Description: Shira had lost everything. Her family, her friends. She was alone, and distraught. And her only response was to walk. To wander. The snake woman finds herself drawn to Mount Koya, where a string of mysterious killings have cursed the mountain. Following the trails, she soon encounters a strange old lady... who finds a little child who was lost in the woods. And there, she finds a home for her... and an opportunity to make all the pain fade away.
It's been a very interesting night for one Shira Hebi. She'd lost the only real family she's ever known, had her first encounter with true emotional pain and shock that still leaves a dull ache in her heart, and then two kind humans gave her a cellphone and the best meal of her impoverished life. Shira had also promptly been banned for devouring an entire serving bar's worth of food.
Unfortunately, it's been cold, rainy, and generally miserable, and now Shira needs to 'lay low' as her companions put it. With nothing to attach herself to her hometown, she left Southtown and simply wandered. Her path took her to the Osaka area. She tried to sleep in the trees, or beneath them, but to no avail. Every time she closes her eyes, she sees the bodies of her friends.
And so, eyes slitted moreso than usual, dark bags under her sleepless eyes, she simply wanders the paths leading towards the more secluded buddhist temples aimlessly and openly, face stoney and impassive as always.
*CLICK KAK KAK*
*CLICK KAK KAK*
There has been a string of murders out here near Mount Koya. Travellers following on paths, just like the path that Shira was on right now, would find pilgrims torn apart, brutally murdered right amongst the dim lights of the ancient buddhist trails. As an effect, these trails had become lonelier and lonelier. Rumors were abound amongst pilgrims, that a grudge curse had been place upon the trails that run along the mountainsides. It was dangerous to travel in groups; suicide to travel alone.
*CLICK KAK KAK*
*CLICK KAK KAK*
As Shira in fact wanders alone, the only survivor of an attack against her pack, she should begin to hear the strange clicking sounds around her. High on the tree tops, hidden in the mists that linger amongst the trees and paths. The stones are cold, the air is cold. A dusting of snow fills the path. The sounds continue, a rhythmatic clicking sound.
*CLICK KAK KAK*
*CLICK KAK KAK*
Up ahead on the path, a light begins to glow through the mists. A dim light, swaying side to side. A new tapping sound comes, as the light begins to approach. Swaying side to side, coming closer, closer to Shira. Tap. Tap. Tap. All while the sounds above continue to rattle.
*CLICK KAK KAK*
*CLICK KAK KAK*
Someone really needs to teach Shira to keep up with the news. The sounds of clicking around her, up in the trees, ahead and behind have the animalistic senses of the woman perking up. She slows her walking, too-wide eyes peering and scanning the horizon, neck tilting at an odd angle for one eye to scan above, before bending backwards in an almost spineless motion to check behind. Cold, serpentine logic follows. She's not alone.
Her hand slips lower to her tattered jeans, right hand closing around the hilt of her well-honed butcher's knife. It's not drawn, but her every muscle is coiled. A threat, or perhaps prey. But then comes that light, swaying, and those eyes are drawn in. Low slits widen, some of her body relaxing just a bit.
To a serpent, such lights are hypnotic, and the slow sway has her captivated. Soon, her body is slithering and swaying in time like a snake to music. One might think her alertness is dulling amidst the cold. The wet and mist and previous rain has her body shivering, desperate for warmth.
That knife slips just a little higher out of her belt loop.
*CLICK KAK KAK*
The sound of the clicking stops suddenly, like a cricket that's just been caught.
And from the mists, emerges the form of an old woman.
The woman is ancient looking, her skin dark, craggy and wrinkled. Her eyes are black, buried deep in her sockets and her brow. Her nose is long, nearly long enough to reach her chin. She is dressed in what looks like layers and layers of woolen shawls and robes colored faded woad and brown, garbing her form loosely as she trudges forward. Her feet are bare. Hunched forward, she carries what looks like bundles of -something- upon her back, bound tightly in thick blankets to keep it together. The items seem larger than her; but some have twigs and branches sticking out from them. Over her shoulder, she keeps a leather stachel of sorts; in one of her hands, she holds a lantern by a chain, crafted of what looks like ceramic or bone. In the other hand, she grips a single, gnarled elm branch as a walking stick. Tap. Tap. Tap. In spite of her burdens, she moves at a brisk pace, her cane tapping along with every step.
The tapping stops, naturally, as she comes to a halt mere meters from Shira.
