Description: Walter, as if fated by personal interest, comes across a chance to rescue an honest-to-god damsel in distress. The maiden draws the priest's eye because of her compassion and intellect, and the dragon's eye because she is achingly hot. But while Walter believes he's found an ally in saving Gears and Darkstalkers in Illyria's name, I-No knows she's found herself a useful puppet.
Even priest-dragons need vacations, and Walter Bardsley is no exception. After the little...incident in Transylvania involving a darkstalker and a stageshow that's left him more conflicted and emotionally jumbled than usual, this holy scalie has decided it's time to get some exercise and practice his moves.
So with a quick email to both the Order and his usual handlers in the Vatican, Walter has left the frock at his hotel in favor of a stuffed backpack, his case full of various spears, and a tanktop-jeans combo that shows off more scale, wing, and tail than he'd normally be comfortable with outside of Illyria.
The reason being is that he's chosen a rather hilly and densely forested path through the French Alps that only the most experienced of backpackers or martial artists dare take. Even /he/ is having to put some effort into navigating peaks, valleys, trees and the occasional light frost despite an overall warm time for the area.
His cross is still priminently on his neck, and he's using a spear as a walking stick. He's not being subtle, occasionally flapping his wings while belting out a rendition of one of Killasaurus Rex's earlier albums.
He is, it should be noted, a /terrible/ singer.
Even with the direct light of the midday sun, it is cold. Well and truly cold, at that, rather than the kind that sets people from different regions arguing about the relative hardiness of their inhabitants. Perhaps a few deeply ice-bitten types would merely say there's a chill in the air.
But hiking is a fantastic way to keep the weather from penetrating one's bones. It keeps muscles engaged and blood flowing, and hiking on this trail does so more than most. The sea of hills and trees make for a challenging trek; dense forestation and frequent rough terrain mean that the path must wind and weave up and down to avoid the worst of it.
The cover of foliage renders it difficult to find landmarks for navigation -- it's hard to spot a nearby mountain or somesuch without climbing (or flying, if this remains an open possibility). That means no shortcuts. Follow the beaten path. No cutting through to shorten the journey. It is the kind of trail that comes with signage encouraging hikers old and new to check their gear and notify someone of their plans.
Walter is descending into a particularly wooded area of the trail when he is first presented with the opportunity to notice something is wrong. A pair of sunglasses has been discarded near the edge of the path. This is curious because they seem recent -- they are in good condition and have not yet gained the earthy patina of something that has been long exposed to the elements.
A little beyond that, a broken branch. About shoulder high, as if someone went crashing through into the woods proper.
If these pieces don't fit together nicely enough, there is also the piercing scream that comes in the distance. A woman's voice -- and a tone that speaks of terror.
Walter's left hand is practically glued to his compass. If he isn't careful, the chill might make that phrase a little too literal for his health. But a Darkstalker is made of stern stuff, and so the priest is making a good beat through this dense hell of a hike. Every now and then he'll stop to stretch or wrap his wings around himself for that much more warmth when it starts to almost get too much for his physiology.
Martial artists can do amazing things. They can also be idiots. Walter Bardsley is a bit of both.
Sharp draconic eyes pick up the first sign of trouble. Reaching down, blinking, he eyes the sunglasses with an increasing frown. Before he even spies that broken branch, the piercing terrorized scream sets him in motion through pure instinct of both draconic and goodly-knight variety. The foliage is too dense for him to hop-leap above the canopy, and too packed to allow him a chance to utilize a fast glide. It's all in the legs as he breaks out into a dash broken only by the need to dodge trees and shrubbery while trying to make as straight a line as possible towards the lady in distress' voice!
"Lord bless, my dear! HERE!" Comes Walter when he judges he's within rough shouting range. Unlike his singing quality, his pulpit and soapboxing skills allows his voice to cut through the forest clear as day with a little help from draconic lungs. There might be a bit of a roar in there somewhere he can't quite suppress.
Pre-emptively quelling his darkstalker side's urges to horde damsels, he beats a quick footed, nimble path forward.
The branches scrape and scrabble, but scales are hardier stuff than human skin. As annoying as the underbrush is, it does mean that there is a path of disturbed foliage to follow on the way toward the scream. With only a single outburst, it would be hard to find -- there, a second scream -- and even with two the pinpointing is difficult.
And the slope is bitter and treacherous. Walter's dashing must compete with a cruel downward slope populated by jagged rocks and early winter's frost. Somewhere, in the distance, is the river that lies at the bottom of this incline.
The clearing along the riverbank is near. Walter yells. That voice screams again, inarticulate. This close, the silence that follows is filled not only with the sound of the dragon's own exertions, but also the rushing of water -- and growling.
