"There is still something of himself - something of the Wolfbane who would always love her - that rallies against the slime. It says, 'lie in the bed you’ve made'. So he gathers the covers and tucks himself in." -- Wolfbane, written by Calcifer
Jude whirls around to peer into the glowing red eyes of Vadar. All of the air leaves her body in a quiet, slow gasp. The last time she was teleported suddenly, she was attacked by a Vadar look alike; but now that she is staring at the bloodthirsty eyes of what is certainly Vadar, she wonders if that was truly a lookalike. She forgets the size difference of her last attacker, how their voices are totally different, when she is staring down the face of murder.
“Ready to die?”
A sputtered response begins to leave her mouth, but it is cut off by the noise of a dome slamming down and Vadar’s war cry. She hesitates for a moment—a moment too long—and the breath is knocked out of her as the pair’s chests collide. “Fuck!” Jude screams as all of the anger and fear she has repressed violently explodes. She does not understand why her once-lover only ever shows up to hurt her, but she is fucking sick of everything she loves being decimated without her control.
Jude digs her hooves into the dust and grass, wrapping blunt teeth around a chunk of Vadar’s mane and pulling away with all of her might. He rears his head back and cries out; Jude feels a rush of heady pleasure when she realizes a large amount of bloodied hair is in her mouth. She spits the hair from her mouth and smiles, baring her teeth in a taunting grin at Vadar. Fury rises in his eyes from where he has pranced backward.
“Ready to die?” Jude parrots, clearly mocking Vadar’s attempt to startle her.
Vadar launches into another attack and this time Jude is completely prepared. He rushes at her and instead of shying, she rushes back, eyes steady to watch what his next move will be. When Vadar slides to a stop and suddenly rears back onto his hind legs, Jude’s confidence nearly leaves her. She attempts to whip her wings out to lift above him, only to remember she no longer carries them, and it is too late to stop her approach. The only thing she knows to do is buckle down even harder on what may be a mistake—how terribly on brand for her, even when facing potential death—and bend her head to aim her antlers at Vadar’s stomach.
Jude nearly blacks out from the pain she feels as her attacker falls atop her. His hooves first meet her neck and then her back, and as she falls straight to the ground he falls to the side. When Jude’s knees connect with the earth, Vadar’s weight drags her head to the ground. Blood pools from where her antlers are still deep in his stomach. She can hear Vadar’s labored breathing, each rise and fall of his chest lifting and then dropping her head. For a few seconds, they sit in stunned silence; but Vadar breaks that peace with weak attempts at rising—Jude can feel his thirst for blood even as the deep tears in his stomach render him nearly useless.
It is difficult to pull her antlers from Vadar’s flesh, but with a few pumps of her legs and a shake of her head, she is able to break free. Jude’s head is covered in a mixture of her and her attacker’s blood. Crimson droplets paint the dry earth as she rises. More blood falls from her neck and back—she looks like she should be dead, blood and dirt covering her in a warrior’s dress. Pieces of flesh and organs dangle from her antlers. Jude merely blinks in shock, unaware of how she looks like a monster (though now, as she sits in this new power of violence, it is not certain that she would even care).
Beneath her, Vadar struggles and sneers. Pity and pain want to sneak into her chest—and for a moment they do, squeezing her lungs tight—but adrenaline and anger rush so loudly in her ears that the suffering of trauma dissipates. She steps close to his head, peering down at him with contempt. He lifts his head and wheezes, still attempting to attack her with a snap of his teeth at her legs. Jude scoffs and kicks him hard under the chin. Vadar groans and stares viciously up at her with one glowing, unforgiving eye.
“Fuck you,” Jude spits, sneering down at him. “Fuck you and your anger. Fuck you and your hatred. Fuck you, Vadar. Fuck you!” Her voice rises into a scream as she speaks. Even as he is defeated, even as this betrayal is clear on her face, the need to destroy her is clear in the glare of his eye. The black, ugly, bloody need to snuff out the light of his eyes grows and grows in Jude’s chest. It spirals into a black hole, sucking away the physical pain, giving her tunnel vision.
“Fuck you,” Jude whispers, then half-rears and crushes his throat with her landing.
The light leaves Vadar’s eyes. Jude watches, unfeeling, indifferent. She feels no regret, no emotional pain, no disgust; instead, she feels powerful, born anew, enlightened by the strength she feels when she kills. Murder is a new god and she will sleep forever in its temple.
