You wanna die you do that on your own time, or you pay me for it.
1 October, 2020
After decades Nadja's memories of home push her to escape the Horned God's realm.
Arcadia, Soggy Hob Marsh
Time has become something lost to memory. A long gone thought that has no bearing here. Nadja has become a terror of the seas. A monster that has little to stop her from getting her fill, and fulfilling her duty and instincts as a hunter. Everything and everyone that comes here is only one of two thigns: predator or prey. Little is big or bold enough to hunt her. So powerful and able she has become that most creatures flee before taking her on. However, most are rarely as successful to escape with their lives.
Tangled in a drifting bed of seaweed, Nadja has not slept well as of late, strange dreams of a far off and strange land, yet somehow familiar, faces just as familiar and strange. Every waking moment was hunting, battling over territory, and yet, even predator often have mates, companions, even many she has hunted are in packs, prides, schools, but Nadja, she is alone. Except when she dreams, more and more often she dreams of that strange place, those strange faces, a place and people that she feels drawn to though she cannot understand, remember, why. A shadow passes overhead and her bright blue eyes shoot open as she surveys any potential interloper.
The sky is all daylight and clouds save the occasional beast that flies by. Some of them could potentially be her equally, although neither would fare well in the other domain. At this exact moment something reeks, and it comes from the four-winged bird that's currently flying by. It looks to be heading further and further away, potentially back to land
That isn't home, though. Nothing warm or loving awaits whatever that bird heads to. Potential prey. A new challenge. A warm meal. The water has been her abode. Habitat. Where she is largely confined to. It isn't home. The monsters and creatures aren't her family.
Nadja takes a moment to look around and then another moment to shake off that lingering dream of the other before she slips from her seaweed bed with practiced ease. Propelled toward the surface, toward curiosity about what is above and that stench, she breaks the surface and watches the creature flying away. One could say Nadja has been content, no, not content, that word was all wrong. Content would suggest she was fine with staying where she is and doing what she does, but that was all wrong, at least it was lately. Nadja grows more and more restless, she feels like there is somewhere she must be, something she should do, someone she wants to be with. It was frustrating, these strange feelings and needs. Despite having devolved into the creature she was molded into, a predator, a fierce hunter, she desired more lately than just survival. So she dives back down and begins to swim, most likely following the path the bird had taken, but for the most part she simply swims with no idea where she is going, but feeling suddenly desperate to get there.
That invisible pull brings her further to the depths. She can hear words as she descends. Voices speaking her name. Her true name. Happy smiles, sad faces, loud yelling. Fond memories and loving family. None of it can be seen nor smelled. Just disparate memories, but they feel so close. So real. The sensation, the feeling, only grows stronger the further and further she goes down.
When she hears them Nadja pauses, she glances around, convinced this is another of the Green Man's tricks, but he is nowhere to be seen. Soon enough it is only by feeling that she moves, there is nothing she can see to guide herself by, it is only that feeling, so she closes her eyes, her tail whips through the water and she swims deeper and deeper. The water becomes colder, the light from above dying in the depths, but she continues.
The blazing light of the ever-present sun soon fades away. Brilliance gives way to the abyss quickly enough. The Beast is fast enough that it doesn't take her too long to reach nothing but water all around her. There's nary a smell of another present the deeper she goes. Those memories flood back as she descends. More and more coming by the second.
Her siblings calling her to help them with work around the house. When dinner might be ready. About some schoolyard bully that'd dare transgress against her kin. The short, happy mornings of a Christmas before their parents had to go back to work.
An hour passes. Two hours. It may take the entire day, but she doesn't hit the bottom. Muscle become sore, time becomes lost, and distance impossible to tell. Then she hits it. A sandy bottom littered with detritus. The call home is only stopped by the seabed, but even that can't be infinite. Right?
The colder and darker it becomes, the more Nadja feels pulled toward the "other", warmth, not just for her body, but deeper than that. The sudden stop is jarring when she hits the bottom, face to cold silty earth, she rubs her nose and looks around though she can see nothing, but endless abyss. Rather than stare into the abyss, she digs her hands into the sandy bottom and begins digging with both hands. A sister, two brothers, she remembers them now, their faces are still somewhat blurred, their names have not yet returned, but it she's certain that the more she digs, the deeper she goes, the more will come back to her.
Their faces are shattered memories. A birthmark. A scar. A missing tooth. A stray lock of hair. The more she digs and fights against the seafloor the more those memories become much more vivid. Full and forming a whole. Every grain of sand moved aside fills her meories like a cup under a dripping faucet.
Like a bursting pipe it all comes flooding in. Their names. Their faces. A voice, a song. Screaming, shouting, crying. Smiles and frowns. Their presence, their touch, their ups and downs. then she hits paydirt. Payair. Her tiresome digging bears some fruit as hole just barely big enough to hold a finger reveals a column of light bursting through.
