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The Outlands



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Fri Mar 16, 2018 1:42 am
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Lael says...



Kaia Nesbitt
cowritten with @soundofmind


The last thing James could remember was a sharp, aching pain: a comglomeration of the arrow wound, the bullet wound, and the kick to his back. Then everything went dark. As he came to, the pain greeted him as a poignant reminder that he had lost, and he fully expected to be tied up. But as his eyes fluttered open, he saw Kaia in front of him, wrapping the wound she had given him on his forearm - which would be ironic, if he knew he wasn't needed alive. He attempted to move, but his body had yet to catch up to his mind and his eyes, and he only managed to tilt his head forward ever so slightly, before it fell back, leaning on the tree behind his head.

Rather rapidly, he drew the conclusion that she'd bound up the wounds on his back at well, when he felt the taut bandages wrapped around his torso.

James started to speak in a low grumble. "I really need to build an immunity to the drugs you lace your weapons with."

Kaia's eyes flicked to him briefly. Then she glanced back down at her work and replied flatly, "Gaining an immunity to poisoner's drugs would take many years of slowly increasing your exposure to them. Even the slightest mistake could lead to immediate death, and the process itself can be quite . . . unpleasant."

James sighed. "Still beats getting caught."

She pulled the bandage tight with a small jerking motion, perhaps a little tighter than necessary. She fought back the twitch that threatened to pull at the corner of her mouth as he winced. "Too bad, I suppose. Perhaps your luck has run out."

James looked down as his arm fell back at his side. He hated this side effect of her drugs more than anything else about getting caught. He lost total control over his own body, his own senses. It was maddening.

"It certainly hasn't been luck that's sustained me," he muttered.

Kaia fastened the bandage in place and paused. She leaned in close, until their faces were mere inches apart.

"Well, you will need it, once we get back," she whispered, her eyes boring into his. "It'll be quite fortunate for you if Blackfield decides to spare your life."

James returned the intensity of her gaze. "He'll only keep me around as long as I'm useful."

"And are you still useful?" she asked. She couldn't deny to herself that she hoped he was.

James broke eye contact briefly. "...As long as the posters still say I'm wanted alive, instead of dead, then yes."

Kaia pulled back and glanced off into the distance, contemplating what she should do next. "The sun will set soon," she said finally. "We'll stay here for the night."

"It's not like I have much of a choice in the matter, do I?" He asked as he started to moved his neck and head to the side. He was slowly regaining feeling.

Kaia's eye was quick to catch the slight movement from James. With a small sigh she pulled a length of rope from her pack and began to tie him to the tree. "Exactly. You are my--no, His Majesty's--prisoner now. Get used to it."

"I'm trying my best not to," he countered, casually. "Though it seems you have."

Kaia allowed her eyebrow to raise as she looked at him again. "I have gotten used to what?" She didn't like the feeling he was conveying.

"Being a prisoner to his majesty. Despite everything you've seen."

"I am not his prisoner," she retorted, though she could feel her heart sinking. "Merely a hand. I chose to serve him, freely."

"Yes, but, should the head banish his hand from his body?" James rolled his shoulders against the ropes holding him, able to feel more. "He sent you out here to get me, but once you bring me back, what will be your purpose? Do you really think Blackfield is worth selling your life away so that you can do his dirty work?"

"When we return, I will return to my old duties," she said, stopping herself from adding "most likely" to her statement. "I was banished - if that is what you choose to call it - because I betrayed him, like you. By letting you escape. It is not selling my life away." She glanced down at the grass. "Dirty work or not, this is what I know how to do best. The best way I can serve the king. I owe him my life."

"Just because this all you know that does not mean that's all there is." He tilted his head forward, trying to catch her gaze again. "And your life is your own. Blackfield has done nothing for you worth repaying. And even if so, you would have already paid him back tenfold."

"I was foolish to believe you'd understand, Tiberius," she said, refusing to look back at him. "Blackfield took me in and gave me a home, a purpose, when my parents were killed. I would have been an orphan twice over if he had not given me a new life. Nothing can pay that back. This is better than what kind of unsavory lifestyle I would be trapped in without him. Would it be better for me to be begging in the streets for food, or working in a . . ." She stopped, unwilling to let that thought come into being. "As Blackfield's assassin, it gives me protection. From unwanted things."

James had fallen into silence, but his expression looked conflicted. His brows tensed, and his opened his mouth as if to speak, but only let out a weak exhale. "I..." he stuttered, taking a deep breath and shaking his head as if agonizing over what his next words would be. "Kaia... you..." he paused again, biting his lip. Now he couldn't seem to look at her either.

"Do you... do you know what happened to your parents?"

"They were killed. In cold blood. What more is there to it?" She took in a ragged breath and kept staring at the blades of grass in front of her.

James was silent for a moment - not meaning to build suspension, but deliberating on just how to say it, before arriving at the conclusion that there was no gentle way.

"Blackfield... he..." James closed his eyes. "He had them killed."

Kaia stiffened. "Stop," she whispered, clenching a fist.

"I would never lie to you about this, Kaia."

"And yet you are."

"He saw your potential in medicine and wanted you conscripted into the army, but your parents refused to have you enlisted. Blackfield, for whatever twisted reasons he has to justify himself, made a way where there wasn't one."

"Where did you get such a depraved idea?" she demanded, an edge creeping into her voice. She could feel herself trembling.

"The king himself."

Kaia took a deep breath to compose herself, even as her vision blurred with unbidden tears. "Not another word, or I'll knock you out again."

James had to hold his tongue. Though he wanted to say something, he believed her on her threats. He'd told her the truth, but he could not give consolation or anything more if it was unwanted.

But his words turned over and over in Kaia's mind. To believe them would be impossible, because . . . "You mean to say, it's my fault that my mother and father are dead. That the king killed them because he wanted my skills." She shook her head and stood to pace. "That's not right. My father was a loyal captain. He kept His Majesty safe."

James dared to speak again. "No," he insisted, trying to sound gentle and keep his bitterness towards Blackfield out of his voice. "It is not your fault, Kaia. Blackfield had no right to kill your parents just because he wanted to make you into his pawn. The king is -" James bit back a look of disgust. "You did nothing wrong."

Kaia sat back down and dared to take a glance at him again. She blinked rapidly, and swiped the tears off her face quickly, though they kept coming. She hated this vulnerability - once she slipped over the border of feeling, it was as though she couldn't stop it. "I don't know what to believe," she said, her voice almost inaudible. "There are too many lies."

"I'm sorry..." James's eyes fell to the ground. "I just thought... you deserved to know. I thought perhaps, you had already suspected it yourself. But I was wrong."

Kaia didn't answer. Her thoughts drifted to her father and his loud, joyful laugh, and her mother's warm embrace and lullabies. To her surprise, she realized that she could hardly remember what those felt like. She hadn't thought about her parents in so long, and now . . . it was as though she was losing them again.

