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Caerus (almost)
#31
Their hands clasped, and he was pulled along the currents of the Other World. The rush that swept them away was disorienting at first, but soon they floated to stillness, or perhaps the surrounding world halted on its own.

As Nimeda was clean and dry, Tristan shook himself out, but the skin of his chest was long ago dry. A leather vest hung open from his shoulders now, but the paints remained. They stood in some sort of passageway. The weight of the world pressed upon them. “Your friend is here?he said, growling low. Chill crept along the corridor like rats. In the dimness, his eyes burned bright, snarl tugging at one lip in warning.

A shadow slunk into view. It was a tiny, midnight blob. Its silvery eyes stared back a moment before it scampered away. Its fear caught his nose, and hatred clawed deep within for a bare moment. A powerful urge to crush it with his jaws, and he burst into motion, streaking down the hall like fire.
"Don’t waste your time looking back, you’re not going that way."
Rognar Lothbrok
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#32
Tristan promised not to abandon her, and begged the same boon in return, yet fled into the maze of dark at the first opportunity. Her expression fell, shoulders bowed with the weight of a trust freely offered, only to discover the gift discarded in the dust behind his feet. If Mara wasn’t here, they were most certainly in trouble. The darkness tumbled and chased and gnawed. Nimeda crouched down, arms wrapped around her knees, watching the shadowy puffs of their bodies. None came close.

“Behave,” she told the creatures sternly, knowing full well they would not listen. “He is not a snack.”

Mara would know of the flies entered her web. Of Tristan’s intentions she was not sure, and it creased a frown to her brow. She pulled the world around her, and when she unfurled to stand, it was to flop her weight onto the creaky mattress of her sister’s meagre throne. “I don't like it here,” she said plainly. Her feet lifted to tuck beneath herself. She leaned in and whispered low, like she suspected even now she might be heard.  “I keep wondering how you could be held so close to his domain, and yet he does not come for you. And then I remember.”

The recollections troubled her. Nim let them drift away, but for once found little solace in existing in the moment. She rubbed at her eyes. ”I went to the vengeful sea, but I believe he is as deaf as your once father in this age. Someone heard though. The hidden one showed me Ice Land. That is where I found the kin who travels with me. He promises to help if he can, though he is far from Moscow in the Other world.” She paused, head tilted in consideration. “He also promised not to leave me in the city, though. But I don't want to anger the wolves, Mara. Please don't let your pets treat him badly.” It went without saying, of course, that she would not allow Tristan to treat Mara unkindly in turn.
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#33
He ran quick as lightning. Unfortunately, after the hellish ball snarled its teeth, it sprinted faster than even Tristan. It was like it shifted from one plane to the next while Tristan was limited to his four paws. The creature led him to its mistress, and Tristan slid to a stop at the sudden turn. Within the room sat a girl, little black shadows dancing all around her. The one he was chasing lept to her lap and burrowed from sight, but within the abyss hissed new warnings. His own teeth bared in return, but a glimpse of a girl in white broke the spell. Tristan straightened, unfurling as though his back ached from perpetual humping over, and pulled his lip back over his teeth. Nimeda’s friend was the mistress of darkness? Goddess of the nightmares lurking the dream of the wolf?

He stepped warily into her kingdom. From within the golden eyes of the wolf roamed hideous, monstrous forms. Their black fur was gnarled and pitted. Their fangs protruding from enormous snouts. The claws long and sharp as knives. Eyes glowed blue. Their smell was that of poisonous gas, sulfuric and sickening. Yet even as he watched their roaming around the room, clinging to walls and dangling from the ceiling, leaping to their mistress’ lap and rolling belly up in play, he saw two forms. One merged in and out of the other. It was like the wolf saw one thing and the man saw another.

He was afraid to proceed.  “Nimeda?” He called from the doorway, licking his lips.
"Don’t waste your time looking back, you’re not going that way."
Rognar Lothbrok
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#34
Mara’s smiled broke the shadows hovering her room. Nimeda’s jovial presence was refreshing as cold water, and she laid a hand on her friend’s knee as she scoot near. With the other, she pat her own and three little nightmares lifted their heads. Two of the nearest were lazy, circled about her feet. The third pounced high, its little body buzzing with slumber near the warmth of its mistress.