Walter finds himself on the other side of the river from his prey. Near him is a fallen backpack, old and military surplus. Across from him, a woman with golden hair pressed up flat against the cliff of a hill's exposed rock face. She is a hiker of some sort herself, wearing a sweater and sturdy leggings with boots -- and all one must do to find her missing jacket is follow her wide-eyed gaze, for she is staring in transfixed horror at her attacker.
It must be a Darkstalker, or perhaps a Gear. It is not a natural thing of this earth. Some kind of enormous, flightless bird with slicked-down feathers colored vantablack, feet like a man's hands and a tail that belongs to a rat. Its shakes its head, ripping apart the jacket that it must have ripped from the woman -- it has no visible eyes save for a bizarre white humanoid mask that has slipped upward toward its crown to expose a wickedly serrated beak.
It snaps that beak. The jacket is shorn cleanly in two. While whipping its long neck back to face the pinned woman, it must catch a sidelong glance of Walter just entering, because it stops and twists its unnaturally-muscled body to face him.
The thing opens its beak, revealing rows and rows of serrated teeth in a bright red maw. Its challenging cry is like a freight train's horn.
Somewhere in his mind, amidst sizing up the unearthly predator he's found, Walter can't help but feel a twinge of sorrow for the twisted creature. Maybe it's feral, maybe it became feral. Whatever the case, it clearly is acting on instinct. Just like his parents did. Like he might have if he weren't saved. Like maybe he'll descend into if he loses control of himself.
That pity doesn't lend much mercy in this case though. Scratched up on flesh and now in need of some scale buffing, he drops his spear case to let it open up. One foot kicks up a smaller throwing spear into his free hand as the creature roars out a challenge!
"Well bloody hello to you too! I am a bit more your size, so come try to tear my wings off, git!" Snarls out Walter viciously, nostrils flaring and flapping his wings. His tail sways in a serpentine, aggressive motion as he tries to puff himself up. Eyes widen just a bit and he stamps both spear-butt and sneakers just to be that much more obvious about it.
When dealing with animal-like Darkstalkers it's best to be as openly aggressive as possible. Then he pulls back with his throwing arm. All along the metal weapon, golden chi lights the thing up, and Walter lets loose with a shockingly accurate toss from the other side of the river.
The thing is surprisingly nimble though, and manages to leap out of the way for the most part! It takes a glancing blow to the side, the creature's side sizzling and causing a roar of pain. Walter presses his advantage to leap the river itself, wings flapping to give him that much extra lift.
The avian-like Darkstalker is now thoroughly at Walter's attention rather than the golden haired hiker, and the thing leaps mightily. The priest's spear lashes out in a one-handed flourish as that razor sharp maw snaps at him mid-air! Claws manage to tear through the dragon's shirt, a thin line of red cut along scales as his spear catches the thing right in the eye. It's a disorganized crumple that the pair fall into, splashing onto the shallower part of the river.
Walter is the first to recover. Rather than look for any dazzling martial arts' moves, he simply kicks to his feet, grips that spear /hard/, then plants foot upon downed head. With a bloodthirsty roar, both hands /push/!
A zap of golden holy chi, and the speartip threads through straight into the brain. Walter doesn't stop until he's sure the thing isn't moving.
The monster, be it Darkstalker or Gear, dies unfulfilled. There was no hint of anything more than a bestial intelligence in its behavior. Though violence has caused the river to run black with the creature's strange blood, Walter has traded a predator's life for that of its prey.
Is that not justice?
(Don't answer that. I-No doesn't care.)
The hiker did not go far during the struggle. Her only movement was to sink to the ground, draw her knees up to her chest, and wrap her arms around them tight. She remains there, eyes wide and staring, seemingly unwilling to take her attention off of the monster despite its clear fate.
She is a young woman, early twenties or so, with a smattering of freckles across a pretty face with high cheekbones and a expressive lips. Her hair -- golden, one of the first things most people must notice about her -- is tied up in a long braid that drapes over her front. Her sweater and tights have visible splotches of wetness, probably from being chased across the river. Being wet in this weather is a grim sentence, especially if it has penetrated her boots.
Walter once more has the initiative. The woman seems too shocked to move.
/Yank/! Walter stops, and catches his breath. He's a warrior, and some would say a predator himself. The golden one's heart is beating, the beast inside is stirred but not entirely sated for blood and conquest amongst other feral desires. He doesn't turn to the frightened woman. Eyes close and he calms himself. Forcing all the hunger down.
