The First Age

Full Version: Safe For Now
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[[ continued from Convergence ]]

Sterling went first and Nox insisted Raffe go next.  And then he climbed down last making sure to put the grate back on.  The drone couldn't follow.  Nox wove a quick ball of light in the air and tied it off.  It sorta floated and followed him as he started to pace back and forth. "We'll be safer down here for the moment."  Nox pulled his wallet out of his pocket and started up the mapping software his sister had created.  He had to find their location before they went any deeper.  And get them back home safely.  Well back to Kallisti, Sterling's parents could come get her there.  

The map pinged their location and Nox started in the best direction out of there.  He prayed nothing started inhabiting the tunnels he and Aria had already cleared.  But he'd be ready none the less.

At the next intersection Nox ushered them past and stopped to erect a new wall.  He noted it on the map - no one could follow them this way.  "They shouldn't be able to follow us now."  Nox said relaxing only a little.
Raffe didn’t argue, just ducked in and climbed down when instructed, trying not to spill the water from the pot. He murmured soft reassurances under his breath, not that the plant really felt like a person would. At the bottom he turned back to check for Nox, brows slightly lowered, expression surprisingly serious. Light bloomed from nowhere. In that soft glow the other man produced a wallet and began tapping away.

Raffe glanced at Sterling, catching his breath and letting his pulse ease. He didn’t pause to think about what he’d done, though he did rub his free hand across his scar, painfully aware of his own mortality. “You okay?” he asked her. It seemed unlikely she really knew what Nox was or what he did, and though she was both feisty and confident in the way of most young people, she was also still a kid. He kept half an eye on Nox as he spoke, noting the moment of relief, small though it was, and wondered exactly how much trouble they were in.
Sterling never noticed Nox until he shouted at her to stop. It wasn't like he was her boss, but she was tired, and ready to collapse . She stopped for only that reason, she told herself as she turned around to watch what her cousin was doing. Her cousin who was into dangerous things, who had a missing arm, who had a man pointing a gun at him. She could have sworn it had gone off too but there was no blood on either of them as she watched Nox pry up the gate. And then ushered her down into the darkness. How was this any better?

He created a light, and then pulled out his wallet. He didn't seem interested in anything until after they had walked past a junction and then he stopped and turn and Sterling watched in awe as a wall was built from the ground up. How was he doing that?

Raffe asked her how she was doing and she turned her attention to the other man who was carrying the plant Nox had precariously balanced on his stump of an arm. And that's when it all came crashing in. "Where did that fire come from? Who was that man? Why is he shooting at u?" She turned to glare at her cousin but he was wrapped up in the wall he was erecting. "What the hell ARE you? she shouted at Nox.

Sterling grabbed Raffe's hand and tugged on him. "Come on, we don't need him." She knew it was foolish but she kept trying to lead Raffe away and then gave up and started walking down a dark corridor. With each step away from Nox's floating ball of light it got darker. And scarier. Something scratched at the walls around her. Other than the scratching there was a soft drip drip drip water falling to the ground below. Each step made the darkness somehow darker.

Nox's voice called out from behind her, "If you go that way you'll just go deeper into the tunnels and then you'll never find your way out." Sterling growled and stormed back into the light and past the two men going the only other way possible. She picked up a handful of rocks lying in a pile and tossed one at Nox's feet. Teach him to be a know it all.
Sterling was going to be a handful. Nox took several long slow breathes to calm himself. He wasn't tired from the running, he was exhausted. And Sterling's triad of questions made it all that much worse. She tried to pull Raffe to her side of things, and if he knew what was good for him he'd do it. But he likely wouldn't have - not after he tried to defuse the situation. He'd have to have a long talk with Raffe about that - especially when it came to protecting him. Nox didn't need Raffe to get hurt.

Sterling stormed off in the wrong direction and Nox had to correct her, she threw a stone at him in a huff and Nox sighed. "We can't let her get too far ahead of us, no telling what is down here." Nox held out his hand to Raffe and hoped he'd take it. He needed the comfort. This was one fucked up day. One fucked up life more like it. He gave Raffe a soft smile, "You okay?" Seeing a bullet hanging in mid-air in front of you had to be hard on anyone - Nox knew that his heart was still racing from it. What if it hadn't been thick enough? strong enough? What if... Nox couldn't dwell on it. His whole use of the power was one big experiment. One gamble after the other, and one day it was going to land him in more hot water than he could get out of - or worse someone he cared about would be dead - or himself. But that last one didn't matter. Nox knew he'd never die of old age - that was not the way of the Atharim. And he wasn't about to go out like his father. Not without a fight.
He felt for the kid. After an explosion of fear she tugged at his hand, and Raffe stumbled forward a few steps before she slipped free from the way he clearly lagged. He didn't stop her, but exasperation touched his brow; mediation wasn’t going to work here, but he did hate conflict. Still, he suspected the most important thing was to get somewhere safe before they began to try and unravel the sorts of questions Sterling was yelling. A practicality he was sure she wouldn’t appreciate it, but there it was.

