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DaMadReaper

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  1. For a few moments after the CEO had interrupted, everything in the room seemed to be frozen in their tracks. Yeva, the bat-woman, and the still unnamed leader stared each other down, the intensity between the two being like a pair of animals, a half second away from going for each other's throats. Eventually, however, they broke off, with Yeva backing off of the table housing an annotated map of the city and heading for the door. One glance backwards just after she'd passed the trio by, and she disappeared, stalking off without a single sound. Their attention would be drawn back by the escaping of a soft sigh. Still hunched over the same table, the man gave them a weak smile, looking each of them up and down, one by one. By now, it had been nearly a full minute since any words had been spoken, and a certain restlessness had begun to take hold. "I'm sorry you had to see that. We weren't expecting any to find their way here so soon after the announcement," he stated simply, the inflection flat, as if he was far too worn out to inject any more energy. His roaming gaze now shifted to the features of each of the trio, he continued. "Not many are so enthusiastic to place their lives on the line like that. Is it altruism? Honor? Or simple overconfidence?" --- Elsewhere, the fiend of fashion scans every inch of Agnes's form with concentration that would make even the most confident feel uncertain. Whilst the knight had been busy tearing herself down, Esme was reassessing her ideas, mentally visualising a variety of outfits that would serve to accentuate the girl's finer points, few as they may be. Too butch, she had said. 'Not butch enough' was all that the designer could think. Eventually, all of her ideas had crystallised into a final, clear design. Letting out a snort of laughter, she tossed her head back, an image of pure smugness. "Correct as you may be, I would appreciate if you would stop insulting my craft. I could make a chimpanzee fit to walk a runway. You? You're child's play." Turning on her heel, she dove into a rack of clothes, speaking as she dug out pieces. "If you don't fit the traditionally feminine appearance, then don't. Double down. Dress..." She threw a patterned black shirt at Agnes, barely turning to confirm that she had hit her target. "More..." A pair of washed out jeans. "Masculine." Finally, she dug out a pair of black boots, carrying them over to Agnes in order to check their sizings. "Despite what the advertisements tell you, not everyone fits into a dress." --- As the remaining number of the group sank into their beds, they could feel the tension drain from every fiber of their being. Muscles loosened, a general sense of relaxation spreading through them. Soon enough, sleep would come, dragging them deep into the recesses of their mind, dredging up thoughts and memories that were not wholly their own. That night, dreams would take them just as soon as their eyes had closed. Dreams of spidery shapes, carressing them with thing appendages. Dreams of a man, vague in form, but undeniably there, whispering sweet lullabies. Dreams of conversing men and women, the words always just out of their mind's comprehension. Interspersed between these vague visions, they would find vestiges of their own past, some horrible, some joyous, and yet... none seemed able to wake them.
  2. With the group settling into a state of uneasy normalcy, three of their number chose to break off from the idle conversation, seeking to pursue some final activities before the time for bed hit, and with the layered whispers of the crowd compounding to a mass of noise, their disappearance wouldn't so much as raise an eyebrow. Karl and Martijn, seeking the bat-woman and the as of yet unnamed leader of the Homefront, would find themselves receiving little more than a passing glance from the guards that had originally barred the stairway to the third and final floor. As they ascend, they would find it rather... underwhelming. Much like the first two floors, it very clearly still resembles a stripped down mall, with signs for shops still hung up, and the majority of their interior decoration intact. The one major difference they would note, however, would be the state of the largest store. Stood directly opposite the stairwell, what seemed to be a former electronics store was the only one with the display blacked out with spray paint, such that not a single inch of the interior could be viewed from the outside. Quiet voices could be heard, but not quite discerned. As they got closer, however, they would suddenly get much louder, the tension in the room rocketing along with the volume of their conversation. "I know what you saw, Yeva, but that does not change my stance. The people are frayed enough as it is." The second voice, identifiable as the Homefront's leader, seemed not to have noticed their presence yet. --- Elsewhere, Agnes has submitted herself to a state of suffering unbeknownst to the majority of mankind: overly critical fashionistas. Said fiend had already retired to her den of cruelty by the time the others had wrapped up their conversations, seemingly not interested in spending any more time away from there than absolutely necessary. It was quite sad, to be honest. The Frenchwoman's fate had been sealed the moment her gaze had locked with those twinkling eyes, and the magic words had been spoken... "I think I have just the outfit for you..."
