Description: Amy follows an intercepted distress call through the tundra of Norway, her strange and lonely quest carrying her to an isolated cave wherein lurks perhaps the least likely maiden a knight e'er had cause to liberate...
It had been a couple of days since Walter had left for a rather secluded village in Norway -- rumors had it that some creature of the night had been slaying villagers and the priest had decided to investigate the matter and help the hunters of the region chase this monstruous bear looking creature.
The last time Walter contact the priest had was a rather dire phone call -- it mentionned an entire pack of Darkstalkers, as well as a strong leader, as well as a plea for reinforcement. The way his phone call ended made it sound as if Walter himself wasn't sure if he was going to survive...
Alas, the pack of Darkstalker in question were rather quick to act -- by the time anyone would come to the village, they would find only ruins and ashes. A slaughter, most likely, even if most of the bodies had been consummed in the fire. Most of the buildings have crumbled, but some fundation are still standing, yet scorched black.
Theirs was a chance encounter, the Templar and the Priest; perhaps no more than the series of misfortunes that led to Walter's current predicament. But Amy is convicted in every purpose that she deigns to bear, and over but a short time she has come to value her draconic friend as strongly as she values any other. What chance have they had to forge their link in steel, though? To form a material connection alongside the spiritual? Whatever effort he has made to contact the outside world, there was every chance it would get no further than the woefully ill-equipped authorities...
In this modern age, a knight can depend on more than the frantic cries of the peasants or the deep but ineffable messages imparted by their liege deity. Part of Amy's role - one might argue the most important part - is monitoring an intelligence network established by her peers in such a way that she can make her own decisions, follow her own path, without the need to disclose her purpose. She's resourceful, in her quiet way, and everybody leaves a trail that can be followed. Betraying trust?
She wouldn't, but she's canny enough to work her machinations for the greater good. Once Walter has departed from their unlikely meeting on Zack Island, she has him traced by a third party, and she's already monitoring relevant lines when the call comes. Woe betide her to miss it, for certain, but even moreso that she fail to respond. Destiny carries her to Norway, it seems, and she's eager to be carried.
Despite her secrecy, Knight Officer Johnson is treating this as an official mission, clad in her full Templar regalia and even bearing with her the ceremonially-forged Katzbalger that makes plain her lineage. At this moment, she's treading through the snowy, forested wastes leading up to the village, boots crunching and long skirts swishing with each step of her emboldened stride. She's brisk, but wary, stormy eyes ever scanning the horizon and her aura practically blazing as she focuses.
Approaching the outer limits of the settlement, she loosens her weapon in its scabbard, numb fingertips tracing the hilt with the idle excitement of one prepared for a shock. A pack of Darkstalkers... she's never faced a pack, before, her encounters either occurring within her own group of allies, or individually. She'd not let the priest face his trial alone, however, nor would she drag others with her...
Any fight of Walter's, currently, is her fight too. Nobody else must bear the burden.
Exhaling a cloud of steam, Dame Amy extends her free hand to run her open palm over the scorched stone of an abandoned cottage, passing the mirror-edged darkness of a shattered window with a flickering sideglance. She doesn't feel anything, immediately, and that concerns her - expecting a battle, she's greeted with nothing. If this is a trap, she thinks, it's at once entirely too obvious and...
...quite the opposite. She lives a dichotomous, conflicted life, but the Templar doesn't know what to make of this. She fights back the urge to find shelter from the cold and presses on to the center of the ravaged village, coiling her soul around the tendrils of the Dragon's Breath, preparing for the worst.
Approximatively two hundred souls must have lived in this town. Nothing of it was left, only its ashes, and within the remains, most likely the bones who those who have perished in the fire, or worse, at the hands of the Darkstalkers who attacked this village. What still remains standing smolder slowly -- it must have been a day or two since the fire had ravaged this town and fortunately, it did not spread to the forest that surrounded the village.
Had villagers managed to run away, she had seen none on her way here. The closest place where other souls lived were miles away from here, alas. Some might have escaped in the forest, though God only knows if they managed to escape a cruel fate, only to meet a worst end in the forest.
There are various signs that show this fire had been relatively intense : the heat managed to melt metal in certain cases, the corpses of cars can be seen in certain street, some in better condition than others. Taking the time to walk around the ruins left behind by those Darkstalkers would reveal little clues. Most of the valuables have been torn asunder in this firestorm.
