Salle - Night's Edge Monastery
- The salle is less a room and more a roofed area attached to the main body of the manor house, the place of training for the weaponmaster and his students. Thick shardwood posts and rafters hold up a baked tile roof, leaving the sides of the space surrounded only by a waist-high wall of the same white sun clay bricks that make up the rest of the manor house. Rolled canvas is tied up on pleasant days, but can be allowed to drop to keep in warmth, in conjunction with the small stove in an out of the way corner, or keep out inclement weather. Within the bounds of the salle, the dirt floor has been carefully raked, a twenty-foot-across circle of fine white powder renewed daily in the open space at the area's center. To one side, several benches are placed to offer a class the ability to see the lesson being taught - or simply shoved against the wall to make more room for a class to work.
- There is a small, enclosed armory, its heavy door of biinwood usually barred and locked against intrusion, the small store of arms available to the residents of the manor kept within. Wooden practice weapons are stored in racks outside, however, available for anyone caring for a casual spar or a quick lesson.
- There are two biinwood doors: one leads off to the east to return to the courtyard, while the other heads north going through the armory to the dining hall.
The Edge isn't as occupied as it once was, though many of Celeste's students /are/ returning, trickling back in. Tonight, though? The lights of the house are aglow, a beacon in the night. The buildings are largely empty, however; there are two guards by the gate, a couple of smallfolk among the garden. Meian is indoors, likely in the dorms or the kitchen..
But the Salle is being used. The canvas that covers the half-wall is raised, revealing torchlight inside and a shirtless young mage, working on cleaning out the circle, to relay the crushed white stone that markes it in the dirt floor. Weapons racks are tidied, the wooden practice implements in neat and orderly rows, polished and ready. And the mage? He seems /content/.
The noises outside are definitely not the noises of a contented thing.
They are the thrashings and rustlings of a wounded animal moving through the brush, the stifled groans and growls of an angry beast, tortured, suppressing its own rage. And it sounds large.
Well. Now /that's/ a new sound -
And Kael moves out of the Salle, into the courtyard - burning eyes flaring as his head tilts, searching for the sound.
For whatever reason, the guards haven't reacted - perhaps they've not heard it, perhaps they don't care - but the mage /does/ call over to the folk in the garden, putting a smile on serious words. "Y' lot shoul' probably go in fer a bit, aye? Let m' Meian feed ye -" It's an order, not a request. "Y' let 'er know I said t' stay indoors fer a time, aye?"
An absent gesture, an almost irreverant flick of will? The front gate moves silently closed.. but not until the folk start to move into the building, surprised and muttering.
It isn't until the others are gone that the ... thing ... becomes visible, standing near the Salle, clawed fists clenched in concentration, breathing heavy. The thing, a tall, slim beast, lets out another frustrated grunt, then angrily reaches behind it and yanks. There's a silence -- a suppression of noise. The beast returns its hand to its side, clutching the arrow that was stuck in its back. After a moment it throws the arrow down and turns away from it, crouches on its haunches, puts its head between its hands. Unaware, apparently, it is being watched.
Kael stands outside of the salle, in the Garden - looking westward, over the low wall that surrounds the monastery. His eyes blaze; the front gate stands closed, but not barred. Shirtless and bootless from where he was working in the Salle this evening, he seems intent.. listening. Watching.
Beyond that wall is a beast, a tall, slender monster that can be seen, head and shoulders above the ancient baked clay. At the moment? It has a fanged, muzzled head buried in heavy, clawed hands.. and seems to be paying the mage in the courtyard no mind.
Kael's head tilts, eyes narrowing. Brazen, perhaps, he raises his voice - "Custom 't is, t' 't least say yer name, when y' come t' call 'n another's home. Simple manners, 't stands." One might have to be close to see the white knuckles, and the faint tremble of hand.
"You went through this once, didn't you?" The beast's voice is familiar, would be familiar, to Kael and Meian -- but it is deeper, has the raspy undertones of animalism, and an echo somehow fey, as if bounced off walls of Shadow. "You would understand, Kael, wouldn't you? Understand this?" It straightens, turns to face Kael, claws down by its sides, palms open, facing the mage. "This -fight-?" It growls, then steps towards Firelight with an oustretched paw. "Help me!" It demands, voice urgent. "Help me be -human again!-" There's another arrow sticking out of the tall, upright-walking, wolflike thing's body -- jutting out of his shoulder, at an angle. The thing moves as if it isn't even there.
"I'm home," a sweet, soft voice calls into the courtyard, as a slim figure hops in by clambering over the opposite side of the low wall. Meian freezes as her feet touch ground and her eyes fasten upon the creature, the girl abruptly paling and pressing herself against the wall behind her. "The wolfman," she whispers, eyes widening. "Kael, it's..."
