On the dread East Bank of the River Tam is where the Moon Court has set up camp for their ritual night. There's small fires, the scent in the air not just that of burning wood. Far from those scant few homes, safe in the thick woods that will dampen any screams. The full moon looms overhead, a watchful eye in the sky. There's enough booze and drugs gathered here for the most gluttonous of Moon Court appetites, sweet cakes and savory dishes. And, from a pair of large wooden trunks, there can sometimes be heard a thump or muffled cry.
It's far past sunset, as night comes early this time of year. But the fires burn, low and warm, and the substances flow as freely as the falls that Tamarack is named for. Embrace your inner demons, their Court insists. And what night, if not tonight, is better for doing so in excess?
She's draped in velvets and furs, the ringleader of this year's Korochun Night. If she had pupils to see, they'd be wider and rounder than the moon that hangs overhead. But Zillah still moves with that serpentine grace, long hair holding pieces of bone and shiny beads. She stalks around that pair of trunks, a far too pleased smile curving those black lips of hers.
It's all shadows back there in the dark spaces between the trees that make up the thick woods surrounding the area. But within that darkness are flecks of light that move and swirl, little motes of glitter within the depths and slight slivers of colors that slither through the inky blackness. Even the colors are somehow subdued, however, as if even they are tamed by the dark and made somber by the events. There's one spot that glows, a burning ember of a lit cigarette as it's sucked on and inhaled. Only it's not a stick of tobacco rolled into a cigarette, it's pot. Rather tame really all things considered. But the burning tip glows brighter for a moment and then dies down more, ashes flicked to the ground even as the living shadow moves into the circle of the closest fire. He's clad in a jean jacket with a hooded sweatshirt under it, the cuffs of the jacket folded back to leave his wrists exposed. Hood of his hoodie up and hanging in a way that obscures a portion of his face, the rest of the face is hidden by the large bottle of expensive champagne that the figure lifts and swigs from as he comes to a stop just within that circle of flame-light. "Well that's a disappointment." That voice, it's gutteral London with a wash of Irish twang salted down with a hint of the Bronx. There's only one person that voice can possibly belong to. Only one person that such a colorful writhing set of shadow and smoke and inky tendrils embrace. Only one person whose dark mantle is almost like tentacles that raped a rainbow and came out the other side unable to shake the multitude of colors deep within like a living galaxy.
Things have changed, since the last time he's seen this particular shadow. Back then, she was just a fledgling of the Court, and her connection to the Wyrd was just a thread. Now, well. Now the glimmer of scales can be seen, those once-human eyes gone solid black. And the shadows play for her like possessive lovers, a serpent's nest of twists and tangles. She gives the trunk a kick with one booted foot, only to laugh at the sounds that come out of it.
It's a laugh that fades, though, as that accent tickles the edges of memory. Zillah turns to the direction it comes from, giving the man a squinting, but haunted gaze. For the shadowsnake, it's never easy to recall someone from long ago. Long varies. "Hrm?"
"I come all this way," the hooded figure says, motioning to her with that bottle in his hand, "and find you wearing clothes. So many clothes." There's a grin there under the hood and the joint-holding hand reaches up to pull it back off his head. Just like her, Rocco's grown in Wyrd, though not nearly as much percentage-wise. He was, after all, writhing with it before. Now it's just a bit more. However, you don't become that wrapped in it without 'a bit more' being a lot. "Shadowskank, look't you. You're all grown up now, love. Come on, don't be shy. Give us a kiss."
There's a glance down, to those velvets and furs that twine around her, and then a look up with a smirk. "Nothing's free, certainly not a show. And it's cold as fuck out here." The reply is easy, but there's no immediate recognition in her eyes. Even when he pulls his hood back, she's still watching him with a look that says she's trying to put a puzzle together. The problem being she's missing a lot of the pieces and it's all in black. But then, it's that nickname that finally catches the thread of memory, and tugs it. "Soups," she says, though it's tentative. "You're..." Pause. "Here." That seems to confuse her as much as anything. Still, she does slither up closer to him. Circling around him, slowly. "I think. I don't know. I've taken a lot of shit tonight," she says with a laugh.