No sign of life in this land of scorched wood.
Until something moves. A white spot easily a hundred foot away from Amy. A quick glance shows a majestic snow fox. The sight was quite a contrast in the middle of those ruins and black debris : its fur was a spotless white, like pristine snow. The fox's body was slender and athletic, graceful and agile. It seemed fairly large though for a fox. The creature's head is turned in Amy's direction, the clear blue eyes of the creature stares at Amy silently.
The creature remains totally still, staring intensely at Amy. Its taill sway behind it, the only thing that is moving about the creature. It almost seems like it came out of nowhere... Its eyes seemed filled with some vivacity and cunning you wouldn't expect from an animal.
It observes Amy a long time, as if to make sure she had noticed its presence... Yet the moment she'd try to approach it, the fox turns around and pads away slowly, as if to keep its distance from her, yet it always looks back at Amy every now and then.
Such devastation, the ruins not only of buildings and vehicles but entire lives. Two hundred is too many, but one would be too many; that any should die, at the least lose their livelihood and loved ones with it, so that abominations of nature's cruel whim should live... it's proof that God needs his hands upon Earth, that the creator's power can only carry so far without the undying faith of men and women pledged to defend His works. They are the caretakers of this fragile planet, and - in a sense - it's the Templar, herself, that can be held to account. This scene cuts her to the quick.
Slipping her fingers from the empty husk, Amy crosses her breast and breathes a swift prayer, dark blue gaze swimming in further exploration of the peaceful chaos around and beyond. She cannot retreat inward, nor look to the heavens for assistance. There's nothing she can do for this settlement, for the people who lived within it.
Her step carries her to the outer edge of the village, a slow and cautious patrol revealing nothing of any worth to save. Nothing on which to wreak vengeance, either, the heat in her heart and the fervent blaze of her avenger's soul finding no morsel on which to feast. Whatever the wrongs committed by those who formerly dwelt here, the act of their immolation was purely, unrepentantly evil. By the token in which Amy Johnson condemns herself, accepts the ultimate reality of her own eternal suffering, she so condemns any who were involved in this travesty. She...
She steps upon something that cracks beneath the toe of her boot, bending low to snatch at a gilt frame. Fragments of glass fall away from a picture of a young family, the father and mother smiling with a brightness reserved only for the truly peaceful, their tiny daughter squirming in playful, well-intentioned discomfort at their embrace. It's a scene she's never known, herself, and it almost cracks her cool exterior.
With a huffing snort, she throws the picture down, and is about to spin upon her heel to cut back through the village when she catches that telltale gleam in the corner of a stormy eye. It's the vibrant thrum of life, a motion that comes only from something with a pulse-- erratic, but deliberate, purposeful and wild. Her hesitation is rapid, and then stormy blues focus upon a bright, crystalline echo of their own nature. Despite herself, Amy smiles; it's a beautiful creature, and warms her icy heart to behold. Relaxing momentarily, she allows the melancholy to sweep clear, rejoicing that at least the devils have not destroyed all that walks in this place.
That's until the situation grows strange, and inviting. Her lips purse, gaze narrowing and dark brows furrowing as this seemingly natural creature exhibits intellect beyond its supposed means. She's heard tales of such, of course, and is all too familiar with their endings; she's aware, even as she steps forward, that she's being a fool.
But the raven-haired lady knight is not afraid. Never afraid.
At least for herself.
A cautionary stride is assumed across the tundra, the distance kept by the animal perfectly agreeable to the woman it leads. She's resolved to find her draconic ally, convinced by her faith that he lives still, but in no hurry to entangle herself in the closing net-- if a little distance buys her time, and initiative, she'll use it. If she's being only too wary, the time will come when that is revealed. Until then...
Amy draws her sword with the compellingly-violent whisper of polished steel, turning it in her grasp, the frost-forged brightness of the sun glancing from the blade. Her opposing hand claws at the air beside her, preparing to bring her more potent weapon to bear. The mist creeps at her heels and nips at her soul, eager for release.
There was something enthralling about this snow fox. Its presence was tantalizing, enrapturating, captivating... The tail slowly sways, back and forth, flowing with an unearthly grace meant to leave Amy spell bound.
