once more, with feeling


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Post Fri Mar 09, 2018 11:49 pm

once more, with feeling


The garden was as she had left it. That was almost…sad.

Yet, Sanguine had said, this was a pocket. Not many could find here. Just her. And once upon a time, the Rogue.
“It would take one to find the Statue Garden.” That, too, Sanguine had said.

This was meant to be her place. And so, she must look to it. Even if it was just to say goodbye.

At dusk, it was different, though. That much was true. The statues took the sky colors, warmer than white. There were echoes in the overgrown vines, the walls of ivy, the pools that had dried. Small rustlings. Insects, frogs. Only ones to come here—her and Rogues and frogs. The ether he’d given her—she didn’t know enough to know if it was still as it was. The sweet scent had drifted off, and she would not taste it and she had no fire to try.

Lock moved on.

On across the stretch of marble, her hooves the same crack-clack song. The rain had been kind in the fountains, and some were clear still. Some enchantment she did not know. Others were mossy and green, with shadows swimming in them. She’d look closer, but she had not the time. She must walk through, engrave it all in her mind’s eye. She must break it.

That way, it would remember it was hers.

There, the Venus statue. That would be good to start. The pool had dried here, shallow as it was—the vines had taken it. The leaves crushed beneath her hooves as she crossed, tangled as she reared. The stone folds gave under her strike. Fine powder, white shards, falling like rain.

She smiled. This she knew. And in the everything that had happened, was happening, it was enough.
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Posting Elemental
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Post Sat Mar 10, 2018 5:01 am

Re: once more, with feeling

He had tried to play with him; that was his mistake.

It had started as a contest, something as normal as two venomous snakes writhing rather than striking. It helped to settle those who were new; helped to get beyond all the awkward first days. A strange quirk of his bonded's species that proved useful. Knowing where one stood among others was comforting. Sometimes - like with their very newest acquisition - there was no contest needed. A small test of wills, a battle of personalities, but at some point they knew who they would follow and who they would expect to listen.

This one, however, needed more than the first spark of conflict to realize who he should back down for. For this one, they battled.

He couldn't get close enough, not with the overflow of the other's energy coating him, flowing as mane and tail. So a sideways glance, half lidded and almost hidden, little more than almost looking from the corner of his eye. For that alone he should win; who else can fight without even looking?

It was enough to weaken him, to eat small holes where the acid of his gaze landed; enough to put out that overflow. He didn't last long after that. Caustic hadn't been able to resist playing with him, stepping over him, a small sideways smirk traveling up the broken hide. Just a little bit of death; enough to damage a kidney, char his cheek, make the muscle of a leg quiver on the edge of melting. Nothing serious. Really.

The newcomer simply had to know never to challenge him again.

Then he was on the ground next to the other one, a strange four-winged centaur standing above him. He didn't hurt, yet. That meant it was pretty bad.

He is mine

That voice. So soft. She roared when she was frustrated, but when she was truly angry she spoke so, so gently. He had seen her croon to those she killed. The only satisfaction was the look on the other's face, so close to his own nose. The realization. The surprise. He could feel it, now, that claim.

But he knew Her rule. He did not harm those who were Hers. And right now She was no longer the kind heart that nurtured; She was the one they belonged to. She was darkness, possession, demand.

She had let him suffer, for a little while. Making sure he remembered. He knew better than to complain, not to Her. If it was still Her he was dealing with She would make a point to demonstrate the ways She had previously been kind to him; especially if there was any challenge left in him. If compassion had returned to her, it would gain a lecture. His own actions, his consequences, justly earned. He knew her rules. She would feel when he was ready to stand again, a benefit of their bond.

So he had waited in silence, suffered in silence, for it was this or undermining his victory by humbling himself with an apology. She wouldn't humiliate him beyond beginning his correction in front of the others. He was allowed to endure alone.

He missed playing. Missed the small, senseless sounds of terror, the tiny gasps of debilitating pain before that final, fatal sigh took them. He needed someone he could destroy. She sent him on runs often enough, his power overflowing and sanitizing one land or another from even that which would rot and decay. But the torment, the sweet suffering - it had been too tempting, with this new stallion. He still wanted to see this one crawling in pain, finally humbled. Broken.

Broken. That sound. He had wandered, trailing black death behind him, until he came to hear the sound of shattering. Someone was nearby.