There's no point in trying to hide his features. Instead, he stabs the sharp end of his spear into the dirt and lets it go. A glance around to make sure there aren't any /more/. Once he's sure of that?
"Miss?" Hands in the air. He steps aside from the deceased creature. Slowly, deliberately. She's shocked and terrified. This too is a dance he's done many times.
"Miss? Deep breaths. You must be frightened, but this is a horrible place to go into shock. You'll catch your death of chill. Here." Quite wet himself, his backpack has managed to survive. The fact he'll soon be facing the same problem doesn't seem that important versus the would-be victim.
One small step forward, and he unzips it partially. There's plenty of clothes, as well as blankets and other survival gear. He tosses it over.
"I know I do not look much better than your assailant. But I want to /help/ you. Can you speak? I'm Walter. Father Walter Bardsley." His smile is a little too full of teeth. Adrenaline and blood making his eyes a little feral despite his best efforts.
A few more steps if she doesn't start screaming or running. "Let me help you, hmm?" His voice, at least, is warm. If a little stern, speaking with a pastor's voice to help snap her back to her senses.
Walter has all the time he needs to prepare himself. The woman isn't going anywhere. She is probably very tired of going places, if she somehow made it down that hill with that monster chasing her. There are no more of them in sight, at least.
Despite the approach, the woman still doesn't seem to notice Walter. He can get fairly close while she continues to stare at the fallen creature's half-submerged body. Nearer, Walter can hear her breathing: fast, shallow. His intuition was correct.
The backpack lands near her. She startles backward, pressing herself against the cliff wall. Her gaze moves rapidly from the offered pack to its owner, her expression initially uncomprehending. She opens her mouth, makes a little half-nothing noise, and closes it. Is she staring at his eyes?
But something he says seems to seize within her. The hiker furrows her brow.
One of her hands drifts toward her sweater, where she clutches at something near her collarbones. It is about where the charm of a necklace would lie.
"Um, uh, yes -- I, um. I'm just--"
The woman slowly uncoils herself, letting her knees drop from her chest as she tries to balance forward onto her feet in a squatting position. She holds onto the cliff behind her for balance.
"It was... so fast."
Seeing the motion, and more importantly hearing her speak aloud, he gives a swift and certain nod. "You were attacked, and now you are frightened out of your skull, Miss. No need to be ashamed for it. Scary git! Any bigger and he might have really gotten his claws in me." He lets out a long sigh. With adrenaline flagging and the dragon calmed, he has the fun of working through post-battle fright he's never quite managed to fully erase.
It might be part of why he's still alive despite a dangerous occupation.
"Hah, they usually are! Luckily, the Lord had His eye on you if I may be so bold. Now. Are you hurt anywhere? Where are you wet? Let's get you bundled up, dry, and then find somewhere to rest. Get a fire going. With feral ones like that, they tend to roam in packs. Or worse, the body will attract bigger ones seeking an easy meal."
Walter offers an arm to the woman, urging her up with less patience than he wishes he could give. Priority number one, getting the heaven out of here before it becomes more hell. Sharp eyes start looking for a decent clearing, or better, a cave for the two to shelter in for a time.
His nose is already on the job.
The woman nods at Walter's wisdom, her expression still numb. It is only when she tries to stand up that her face shifts -- into a grimace, unfortunately. She sinks back down to her heels before trying again, favoring her right leg.
"I think I... I hurt my ankle. Maybe just twisted it."
The hiker looks up, first to the dragon man's face, and then down to his arm. She bites her lower lip and then leans forward, putting more of her weight than she perhaps intended to. Yet commitment is all but final when you're falling, and so she holds on tight. They are roughly the same height, but he is by far the better athletically conditioned of the two. It also helps to be a dragon.
"Oh, your bag," she says, thoughts flitting toward her. "--and my bag. Um. I don't think I can move, uh, that fast--"
If Walter requires speed, he may have to outright carry her while fording to river to grab the things. There are caves enough in the area that it may not take a long time to find one.
As the hiker sinks back down, Walter is acting. He abandons most of his weapons, opting for the longest spear he has. It's slipped onto his back, then both backpacks swiftly. He has to use his tail a bit, wings can be awkward. The dragon manages though, and then arms go for her.
Like a gentleman or maybe a little absorbed chauvanism, he plucks up the lighter hiker into a proper princess carry as though she weighed less than a feather. Part of him takes delight and thrill in it. Getting to play the storybook knight happens to him far less than he would like.
A fantasy, and an addiction perhaps. Whatever pleasure it gives him, he at least has good intentions.
"There! Comfortable enough? Hold on, squeeze my neck if you need. Or slap me if my hand slips. Lord knows I'm used to both!" A twinkle of his eye despite the situation, a little bit of golden charm to try to help her calm down.