The woman doesn't make a sound at first, holding still. The lantern sways a bit, before the old woman raises it higher. Casting her head upwards, she adjusts her posture, looking towards the other person with those dark eyes. It is silent, as steadily, a smile spreads across the old crone's face. A toothless grin, tight-lipped and quite sincere. The old woman rests her weight on the cane, as she finally speaks. "Why, hello dear~" Comes the words sweetly, with only a slight tinge of a croak from the elderly woman. "I did not expect to meet anyone on this path." She casts a glance past Shira, and then, to her sides.
"Are you alone?~"
An...old woman? The entirety of the strange woman's form is taken in by the gangster-snake, eyes unblinking and narrowing almost lazily to half-slits. Her head tilts, knife sliding back into that belt loop slowly. There seems to be something awfully /strange/ about this woman, between the bone-made lantern and those eyes. Luckily, strangeness is almost a comfort. A brief moment of wondering if she's not the only 'freak' in the world chugs through her brain, before returning to the situation at hand.
Her gang had a rule: you don't touch kids, and you don't touch old people. And so, as the old woman offers a smile Shira...well, finally blinks. The voice that comes to her is kind, sincere, and after she tastes the air with her tongue, she can find no signs of a lie in it.
Thug she might be, but the snake is rather honest when she has no reason to lie.
"Ah. Hello." Comes Shira in her usual deadpan. That tongue of her lols out of her mouth gently. For the moment, she senses no danger.
"Just me. Big sis and my friends aren't around anymore. Just me." She repeats. There's a sudden shiver, a narrowing of her eyes, the slightest expression of shock passing for a single moment before pure serpentine apathy and coldness takes back over.
"I didn't have anywhere else to go, so I just walked." Adds Shira, nodding twice. "Is there anywhere warm? Ah. Big sis said I should be nice to old people. I'm Shira."
"Why, you aren't a pilgrim at all, are you..."
That was the response from the old woman, as Shira nods twice. The woman blinks once, the black pools winking out for a moment. Shira may not have realized this, but she just saved her own life. The woman hardly held any presence of malice around her. But as far as a presence came... there was something unnatural about her. Or maybe too natural. Shira's enhanced senses may draw the sharp tang of turpentine from her. Another freak like Shira, maybe, another loner out in the depths of the mountains. Almost casually, she seemed to fix an eyes towards her belt loop, on the handle of the knife blade.
Smile still spread across her face.
And yet, all she does is nod at the weapon, before the old crone looks over Shira. And all she does is shake her head, clucking her tongue. "Poor child, and you look so cold. I simply cannot let a poor young lady suffer out in the cold like this." The woman shuffles towards Shira. Tap. Tap. Tap. "Yes, there is someplace very warm that you may stay, we can warm up that cold blood of you. My home is not too far from here, just off the path, and deep into the woods. You can be very warm there." She gestures the lantern off the path, into the woods and the mists. As she takes a single step towards it, she adjusts her shoulders, the burden on her seeming to be too much. She casts a single eye towards Shira, that smile fixed on her face. "Precious child~" %R
"Would you help an old lady with her things?~"
"Pilgrim? No. Temples make me feel strange." She'd only been to one once in her life, but poisonous chi like hers doesn't mix well with holy places. And that one priest who tried to exorcise her was not a pleasant occurance.
Finally, though, Shira lets it click. Definitely like her. Another slow blink. "Are you like me? The humans...the bad ones, not like Big Sis and Little Sis...call me a freak." There's no self-pity or even bitterness, a simple question asked for nothing more than curiousity. It's the one emotion she has in spades.
Shira considers. The snake's head tilts the other way, those eyes seem to bore into the old woman's own dark ones. She could be a predator. Or she could be like the humans who fed her not long ago. Most of all, Shira considers the cold and how her pointy teeth chatter. Even her venom is freezing up, causing those channels in her jaws to uncomfortably twinge. Her arms are growing numb as her blood cools and slows in a rapid descend to hypothermia.
"Okay, old woman." She finally says, nod-nodding and tasting the air once again. It's a risk she can afford. She can't cut the cold, after all.
Shira walks over, and then reaches out to try to take that bundle. She's no werewolf or other massive brute, but the slightly malnurished snake has more than enough strength to her. Unless it's utterly back-breaking, she'll manage to heft it over her shoulder. After licking it to see what might be inside. Slurp. That's at least three feet of tongue that extends out and licks down the bag.
"Why are you being so nice? I never understood why people care about something like me. What is it like to care about someone you've never met before?" Offers Shira, more questions without accusations.
All the old woman gives her is a single bundle.