Once it had the knight's attention, the creature slowly guided her -- taking about a dozens step ahead, before it turns around to glance at Amy, and then dash off a little bit further, allowing Amy to follow its track. The fox was easy to follow while they were in the city, but once they reach the toundra and eventually the forest, its snow white pelt made it slightly harder to follow. Fortunately, it kept the safe distance between the two and stopped every now and then to make sure Amy was following.
There was something strange about this fox, something surnatural. For a believer in God, it might be easy to believe it is a sign or a guide sent by the heavens, perhaps to guide her to something... Though who knows what the fox might truly be? As she follows it, Amy might notice something strange about the creature, some sort of curls of heat near the fox's tails, as if it might be some sort of mirage in itself.
The fox leads Amy some way into the forest -- for a relatively long distance. Fortunately though, before Amy might debate whether or not she has to stop following the fox, it suddenly rushes away out of sight, just below a small hill in the forest.
When amy finally reaches the top of the hill, the fox sits atop what seems to be a snow covered cave, the perfect spot for a bear to hibernate. The fox sits atop the cave's entrance and stares at Amy, waiting patiently, its tail slowly moving at its side.
There are many things that could be misconstrued as a signal from the Lord, and likewise as the disguised servants of the myriad demons and other foulnesses that blight His realm. The Templar is a fierce warrior, often unrelenting in her judgements, swift to act upon her own impulses even as she questions them in the self-same action; but here, and now, she allows the need for due care to stay her eager hand. Doubt consumes her, intrigue too, and she's all too aware that either could be her downfall.
More important yet, that she could also bring Father Bardsley low.
Her stare remains intent upon the fire-fox as it leads her through the crisp, creaking pines, their wail causing her to start here and there, pausing to scan the uppermost limits of the cramped horizon in fear that she might miss the oncoming ambush. When nothing emerges, as the reality sinks in that she may be watching all too natural phenomena at work, Amy - in spite of all - begins to lower her guard. The burden raises from her shoulders, her heart beats more lightly in her breast...
The Hound of Avalon begins to enjoy her pursuit. By the time she crests that hill, breath coming in warm puffs from chilled lips, her pale flesh reddened by cold and exertion combined, Amy is even wearing the ghost of a smile.
Her stride becomes loose, relaxed, and she approaches the waiting creature with her free hand now hanging at her side. The Dragon stills in her breast, no longer ready to burst forth with divine fury, and though she grips the Katzbalger at her right flank, there's no intention to make use of it. A spell has been cast.
"What a gentleman you are, Monsieur Renard," breathes the Templar, stormy blues twinkling with a mischief no mere animal could detect. To the fox, she should seem no more than a fellow predator. But despite her changed attitude, she's sure of one thing now - this IS no mere fox. Nature is quick to announce her intent. Gods and demons move mysteriously, insidiously, deceptive at every level. "I suppose I must enter alone?"
Her lips tug to a wry half-grin, and she looks toward the cave entrance. Why does she feel this way? She tries to recall the rage, the intensity of her initial pursuit, but the grasping fingers of her subconscious fall short time and again.
"It seems I've resolved to come this far, doesn't it?" The question is rhetorical - she still doesn't precisely expect the beast to answer - but Amy doesn't move forward just yet, turning her gaze to the little vulpine. Dark brows lift expectantly. "Well, then."
Of this she's certain: it's time for a test, whatever that may entail.
The snow fox seems to incline its head, as if it responded to Amy's question by a nod of its head. Surely it must have been her imagination though, as the snow fox certainly couldn't understand what Amy said, could it? It stares at her as she approaches the cave, and once she is about to enter, the fox finally moves from its throne atop of the cave.
In a flash, it dashes off like a scared animal, disappearing into the snow and off into the distance, God knows where. The sudden movement might scare Amy, though, but before she can react, the fox seems to be far gone.
The cave is dark and not too deep. It is high enough to allow someone to stand into it though. Just a few feet away from the entrance, Amy can see the remains of a small fire that must have been used for heat.
There is nothing else in the cave, aside from an animal pelt on which lies the draonic man. His body is covered in a wool blanket and he seems either unconscious or sleeping at the moment.
If the Templar's faith is being tried, it seems she passes.
No such light is shed to Amy herself, for the moment, but she does respond to the fox's apparent understanding with an inclination of her own head. In afterthought, this starts to become a deep, measured bow, but the animal is quick enough to resume acting as the easily-alarmed thing it appears to be, the sleek and beautiful creature darting away. It's a blur, alright, and she can barely recover her wits in the face of it, drawing upright and lifting her bared blade with a stifled gasp. Her heart palpitates.