Rocco's arm slinks out to try to wrap around her, careful not to bash her with the large bottle in his hand or slosh the half-emptied contents onto her. He is, after all, careful with prized items. And he prizes her in the way one does a family heirloom. He may not have chosen her as family of sorts, but for some time she definitely was and he came to cherish that. Then again, he cherishes heroin. "I'm here," he says in an agreement of sorts. "And it's cold out? Hadn't noticed. Might be the several hours of meth I engaged in to prepare for the festivities. At least, that's what I assumed when I couldn't find you at your shop and spent the past hour scouring these woods." The firelight flickers, making that wicked grin that much darker and more sinister. But there's no true malice in it. Not for her. "I was bored so I came a'callin'. Quaint little town here. Interesting folk. Met a rainbow of ice and a nice Russian bloke who slipped me this joint. Sad, though. It's not laced. I was hoping it would be."
Dark eyes scan the area, resting on the trunks. "I see you at least came more prepared than I did. I'm thinking Czernobog will be sated? Veles will be pleased?"
It is allowed, that one-armed embrace. And once physical contact is made, she becomes more certain that he's not just another ghost of a memory, coming to haunt her. She even goes up on her tip-toes to plant a kiss on his cheek. "You're still warm-blooded," she mutters, as if there were certain things about being a snake that she could do without. "November. I don't know the Russian, though. But I like the Rainbow. She's more wicked than most people seem to pick up." That smile comes again, all black lips and pretty white fangs. "There are some very interesting people here. Some are even fun. But I like it, even if there's only one half-decent place to dance at." She looks to the trunks, and oh that smile goes twisted. "Our Black God will be pleased, indeed. They'll serve well. Did you come for the Crown?"
There's a scoffing sound, choked short as if realizing that the question was a serious one. "Not me," Rocco says. "I left for the Crown. Let some other poor sap deal with it. In the words of some television program I've forgotten the name of, I'm taking this loop off. Can't find me, can't stick it to me." How's that for logic? "I think the Wyrd doesn't have any idea what it's playing with each time I'm saddled with it." The bottle is rested against her, moving subtly across her skin, cold against the fire-heated air. There's a complete and utter absence of his usual devil-may-care attitude, dropped in favor of the true nature of one who has fully embraced the Moon and all that goes with it. "Here I am looking for a party. Seems I found me one. Don't let me keep you from your festivities, love. We've time to catch up a-plenty once we've done our due duty." The joint is hit again, his voice that squelched tone of someone who is trying not to exhale the delightful contents of their lungs as they speak. "Care for a hit?"
"Hopefully it doesn't land on ol' Johnny's head," she murmurs, speaking of her brief-now-ex-husband. "Though the bastard would deserve it. They'd probably string him up by his toes and offeri...nevermind." Zillah clears her throat, and eager fingers are reaching for the joint even before he's got the offer all the way past his lips. "I thought I was the forgetful one. Have I ever turned down a hit?" Nevermind all the other drugs that are currently running through her blood right now - a hit of his joint is never denied. "We'll catch up, after the hunt. You'll meet Rorschach. It will be good. If we're lucky, the Crown will make its way onto one of our pretty little heads. If not, well. No reason that we can't still make the season ours." She takes the hit, and then slips it back to his lips. Slithering out of his embrace, to move over the the trunks to bellow, "Wayward brothers and sisters! We hunt, we sacrifice, we revel. Two for Czernobog's new start. Two vile ones that preyed on the damaged, the forgotten. Let them see what happens in our town, to such people." The trunks are thrown open, and she looks down into them. The man and woman, still in their uniform for the assisted living home they were stolen from. "Run."
Just before the joint is taken between his lips, just after her words about the season being theirs and all the levels of things that go with it, Rocco manages to murmur against her fingers and the joint: "Good to know some things never change." Of course she wants the hit. Of course the asking about it was merely a formality that takes place in that not-quite-awkward space between having been friends before and being friends again. A testing of the waters. A push of the chair to make sure it will support your full weight before you settle onto it. A silence filled with a different type of silence that is better understood.