She was small, the mare he saw before the crumbling stone. There was a tended and yet abandoned feeling to the place she was in, an odd duality. She moved with grace, purpose, training; but not the power and instinct of a Warrior. A pale mimicry, but a beautiful one. She herself looked strange; so slight, and yet there was nothing delicate or feminine beyond her build. The mane was tied back, the tail just long enough to serve for balance, and he thought he saw something in those eyes.

Something strange in those eyes.

He could break her. He could watch her crawl, make her suffer, drink the sweet tears. It would sate his hunger, for a time. Only for a time. It seemed to be getting shorter.

Balance

The word ripped through him, almost a mantra of his bonded. Drummed into him. Beaten into him would perhaps be closer, and yet unfair. It had been a hard lesson, and a long one, but she was never abusive. Cruel, merciless; but not abusive.

She would have to consent. That would be the balance. He could do anything he wanted, so long as it was consented to.

He could help her, if her goal was to destroy. He didn't have to strike at the fountain near him; it cracked, blackened, crumbled. His desire to damage was so strong that it was easy to splash the caustic nature of death and decay as if he lay in a puddle. The stone was nothing.

He wondered if his intrusion would be unwelcome. Part of him hoped so. It would be all the excuse he needed. If he needed one. They could just as easily go frolic through destruction together.
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Post Sat Mar 10, 2018 1:03 pm

Re: once more, with feeling


This one beyond the gates—she would sense him. It would be hard for her not to, harder still as the fountain began to crumble to her right. But that was too far.

She fixed the ruin in her eyes, and thought her name. Her word.
Lock.

And so it did, moments before full decay. Easier with stone, whose nature was still. Easier in this garden, that was hers. Blackened, cracked and pitted—but it stood, at least. It would stand awhile yet. She trotted over to inspect it.

The stallion was outside the gate, had not made to enter. Doubtless he could—there were no locks. Probably none that could stand against his power. Something like what rode on Confetti’s wind, but he felt more like Id. Like Brittle.

“Warrior?” she asked. She did not look up. If he was there and his ruin was here, then it would not be wise. Thought, breath, eyes—they could carry it. She would keep hers to herself.

But she had impressions, out in the corners of her gaze. Dark coat, flash of gold, flash of fire. Fanged.
Wanting. Wanting so much she did not have to look to tell.

What, she did not know. She never knew, possibly never would—but she’d had the time to get used to it

She wanted to touch the fountain, to dash her mark upon it. But what the stallion had done was an eating thing. Could still be hungry, lying in wait. She moved back, clipped a strand of ivy off between her teeth, then dropped it on the stone. See what happens.
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Posting Elemental
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Post Sat Mar 10, 2018 8:16 pm

Re: once more, with feeling

The crumbling ceased, those places where the stone had begun to melt and crack made whole once more. Fascinating, that she could do such a thing. It was a small touch, perhaps, not necessarily an elemental's trait. But possibly. There were several he watched over that had some small, specialized touch to the natural magics inherently held within their kind. Thyme could hear the whispers of the forest, though his only method of influencing his beloved plants was mundane. Scythe could sip the last scraps of life from the broken and dying, use it to nurture herself - but only with those who already danced with death. Perhaps, perhaps, this was something like that. Perhaps this was a stone elemental; perhaps these were her creations.

All well and good; it made no difference to him. The stench of acid and sulphur clung to his coat as a marker for others, a cloud of warning wrapped to his tightly muscled frame. It seemed to make no true difference to her. If he was feeling polite, he would turn away just enough, put her a bit to the side, his face half hidden by the angle. He wasn't feeling polite. He was hungry in a way that no sweet grass could hope to touch.

Warrior, he confirmed, and his voice was so like the sound of crumbling stone, of bones grinding to dust, he had to smirk. Would she even realize he had spoken? Would she look, instead, to the fountain he had stood just that little bit too near, to see if her countermeasures had failed?

But, no. No, she seemed clever, this one. She didn't try to meet his gaze in challenge, didn't greet him with hostility and violence for coming to this area that was set apart with metal trees. The soft rumble of decay in his voice wouldn't confuse her.

He wondered what that soft voice of hers would sound like if she screamed.

He wondered if silence was enough of a habit that she would never scream. He had dreamed of such prey, once. He had found it, after a manner, in the weakest of his bondmates. Those days still held a fond glow in his memory. Corruption was such fun.