But still, no fight is forthcoming. Relaxing herself with a breathed laugh, the Templar turns away from the tiny pawprints in the snow, ignoring the creaking of pines behind her and the icy wind at her back. Whether indeed she has found a safe haven at the end of this trail, or whether more awaits inside, she knows too clearly that the path must lead her into the cave. Ducking her head, she enters the gloom...
But not before reaching to her hip and brushing aside the slightly damp material of her sash, reaching to the belt beyond where hangs a small, robustly-constructed torch. Knighting has moved on since the middle ages. By the time she's flicked the deceptively-intense beam on and raised the tool, stormy blues are already adjusting to what lies beyond. She can see. And she can see what she wants to see.
Frowning, her expression far from relieved, the wariness returning now that she's away from the strangely-cowing influence of the winter fox, Amy makes her way toward the dying fire, directing the torch-beam toward the blanketed priest but continuing to sweep the dim remnants of the cave chamber for further reason to react.
Could this be so easy? Why would she find herself in such a situation? The actions of her Lord notwithstanding, this reveals a hand that seems to move without purpose. Unless...
Her eyes narrow upon Father Bardsley, but she moves to his side, sinking to her haunches until she sits on both knees at his side. Her sword is set aside, but kept well within easy reach; at any rate, it's polished brightly enough to further disperse the light and provide her greater means to see as she places a palm to the dragon's forehead and otherwise checks his vital signs. Whatever has transpired her, she needs to make sure he's well - alive, at least - before she takes further action.
"What," she whispers, avoiding the 'who' without thought, " Brought you to this place?"
Walter, even now, looks a poor sight. His face is more pale than usual, eyes somewhat drawn in. His forehead is still somewhat abnormally hot, and that pulse is just a little too quick. All the signs of someone recovering from a fever. But his heart yet beats. One leg is partially sticking out from the cover he's been given, showing that the poor man is likely missing those priestly vestments. Hopefully Amy has a spare set. When the woman gently whispers, his chest rising and falling with that semi-labored movement, there's not answer. A shiver in his sleep. Muttering, and one might even detect tears on his cheeks dried. Last night was /not/ good for him after a resurgence of that fever. But at least his wounds are bandaged.
But finally, those eyes stirr, and open to reveal them in their full draconic glory. For a moment, they catch Amy's and an utterly animalistic growl escapes him. There's more wyrm than man in his gaze, but it's a wounded animal. That look lingers there for a good minute. His mouth opens slowly. Some amount of control enters those eyes.
"...Dame...Amy?" Questions the dragon-priest, voice disbelieving. The sound that then graces her ears is again that of an animal...but at least it's unmistakably that of joy. It seems that even in their little time together, she's made enough of an impression to not be a target in his weakened state. A clawed hand moves to reach out for her cheek, as though confirming that its all not a dream. It pauses, and then a shiver and a cry of pain. The hand falls as too-pointed teeth clench. Then, as the pain passes, he lays limp once more.
Her job here was done -- that fateful night, when the Kitsune and the Draconic priest had crossed steel, Kiyomi had decided it was not the day Walter would die. Instead of letting him bleed himself to death in snow, the angel of death had taken care of his wounds and soothed his pain away. She had been his angel of mercy, this day...
The snow white fox strides gracefully in the entrance of the cavern, staring inside at Amy and Walter. A myriad of tails spread out behind the fox, similar to a peacock pridefully parading, enough to cast a shadow inside the cave and block what little natural light was cast inside for a moment.
Now that someone found him, the Kitsune could leave. She stands there and stares at the scene for a second, before the tails withdraws into one large lot behind the fox and it leaps off into the distance, dashing away into the woods.
Was this fox real all along, or just an illusion? Did Dame Renard actually ever exist, or was she just a part of Walter's delrium while he stayed in this cave? Hard to know...
The snow fox is long gone though, leaving no trail behind, as if it had never exists... Kiyomi using her own tail to sweep the snow and cover her own tracks.
No tracks, no trail, no hint that she ever existed...?