Then he's off. It's less a run, and more a two-legged lope with the occasional hop that's /far/ too floaty for a normal human. Suffice it to say, the world is a slight blurr for his newfound companion.
Finding a cave that's sufficiently free of signs of natural or unnatural danger only takes a good fifteen minutes of rushing. Walter's been quiet the whole time to focus on not attracting any more attention. A wolf he passes gets a growl that sends the creature fleeing.
In they go, and the man lets her down as gently as he can. Down go the packs and sundries, then the priest is doing his level best to get her comfortable. He starts with the fire. Some stones in the cave, packed sticks and kindling, and a portable torch have warmth flooding the place. Walter is losing his shirt, soaked as it is, with only mild discomfort that it might bring him in more civilized places. Survival trumps dignity, at least for now.
"I have a medical kit in there somewhere. What's your name? Frankly I /want/ to lecture you about hiking alone out here, but..." Yeah, he's doing it too. A pause.
He returns those sunglasses. All in one piece, aside from some dirt.
The dragon has completely forgotten about his injuries. It's not all selflessness and bravado though. Scales and flesh are slowly sealing themselves back together right before the hiking damsel's eyes.
The hiker makes a startled noise -- too soft to be one of true concern -- when Walter picks her up. Put in a precarious position, she reflexively throws her arms around the man's neck to steady herself. It is still taking her some time to process all this, judging from the bemusement in her expression, but the dragon's teasing draws her outright bewilderment.
At least she doesn't seem to have taken offense. Walter suffers an addiction to a fantasy -- but what kind of fantasy? If he is truly a lecher, then at this intimate range it is difficult to avoid notice that she truly is a pleasant carry. A classical maiden should be well-rounded in both her wit and figure, and while the former remains to be seen the latter is currently taking up all the space in Walter's arms.
The world flies by as Walter all but flies. The hiker eventually gets the idea and shuts her eyes, the blur perhaps too much for someone in the process of regaining their constitution. Minutes go by. A wolf growls and Walter growls in turn, while hither fair maiden clings more tightly.
But, as all adventuring parties must eventually, the two come to a cave. The hiker assists Walter in letting herself down by bracing on his shoulder, careful to take her weight onto her good foot first before gingerly placing its wounded counterpart onto the ground. While he starts the fire, she limps over to a jutting flat portion of stone that seems like it will be a good seat. It takes a slight awkwardness to sit, but Walter has his hands full.
The hiker watches as he works. When he removes his shirt, her sky-blue eyes linger on the scales that dominate his chest. Especially since they are moving -- growing. When the dragon comes over to deliver her sunglasses, the hiker takes a moment to meet his gaze.
"Thank you," she says, taking the sunglasses. She bows her head to study them, turning them over in her hands.
"My name is Sabrina," she says. Then, correcting herself: "Sabrina Lafayette. I'm... well, I just got out of college, doing that backpacking across Europe thing, you know?"
Sabrina looks up, She offers a subdued smile with more apology than humor.
"Do you rescue people from monsters very often?"
Luckily it's mostly poorly timed jest and a habit of sticking his wings where they don't belong than any actual ill intent. Even so, it's hard to not notice as the world flies by, and the animal in him notes such a warm, pleasant figure. Years of repression have made worldy desires a touchy thing with this priest.
Lord give him strength! That's his type.
Walter is soon warmed up, managing to vaguely get his spear upright enough to hang his shirt from it like some sort of makeshift drying rack. Two wrapped sandwhiches too are getting warmed up by the fire. He'll have to figure out the tea in the thermos after, but he's turning himself once again to Princess Sabrina the Hiker. Medkit in hand, he kneels down beside her.
A hand is offered over for a firm shake is she wants. Then he's going for a compress. Thankfully the chill of the area has given him some good cold water to work with.
"Though I wish it were under less trying circumstances, I'm pleased to make your acquaintance Miss Lafayette. It's a good thing to be active and see the beauty of God's creations, but have some bloody caution next time, hmm? You get a guardian dragon only once in your life." Smirk.
His chuckle here is less than humored. "It's part of my occupation. Consider me a modern knight errant if you must, when matters of the cloth are not at hand. I use what the Lord gave me, and keep people such as yourself safe. If there must be monsters in the world, then let one of the Lord's monsters keep His flock safe. Now let's see that ankle."
Walter is a gentle touch, warmed by both fire and the exertion he's used to fend off monster and get them here. It contrasts sharply with the cold compress and wrapping that follows.
