Description: Amy and Walter meet upon the sands of Zack Island, and a pious friendship is forged as they share their own unique natures.
Father Walter Bardsley is lucky to be alive. The woman who pushed him to his limits has lingered in his mind for more than one reasons, far too many half-fevered dreams of tails lingering despite the time that's passed. So what better way to distract himself than by heading to an island known for being full of women, shame, and entertainment. The poor Father himself has had his fair share of mishaps thus far. It ended in cruises, mermaids, shameless starlets, and oil.
For now, the good priest, dressed in his blazingly hot vestments and white cloak, has a lawn chair, suntan lotion on his face, and shades on. Thankfully, his cloak does much to hide his tail as he idly gazes out at the passing beautiful women in outfits he's fairly certain would be illegal elsewhere. One or two stops by the odd looking man. Blessings, and occasionally teasing words are exchanged. The poor priest is blushing more often than not!
But, all in all, he looks far less conflicted than during his recent bout. A hand clasps his cross. He fervently still believes he deserves to chain the inner beast that even now screams at him from within. But even then, the fox-woman's temptation of freedom and release of his binds won't quite leave his head despite all of his prayer.
A sigh escapes him, focusing on yet another lovely woman entering his gaze. He needs distractions. That tail of his flicks a little bit. Grin.
"God be praised, that such beauty exists."
A strange week for the knightly amongst God's flock.
Knight Officer Amy Johnson always considers herself lucky to be alive. She knows too well what awaits beyond her last breath, and though she holds no fear in this eventuality... she treasures each day that it fails to come, even skirting the fragile precipice of deadly risk by some misplaced urge to celebrate the fact. It's to this end that she's allowed herself a rare day of downtime from her endless questing, taking advantage of Zack Island's less obvious pleasures. In short, she's been climbing.
Drenched and dented from her excursion toward the daunting volcano at the island's edge, the Templar returns from scaling the height of a waterfall and adventuring through thick jungle in search of a greater challenge. She's dressed rather modestly compared to just about every other young, beautiful creature in view, lightweight Teflon trousers and navy blue sports bra combo accessorized with a white sarong about the bare shoulders and upper arms. It's more than humility and practicality alone, however; Amy is a pale thing, and already sunburned in several places.
She's decidely not going to distract any reclining priests, then. Without even the distinguishing mark of her crucifix - gifted in a moment of passionate transgression - she's the least likely to distract *anyone* right now.
Just as well she's tired and, herself, distracted. Only venturing beachward to garner some refreshment following the excitement of her morning, she's stomping rather gracelessly through the sand when she runs into the current object of Walter's blushing praise. Rather literally, in fact. Fruit chunks and sticky liquid go flying, prompting a squeal from the bikini-clad beauty, who seems less concerned than...
Aroused? She's quickly absorbed in rubbing herself down with a feigned air of fussiness that might work were it not for her pout, and the fact she's giving smouldering glances every which way. In keeping with the spring break mentality of Zack Island, perhaps looking for someone to lick her clean?
"Um..." Amy pauses with her own lips pursed, uselessly holding out her now almost-empty glass as the wet, nubile attention-seeker completely ignores her. "Sorry?" Yep. Absolutely no point even saying it. Should she...?
She can't believe she's even considering it. This is a long, long week.
Ask, and ye shall receive. Indeed, with all the copious amount of flesh on display, poor Amy as of yet escapes the priest's notice. He might be a pious man, but he's a /man/, and last he checked his pulse is still working. But then his fellow in faith stomps right into the vapid beauty currently eyeing him, and sticky liquids go flying. A strawberry lands on Walter's mouth. Blink. Blink.
And then the distractingly 'clothed' woman starts rubbing herself down with that liquid. God help him. His eyes bulge beneath his shades, and he flicks his cloak just a bit.
He's gotten his distraction, particularly as the woman leans down, takes the fallen fruit, and...
As he's suddenly subjected to fruit and interesting uses of lips, those shades manage to fall off. Contact-hidden eyes turn to Amy with a local somewhere between ecstacy, and a look of 'Oh God save me Miss!' His entire face is scarlet, at least until she pulls away. Walter remains frozen in his seat as the woman casts yet another scalding look of passion to the two. As she walk by Amy, she winks, and whispered words regarding 'making up for it' are accompanied by a wink.
The priest looks to the far better dressed woman.
"...I fear this Island shall be the death of me at this rate." Comes the mending wyrmkin, with a weak chuckle. He opens up his collar a bit.
A sharp eyed woman might catch the slightest flash of...scales?
At least the raven-haired lady knight is well-versed in various avenues of debauchery; she's been put on the spot a lot worse than this, and recently to boot. Rather than blush or stammer, once she's avoided temptation - and honestly, after seeing so much flesh these past few days, it's relatively easy - and the bethonged tempress has sashayed past with her unambiguous invitation, Amy simply relaxes.
And pointedly doesn't follow. The island folk are like magpies; in a few moments, the girl will find something shiny and forget all about this encounter.
Letting the mostly-empty glass hang from one hand, the Templar reaches with the other to run a hand back through the damp strands of her hair, breathing a sigh that puffs out her cheeks. Oceanic eyes lid briefly, then make sudden contact with the priest as he addresses her. Mouth a calm, if unenthused line, it shifts quickly to a gracious smile that doesn't quite reach those eyes. Her hand lingers at the nape of her neck as she responds:
"This island will be the death of itself."
There's humour in her tone, at least, and she's not unwelcoming to the attention of a stranger. Gaze intent - and indeed, flickering toward his collar in a thinly-disguised double-take - she moves closer, adjusting the set of her pashmina (which isn't a sarong, despite her player's earlier derpage) and moving to take a seat in the sand beside him. Or nearly beside; she's a few feet off, and just in front. A little wary, then? A possibility echoed in her body language as one knee lifts, an elbow crooking around it, and after setting her glass against her ankle she slowly massages at her palms and stretches her long, dextrous fingers. Never once looking from Walter.
"Which isn't to disagree in the slightest," she continues as if she'd not paused at all, inclining her head in a rather daring fashion, lips twisting to a half-smirk. "You don't exactly fit in here, if you don't mind my saying. Vacation or business?"
Walter, for his part, finally manages a sigh. The young priest is definitely /not/ used to all of this, and thus keeps falling into similar situations. The man finally takes a moment to appraise his newfound companion as she sits, blinking as she goes to the sand. Wariness? He tries one of his disarming smiles, which only shows dazzlingly white, suspiciously pointy teeth. It's like looking into a maw of very sharp needles.