The wintry vixen - though the Templar knows not even her gender - would seem more divinely-providenced by the moment, were Amy not healthily distracted by the condition of her erstwhile ally. Any suspicions that may have been roused by finding Walter near to the site of such wrack and ruin, apparently alive and sheltered, dissipate in a wave of heartfelt compassion as she observes his miserable state. She bestowed her trust, and she all too willing to stand beside it; that fury returns, too, burning so white-hot as to seem frozen in the face of her concern for the battle-damaged priest.
"It's me." Her voice is a cold comfort, she knows, her clipped tone harsh and short as she forces it over the lump in her throat. No deceiver would speak thus, at least, nor respond to his clawed touch with a dismal jolt that feels like a betrayal in itself. Whatever her feelings for him, however loyal she is, the monstrous nature of the man is something she's still adjusting to, and in this moment it's hard to control herself. A shiver runs the length of her spine, and Amy leans over her friend.
Numb lips press to his forehead, still soft enough as to be pleasant, and doubtless soothing to his fever. It's the second of her companions she's kissed in a few fleeting days, and is delivered with the same intent - it's a reassurance, a commitment, a proof that she will stand or kneel beside him at any cost. "You're safe." He's... saved.
Her lips quirk with a dissonantly-amused irony as she sinks away, briefly grasping Walter's clawed hand with a squeeze before she sets it lightly upon his chest. There is much to do, and she disengages a moment later, turning toward the dying fire to stoke it anew. A quick once-over shows that she has no kindling, but she does have the means to make it. Stowing her torch, she takes up her blade and departs the cavern.
Half an hour later, she has not only returned but created a fervent blaze to rival her own spirit, burnt twigs yielding to a couple of dry-enough logs obtained from the pine forest into which the kitsune has retreated. Warmth spreads through the cave, heightening the Templar's shivers but - she hopes - easing the pain and discomfort of her godly ally. She rubs her hands together, the bare portions of her flesh all too glad for this gift, and glances over her shoulder at the resting dragon.
Smiling, she states with soft, wry laughter lacing her stone, "I told you you weren't strong enough." But they're together now, aren't they? Didn't she say that, too? "You're going to give me a world of trouble, Walter Bardsley."
Wariness evaporates from Walter's face as he notes that utter compassion mixed with so much burning anger. But what truly seals the confirmation is that electric jolt that causes his heart to sink just a bit. Another reminder of his own nature. Staring into her face, there's utter /shame/ in those eyes that a mere touch from an unclad draconic hand could mark even him as a monster to her. He's still working on that little problem, and it's definitely a blow to his confidence.
But then there's a gentle kiss upon his burning forehead, one companion to another, and he can't help but gasp. That shame fades, replaced with a look of joy and utter unworthiness. It all but screams friendship, care, a comrade and arms even /if/ he's in truth a sinful monster. A full body shiver as the last of his pain passes.
"...I do not know what I have done to deserve a fellow warrior of God's friendship. You truly came for me. God....God bless you Amy!" The man's so full of doubt right now, and Amy rescues him with that single act of compassion. It buouys his self confidence, and straight out of the growing spiral of depression he was starting to sink into. Indeed, his own feelings of failure even more than the Kitsune's acts have led to this.
As Amy stokes the fire and leaves, he relaxes. By the time she returns? Though shivering, he seems finally past his suffering. Her voice wakes him up.
"...Oh, bloody hell Dame Amy, do not remind me of that. Not right now. I..." His jaw clenches.
"My sins have only grown. They...I failed them because I was /WEAK/!" Here, his voice roars. It's not that of a man, but of something whose bloodline is old and fierce. A roar of a dragon lurking closer to the surface than ever.
Then, he calms. "Yes. You were right. Trouble indeed. Did you see her? Dame Renard? The fox."
"How the bloody hell did you find me anyway?"
Amy's smile does not diminish in the face of Walter's discomfort.
Nor his draconic rage, though her shoulders do tense, her chin lifting in a prideful betrayal of the turmoil this raises below the surface. His monstrous nature at once repels her and draws her in, a compelling resonance pleading violent confrontation - as if they were both the same and polar, fiercely-crossed opposites.
"I confessed the same weakness to you, Father," she says with a gentle, singsong lilt at the edge of her tone, freckles twinkling on pale skin as she crinkles her upturned nose. "That I faced something I couldn't handle, that I ran, that I despise myself for it. Do you think I'm afraid to call out the same behaviour in another?"