They are there, somewhere, if she just digs deeper, her hooves becoming sore and raw as she ignores the detriment, the shells, rocks, and sand that test the durability of those battle hardened appendages. Teaching Alexei to play chess, his chestnut hair and tawny eyes, helping Georgiy in the middle of the night with his bed sheets so Papa would not find out that he wet the bed again. Faster and harder she digs, faster and faster come the memories, and now she can see them, Alexia, Georgiy, and...Liliya, her darling Lili. Suddenly a pin prick of light stings her eyes, she pushes down into the hole she's dug trying to peer through like a keyhole, but the light is blinding. Now her digging is marked by pounding at the hole with her hooves as if she could break it open. The ground doesn't give way at first. It takes a considerable effort to even get that hole to turn into a crack. Eventually it spreads under duress. The water doesn't pill through the growing hole, but the scent of fresh water intermingles with the sea.
Seconds turn to minutes as more and more of it cracks. Breaks. Opens up to reveal more of that dim light. It finally gives wave, and there's enough room for her to get through. It'll hurt. It's a tight fight. Still, just enough for her and those horns to force herself out.
How long had she been gone, she remembers now, the park, waking up in that boat, she remembers her Mama, Papa, her brothers and sister, what has happened to them? Were they looking for her? Did they already mourn her? Surely it couldn't have been more than a year? Two? Finally! That hole gives way, she backs out of it, gains as much speed as she can, rams it, again, and the final time she puts her arms out in front and they break through to the other side, her head following. Wriggling wildly to get her shoulders through, hands grasping to try and pull herself, her hips stuck. Tail thrashing and beating the silty ground as she struggles to push through, the ground scraping her sides and digging into her ribs as she struggles.
She bleeds in her escape. Suffers to see the real world again. The pain and suffering accumulated over however long she was stolen away from her life. It hurts beyond measure. Rips her skin from her flesh. Taking every scale and every pound of muscle she'd gained. Cutting her back down to her finer, more human bits.
She's still in one piece after the agonizing process, and even finds fingers and hands before her face. However, she's still in the water, and unlike her life in the Horned God's realm she can feel the pressure of the water. The burning of her lungs as she starts to feel that necessity for air deep in her chest.
Agony, she can feel it digging deeper into her as if that world was trying to claw her back down, but Nadja is not going to give up now; she remembers. Clawing and thrashing, she finally makes it through, but it's all pain and then, she chokes on the water. Her lungs burn, her body aches, but the surface is there and so once again she swims. This time the swimming is not as effortless, not as graceful, and she can see her hands and arms in front of her face, she looks back and sees legs. Once more she begins to swim, she needs air...it's right there! Breaking the surface she gasps, sputtering and choking up the water she'd ingested, gasping again to fill her lungs, it feels foreign.
A smattering of those blue scales can be seen on her body, but she can still make out her skin. Her skin. Her body. Mostly, at least, whole as it was before. The water is cold. Nippy. Uncomfortal from the warm waves of the Horned God's realm. Beyond the change in temperature is how long it takes for her to ascend for the surface. Seconds go by before she finally gets over the surface.
The water remained murky, and only two meters deep at the most. Algae collects around her where she broke through the surface, and she soon sees that she's not alone. She can hear barking. Growling. Smell blood on the air. That instinct still tingles at the back of her mind. Potential prey? Another predator? Hard to say. Nearly a dozen or so canine-things encircle a man that looks like her. Almost. The wolves encircle the tentacle-headed man while a creature sits atop his shoulder. He's shouting something at them, and as notions of language and the like return you still can't make out a word he's saying.
Nadja bobs there on the surface struggling to catch her breath, to remember what it is to breathe this way when she hears the barking. Spinning around she finds them surrounding someone, someone she doesn't know and yet feels familiar, the way her dreams had felt foreign and familiar. Unable to understand what is being said and yet it seems obvious to her that these canine beasts are not circling him for a friendly chat. A low rumbling growl begins in the back of her throat as Nadja swims toward this unhappy gathering, she shrieks at the canines. Eyes narrowed, teeth bared, even if they are less intimidating than in the Horned God's realm, she's still operating on a bestial mentality.
The hounds brook no quarter, and Nadja's shrieking is met with howling that quickly drowns out her voice. It digs at her mind. Her soul. Whatever these thing might be evoke a bestial fear all to familiar with the now fading memory of her time in the Horned God's realm. Two of the nine briarwolves break away from their cornering of the man to start sizing her up.Before things get bloody the air begins to change.
He was unarmed and unarmored. Just a t-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes that'd already been mucked up by the surrounding mud. Within a breath he held something in his hands. Two weapons connected by a change that rattles as the air It was a bright and shining morning, but the sky turned dark. The roar of thunder overpowers every other sound as the clouds break. The water falls rapidly.
There's barely any time to think as the heavens seemingly open up and begin flooding the bog. In less than a quarter of a minute the water recedes, and the swamp Nadja found herself in begins to dry. It collects to the east as if something there was sucking it all up. The man shouts something else, and then that azure wall of water comes crashing down fast, hard, and heavy.