James remained silent. In any other context, were he not tied to a tree, he would sit beside her. But in the moment, all he could do was let her cry, and respectfully look away. He knew there were no words that could be offered to ease the pain of the loss of a parent.

Kaia breathed in, slowly, and wiped the last of her tears off her face. She didn't have any more answers than she had in the beginning, but just the thought that King Blackfield could have done something like that to her parents had drained her will to keep Tiberius captive anymore.

She stood and went over to the tree and untied him. She held out a hand. "Get up."

James stared up at her, his heart twisting in knots. "Kaia..."

" 'Nesbitt' will do just fine, Tiberius," she said. She had to reestablish a barrier between them, for her own sake. She motioned with her hand. "Get up, now."

James nodded and got up slowly, feeling his blood rush to his feet again.

Kaia turned to pick up her long dagger, unsheathing it to glance at its blade and sharp edge. She tossed it in the air a few times, then glanced back at James.

James watched the dagger warily, and with confusion.

"What are you doing?" she asked. "You can go." She sheathed the dagger and strapped it to her belt.

James looked at her in disbelief. In light of what just transpired, he wanted to believe her. But with things such as these...

"Just like that?"

"You don't believe me?" Kaia shrugged almost nonchalantly and continued to pack her things. "You can follow me, then."

James stared at her. He found himself believing her, despite what experience told him. But in shock, he remained standing still, before finally saying: "James."

"What?"

"Tiberius... is dead to me. I prefer to go by James."

She blinked and looked at him silently for a moment. Then she nodded. "Very well. James, it is."

At that moment, several people burst into the clearing. "Don't move!"
In God I Trust

"as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death."
Philippians 1:20
  





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Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:02 am
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Wolfical says...



Brett Crawford
cowritten with @soundofmind


Especially since he was feeling as salty as a stickers bar thanks to Rosaleen, Brett was relieved to be on his own again, scouting ahead on the trail. He had long ago established a code that the only person you can trust in the Outlands is yourself, yet here he was, tangled in a web of loyalties, trusting people he hardly even knew. Was he being stupid? Probably. But he was in too deep now. Even if one of them was responsible for getting a dozen glass shards stuck in his palm, another had saved his life and was now in serious danger.

It had been several years ago: the night he intended to spend at the pub for a couple of drinks that ended as a nightmare, with innocent blood on his hands. Saving Philip wouldn't erase his guilt, but it might lend another step to the impossibly long road of forgiving himself. He quickened his pace.

Following their painfully obvious trail backwards reminded him yet again of why he didn't like horses as a mode of transportation. He didn't once need to bend down to inspect the track; he followed the path of flattened underbrush effortlessly until in seemingly no time at all he was back at the edge of the forest, where they had last seen the unconscious Philip.

Creeping among the trees and treading lightly along the drugged-Philip-being-dragged trail, Brett finally heard voices up ahead. As he neared them, he was surprised to hear bits of a rather genial conversation between Philip and his female captor.

"It is not your fault, Kaia," Philip was saying. Kaia? Does he know this woman? "Blackfield had no right to kill your parents just because he wanted to make you into his pawn. The king is..." There was a long pause. "You did nothing wrong."

This was interesting! Brett found a good place in a nearby bush and huddled down to listen. He couldn't see Philip but he could just barely see Kaia's face through the leaves—were those... were those tears?! She said something that was too quiet to hear, but Brett caught the last part: "There are too many lies," uttered bitterly between sniffles.

"You can say that again," Brett whispered under his breath.

"I'm sorry," Philip said. "I just thought... you deserved to know."

Totally makes sense, Brett was thinking. She knocks you out with a needle, drags you through the forest, ties you to a tree. Yep. Definitely deserves it.

Brett was in a rather uncomfortable position and wanted to shift his weight but didn't dare in the long silence that ensued. The woman finally broke it, holding out her hand. "Get up."

"Kaia..."

"The utter emotion in his voice!" Brett whispered.

"'Nesbitt' will do just fine, Tiberius," Kaia replied.

Tiberius?

Philip—Tiberius—whoever he was stumbled to his feet at her order. Brett flinched when she unsheathed her dagger and his hand flew to his own at his waist. Brett was so engrossed in what was going on that he nearly forgot about the rest of his party. Until he heard the snap of a twig behind him and flinched again, only to see Ari.

"Didja find 'em?" he asked.

"Yes! Shhh. Get down here." Brett grabbed Ari's wrist and pulled him down behind the bush.

Philip-Tiberius was looking rather aprehensive as Kaia tossed her dagger in the air. Ari gasped. "What're we waitin' for?" he asked. "She'll kill 'em!"

"No no no," Brett whispered. "I don't think that's going to happen. I've been listening in and—"

"Are you crazy?" Ari said, starting to rise.

"I prefer to go by James," was the last thing Brett heard Philip-Tiberius say before Ari crashed into the clearing.

"Wait!" Brett cried, dashing after him.

Kaia whirled around, startled, as Ari grabbed Philip-Tiberius-James around the waist and tossed him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

Brett waved his arms. "Ari, wait! Wait!"

Philip-Tiberius-James kicked against the air. "Wh-Put me down!"

"Don't you worry!" Ari said. "We're savin' you!"

Brett gave Kaia an exasperated glance before hurrying after Ari, who was already well beyond the clearing and charging through the forest.

--<>--

By the time Brett and Philip-Tiberius-James had convinced Ari that they were in no great danger and that the latter could certainly walk on his own two feet, they had reached the horses and the girls, who were confused when they were told there was no need to run.

"What, did you kill her already?" Rosaleen asked.

Brett shook his head. "No, uh... We'll explain. But first. You've got some explaining to do, Mister Philip-Tiberius-James."

James pulled away from Ari, but froze, slowly looking up at Brett.

"How much did you hear?" He asked, his voice and gaze both indicating that Brett has just become an imediate threat.

Brett's eyes narrowed. He was annoyed with James' coldness, considering the risk they had taken to go back and rescue him. "Enough to know you're a man of many secrets. Secrets that could put all of us in danger."

"Then let me do you the favor of leaving."

"You can't do that!" Ari said.

"And why not?" James snapped with a turn of his head. "If you don't trust me enough to want me around I have no business being here."

"You can't blame us," Brett said, "for not trusting you after hearing all that, Philip, or James, or—"

"James." He stiffened his jaw. "Just stick with James."

"Great. That's not confusing at all."

"Guys," Adina whimpered, "what's going on?"

Brett opened his mouth, but for once he didn't have anything to say. He was so confused. He was just starting to like this James guy. He didn't want him to leave.

James let out a long sigh and held the bridge of his nose. "I was talking to my captor. Her and I know each other... from a while back. In honesty, any information about her holds no relevance to any of you and is none of your business—" he sent a sharp look to Brett. "So I don't know what you want me to explain. Yes, my name is Tiberius. Yes, I go by James. Yes, I keep a lot from you, and every person I meet, but for good reason. That reason being that you would be in more danger if you knew than just by being with me—but as you are all aware, danger is a part of all of our lives by nature of being ones running from the law, or whatever else it may be."