Her gaze shifts, returning to the crackle and spit of the flames over which she continues to warm her hands. Her knightly garb gives off steam as the fire's glow spreads throughout the dank little cavern. Walter's in the best place, particularly given his lack of vestment - not, it seems, something Amy is going to be able to assist anytime soon. They'll leave that elephant in the room, for now.
"I... saw her," the Templar responds further with a creased brow, recalling the lovely fox and the way it made her feel. She's a fool for not sensing it sooner. Or at least, she was deceived by a greater power. She's prepared to admit there are many more potent than she; be it god, demon, or mere mortal. Still, it stings a bit. "Do you think she'll be offended that I called her 'monsieur'?" The good humour returns, along with her gaze to Walter. Stormy blues regard him levelly for a moment. How did she?
"It's just as well you're so backwards," she smoothly, matter-of-factly states, one shoulder rolling in a loose shrug, "I've been monitoring you since you left the island. Call it a hunch, though I'd have done the same to anyone; how in God's name was I going to watch out for you, otherwise? If we're pledging service to one another, that's a vow I take seriously. In short, it doesn't matter how I found you, Walter." Beat. Her lips tug into a daring, confident half-grin. "I found you. Besides, I need you."
Shrugging again, she looks away and reaches for another log, chucking it onto the roaring blaze with a shower of embers. The heat in the cave intensifies.
Amy has the gall to give forth that melodic, almost taunting voice, the gentle reminder soothing the savage beast. The Englishman is not impressed, and just huffs in a far more human tone.
"No. You would call out every little bloody mistake. And good on you for that, for we shall continue to fail and fall and sin. Reminders, punishment, and yet compassion shall keep us alive and bloody thinking about what we are doing."
With that, he seems somewhat more normal. At least, as normal as a man who is battered, hurt, and still fighting off a near-death fever. His voice is definitely raw and having the note of beastly wrath.
But now he's warm. Not even blushing. Seems he has far more important things on the mind than his personal pride or modesty right now.
That level gaze has him laughing. "Bloody beautiful, hmm? Careful. She is entrancing, intelligent, wise, and far stronger than myself." There's admiration and perhaps even a bit of a boyish crush in his voice. Then, he sighs.
"But she is also dangerous. Merciful to her own kind. And her own kind /alone/. Do not trust her, for I fear she shall be quite quick to rend you asunder were she not worried for my sake." There's one piece of clothing he has, however. It's a little bit of string tied about a wrist. On it? A lock of what could be hair, or possibly fur.
His gaze hardens. "She shall oppose us, and we her." Walter emphasizes 'we', as though trying to reassure that his heart and soul haven't been bewitched (completely) by that alluring vixen.
Then, he's blushing. "...Listen, the phone was bloody cheap. Do you know how hard it is to find phones that dragon claws do not break?" And don't ask him about gloves either.
Then, he's looking her in the eye.
"...Damn right. Though forgive me if I do not suddenly stop being a luddite. My other gifts will suffice."
He sniffs the air meaningfully.
He can't help it. Amy's grin causes him to laugh.
"Do you now!? Well bloody good to hear I have not proved too weak to fight beside you! Anything. I hope it is violent, I need to blow off some steam. Either way, I am at your side! Maybe the pair of us shall lend to something decent."
"I think, perhaps, you saw something I didn't."
There's not quite disapproval in the Templar's tone as she addresses the ongoing issue of -Madame- Renard; who, it would seem rather plainly, is yet another female creature of darkness bent on entrancing the men in her life. How many gender-swapped damsels must the lady knight come to aid? Were she any less a tomboy, any less headstrong and independent, Amy might even be disappointed that she never gets her turn.
"I saw a simple fox, Father," her tone has returned to a degree of respect where Walter is concerned, drifting away from the amused and teasing friend of moments before. There is a serious matter here, after all. All her selves must be at least equally present. "Beautiful, certainly, but no more than any creature of our Lord. I saw the small," she pauses, glances back and smiles once more, stormy eyes dancing in the firelight, "You saw the greater, maybe? Do not lose yourself in the fancy of pretty things."
Returning her stare to the fire, Dame Amy adds quietly, "We all err, though."
She's quiet for some time, whether in consideration of how to further respond or simply the need for a rest herself. The hike across tundra was more tiring than she'd readily admit, and she feels especially drained from following Kiyomi's trail. Like a presence has been removed, a presence that were sharing her soul, she feels strangely incomplete. If there's enchantment at work here, it explains much in Walter's manner and mood. It also explains his state of dress, but Amy has some propriety. Some.