Kael stands his ground - glancing over to Meian, his jaw setting as his attention returns to the Beast. "M' nae sure any o' us folk truly are - " Human, perhaps - "But comin' here sets folk 't risk, 't does. Y' go around, go away from th' House. Y' go inta th' ruins, past th' ol' tower - I wi' come t' ye there. Y' wi' nae scare th' folk 'ere more 'n ye must, aye?"
"I am sorry." The beast hangs his head, shakes his ponderous, long-toothed snout. "It is stupid of me even to ask of you a task I can only complete myself." He steps back. "If you'll forgive me for intruding, I will wait for you there, and disturb no one along my way."
"K-kael, who-" Meian whispers, turning an expression glazed with shock to the greying mage. "This- this isn't- not the W-wolf Clan, is it...?"
Kael bares teeth - "I got n' choice - donnae fret. Wi' talk in th' ruins - " calm and quiet - "But y' understand a wolf defends 's pack, an' I got t' do /that/ first." He pauses, looking to the woman - "Nae any notion - but what comes, comes, m' heart." He takes a breath, starting for the gate.
"You would be the second person today who perceived my presence as overt threat," replies the beast, yanking the arrow from his shoulder with a growl and, after a moment's thought, picking up another one -- one Kael saw him pull from his back -- off the ground. He snaps them in two and holds on to them. "I will wait there." The beast disappears into the dark.
Some time later ...
Old Monastic Structures - Night's Edge Monastery
- Northeast of the refurbished main monastery building, sandgrass patches sprout from yellow dust among the ramshackled ruins of structures that have yet to undergo the tender ministrations of restoration by the inhabitants of Night's Edge.
- The outbuildings are of sun clay and timber, and seem in particularly desperate states of disrepair - clearly incapable of occupation, and just this side of making someone throw up their hands in surrender before tearing them down to rubble.
- Time of Day: Night.
- It is the Tenth hour by the Shadow on Lanternglow. The slightest breeze stirs over the land infrequently. The sky is filled by dark, low clouds.
"I see you there behind my eyes." The beast is pacing the ruins, giant head down, murmuring to itself. "I know you've been there all along. You had me tricked once. You let me think you were just a tool. No longer ... I have paid my price! I have -paid- my price!"
Meian walks at Kael's side, the two moving through the gates to approach the ruins. She's quiet, her chin held at an angle that's almost defiant, her expression set. Only the remote glassiness of her eyes suggests she isn't serene so much as somewhat paralyzed.
Kael moves slowly through the ruins, not alone, no. The mage's eyes mark him as he comes - "Do y' figure so? What w' are comes wi' a lot more 'n jus' payin' once 'n goin' on." Serious, but not.. unkind, the mage asks, "M' name y' hae. But I donnae hae yours - though I feel I shoul'. But if yer th' one seekin' m' mate fer yer own? M' nae much inclined t' do more 'n tear ye apart 'ere."
That stops the beast in his tracks. It bears its fangs, an approximation of a smirk. "Meian Firelight? No trickery of the Shadow could warp my mind that far. She's mad enough at me as it is. Would that I had listened to you earlier, I would not have spent months wandering like this. You were right to say, Meian, that I have allowed my pride to get the best of my judgment in a great many things." His moment of lucidity -- of responsiveness to the question now asked of him twice -- ends when he looks up from his paws. It's as if he's lost his train of thought. "But I cannot help feeling I should stay this way just a little longer. Look." He turns, exposing the hole in his ebon-furred back where the arrow came from. "Shot in the back, and in the shoulder." He turns back to face them, flexes sinewy arms. "Look at how -strong- I am. Nobility is nothing! I can live without it. Without her." He looks down at the ground again, browridges drawing together as if struggling with a difficult concept.
Disquiet furrows Meian's pale brow heavily at those words, the woman taking a half-step forward. "I... I haven't said things like t-that to many people, many people at all.." she ventures uncertainly. "...Lord Thayndor? Is it p-possibly...?"
Kael sighs, reaching up and pinching his nose... then raising his head, eyes flaring, pointed teeth flashing in the dim. "An' 't fits, then." The mage drifts through the ruins to select a low wall. "If y' wanted t' be human, y' woul' be a'ready. But as y' are, y' donnae hae t' be anythin' more 'n a beast. Y' kin put hurt away, y' kin hunt 'n snarl an' forget that, in yer heart? Yer bleedin'. That I ken, aye. So 'ere y' stand - bloodied 'n wounded out 'n in.. lost in what y' became because 's easier 'n facin' what y' are."