Brett was surprised when Adina's voice pierced the silence. "I understand," she said.

Brett sighed. "Yeah. I don't like it. But yeah. Sure." He couldn't help it when a layer of sarcasm crept over his tongue. "Just feel free to be this super mysterious man with three different names and super secret information about how corrupt King Blackfield is and—"

"Every kingdom is corrupt, Brett. That's no secret to anyone."

"Yeah, well. That... that's true. But I wasn't done with my list. A super mysterious man who knows a mysterious, needle-wielding woman from the south... and who, after getting knocked out by her drugs, manages to make her shed a tear, and, eventually, set him free..."

James glared over at Brett, his eyebrows drawing together in impatience.

Ari looked over to James with surprise. "You... you made her cry?"

James fluttered his eyes and turned his glare to Ari. "Well that certainly wasn't my goal," he said with a bitter almost-grin that quickly faded.

Rosaleen finally spoke up after being uncharacteristically silent for the entire duration of their arrival. "Then what was your goal?"

James looked at Rosaleen, who had her arms crossed and was glaring at him with a raised eyebrow.

"I didn't really have one. We were just talking. Something came up. A truth that was hard to swallow. And it really is none of your business what that was."

"The king killed her parents," Brett said.

James's head snapped in Brett's direction. "Something that should've been discussed in confidence." His upper lip twitched. "They were tears of grief and not for you to see."

"Sorry, sorry. Just had to, uh, rip off the bandage." He could see that James was seriously not pleased. "Sorry."

"Wait—" Rosaleen interrupted. "So are you saying, that we wasted all of this time and energy coming back for him, since she was already going to let him go anyway?"

"Well. Good to know you care," James muttered back.

"No, that's not..." She sighed. "Shouldn't we be going somewhere instead of standing around and talking about our feelings?"

"I don't know, I think it's been helpful, mostly," Adina replied softly. "But it is getting late, so... maybe we should start looking for a good place to spend the night."

James sighed, but nodded. "Agreed."

"So you're staying?" Brett asked.

James paused, hesitantly opening his mouth to answer, but closing it again, waiting a moment longer before actually replying.

"...Yes. That is, unless you want me gone."

"Naww," Brett said, elbowing James playfully. "We need you. You're the brains of the outfit. The mysterious brains. What'll we do without your secrets keeping us on edge all the time?"

James glanced down at Brett's elbow. "... I don't know how you expect me to respond to that."

"Well, bud, if you stick around we'll have plenty of time to find out!"
Romans 12:2:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but
be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Simon & Garfunkel <3
  





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Thu Apr 19, 2018 4:35 am
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sherlockhson says...



ROUND THREE
Roslaeen Streinberg
cowritten with @soundofmind


Rosaleen could finally say she agreed with the group as a whole as they decided to start heading as far away from the mansion and Kaia as possible. She chose to stay more towards the back of the group to collect her thougths about all that had happened.

What surprised her the most about the whole situation was that they wanted James to stay. Sure he made for a decent leader but he was also a huge liability. Kaia may have been about to let him go but there was no telling if she'd still be going after him or not in the end, and for all they knew James could have been lying just to get away from her. Who are you to judge him? You were the one that got him caught in the first place. You're no less a liability than him. The thought echoed in her head, but she quickly pushed it back. It was for the good of the group she reminded herself. He was a problem and he knew it.

James's reactions to Brett seemed to say that he was telling the truth. And if the reveal brought Kaia to tears even she must've known it was true.Maybe that's why you so foolishly trusted her as soon as you met her? Already had something in common without knowing it! She uncontrollably let out a sigh. All that mattered now was making sure nothing happened to her or Adina cause of everyone else’s bad choices.

Rosaleen wiped the sweat off her brow. They’d been traveling for two miserable days in the humid heat, and it seemed to only get warmer with each passing hour, making her exceptionally annoyed. That, mixed with the smell of the horses, and all of their sweaty body odor combined, everyone was feeling on edge.

As they set up camp, Brett and Ari eagerly volunteered to go down to the stream and catch more fish (which was a lot of what they had been eating: fish). The prospect of cool water splashing around their ankles was more than enough to motivate them to leave the others to the rest of the work.

I.E. Rosaleen, Adina, and James.

The three watched as Brett and Ari trotted off towards the stream. James slowly turned to the girls.

"That just leaves caring for the horses, setting up camp, and maybe scavenging to see if we can find any berry bushes or something like that. They normally grow in this area."

"Thanks for volunteering to tend to the horses, Mustache Man." Rosaleen replied as she looked at Adina. "Let's see about those berries then?"

James only gave Rosaleen a tired blink. Adina however, nodded.

"Sure."

Rosaleen lead the way away from camp. "Lets hope he's right and these aren't poisonous berries we're about to find..." She said mostly to herself.

"Well, it's easy to tell the difference, actually," Adina replied.

"Really?" Rosaleen asked sounding slightly surprised Adina knew this.

"Yeah. My mother liked to go berry picking in the wilds growing up. She said the poisonous ones always have a cherry red stem. But ones that aren't poisonous just have brown ones."

"That's a good thing to know... You were close with your mother i take it?"

Adina gazed at the ground sheepishly. "Somewhat," she replied in wistful quietness. "Were you... close with yours?"

Rosaleen stopped at her question, a part of her wanted to answer honestly since Adina had been kind enough to answer honestly, but a larger part didn't want to go down that path right now. She played off her abrupt stop by looking around and spotting a bush of berries. "And that would be one of the bushes I think." She said as she pointed towards it.

"Oh..." Adina lagged behind Rosaleen for a second, realizing she might've asked too sensitive a question. "Good eye."

An awkward silence settled in between the two of them as they started picking the best looking berries from the bush Rose had found. Rose knew the awkwardness was because of her ignoring the question and regret started looming over her.

"I-I uh..." She let out a sigh. "I didn't know my mother, she was murde-- She died when I was very young, my father raised me by himself."

Adina tried to hide it, but she looked surprised that Rosaleen had given a straight answer. There was a delay in her reply.

"I'm sorry..." she said quietly. "My mom's gone too. She uh... was like me. She had magic."

Rosaleen paused, unsure of how to reply to Adina, she filled the small void of silence by quickly picking a few more berries. "I-I see..." She finally said. "I didn't know magic could be passed down like that. I didn't know many people at all who had it though... You're only the second in fact."

"Wait," Adina stared at her. "You know someone else who can do magic? Out here? They haven't been caught yet?" There was a small glimmer of hope in her eyes - as if, maybe it was possible, for a magic user to survive in the Outlands.

Rosaleen stopped again, painful memories of Ruddlan coming back to her. The feelings only became more intense when she looked at Adina and noticed her expression. She looked as if she were hoping to hear of some secret place or way for magic users to live out in the wilds.