"I wouldn't fight beside anyone who was without weakness," she says, at last, her tone crisply cutting across the pop and crack of burning logs. "It's in our flaws that we find greatest strength, from our failings that we forge the path to victory. If I didn't believe that, I could never purport to lead, and I could never allow myself to move beyond what happened in Jerusalem." Her hands draw from the fire, cupping together in front of her mouth, and she leans into them. Brooding, she pauses a little longer before pulling her hands away. "I'll never abandon you for being weak, my friend. But I think, before we go much further, it's time we tested one another."
A glance is flicked toward the cave mouth, then once more to the dragon-priest.
"There's a village not too far away. I... don't know what happened there," her head tilts, a question going unasked but plain within her stare, "But if you can make it, we can find you something better than a blanket to wear. I'd rather not leave you here alone." She'd rather not tarry herself. If she returns, it will be with fire and fury, not a way for this menace to spread. "Are you well enough?"
Amy puts quite a bit of doubt into what he's seen and experienced over the last few days. Unlike Amy, this priest is quite simpler: two sides of a coin lashed rather uncomfortably together. They're nuanced, pockmarked coins, but the man could hardly aspire to such a broad range as the most curious armswoman he's found.
"And /that/, my dear, is the whole bloody point! Allow me to explain. Dame Renard, warrioress, darkstalker, and /kitsune/ extroardinare. She relies on illusions. Maybe you /are/ right, and she was just the fox. Though that katana felt pretty bloody real." It's here that he'll haul aside his covering briefly. Showing off his side, she'll note where a scarr rests amidst golden-colored scales. Looking as hard as steel, the fact something cut it might prove that he had quite the battle indeed. Then it's flicked back.
"Hah. Fancy. Make any sleeping with the enemy jokes, Amy, and I swear I shall knock your teeth out at the earliest opportunity." Huff. He's scowling, perhaps a bit immature here. That fox has /definitely/ got to him for the well mannered knight to be acting this way. Or maybe just he's bad with women. (Hint: he's bad with women).
But the look vanishes, and he's staring her in the eye once more. Legs fold, he sits up, and huddles a touch closer to the fire.
There's a thin smirk on his face. "Well, I have that in spades, don't I? Right, right. Overcome our weakness, grow with our companions, and keep one foot ever forward. Right. Right." He mutters, slowly convincing himself. Slowly working up his great faith in God and the woman before him. A deep, cleansing sigh.
A swift nod. "Yes. Yes we do. I cannot afford to be complacent, and frankly, blowing off a bit of anger and frustration would be a glory. Almost healed anyway. Heh, being a 'horrible abomination' has its perks."
His head lowers.
"Dead, no doubt. By those of my own kind. Call themselves the 'Children of the Night'. And if the Dame's feelings are widespread, they believe that only by the death of humanity shall darkstalkers ever be able to walk in the Lord's light."
There's no condemnation in his voice, only deep sadness and pity.
"Idiots. Fools and idiots. Damnit, I can understand their hatred and feelings, but...was a bloody village. Bah. Anger and wrath fuels them, and they do not /think/. Be careful. Their pack is small, but the fox is strong and crafty. This will not be their last victims either. They have to be stopped."
"I can walk. My newfound acquaintance knicked everything." Pause. A glance out the cave mouth.
"INCLUDING MY BEST HIP FLASK YOU THIEVING LITTLE GIT! OWE ME ONE HELL OF A BAR TAB RENALD!" Hint. Dragons are loud. She probably heard that.
Then, wrapping himself up in that blanket, he stands. And wobbles a bit.
"Nnnn...just give me your shoulder and let me hold onto your leg." It'll be an awkward hike, but he's definitely still woozy.
"Cut deep," observes the Templar with the easy dispassion of a warrior assessing an ally - she doesn't have the same reservations as Walter about viewing a companion's body, it seems, or perhaps he just didn't ignite in her the sexual curiosity that breeds shame. She's more intent upon his scales, fascinated briefly in the manner of a scientist encountering a different strain of sea turtle. "You'll recover."
When he joins her nearer to the fire, she settles comfortably, no longer having to keep her head turned. If her disregard for his more comely qualities is wounding, it should be mitigated by how easy she is around him, when not dealing with the sudden scrape of claws across her flesh. More than content within her own skin, she's not always so ready for the proximity of others - she spends a lot of time alone.