She made it easy to look at her, a new memory for him to absorb. Never directly, never in the eyes, but he could let his sideways gaze shift over more than shapes. He could see how she tied her mane, now. Very utilitarian. It could be pretty flowing freely around her, but it would certainly get in the way of those delicately deadly movements. The odd stripe that wrapped her, top and bottom. The simple gray that lay as her base.

He considered, for an instant, the ways he could remake her.

But no, there was no need to remake this one. He would grow bored with her, if she was other than what she was. The delicate, the feminine, the meek; they would not have countered his effect on the stone. Would not approach him, would not know that his name was his nature.

His name. Ah.

I am Caustic, he said, sneering at the accuracy of his name as he moved his gaze away, freeing up more room for her to maneuver as she placed the ivy on the stone. He watched it smoke, blacken, shrivel. Watched it wither and die, as the grass behind him had done, as the stone had begun to, before her. It didn't matter if she could hold his influences at bay. It was temporary. Time, time would do his work for him, sooner on that fountain than the others. He could make her see that, as he had made others. Decay was as inevitable as death.

He so wanted to see if she would scream for him. If he broke her leg, what would she do?

She stood closer to him than others had dared. Perhaps she was stronger, or simply more stubborn. Too close, though, too close and his aura would weaken her. It was so easy to break their bones when they had to concentrate to simply remain standing.

Her poor luck to have been the one he found.

The stripe that wrapped her, darker than her hair, matching the strands she used to tie her mane with; the contrast was pretty. Pretty little dancer, pretending to be what she wasn't.

Balance.

Yes. It wasn't as much fun to break them right away, regardless. He liked the suffering.

You break some, reinforce others, he observed, turning his gaze to the chipped stone in the distance, and keep the logic of it to yourself. I can destroy everything here, if that was your goal.

Everything.

Including her.

But she had not attacked, and he couldn't let himself sink into the blind destruction his soul craved. That, no, that was for true battle. He would have to kill something, soon, but not here. Not yet.

What is it that you break with the stone? Specific targets, they usually had ties. It wasn't about the stone, that wasn't what she meant to break. It held something else, something she needed to destroy. The stone was just a representation.

She could give him a target, maybe. Something tangible. Something to kill.

The ivy was a small, blackened, unrecognizable lump upon the stone, dried and withered.
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Post Sat Mar 10, 2018 10:10 pm

Re: once more, with feeling

Green turned to black, smoked, writhed away like death throes. She had chosen well, to test this. In the withering, more struck her. She’d kept her breathing shallow, slow, like she used to before the kill. What the stallion wore would not yet end her, but she knew it might. Better to be away.

So she moved, ever eyeing, back where the air was just clear. Raise not your head to the level of his eyes. That turn too elegant for her, but she remembered it. Lines in books—she’d kept certain scraps, whether she knew their meaning or not. Words to be gathered, if never used.

His voice, like the fountain dying. Darkness in it—Confetti’s, Lucid’s. Id’s when he’d broken her. Much to know, in that voice. Much to know in that name.

Caustic. She knew this not, the meaning exact. But she could guess, perhaps, by the fountain and ivy. Some were opposite the name—Brittle, the strongest. (Once was, no, do not think on that.) This one was possibly the same in his. Naming like hers.

“I Lock,” she said, as courtesy. She dropped more than she knew as correct, but she did not know this stallion standing beyond the gate, blackening the grass, wanting so much it rose from him like his poison cloud. What would he make of her as this, broken in words and small in her world? Helpless? Hopeless?

Was that the root of the wanting, or perhaps he would move on. Either way, she was suited. Strange, how accustomed she was to the intrusions. But she had not had ‘caring’ for very long. She did not know yet when she was supposed to. And Sive had said, that the path to this place was to be ‘found’.

He could not be here, if it was not meant.

Speaking he was, still. Words patterned as the books, but she was better with listening. He could destroy it all. Maybe that was his wanting. Bold, with his power. Not like the Rogue, who said he would not fight, gave her his gift of burning water. This one crumbled her garden—could very well crumble her.

“Not goal. Not that way.” She moved past the fountain, but never out of sight. Sundial, here, the base weather-worn and tangling up in the vines. Here, she gouged out chunk, sent it spraying over the floor with one precise kick—but it stayed standing. “Destroy slow.”


What is it that you break with the stone?