"It's uh...Not exactly, it's... Complicated." She managed to get out before quickly returning to berry picking. "I think we'll need a lot for Ari, yeah?" She said, awkwardly trying to change the subject.

The light quickly died in Adina's eyes, and she bit her lip. "Uh, yeah. We could probably just pick the whole bush clean," she said as she added more berries to the pooch she'd made with her skirt.

"Berries and fish though? Maybe that mustache man is a chef too... And maybe Ari is part giant huh?" Rose tried poorly to pull the conversation away from their sad pasts and more into the current situation.

"Ari is pretty big," Adina smiled, laughing to ease out of the awkwardness. "But I don't think berries and fish really go well together, haha. If we were in the city we'd have more options. But this is good too, though. Better than uh, starving."

"Well, we still might if those two knuckleheads can't catch any fish... actually I don't know how well they can fish without tools..." She squinted at the thought of returning to no fish being caught.

"I think they sharpen sticks or something?" Adina wondered out loud. "They're both from the isles. Maybe they just grab the fish with their hands, haha."

Rose let out a chuckle at the thought of Brett and Ari flopping about trying to catch fish with their bare hands, she quickly regained her composure though and tried to play it off as clearing her throat.

"Y-Yeah I bet those two idiots would try something like that." She replied but couldn't help a small grin.

Adina watched Rosaleen out of the corner of her eye with a smirk. "Probably just an excuse to splash water everywhere, since it's so hot out."

"Well I hope they get that out of their system before we come back... if Brett splashes me with water i'll drown him." She tried to make that threat sound non serious, but in the end she was mostly serious.

Adina replied with a bit of weak laughter wondering just how serious Rose was before they both decided they had picked enough berries and decided to head back to camp to see how things had been going while they were away. As they got close they could hear the crackle of a campfire and the smell of cooking fish. Brett and Ari had been successful from the looks of things. Adina and Rose took seats around the campfire with the rest of the gang and they started munching on the berries as they waited for the fish to fully cook. Rose quickly returned to her usual attitude and Adina had decided to sit close to James.

Aside from Brett inching closer to the fire to occasionally check on the fish, the group sat a distance from the fire, simply because of the uncomfortable heat. James looked hesitant for a brief moment, before he broke the brief silence before Brett or Ari could start talking again.

"So Adina," he cleared his throat. "I've been meaning to ask you about something, if it's alright."

Everyone looked at James curiously, but Adina almost looked a little worried as she looked over with her mouth full of berries.

"It's about your magic."

Adina forced herself to chew faster, and swallowed.

"I think you should practice it," he said.

Adina stared at him, wide-eyed. "You think I should -" she stuttered. "But it's -"

"I don't see why you can't hone your skills. You're wanted anyway, so you might as well get good at what you're wanted for."

Adina frowned, and her hand brushed over a small book tucked in her skirt. Though the thought seemed to trouble her, she looked to be seriously considering it.

"Do you really think that's... safe?" Brett asked.

James raised an eyebrow. "What, practicing magic? No one's this deep into the forest besides us."

"No, I mean, since she's so... new to it. Right?"

"What does practicing magic even look like?" Ari hopped in to ask.

"I think it's a good idea." Rose finally spoke and looked over at Adina with a smirk. "I think it'd be great if you could use your magic better, to help you take care of yourself and what not." What she really meant was so she could protect herself better than Rose herself or anyone else here could. Her thoughts slowly drifted back to Ruddlan and the young mage she encountered there as her smirk slowly faded.

Adina's gaze drifted to Rosaleen, and they made eye contact. Adina knew what Rosaleen meant. They all did. If she could use her magic better she'd have a better chance at surviving in the Outlands. If she could use her magic as a way to keep herself safe, she just might make it.

"I mean," she started. "I'd like to." She cleared her throat. "I want to."

James appeared satisfied with that response.

"We can figure out what practice looks like as we go," he explained. "Since none of us here use magic, it'll be learning for all of us."

Adina nodded, playing with the small book in her hands.

"Well if that's the case," she said with a small grin. "Maybe I can be the one to teach all of you magic," she chuckled.

"That would definitely be interesting," Brett added.

"Oh! I'd love that!" Ari said with a big smile.

"A giant using magic? Would love to see that." Rose replied as she leaned back and rested up against a tree and closed her eyes, trying to fight off the memories shifting around in her head.
  





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FalconerGal9086 says...



Ardeshir
cowritten with @soundofmind


There was a loud crack as Ari's foot came into contact with what used to be a small log, and is now two small logs. He stumbles, nearly falls, and then catches himself, laughing heartily. Philip-Tiberius-James is on the path right behind him and nearly runs into the giant in front of him at the sudden halt.
"Ey, sorry 'bout that, Ph- er, Tibe- er, I mean, James!" Ari says cheerfully.

James steadies himself. "You alright?"

"Yes, siree!" he says, brushing the leaf debris off his shirt. "Hope I didn' make ya trip 'r nothin'."

"No, I'm good."

"Glad t' hear it!" he beams, continuing his way down the twisting game trail to the creek where they're going to get dinner for the night, James trailing silently behind him.
"So, ya like fishin'?" Ari asks, trying to strike up conversation.

James shrugs. "My lifestyle necessitates that I do if I want to eat."

"I've always liked fishin'!" he says. "Sometimes the sharks would be a bit scary, though. I got bit once! Lotsa people died from sharks. Out here, ya ain't havin' t' worry 'bout them, though! That's good!"

James raises a brow at Ari. "You got bitten... by a shark?"

"Yep! Nearly took me leg off but then I got thick bones. Thick skull, too, that's what me momma always said!"

James's eyebrow furrows as he looks at Ari with a mix of disbelief and concern. "It's a wonder you've made it this far in one piece."

He laughs. "Nah, not really! I just kicked it in the nose like Papa always taught me! That's what he said. If ya were out 'n the water 'n ya were fishin' 'r somethin, sometimes the blood attracted 'em, 'n so if ya got bit 'r one got too close, ya just kick the nose 'cause it's real sensitive! 'n I had my harpoon, too, so I got 'im in the gills 'n he let go and I jumped back in me boat and got me back home so Ma could patch me up."

James's brows go from furrowed to raised as Ari tells the story, and he looks at him with a slow blink. "That's... uh. That's... wow."

"I still got a tooth from it, too, somewhere on me 'ere." He digs through his pockets, and finally finds it in his sock. It's a pretty good-sized tooth, about an inch in length, and serrated as most shark teeth are. He pulls it out of a little leather pouch. "I made it into a necklace, but it got cut, so it ain't nothin' more 'n a tooth now."

James leans in slightly, looking closely at the tooth. "Huh," he hums with interest. "That's really something."