"And what am I then?" Thayndor snarls back, spinning on the pad of one foot to face Kael, arms wide, chest thrust towards the man as if baring it. "A Noble? Not anymore, like as not. A warrior? The only fights I've won, I started by failing as a statesman, so clearly I'm better of not one of those, either. A leader? Oft-reviled and once mutinied against. You remember. A politician? Please. Each failure 'till now I've spent days, months, sleepless nights, patching, attempting to mend. As a beast I've no responsibilities but to hunt, kill, eat, perhaps avoid humans." He glares pointedly at Meian. "None to perch in the trees and mock my efforts. Are you so certain that's not the end you'd rather see? The end of Count Thayndor Zahir?"
Meian winces slightly at those words. "I don't w-want you dead," she says softly, biting her lip. "M-my lord, all I ever wanted w-was for you to a-admit you could be w-wrong, that your p-pride was d-dangerous. Kael's right. You l-like being a b-beast, and s-so you'll be a beast until t-that changes. What is it... t-that you wanted to do, in your life, my lord?"
"Y' are Thayndor. Whether y' got a Zahir after that o' no is nae important. Whether y' are outlaw o' no 's nae important." A simple answer to the question, Kael watching the beast with a quiet certainty. "If y' donnae care for who y' are, change 't. But if y' become nothin' more 'n a beast, yer jus' runnin' away."
"How's that?" Thayndor asks, pacing. "I became the beast to face it. Confront the Shadow. Only I've found that there's more to the beast than that. There is clarity of vision. There is purpose. There is deadliness and skill." He looks down at his paws. "Perhaps I am ready to come back to humanity. Only when I went to Eventide to tell Voreyn I would be gone only a while longer, I did so in this form." He looks back at Kael. "She ..." he rubs at the wound on his shoulder. "It didn't go as planned."
"The Syladris Amendment... m-my lord, don't you know about the Amendment?" Meian's wince only deepens, her delicate features tightening. "...And... and o-one does not taunt the Shadow, y-you know..."
"Nothin' e'er does, when th' Shadow 's there." Kael watches the beast pace. "What y' hae 's illusion, o' a sort. A gift given t' ye so that what y' hae hidin' in yer deepest shadows kin use ye fer 's own ends. An' 's startin' to - 't /wants/ ye alone 'n hurtin'. 't /wants/ ye t' feel powerful, n' aimless. 'cause then y' are able t' figure yer better 'n what y' were, once. That y' kin lash out, an' 't donnae matter what ends up hurtin' fer 't."
"I couldn't change back!" Thayndor exclaims. "Whenever I think about it, I -decide- to stay, only ... I'm not so sure it's me deciding. I hoped she would understand. If not find a way to help, then at least to forgive -- it was just her Keep, after all, not as if I sauntered into Fanghill on my forelegs. Instead, she tried to trap me, so I fled." He looks back at Kael. "I know I'm in a fight. I just don't know how to win." He exhales, looks away. "Especially not now ..."
"My lord, public display of the S-shadow -anywhere- is illegal," Meian sighs, wringing her hands anxiously. "...You have to -want- to r-return. It's that complex, and t-that simple. My lord... could you answer my question? What is it y-you most want to accomplish in this life?"
Kael falls silent for a moment, watching the beast... he stretches out bare feet, thoughtful.
"At one time I would have told you a wife, heirs, a death of old age in a bed with a view of the Lightholder," Thayndor replies. "That looks out of reach now. At least not the wife, the heirs, the bed I had always hoped for." He looks down at his claws. "It was a mistake to accept these claws in the first place. To listen to the rain. To reach for the Shadow at all." The Beast lowers its head. "I once threw a man out of my Keep for abusing my trust. I advised him that perhaps the only way to redeem himself was to forsake the power he'd been leaning on, the power that enabled him to err so enthusiastically and so often." He turns the claws over, examining them.
"All of t-that is still possible," Meian states directly, pale eyes focusing steadily on Thayndor. "As a man. Not as a beast. All t-that is possible to you r-right now is dust and a-ashes. If you want to *live*, a-accomplish s-something, and know t-true happiness, you cannot r-remain as you are. You w-will achieve nothing of your g-goals walking in t-that form, only an eventual unmourned, forgotten death. One d-day, hopefully, t-that will be enough to motivate you to return."
"Th' Shadow 's part o' ye - look 't me, Thayndor." Kael murmers that, spreading his hands - the glowing eyes and hair are enough of a marker, perhaps. "Look 't how far 't kin pull ye. Aye, I ken what i am, an' I wi' ne'er be wholly a man again. Y' donnae hae t' go that far. Y' kin either master yerself, o' th' Shadow wi' master ye 'n turn y' inta th' monster y' feel like y' are right now."