Any more, would have been far too much. The crone bends her body, nearly twists it as Shira moves in position. Off her back, a single bundle rolls off from her back to Shira's arms. The bundle is staggeringly heavy, and slightly damp. The shape bends as she adjusts herself. It stinks of turpentine... and something else. As Shira gives the taste, it may slowly dawn on what it might be, exactly.
The woman places a hand upon the woman's shoulder... something that should be quite difficult, considering her hunched over frame. And the fact that her hands should be both full. And yet, the lantern's light continues to swing, and she clutches the cane in one hand. "There are many kinds of people in the world, my child..." She speaks very softly, the smile fixed on her face. "... and very few kinds of people in the world. You are not alone, child;" Her voice drops to a whisper. "I have met your kind before~" And then, the old woman begins to sing sweetly as the stench of turpentine grows stronger.
'As the servent begins its toil'
'heat and cold will quickly spoil'
'For even the most wretched slave can't mask'
'Needing sheltered blessings in their task'
Shira would begin to feel a warm spread from the old woman's hand, like a cup of hot cider running through her throat. Her blood would quicken, her body grow hot. It was not a comfortable feeling; it was a sickening warmth, like a shot to the heart. The old woman draws her hand away, and the heat feels like a hot water bottle loose in her body, condensing in her body unpredictably, and growing and fading in heat. Was it a blessing, or a curse? The only thing that seemed to make it constant and comfortable was if she moved, if she walked... and steadily, without looking back, the old woman was walking off the path. She was holding her lantern again. "Follow me, young lady, and please hurry."
"You won't stay warm for long~"
Oomph! Shira's eyes widen as that sack rolls off onto her own back. Even her excellent balance doesn't help much, the snake-ganger forced to wobble on one foot before finally hefting herself upright. She looks over to the old woman.
Peeeeer. "...You're a lot stronger than you look." She deadpans. That sack gets another lick. Meat. The old crone might catch her drooling for a moment. Thankfully Shira doesn't have the presence of mind to think too much on where it came from. Even she might be a bit perterbed.
And then, warmth fills her. It's odd, almost sickening. Turpentine has her coughing. She can feel her skin crawling as animal instinct picks up something that she herself doesn't quite touch on. That strength, the odd hand, and now how that warmth fills her with every step. Smartly, she doesn't stop moving, but her eyes are more and more on the crone herself.
"Ah. So I'm not alone, huh?" It's a curious revelation, and one she spends some time rolling around in her head. She has so many questions. But the old woman is in a rush, and she obliges. Despite her burden, she steps lightly, in that odd weaving pattern of half-leap half-stumble that so resembles her animal portion. One could make her for a drunkard if she wasn't so fast, nimble, and her eyes far too alert.
And so she follows, taking in the path, her companion, and the road ahead. She'll have to leave some time after all.
"Do you always help lost children?"
"I always help lost children, darling~"
The words come sweetly, the old woman leads the way. As she shuffles along swiftly, she seems to keep a strong pace; never too fast to leave her companion behind, but Shira can never seem to meet up with her. Trees seem to slip past them, the woman following the unseen trail as she moves along. A small leap comes as she bounds over a pile of rocks; the trees start to grow thinner and thinner. And then, from overhead, the clicking sound returns.
*CLICK KAK KAK*
*CLICK KAK KAK*
"Do not worry, my dear." The old woman states, slowing down enough for Shira to meet alongside her. She gestures high above, towards the few treetops remaining as they force up the mountain. "They are called hitodama. They are peaceful creatures. The spiritual forces of this mountain are growing stronger~" The woman's words seem to brighten, as a kind of reverance to their presence. "It is not much farther now. Come! Come child!~" The old crone surges forward, her strides growing longer and longer. The woman was almost running now, a sprint as she rushes. She moves faster and faster, faster and faster, a delirious pace as the knocking sounds begin to fade behind them....
And then, she stops.
"We are here, my darling child~"
The clearing is surrounded by the edge of the forest... and a number of skulls impaled on stakes around the clearing. Some are human, though most are of other animals, but each bears burning eyes of emerald flame glowing brightly. Past them were heaps of snow, piles of them in fact. Some are in the shape of forts; others have clear snowmen amongst them. The outlines of snow angels litter around, as in the center, there stands a single hut... literally. The hut was astride a pair of long pine trunks, standing high up, facing away from the pair. Upon the snow, the pair of legs end with the roots of the tree trunks, shaped like the feet of a bird. Smoke trails out of a stone chimney at the top of the hut; it would almost be a comical sight... except for the skulls, which seem to be turned to face at Shira. "Ah, my children must be busy at their chores, how wonderful~" The old woman coos as she approaches the hut. She stands by a snowman, right before the hut. And there, motions her companion to approach, as she calls out.