  3. As the group files into their spots at a table, the room stops its chatter for just a moment, with curious onlookers eyeing them up. It seemed that newcomers to the Homefront weren't all that normal a sight... Eventually, already proceeding conversations picked back up, the rising chatter drowning out the sound of the group themselves. Slowly, the smell of food would waft its way through the makeshift cafeteria. Perhaps not the best, but just enough of a sweet smell to set off the hunger in the rather starved members of the party. However, there would be no sign of anything edible for a few minutes yet. The explanation would soon come in the form of a man, standing up at the end of the mass of tables, giving the crowd a patient look. He was tall, wide-shouldered even for his height, with toned muscles built for function, rather than vanity. Fitness born of physical labour, rather than any particular exercise. Standing there in a simple get-up of a black t-shirt stretched tight against his skin, and a rather well-worn pair of jeans, many would write him off as just another man of the country, drawn to the city by promises of safety in numbers, of food and of resources. That is, until they saw the beginnings of a pair of horns, metallic gray, making their way out from the top of his head. Further splotches of the technocyte made their way down his face in a continuous stream, painting much of his neck as well, before disappearing under his shirt, only making further appearances at the edges of his sleeves. Either through his own force of presence, or through the crowd's desire for him to finish so that the meal could begin, the conversations they had all seemed so invested in moments ago were dying down into an absolute silence, waiting for the horned man to speak. "Ladies and gentlemen of the Homefront. I'll avoid the usual spiel today, as we have more important matters to discuss than the fifteenth day in a row of Infected roaming and miscellaneous announcements. As of today, we have a number of new people staying with us. I ask that you take the time to introduce yourselves, and to assist them in finding their feet. As for said new people, feel free to approach any of our people with questions, or when you require assistance. Furthermore, with Yeva's return, we are able to begin initiating Operators once more. If any are interested, approach myself or Yeva on the third floor. With all of that said, I would like to remind everyone that there are children on the premises, and if you choose to partake in... horizontal relaxation, kindly keep it down." It seemed that the last sentence had been rather... pointed, with the man turning to look at a certain man, who himself seemed to be attempting to disappear into his jacket. Allowing himself a hint of a smile, the horned man continued. "Before I dismiss the meeting and allow the meal to begin, I would like to warn everyone that there had been some... unusual Infected sighted near the Homefront. It may be a good choice to keep the children inside for a few days. With that said, thank you for listening, and may God watch over you all." He finished with a nod, before taking his seat once more, making a point to ignore the rolling of eyes at his final statement. With all of that over, however, a number of the Homefront's residents began streaming in with a mishmash of plates, both the dishes and silverware having been mixed and matched from whatever could be acquired. A well-practiced routine, each of the servers seemed to already know their table assignments, making their way through with little hesitation, and even less of a break in pattern, only momentarily pausing at the sight of Gabby's clearly Infected hands. Nevertheless, the routine is picked up again in a matter of seconds, and dinner is served, allowing the workers to disappear back into the kitchen.