But he catches that gaze, and it clicks. A hand discretely covers his chest a little more.
Somehow, the fact that Amy is one of the few /not/ showing herself off so brazenly finally keeps the priest's attention even when a few scantily clad women pass by. He leans over to a bag with various drinks and extra towels. There's a long one offered over to Amy.
"Come now! Save a bit of sand upon your lovely outfit my dear. Death of itself, hmm? Perhaps. Shall this place fall beneath the weight of its sin, or will the pure and unquenched /life/ of its master keep it afloat?" Poses the holy man.
Unlike Amy, his own smile very much reaches his eyes.
Walter can't help but laugh in the odd manner of this woman before him, her daring and dress equally appealing.
"Father Walter Bardsley, Miss, at your service. Something of both! I was...involved in a certain incident, and require a touch of sun, and a lack of fighters who take issue with my views." Not /quite/ what happened with Kiyomi, but he's sticking with it.
"And of course, I am a preacher. While I shall hardly be having sermons here, there are many who need confession, or just a friendly ear. My duty to God and His Children never end, even when I am laying out on a beach." There's a touch of his cross and another winning smile.
"What is your name, my most sensibly dressed friend? I would turn the same question upon yourself my good Lady!" There's a hand being offered to the woman next. Despite the heat, they're gloved. Those nails of his look suspiciously /pointed/.
An amused and doubtful frown creases Amy's brow at the offering of the towel. Lovely? She has trouble viewing her very practical - and more than a little scuffed and muddied - attire as anything so appreciable, but the compliment is taken in stride. Either he's a charmer or just exceedingly polite, and she's comfortable in any case.
Outwardly not seeming to balk further at flashing scales or pointed teeth, she's inwardly alert - and to a well-judging eye, the tightening of her shoulders and the slight increase in motion from her hands betrays this fact. Her aura intensifies too, and though no visible sign of the Dragon's Breath exerts itself, those stormy eyes seem briefly to swim. The air around her stirs, and a raven lock slips across her brow to infringe her vision before she can brush it back. It could just be a coincidence.
"Bardsley?" She echoes his introduction in a near-whisper, blinking and straightening her back. It becomes the excuse to sketch a bow, her chin dipping in respectful - if belated - greeting. "A pleasure, I'm sure, Father. Perhaps I might take you up on a confession, though it might take us until the setting sun..."
Her lips quirk to a grin, flashing very normal white teeth. Her gaze slips to that extended hand, and she's forced to overcome her wariness - but if he is who he says, surely she has nothing to risk. It's likely she's been lied to before.
Due caution is abandoned, it seems, and she extends her own hand...
...but not for a grip. Instead, she slides her calloused palm beneath his gloved, then bends to softly kiss the top of his ring finger, keeping her gaze aloft in a small breach of protocol.
"I am," she begins, retracting her lips to pridefully lift her head. "Dame Amy Johnson, Father. I believe it's I who should be at *your* service. Though I'd prefer you not lumber me with any more duties at this moment. Appearances aside," her smile now does touch her eyes, mischief dancing in oceanic depths, "I am pursuing the Lord's work already."
In truth, it's likely a bit of both. Or just a desperate wish for people with sensible outfits. At least the dirt shows that the woman has been doing more than laze about in the sun and offer priests reasons for confession.
While the still somewhat battered Father doesn't catch the motion, the rising aura of Amy /does/ get the Father's attention. His body tenses, tail coiling beneath his coverings and his hand not currectly offered to the pious woman seems to glow gold just a little. Not quite a manifestation, but it seems the good Father isn't quite so beach-happy and ignorant as he's trying to play off.
Given Walter's currently laid back, he inclines his head at the woman's respectful bow. His smile grows.
"I am at your convenience. I suppose we /all/ have our fair share of confessions after days spent here. So long, however, as we keep the Faith and offer our love to all we encounter...and I mean that in the figurative way, though again I will not judge...then I think, as the Americans say, we shall be 'square'." There's a serious, pious nod.
His hand is kissed, the man looking visibly surprised at such protocol. Even /if/ there's a slight breach, that Amy even attempts it has his features softening, and that previous wariness banishing.
"Oh-hoh? A valiant Dame Knight upon this place? My, my, my how /curious/! Smart of you to forgo the regalia given the..." He waves a hand. Then, one brow rises, and his voice lowers.
"We are Brother and Sister in Faith, and...if not exactly the same Order, perhaps we come for similar reasons. Tell me. /Which/ Order do you belong to?" There are, after all, numerous knightly Orders.
Sometimes, when you're on business as a Hunter, you have to take calculated risk. Time to extend an olive branch.
"Care for a drink? Even one so unused to the /interesting/ displays about can tire of such." Then, his voice lowers again.
"Give me your oath to God, and our secrets shall be safe in one another. What is your task? While I am not at full strength, I will not allow you to go unaided, Dame Johnson." Finally comes the dragon-priest. This time, he stands, and offers a full bow to the woman. Seems this one greatly respects the knightly orders.
They're both taking risks. Amy is an alert creature, ever-searching for reasons to raise her guard or even go on the offensive - as many comparisons might be aesthetically made to wind and water, the Templar's soul burns like fire beneath it all. This renders her impulsive, oftentimes dangerous, and very quick to judge; she has, indeed, already made a less-than-reasonable judgement upon the proclaimed priest.
His questions do nothing to lower her hackles, and Amy's gaze only grows deeper and darker in spite of that emotional display. She's a brooding one, and disappears swiftly back into her innermost thoughts. The greatest actresses can transmit as much with their eyes as their faces and bodies - sadly, this lady knight is only a passable one.
"These people don't need to know what we are," comes her murmured response to Walter's surprise, expression wry as she glances out across the beach. This isn't the place to preach, least of all temperance and moderation. Making the Father's presence all the stranger than her own, to her mind. Her gaze rolls back onto him.
Whatever she may suspect, she is faithful. Trust must be given, to be received.
"I'm a ranking Officer in the Order of Knights Templar. My task is..." She hesitates, breathes a small sigh, then sketches a single-shouldered shrug, "My task, I fear, is one that I take upon myself. I've assembled a team to track and eliminate a mechanized Illuminati agent, though I originally came to recruit the man on whom it was based..."
Her smile holds mystery. She's not lying, in the least, but she is holding back.