Then she's gone, his arms cooler than before. Oh it wasn't body heat that kept his embrace warmed, it was the simple lack of cold winter air. She burns hot and cold, a fire that leaves you frozen. And he's finding that he loves that change in her. But Rocco's unguarded gaze upon her is a brief, flickering one, squinted against the sting of weed smoke that wafts back into his face before the joint is plucked away and crushed out with fingertips he licks wet.
Even when the pair of poor souls are released from the confines that held them, even when their eyes wildly look around for information, for answers, for understanding, for shelter from the storm around them, Rocco just watches and smiles against the fear and frustration that radiates from the pair as their situation becomes apparent. "Well go on then. Run," he echoes with a wave of his hand and the quelched joint. "It's no fun if we don't have to pretend to work for it."
Told twice, the pair start to scramble. There's a herd mentality to panicked humans, and something in the back of their minds tells them they're safer together. It just makes them a bigger target in the end. They have to compete with uneven ground, the wilds of winter, and a pack of drug-fueled monsters. There's little chance that they'll survive the night. Especially with the male of the pair sobbing like that.
Zillah doesn't follow immediately. Taking her time to strip off one of those layers of fur. Knives rest on her hips, though it's those delicately curved fangs that her tongue flicker over. And then into the air, to taste the mix of emotions. Panic, fear. Desire, delight. It's a feast. And then, she's running.
Rocco doesn't run. Running for him implies a reckless frenzy of coke-fueled speed blindly unleashed in the wake of the pair. No, Rocco has long since outgrown that aspect of the word. Oh, his motions are fast and his legs take off as well, that bottle of booze still clutched in his hand for the moment, but it's a smooth sort of motion that is more a stalking at high speed than any sort of fleeing after them. It's something that's become ingrained in him after more than a decade of this ritual and all aspects that it entails. Now he doesn't just race after them, he /hunts/ them like the dark monster he is. He's long since shifted in that the hunt is not to be quick and dirty and frantic. It's to be drawn out and worn down and a shameful delight when the pure despair and sense of giving up weeps from the pores of mortals like sweetened sweat. Someday it may shift again. There are those who get the most pleasure of making the prey believe the falsehood that you may be able to offer safety and sanctuary, just to writhe around in the dark pain of betrayal and hatred that comes before the feeling of being disgusted with yourself for believing the lie. He's not quite there yet, but it does tempt him more than it used to.
No, Rocco is in the middle ground still. He still gets off on the execution of the hunt just as much as he does the feelings of power it gives to the ones acting as the hunters. He blends with the darkness, fleetingly and silently closing the gap, hopped up on cheap speed and unpure cocaine and alcohol and the depravity of letting go to the darkness within. A hunter's howl breaks the air, loud and echoing and given with a near cackle of an undertone.
The howl is answered by other voices, some of them closer to human. They are monsters, but they are one. Their hunt is right, though they approach it from different angles. There are those who ambush. Those who, like felines, toy with their prey. A slice here. A pounce there. And then there is Zillah, who chases and laughs, before she slinks into the shadows to wait for her moment. To draw the woman in, to feed on that disgust.
It is not over quickly. It is not clean, the hunt or the kill. They fall on them like a thousand blades in the darkness, and give them a glimpse of what true madness is. And in the end, the pair are weighed down, tossed into the river in offering to Czernobog.
When Rocco finally emerges from the frenzy, his face is streaked with blood, his clothing is splattered with hints of it and his fingertips are coated by it. Red, red everywhere. He even sucks his fingers into his mouth to tongue the blood off them one by one, watching down over the happenings like he's somehow overseeing the whole event and not Zillah. The reigning over the Moons is second nature to him, after all. And through all this, the bottle of champagne, now flat, is still in his hand. "FOR OUR BLACK GOD!" he bellows in a gutteral roar, bottle held high.