"Can I get you anything?" There's the white knight in him again. He's already reached into his pack and pulled out a hip flask. Three gulps later, and he sets it down. Booze always helps settle down his monstrous side, the hedonistic lizard.
It's alright, Walter. The woman surely didn't notice him looking. She had her eyes closed for most of the trip. Didn't she?
In the distance, the corpse of the monster evaporates into so much air. A few quiet notes mark its passing, a melody heard by no one, and then even that is gone as if nothing had ever been there at all.
Sabrina continues to watch Walter at work. He is industrious in his efforts, and it seems to fascinate her. When he comes by again with the medkit, she does not hesitate so long in shaking his hand. The shock seems to be wearing off. It's a good sign. She even manages an abashed smile when he cautions her off on how many dragon saves one can expect on average.
"A knight errant? You mean like the Sacred Order?"
Her tone hints at curiosity -- despite being a scaled, winged man who is regenerating right before her very eyes, all the holy talk seems to have put her swiftly at ease. Then he asks for his ankle, and she looks down to the hiking boots she's wearing.
"Oh... right. Um."
Sabrina does not continue her thought immediately. Instead, she reaches down to undo the laces on her left boot. It takes a moment, and then she is gritting her teeth as she slowly works it off her foot with care not to disturb her ankle. The woolen sock she's wearing underneath it is damp with river water. She begins to roll it down her ankle as well, rather than simply pulling it off.
"My leggings go over the toe," she explains. "I guess I should take them off anyway if I'm going to dry them."
Sabrina pulls her sock off, then reaches over to begin undoing the laces on her other boot. She hesitates and looks up at Walter, who is still waiting with the compress and reaching for alcohol.
"You don't... mind, do you? I mean, you're a priest. I trust you."
Sabrina waits for a response with a guileless expression.
Cue him puffing up again, but this time not in an aggressive manner. Rather, Walter looks so darn proud of himself for a moment. Sinful, sinful priest, absolve thyself! He doesn't, not now. There are maidens to tend to.
"You have it in one, my dear! Hardly any sort of high ranking one, mind, but I have ever been one to prefer a bit of a loose leash about the collar is you get my drift. Less risk to my fellows and myself given my...ah, more unique aspects." Explains the man easily enough.
Given the clashes in Illyria, it doesn't strike him as too odd for a college student to know all of this. Poor trusting fool of a lizard!
As that sock comes off, Walter stares, looking for signs of bruising further down. Sabrina beats him to the obvious problem here. A small sucked breath, and a little draconic huff. It's cute, even. Like a slightly rumbly kitty noise.
"I may be a man and a dragon, my dear, but the cross marries both sides of me. For the best anyway, you must be shivering under that! Get those things off and get warm. Mmm. I might be able to find you a blanket too." The man is blushing a little more than the alcohol he's shunted down would normally give. Swig number four, just in case. Standing again, he turns around like a gentleman.
Part of his mind /does/ turn back to that pleasing figure. Hips in particular linger in his mind's eye. Swat! Walter's tail is swaying about like an excited puppy.
"Down! No! Sorry, bloody thing. Erm. What are you studying?" What /else/ do you ask injured college women currently taking their pants off? That, apparently, if you're a priest.
Surely a college student might be politically engaged and know of such things. Surely that explains it all. Sabrina responds to the trusting lizard fool's obvious excitement with an affectionate smile. It is the most positive expression that he has seen from her so far -- if only it were more common. Perhaps, in time, and with the proper responses.
It is indeed difficult to see ankle bruising with an over-the-toe pair of leggings on. Sabrina, at least, approaches the situation with good humor, or perhaps the amused noise she made was in response to finding out that dragons sometimes sound like large house cats.
"Yes, of course," she says. She is beginning to push herself off the ground and to her feet when Walter turns away. The dragon is left alone with his alcohol, his thoughts, and his tail. At least Sabrina can only see the last of the three, and it is generously probable that she doesn't know the exact connection between the movement of dragon tails and their owners fantasizing about curvaceous hips and plush thighs hidden away behind tight, wet woolen leggings.
Unless they're teaching that sort of thing at university these days.
"I just got my bachelor's in applied physics with a focus on biokinetic systems. I'm not sure if I want to go for my master's immediately or try to take a full term internship or something like that. It's a really competitive field, but if you can get the right connections the research grants are very generous. But I guess it's like that in any cutting edge area of study."
Unseen by Walter, Sabrina drops her unneeded clothing in a pile next to her. She could find something to cover herself with while he is turned away. His backpack is right there. /Her/ backpack is right there. The blonde woman narrows her eyes. For the briefest of moments, the blue in her irises shifts through a kaleidoscope of colors before settling solid once more.