"The Shadow exerts itself through me; exerting myself is really exerting the Shadow's will." Thayndor looks up from his claws, up to the moons. "Self-mastery is not the perfection of action. Were it true, all my high-minded musings about power and its proper application may have done more harm than good. And perhaps I would not be on the run from the woman I wanted to marry."
"I will take my own advice. To deny that I was born a Noble or that I was born with the Shadow flowing through me would be absurd, as you say. But to acknowledge those things and choose not to wield the power they bring ... that is a choice over power." He looks up, expression vacant on his snout. "I must make that choice."
Thayndor Zahir's features begin to resolve themselves, changing in the darkness.
"The easy route v-versus the hard. With the S-shadow, it is always so," Meian says simply, slim arms crossing over her chest as she steadily watches Thayndor.
Kael nods, watching the change thoughtfully. "I donnae ken half o' what y' said - but Shadow allus takes 's price. Y' cannae master 't... but y' /kin/ master who y' are. What y' are willin' t' pay. An' that s' what w' all face - an' th' more y' pay, th' more y' kin see what y' lost."
As the change happens, Thayndor's form appears -- haggard; needing a shave; his fine clothes ragged and dirty, and pierced through where the arrows hit him. "Pay me no mind," he says. "I only mean that perhaps I won't have my Matriarch ordering arrows shot at me if I just never use the Shadow again. Oh, Light." He leans against a ruined fragment of wall, slides down it until he's sitting, resting his head in his hands. "Nothing will be the same again."
"Your shoulder..." Meian looks up to Kael after a deep, hesitant breath. "You s-should take a look at it, shouldn't you? And, my lord... I would s-suggest you turn yourself in immediately, o-once you're sure you can resist the temptation to s-switch forms again. With q-quick enough action, whatever happened m-may yet be repaired."
"Aye." Kael stands, moving toward the noble - taking a long breath. "Y' thought 't were th' same after y' sorted it? I tol' ye then - " He grins, wryly. "Fancy me gettin' t' tell ye I tol' ye so.." but it's a gentle kind of teasing.
"I'll never be -sure-," Thayndor barks back, as if still a werewolf. "That temptation strung me along for so many moons I've lost count. Do you know how long it's been since I've been to Darkwater? Having Voreyn Zahir order me shot was the last straw. But the temptation will always be there." He looks up at Kael, and Meian. "And she doesn't understand. Even if the Regent understands, he won't care. Like as not I'm already gone in their eyes"
"Repentance will go a long way f-for you, my lord," Meian tells Thayndor firmly, sealing the words with a nod. "Did you harm or threaten a-anyone, or only break the A-amendment?"
Kael sighs, crouching next to Thayndor to poke at his back - but .. he's not contributing more than that, right now. His hands are gentle, sure, his eyes flickering from red to violet.
"Voreyn certainly felt threatened. I approached her from behind." Thayndor looks up, gestures. "I had become the beast once before, chasing a gargoyle. She made me promise never to let her see the beast again." He smiles wanly. "I was trying to keep the promise, and it didn't work. But no -- I was the only one hurt." He winces, howls. "It's just a scratch," he grouses. "There's no need to poke your finger in."
"If you didn't break any law but the general S-syladris Amendment," Meian muses softly to herself, "and didn't react v-violently even to being shot, then you p-probably have a chance at reprieve if you g-go turn yourself in and a-apologize vehemently."
"Mmph. Hush.. s' deeper 'n y' thought. An' m' nae about t' see 't turn." Kael shrugs - "Get yer shirt off. as fer th' rest? Y' got a lot o' choices, but y' donnae hae t' make 'em quick. Yer life now 's nae goin' t' be whate'er 't was."
Thayndor Zahir tugs off his tunic. The arrow will doubtless form another in an impressive network of scars on Thayndor's body -- the work of diverse types of claws, blades, and general rough living -- but appears to be mostly healed, or to never have gone very deep, likely thanks to the werewolf's magical disposition. "Perhaps that's for the best," he says.
"Did I ever tell you? I was courting Voreyn. I suppose I hadn't learned with Sahna that the kind of woman who can run a noble house is not the kind of woman running your hearth." He glances across at Meian. "A statement which I hope you will conveniently forget."
"I c-conveniently forget many things, my lord," Meian murmurs calmly. "I d-disagree with Kael, myself. If t-they are hunting you, t-then the sooner you turn yourself in, the b-better. Both to protect yourself from... z-zealous hunters and to make it clear t-that you intended no one any harm."