  4. The man with the tanned skin buries his face in his palm as Tara rattles on in foreign vulgarities, describing her capabilities in horrifically colorful terms. Despite the man's rather rough looking exterior, he seemed to be distinctly uncomfortable with the sheer amount of... rough language in use. Still, he couldn't suppress something of a quiet chuckle under his breath. He takes a deep breath, and then removes his hand from his face. "Arlo. Llamo Arlo. Puede que hayas conocido a mi hija, Esme. Es responsable de racionar la ropa." He turns his back to Tara, a show of trust, before motioning for her to follow him inside. While it wasn't strictly allowed, it was more or less up to their own discretion on who they were trusting... He couldn't resist poking one last bit of fun before he headed in. "Recuérdame que te traiga un crucifijo de ella." --- Elsewhere, a half dozen of the group members were gathered together, being dragged along by a highly fashion-conscious woman. However, it seemed that she was far from an ordinary fashion snob. As Dino's arm came off, she merely stopped for an instant to confirm that they were still following, before carrying on with the arm, holding it with much more strength than the infected's primitive magnetic field could possibly bring to bear. Was she... also not human like them? Nevertheless, she continued on, babbling about a number of possible outfits she could dress them all up with. It seemed that they were going to be stuck here for some time... Truly, fashion was a more terrifying beast than any infected monster. --- Time passed in abstract ways, when one was tired. Seconds dragged into minutes, minutes into hours, while the opposite also held true, with massive chunks of time disappearing before one could even realise. Between longform essays on the state of modern fashion design, stock-taking of weaponry, and quite simply sleeping, the group would find themselves occupied until dinnertime came, bringing with it the sound of Jamie checking up on everyone, knocking on all doors and calling out for the others to join them in the dining hall, and that important announcements would be made. If any were to make their way outside, they would find perhaps twenty or thirty people making their way through the halls over time, clumping together in groups of two, three or four, all hovering around in a state of vague discomfort, before settling into groups at the tables. Perhaps they would recognise Sy, Jamie and Yeva, sitting and conversing, as much as a mute person could. Elsewhere, the woman distributing clothes, Esme, was exchanging a few, awkward words with Arlo. A table sat empty, beckoning to the group with an opportunity to meet and discuss their experiences.
  5. As night settles onto the sky and the reality of freedom sets in, many choose to let their guards down, allowing water to wash away the last vestiges of the day's struggle from their flesh. Though they're forced back into clothes that carried with them the same stench of sweat and suffering, there was little on their minds beyond the softness of a makeshift bed, and the allure of rest, regardless of surroundings. The world they woke up to tomorrow would be the problem of their future selves. --- Partaking in more productive activities, however, were the others, the first of whom was currently facing down a man that was made of roughly two to three times her body mass, half of which going into his absolutely built upper body. Still, he didn't seem particularly menacing beyond the whole aggressive standing, his brows furrowing as Tara rattled off languages with no sign of stopping. Once the girl had slowed enough to afford him a few words, he cut a verbal path, speaking slowly and just soft enough to attract attention. "Mi madre me dijo que no confiara en nadie que hablara más de dos idiomas. ¿Tengo alguna razón para no confiar en ti?" As he finished, his stance shifted almost imperceptibly, changing to something of a loom, made easier by his height. The words had come out controlled, tight, with a great deal of proficiency in maintaining the exact tone he had been going for. A trained speaker, perhaps? --- As the other two events were happening, a number of the newcomers would realise that they indeed had no clean clothes, and unlike the rest of their comrades, they were bothered by the fact. And so, the numbers filled out slowly, conversations joining together as they aimlessly wandered, a mass that attracted a few odd looks, and even more wrinkled noses. It seemed that they were... conspicuous, in a way. As they made their way downstairs, however, they would hear the barking voice of a woman call them over. "EY! You the ones tracking... whatever the hell that is in here? It smells like a sewage tank emptied into the lobby." As the others looked over, they would see a woman in her early thirties, with a thick ponytail and a pair of sunglasses that complemented a rather drab outfit, lifting it and giving it some taste and style. As she, for lack of a better word, strutted over, her expression seemed to be one of exaggerated distaste. She gave them a once over, before taking Dino's wrist between two fingers, dragging her along with zero regard for the fact that they may be unwilling, or dangerous. "You look like fashion disasters... Forcing a lovely young girl to dress like that?"