The haunting dark plucks at the taut strings of his composure.
He’s used to being in total control. He’s used to taking the skins of other animals, draping them across his melded bones and using them to whatever end he desires. He’s used to hunting and chasing and killing. He’s used to putting his feet where his mind tells them to go, used to deciding where he will be and when.
Being thrust into the unknown, completely at its mercy, is unchartered territory.
Cor takes a steadying breath against the night-gloom. Between the pillars, the darkness seems to concentrate in the center, as if the shadows are coalescing in conspiracy against him. Instead, as the shadows surge forward, the young stallion realizes it is not a shadow-monster. It is not a monster at all, in fact.
It is his father.
“Dad?” Cor tilts a head made heavier under the weight of its new additions. He’s about to rush forward to meet his sire head on, when he is stopped by a strange light above him. His eyes peer up, blinking against the alien light. The crimson circle is nearly blinding as it appears out of nowhere over the otherwise black pitch. It illuminates Walter but at the same time gives him hellish features that send a jolt of unease through his son. Even his snowy, angelic swan wings seem dipped and dripping with blood.
Perhaps that is why Cor makes a move towards his father again, that same twisting nightmare-fear that had woken him from his terrors as a boy threatens him now. How can any of this be real, anyway? He is still young, after all. Young enough that his dreams – and nightmares – are still a blank canvas unsoiled by the harshest colors of life.
But the color of Walter’s wings paint a different picture.
They promise pain and hurt, and maybe even death.
The loss of control leaves Cor vulnerable and naïve, though. He doesn’t sense the trap, doesn’t see it coming. He is closer now, and as he moves to embrace his father, Walter lunges for him with a bloodcurdling yell. He doesn’t understand, not at first. He thinks the embrace is about to be reciprocated. A wave of serenity washes over him, even, just before the older stallion buries his teeth in his neck. Cor’s head snaps back in pain and surprise as he feels the deep bruise forming over his withers. It is only this motion and his newly crowned head of horns that pushes his attacker back for a moment.
Fortunately, a moment is all Cor needs to reassess. He jumps sideways to his right, using the surge of adrenaline to power himself away from the pillars and the traitorous man they harbor beneath them. Clearly, the nightmare is still working hard to spin new terrors for him. He will only have to work harder. He will have to ignore the wrinkles around his sire’s eyes, the same ones that multiplied tenfold when he watched his colt’s wild antics growing up. He must ignore the canary splash of his coat, the yellow of a foolish man who tried to fly too close to the sun, as his mother would tell him, always with a wink of her eye.
Walter flies at him now, having lifted off the hollowed earth with lifetimes of practice. Cor sees the way he angles towards him even as he himself is turning right, continuing his own trajectory away from the pillars. Eventually, they move parallel with each other, father above son, dangling dangerously over the other. The red and orange stallion feels the barrage of hoof strikes as he attempts to flee: one over his rump, one on his spine, one misses him but he can feel the whoosh of the air gliding past his ribs. They are glancing blows, but blows nonetheless, enough that he winces and grits his teeth at each contact. He takes them, enough of them until he is sure it will work.
Cor stops hard and throws his head back. The blackbuck horns he wears are long and angled slightly back. His attacker banks hard, trying to avoid being pierced, but not before he avoids damage completely. The young stallion feels his horns cut easily through one downy-soft wing. He hears the scrape and separation of bone as Walter’s left wing crumples. He feels no pity for destroying the wings that once held him in their safe embrace.
It brings him down to the ground, hard, but he rallies instantly. Cor senses the fight left to come and charges to meet his father headlong. There is no recognition in Walter’s eyes, no spark that says, “stop, I’m in here, it’s me,” or, “stop, I love you, you little monster.” He doesn’t barter or beg for the father he once knew. There is only his survival. So he bunches his hindquarters and springs himself toward his opponent, aiming all of his weight to drive into the other’s chest. Walter phases through him harmlessly while he falls to the ground, carried by his momentum. His knees scream in pain, but he forces himself up. Before he can rise, however, Walter is there, rearing above him and crashing his front hooves down against his right side.
Cor hears a snap as a few ribs break. He tries to dive to his left but breathing is like inhaling fire. Still, in desperation, he bucks as hard as he can against the advance of his father just behind him. He feels a resounding crack as his hoof connects. There is a sudden rush of weight against him as his father falls into him. Exhausted, they both fall together, Walter still reaching forward to bite at every bit of Cor he can reach. In a red haze, literally and figuratively, Cor snaps his head back again. One horn pierces the top of his sire’s outstretched neck and drives down, down, down. He feels the gurgle of blood staining his shoulder.