"His name is Doctor Richard Tran, and he's taking part in this tournament."
She watches carefully for a reaction to any of this: though why the strange and apparently-inhuman priest would have a connection to the Illuminati or to her new ally is beyond her. If a game is being played here, she struggles to pinpoint why.
Perhaps, she thinks, this is the test of faith she's been waiting for.
"If you'd like to discuss it further, there's a bar on the far side that can provide that drink..."
And move them out of earshot, and away from the possibility for civilian casualties.
Walter might be prone to self-loathing, but when faced with his fellows? Brooding is the exact opposite of his own display. His head tilts just a bit as he catches that look, that wariness, that suspicion. Soon his smile is less a smile, and more a smirk. A mask of warmth amidst a bit of good old fashioned english arrogance. It's served him well in hiding his less human traits from most. Amazing how well people ignore what they don't want to see.
No, unlike Amy's burning, impulsive soul, the Priest is far calmer. Draconic eyes and his faithful soul can only look out into a world filled with pain and sin.
Who is he to judge?
"Speak for yourself, my dear. I would shout who I am from the top of the hotel if I could." There's a pause, and something mournful in his expression.
"Such a shame. Bad idea really. My life is already complicated enough." Offers the priest to the knightess. It's a test. Time to see just how sharp and inquisitive she is.
And a /Templar/. The man has abandoned the lawn chair utterly, with another tanned beauty stealing it with indecent haste.
Amy is offered an arm, and silently, he'll escort her like a proper gentleman. Even if she's likely to lead the way.
White cloak or not, now that he's standing and up close, there's more evidence abound. Those bumps on his back are extremely suspicious. Did one of them /move/?
Thankfully for Amy, Walter is terrible at cloak and dagger shenanigans. Only once they're at the bar, he's ordered himself and his compatriot a drink (rum and coke for the preacher), and after downing half of it one go does he start to whisper to her.
See, the dragon /can/ be discrete! "Illuminati...ahh, I have heard rumors. They really exist then? My apologies, dear, have an I.D.? Not the most telling, but, let us at least try to offer each other a bit of hard evidence before we spout our secrets." Which, Walter then produces. It looks legit, smiling pointy teeth and all in a dopey grin, and proclaiming him an ordained minister.
"You see, secret organizations are not really my specialty. What has this Mister Tran done that a good Knight is hunting him, hmm?"
For now, the priest is keeping his own cards to his chest. Time to see where Amy's going with her own little mission here first.
"I'm sure it is," comes the Templar's swift, silky-smooth reply to the draconic minister's little test. She'll not betray her suspicions so readily, smiling with an indulgent air as she rises to her feet with an easy flexion of toned limbs. Briefly she considers pausing to retrieve her ill-fated drink, but there's no real need to do so; as strange as he is, King Zack keeps his island paradise well-staffed. It will be retrieved by a buxom babe and carried back to the bar presently.
She'll shirk responsibility this once.
"I prefer to keep people guessing until they give me reason to trust them. Honesty is a virtue, for certain, but few can handle the truth; and there are plenty whose attention the Order could do without. Our business lies in the clandestine, after all, Father."
Glancing sidelong, she measures him with her stare, assuming he either has enough familiarity to accept that statement or will betray his lack of knowledge innocently or otherwise. The distinction may be subtle, but she flatters herself that she'll catch it. The Templar are certainly secretive, but to have heard of them at all, outside of the context of history and myth... he must be aware that she *can't* be entirely open.
Once they're at the bar, where the calming presence of Reginald awaits, she orders herself a pink gin - pausing further to verify that yes, she would indeed like ice and a slice of lemon - before turning to lean against the bar. The identification is perused with a frown and pursed lips, a tip of her head sending her gaze back up to Walter's eyes once she's done. There's no shame on her face as she replies.
"I'm afraid I can't offer in kind. Secret organizations," she says this rather pointedly, after a quick glance to note that the bartender - though already registered as likely to be discrete and trustworthy - is away at the other side equally-pointedly not listening to a single murmured word, "Aren't in the business of issuing passports. Papers can be forged. My identity is either known or a matter to take on faith..."
There's a warning in her words, her manner growing more aggressive now that they're away from the playful debauchery of the crowded beachfront.
"As to my target, I honestly don't know. But he's wilfully assaulting the innocent, and given his affiliation and the link to my," she hesitates just fractionally, as if she wants to use another word, before saying, "Ally, I'm assuming he poses a threat. Of course, when I say 'he'," she waves a hand, and lifts her drink to her lips, "I mean 'it'. The only human thing about this one is the mask he wears."
Her gaze intensifies to smouldering stone, piercing Walter's own as she takes a sip of the rosy-hued liquid and lowers it, swilling the glass about.
"We shouldn't humanize the inhuman, Father. God has no love for the soulless."
The good-natured Father very simply shrugs. Measured glances are met with the turn of his head, eyes meeting hers. There's definitely something odd in those eyes amidst stubborn good humor despite all the secrecy Amy is all but radiating.
Still, the priest ponders, one leg crossing. He's careful to keep that blasted tail out of view, though he looks distinctly uncomfortable. Sitting on your tail /sucks/.
A hand taps his chin. "And this, my dear, is likely why I was never inducted. Well. Amongst other reasons." That gaze of his, never wavering from her eyes unless his drink interferes, narrows just a touch. Walter is slowly getting the idea in his head that this not only a dangerous woman, but a perceptive one. At the very least, she has knifed him if she realizes his nature.
It's a plus. He's used to raging Hunters just trying to shank him with very little subtlety.
"Still, I at least know what it is to play in the shadows. My dear, reveal only what you wish. This is not some Inquisition you know? I was not lying when I said part of my reason to be here is pleasure. Hate the cold. Does terrible things to me." Comes the priest somewhat openly, if in that whisper-soft tone. He's either an idiot, or exceptionally brazen. But even then he still hasn't said why he's here.
When asked to take it on faith? Walter /laughs/, reaches out, and swats the woman on the back like a proper pub-going brit.
"I knew I liked you, Miss Amy!" Seems he's shed the titles, just in case.
"Without faith, my dear, I would likely be dead or worse right now." He states, suddenly very serious. There's something challenging in his voice. For all of his flaws, for all of his inhumanity, he's not about to let even a knight trample on that aspect of his being.
The agression, however, is finally met with a smirk.