  6. At first, Jack was planning to employ some of his famous witty one-liners to break the tension of the moment, but then... the priest stripped, revealing a form worthy of worship. Muscles rippled like the waves of a stormy ocean, cresting large enough to hide a sword within themselves, as impossible structure lined every inch of them. The man was clearly inhuman, an abomination, and yet... there was something perversely satisfying about how every incorrect arrangement came together to create one cohesive, bulging mass of flesh. It was beautiful. It was heretical. It was a crisis of faith. And so, the pillar of a man found himself on his knees, unsure of what to believe in. On the one hand, everything about this beast betrayed his principles, but on the other, he was more muscle than even Jack himself could ever, ever hope to be. He simply... could not accept this... Every bit of that maelstrom of emotion was melded, crafted, forged into a single word. A single word that carried far more meaning than one could fit into even a hundred books. A single word that would go down in history as the ultimate showdown that ended an entire religion. "HOW?"
  7. Three groups of Tenno, with three destinations in mind, each with a different priority in mind. The day had been long, hard. Not a single moment of rest had been afforded to them as their lives were nearly snuffed out time and time again. But... for now, at the very least, they seemed to be safe. In this case, safe meant Spartan, run down, and... drab, but without any creatures threatening to consume their flesh. The first of the group to reach their destination would be the ones headed to the rooms, strolling past a number of red stickers, each with varying amounts of sound emerging from them. Little snippets of conversations, some shuffling, some training, and even a few sounds that were not fit for the ears of the child. Nevertheless, somewhere towards the end of the hall, they would find a cluster of rooms left green, doors left half-open for any who wished to enter. Inside, they would find a repurposed store, barren of all decoration, with only four beds and their associated drawers being left to give the place any details. It seemed that this would have to suffice... Some distance further on, Dino would find the women's bathroom, only to be greeted by... an unusual sight. As expected there were bathroom stalls, but in place of the barebones metal sinks that normally lined public bathrooms, there were... metal separators, creating small cubicles, where jury-rigged showers were created by growing (???) metal pipes to extend off of the sink, extending the path that the water would travel to allow most people to wash themselves while only needing to stoop down a bit. However, it made washing your hands... slightly problematic. Perhaps they were expected to use the showerhead? --- Elsewhere, the American did what any reasonable American would do when faced with the inescapable doom and gloom of the apocalypse: check on the stores of weapons. God bless the constitution. All that aside, however, she would catch a number of stares and side-eyed glances as she strolled down to the first floor once again, the others seemingly put off by the appearance of a new person in their midst. It seemed that trust was in short supply. This belief would be reinforced soon after by the opening of the armory door just before Tara herself would reach it, revealing a rather burly man with tanned skin, and bulging muscles in a similar uniform to Sy and Jamie. He crossed his arms, standing in the doorway to block entry, giving Tara an appraising look, while jabbering in broken Lasrian. "Hello. Don't know you. Do not know if can let you in. New person to home today?"
  8. As the group go around introducing themselves, the boy closes his eyes, nodding in apparent satisfaction, only moving to raise a finger, gesturing for him to hold the question for a bit. As he does this, however, the boy standing behind him lets out a soft sigh. "Sy, kindly stop pretending you're going to remember any of those names." The newly named Sy raises a hand in front of his face in mock offense, turning to his companion. "Jamie! I would never! I was simply attempting to organise the conversation in such a way that I could answer ol' so and so-" "Cyriann." "Cyriann's question, yes." Another sigh, and still not a single glimmer of recognition regarding either the mercenary, or the addict. Foreigners, perhaps? Neither the names nor the faces seemed to match the general populace, though their Lasrian lacked any traces of foreign heritage. Turning on his