Right to the bottle. It's too easy. But she is never surprised when she finds another weak man in her path.
"Do many of the Sacred Order's members wander around like you? It sounds a little like Arthurian myth... when there's no summons from the king, the knights wander and right wrongs. Is that it?"
No order to turn around. What cruel denial.
Affection is a rare thing in Walter's life. Playing the knight as he does, sometimes it's the simplest of things that are the most agonizing to those that lack them. He has friends and allies aplenty, but how long has it been since a woman has looked at him like that?
He'd like to see it again. A little seed planted.
It doesn't help matters, awkward as they are, that Sabrina proves herself to not only be one of beauty but also of academic skill and intelligence that is humbling. He's been through seminary and has his bachelor's of course. He /is/ an actual priest with all the work and qualifications that come with it. Nor is he exactly stupid, but the scientific bonafides that Sabrina possesses is already making his brain melt a little bit.
He barely squeaked past his physics classes with a 'C' and a lot of tutoring.
"Oh my, Miss Lafayette...may I call you Sabrina? Despite certain opinions of some unfortunately backwards souls in my area of expertise, we need more of a feminine touch to the world. Science and dare I say it, the cloth as well. I wish you nothing but luck with pursuing your focus, my dear! The math alone that must be involved would probably strike me down by a mere glance." Shudder. Numbers, the /horror/! He does sound genuinely impressed.
Smart and beautiful is a deadly temptation when half of you is a sinful beast.
Poor dragon, he won't turn around either. Too many knuckle raps by nuns, too many harsh words of hellfire that he's evil and will go to Hell if he doesn't repent for both desire and what he was born as. Which, as is so often, forbidden fruits are the sweetest. He is cruelly left to stew, to imagine laying cheek to soft thigh, to occasionally sip liquid courage. He's even finally grabbed a sandwhich while he waits.
It does vaguely occur to him while he's woodchipper-ing away food with dragon teeth that it's taking longer than most for her to get those leggings off. Yet he doesn't bring it up.
He has to take a step back from the fire. It's so darn /warm/ in here now.
"That, my lovely rogue physicist, would be telling! We all have our duties, inclinations, and means." In short, it's all about the individual often times.
"However, I can say that a majority are dealing with matters in Illyria. Beautiful country, by the way! The Kings are all good people. Should you desire to immigrate, I might even put a good word in for you! ...I'm a little surprised you never screamed. Or called me a monster." The sad part is, he is not seeking pity here. He expects people to freak out and hate him for what he is.
"A country where Gear, Darkstalker, and humans can live in peace. You're a good woman. Maybe we'll have you one day, hmm?" Idealism and hope might make a cynic gag coming from a monster like Walter.
"You may," Sabrina interjects on the subject of calling her by name. The hiker doesn't outright laugh at the mixture of encouragement and horror that follows from Walter, but the dragon man can at least catch a chuckle that cultures amusement into her tone for a time.
And Walter drinks more. Sabrina, with nothing else to do but to wait and let /him/ wait, watches the flask. She imagines how much he's already gone through. How much is left. The timing. All of these are easy calculations that were taught to her by experience rather than theory.
"To tell you the truth, I didn't scream because people like you aren't exactly... unfamiliar. When you strip away the fancy name, my degree is in chi. The science of it, I mean. And, recently, that also means the science of things like Gears and Darkstalkers. But..."
This is where the amusement, ever fleeting, leaves her voice. The concern that replaces it is palpable.
"...most of the companies that study these things don't have the most humane policies. I thought I could help change them, but if Illyria is as good as you say... I guess I just never considered it before."
A silence passes. Sabrina, judging again from her voice, seems to startle.
"Oh! You can turn around. I forgot to say."
Sabrina is sitting again where Walter left her. Her damp clothes rest in a pile to her side -- not just her boots, socks, and leggings, but her sweater as well, leaving her in a red sports bra and a matching tanga. True to her assertion that she trusted a priest with her dignity, she sits casually and waits for the inspection and tending of her bruised ankle.
The priest has competition for what he may want to focus on. Is it her ankle, the beginnings of swelling visually apparent even from where he stands? Is it the golden cross suspended on a thin chain around her neck? Or, is it what lies between these two, the aggressive snowy-white curves against tight red sportswear?
Sabrina looks at Walter expectantly for his attention. Her wounded leg is straight out, while her other is bent to inadvertently offer a glimpse of pleasant view.
"Are you teasing me?" she asks. "Or do you really think Illyria might want someone like me?"