'Hut, Hut, Bend your legs down to earth for me~'
It's strange, Shira remarks to herself. This old woman seems frail at a glance, but she's so spritely and swift. More and more, she finds herself drawn to the woman, curiousity and a strange liking for someone so seemingly selfless. Shira's vulnerable, even if she doesn't recognize it herself.
She looks at the hitodama. Her head tilts in pure wonder. At least until she finds herself being left behind! Running now behind her, only her true nature even lets her try to keep up with this swift old creature!
And then she pauses to take in the grisly sight. Eyes go wide for a moment, before they slowly lid. Definitely a dangerous old crone. The look she gives the woman is with a renewed wariness. Something akin to animalistic respect. She's an old wolf that has marked her territory. The snake respects that territory.
"You defend your turf." Shira states simply, before giving a nod.
"Maybe if we did this, my friends would be alive." A mistake she'll ruminate on. A shiver, and not from the cold.
And then she awaits that hut to bend, easily getting on as it does.
"Children? You have other ones like me here?"
The hut turns around, the great massive legs taking hefty steps, turning around steadily. Once it is facing towards the old woman, it finally lowers itself down, bending first at the knees into a kneel, and then burying its legs underneath. Once fully down, the small wooden porch beckons, and with it, the old wooden door swings wide open. The old woman simply enters, calling to her companion.
"Come in, come in~"
Inside the hut, the interior clearly was larger inside than outside. What should have really only been big enough for a rather modest Japanese apartment, was instead a full single room. From the entrance, on the right wall, was bunkbeds; 4 seperate beds, each with two beds apiece, arranged against the walls, with several chests set up amongst them. Towards the left was what must have been the old woman's room; it was stacked with jars, books, scrolls, and all kinds of bizarre fetishes upon shelf of shelves surrounding what had to be desks and tables. Amongst that maze of spaces was a bed, twisted unnaturally in a crooked manner. On the wall directly across, was what was close to be a kitchen, with a great fireplace matching a kiln near where the sink stood. There, a roaring flame was ensuring the interior was toasty warm. A massive cauldron sat upon the fire, which was boiling what seemed to be water. Several animal skins lined the area before the flame. In the center was a great round table, with a circular bench surrounding it. It was meant for at least a dozen, a dozen more if they were willing to be a little too close. Cats and bats and spiders seemed to crawl and fly amongst the ceiling and its supports; countless more bizarre fetishes dangled overhead.
And of course, there were children.
There were six children in total. Three boys, and three girls. Two of the boys, a freckled face one and what must be a local child, were busy setting the table, with plates and knives and cups and napkins. The third boy, dark-skinned and round bellied, was sweeping, cleaning the floors of dust and webbings. A pale-skinned, waify teenager, not much younger than Shira, seemed to be supervising, watching over the others as they worked. And by the beds, a very young girl, barely more than a toddler, was cleaning up the toys, putting them in the chest. The sixth girl was a dark-haired young girl... and she was laying in one of the beds, under a heap of blankets shivering. The old woman comes in, heaving the bundle off her backs as she straightens herself up... raising up higher than Shira was. Arms open wide, all but the bed-ridden child breaks from their chores to rush to the old woman. "Darlings~" The old woman coos.
"Come give mother a hug hello~"
It's a lot to take in. The house is large, warm, and very comfortable. There's children, seemingly humans. Water for food, and all in all? It seems like this strange inhuman crone has indeed taken in stray children and has a warm place to stay. The snake-teen walks over to the roaring fire, sits, down, and observes each child with unblinking eyes. Her tongue tastes the air, and slowly, her body starts to truly warm up. After a moment of watching the others rush to hug her, the snake doesn't join them. No, once she has warmth in her limbs? She walks over to the shivering girl in the bed.
Leeean! Those big eyes peer into the girl's own.
"Are you sick? Dying?" She asks, bluntly, before leaning away and bending her head back to look at the group.
"Is she nice to you? Not...like at the orphanage?" She finally asks the children as she watches them hug her. Shira takes a hesitant step forward.
There is a smell of malice in the air.
The other five children all crowd the old woman, giving her hugs, giving the snake girl freedom to explore around the room. As she approaches the bunkbeds, she could see the the little girl much more clearly now. Her eyes and skin are a sickly yellow, a symptom of jaudice... or worse. She is very skinny, almost sickly so, and she looks faintly up at the strange new person. She doesn't answer Shira's question directly; she only makes a faint whining sound.