"It was one of those ones w' the slit pupils 'n the black tips on their fins. Ain't big as them whites, but big 'nuff, that's fer sure. Surprised another 'un didn' get me on me way up. A saw a couple, but I was in the boat 'fore they got there. Made a hole in it, though, I tell ya - Pa never forgave me fer that one, no sir."

"Sounds like your father cared a lot about you."

"Aye, have good parents, I do," he says. "Taught me good, that's fer sure. Ain't wantin' t' let 'em down, I tell ya."

"Well, it doesn't seem like you have," James replies.

He shrugs. "I'm hopin' I ain't, but bein' wanted ain't exactly what they were thinkin' o' as success, 'r anythin' else but disgraceful, really. After me brother, musta hit 'em real hard."

"Ah," James pauses, quiet for a moment, before continuing with a gentler tone. "Is your brother an outlaw as well?"

Ari shakes his head, his smile disappearing for the first time. "Uh, nah. He died few years back, 'fore all this happened. He was a guard, ya see, 'n was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, I supp'se."

James looks up, watching as Ari's smile fades.

"I'm sorry that happened, Ari."

He shrugs, perking up again and smiling, though his eyes betray his sorrow. "I mean, he died good, 'n lots die younger, so it ain't that bad. Least 'e lived good. That's what I'm thinkin', anyways, but I ain't sure if it matters much in the long run, really."

James looks away at the creek coming up ahead of them, his expression solemn but unsure.

"I'm not very sure either," he says quietly.

"Well, least he ain't 'round fer all this chaos I guess. He wouldn' be happy w' me, no sir." He sits down on a rock and takes off his boots, then his socks, rolling up his pants.

James follows suit and does the same. "At least the chaos means things are rarely ever boring."

"That's fer sure, but I was always thinkin' sharks were chaos 'nuff fer me. It's my own fault, though, really, so I can't be complainin'," Ardeshir replies, wading into the creek.

James only hums a "hm" in reply, staying back as he grabs a sturdy stick from the ground. He pulls out a knife, and begins to sharpen the end.

Ari flops through the water nearly as gracefully as a fish on land, often making contact with the slick scales but unable to hold on due to the small size.

James watches from his seat on the rock, looking up at Ari occasionally as he finishes sharpening the tip. Once done, he pockets the knife and follows Ari into the creek, his eyes following the flow of fish in the stream. After a moment of waiting, he strikes the stick into the water and pulls it out. On the tip, there was a fish.

Ardeshir comes back out of the water, shaking it off his face and glancing over at James, noticing that he's spearing them instead. He never thought of using something like that on the small fish - back at home, there was never something worth getting that was too small to grab, so only big ones were stabbed.

James slides the fish up the stick and kept at it in the water. Though he misses a few, he ends up catching four more. He briefly looks back at Ari.

"Everything alright?" He asks, noticing that Ari stepped out of the creek.

"Yep! Can I borrow yer knife? These fishies too small fer me normal method o' gettin' em!"

James wades back up to Ari, handing him his knife. "Sure."

"Thanks," he grins, then grabs his own stick that's exactly the same size as James' despite his larger form. He begins whittling down the point. James watches for a brief moment before turning back to fishing.

A few minutes later and Ari's back in the water, perfectly imitating James' fishing style as he watches the water and makes a calculated strike, coming back up with a silver smolt and holding it up with a proud grin, like a little kid who just drew something he thinks is a masterpiece.

James looks over, catching Ari's eye, and seeing the fish. He grins ever so slightly at Ari's childlike enthusiasm, but his grin slowly fades as his eyes focus in on the growing mustache underneath Ari's nose. Or, what ought to have been a full mustache, but was was rather sparsely grown. He blinks a few times, and shakes his head, looking at his stick full of fish and determining it time to get a new stick to fill up.

He slides it up the skewer like James did, and proceeds to continue stabbing fish at a champion pace - aiming isn't difficult for him despite the distortion of the water, as it's something he's been doing since he was a little kid. James returns with another stick, but looks at how many fish Ari has amassed in his short absence.

"You think that'll be enough for tonight?" He asks. "Unless you're feeling exceptionally hungry."

He shakes his head. "No, sirree, I'm thinkin' yer right, this should be 'nuff fer us all, w' some left over."

James nods. "Good. Then we ought to head back."

"Yep!" he agrees, stringing the fish on a long piece of twine.

After putting his boots back on, James simply grabs his skewer full of fish and gestures for Ari to follow when he's ready.

Ardeshir starts up the trail, bounding up it with his usual energy, with James lagging slightly behind him. Due to the large movements of Ari's, one of the fish he strung up falls off as the knot loosens. As the giant of a man leans down to get it, a tawny fur ball leaps out of the bushes and attacks the fish, rolling around with it.

"Ursuku!" he exclaims with a grin.

James watches the cat nab the fish with steely eyes, and pulls on Ari's arm for him to get up.

He scoops up the cat and the fish, standing. "I thought we lost ya, little bear!" he tells it.

"...Make sure it doesn't get into our food," James grumbles. "Or more of it, rather."

Ari chuckles. "Don' worry, he won' go eatin' nothin'. Will ya, Ursuku?" he scratches its chin and it kneads his arm contentedly.

James narrows his eyes at the kitten in Ari's arms and frowns, but proceeds to hold his tongue.

They return to camp and he lets Ursuku down with his fish, then grabs a knife from one of the packs and starts gutting. James sticks his skewer in the ground beside Ari and goes to check on the others, but calls back to Ari.

"I'll be back in a minute."

"Yes, siree!" Ari calls back, tossing a tail to the baby cougar and watching it as it rolls around contentedly with the fish bits.
Tasha: *almost kills a guy*
Rita: You might've just earned your ticket out
James: Logic doesnt exist RIP me
  





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Wolfical says...



Brett Crawford
cowritten with @soundofmind


"Hey James," Adina said, looking up from the berry bush. "Do you know where Ursuku is?"

Brett turned around and saw James coming towards them, his rolled-up pants and most of his shirt dripping with water.

James looked displeased at the mention of the small cat. "With Ari."

"Good," Adina replied. "I was worried he'd run off. Can we go see him, Rose? We can find berries elsewhere."

"Sure," Rosaleen said. "I think we've just about plucked this bush bare anyway." She took their basket and dumped the sweet red jewels into the covered one they kept at camp. Flies buzzed at the lid and Brett swatted them away as he continued to stack dry logs and sticks next to the coal of last night's fire.

"How'd fishing go?" Brett asked as the ladies departed.

"Fine," James said. "And everything's well with you?"

"As fine as things'll be when you're an outlaw."

"... that's fair, but I was talking about getting your task done. Which it seems you have," he said, glancing down at the pile of wood.

"Ah. Yes." He looked at the wood too. "I hope it doesn't rain tonight."

James looked up at the sky, which was partially cloudy. "If it does finding shelter will be a pain."

"Yeah." When he saw the conversation was going nowhere, he decided he'd dip into his past. "I've spent many nights in the rain. When I worked for my brother, I'd have to be up most of the night keeping watch, out on the deck."