heel, he swipes his finger in something of a circular motion, indicating that they should follow, before making his way into the mall, with Jamie and Yeva walking a step or two behind him, signing at each other at speeds that made it difficult for the others to catch. Sy begins his explanation as the group makes their way inside, catching their first glimpses of people, milling about in small groups, discussing something or another. Everywhere around them, stores were blacked out with newspapers taped to the back of the glass. Every so often, one or two people disappear inside, letting the group catch glimpses of... cardboard boxes? "We call this place the Homefront. Former mall, current storagehouse and base of operations. Rotating guard shifts ensure that any Infected that wander too close are promptly dealt with, and excursions by our more... capable agents ensure we have supplies on hand. Food, water, weapons... parts. Yeva's one of the more skilled operators here, out hunting for a certain rumor that's been going around, but that's her story, not mine." Either Yeva hadn't noticed, or had chosen to ignore the boy, as she showed no reaction, instead signing even more aggressively as time went on. A broken escalator seemed to serve as the only means for getting upstairs, kept meticulously cleaned, like every other inch of the building. "Second floor's our residential section. Each store can fit four people, with locks on the inside for privacy. Each one has either a green sticker, meaning free, or a red sticker, meaning full. It's... frankly self-explanatory." That said, he stops abruptly, turning on his heels once more, his eyes caught by the silent woman performing an odd, repetitive motion. Her fingers were split down the middle, thumb held tight, opening and closing like a pair of scissors or... a clapper. Though the act itself was simple, both of her male companions stood disturbed by the act, likely processing the implications. Sy is the first to break out of it, clearing his throat. "Well, that aside... Third floor's off-limits to non-operators. It's where the brains of the operation are located, and where we put out assignments to any residents who are interested in acquiring anything beyond standard rations." He locks eyes with each group member one by one, his eyes strangely serious, before continuing. "There are free rooms at the end of the hallway. Meals are 8 am, 1 pm, and 8 pm, giving you maybe an hour to rest, get cleaned up, and come down for dinner. So long as you're with us, you're expected to contribute to the chores, but that's a story for another day, further amenities, such as trainers, information, or weaponry can only be given to you if you choose to become operators, yadda yadda." He takes a deep breath, seemingly frustrated by the endless amounts of explanation. "All that said, welcome to the Homefront. We'll register you into the database after dinner, and that's more or less everythig." With that over, he makes a show of panting for breath, before inhaling one last time. "If you have any questions, you know where to find us. Okaythankshavefunbye." He immediately turns on his heel and begins walking away, followed by the other two, with whom he immediately starts bickering. As they're leaving, you think you catch just a bit of their conversation. "For the love of god, remind me to never introduce people again." "I do, Sy. Every time. You just keep forgetting."
  9. Murder, they screamed. An accusation that, if one had not been here to witness the exact course of events, would be perfectly plausible. Mysterious strangers from some far off land, just stumbling onto the corpse of one of their people, looking unlike any member of their own society? It was simply... too convenient. Briefly, the Frost's addled brain considered these facts, drawing conclusions, forming theories, and taking in the clues. That is, until the sheer damage caused by his amateurish surgeries hit him full force, dragging the metaphorical train of thought to a grinding halt. All that remained... was an appraising look at those unusual fish bodies. Such sleek, slender designs, not a single trace of fat anywhere on their form... Despite the sheer lack of bulk, it was still admirable, and raised some unusual questions. That said, what better time to sate your curiosity than when suspected of brutalising a member of a species you'd never encountered before? "Hey hey, swimbros! Where ya gettin that sick protein from? You be lookin like you don't even got bones..." He nervously chuckles to himself. To be purified from the corrupting influence of bone... Perhaps one day.