As to his voiced woes...
Knight Officer Johnson cannot recall the last time she felt so despondent as the priest; yes, she has condemned herself following her actions in failing to retrieve the Grail, but never has her doubt been in the wealth of her own abilities. That she is strong, that she has potential to be even stronger, and that she CAN fulfill that potential... these things have been nothing but concrete, for many years. It's her character that she doubted, her will to push forward against the darkness.
"Right," she echoes, very simply, with a laugh, her head shaking enough that raven locks tumble past her eyes. She pushes them back with a light, dextrous grace, before resuming the slow warming of her hands beside the blaze.
"I'm glad you realize the import of this," she says more softly to the revelations about the company 'Dame Renard' keeps. Beauty and savagery so often go hand in hand, and she's scant surprised. Disappointed, perhaps. But also incensed. Her gaze flicks toward her sword, lying bare and reflecting still the fire's light. "But if they can do that to a village, I can't defeat them alone. I'd gladly have fought them today, for your sake," her eyes shift back to Walter, and she smiles, bittersweet, "But there's no sense in our lives being thrown away on a fool crusade. We'll return here."
As she'll also hunt down the vampire, Eliza. Quite a series of dossiers she assembles.
When Walter stands, she's already there beside him, her instincts buoying her to her feet and to his flank. An arm snakes around his waist without hesitation, allowing him the firm muscles of her shoulders and back as support. She's a strong one, the Templar, built like a weightlifter but with the suppleness of a trained warrior.
She can carry him as long as needed. Perhaps even if he had no legs on which to stand.
"And don't worry," she assures him, as they soon enough move toward the cave entrance and the icy pleasures of the snow-drenched forest, "We'll get you a new hip flask. A shiny one." Her voice only brightens as she continues the tease, far more unburdened by worry and strife than she has been since arriving in Norway. "I'm sure we can even get it blessed, if you'd like." The start of a beautiful friendship, indeed.
Walter ain't heavy. He's her brother.
Meanwhile, in the snow covered forest...
The vixen dashes into the forest and leaves the cave behind her. Walter was no longer under her care. The Kitsune had given him a second chance : a chance to redemption. However, should they meet another time under the same circumstances, she will be his angel of death.
Her long strides take the snow fox to a small group of Darkstalkers. Despite her featherlight steps, the leader's ears perked up and twitched at her arrival. He was a tall and athletic werewolf, caught in his beastial form, body covered with dark fur. He turns on his heels moments before she arrives, staring at her silently.
The fox's body morphs itself slowly into a beautiful and nude maiden, her youthful expression betraying her true age. Her swaying tails offer her some modesty, covering her partially as she gracefully straightens herself out. In an instant though, the vixen puts on the crimson kimono the fox had been carrying on its back and who had been hidden by her illusions. Only then, like a blossoming flowers, do the tails open up to reveal Kiyomi fully.
The beast seems impassive to Kiyomi's metamorphosis. His lips curl into a faint smirk, exposing his sharp fangs, "Took you long enough," He says with a calm, yet powerful intonation.
The woman strides closer to the beastial wolfman, one hand going up to his torso. Her fingers graze the fur on his chest. So close to this impressive and intimidating beast, Kiyomi seemed petite and frail, yet her behaviour was every bit mischievous and playful as she answers, "Do I sense some jealousy?"
The wolf's reply is immediate : his arm swirls swiftly around Kiyomi's waist, pulling her close against his frame and pressing her against him. Kiyomi barely has the time to lift her arms up before she's snugged close by the beast's embrace. Asserting his dominance, the towering beast lowers his head, his gaze locking with Kiyomi's one as he murmurs confidently, "Never,"
Kiyomi's smile widens at his words and she leans against his chest, enjoying the strong embrace. She presses her head against his fur and replies in a whisper, "It's an investment -- one I hope, one day, will pay off," She closes her eyes. Lune should know -- Renard had learned from the best, after all.
Lune nods to Kiyomi and rubs her back with his paw, before he lets go of her and steps away. He glances at her and says, "We need to go. We've already stayed here longer than we should," He says, an hint of reprimand in his voice.
The Children of the Night were on the move once more, leaving behind them another disolated village whose only sin had been to kill a Darkstalker.
Log created on 17:29:35 02/12/2015 by Amy, and last modified on 10:48:40 02/13/2015.