The sound of her sharp cackle reverberates between the monoliths before her, her black eyes wide, practically igniting with flame with every sharp outburst. This was exhilarating, what a wonderful gift she has been bestowed. Her new crown spiraling up towards the stormy skies above, it is heavy, but she savors this new weight. She still spits a few uncontrolled giggles as she takes a step back to admire herself in the shining ebony pillar. Oh a pretty sight, the old girl. She takes a dramatic turn, letting herself burst into manic laughing with every spin. Once more round, she flicks her spider’s silk tail behind her like a dress train as she looks on. Breathing is heavy, her thin shoulders shifting to and fro like a predator ready to pounce. Her shrill voice calls to the ether, “I am ready! I am worthy!”, as her body begins to shiver in anticipation.
Its then, the sky opens up and the wind seems to howl from beyond the stone pillars. Inky eyes narrow, a nasty smile tugs at the corners of her cracked, scarred lips. This, this was what she has been longing for. The chance to prove herself. The years have long passed since her traitorous bitch of a daughter abandoned her, but since then, the cat has taken her following children away as well. No doubt slandering her name to them, feeding them lies. It was her greatest desire. The desire to seek revenge, to end it once and for all. From beyond the stones, amidst the stormy clouds, strode the cat herself.
Shrill cackles emit from her sneering maw, and she tosses her head in her daughter’s direction as a red gleaming barrier grows from the ground around them like a battle dome. The sunbleached black mare before her turns, her piercing green gaze fixing to Shadowmere’s, flashing with a bloodlust as she begins to charge. She lets out a earth shattering roar as she plunges into battle. But the crone shows no fear. Instead of turning to flee, or hide in the shadows as someone else does her dirty work, she commands the spotlight. Raising her newly crowned head high toward the heavens, eyes gleaming with that same thirst for blood. A goddess in her own right. She taunts the cat with a flicker of her tail.
”Here kitty kitty momma wants to play!”, she spits in a nasty cadence as she braces herself firmly in place.
Naga pounces, her legs striking outwards to meet Shadowmere’s face in a frenzied manner.. But Shadowmere meets the woman’s strikes with a strong toss of her head, her new horns catching Naga’s delicate skin along the inside of her front legs, tossing her off balance and tearing at her tendons. Her reckless attack opened up room for the crone to play. The black crone pivots to meet her staggering, blood dripping daughter face to face, her teeth bared as she lunges forward. Her sleek black head craned so far sideways one would fear her to snap her own neck, ivory teeth make contact. A vice grip on Naga’s throat sends a guttural choked scream from the panther woman. Shadowmere shakes her as if she were a dog shaking a toy, a vicious display. Naga’s front hooves keep striking outward, and she screeches into the stormy air, as she attempts to break free from her mother’s grasp. She manages to pry herself away, but the crone did not break her grip, for she took some of the panther’s hide as they parted.
”I gave BIRTH to you! AND YOU BETRAYED ME! YOUR OWN MOTHER! You ungrateful WELP!! It’s time to learned to respect your mother!”
She is crazed, a fury inside of her bursting like a long dormant volcano. She could not stop herself. For the first time, she is taking charge. SHE is in charge. Who is the queen now. Naga throws herself at Shadowmere again, but she is weak and sputtering, the crone dodges and kicks a leg out to send her daughter plummeting to the ground. Naga attempts to rise again, but she cannot, she gasps wildly for air. Shadowmere's laughter is wild, her face is twisted and horrifying. The cat's last vision...Shadowmere lowering her head, the tips of her ivory cork screw horns tracing along her cheek...and then dips lower. The crone jerks her head upward, sending her horns deep into Naga's throat. She only sputters a few more times before Shadowmere feels her head grow heavy with the lifeless head of her daughter draped over her horns. It was done.
"Let us hope this was the last of your nine lives...we could have been great, you and I. This was your own fault...let this teach you a lesson. Don't ever defy your mother…" she takes a step back to admire her work, and spits on the lifeless mare's corpse at her feet. A weight lifted. Her desire was finally fulfilled. Though she wonders if this is all she must do...or was there more to come?