As those creatures howl, Nadja's hands fly to cover her ears and her wide blue eyes stare in disbelief. This wasn't right at all, she was feared! /She/ was the apex predator, they should cower, piss themselves, and run away, but instead she feels her stomach knot, gooseflesh runs up and down her arms and legs. Things suddenly get even more confusing as she looks to the sky when it darkens, the water around her begins to draw way, she's sinking with it until she can feel the mud beneath her feet. Hitting her knees, these legs don't immediately remember how to work, she stays there as she watches. That wall of water, and when she realizes it is about to come crashing down all she can do is cover her head.
The briarwolves are sent every which way when the water comes through. It slings them around and away from each other, and before the water's done she can see something moving in the water. Damn near faster than the eye can see. Much faster than anything living likely could or should. It moves like lightning through the water, and that familiar scent permeates the water. The coppery scent of blood flooding the water. Then that bolt of electricity is rushing right at her, and grabs her by the wrist.
Before she has a chance to wonder who or what it tugs her along, and she's back on dry land. Blessed dry land. The one that was standing against the wolves now stands before her. He has as a sword pointed at her throat, then. Her reflection can be seen in the blade. She's herself again. Mostly. Short, nubby horns poke out of her forehead and a pair of fangs fill her maw. "You got exactly six seconds to tell me who the fuck you are, and why I shouldn't add another notch to wall." His voice is raspy, rough around the edges. Like he's drowning despite the cool air blowing around both Changelings.
Perhaps relieved to once more be surrounded by water, Nadja is swept from her knees, tumbling through the sudden wave and flailing to find the surface once more. Barely time to get her bearings as she looks to find the wolves have been swept away and likely just as disoriented, the sweet metallic scent of blood on the air raises her awareness. The sight of that movement bolting straight for her and she turns to flee, but is instead snagged around the waist and dragged literally kicking and screaming back onto land. Once more her legs tremble and fail her, like a newborn colt unable to get the hang of balance just yet, she glances down at the sword at her throat and swallows.
For a second she seems confused and somewhat enamored with her reflection in the metal, a hand reaching up to touch those nubs. His less than friendly words draw her attention back to him. Eyes narrow, not a glare, but like she's trying to work out what he's saying and how to respond. Licking her lips she sighs, rolls her eyes, and simply presses her neck harder against the blade until it threatens to break the flesh. She will /not/ be rushed into trying to speak it seems.
His teeth grit in frustration, revealing himself to be a predator as well. His mismatched gaze remains locked on her, and the starkly cold metal is pressed into her neck when she moves into it. Her own blood hits the air as his flat nose twitches. He remains calm, his breathing slow and his heart steady. "Six, five, four, three-"
Nadja looks up into his eyes, her fierce blues holding steady, she grits her teeth as that blades bites into her skin, not the first time she's had her blood shed. A soft growl escapes her, and when he begins to count her frustration and anger only grows. That growl slowly distorts into, "Gggoooooo.", the word feels strange, but it's coming back to her. "Doo it.", that T coming out a bit too sharply spit from her lips as she snarls. Her name, what is her damn name....
While the two Changelings talk the creature that was on his shoulder finally shows itself. It's drag one of those bloodied briarwolf corpses up from the marsh's waters. It squeeks out something in the language Hien spoke earlier, and gets a reply in the same. Hien doesn't take his eyes off before he shunts the blade somewhere else. In his left hand appears a short dagger, and he turns to the hedge beast. "You wanna die you do that on your own time, or you pay me for it." He moves over to the beast, and shoves the dagger right into its chest. "And since you're butt ass naked I know you ain't got a dime to your goddamned name." He clicks his tongue as the dead wolf begins to awaken and push itself to its feet. "I am the darkness. I am the night," the aquatic monkey shrieks as Hien stands back up fully.
When the blade is pulled away and put out of sight, Nadja sinks to the ground, her fingers splay in the mud and suddenly that is where her attention goes. Fingers flex, then dig deeper into the mud, so long since she's had fingers. Only when Hein begins to speak again does she look over at him, her brows knit and furrow her forehead in confusion, suddenly unsure if he is talking to her or one of those other things. She does glance down when he mentions she is naked, of course she is! Unfazed by this she attempts to stand on two legs once again when that dead wolf sudden stands and she topples over once again with a shriek of shock. Scrambling back away from the whole weird situation.
"Calm your tits," Hien barks without looking to her. He whistles a slow cadence, and the once dead wolf starts following after him as he begins to move. He only gets a few feet before he stops. A long, rattled sigh comes from the Beast. "Get your ass up, and follow me." That growl in his voice speaks to his predatory nature despite the fact that a sea monkey's clambering to climb back up on his shoulder. "You can scream about shit later, or you can stay here to day. I don't care which you do. I'm leaving." He then starts moving again with the undead wolf in his wake.
A loud and pronounced HMPH is blown from Nadja's nose when she is spoken to in such a manner, she rolls her eyes again, but quickly so they can go right back to watching that dead wolf. Nostrils flare, once again she snarls at him when he presumes to order her around, and she crosses her arms over her chest as the trio walks by. Glancing around, realizing she doesn't have a whole lot of choices, another heavy scoff before she gets back to her feet and follows after him. Every step is cautious and uncertain, but she manages to keep up and will eventually get the hang of two legs again.