Once upon a time, she had answered a question like that. It was not a deep answer. She destroyed because it had been taught to her, young enough that it could not be untaught. Destroy because it was what she was. And they had taken what she used to visit it on, and now she must do it here. Or to the dark beasts of the road. Or to what Sanguine directed. And the Statue Garden gave her time and space to do this—or else she might un-be as she was.

But this was not easy thing to say. Simpler, this: “My place, this garden. Will need to remember me, my belonging. Break the stone…it knows it is mine.”

She kept him in the corner of her eyes, to see what he would take of this. To see if it be better she make her stand in swiftness or in still. May not matter, either way—but if he was here, then it was meant. Worse deaths, if it came to that—and she had decided that it would likely be death. She’d bowed to a Warrior once, and it had cost her; she'd not much more to give.
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Posting Elemental
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Post Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:30 am

Re: once more, with feeling

Break the stone...it knows it is mine.

Something clicked and shifted inside of him and he turned, seemed to turn away; but the fountains could be useful. It allowed him to look at her in full, to study that something he had seen. It might damage her a little bit, but he thought not. That was part of what had shifted, part of the need to look.

Something he couldn't place, a strange duality. Her words were broken and, he suspected, she had long since lost the ability to devolve into the sweet terror he so enjoyed. It was the paradox of the damaged; they grew stronger. But not weak, not broken in that way, as some did; that was her paradox.

She was smart. Oh, she was smart. She handled him perfectly, maneuvered as if they had been old friends, as if she knew his tricks. Perhaps it was an act, this manner of speaking, but if so she was revealing too much with the way she moved, the turn of her head. He had to keep a watch for such things, lest he waste a kill. No enjoyment in killing by accident.

If it was an act he would have to watch all the closer, still. Lock, she'd said her name was, she saw far too much. She would find the trick to him. He wasn't arrogant or foolish enough to think he was without weaknesses and thanks to the brutal training (It was always too close to a death match to be called sparring) of his bonded's mate when the need became unbearable he was extremely aware of his weak points. Eventually he had almost learned to hold his own against the beast. Almost. Fighting him was like fighting a rogue of his own kind; no true hope but to make a good effort of it.

He struck fast, did Caustic, and yet he was no dancer. He didn't move with the practiced speed and grace that shadowed her every step; that wasn't how he was made. Moving fast enough, running to the side or behind him to dash in for a strike and flee - that could harry him, especially if she was fast enough to keep him from forcing her back around. Eventually, if a critical strike wasn't landed fast enough, the toxins that seeped from his very skin would still wear their own damage; and he did know how to fight, and fight well. It would be exceedingly difficult to ever land the crippling blow.

He would watch her, this little mare that was far too smart. And yet she appealed to him. A new sensation, and rather unwelcome, but... She understood.

Break the stone...it knows it is mine.

She understood the basic knowledge he held on a visceral level. There was a stallion he'd remade, reshaped, and irregardless of what anyone else thought that made the stallion his. The mate may be a rogue, but she was not as attentive. She held his heart; Caustic held his soul.

My place, she had said, and he narrowed his eyes at the reflection of her in the still waters. Better that he had asked, then. Better to stay near the gate; he hadn't been invited in, either way, and wouldn't cross the boundary until she changed that. Her place, of course it was. It explained why it was marked apart. It wasn't the area that had him narrowing his gaze, however, but her own stillness, her watchfulness. She knew him, in some way. Knew what he was.

He could play with her and never break her. She was beyond such things, beyond the helpless, whimpering horror. He had never dreamed of such a creature; he enjoyed the trembling, the tears of pain and fear, but they were short-lived encounters. They would break with madness, most of the time, though there had been some that simply had their will flee from them. Rather they truly died or became little more than a mushroom made no difference; his playing was at an end.

But she would endure. He would read her reactions, would have to earn them. He didn't imagine she would grant them to him with the ease of a scream; no, not this one, so poised, so carefully watchful.

We are all of us, mad. That's what the other had said, what made the golden SunDancer's skin flinch as if beset by flies. It had either been the words or bearing the full weight of that gaze, but his own vanity made him inclined to think it was the words. If nothing else, they two were of equal madness.

Claim it, then, this place that is yours, he said, and there was a note of command in his voice. It would be easy to overlook it, at first. Easier still when it was something that one had already made the decision to do. Leave your mark, Lock. Make sure you are remembered.

He always did.
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