  10. The bat-inspired woman watched as what was no doubt a deeply dramatic moment in the heads of those involved played out. The one who she had correctly assumed to be the group's healer had seemed to be embroiled in healing the body of the one who had been faltering some moments ago. It was... awkward, to say the least. The sheer determination, the raw compassion as she sacrificed every ounce of her energy to help one other than herself. It was a stark contrast to her own mostly bored demeanour, and the difference was starting to make her just a tad self-conscious... Nevertheless, there was no time to dawdle. As the mercenary had already said, they had very little time before either the beasts above caught onto the ruse, or that the orbs ran out of energy. It was time to go. Trying her best to avoid being obvious, she sneaks only a momentarily glance towards the hand that Gabby had used to throw the orb, flashing a smile as she catches a glimpse of just what she had hoped for, before stepping away. Unable to make noise, she settles for a wide wave to catch the group's attention, before tapping a metal-coated finger on her forearm, pointing at her non-existent watch. Not waiting for the group to respond, she turns on the spot, silent footsteps just that slight bit unsettling as they splashed through muted water. --- They say that time flies when you're having fun, a statment supported by the fact that the thirty or forty minutes they had spent walking through drab, gray sewers seemed to stretch for an eternity, casting doubt on whether they would ever see the light of day again. By the time they were finally able to breathe in fresh air, they may have even forgotten what fresh air, untainted by the stench of god knows, felt like. Still, as their eyes adjusted to the warm glow of the street lights, they would find themselves in the more developed section of the city, traditionally designed buildings having given way to small businesses of all kinds, nearly indistinguishable from each other if not for the overly colorful signs that sat above them. Most noticeable among them, however, was a relatively recently built mall, standing at about three stories, lined on the outside with broken shop displays, likely broken down in the sprees of looting that had followed the announcement of the quarantine. Despite the run down appearance of the bottom floor, however, the building maintained a certain ominous aura, owed to how it towered over all else around it. More ominous still were the two... men (?) who seemed to be loitering outside it, attempting tricks with a pair of butterfly knives. The first of the pair notices you just as you're exiting the manhole, the grinding of the cover across the street tipping him off, causing him to point, drawing the attention of his companion to your group, taking his hand to drag him towards you. As they get closer, you notice that they're both dressed in some sort of... makeshift uniform? Gray tank tops thrown over cargo pants, highlighting well-built muscles. While the group were contemplating this, the more attentive of the two stepped forward, running a hand through curly brown hair, flashing them a smile, before redirecting his attention to their escort. "Ahh, Yeva! Welcome back!" She rolls her eyes. "Come on, won't you introduce me to them?" She flips him off, her unamusement a seemingly standard response to the boy's S#&$-eating grin. Behind him, his long-haired companion adjusted his glasses, trying his best to hide a smile. Regardless of the clear joking tone, however, the woman, now known to be named Yeva, turned her had to the group, motioning for them to provide some introduction.
  11. Jack, being an intellectual, watches Tyr's attempts, guffawing... intellectually. Clearly, Tyr was lacking in the sheer force of muscle one needed to unlock this clearly enchanted door. Bang, after bang, after bang, and nothing but a plume of smoke to show for it. Perhaps Jack should be helping right about now... With a deep, shaky breath, he forces down the laughter, putting on a serious face as he approaches the man, laying a massive hand on his shoulder, before gently pulling him away from the obstinate barricade. It was time for him to unleash his true power. "Lemme have a crack at it, bro. I'll show you just how a true disciple of the Way of the Muscle handles issues like this." Once all were sufficiently far away, and out of danger should he have to unleash even one percent of his ridiculous power, he began. A flex of the biceps. A flex of the triceps. One last flex for good measure. There. It was time. One deep, deep, deep breath, and he began lowering his stance, hand held open like a slab of solid steel. With measured practice, it lowered to the handle of the doorknob, clasping it so tight that one could hear the tightening fibres of muscle. And then, in a feat of strength none could match... he pressed it down. At this point, any ordinary man would be standing in shock and awe at the miracle that they had just brought into this world, but not Jacked "Jack" Frost. No, the pale-skinned giant of a man then did the unthinkable. He pulled on the door.
  12. Whilst the others were somewhat taken aback by the aquatic houses, and the seemingly freestanding body of water, Jack took this in stride. The reach of the Calciumfather was far beyond what the average man would ever have to face. This was, to him, merely a snap of the fingers. Besides, waltzing into enemy territory had never daunted Jack before, and it would surely not start now. Ignoring calls of 'wet houses' and whatnot, he made his way to the front of the pack, walking purposefully into the cube, before cupping his hands in front of his mouth. "I AM AN EMISSARY OF THE ALMIGHTY MUSCLE, BROS. I HAVE ARRIVED, ALONG WITH AN ENTOURAGE OF MY MOST LOYAL FOLLOWERS. TAKE US TO YOUR LEADERS, AND THERE WILL BE NO PROBLEMS." His spiel now over, he turns back to the group, tilting the head in a manner evocative of a wink, but lacking any and all facial expression on that idiotic, grinning mask. "Trust me, my hee-ho homies. What could go wrong?"