He glanced at Nox, who yelled after his cousin into the darkness, but by the look of him he was brimming with frustration of his own. Fire and fire, those two.

A moment later the stone bounced against the ground, but at least she hadn’t hit him with it. Maybe the jest about kicking had sunk in somewhere even if she was presently angry and afraid. He didn’t blame her for either of those things, really. Raffe’s pulse had calmed, but the adrenaline was still coursing his veins. He could still see that bullet. Still felt the expectant flinch of an impact that never came.

“Not really,” he said truthfully to the question, but it was accompanied by a crooked grin. He scruffed a hand through his hair. Emotion ran free through him, and he generally hid little of it. Sometimes the girls teased him for it, the openness with which he approached life, but Raffe didn’t know another way to live. The outstretched hand surprised him, if only because Nox had seemed caged by duty; isolated in the role of protector. It made him seem a little vulnerable. 

He grabbed his hand without hesitation, squeezed comfort without words. Belatedly Nox’s earlier words hit home. What else could be down here?
Sterling growled as she walked. Grumbling to herself how her cousin wasn't at all what she expected. He was like her parents too bossy, too know it all. Too... she growled as her thoughts failed to find the words needed.

She walked at the edge of the light. She wished Nox would just give it to her so she could do it. But no he was making it trail behind them - what little good that did for their vision.

The noise from the walls got louder and Sterling almost went back to join the two men holding hand. She wanted to take comfort in that. It was a lot scarier down here. Nox corrected her navigational skills. She really didn't know where she was going, but it was getting darker and she slowed down, she would heed his words to stay closer. Her heart was racing in her chest. Her hands were sweating. This was a whole lot scarier than she could have ever imagined. But Nox, when she looked back at him he looked calm, at peace maybe? Is this really what he did for a living? Who would choose this life?
With Raffe's hand in his Nox felt better, more like himself. But they followed Sterling, the orb of light trailing behind them a good distance - just enough light so they didn't destroy their night vision. Without his land warriors Nox didn't trust the shadows down here.

"We can talk about that when we get out of here." Nox reassured Raffe. Bullets and monsters and the Atharim all not good topics to think about in the darkness. The noises were getting louder. The scratching of the masses Nox recognized them but why were they so close to the surface. They shouldn't be this close. Or even near here. It was highly concerning.

Sterling made a left and Nox whispered in the darkness. "Other way."

Sterling turned back and glared at him but she went the right way. The scratching only got louder. "Sterling stay closer please." Nox pleaded. She didn't heed it right away but she did pull closer to them. The darkness was closing in around them. It was dark and then Nox heard a yip. One he recognized.

Nox called out into the darkness. "Nova." He called again and again and soon the furry critter scampered into view, but as the pup came into view so did twenty or more sets of glassy eyes peering into the darkness. The sight drew upon the power with and the hoard purred, Nox had no other way to describe the sound coming from in front of them as he wielded a whip of fire and then tied it off and let it hang on his waist - waiting - ready. Nox let go of Raffe's hand and grabbed Sterling's shoulder he pulled her back behind him. She clung to his leg.

Nox called out to Nova again, the dog came closer but so did the hoard. But they didn't move when Nox plead inwardly no please don't ... The pack stopped moving and Nova too. Nox called for the dog again... it came and so followed the hoard, their dark sagging skin and their beady eyes coming into fiew of the orb light.

Nox pulled the whip into hand and unfurled it. There was a snarl in the pack and soon there was much yipping to follow in the darkness. And then nothing but the purr of the hoard of creatures - to the tune of the fire at the end of his hand.
Sterling stalked ahead of them, but didn’t stray too far from the bubble of light at their backs (which was the strangest thing, but way down on the list for today). The flood of pitch darkness chilled Raffe’s bones, and he was aware of his ears straining against every odd sound, carving monsters out of nothing. Though Nox wouldn't have warned if there wasn’t a reason to warn. Shit. His pulse was ramping up again. He was glad of the palm in his, but he did wish Sterling would stick a little closer, and opened his mouth to call after her when Nox beat him to it.