Nimeda’s line of thought pulled at her own, like tangles tugging on knotted hair. Her gaze distanced itself as though searching for someone unresponsive. “He does not hear my cries,” she whispered beneath the sheet of her hair. Nobody heard her cry. Only Nimeda.

Which was why she smiled so bittersweet when Nimeda explained the lengths she’d gone to seek help. Mara knew nothing of hidden ones or vengeful seas, but the howling ones pricked her attention. Almost as if he was summoned from some moonlit crevice, her pets roused all at once. Their fur stood on end, their eyes gleamed in the same direction. One of their kin streaked into the room, climbing to her lap for protection. Mara swept it into the crook of her arm and sat on edge. His shadow devoured the door. An outline of terrible, monstrous fright. She shivered, drawing her pets nearer until they almost obscured her from view.

“Flee,” she whispered. With the one word, dozens of pets lept into the distance, squeezing through cracks that appeared in the walls of her prison before they sealed themselves back together.

She rose to her feet, hair and dress falling to stillness along the slender line of her shape. “I am sorry my pets frightened you.” She did not know him, but there was an intrigue that followed him, as though his shadow did not align with the spirit within. Her eyes trailed the paints decorating his body such that her fingers itched to do the same.
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#35
Mara’s words shivered through her with a tug of sadness, but she did not follow the feeling down into the depths. Even if he could be made to listen, it would not be the same thing it once was. She sighed, fingers tangling idly in the bedsheets as the frustration seeped. She did not like being within the walls of Mara’s cage, though it was not the scuttling and scratching of the creatures she shared it with that appeared to bother her. Small shoots coaxed to impossible life where her hands rested, unfurling petals pale as moonlight. A vine curled between the metal slats of the headboard, squeezing.

An ending comes. She shivered, but that was not fear either.

Her attention rose as one of Mara’s pets launched itself into her lap and cowered there, like it might crawl right beneath her skin. She discovered Tristan hulking in the doorway, while all around the creatures surged with the upset of a storm-tossed sea. Nimeda frowned and shifted her legs as they crashed around Mara’s tiny form, not particularly enamoured of potentially getting caught in the pile, until a moment later they clambered upon one another in flight, seeping into every dark crevice.

She had never seen Mara release them like that. Nor the small beings act with such fear.

“You left me,” she accused of the kin as she watched the last of their smokey bodies disappear into the walls. Fear snarled his lip with old resentments (she recalled there was a reason, when Mara had asked to see others in this world, that she had summoned Jon and not Calvin). But if ancient strings tugged his nature one way, hesitation yanked him back from the threshold of what undoubtedly would have been a mistake. He searched for reassurance. Nim wondered if it was quiet without his wolf.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she said, palms rested on her knees; resolute at the promise to uphold her end of the frayed compact. The force of her will still pressed against her immediate surroundings, albeit not in a way she was paying much attention to. Stubborn retaliation for what she considered an injustice. “And you have nothing to be afraid of; no one will hurt you.”

Mara slipped from her perch, and Nimeda watched. Or, perhaps more accurately, she watched Tristan’s reaction. Grim did not care much for the delineation between black and white, which was why she had coveted his help for such a task. People misunderstood Mara, else they feared a nature they could not contain. But no one deserved to live chained. “Mara, what do they call this place when you are awake?”
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#36
Tension strung the stranger and Nimeda. She wondered at his name, and suddenly remembered her own. "My name is Mara," she said purposefully withholding her hand from the custom of the west. Nimeda was contained like a river dammed unnaturally, fighting against the barrier, and unable to overcome it. The question soured the atmosphere, enough that the pets were sniffing the edges by the tempting smell, but they did not reappear. 

Her answer was a bare whisper, "they call this place The Guardian," she said. "It's a hospital. I thought I would find help here, but instead, I am a prisoner. When I talk about my pets, they believe I am insane. Am I insane, Nimeda?" She turned toward her friend hopeful for the truth.
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