  13. The Tenno watched with smiling eyes, seeming rather unconcerned with the hesitation and suspicion. As much as this had been a gesture of good will, it had also been a test of character, and of caution. A probe of the group's defensiveness, and their reactions to being faced with an unknown force. Nevertheless, there is something to be said about the fact that there are so many... colorful characters, to put it politely. She rises to her feet, raising a pointer finger as a symbol to wait for a few seconds, while eyeing the others, generally unconcerned with the emergency mode Agnes, the cat making odd sounds, and the dying man who vaguely looked like her father. Really, it would be more of a surprise if she wasn't used to this by now. She takes a deep breath, chest expanding over a period far longer than one would expect for that much air, before slowly letting it all out. A flash of a smile at Tara and Gabby, and then a check of the surroundings. Four paths, three that need to be covered. A single ball rolls between her middle and index fingers in the same motion as a swing, sending it flying into the wall of one of the paths that she had not come from. She repeats it for the other path perpendicular to the group's original path, leaving only the routes behind and ahead of them uncovered. A second passes with nothing, and then another, before the group finally hears it. Footsteps, pitter pattering, splattering through the shallow water of the sewer as they sank deeper down the paths, the thrown orbs shooting lines of themselves to drag along the walls. Bait. Once more, she rolls a ball between her index and middle fingers, before extending it to the child, using her other hand to aim down the path that the group had come from, hoping that her intentions would be slightly more clear now.
  14. Somewhere in Lasria, a hyena laughs. It is a high pitched sound, shrill, and far too human coming from a source that is decidedly not. Its siblings join in one by one, each from a different point in the distance, a half dozen, maybe more, howling with familiar laughter, far too deformed to vocalise in any consistent manner. Soft feet pad along the drab, gray stone of the barren buildings, the remnants of its last hunt still sitting heavy in its stomach, relishing the stench of blood heavy on its snout. a trophy of the hunt, but unsatisfactory. A morsel when one craves a feast. It watches as its prey snaps its head backwards, catching only a glimpse of a black shape disappearing from view. Another staccato of vocalisations echo through the city, piercing the silence that had dominated for perhaps a few seconds too many. It knew the goal already. They all did. They had all know that this would be their path from the very start. It forces a huff of air into its lungs, eyeing the rays of sunshine disappearing beyond the horizon. The night of the hunt was upon them. The rite of passage had begun. The clan would see another member before the dawn breaks. ~Chapter 1: Adolescence.~ You can hear its laughter, surrounding you, mocking you with unseen comedy. At first, you had written it off as a hallucination of your tired mind, filling the howl of the wind with some imperfect imitation of a voice after far too long alone in the barren wasteland. But then, it came again, closer now, like a student stifling his laughter in a classroom, subdued. Then you caught a glimpse of it for the first time, peeking at you from the edge of a rooftop. A shape like the head of a dog, far larger than it should have been, protruding snout lined with razor sharp teeth that you could have sworn were grinning at you. It disappeared, cackling once more as you realised what part of it had struck terror into the deepest part of your gut. Its eyes. They had been distinctly human. Aware. It pounced. You ran. It chased. That had been hours ago. A relentless shadow hounds your every step, cackling every so often to remind you that it still follows, cutting off many a path with just a snarl or a crash, herding you down the streets as its siblings no doubt did to others, its horrid chuckling ringing in your ears. It keeps pushing you just to the edge of your stamina, before waiting, watching, and then resuming the hunt. A game where every attempt to escape only raises the feeling that you're playing into the beast's hands as you make your way further out towards the edge of the city. Then you see it. Salvation, come to you in the form of a fenced off square, lined with tents. Perhaps you enter through one of the open gates to the main streets, or perhaps you're cornered in an alley, forced to climb the fence for your life before the inhuman abomination hunts you down. Nevertheless, one way or another, your path ends at the square, and the moment you set a single foot there, the cackling stops. The shadow would no longer creep at the edge of your vision. You would be safe. That is, except for the fact that you're not alone in the square, or at least, would not be for long.
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