Then he heard an animal noise; the yip of a dog, and for the briefest moment relief surged on the crest of adrenaline -- for a rational explanation. But it was short lived. Raffe’s skin prickled with fear. “Nova?” he repeated. He half started forward, but suddenly the dark glittered with eyes, and he realised the weird humming was coming from it. He was torn with being sensible and the desire to help; he knew what the dog meant to Nox. What were those things?

He was on the verge of something stupid when Nox’s hand dropped and Sterling pummeled into them. Nox shoved her behind, and she clung to him. 

She was terrified. Raffe bent, put his hand on her arm, casting worried glances at the shifting mass of darkness ahead. “He needs to be able to move, Sterling,” he said in the same soothing tones he’d always used on the younger kids in the orphanage. “Here, can you look after this for me? It’s important.” He prised gently at where her arms gripped, to give her possession of the plant. A job to focus on. “Give me your other hand. We’ll stick together, okay. You want know how I got this scar? It was protecting friends, so I won’t leave you, but stand with me, okay? In case we need to move quickly.” His heart was racing, throat dry as he spoke quietly and quickly, not caring how much she really absorbed as long as it distracted her enough to get her up. Sweat beaded his brow. It felt like the walls were pressing in on his skull.
Another hand on her shoulder and Raffe was whispering into her ear, pushing a plant into her arms. The same plant Nox had been carrying. She looked up at the man offering her the plant to protect. How could a plant be more important that living? But she held on to it, tucked in close with one hand and wrapped the other in Raffe's. Nox needed to move. Raffe wasn't going to help? But she didn't care, she clung to the other man. Her heart pounding in her chest at the sight of all those eyes. They were ugly and grotesque as they pulled into the light of the orb. And then it went out. Sterling yelped in fear. She wanted to run but Nox whispered into the darkness. "I need to see. Quiet." How could he see in the darkness? There was no light, nothing reflected.

And then as the darkness grew darker and her eyes adjusted she saw exactly what she thought she should see, the fire glow flickering off the tiny eyes in the darkness. They looked like rats and dogs, and strange creatures she'd never seen before. She had so many questions but she stayed quiet as Nox took a step forward. He knelt down in front of them several feet away his hand outstretched as he whispered for the dog again.
The orb had to go. The landwarriors would have been better than the naked eye but he wasn't exactly without good vision. The power enhanced it and there was no way he was letting it go now. The whip in his hand was all the light he needed. He could do this. He had done this. The last time he saw a hoard of monsters the three of them nearly died. He had lost his arm in that battle royal. He wasn't about to lose another - or let anyone else suffer the same fate.

A powerful hunger erupted in his body as one of the pack died to his own. The sounds of feeding heard in the distance but not too far off. Nova stood between him and the monster. The monsters that moved whenever Nova did. Nova was controlling them? Nox shook his head, that wasn't how it worked. Alistar Pavlo had controlled the monsters when they saw them last. Dorian had said he could weild the power of the gods. A chilling thought raced through his mind.

Nox stepped forward and called Nova. The pup came and so did the hoard, it advanced on them, they weren't in a rush, but the hunger inside grew strong as they took a step closer and closer. Nox could feel the hunger rising, and another primal need - it wasn't lust, but it felt like it - it coursed through his body. Procreation more. So many unknown questions, so many, and he wasn't going to be able to figure this out himself. He needed brighter minds, Atharim minds, but first he said the Ascendancy must know.

Nova came to Nox's hand, he grabbed a the scruff of the dogs hair and yelled. "Get the fuck out of here." And he sent whatever feelings he could into that place where the hunger grew. Nox sent with it the location of an Oni den. If they were hungry and that was what he felt they could kill the monster. He prayed it didn't turn into one of them but from the hunger he doubted much would remain of a beast.

It was dark. But Nox felt more than saw the hoard move away. Nova tried to follow but Nox kept hold of the dog's fur, he wouldn't go. He couldn't go. Nox feared the worst but for now safety came first and he needed to know for sure. To know Nova was dead and truly gone. His last link to his sister. Tears fell from his eyes but Nox pushed at the beasts and they fled him. And a small part of him wanted to go with them.
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