"Hm," James hummed with a nod. "And you never got sick doing that?"

"Naw. I think it's in our blood. Ari and I - we're half fish."

James scoffed a half-laugh. "That would explain a lot."

The corner of Brett's mouth twitched in a grin. "That's one thing I hate about the Outlands - it's always so dry and hot. I miss the sea. Y'know what? I take what I said earlier back: I hope it rains tonight. This God-forsaken land needs it."

James slowly turned his gaze to Brett with his eyebrows raised. "... and you're sure you're alright?"

"Well..." Brett sighed. "Don't you miss your home?"

James's eyes quickly flicked away. "No."

"Where is your home, anyway?"

"I haven't had a 'home' for years, Brett."

Brett picked up a stick from his firewood pile and used it to indicate the ground opposite the old fireplace. "Sit down, would ya? It's hurting my neck to look up at you this long."

James looked down at Brett with narrowed eyes, but obliged, sitting stiffly beside Brett.

"Why're you holding back?" Brett asked. "What's the use anymore?"

James clenched his jaw for a moment as he looked away, resting an arm on a raised knee. "I can think of a few reasons. But it's not... it's not personal. My trust is hard earned and something I can't afford to give freely. For the sake of my own sanity."

"Hard earned, eh? How much harder do I have to try?"

James looked out into space for a moment, in thought. "I don't know, actually. But with most people, I come up with a completely fabricated past from which to draw stories and recreate myself so that they don't know who I really am. That is, unless they know who I am and that I'm wanted. Or in your case, also heard the briefest amount of information via eavesdropping. So I really don't know anymore. This is different."

"Wouldn't it help to be able to share your past, to get it off your chest? I could... I could be a friend for you, y'know?" He leaned forward and playfully nudged James in the shoulder. "What's the use in being so uptight?"

James gave no visual response, his face still a wall of stone. "Loose lips get people killed," he said quietly.

Brett drew back and threw his hands up. "Alright, I get it. Actually I don't. But I've never heard you say so many words at once in my life so I'll call that a victory."

James finally looked at him, making eye contact. "The people who are after me... it's not just a matter of treason or betrayal for them. It's personal. Vengeful. And they won't stop until they have me. Maybe it's different for you and the others because you're running from the law, but the law is not -" he stutters "-was not your..." he looked away again, face full of tension. He closed his eyes and let out a sigh.

"If knowing the bare minumum about me keeps people like you out of the path of my fate, I don't care how many times I have to lie about who I really am."

Brett, for once, was the first to look away. "I don't know what you've done in your past, or what happened to you on accident or whatever, but geez. I thought I was unlucky. Seriously, what happened? No - you... you don't have to answer that. Not that you would. I think I might get it. It's what you've asked of us all along. To be your friend, even though... we haven't the slightest idea who you really are."

A pause. "In my experience, no one really wants to be friends with someone who remains a stranger."

Brett nodded. "That's why it's tough. It's why I keep trying to crack you open." He sighed. "But I don't think you're a stranger to me anymore - it's not that extreme. I might not know your past, and you're stubborn about hiding your emotions, but... I have reason to believe you're a good guy."

James stared at the ground blankly, outwardly still an emotionless face. "...Thanks."

Brett's face suddenly broke out into a smile when he felt a drop of rain on his nose.

James looked over to Brett with brows drawn in confusion, but then he too felt the light drops on rain on his face. In contrast to Brett's smile, his expression immediately deflated into a miserable frown.

"Look," he said, voice filled with unenthusiastic sarcasm. "It's raining for you."

"Hah!" Brett cried. He joyfully got up and began gathering their things together, occasionally pointing his mouth zenithward and catching raindrops on his tongue.

James got up and sighed, following suit and calling out to the others.

"Everybody pack your things! We're going to try and escape this rain."

"No, no," Brett said. "We're going to take a delightful journey through the rain in search of a place where those of us who aren't half fish can sleep."

James half rolled his eyes. "However you want to put it, we're getting out of here," he said as he hopped atop his horse.

Adina, Rosaleen, and Ari, kitten in tow, filed back into camp.

"Aw," Ari said. "I jus' finished guttin' the fish. An' with the berries too we were gonna have a nice meal."

"I wouldn't call it nice," Rose said. "Seems like we have fish and berries everyday. Anyway, we can eat as we ride."

Brett, of course, opted to go barefoot. He slung some of their supplies onto his back and then skipped off through the forest, leading the way.
Romans 12:2:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but
be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Simon & Garfunkel <3
  





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Lael says...



Kaia Nesbitt


So James' companions came for him after all, mused Kaia. She sat against a tree in the same clearing, flipping her dagger over and over as she thought. There was no use in chasing. She'd already let him go herself, so what he did now was of no concern to her.

But . . . She closed her eyes. If what he said is true, then so many years have been wasted. Because I was tricked into serving--helping--my enemy.

Twelve years, and he was under my nose the whole time.


Kaia's hand tightened around the dagger hilt, and she spun the blade downward and stabbed it into the grass.

King Blackfield wouldn't get away with it.

She stood and made to walk out of the forest, but stopped in her tracks. But on the other hand, what if James was lying? Her cheeks warmed at the memory of crying like a child in front of the man, but it was soon replaced by another.

--<>--

Fourteen-year-old Kaia dropped another herb into the pot of boiling water, then stirred the mixture with the wooden spoon one hand while her other hand trailed over the instructions in her potions book, making sure she didn't miss any information.

" 'Add two drops of fire flower nectar,' " she read softly aloud. She crossed the room to the shelf of ingredients and carefully picked up the small vial of red liquid. As she headed back to the pot, she began to recite its attributes to herself.

"Fire flower nectar comes from the rare fire flower," she opened the vial, "which is highly reactive. Many have . . . died in attempt to harvest the nectar." She began to tilt the glass tube slowly. "When used in very small amounts, the nectar is good for flushing toxins from the body or warming a cold person." One drop touched the surface of the concoction, and a small puff of steam accompanied a quiet sizzling sound.

She winced at the sudden outburst. Without her noticing, her movement caused a second drop to fall into her potion. Quickly recovering, she glanced down at the footnote for that step in the recipe.

She read, " 'It is essential that the correct amount of nectar is added.' " She nodded and kept reading as she tilted the vial again to release another drop. " 'Should excess nectar be added, its high reactivity will cause the potion to--' "

Before Kaia could even blink, she was thrown across the room amid the noise of an explosion and glass shattering.

In the next moment, she groaned and pulled herself up to a sitting position. She knew she was unscathed, though disheveled, but on assessing the room around her, she wrapped her arms around her knees and buried her head. She trembled as tears began to leak from the corners of her eyes.

Nearly everything was destroyed. All the rare ingredients, her tools, her instruction book--all were strewn in pieces.