She's just so charming! It hits him maybe a little harder than it should. That's mostly the alcohol mind, but also a desperate grasp for approving humanity. That his /human/ side too is valid, is worthwhile, worthy of humor and desire and love. All the failings and successes of humans wrapped up in one tight pile.
Or at least a neat vertical slice of them.
The booze is definitely filtering through him, as his filter is going off here a bit. "You're likely to take away my bloody job, then, at this rate Sabrina! Really? A scholar of...us?" He laughs, gently, amused and openly relieved at this point.
"Well, as long as you are not going to invent a chi-sucking vacuume or try to put me under a knife, then may your talents lead to advancements for warriors of all three kinds. Well, the ones that want a harmonious world. To slip the touch of the spiritual to you, may intellect and wisdom lead /all/ Children of God to a perfect world." He actually believes that Gears, humans, and Darkstalkers have some spark of the divine. It comes through all the clearer now that he's a bit loosened up. Yet this is a path, perhaps, that has been walked before. Coming without surprise and as predictable as temporal clockwork.
Wince. Walter has known and seen such companies.
"...Bless you and your kindness. Even good men act ill sometimes. We would never allow such. Please, you would be an asset with such skills!" Eagerly the dragon-priest wants to embrace this scholar of chi with such a big heart!
Among other things, and still locked into the hope she's shot into his veins as though through a needle, he turns around as if on command when Sabrina speaks it. And then his draconic eyes are wondering her openly for a space of time that is /far/ too long for a proper priest. In truth?
Walter Bardsley tends to wear many things on his sleeve, and feelings are no exception. Sabrina Lafeyette is a beautiful woman that ticks an unfair and suspicious amount of his personal boxes. Generous curves, flawless pale skin, striking underthings to only accentuate a wandering eye in moments of weakness. Encouraging the drinking in of the body while the symbol of his spiritual devotion counter to that in so many ways in the perfect spot!
That nasty wounded leg, vulnerable, and /hurt/!
He hesitates a smidge, truly caught. To his credit, it's compress and wrap now that she's shed so much clothing that he tends to first. Whatever his failings, this darkstalker honestly wants to heal, no matter what passions might otherwise war in his heart.
Yet the wound that moves him leads into that bent leg leading straight up to thighs that enchant. More than one dragon has to be calmed as he forcefully shoves his gaze from places fare more intimate than is ever proper for a priest to peer towards.
When he finally finishes wrapping her twisted ankle, he can't help but indulge in the quick sin of a kiss upon the top of her foot.
"How /dare/ a developing nation wish to attract ambitious scholars with specializations that fit perfectly into the unique challenges that inflict hardship upon it's members!? Shocking! May lightning split my head in 'twain should I tease you too much, oh sweet maiden!" There's some of that good old British dry wit peaking through.
A breath. It's heavy, and there's a rough rumble to it. "Your beauty certainly helps." It's meant as a joke, but the buzzed sincerity might defeat his intent.
"No chi vacuums, I promise," Sabrina swears.
Walter turns. He looks. He looks for a long time. Sabrina looks back at him. The span goes on for so long that even her earnestness catches on, and she shyly looks away. Walter is left to complete his first taste of struggles while she studies the ground.
Her ankle truly is hurt. There is swelling and redness that, judging from experience possessed by many fighters, will result in a nasty but transitory bruise in the coming days. Gentle probing of the injury -- nothing that will cause more pain than some gritted teeth -- will show that she has nothing broken. Wrapping it properly and keeping weight off is mercifully all that the injury requires.
Sabrina is brave through the ministrations. She doesn't yield a single cry. Well, perhaps a little squeak or two, but only during the rough parts. Not everyone can be as hard as a draconic martial artist. Sabrina is much more soft.
And then, foot wrapped, Walter dips down to kiss her foot. Sabrina watches the proceedings with a smile that softens at the kiss, but then grows more gamely broad to match the energy that the priest exerts in joking about the immigration possibilities.
And her beauty helps. There's that softness in her look again. Sabrina glances away, though she still smiles.
"Do they rank things like that on the entrance exam? I'll take all the help I can get," she jokes back. Her attention moves once again toward the dragon man, or rather, the drunken dragon man on the verge of making some critical mistakes. More than he's already made, anyway.
"Do you know how far it is getting to a town? I may need to lean on your help a little more. I didn't think I'd be spending a night in a cave, but, well..."
Sabrina reaches up to touch the cross charm on her necklace. Incidentally, this hides it from Walter's eyes as it disappears between her fingers. Of course he may be distracted from this by the interesting applied physics of Sabrina's arm intersecting her bustline to achieve this thoughtful pose.
"I was just wandering. Maybe, when we get back to town, you can tell me more about how I could help you... I mean, Illyria. I know I'm not a full-fledged doctor or anything, but at least it'd be practice."