Here it comes with no warning; capsize, i'm first in the water
Pulling her wings close together, their warm fills her. Lucrezia lets out a soft laugh as peace consumes her once more. She steps back from the winged pillar, wondering if maybe this wasn’t a nightmare after all. Her dreams have been interesting as of late—filled with all sorts of different things she has forgotten about. Maybe this was just another one of those dreams—a dream where she could do anything, have it all.
Her nutmeg gaze then turns back up towards the winged pillar. She didn’t have to imagine what it was like to wear a different pair of wings. She could wear them all, but the pillar with horns draws her attention suddenly when she remembers it. Moving towards it, she examines it, finding one she would like to try. Perhaps some antlers! She thinks with a soft laugh, amusing herself.
The sound of her laughter, light and airy, is cut off suddenly. Her ears flicker back and forth when the sound of the familiar song is played, the haunting music she wished to never hear again (the fear he filled her with). It sends a shiver down her spine; her eyes widen with horror instantly. She doesn’t even notice the dome enclosing around them. Lucrezia doesn’t turn to look between the pillars where he—Bruise—appears. She knows without a doubt she will find the same silver buckskin devil that killed her.
Her throat suddenly feels tight in her chest. Breathing becomes harder as the familiarity of panic rises in her. Once again, her body forsakes her, letting the monster freely into her mind, blinding her with love as he feeds her with fear.
“Lucrezia,” Bruise says like a sweet hymn, but there is poison between it all.
She can feel her heart burst with love for him again as he fills her mind with memories of intimate moments they shared. His kisses on her skin. The beautiful daughter they had created. Daughter? She questions for a moment but the thought slips away, replaced with reminders of her need for him. Without him there was no life. There was nothing without him.
“Nothing?” She whispers softly.
RUN! Her mind screams to her suddenly.
Shaking her head, Lucrezia turns to meet the gaze of the beast. Immediately, she knows she is facing the devil once more. Her entire body shakes with fear as her mind keeps yelling at her to run. The memory and the agony of her death comes flashing before her. She cannot run, her hooves are grounded deep into the dirt and she is frozen from where she stands staring at the beast.
Bruise comes to her like he always did before when she thought he loved her. Except there is no longer love in his eyes now. The monster didn’t need to wear the mask any longer. Lucrezia already knew what he was capable of, what kind of monster he really is.
She steps back as he closes the distance between them. Pushing herself against the surface of the horn pillar. The familiar smirk crosses over his lips, disappointment and hunger are written all over his face. “You are not worthy,” He says with bitterness. Lucrezia looks down, instantly ashamed. She heard his words before. The same words he told her before he killed her. “Still you are a disappointment.” His words are like knives in her skin, and she slumps further into the darkness of her mind.
“You will always be nothing, Lucrezia!” Bruise spits.
Will I always be? She wonders.
Lucrezia knows throughout her life she has been a disappointment. She was never there when those she loved most needed her. Not even her own family had found her worthy—she had disappointed them. The Desert had flooded because of her she thinks. She had let down Magnus. Even Tephra too when she abandoned them as their leader. Now she was going to let her own father down. Why did he even think it was worth saving her? She knew deep down she was never worthy of a second chance.
“You always will be nothing,” he says again, stepping closer. She can feel the song of his fear playing again. It fills her with doubt and panic, but something in the back of her mind whispers to her—a light within the darkness. That isn’t you anymore, Lucrezia. It was her father’s voice.
A small piece of hope, but it was all she needed.
She looks up instantly when she hears the monster take another step forward. “I will be something!” Lucrezia screams back fiercely. The song of fear fades away. She no longer can hear its haunting call or the whispers of his lies. He would not be given that chance again—never again.
Lucrezia lunges forward at the silver buckskin. Her wings spread wide as she flaps them quick and hard, sending a gust of wind his way. Bruise takes several steps back, fear filling his own eyes for a moment. Lucrezia doesn’t let the distance grow between them.
A laugh escapes from Bruise’s lips, almost as if he is so pleased with the turn of events. He welcomes it. Bruise lunges forward, his head down, attempting to bash his goat horns into her, but Lucrezia rears up in time. Her hooves strike out with all her strength. She hears a loud crack as her hooves bash against his skull. Bruise stumbles forward, and his body thuds at the same time as she comes down from her rear.
Bruise moans quietly with agony. Lucrezia watches him intently, almost believing he will rise up and try to attack her again. However, his quite moans of pain is followed quickly by agony as a pool of blood slowly flows from underneath him. She watches silently as the blood flows towards her and stains her hooves—marking her a killer.
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