His Majesty will kill me. Forget receiving a lashing from her potions instructor, these ingredients must have taken years for the king to gather. Now, all of it was wasted, ruined. It's all my fault.

After what seemed like an eternity, she heard heavy footsteps running in her direction. A set of hands lay on her shoulders.

"Kaia?" She whimpered at the sound of the familiar voice, though it was oddly quiet and gentle. "Child, are you all right?"

Kaia raised her head to meet the eyes of King Blackfield, who crouched down in front of her. Another sob escaped her.

"I-It's all my fault, Your Majesty. I--I wasn't careful enough--"

She stopped as the king rested a hand on her cheek. He was never affectionate, in the two years she'd been under his care.

"Hush," he said, and wiped a tear away with his thumb. "All of these items can be replaced. But there is only one of Kaia Nesbitt in this world. I vowed to your late mother and father that I would raise you well. You will be able to try again and again, and one day you'll be the best poisoner in the four kingdoms. But today, why don't you take a rest?"

Kaia allowed herself a small smile and some hope as she nodded. "Yes, Your Majesty." It was there that she resolved to be the best poisoner, the best assassin, the best helper for this man who was like a second father.


--<>--

What was truth, and what was a lie? The stern, dark, but certain life under the monarch of the Moonlight Kingdom, or the painful yet compassionate revelation from James, one labeled as a traitor when he appeared to be only trying to do what was right?

She shook her head and mused, "Mother, Father, I thought I had everything figured out, but it seems I've lost my way without you.

"Might as well go back and sleep on it for now."
In God I Trust

"as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death."
Philippians 1:20
  





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soundofmind says...



Tiberius James Hemming


It took a long while for them to find cover from the swift downpour of rain. Ari and Brett, being part fish, didn't seem particularly bothered. But with one quick look at James, it might've been hard to tell the difference between him and a wet cat - so prevalent was his misery on his face at being soaked to the bone. At the very least, it was a warm, humid rain, and not the kind of cold that meant sickness and shivering. All it meant was the discomfort of wet clothes sticking to you and mud slush unavoidably getting pasted to your shoes, the horses's hooves, and anything else it got kicked up on.

After trudging through forest for what felt like too long, they finally found a dense area of forest, shaded by the thick cover of low-hanging trees. At that point, whatever light was shining through the cloud cover had faded as night came about, and they all hopped down onto the forest floor, wet, and tired. Or at least - he was tired.

Brett was still soaking in the rain with arms outstretched as if he was the one who made it happen.

"Don't spend all night out in the rain," James said from the shade of the trees to Brett's silhouette.

"I told you I'm part fish," Brett retorted.

"Doesn't mean a fish can't drown," Rose called out, with her usual, inflammatory tone. Brett's arms flopped down with a wet smack.

"Sure you aren't part shark or something?" Brett muttered as he slowly walked over to them.

"Every rose has thorns," Rose said in a mocking voice.

"Ha, clever," Brett muttered again.

There was a brief pause of silence as the five tied up the horses and rested on the mostly dry, and fortunately soft, forest floor.

"...Everyone's okay?" Adina asked.

"Yeah," Ari said as he stretched out with a yawn.

"Elated," Brett replied. "Or was. Until -"

"I'm fine," Rose interrupted.

"How about everyone just goes to sleep," James answered wearily, happy to hear nothing in reply but the soft sounds of shuffling as everyone lied down.

"I can take first watch," Adina offered with a quiet whisper.

"Alright. Everyone just... wake up whomever when your shift is up, takes turns, you know how it is," James whispered back, to which everyone only replied with soft hums of something like "okay." And it didn't take long for them all to fall asleep.

--<>--


James was left for the last watch. Which meant he was the first to see the sun come up, and he was the first to see that their shelter in the forest was not all that it seemed. What, in the darkness of night, was easily mistaken for just another patch of forest, was quickly revealed to be what looked like a cluster of what looked like abandoned griffin nests.

James quickly stood, drawing the attention of Posie, who he calmed with a gentle brush of his hand on her snout. As he pet her head with one hand he looked down at the others - still sleeping - seeing the reality of their position. They were sleeping right in one of the nests.

Keeping his hands steadily petting the horse, he told himself this was no cause for alarm. Occupied griffin nests would have griffins in them. If the griffins were still living there, there would at least be-

James's heart sank as he caught sight of two white, round eggs peeking out from a nest a few yards away.

In a second, he was slapping everyone's heads, and shaking them awake.

"Get up," he ordered harshly as Rosaleen pushed him away.

His tone brought the others to whatever amount of alertness they could manage at the break of dawn.

"We're in a griffin's nest," he hissed.

Rose, formerly insistent on remaining curled up on the ground, leapt up onto her feet in an instant, eyes wide. "Dragons above," she cursed under her breath, and panicked, scrambling atop her horse, nearly dragging Adina with her.

"I don't mess with griffins," she growled.

Adina managed to secure herself behind Rose.

"Neither do I, so let's-" James froze when he heard a branch crack in the direction he saw the eggs. As if in unison, he and the others all slowly turned their heads to see a fully grown griffin standing above her eggs, and two other griffins peeking out from trees behind it.

No one seemed to move, until the griffin suddenly let out an ear-piercing screech.

"RUN!" James yelled.

Rose and Adina, on horseback, were already on it.
"It's all a matter of perspective... everyone is the hero of their own story, and the villain of another's." - James
  





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FalconerGal9086 says...



Ardeshir
cowritten with @soundofmind


The griffin landed, screeching on the top of her lungs. Her feathers were up all down her back and her aquiline crest was fully raised, giving her an even more formidable appearance than she already had - after all, an eagle-lion-creature is quite daunting in and of itself.

Ardeshir looked up at it, heart pounding in his ears. For a moment he found himself frozen to the spot in that moment of indecision: to run or to fight? But his brain didn't have enough time to think that through, so he did what he always did: the stupid thing.

He raised himself up and bellowed back at the griff, drawing his greatsword and distributing his weight evenly as he made eye contact with the massive bird-creature and dared it to come at him.

"What, are you insane?!" screeched Brett.

He glanced back for a moment at the sound of Brett's voice, opening his mouth to reply. The griffin reacted to this second of distraction with lightning speed and before Ari could actually say anything it was interrupted by a yelp of pain when onyx talons sunk into his arm. He dropped his sword, his fingers balling into a fist as he took a swing at the avian face. It was both taken aback and angered by this particular reaction and its toes ratcheted down even tighter on the massive man's arm despite the fact it didn't actually get hit.

"Brett, you have to grab its head and cover its eyes!" James shouted.

"I'M TRYING NOT TO DIE!" Brett yelled back. "Why don't YOU do it?"

"Whatever y' be doin' hurry it up!" Ardeshir interjected, pivoting to get in closer to the griffin without jerking on his arm too much.

With a hurried and panicked reluctance, Brett leapt atop the griffin's back, scrambling for a hold before grabbing for its head. The griffin flapped its wings with fury but Brett held on, getting his hands over its eyes.