"I got less trust 'n m' mate.." Kael admits, softly - "In th' end, wi' be up t' ye. But 's nae much justice fer th' Touched - th' trouble is, if y' jus' go away, y' /are/ a monster. Jus' another tale o' how awful folk are. Y' walk back t' face e'erythin'? Y' might turn up dead."
"I'm not entirely convinced death isn't the best option," Thayndor replies. "Clearly there is no place for me in House Zahir any longer."
"Well, it'll be a lot harder to p-paint you as a b-bloodthirsty fallen mage if you c-come walking back looking v-very civilized and a-apologizing," Meian murmurs.
"And a lot easier to paint the walls with my entrails to prove a point," Thayndor replies. "The entire thing got very out of hand very quickly." He exhales, looking over his shoulder at Kael and then down at the ground. "She had no trust in me at all. There were guards coming up the hill as soon as she knew I was there."
"O' course th' were." Kael smiles, wryly, then - and reaches over to snag Thay's shirt, starting to shred it. No, he didn't much ask. "Yer /Touched/, o' did y' ferget? But dyin' serves nobody but ye an' those what hate us - one way o' another, a dead one o' our kind makes 'em feel righteous 'n right happy. So - y' likely lost yer family, but y' are still /you/. An' yer jus' like all th' rest o' us, then."
"It's not even t-that he's Touched, he was b-breaking the law," Meian murmurs. "And in f-full sight of her castle, r-right? She -had- to s-summon her guards or she t-too was breaking the law in letting you get away with it."
"That's the only shirt I own," Thayndor tells Kael, mournfully. "If she's enforcing the law to the fullest, Darkwater is no longer mine. And something that I was, I am not."
"Wi' give ye another one. S' nae like yer far from what I got fer ye - an' if 't comes t' it, wi' go inta LIght's Reach t' get y' sommat more presentable." Kael shrugs - "S' jus' a shirt." And Thayndor's is set to bandaging him. It makes pretty good bandages, too. "Aye. An' e'ery endin' is another beginnin'. Y' still got life ahead o' ye."
"Such as it is," The Zahir, or former Zahir, replies with a sigh.
"I go into Light's R-reach often, I can do it," Meian assures lowly. "It's not e-exactly a problem." She purses her thin lips, thoughtfully. "W-where will you go, my lord?"
Kael .. with a snort.. swats at the back of Thayndor's head. It's not intended to hurt, but it /is/ intended to prove a point, perhaps. "Y' kin mope later." A grin, then. "An' y' call yerself a wolf. Light. Yer life is what 't is. What comes next 's up t' ye. So y' lost e'erythin' - and? Now y' jus' figure out where y' go from 'ere. S' nae like y' /hae/ anythin' anyway, when 't comes down t' it."
"I don't know," Thayndor replies. "Away. Jail. The Light." He grins a dead man's grin. "I suppose we'll find out soon, won't we?" As Kael finishes binding his wounds, Thayndor rises. "Thank you both. You are a credit to your ilk." He rubs the back of his head, turns to face the man. "Whatever ilk that is."
Meian laughs a little at that, shaking her head slightly and remaining silent.
"Same 's ye, Thayndor." Kael stands, grunting. "In th' end. Take a breath 'n /think/. An' when y' act, donnae ferget y' got folk wi' ye, one way o' another, howe'er it turns out."
"Kind words," Thayndor says. He looks up at the sky. "I've been sleeping under the stars as a beast for so many months. It's a warm night. One more as a man is not symbolic. I noticed a small camp on the edge of the ruins. Is it occupied?"
Meian glances to Kael, murmuring, "That's yours, isn't it? B-but we've got the guest room for n-now..."
"S' m' old den - aye, y' kin have 't." Kael raises a finger. "Provided y' come in fer breakfast, come mornin'." Echoes of the past, there. "Wi' bring y' out a tunic 'n a bit - t' wi' be a little rough-fittin', but.. wi' wear 'n ye, I figure."
"Breakfast." Thayndor repeats the word as if it was foreign. "The idea suits me." He nods. "Thank you for the use of your camp."
"I'll make extra," Meian murmurs softly to Kael. "Are we g-going to make sure n-no one else is at breakfast, t-then? People m-may be looking..."
Kael nods, once - "Aye. Donnae fret, m' heart. Nae yet, anyroad - wi' sort 't all out come mornin'." The young mage turns away, then, moving tiredly for the 'front' of the ruins. "T'morrow, th' sun comes up. An' wi' be easier t' sort what happens next, aye?"
"Tomorrow, the sun comes up," Thayndor replies, looking up at the moons. "I'm unsure of the rest."