"... I want... mamma..."
"That is Anna~" The old woman states, as she opens up the bundles she was carrying. Inside was the mangled remains of what looked the mangled parts of a sika deer, embedded with sharp sticks and branches. The teenage girl wordlessly draws out a knife, and leads the other children to drag it to the kitchen side of the hut. Letting her children deal with her findings, she approaches Shira from behind. She was taller now, her back erect. Lifting the lantern up, it finds itself handing from the rafters. Standing beside Shira, she looks down on the sickly child. "She has fallen ill, I am afraid, since I was away. It isn't anybody's fault, I am afraid...~" She lowers her hand down, brushing her gnarled fingers on the little girl's cheeks. "But we can only wait, and see if she is strong enough for mother to push on through~"
There is a splashing sound, as a chunk of the deer are dropped into the pot.
She shakes her head, as she pulls her hand away. "My children are all orphans; I had to adopt every single one of them. It is terrible for children to suffer, isn't it? To be unloved by their mother and father? To lose them at such a young age?~ She focuses her dark eyes dead on Shira, the same smile fixed on her face before. The boys begin tossing the loose branches into the fire, as teenager begins to carve out pieces of the deer, for the littlest one to drop in. The blessing was beginning to fade now; in the warmth of the hut, it seemed to lift the enchantment. "You've lost your family as well, didn't you? I remember how bands of friends can be close as family, or even closer~" She brushes a finger towards her cheek.
"Would you like to pick a bed, to stay for the night?~"
The serpent's head tilts. Malice lingers in the air, and what should be a warm, safe place still has Shira on edge. And then there's the sickly girl. Shira touches her neck, just to be sure. A shake of the head.
"Doesn't look good." She adds in her assessment, before simply walking away. There's no pity in her voice for the sick girl. She's obviously weak. If she dies, it means little to the darkstalker. Only warmth and a place with a bed to stay and food. She might be more like a pet than a child in some ways.
"I don't know. Pain makes you slow. Not having a home means you freeze and can die. No safety. Could get killed at any time by something stronger and hungry. Bad to be alone. Dangerous." A shake of the head.
"I never knew them. I don't feel anything like love for them, or anyone. What does it feel like to love?" Then, she pauses as the crone mentions her band, and she considers.
"I lost them last night. Big sis and the others were shot by someone. I didn't see who did it. Heard a car." Then, she considers, sitting down on a bed as she's bidden. She finds one closest to the fire and farthest away from Anna.
"But when I found Big Sis and the others...something strange happened. Tears. My chest felt tight. What was that? Whenever I think of them, I know I've lost safety. People who want to protect each other. But I can find that again."
She looks up to the 'Mother' of the group.
"But every time I think of Big Sis I want to hug her again. I want to find who did it and cut them up. It feels weird." Her stoney face pulls into something akin to a frown as she describes what can only be one of the few emotions she's ever felt. Shira leans into that finger. It feels nice to be brushed, to be touched, so gently like Hikari did to her.
It wasn't good at all.
The old crone stares into Shari, those dark eyes blank. She listens to the young woman. And was a young woman. But for the old woman, she only saw children. Some children were bigger than others. As the other children finish up preparing the deer, the old woman listens to the story, moving in closer, and closer. "Tears... child? You have experienced loss. Loss is part of life, part of the balance of the world..." The old woman pulls her touch away, and wraps her hands around Shira, putting her in a matronly hug.
And she gives a whisper.
It was a very soft whisper, a very delicate one. The old woman had to lean in carefully, and wait just a moment before giving it. Patting the young lady on the back, she gives that whisper. A whisper that spirals in, that drills in. Words that the old woman have used many times before. It was a whisper. It was a bargain. It was a promise.
"... Would you like them to come back?"~
The young snake lays her head against the old crone, that familiar sensation of being held. It's good. It means safety, security. Promises of companionship and easing the mental strain of fighting and stealing to survive. Everything she had in the gang. But even for someone so muted as her, that gaping wound is still there. The pats have her body relaxing.
'Would you like them to come back'.
Shira looks up, and stares at the tall crone, impassive face cracking for the briefest of moments. Slowly, those eyes narrow to slits. For a long minute, there's nothing. Then, they open just a touch. Her body has tensed up.
"...Big sis said that people don't come back from being shot until they stop moving. Can you really do that?" Cold logical disbelief is in her eyes, and she lets out a hiss.
"What do you get out of doing that, even if you can?" Shira isn't stupid, it seems.
She was rejecting her.