It batted wildly and jerked back, its grip loosening on Ari without fully letting go. It was enough, however, and the man grabbed its hind claw and pushed it back, the rest of the foot opening with the single toe. The clicking of tendons unratcheting in its toes were fully audible. He rushed forward to help Brett before the bucking, screeching, clawing griffin dislodged Brett - if he was thrown and landed on the ground, the griffin would kill him without a second thought.

James swooped in to the side of the griffin, slicing under its wing, giving Brett just the few seconds he needed to hop off the griffin's back and book it out of the way. Unfortunately for James, as soon as the window opened to get under its wing, it closed, and wind came flapping down on him with force.

The griffin turned on the fallen swordsman with vehemence, golden eyes piercing as it reared up, ready to plunge both massive feet into him for a killing blow. He might've been able to roll out of the way, but luckily that wasn't put to the test, for Ardeshir jumped in the way and slammed into the griffin in an attempt to wrestle it back. He wrapped his arms around it and leaned into the attack, shoving it a few inches backwards in the eyrie, but the griffin wasn't taking that for long. It bit him in the shoulder and its feline muscles bunched, retaliating with fury and nearly making Ari trip over James - who, as chance would have it, was back on his feet. Ari yelled at the creature and pushed back, leaving them wrestling in a match that seemed to be a stalemate. That was, for the moment; he wasn't sure how long he could hold it back.

"AIN'T NO 'UN KILLIN' ME FRIENDS 'CEPT ME!" he bellowed.

"THAT DOESN'T MAKE ME WANT TO HELP YOU ANY MORE THAN I ALREADY DO!" Rose yelled from atop the horse as she galloped back towards the guys with Adina.

"YA LIKE US MORE 'N YA ADMIT, ELSE YA WOULDN' BE HERE!" Ari says, voice strained. His muscles were bulging and his veins are popping out with the strain of testing his own strength against a griffin's. A lion or an eagle would be enough; mix them and make it the size of a horse, and even his own great strength being enough was in jeopardy.

Coming up behind them, they could hear the steady thumping of horse hooves. James and Brett hurried out of the way as Rose stormed ahead.

"Move, you big idiot!" Rose barked.

"I can't!" he protests. "If I be lettin' go it'll knock me o'er 'n then I ain't gettin' back up!"

The pounding of hooves drew closer. Rose held a giant stick out in front of the horse like a jousting pole, while its tip was ablaze with fire. They weren't far from Ari.

The griffin jerked back when it saw the flames and Ardeshir took advantage, roaring as he used the last of his strength to push it to the side, using his whole body and shoulder behind the move. The already-startled monster stumbled and beat its wings to maintain balance, giving Ari the second he needed to leap out of the way before Rose came riding in with her glowing lance. The griffin didn't need further urging to leave: it leapt off the side of the nest and took off, disappearing into the sky and leaving them with a sweaty, bloody, and now sooty mess to clean up, the other two departing after it. Fire was something even they won't challenge.

Ari didn't move, staring at the clouds and breathing hard in the duff. "Nnnngggghhhhh," he groaned. His arm was throbbing and the shoulder the griffin bit didn't feel much better, not to mention that he was pretty sure he pulled at least four or five muscles and a few tendons.

James and Brett hurried over to Ari as Rose shouted at the griffins flying away, waving her torch around.

"Yeah! You better leave! You freaky oversized birds! Scared of fire! Ha!"

James put a hand on Ari's shoulder as he looked at Ari's bleeding arm that was pierced by the griffion's giant talons.

"Good gods, man, you took on a griffin," Brett rasped, still somewhat breathless.

He looked up at him, panting. "Me mum always said I ain't got 'nuffin 'tween me ears but impulsive stupidity....I think I mighta fractured somethin'...what's 'impulsive' be meanin'?"

"It means you don't think you before you act," James said quickly, still scanning Ari for injuries.

"Oof," he mumbled, sitting up and shaking his head. "Boy, haven't had a fight that good since t' shark," he grinned goofily. "Didn' think I'd get somethin' that exhileratin' 'gain, but I guess w' y'all I shoulda been knowin'! Think I'll get some good scars outta that? Gotta have some proof fer this one 'r ain't no 'un 'll be believin' me."

James gave Ari a firm pat on his shoulder, as if to tell him to calm down.

Unfortunately for James, he was hopelessly dense, and it completely flew over his head as he stood up. He did that a bit too quickly and swayed, going pale. "Oooooh I don' think the sky's supp'sed t' be down there like that," he commented unsteadily.

James and Brett hurried to steady the big man on either side.

"I think you oughta sit down for a minute, Ari," Brett said.

"Just a minute, until the sky's upright for you. Then we need to get out of these nests before the griffins come back," James added.

"I don' gotta know which way's up t' be ridin' a horse," he replied, starting to walk before stumbling again and nearly faceplanting. "Uh...maybe ya ain't wrong after all..." he plopped down where he's standing before he falls over. James and Brett struggled to catch his fall as Rose and Adina came back over on Rosey.

"Geez, you all look horrible," Rose muttered. "Then again, you usually do."

Adina slid off the back of the horse, hurrying over to Ari. Ursuku crawled from her shoulder down her arm into Ari's lap.

"Are you going to be okay?" Adina asked, before looking up at James and Brett. "He's gonna be okay, right?"

"Define okay," Rose said, still at it with giving lip.

James ignored Rose. "He should be fine, but we'll need to patch him up as soon as possible."

Ari looked down at his shirt sleeve. "Aw, there's big holes in it...well, ain't no use keepin' it in this state," he decided, pulling it off with his good arm and proceeding to tear it in half, bunching up one half to push against his arm and the other half to tie it down. He could tie a knot surprisingly well with one hand - must be all those hours fishing being put to good use.

Rose audibly rolled her eyes.

Brett came over with a canteen of water. "Let's clean it first before you start dabbing at it with your shirt."

"YEAH. When did you last wash it anyway?" Rose groaned.

"Well it rained yesterday 'n I don' think washin' it 'll do much good if it keeps on dumpin' blood the way it is," Ari replied with a shrug and quickly regretting it.

James gave another look around the cluster of griffin nests before he let out a sigh.

"Let's just get moving. Slowly."

Ari stood again, this time more carefully, before he got on the nearest horse, which happened to be Rosey. In the process, the cat on him falls on the ground and gives him a pointed look, which he doesn't notice. "A'ight, c'mon Ursuku, ain't wantin' t' be gettin' nommed on no more by them griffs, do we?" The kitten, seemingly forgiving him for dumping him on the ground a moment ago, climbed up his leg and came to rest on his lap. He smiled, scratching it behind the ears. All in all, it'd been a pretty good day.
Tasha: *almost kills a guy*
Rita: You might've just earned your ticket out
James: Logic doesnt exist RIP me
  








To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.
— Proverbs 18:13