"Such a story. There are two possibilities then. Either you are one bloody good, well informed liar, or you are telling the whole of the truth. I /wonder/ which it is?" Her smouldering gaze is met with that searching, judging look that many a priest are just so uncomonlly good at giving.
Walter downs the last of his drink, and swiftly orders another. "Keep them coming, my friend! Drink for the pious, I say!"
"Oh? Do you think so? The Lord works in mysterious ways. In my...particular line of work. A bit removed from yours. But, well, let us say we both fight the darkness. Just different forms of it. And you see, I have seen strange, amazing things. Ones that keep me up at nights. Ones that have threatened my heart and soul alike, and I daresay offer temptations that never quite linger. And do you know what I have found?"
He pauses dramatically, turning about, and settling both hands on his knees. He cups his own chin as he stares right into Amy's eyes.
"That there are indeed soulless things that are true abominations. It is the duty of pious men and women of strength and faith to keep them at bay. But appearances, my dear, are a most poor judge. God is loving. Even the most sinful, even someone tainted...if a person truly wishes to give their life over to penance, no matter how...hah...'human' they may be, sometimes the good Lord decides to grant their wishes. In others, the Lord simply offers those caught between His Miracles choices of the paths that they take." Sudden sadness overcomes him, and he turns away.
"Ignorance and fear does terrible things to people. So much blood. So many wars, in the shadows and without. God willing the lot of us shall get our damn heads together and get over ourselves." The preacher hmph's, and drowns his sudden irritation at the world with a massive mug of booze.
Were the raven-haired Templar less perceptive, perhaps she'd already have called upon her odd talents in an attempt to bring this yet odder man low; but... despite her gradually-colder, more threatening attitude, he's giving her no reason to assault him beside the very physical signs of his nature. She's not a vindictive zealot - there are plenty of dangerous beasts in this world that do not deserve death because of it, and that he appears to very truthfully be a man of the cloth is simply fascinating.
If she were wearing her cross, she'd touch it. She moves to, anyway, her index and middle fingers alighting upon her breastbone with just a slight start as they contact not cool metal. She'd forgotten, and the memory stirs--
--she blushes a shade darker, for the first time thankful for sunburned cheeks.
Faith, yes. She needs it, too. As he slaps her back, she can't help but laugh. It's partly a nervous reaction, but also wholly genuine. It's annoying that she finds herself liking him too, but perhaps not so terrible? Maybe it's time to cut to the chase and find out what they're both made of, as she's the only one like to be harmed.
When he leans closer, she meets his gaze levelly if not unblinkingly, now and again sipping from her drink but remaining otherwise rapt with her attentions. He's certainly charismatic, and she finds herself drawn in. But how many devils might do the same?
"You speak as if to confirm my suspicions, Father." She still uses his title - she's content to believe him, if it's true, and if not... they'll have a reckoning shortly. And one of them will abruptly cease to have an opinion. Slowly she ekes out a smile, small but well-intentioned, and her pupils dilate. She'd be aggravated by that if she knew it. "You remind me of someone else." Perhaps it's the melancholy air that beseeches her to reassess this situation; they are neither of them a thing without compassion, of course. While she's a warrior, fierce and fiery, compelled to do the most dissonantly evil things in the name of goodness and right...
She is a woman of God. Her path is blighted by contradictions.
"Do you truly believe there's redemption for all living things, that even without a connection to our genus, we can be just and judged accordingly? To commit any sin, even to be sinful by our natures? It's," she pauses, wetting her lips and glancing down at her drink. There's a sadness in her own gaze, now, that's never really not been there. It just slips from the storm's eye, surfacing enough to be readily identifiable. "The thing I've found hardest to accept in our dogma. I've come not to care for the end; there are some things that *must* be unforgiven, or we have no reason to keep our faith. I wonder," she looks up and askance at Walter, her expression carefully guarded once again, control reassumed, "Do you enlighten me, or delude yourself?"
Beat. She swirls her glass, and smiles. Soullessly.
"What are you, Father? I will believe all you've told me, and I have no wish to hear it again. Answer me true; and I'll do no less with you. I swear it on our Lord, on my place as one of his many hands, and on all else that I hold dear."
Her smile turns bittersweet, and that same omnipresent despair swirls through stormy eyes.
"I'll swear it on my life, if you like, for all that has meaning."
Walter can't help it. His gaze dips a bit, his head tilts, and he watches that slight tinge of red as she touches her collar bone.
A finger rubs his temple, and he tries not to think /too/ hard about what's up with the knightess. Given where they are, best not to think about it.
Smile! Charisma is one thing he has in /spades/. And for once, it's all human charm for the priest. Once more, that increasing agression flows off of his mask of priestly warmth.
Then she finally gets down to brass tacks. Excuse him while he tilts his head back and knocks his ale down in long gulps. He needs to be drunk for this. Very, very drunk.
"I am hardly going to keep treating you like an ignorant fool, fair Dame. You have very, very keen eyes. Or I could just be trying to catch you off guard. So many stories have the devil coming in the guise of a priest." There's a pause as he lets that sink in.
His gaze grows more serious. He touches his cross, raises it, then kisses it.
"Before the Lord God, hallowed be thy name, I, Father Walter Bardsley do swear that all I shall speak will be truth, lest I be thrown into the fires of Hell." Comes the priest in a solemn oath.
"Mmm? Ahhh...not a tale to regale me with, unless you wish." Offers the wyrmkin as that melancholic look takes her regarding another person. There's reserved sympathy in his gaze.
"I do. If it is a being given a soul by the Lord, then they are the Lord's Children. And God loves all of his Children without exception. As any good parent, our sins shall be judged. Punishment given. But in the end, loved and forgiven. That is what I believe. The flesh and blood we possess means nothing. Only our deeds." There's iron conviction in his voice, a faithful belief that is the very cornerstone of his soul.
"Difficult, hmm? You may be right. Maybe there are some acts that simply cannot be repented. But fear and punishment, I think, is not truly the point of faith. No, the point of our faith is to be strength, love, and wisdom to any person who does not wish to harm another. Faith is a path to walk, hand in hand with our fellow Children that we may support and raise each other up. Heaven on earth my dear."
Then, he simply shrugs. "Then again, these are questions pondered since time immemorial. And I, my dear Lady, am an idiot. Only God, I think, knows the truth. I leave whether I am deluded beast, or a scholar up to you."
There's a nod. "Your eyes tell me everything I need to know. If we share nothing else, you have not lied in your faith."
Then, voice low, he spills out the truth almost casually. "My kind have a few names. Or...ahhh, I should be better at this. Monsters. That Creepy Thing IN The Dark. If you are getting /very/ discreditable, 'demon' is something I hear irritatingly often. But there are two more proper names. You humans call us Darkstalkers. Well, the ones who know things, anyway. Amongst our own kind, we are known as the Children of the Night. I prefer the second one, honestly. I am bad at stalking, personally. Tried it. Tripped and nearly fell on the bastard I was hunting!" Another smile. He can't help a bit of humor despite. It's the /other/ thing that keeps him sane.
"But you see, we 'monsters' are not a single race. Consider it a catagory for all the corrupted things that lurk in the darkness. I myself am...let's see, I suppose the best word would be 'Dragon'." States the priest with complete and utter seriousness.
Best to give a demonstration. "Do not try to stab me. Just offering you a little proof. Pretend I am getting a little too friendly with you." Whispers the priest to his knightly companion. Then, his snake-like tail quite simply sneaks over and wraps discretely around Amy's ankle, rubbing foot and ankle alike with surprising deftness. LIke a very weird massage, really.
"Proof enough? If not, then you are going to have to invite me to one of those lovely private jacuzzis." There's suddenly a cheeky grin.
But he grows serious once more soon after. "As for why I am a priest, a twinfold path of doing the men who saved me from becoming a monster honor, as well as repenting for this damnable beast inside of me." Here, he scowls, his snarl far, far too animalistic. Something dangerous lurks in those eyes before he mutters a prayer and calms.
"Long story short, I hunt those of my kin who act as the monsters that they are called. I protect people with this body of mine and the skills I learned as a human. There were rumors of a strange, pale monstrous man that lost control on the island. I came to investigate. Not a bloody scrap of evidence. Likely gone by now. But...orders. Though I prepare for more...urgent matters elsewhere."
He turns the floor over to Amy.
"I might just tell you about it if you get me drunk enough, and spin me your own tale."
Are her eyes so keen, or is it something deeper? The Lord does act in mysterious ways, and imparts gifts that oftentimes cannot be discerned for what they are. To accept that they are guided at all is to accept the possibility that some realizations cannot be ascribed to the self - some actions, even. Templar and priest are both tools of their shared faith, and can be placed to purpose beyond their direct control.
Or so Amy believes, in spite of all her fire and determination. Sometimes, one has to allow a hunch to exert itself. What use is a hammer that resists the swing, a nail that will not be driven?
Walter's oath is received with a solemn bow of the lady knight's head, and a less-formal salute from her raised glass. There's a note of irony in the twisted smile she wears, but it's fleeting: it's a serious moment, and she accepts it for what it is. If he lies now, he lies in the face of a vengeful God. No oath is more important.
He believes that much, and so does she. There's a hesitation as he admits the truth in her gaze - is she so easy to read? Perhaps this, too, is an act of God. Her good humour creeps back in as she inclines her head again, in a more relaxed manner.
"Then let's believe each other, for now. Lord knows we can both be... idiots."
The word brings back another torrent of memories. It's a confession she makes often, her ventures into idiocy - however judgemental she may be, however sometimes-cold in the face of her duty, she is more than ready to admit her mistakes.
'I'm an idiot'. It's an oft-repeated refrain. Perhaps they share much and more.
They certainly diverge in their natures, however, and the admission of such is less shocking than it is oddly-comforting. Had she been wrong, Dame Amy would have been the first to condemn herself; as it is, she's made no overture toward passing a sentence, not even committed inwardly to the possible need for an assault. Alma's words and attitude carries with her, now, the idea that staying one's hand might be prudent, that perhaps even in evil there is... good. It's against everything she's been taught, and everything that's so very easy to believe, but a leap of faith that's simple...
...why, that's no leap at all. A hop, at best.
Her reaction is cool, hard to read, lips pursing and gaze lidding, dark brows furrowing in thoughtful consideration as she watches Walter. His jape is noted with the hint of a smile, and inwardly she appreciates it more than she lets on; Amy is prone, herself, to breaking the bleakest of moods with comedy. Sometimes to an extent that's jarring. Another of the many dichotomies she seems to embody. Much and more, indeed.
When the dragon-priest unveils his party trick, the Templar almost jolts away, visibly stiffening. Goosebumps run up her legs, and she's not sure if it's mere surprise or actual revulsion - the latter would be disappointing, and in truth the touch is almost pleasurable, as well. Intimacy is a difficult matter for the raven-haired knight, something she engages in either with extremity or barely at all. Casual contact is... rare. She was not lavished with physical affection as a child.
"I-- think we'll skip the jacuzzi, for now," she quickly catches her confidence with a smile, stretching her back gently against the edge of the bar. A sip of her drink, and she waves the glass loosely in Walter's direction, "I don't intend to drink too many of these today, and you're not... exactly my type, without a lapse in judgement."
Despite the words she exudes, nothing in her gaze drives it home - she appears neither dismissive nor scathing, even easing subconsciously toward the 'monster' when he exhibits that feral streak. She draws a breath, lifting her chin and - more impulsively - her free hand, fingers unfurling to grip tightly at the air. That same soaring ripple of her aura from earlier occurs again, and this time there are tiny, grayish motes visible around her pale digits. Tendrillous, weaving between her fingers.
She closes her hand a moment later, and they're gone, with a gentle sigh.
With the release, she seems to relax fully. As if none of that animosity had been there at all, the priest's confession - and her resonance with some of his traits - have bought him time in the presence of the unguarded Amy. Her smile is light and easily touches stormy eyes, her breathing steady and her aura still.
"You know, I wonder that we weren't destined to meet. I'm not tasked with exterminating your kind, Father, but I do have reason to be doubtful of their intentions - and yours, by the same token. I've... suffered, at the hands of one I could only presume to be of the same stock. If I believed otherwise, I'd have to accept that I've truly faced a demon and survived. Worse, that perhaps a demon allowed me to live..."
She pauses, glancing down at her glass. Swirling the dregs that remain.
"In truth, I'd like to believe you ARE the demons. At least I can fight your kind. If there is worse ahead..." Her lips purse, and the muscles in her neck twitch. Not so calm now. Her gaze rises, focusing upon Walter once more. "I was nothing special when the Knights Templar found me, told me I could be what they needed most. I was trained in secrecy alongside other hopefuls, and tasked with acquiring the most sacred of relics: the Holy Grail. I was led to believe I'd be the one to liberate it."
She finishes her drink abruptly, and sets it down, waiting for the glass to be refilled and the bartender to once more retreat out of easy earshot before she resumes.
"I wasn't, obviously. Nor was anybody else that travelled to the holiest of sites that day. I don't doubt that we found what we hoped for; but we found more, and more found us. The thing we fought..." A shudder runs the length of her spine, and she looks heavenward as if in prayer, shutting her eyes as memories assail her. "I never believed I could be so afraid, but I've forgotten what it looked like. I remember the screams, the smell of burning flesh, and I remember defending myself without thought."
Unlidding her gaze, she looks to the dragon with eyes hard and jaw clenched.
"My comrades - my friends - all died, and I ran away. I *ran*."
She spits the word, hateful, disgusted, consumed by a self-loathing that feeds the eternal sadness - and doubtless, stokes the fire so important to her resolve.
"For my act of cowardice, I was elevated to the rank of Knight Officer. And that's why I am what I am - because I was torn from one life into another, because I took vows I cannot ever renounce I'm forced to spend every day repenting for a crime I can never, ever be forgiven for. That's my tale, Father Bardsley. Or all of it that matters."
She sighs through the final few words, gasping them out with a palpable sense of relief. With the telling, she seems able to consign the bleak tale back to her subconscious, and even manages to restore the earlier smile.
"We're all atoning for what we are, and I was ready to judge you; but it's my burden to do so. If I can win nothing else for my sins, it's the right to make this world a better place without fear for my own fate. I've condemned myself, Father. My dream, my goal, and my purpose is to do what I can to fix what's wrong before I die. The only redemption I desire is to see this earthly plane made safer through my actions. Perhaps meeting you is another step toward that ambition."
She lets that hang for a moment, sipping her second drink, and allowing him his own observances before she addresses the issue now, in her eyes, burning between them. If ever God worked in mysterious ways, she thinks, this is the strangest of all. Of all the places to meet, of all the times, of all the things...
Finally, she'll ask softly, "Can you guess why they thought me special?"
Walter is very well often a tool used in ways he'd rather not be put to. Unfortunately for his terminally frustrated handlers, the man is also well known for putting his face directly where it doesn't belong whenever some oddity or woman happens to be in trouble. Truly, the white knight is strong in this one.
"Honesty and trust. Even should we pay for it later, I am /quite/ relieved to have a moment where I now wondering whether those before me are friend or foe." Complains the priest, shaking his head. It's often so hard to tell with his kin. For all that there are those that are little more than animals, it's the ones that are charming, warming, and even honorable that frustrate him to no end.
Why is he suddenly feeling that touch of tails again. He shivers, scowls, and blushes as he draws his cloak closer. Thankfully, Amy is an apt distraction. Thankfully the good Dame has chosen mercy as of yet. Walter's still in no condition to fight.
Humor is infectious, and Walter is about to toast to a pair of idiots when he notes pursing lips and lidded eyes. That tail is gone not moments later as she finally reacts, and his trembling lip-corner is the weakest attempt to conceal a smile in the history of wyrmkin kind.
And thus Walter's dating life once more proves a failure. That head of his dramatically hangs, a hand to his chest in puffed up drama. Then he looks up and winks.
"Guess I should have asked that cute lady from the opening. The performer. I swear, I am having horrid luck with women as of late. Er...right, Walter, too much honesty old boy." His hands rise, and he makes little ear symbols atop his head.
And Amy's response is perfect. Feral desire pauses, and for once, yields. A wounded animal knows when it's hurt. No amount of posturing can change that. There's a far more apologetic look, a human one.
"Ahh...and forgive my /strangeness/." He states ambiguously. But her words next only have him retreating to the point.
His eyes close, a muttered prayer, and he looks Amy once again in the eyes.
"My dear Child, if you did not doubt my intentions now that you know what I am, then I would call you a bloody fool. While I like to think my human mind is trustworthy as any of us may be, my other nature is a creature of legend. You humans fear us for a damn good reason. We may not be demons, but we are something /old/. Instincts, my dear. Raw, unfiltered, unreasoning instinct. It is different for each of us. When I look upon the wonderful people here, do you know what that little voice in the back of my head keeps telling me? Take them. The world, Walter, is your plaything. You are above them. Superior to them. Nothing but frighened animals to sate every single instinctual need you have. Prayer and faith, and being a stubborn bastard is the only thing keeping me from being the true destroyers my parents were. And there may well come a day when even my faith cannot contain it. I wish to be your friend, Amy. You are a faithful knight, and it is my duty to tend to your soul as I can. Just be aware. This priest may one day fall in a moment of weakness. Doubt in my control is something that may just save your life one day, and that of others." His words are quiet, oddly flat for someone so full of open emotion. Amy by now is being looked through for a moment.
But he focuses again as she mentions her suffering. And her quest. Those eyes widen.
"You...the..." A hand is now constantly clutching his cross. There is sudden awe in the beastly man's gaze, as though he were looking upon a saint.
He's utterly silent until she finishes. Pain and hatred for herself...there's a pang of sympathy in his chest. It's a feeling he knows all too well. A hand is offered, just in case she needs something to squeeze.
A woman finding the holy grail with her comrades is attacked by a Darkstalker...or even potentially a true demon...and lived to tell the tale. There is not an ounce of condemnation in the priest's eyes. Only sorrow. He crosses his chest, and mutters a prayer. Amy might make it out, one for her lost compatriots and the girl who lived.
A hand then goes to his head, he leans on the bar with his elbow and looks her straight in the eyes.
"I am not going to sit here and be a condescending prick. Some things should not exist. I refuse to judge a woman and her friends who fought a horror for something holy. I'll just say this. Coward or not, condemned or not, you are alive. A knight should fight for the honor of her fallen kin. If that thing is out there still?"
There's a solemn nod once more to Amy.
"Perhaps you are destined to face that which caused you so much pain, so much hatred for yourself once more. Do not think you will do so alone. Keep your ambition, your desire to atone, and see this little spitball of a world made into something that God might one day be proud of, hmm? Do all of that, and should that thing rise again, it shall have a dragon to kill alongside a knight."
With that, he sighs, and raises his glass. It's an oath.
He ponders her question. "Let us see...unremarkable, likely unremarkable parents. Perhaps abit faithful, likely connected in some way in the Church. Did you have visions? Usually the first thing. A little stronger than your fellows, more in tune to...heh...things that don't exist?" He's grinning here, perhaps the goofiest non-existant thing in the world.
The proferred hand is not taken when it is offered - the Templar is loathe to accept emotional support at the best of times, and this is clearly a burden she elects to bear wholly. For good or ill, it's something she must do. If she even sees the priest's invitation, she acknowledges it not. Beneath the veil of pride, there's an appreciation unvoiced, however; and that perhaps only because he is himself so faithful. Were it mere empathy alone, she'd be less-inclined not to retreat further into herself...
There are times she would walk away. And has. This is not that time.
Instead, she's rallied by the raising of that glass, inclining her head at the toast and the vow that accompanies it. There's only one way to answer that, but the thought is chambered for now, stowed away with a secret smile and a soft shake of the head. Raven locks, almost dry now, tumble around her eyes, and she sweeps them away with two swift motions of her free hand, watching Walter with a bright spark in stormy blue eyes as he makes his guesses. "Stronger, perhaps," she breathes, before inhaling deep.
Her eyes close, and when she releases the next breath she sends with it the totality of her being - the most intimate space within her, echoed without, finding kinship in the earth and the air, summoning that which is omnipresent.
It's deceptive, how the mists rise at her bidding. As if, indeed, they were always there, they fade into view in a manner so quick it's easily missed, so slow it seems to be an effect far more subtle than it is. But then, the aesthetic is an illusion, as all are - it's the spirituality of the action that holds true bearing.
Regardless, when Amy opens her eyes, a blaze burning within the gloomy storm, loops of gray-white fog hang between Walter and she. Roll lazily, cling to the bar and the stools along it, drift out across the beach toward the sea. It's even stranger to glimpse this phenomenon in such a warm, sunny clime; the rays refract through the mists, seeming at once brighter and diminished. It almost looks like smoke.
The aura once so heavy within the young woman has expanded - SHE has expanded.
"Like you, I was born with a questionable gift," she says softly, but with calm rather than melancholy, as if the mere act of allowing the mist to roam brings her focus and eases her qualms. "At first, it only appeared when I was threatened. The other children were afraid of me. I was called a monster, a witch, and other, foolish names. I was sad, I was angry, and I'd lose control-- with no training as a fighter, with no ability in martial arts, what else would they think but that I was different? I have no doubt some of the adults believed I was exactly like you are. A Darkstalker. Of course," she pauses to take a mouthful of her drink, savouring it slowly in the brief lull, "At the time I had no real idea. I was pulled from school, educated at home. By the time I returned to anything approaching 'normal' society, I'd gained a measure of control. No longer afraid of myself, it was easy not to lash out... except when I wanted to."
Her expression darkens at that, but she also smiles; a strange duality of remorse and bleak delight in violence. Common throughout the ages, that holy warriors can commit atrocities with seeming glee and still embody their purpose, this woman is no different. It's her turn to raise a toast, and she does so.
"We're the same, Father..." She pauses with her mouth open, and then breathes a quiet laugh, correcting herself with deep, genuine warmth, "Walter. Faith is what ultimately gave me reason to use my power for anything but darkness, and I'm frequently tempted to fight in anger or for personal glory. Sometimes, at least in the former case, I have to. I wonder what I'd be, with this talent, if I chose to pursue it without other cause - if my power was all I cared for, could I rise above the flock? Above the sheep?"
Her lower lip curls with the last, and she shakes her head briskly, calm restored.
"Sometimes, I wonder that man isn't the greatest monster of all. We're trapped with eyes that see only what's in the surface of a mirror, not the soul that lies beneath and beyond. And there's greater conflict, isn't there? As you say, you're dangerous, your kind is dangerous, there's so much we're forced to persecute for our safety - for that of those who cannot defend themselves... but there are no absolutes. Darkness can be tamed, it can be used. Even a sinful action might be termed good, with the best in mind." She bites her lip, smiles around it. Bittersweet. "So, too, a sinful beast?"
She raises her glass once more, drains it, and sets it down with a *clunk*.
"They call what I wield the Dragon's Breath; a power taken from the very coils that bind the Earth, from the mythical wyrm that embodies our Lord's presence in this realm. If such a thing can be godly, then so can such a thing as you. Father Bardsley, if you'd fight alongside me, if you would support me as a friend and comrade-in-arms, then I'd do the same for you. Moments ago I was prepared to fight you..."
A toss of the head sends raven locks tumbling, a confident smile broadens her lips.
"If the time ever comes, I shall be again. I'd hope you would do me the same courtesy. Until then, I feel like this meeting has been ordained; if we do not fight side-by-side, 'til what bitter end we must, then we deny our God's will."
The picture that is Amy is only one that Walter is starting to frame. Rallied by a glass and an oath. The man can't help but smile. At the very least, the title of 'knight' is not undeserved in the woman before him.
The mists rise, and the draconic priest's senses come alive. Every ounce of experience and natural intuition for that which is not of the ordinary has him peering at the growing mists. And then he looks into Amy's blazing eyes. Those mists hanging in the air like so much smoke. And the knightess herself seems larger, nearly oppressive in her aura. The power of the earth and mist grates against his being, and the noise he makes is the low snarl of an animal. His free hand digs deep into the side of the bar, drawing long gouges in an effort to calm himself. That grin promising violence only stokes his blood, the wyrmkin threatening to claw its way out, one monster challenging another.
"Impressive. It does not feel like the abilities of Darkstalkers or the warriors I have fought. Something...well."
"It is /you/." He'll let that trail off. She'd know better than anyone.
"Isolated. You could stand in a crowded room, and feel as though you were this horrid thing stalking all of those around you. Power. Power you could not keep chained, lashing out without control. And even when you /did/ learn...it felt good, did it not? Finally being able to use what you were born with. Mastering yourself. Ahhh...memories. I was raised in an Abbey. But let's not retread ground. Not a one of them liked me. 'Pet monster'. Always wondering if I would devour them at night...smart bastards, they were right. I still do."
Glass touches glass. Then, mug number five is down. He might have an impressive constitution, but the wyrmkin is wobbling a bit right now.
"...Monster? Oh, come now, you give humanity too muc credit. Scared little animals. The both of our kind. One keeping in darkness, the other too afraid to open their eyes and see the beauty and horror within. We go through our lives, woefully ignorant. Until something happens that makes us finally wake up."
Tamed. Walter laughs. "You know, this most /interesting/ creature said very similar words to me. Perhaps the pair of you are right. Still. Her methods...a story for when we are alone. Let us just say I have a use for you."
And then the man is smiling. "A wyrm-binder and a wyrm. I see the Lord is /not/ offering us irony for once. Best to make the best of things. It is an honor, dear knight, to fight beside you."
A brow rises. "Though Lord forbid a warrior of God to turn down a proper duel! Bloody tease, showing me something like that. Do not think that I will let you get away without showing me what you can really do." Feral delight lurks, prideful and violent. It recedes soon enough.
"God be praised! For He is wise and mighty indeed to bring our unique, sinful souls together that we might better ourselves, and each other. Sounds like the start of a bloody good friendship, my dear! Hah hah!" Someone /might/ want to cut off the priest from his ale about now.
It's another layer to Amy's enigma - that she seems to give so much of herself, so honestly, yet be so difficult to quantify as a whole. The likelihood is that the Templar herself knows not what might be termed her 'true self', or indeed, that all are facets of equal importance. The solitary, brooding girl, the stern and fire-forged warrior, the deeply-faithful philosopher, the daringly-lascivious tease, even that part of her - generally lost and forgotten - who is nothing more than a hopeful idealist...
Every one of them exists, and every one of them is Amy Elizabeth Johnson.
The mist, too, whatever myths one might believe. She is it, it is she. At her gentle willing it has ebbed, and now it settles at once back into the environs, and nestles in the crook of her tangled soul. Waiting to be bidden, waiting to rise again.
"Someday," she speaks quietly, but with the conviction of a warrior whose own passions are stirred - she would not be what she is if part of her did not revel in battle, "We'll have to test one another. Let's make it soon, before you put me to that purpose." Mischief laces that statement, as though the idea that she could be 'used' by another is both ludicrous and inevitable - as much as the conception that she will use in turn. "But perhaps a little after the drink has left our system."
To make no mention of his wounds. Whatever she was as a child, she's an expert martial artist now - if far from a 'master' - and Amy can see Walter favouring himself. To fight now, even to spar, would be to miss each other at their best.
"Whatever comes of this," she adds with a glance at the bestial marks of the dragon-priest's rending upon the bar, looking back to he with more solemnity than amusement. "Know that I will pursue those of your kind that lack your... wisdom, and I will not stay my hand if they cannot wholly reform. I'd both seek and respect your counsel in that, as I will that of my other allies, and of them--" She hesitates, then snorts a gentle breath and smiles, "Let's just say they don't share all of our beliefs. I don't expect them to. The Order, and our faith, should adapt more than it does. I won't ask them to swear oaths to God, but I will ask they swear to the cause... as a priest, maybe you can help with that. I'll certainly be needing to confess, regularly."
On that note, she's back to joking - or at least in part, raising a fresh glass to propose a final toast before her newfound companion is too sozzled to bear the words in mind.
"Here's to the start of a beautiful friendship, and a bitter crusade."
The path of the martry and the warrior so often coincide in those of utter conviction and faith. Though so often it causes those very same people to clash, it seems this day the pair have managed to not end at each other's throats. Diplomacy, a belief in the same diety, and fermented beverages have won the day.
Walter has had experiences even with his own Church where such has not been the case. That little bar in Wisconson probably still hasn't been rebuilt in that debacle.
"A glorious battle shall it be! Such a shame bards shall not be singing of our stories. As I have so recently been rather roughly informed, my techniques and strength are yet lacking indeed. But when the Lord spares ye, one simply must take up one's blade and fight again."
There's a chuckle, darn near a giggle from the dragon-kin at the woman's mischief.
"Bring no less than your utmost."
This time, Walter's smile is dark and bitter. "Welcome to being a Hunter. Ahh...remind me to send you a few documents. Nothing too secret, but enough so you know a few organizations. Hunter's Guild especially. Careful with them. Bunch of greed-filled murderers. We must put down our opponents, those lost to their inner beasts and sins, with sorrow and honor. /They/ know nothing but coin and often take pleasure in hurting others. Allies with someone like me...they might even try to come after you and yours as well. Or..."
One more raised glass.
"Perhaps, /our/ allies. My ears are ever yours. To friends, and mayhaps the path to ending this damnable shadow war."
It's with that, that the wyrmkin's head decides to use the bar as a pillow.
"...Bartender? Care to summon one of those lovely waitresses to carry me to my room?" Oh yes. Sozzled indeed.
"You'll never be strong enough."
It's spoken without judgement, without cruelty, rather with a measure of empathy and certainty that conveys a part of the reason the Templar, herself, fights. The drive for self-improvement can only be eternal within the confines of a mortal life - there's not enough time to be the best that one can possibly be, only to strive for the utmost. To keep striving, until the end, that's the most noble and only possible pursuit. She doesn't need to voice it all; it carries in the inflection, in her pride and in her smile. Without resignation, she finishes her drink and pushes away from the bar.
"But together, we're a little stronger than we would be alone. Perhaps that *will* be enough, but if not in our lifetime then the next, or the one after that..." She turns to watch Walter with his head upon the bar, flicking a glance to the old man on the other side. "Tomorrow's always another day, no matter who stands to face it. I think, if you live through the night, the next will be a shade brighter for me. Hunter or no."
She sketches a swift, but respectfully deep, bow, a grin dancing on her lips and in stormy eyes.
"I'll share what I can with you, too, but-- well, secret organizations, without putting my sword to your shoulders and making you say words, I can only give so much. Until then, I'll leave you in capable hands. Reginald, wasn't it?"
The last is to the bartender, who has appeared just as required. If he can handle the myriad insanities of this island's King, he can surely assist a drunken priest.
...even if said priest is also a dragon.
"Look after this man," she says it without hesitation, feeling no need to brand him monster - or Darkstalker - when he exhibits all the qualities and more that she seeks among men. "He might just save your life one day."
She pauses, laughs, a pleasant lilt that comes from a suddenly unburdened heart.
"*We* might. Rest well, Father."
With that, the Templar turns upon her heels and slips into an easy, boyish stride across the beach. Whatever awaits her on the other side, she feels a little more ready for it. Whatever may come in the days ahead... that, too.
The Lord works in mysterious ways, but He never stops working.
Log created on 10:52:58 02/08/2015 by Walter, and last modified on 21:14:51 02/08/2015.