The woman begins to laugh, a sweet, grandmotherly laugh, as if Shira said something simply darling. As she begins to laugh like that, the other children instinctively lower their heads, looking away from their mother. Even Anna, as sick and feeble as she was, turns in her bed, facing away from Shira and the old woman. She releases the young lady as she tenses up, her long, gnarled fingers twisting into a steeple. "You do not believe mother? You do not believe in her power, and her good faith?" She twists her head to the side, slightly.
"Let me prove to you first, child~"
The old crone's movements are swift, almost as agile as Shira. But where Shira had serpentine agility, this was something more stiff, more stunted. There is a screech as her arms snap up to the rafters, seizing one of the lurking cats by the throat. The creature claws at the woman's arms, tearing deep scratches into the craggy skin of the woman. There is no blood, but the scent of turpentine grows stronger. The old crone swiftly beats the cat to the floor, over and over again. The shrieks of the animal suddenly grow quiet. The woman hunches to the ground, placing the cat on the wooden floor of the hut. Dipping her thumb in the dead creature's blood, she begins to trace some strange symbol around it.
The old woman begins to mutter.
Reach back to the lantern, she pulls it from the roof, and holds it over the cat. Chanting and muttering, chanting and muttering. Her expression is blank, her head is shaking side to side. In the back, the children continue their work, ignoring mother as they tend to the stew. Strange, wispy lights begin to rise from the cat, flowing into the lantern. The woman holds it over her head briefly, muttering in strange tongue. Until with a single, seizing motion, she crushes the lantern, hurling the contents straight back into the broken shell of the animal. For a moment, there is silence. Only the 'tink tink tink' of the spoon stirring in the cauldron is heard; a single cough from Anna breaks it. And soon, another sound comes.
The groan of a pained cat's meow.
"Just as there is death in life, child, so there is life in death." The old crone responds, rising back up to a stand. The cat begins to jerk, seizing up as it twists its broken body. Somehow, it manages to stand, before making a weak, desperate dash away, past Shira's feet, somewhere under the bunk beds, collapsing twice as its body simply cannot handle it. A trail of its blood now stretched on the floor, as the old crone turns back towards Shira, the smile back on her face. "You can see my power, child. Your loss can be undone. But what do I need from my sweet child, hmmm?~"
She walks past her, towards Anna.
"My daughter is sick, child, and I can't cure her." She traces her fingers across the sick girl's frame. "I can transform her, and I can warp her. She will not die. But I cannot treat her sickness." She turns back to Shira. "There is nothing I want more than my darling baby girl to be healthy again. But the only way I can save her is in town. They are the only ones who have people who can treat her... and I cannot go into town." She pauses a moment, tilting her head.
"But you can go back, and find someone how can save her, can't you?~"
Shira seems to stare all the harder as the old woman laughs, blinking again. A glance to the children, and then back. Her tongue lolls out. A quick taste of the air, and she runs a hand through her hair. Scritch scritch.
"Big sis told me not to believe everything people tell me."
And then she watches a cat plucked from the rafters with deft, stiff hands, and then beaten to death. Another taste of the air. The hag doesn't have blood!?
And then she kneels beside the dead body, watching the entire process. Light fills the body, and then, the lantern and those odd words bring it back to life.
The serpent looks to cat, then to crone, and then to Anna as the price is made. A simple enough task for one such as her. Already, a plan forms. She'd need money.
"I can do that. It will take some time to get the money and opportunity. But I can do it. My friends are all with the police probably. Will we need their bodies? And that cat's still bleeding. Big sis first. We'll see what she says. Then I'll help you from there." A pact, sealed.
"First I'm hungry and tired." What a demanding little snake.
"The pact is sealed~"
The words come with heavy presence, as if they were being carved into the very foundation of reality itself. As Shira thinks aloud, the woman repeats a certain word. "Money. Tsk, tsk, I am so useless as a mother. I cannot offer money, I cannot help with money~. But you are a smart young lady, I believe in your natural talent~." She steps away, moving back towards the table. "But for your friends, I only need three things. I need their bodies; I need to know where they were killed; And I must have someone who's responsible for their demise." The woman is vague, almost haunting in her descriptions. "Understand carefully that last one; someone responsible for their deaths. If you cannot find their killer, you can still provide me someone who is willingly responsible. This is the most important, sometimes more important than the simple bodies. There is no urgency on this, though. You take your time, my dear."
"For now, let us eat~"
The children are now running bowls from the cauldron to the table, filled with venison stew. It quite thin, likely due to the cooking time, and overcooked onions and root vegetables fill it haphazardly. It is, however, still food. Seven bowls are set at the table; two are set near Anna's bed. The teenage girl seemed to be sitting away from the table, being entrusted in taking care of Anna. As for the rest of the childre, one by one, each take their seat on the bench, their heads still averted from the old woman and Shira. The old woman takes a seat at the table, her back to the cauldron. The bench is hard, but she seems comfortable. The old woman beckons for Shira, gesturing for a seat between the freckled boy and the youngest girl.
"Young lady, what is your name, so I can introduce you properly to my children?"
Shira can't help but shiver as those words are spoken, even her mind recognizing the finality of them. That mystical quality is confusing for the young serpent, but instead she focuses on what she knows.
"Don't worry about it. I have a few plans. Big sis taught us how to get money." Mostly through petty theft and mugging people. But then she follows along, obediently sitting down as she's bidden by 'Mother'. She nods at each condition.
"Okay. I was going to find all of them anyway. Do they need to be alive?" Really, things are already falling into Shira's own plans.
As the bowls are passed forward, the greedy snake fills her belly eagerly. Picking up the bowl with both hands, her tongue goes to work, curling around bits of meat and sucking them down her gullet. Any of the kids who look can see individual food bits slide down her throat as she swallows them whole. In one instance, her jaw seems to unhinge for a moment as she messily laps up the broth.
She pulls away, looking to the crone. Her chin drips and there's some onion on her cheek. "Shira Hebi. That's what big sis called me. I don't know what my parents named me. The orphanage just called me a freak and hit me." Shrug. Then she slurps up more food.
"Who are they?" She already knows Anna, of course, but then she turns to peer at each one. That unblinking gaze and still half-hungry looks might not be too comfortable for her fellow 'children'.
"Oh, goodness yes. You can't hold the dead guilty after all~"
The old woman laughs, before scooping up the bowl. With similar manners, she opens her maw, and begins to guzzle upon the contents. No chewing, only swallowing. The children continue to actively not look at Shira, poking through their soup with their spoons. She was a non-person for now, and a direct one. Until... until she gives her name. Shira Hebi. As she gives her name, the other children begin to look at her again. Some children are NOT comfortable with Shira. The youngest one looks seriously afraid of Shira; but something compels her to not turn away. The dark skinned one looks wary. The asian one, however, seems to find the girl funny to look at. The rooms seems a little brighter, as the children become engaged. As the old woman finishes her guzzling, she places the bowl down, drool and soup still dribbling from the corner of her mouth. "Shira... such a lovely name~"
"Yes, yes, you should learn of your other children~"
"That one is Jamal." She states, gesturing towards the nervous-looking dark-skinned child. "He has been with our family for over a year now; he was found in a little town in the new world. Fredrick was from the same town, the little troublemakers were lucky to meet mother like that~" She laughs lightly as she motions at the freckled boy, who just looks mooneyed at Shira. She places a hand to the boy to her right. "That over there is Jaewoo, I had to rescue him from a wicked stepmother who was tormenting the poor boy." She shakes her head sadly, as the boy smiles with a mouth full of stew towards Shira. She places a hand in the hair of the littlest one, who squirms at the sight of Shira. "And of course, this is little Kylie, I've had her since she was a little baby. She's growing up perfectly fine, and into a brave little woman~" Kylie suddenly pipes up, almost instinctively, with the same tone as the old woman.
"I love you mommy!~"
And the old woman... glances towards the teenager, who was spoon feeding Anna. "And she does not have a name." The tone of the old woman turns flat and curt. "She is a disobedient young woman. But she works hard to earn back her mother's love, isn't that right my dear?" The teenager pauses, and nods her head softly, not looking towards the old woman, but staring ahead blankly. A very meaningful gesture, Shira should be able to remember. The old woman finally gestures to herself. "And I am, my child, I am mother. But as some children can be confused, you can know me by the old name."
"I am Eadni~"
The snake's head dips just a touch in dissappointment there, but nods anyway. This is definitely going to be a pain, and require a lot of planning and resources. But, now, she has the start of friendships...or at least what passes for such for her. Shira reaches into her pocket, pulls out a phone, and peer at the single number within. She puts it away.
The snake will have a call to make soon. Still, she quickly spies the various reactions she gets. Fear. Oddness. Wariness. And one girl who seems to enjoy her presence.
She's soon seated right next to that girl, muscling her way in. She's bigger than most here amongst the children, and a lot more used to getting what she wants with muscle and a bit of violence. Thankfully that just involves shoving away chair-planted kids for today forcefully.
