlinson, some Imperial backwash she had the unpleasant honor of enlisting behind. "Think this'll teach 'er not to lorde 'erself over the rest of us?"
"Shut up, Tom, you'll spoil the night." She couldn't recognize that voice. She had heard it before, and it made her spine tingle. It was cold and quiet, a malice within it rather than the foolish misplaced joviality of Tomlinson. Her adrenaline fueled limbs twisted in that direction and she permitted herself the appropriate dose of smug joy at feeling her heel connect with flesh and that voice tighten into a tumbling cascade of coughing. Several other voices erupted into the barks of laughter as arms tightened around Frelayne's body and forced her to go still- all of them voices she felt she should be able to place, but fear and exhaustion had worn memory thin. Tomlinson's was the only name she could recall, and he was the one who had his arm around her throat and was keeping the sack pulled over her head.
These buggers had ambushed her in her bunk and dragged her out of the barracks. As Frelayne's racing mind finally digested their words, she discerned that this 'prank' of theirs was some sort of payback for perceived insults and slights across their time in Training. One voice commented that Frelayne was an 'uppity bitch', another remarked that after tonight she'd hardly be able to 'tell me to keep my hair brushed', and a woman hissed through clenched teeth that she in fact did not 'have crooked teeth and that smiling did NOT ruin her face'.
Frelayne winced. The last thing sounded like alcohol had been involved. She hated the stuff, tried to avoid it whenever possible, but the allure of intoxication occasionally outweighed the desire for sobriety; or, rather, sometimes the sober world was so horrid and unbearable that drunkenness was a temporary escape. Even nobility experience this sensation, after all, they just stretch their drunkenness out across the whole night instead of racing towards it at the bottom of a tankard. The final straw, however, was the next comment;
'We'll see whose uniform is dirty after tonight'
Frelayne grew still at that, and the whisper of a voice she managed out caused even her aggressors to pause.
"I warn you. Cease this foolishness now and I will forget this ever happened."
But they only paused a moment. Soon Frelayne was forced to her feet and felt her back pressed into a tree, her arms pulled back. She gave up on struggling and resigned herself to storing that energy up deep inside herself and compiling it into the pressurized container of pure hatred she kept bottled up deep within her heart. It was born from years of political maneuvering as a young debutante in Daggerfall courts where insults had to be carefully avoided and graciously handled. Unfortunately for these hazing pranksters, the pressure within her heart was reaching critical mass.
The Event Horizon, as it were, was having the sack yanked off her head. She had a split second to open her eyes and see scattered starlight filtering from above through light tree coverage before her mind acknowledged that two buckets were being slung towards her. The next instant she was blinded, eyes shut tight and stinging as a sticky, thick, liquid splattered heavily upon her and over her body. Coating her thickly in the-
These buggers had poured blood on her. The cork burst, Magicka crackled in the air around her, and the scream that erupted from the woman's lungs rivalled- well, there was nothing to compare it to. Her body contorted against the bonds she was in, the flare of something magical surging through her, and as she screamed to the high heavens in this bloody banshee wail her magic surged outwards.
Whatever Nightmares her attackers witnessed, it was of their own sowing. Soon Frelayne's own voice quieted, but the night was now split by the terrified screams of her assailants. Her pounding heart echoed the parade of fleeing footsteps. Their cacophonous wails music to her furious and incensed principles. Her Magic had done its job- Illusions terrible beyond compare had seeped into their minds and warped the blood soaked woman before them into- she didn't quite know what they saw, but she felt vindicated in having repaid their foolishness in kind.
She had overspent herself severely; the Fear spell was not ordinarily this taxing on her, but affecting a group of people so potently took its toll on her. Unbidden, a restful state soon forced itself upon her as she sagged to her knees to await being discovered the next morning.
Tomlinson, fool as he was, had deserted in the night. It was the wisest decision he'd ever made; he was the only one Frelayne could identify from the hazing group, after all. This incident in training had earned Frelayne, whispered behind her back, the temporary nickname of 'Banshee'. She rather liked it, truth be told, but she would never openly admit this.
It was too bright. The vestiges of power that the Kenku had clung to were beginning to burn away. Memories fragmented- slipped away- disappeared- and with them so too did the power that was granted to Whisper by his Patron and Master. Greatness was stripped from his very soul, power and purpose eradicated in the oppressive light of these Bright Lands... Finally the cycle of death and visions was broken, finally his spirit could try to piece itself back together with the echo of his Master's voice in his mind.
and what remained was the shell of Death's Apprentice. A being coalescing of shadows, murky and bestowed of an abyssal gloom, took form in the recesses of the Altar that Yin had lain upon. The wretched form of Whisper- a puppet without strings, bones holding up a shell of skin and feathers, a faceless horror of skull and beak, an eyeless creature ever watching- solidified in this place of darkness and rose from it into visibility. At first it was as if the strange Kenku were asleep, its body somewhat curled in on itself, but in short order the spectral creature unfurled and presented itself to the others. Its robes were dark and heavy, the feathers of a dense and dark cloak blending with his natural plumage where possible- and offering some semblance of coverage for his gangling and strange appearance in others. His arms moved stiffly, the quiet creak of bones apparent in his otherwise languid movements; he raised his arms up and pulled the hood of his cloak up over his head, stifling most of the skull into shadow that left his beak protruding out into the visible strata of light. Quietly, almost purely to himself, the beak parted to utter a phrase in a voice as timeless and as booming as the thudding of tombstones into earth;
DEATH IS ONLY A BEGINNING.
The hood shifts, attention moving to speaking voices. Feathers rise, danger sensed. An arm reaches out into empty air, a hand only half-covered by flesh and feather stretching and coiling experimentally. Seemingly satisfied, the creature's hand suddenly closed tightly into the air as shadows whirled about its spectral form and coalesced into the form of a large reaping scythe, which it brought about to bear in both hands. Gripping this weapon tightly seemed to bring about an air of comfort to the strange Kenku, and as the hood tilted down to give the impression of a gaze being lowered Whisper appraised the girl on the altar. A weighty inspection.
"I think we shall call you Whisper."
This time when the Kenku's beak parted, the soft and pleasant tones of a woman's voice slipped from the beak. It occurred to Whisper that he had no recollection of who the voice had belonged to even as the words left his beak. This made his grip on the scythe tighten visibly as he lowered his head further. Damn that insufferable Brightness. He would remember with time...
But for now, he resolved himself to protect this girl. Whoever she was, she did not deserve this fate. He decided this suddenly, but he felt secure and comfortable in the resolution. So far, keeping her alive was the only thing that made any sense- and he still remembered enough to know that keeping people alive was most certainly not his ordinary order of business. There was never a simple day of work anymore.
Mechanical tidbits; Summoned Pact of the Blade weapon, re-flavored 'Halberd' as a Scythe