"...Taken, with relief you would not believe!"
Scowl! Blame certain bat-like Darkstalkers on that particular revelation. Walter has felt what it means to be drawn out spiritually in ways that still shame him right at this moment.
Every little squeak and sign of weakness only draws the dragon that much more closely to Sabrina! Really, he'd likely use his body to elevate the injured ankle of this young woman if she called for it. A gentle, almost submissive notion amidst his more dramatic ways and spiritual entanglements. Her smile makes him shiver down to his core.
Walter chuckles, and he's pulling up with abruptness that doesn't help any vague attempts at dignity. He wavers only briefly, tight muscles and both a tip back of wings and tail alike keeping him utterly upright. Wobble. Just a slight, but telling to someone used to weak men and monsters!
"Never! Unless it means ticklish spots upon fair maidens!" Another tail flick. A small tease, as though he were to tickle warm hips, but he then pinches himself on the side /hard/. Don't go too far, dragon!
And Sabrina gets to the point of survival, and Walter is on his feet.
"...Too bloody far for you to walk. Forgive the humiliation, but I am going to carry you into town no matter what." He strikes a proud pose here, nodding severely. His tail sways excitedly again!
And then he's looking down again, right where cross is gone to. Jiggle. The poor dragon is set upon a magic trick where he's made to bite his lip and quiver all at once.
Never enough blood. All of it is currently surging singularly. His attention is utterly drawn.
"I know of a town not...too horribly far if I stretch both legs and wings. You, my dear Princess, shall owe me!" Pause. He blinks and realizes how that might sound!
"Ahh! I mean, owe our Order if it pleases you. May you offer us help, and we in turn help your own knowledge!" That, at least, is far more equitable.
At least, in the dragon's mind.
"Ticklish spots?" Sabrina repeats, baffled anew at the idea but at least humorously so. She seems to be giving Walter a wide swathe for what she considers to be harmlessly eccentric behavior and comments. She wiggles where she sits as she adjusts her weight; a vaguely defensive gesture toward the idea of government-managed tickling of all things.
At the idea of being carried all the way into town, the blonde woman purses her lips out in a particularly pouty variation of a thoughtful look. However, after a few moments of thinking over the logistics, she nods in mute acquiescence. Walter's explanation has enough confidence to carry him through.
Sabrina gives the dragon another one of her smiles, warm and understanding. The day has dimmed enough outside that the firelight casts more significant shadows across her features.
"I'd like that, Walter. If you're saving Gears and Darkstalkers... then I'll help you take care of them the best I can. With someone as strong as you keeping me updated, I feel like I can do a lot of good in the world."
IN AN ABANDONED TIMELINE
I-No struts through the halls of Castle Illyria or whatever the fuck the shitty order calls it. The defenders have been ever so thoughtful and already scattered their corpses everywhere for her to enjoy. What's more is that they've mixed in Gears, too! It's delicious!
Well, the Gears that don't explode when they die, anyway. Those are fun. They're the reason why the castle and everything around it is pockmarked with disintegration craters. Those are gonna be some closed-casket funerals, lemme tell you.
I-No hums while she goes. She's marching right to the throne room because that's usually where the drama plays out. She passes gallery halls, library rooms, open doorways leading to--
The red witch pauses. She takes a few steps back and rolls her neck to the side to look through a half-opened door. Light flickers within. Her eyes narrow.
A moment later, I-No kicks open the door. She observes the two survivors with neutrality tinged with the natural cruelty of her face. Slowly, beneath the impassive gaze of her kaleidoscopic eyes, one of them drags himself to his feet to raise his weapon in protection for the one who cannot rise.
"She's innocent. I won't let you."
I-No's red lipstick splits in a wide, joyless grin.
"Let me?" Her fingers feather-touch the strings of her beloved Marlene, drawing out ominous tones of music shortly to come.
"I'm the only god left here, fuckface. Get on your belly and cry for absolution."
I-No sits atop the castle, finishing the last of a cigarette. Enormous and irregular flashes of light over the horizon briefly turn night into day. This world is being consumed. The moment she leaves, the probability bubble will burst. Good fuckin' riddance. Another boring failure.
Her mind drifts to what she saw in the study. It was novel enough to stay with her. She inhales deep, and then flicks the stub of her cigarette off the edge of the tower into the bloody darkness below. The witch breathes out smoke as if she might breathe fire next. Eventually, she comes to a conclusion.
"A goddamn dragon. Wild."
Log created on 15:27:16 10/22/2018 by I-No, and last modified on 20:40:43 10/23/2018.