Each child gets looked at, studied, their names memorized. There's plenty of room in that mind for names and faces. After a nod to each one, and a taste of the air with her tongue to get their individual scents, she goes around the table. Repeating each name, staring far longer than should be comfortable, she finally gives a small nod to herself.
"Got it. Lucky kids. Old woman's not like my parents or the orphanage people. She's like Big Sis. Do what she says." Offers Shira 'helpfully'. No, she doesn't recognize the strangeness of it all. She simply doesn't have the empathy or experience to pick up from being a non-person to a /person/ at their mother's behest.
The asian girl gets a little pat on the shoulder as if mimicking Eadni. Her hand is slightly cooler than it should be, despite the warmth of the room.
Only after she's absolutely devoured ever bit of soup she can get it (and eyeing the nearest bowls for any sign that there's food going to waste), she peers back to Eadni.
"You're nice, Eadni." A pause, and then she considers something.
"I only have a few friends. But you might be one of them. Can I come by when I don't have any work?" Hikari taught Shira well in how to solicit jobs from others, even if it's just a roof over one's head for a night.
Shira wasn't the only cold-blooded creature in the hut.
The asian child wiggles in the seat, recoiling away at the touch, and laughing. But at Shira's words, Eadni responds quickly. "I am more than a friend, child, I am practically family. You'll learn that there is no greater, no closer friend than mother~" The words come sweetly, and strongly, the woman's presence magnifying a moment to match Shira's. She even rises from her seat, to emphasize this point. There are, of course, leftovers; but it seems that as Shira eyes them, the other children sacrifice their bowls to Shira, to offer them to her. "But do not worry, do not worry... you are a precious child~" She sighs, giving a grandmotherly tut tut. Stepping back over the bench, she glances up to the ceiling.
"And such a good girl~"
"You can always come to mother's hut." She begins, looking around the various trinkets dangling. "In fact, I will give you a precious gift. A blessing, to speak." She reaches up to the rafters, her arm seemingly... was it stretching? It had to be a trick of the light. She pulls one of the strange fetishes from the rafters, as a pair of bats flutter past her. From the ceiling, she holds up what looks like a dried bird's foot. It's skin is carefully tattoed, with alien patterns intertwined in it. "Break this foot, and call for me if you truly need mother. You will only need one, if you are a good girl; mother will always provide for her good children." She motions for James and Fredrick, gesturing the dishes. "The boys will do the dishes. You, precious child, should get your rest~" She puts her hands on Shira's shoulders, to help her up, to lead her to the beds. The old crone gives a wink to the snake woman.
"Would you like mother to tuck you in?~"
Shira blinks, and turns, all of her attention stolen from that laughing child. No, she's looking right at Eadni. Something resonates, familiar to the young serpent. Far moreso than even her biological parents, this creature before her seems similar. A fellow 'Freak'. A Darkstalker.
It has her relaxing in a way she's never done before. She feels, for now, safe.
"...More than Big Sis?" She seems skeptical, but that might be not surprising given how much the snake talks about the deceased woman. Blink. "Good...girl." Mumbles Shira, tasting it on her tongue. For a moment, she feels warmer. Those are words she's never heard in her life before. One can almost see the ice in her eyes melt for a moment, before the snake takes back over.
And then that fetish is placed in her hands. She takes it, cradles it, and then slips it into a pocket carefully.
"Ok. Thank you...Mother." Finally adds Shira, even as she quickly slurps down the remaining food sacrificed to her. She even nibbles on the bowl for a moment.
She's up, and lets herself be led over to the bed she'd chosen. Vaguely, she remembers how Hikari did the same to her when they first met, so long ago.
"I'd like that." States the snake. Not long after being tucked in, she sleeps easily, free of the fitful nightmares she'd endured since her friends' deaths: now safe and warm.
She was already learning.
Shira offers herself to be tucked in, and Eadni does so, very carefully, very neatly. It was very warm in the bed, very snug. The teenager only passing watches her. Her grip tightens on the spoon a moment, but she continues to feed Anna. Soon, Anna might get better, and fix any mistakes she made. Eadni hovers over the snake girl, as slowly, she begins to fall asleep. And there, over her, the old crone begins to sing softly, brushing a gnarled finger on her cheek.
"./' Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
Smiles await you when you rise.
Do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby.
Cares you know not,
While over you a watch I'll keep.
Do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby ./'"
She will awake, alive and beloved.
Log created on 14:30:28 01/11/2016 by Eadni, and last modified on 19:42:39 01/12/2016.