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The Exegetic Episodes of the Bloodtrailed Bashtok and the Emergent Matriarch

Quietus

Hunting Again
Writer
Though this planet was not known for its cooler climate, it was safe to say that the latest storms had brought with them a curious chill to the air. Not so unwelcome, after a long and oppressive summer of which [member="Aver Brand"] had missed much. Nearly three months had passed since the Mercenary's last visit and already the season was shifting.

Thral did not experience winter, as such, but this cold that had crept in marked what Quietus believed to be the start of a dryspell. With the tilt of the planet's axis pulling these jungles into longer nights and shorter days, there came a noticeable relief. Creatures that lived for the twilight hours seemed to move about with greater voracity. Insects which often plagued the hot days now dug into burrows or wove themselves into coccoons to await the next heatwave of summer.

New beasts appeared along the boarders of the jungles, those sporting coats of fur that were typically only seen around the poles.

Quietus had discovered hundreds of new animals in the time Aver had been away; traveled across the planet at the back of her winged mount and charted out the lands. She'd been hundreds of miles away from treehome when Aver's next missive for a visit arrived and only just managed to make it back a day before the Mercenary's ship touched down in the clearing next to her own.

With a large kill already cleaned from her return hunt, the pair spent the next several days reacquainting with one another and the ever-evolving surroundings. Quietus unveiled to her mate the gift she had been crafting; a leather harness and saddle for Aver's winged beast, custom fitted to them both. They were out, cutting across heavy cloud cover and racing along the horizon when something very peculiar began to happen.

A large smile pulled at Desdemona's expression as she watched Aver perform increasingly more daring acrobatics on her beast; diving through clouds and harassing the local fauna with great keening swoops. Silently chuckling to herself, Quietus pulled her beast round to gently glide in a large circle while Aver had her fun. It was then that she noticed a developing tightness in her throat and her breath becoming thin. Thinking perhaps that she had found herself in a higher altitude than expected, the woman cleared her throat and ushered her mount into an easy descent.

They drifted lower, catching sight of Aver as she darted out from the clouds and giving chase with a grin and a playful screech.

But her breathing did not come easier the lower she went, and instead she found herself coughing.

Then, rather suddenly, the strangest sensation struck her at the core - a hollowing of a presence she'd long since last given any thought. But the sensation was quickly overcome by her increasing difficulty to breath and the black sludge she spat onto the back of her arm.

Ygdris-

Quietus clutched at her throat as the wind whipped at her skin, vision blinking black and sounds fading around her. She couldn't breathe.

-something's...

One moment Quietus and her winged companion were near to catching up, racing after Aver through the clouds. The next her beast appeared in a flurry of frantic wingbeats as Quietus plummeted towards the jungles below.
 

Aver Brand

Mercicle
Character
It wasn’t too long after the first daring loop that she dared let go of the head-tails. With her fingers combing through the howling wind, Aver folded forward along the sleek neck of the beast. Her knees supplied all the direction the bastard needed; and even then, much of their aerial antics was thanks to Selvaris alone.

Not that she minded. (She’d once jumped off a cliff on the back of a tuk’ata, after all.)

And it was fortunate she didn’t; if Aver had been any more absorbed in the rush of the flight, she might’ve missed the tightness tugging at her bloodtrail.

Just as she turned around to scour the clouds for Quietus, her voice echoed through her skull. An urgency she’d never heard before tainted the words.

Her blood ran cold.

Her hand shot out, harnessing the Force that slumbered in her veins. Breath escaped her with the effort slowing Qui’s fall as Selvaris swept in, wings spread wide to catch the current.

Pain jolted through her shoulder as she grasped Qui by the hand. Aver ignored it and pulled her mate to safety as the bastard narrowly avoided the grasping branches of the tallest trees.

“Fethin’ hell, Des.” The merc exhaled a measured breath and eased back in the saddle. With a little urging, Selvie agreed to cut the trip short and return to the treehome.

Qui never stirred on the way back; even when the beastly pair landed on the canopy platform, the woman remained limp in her arms.

Aver frowned as she took in her lax features.

Triaging battlefield injuries? Easy, been there done that. But this? Whatever it was, the merc had no clue how to deal with it.

All it took to get Aver to carry you bridal style was, apparently, to faint.

Dramatically.
 

Quietus

Hunting Again
Writer
Sziva winged home after them, circling the trio with concern as they landed on the platform. The great blue beast finally came to rest in the giant boughs of the neighboring tree, a wilting screech calling after Aver and the limp form of Quietus as they disappeared into Treehome.

She remain unconscious in Aver's arms, breathing rasp and shallow. Her body had become cold and clammy to the touch and a strange, viscous fluid the color of deep ochre had begun to seep from her eyes, ears, nose and mouth. It smelled strange - like the remnants of an arcane ritual or the vapor of a body tainted by dark sorceries. Wasn't far from the truth.

No amount of effort on Aver's part would wake her. Nor, should she attempt, would Aver find access to her mind. Something was actively blocking her, but it wasn't Quietus.
 

Aver Brand

Mercicle
Character
Aver Brand wasn’t a creature made to worry.

Concern required she care in the first place, and her capacity for such encompassed but a scant few individuals in the whole wide galaxy. The helplessness mounted, alien and incomprehensible; it pressed against her sternum like the slow explosion of a grenade. Unwilling to see her ribs pried apart, she dealt with it the only way she knew how – compressed it into the white-hot point of anger.

On the second day, she did not hunt. (But burying herself elbow-deep in blood did not help.)

On the third day, she paced a circle into the wood, and then the grass. A certain amount of trust prevailed in the end; she did not leave.

Hours before the fourth dawn, Aver was already up and about. (Anywhere but there.) Never knew how to solve a problem where neither gun nor credit would suffice. Words were useless; Quietus was, at last, true to her name.

(Aver had looked up the meaning when they first met. The pervasive stench of rot had never bothered her as it did now.)

Sa Sevai bit off another splinter of the wood in her hand. The grass between her boots was littered with the evidence of her frustration – discarded figurines, some of them broken, others deformed by an ill-aimed swing of the blade.

And when had Aver ever missed a strike?

It was the roar of ship engines that brought her relief from the downward spiral. In a split second she was on her feet, Ygdris already folding back over her form.

Nothing like a killing to take the mind off death.
 

Ereza

Velaeri Mortaine
Character
The Baqani soared in on the rays of the rising sun, solar sails catching the golden light as it reflected off a hull of plated phrik. The ship shone brilliantly in the morning light, a marvel of unique design the likes of which had hardly been viewed across the galaxy. