Description: Two monsters meet in the woods and exchange brief introductions.
The wooded outskirts of Southtown, for all that such a large city is nearby, proves relatively secluded. One Father Walter Bardsley seeks it out exactly for that reason. Though no doubt many a young hooligan has used the place for illicit booze and more mind altering substances, only the most foolish would venture far within.
Few would be as quick to call themselves a fool as the good Father. After both the reaffirmation of his purpose in newfound ally Templar Amy, as well as the mercy shown by the vixen Renard after their duel to very nearly the death, he has had much to contemplate. Though doubt remains, he has managed one single conclusion. Even he cannot deny the totality of his blood. That Walter is a darkstalker is something he has tried to deny all of his life.
But a chained beast can snap its bindings. One brought to heel is a useful weapon. And so it is that the priest marches ever onwards with increasingly predatory steps towards the deepest reaches of the forest. The man's kindly demeanor is utterly absent, as is his usual white cloak: shed long ago. So too is the top portion of his vestments, golden scales down his chest exposed before fading into flesh at his abs. A single silvery spear is leaned against his shoulder. Those draconic eyes of his are a little wider, a little more wild than those who know him as a mere human would think to see. It's weak, but the legendary supernatural fear of a dragon swirls about him. Animals flee the deeper he approaches. It's certainly not enough to frighten those possessed of true fighting skill, or even his fellows of the night. But it's a start, and that he even tries to wield it is a marked change to his constant suppression.
Cross about his neck, the wyrmkin kisses the golden symbol as he arrives in a clearing. TAking in a deep breath, the man stabs his weapon into the ground and kneels. He prays.
"Oh Lord in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, I call out to thee in praise and forgiveness. Keep this meager, tainted Child of yours, that he may grow strong in your service. Be I beast or man, grant me the wisdom and strength to endure, to turn this prideful sin of flesh to true power for the sake of those I have sworn in your name to defend." Says the priest out loud. His entire approach here has been utterly without stealth. Should any great hunters have been lurking and following, remaining undetected would have been trivial.
For all of their vaunted accomplishments since the days of yore where men clubbed each other for bits of meat or the privelage to huddle in a cave away from the cold, the slow steady march of 'civilization' has done little to alter the true nature of humankind. Those with the ability to look past the fancy clothes or the elegant manners know that within the heart of /every/ man lurks a beast far more terrifiying than any wild animal. It has merely been caged, locked away out of shame and fear, but there is a breaking point where even the kindest soul cannot hold back that simple primal nature any longer.
Few people understand this simple truth better than the organization that calls itself NESTS. A clandestine group with grand goals and lofty philosophies, they have long since embraced the idea that people can be more than what they seem on the outside. Without weapons or clothing a man is little more than an animal with naught but his wits to set him apart from that which hunts him. Stripped of his illusions of power and control, the average man will succumb to fear. Fear is a natural reaction to danger, an instinct meant to preserve that man from that which may cause him harm; but it is also a weakness, something that holds him back from greatness he might otherwise achieve, and like the beast within it can be tamed and controlled. A weapon brought to heel for those who know how to wield it.
There are many methods by which this can be accomplished. Civilization may not have changed much at its core as time has passed but technology brings with it new ways to profane the natural order of the universe. Things that once lay only in the providence of the divine are now the tinker toys of men with ambitious hearts and twisted zeal. Not all results are satisfactory. Mistakes have been made, lessons learned, lives cast aside in the name of science and progress. A worthy cause built upon a foundation of immeasurable sacrifice.
None of this matters to the creature that slinks through the forest on this silent and peaceful afternoon. Though born of the horrific experiments that take place within the depths of secret laboratories and hidden fortresses, the Hound has little stake in the blasphemous philosophies that created her. A kind person might say that she is innocent of the truth, too warped and twisted in body and soul to understand the gravity of the games that she plays. Like a young puppy seeking the approval of her masters, she simply follows the orders that she is given possessing neither the ability to comprehend their implications nor the desire to question her betters.
Someone willing to embrace the truth of the matter, however, would know better. Certainly the young girl that was taken from her home and turned into the monster that she is today had no desire to be anything more than a simple teenager. Subjected to the horrors and pains of contant experimentation it might even be said that she accounted for herself remarkably well by maintaining her sanity to the degree that she has. But even these awful circumstances do not provide her complete immunity from the suffering and death that she has caused since then.
Such thoughts no longer plague her, however. Freedom from guilt and accountability is one of the few perks of wearing a leash, her sleep undisturbed by thoughts of regret or self-doubt. Infact, one such nap is just coming to a close when the soft crunch of boots on leaves echoes through the trees to alight upon her slightly pointed ears.
The Hound stirs almost instantly, reflexes and instincts keyed far beyond that which any human might possess driving her to alertness in the span of a few heartbeats. The creature shambles out of her hiding place, a sizable hollow a the base of ancient tree just large enough for her to curl up inside. She moves with the graceful silence of a predator, slinking on all fours towards the sound of movement, her mind filled with curiosity rather than malice.
When she reaches the edge of the clearing, the young girl-thing crouches down in the shadows beside a large fallen tree and peers at Walter in the midst of his praying. It's a strange sight for her; she's never seen anyone talking in such an odd fashion before. Her head pokes up a little higher so that she can take a look around, searching for this 'lord' to which he is addressing his speech.
Unlike the stealthy Hound, the world's flaws are the entire cornerstone of Walter's existance in some ways. Straddling the twin worlds of human and Darkstalker for far too long, they've blurred into a rare totality that has left him, though pledged to humanity, never without sympathy for the plight of his own kin. He's seen the worst of humanity and monster alike, even as he has seen the best of both. Yet for all of the conviction that has instilled within him, for all of the love for the innocents lurking in both worlds, as of late has come the dawning realization that for all that he is, he is yet too weak to make a true change in this world filled with cruel humans who use power and old instincts to rule.
But it is something he intends to change, and thus tonight's plans. The beast within is merely changed. He must bring it to as much heel as the Hound has been if he wishes to truly fulfill his full strength and offer some amount of change where lives are tossed aside, twisted, and in the case of the Hound? Made into a slave to those above her. Would Walter be aware of the crimes against the beastly human in the darkness, he may well consider it worth losing his sanity to the horrid yet proud thing within for her sake alone. No matter how wrong in many aspects his Church masters may have been and are, martyrdom and self-sacrifice are a way of life for the priest.
But one cannot weep for another until they know of their failures, and sufferings heaped upon them. Walter remains oblivious to Franziska's presence. Though an able Hunter, stealth has never been the man's forte. Whether through the brazen arrogance of wyrmkin that caused most to die out in ages long past by true warriors and knights, or through strict teachings of honesty and humility, the fact remains.
Kneeling as he is, he'd be an easy target indeed. Only simple curiousity saves him from such twisted claws as Franziska's.
The strange priest pauses, lets out a breath, and ends his speech.
"Keep me, God. Let this beast end its anger, and I become but one being."
Walter then lets go of the control, the chains of discipline binding his innermost nature. What results is an explosion of violence towards a poor, unfortunate tree. With a roar that will likely spread rumors for months through sheer volume, anguish, and hate, the man-beast tenses every single muscle and unfurls the golden wings upon his back. The weapon in his hand is wielded with a sudden feral grace and power that descends to simple brute fury as an ancient tree is reduced to mere splinters over long moments of claw-strikes, spear thrusts, and unleashed physical strength that is a blurr of legendary strength.
It's nearly enough that Walter almost loses himself. Years of chaining what lies within comes a hair's breadth from destroying the humanity he has and his great faith.
Unknowningly, Franziska saves the man's being. That slight peek of a head prods at supernatural senses. Tree exhausted, the barely-noticed disturbance even with full animalistic instinct has Walter's strikes halting. Mental faculties return. Normal strength reasserts itself, and he falls to his knees in a cry of pain and weakness. The display of power has cost him, pushing his body beyond what even his well-trained inhuman flesh could withstand.
From great wyrm, to wounded lizard. It's a potential opportunity for Franziska. Perhaps even an easy meal should she be so inclined.
Humanity rises amidst his pain.
"Bloody...hell...Walter. Am I truly so weak I cannot withstand my own nature?" He curses, lowly, at himself. There's nothing but agony and self-loathing in his voice as he writhes in pain. But at least he has managed to unleash himself and return, all thanks to the one watching him.
God? Beast? Anger?
The Hound cocks her head to the side like a dog that has seen something it does not understand. She sees none of these things present. There is no one else here but Walter so whomever he is speaking to is either very good at hiding or exists merely in the strange man's imagination. Beast could very certainly apply to herself but she is both hidden and quite calm at the moment. Maybe he's just crazy? She's seen some of the test subjects that cracked before they were put down - ususally by her. Seeing things that aren't there and talking to oneself is a pretty good sign that something isn't right upstairs.
Ofcourse, she gets her answer in a very unexpected manner; to one of the questions atleast. Walter's sudden explosive frenzy comes out of nowhere, his demeanor going from penitent to berzerk in the amount of time it takes for his unknown voyer to inhale a sharp breath. The Hound's control and discipline, tenuous things at best, evaporate in the face of the monstrous outpouring of rage. She shrieks in fear, staggering backwards onto her rump and out into the open.
The Hound stares in slack-jawed silence at the draconian half-man for several long moments, her wits too frazzled for her to think to scamper away immediately, much less attempt to attack him. She saw what happened to that tree and it was just sitting there! Naturally, gaping like a moron gives the priest a pretty good chance to get a clear look at her - massive claws protruding from mutated muscles, twisted digitgrade legs that look more like chitin than flesh, and teeth that would make a shark green with envy. These clash quite shockingly with the pale skin of her girlish figure and the all too human face that peers out at him obvious fright from underneath a ragged mop of grimey blonde hair.
Walter is certainly not right in the head, not ever since he's gotten the perspective of one of the night and one of humanity thrust towards a psyche not yet prepared to handle both in a matter of a week. The monstrous display of power is an outburst of that very fact in the end. In turn, it leaves him with an equally monstrous weakness.
Enough so that the pitiful yet frightening visage of Franziska falling into the clearing escapes his notice for moments that are utterly pathetic. By now, Walter has slunk upon the ground, face down in the dirt, gasping for breath. Growing humanity over beasthood finally registers the shriek his brain noted long before.
Slowly, he rolls about, spear far enough away in his current state as to be unreachable. A clawed, bare human-ish hand drags himself to the sanctity of a tree to push his body to a sitting position upon. Those serpentine eyes greet the gaping, frazzled form of Franziska.
Truly, the two are pictures of monstrosity and pity alike, but Franziska might have him beat on the side of monster. The priest's eyes widen as he takes in her form. He has seen many a lost youth in his more charitable work, full of dirty hair and hungry looks in ages depressingly young. But this is a girlish figure twisted in a way that, even to one so used to the supernatural, is beyond comprehension. Her own look of slackened jaw is returned in kind in one strange moment. Walter shuts his eyes suddenly, a weak hand upon his golden cross. He squeezes to the point of pain, and opens them once more.
His look is of honest confusion mixed with pity at such an unnatural twisted form. So too is there the briefest of looks of disgust. Righteousness rears its head, then dies as the priest actively snuffs it out. She has the look of an abomination, without the feeling of a darkstalker. He has not yet caught the chemical-pumping device, but wariness fills his entirety. Walter is looking upon a thing not meant to be.
"What...are you?" Asks Walter after the long silence of two twisted creatures exchanging the looks of the unknown.
HIs breath catches, a muttered prayer, and he risks more words.
"You do not feel as myself. My name is...Father Walter Bardsley. I ask again. What are you? Do you know words, strange thing?" His eyes turn to those twisted limbs.
"My apologies. Perhaps I should not judge so. Bloody bad week, this. But I have had too many strange things and I am a touch through with /thinking/ about what lay before me."
His voice is frustrated, angry, but it's not directed at Franziska.
"Can you speak? I will not harm you, if you do not harm myself. Do you have a name, my fellow mystery?"
Franziska seems quite content to sit there and stare for a while. She's never quite seen anything like the man, if he can be called that. NESTS has more than its fair share of horrors and secrets but few of them look so... dignified or regal. She'd be downright envious if there was someone blessed with her 'gifts' walking around at HQ that didn't look like ground up hamburger. Not that there are really any others like /her/ around. Even more so than the army of clones and throw-away super soldiers, the Hound was an experiment and one that didn't really go all that well.
The look she gets a few moments later snaps the creature out of her stupor replacing her surprise with the far more familiar pangs of self-consciousness. She's seen that expression before plenty of times and knows exactly what it means. As detached from normal social norms as she may be, the Hound still knows what she looks like and how people react to it. Her head tilts down a little in shame as she pushes back to her... does she even have feet? They look more like a bunch of talons melted together into a tri-pod or something.
Despite Walter's reassurances, Franziska remains timidly perched some distance away and doesn't speak until he asks for her name. Her answer comes quickly, almost as if she didn't even think about it before the words spill out of her mouth.
"Sssss... thisss one isss called... Hound."
Her gaze shifts from side to side a few times, scanning the forest around them as if wary of the presence of other people. She doesn't appear to be frightened any more, so much as skittish, her smaller more human hand rubbing nervously at the hardened surface of her mutated arm. However, the possibility of conversation seems to embolden her a little and she eventually turns to peer into Walter's eyes with her own.
"Father... Waaalter... Bardsssley," she repeats his name outloud as if trying it out. "Who were you... talking to?"
The staring contest ends swiftly enough. Walter is no product of her organization, nothing more than a natural twisting of the corrupted chi that produced himself, his parents, and generations of wrymkin that helped produce the legends known amonst so many varities of monstrous serpent to human rationalization.
It's one twisted being to another, and Walter's hand goes to his hair to smooth those immaculately kept locks back. A gesture of personal comfort he can't deny at this point. For all that the Hound looks beyond natural, human and darkstalker alike, he cannot help but cling to those features of humanity writ upon the NESTS agent's being.
It's enough to offer him yet more speech even as the 'monster' before him does much the same.
Walter laughs, low and weak. "Hound? Pray forgive, but who would offer you such a name? Hound is the name of a loyal servant." He pauses, thinks, and his expression grows from a human reaction of laughter to more conscious seriousness.
"...Well. Perhaps that is a bit much to ask of a person I have just met. Feel free to not answer to your loyalties." He puts emphasis upon person. She can talk, and clearly think no matter her form. It is enough for him after what he has seen thus far.
Walter Bardsley smiles to Franziska, his warm human nature returning.
"Have no fear. We are both of...strange blood, if I should hazard an arrogant guess. Right now I cannot harm you, strength exhausted in pursuit of...call it training. If I have frightened you, my apologies." States the wyrm, his inhuman tail tucking just a touch.
His draconic eyes widen.
"Who? Do you not know God, my Child? Sorry, 'Hound'. This...may be beyond you. No. It is beyond even myself whom anchors his entire existance in that of God." States the man-dragon theatrically.
"But allow me to state what I believe. God is the creator of all things. Be you simple human, mere animal, a...twisted Darkstalker such as myself, or..."
Walter looks into the eyes of the person before him.
"I lack a simple word for what you might be. Sorry. But that meager word for you aside, you have thought and instinct. I know that from your actions. God is the creator of all who live, who know instinct, those who think. You, as I am, as every human and non-human is, are God's creation."
Weakly, still exhausted, both arms rise as if beseeching the Almighty.
"And God loves each and every one of us, no matter our mistakes. Therefore, you and I are family. Brother and Sister. Though we are so different."
His hand, weak as it is, is offered forward in a gesture Franziska may have seen between one human and another. It's an offer of brotherhood.
"Hound. I greet you as an equal, no matter what you are. Harm no innocent, and I offer to you protection with what feeble strength I possess. What strange forms we possess, hmm?"
Then his eyes narrows just slightly.
"But you seem different than myself. What...if you know...spawned you?"
The Hound shrugs her shoulders at the question regarding her name. She had another name at one point, back when she was just another girl from an average home, but those days are little more than blurry memories tucked away into the dark forgotten corners of her mind. Now she's just an animal, little more than a loyal dog for her masters, a pet even amongst the ranks of the other test subjects. The name suits her just fine.
Exactly to whom she is loyal remains a msytery. The Hound has little more to say on the subject. She lapses into silence once more while Walter speaks in his strange archaic manner, nodding at his apology with a little bob of her head, then turning her gaze elsewhere. Her attention seems to drift from moment to moment as if bored or distracted but there is a subtle pattern to her movements that always keeps the winded priest visible at the peripheral of her vision.
His surprise at her lack of knowledge regarding the One True God earns a bit more of her direct focus. She peers at him in her quizzical manner as he delivers an impromptu sermon with the dramatic flair of a television evangelist if perhaps a bit less animated than most. The Hound says nothing until he finishes. That's the second time someone has called her family. The first was from her fellow agents and she could understand the sentiment even if she inwardly felt herself unworthy of such attention. This time she has no idea what would drive this complete stranger into such a declaration.
"You are... very strange," she offers by way of reply after Walter is done. Her tongue flicks out, narrow and pointed, and she furrows her brow but the faint tilt to her lips suggests that the gleam in her blood red eyes is one of amusement and not annoyance.
"Thisss one wasss not... ssspawned... I think. Um..." she shuffles her feet nervously, flexing the muscles wrapped about the trio of massive claws and they dig trenches into the soft earth without so much as a hint of effort from the creature. "I wasss born... and then... remade." She shakes her head again. "No godssss... just knivesss and needles... now I am... the Hound."
Strange. Waler smiles at the words of the strange creature before him. For all of his sermons, for all of his sanctity, the odd creature before him is completely beyond his comprehension. For all of a few moments. If nothing else, Walter has wallowed in the uniqueness of life that his world has offered.
"So I am. 'Strange'." Admits the wyrmkin before this most odd of beings. He pauses, and holds his cross in a free hand.
For all of Franziska's odd feet, the marring of the earth and her almost meek response to his own questions upon her offer him a certain amount of both solice and suffering. The good Father looks to the inhuman, and yet possessed of human corruption being with utter sympathy. It's an act of pure instinct, but those draconic eyes take in the whole of her form.
Walter straightens, and looks Franziska in the eyes in a pure look of sympathy.
"Knives and needles? Well. My own mind is a work of mankind. Thus..."
Walter's face softens.
"Shall we be friends? If you are the work of mankind's greed and desire, then I have naught but sorrow for you. I am myself twisted, in rage and pride, but..."
The bark of the tree rakes against his wounds as of late. Walter smiles.
"I have a desire to make this world better. Whatever God or mortal has inflicted upon you...I offer myself to you as a friend. Someone who gives a bloody damn. No matter what shall pass."
The wyrmkin looks close to simply passing out for all of his words and exhertions today. He stares into Franziska's eyes. A hand, perhaps uselessly, is held out in human gesture.
"What say you?"
The irony of her statement is lost on the girl if facial expressions are to be believed. She remains cautiously distant, peering at him through glances and side-long looks. Other than her eyes and the nervous twitches of her inhuman claws, however, the creature is practically statuesque, resting motionless on her haunches. The tension in her legs is outwardly apparent - her body is hardly something that adheres to normals signs but even her bizzare physiology still apprently consists of muscles of and tendons. If he's paying any attention to her body language at all Walter will note that the Hound is practically ready to spring at a moment's notice.
Rather than bring a smile to her face or relaxation to this state of wariness, his offer only seems to make the girl more uncomfortable. She looks away from him again, this time tilting her head completely to the side. Make the world a better place, huh. She's heard that line before. Not that she would dare presume to judge her betters but even her scrambled brains can tell the difference between helping someone and ripping them to shreds.
Which is what she does. It's her job to kill people. Friends don't last very long in her experience. Either they find out who she really is or they do something foolish that draws the ire of her masters down on them. Then she has to kill her friends. Ofcourse she has a choice, she could not kill them but then someone would come to kill her instead. Or they would take away her medications and she would turn into a real monster.
"...sorry, Walter Bardsssley," she says after a few moments of deliberation. Her mind drifts to the last person that tried to be nice to her. Pretty Kaede with her gentle voice and soft warm smile. She'd stumbled on the rogue ninja by pure accident and then spent the night sheltering together from a storm. Then Kaede found out her secret and the Hound had to report it. The girl could be dead by now for all she knows and if not then she will be eventually.
"I'm not the kind of person who gets to have friends."
Walter's relaxation doesnt' work. The man sighs. Even before he speaks, Franziska's very demeanor lends an ominous sensation to the exhausted wyrmkin. The man is utterly unprepared for the two's encounter. But his words are honest all the same.
And he recognizes honesty in her own words. There is a sudden, completely human sorrow to his features. Walter Bardsley knows some tragedy before him, even if he has no clue what NESTS might be.
"Is that so? What a shame. Well. I will not be so arrogant as to presume that you are wong. Too many strange occurances for myself to do otherwise. Still."
The priest smiles, wide and inviting.
"Consider it an offer. Should you feel otherwise? Card. Left pocket, it has my number. Tell me you have a cellphone?" A grin, warm and teasing. Then he slumps even more, utterly out of it.
A wave of the hand, and the purely spent priest's eyes close.
"I am but a servant of God. No matter what, I offer my ear to His Children. That includes you, no matter your...our...horrifying forms. Keep that in mind."
His head tilts down, as he passes out from his burst of inward strength. His last words are weak.
"Friends. Everyone should have friends. No...matter...what." Then the wyrmkin is out, spent, and asleep.
No, such things are beyond her grasp now. Happiness comes in smaller packages than comraderie and mutual respect. A simple word of kindness or thanks. A pat on the head when someone is willing to touch her. Finding a mostly uneaten bit of meat in the garbage. Receiving the vials of the precious fluid that preserve her mind against the gnawing hunger that seeks to consume her from within.
The Hound watches in silence as Walter sinks into the depths of slumber. Whatever drove him to deliver his wrath upon the trees must have exhausted him thoroughly. That is somewhat comforting. People like him, idealists and dreamers, those that want to improve the world, people who would offer friendship to a monster like her without a moment's hesitation - those are the kinds of people she kills the most.
But not right at this second. It could be that they two shall find themselves at odds in the future. Perhaps even she might receive praise for delivering such a strange man to her superiors. He seems helpless enough. Without orders, however, she finds no strong compulsion to do so. Let him rest until the day comes when she no longer has that luxury.
"Goodbye... Father Walter Bardsley."
Log created on 20:37:32 02/09/2015 by Franziska, and last modified on 01:39:23 02/10/2015.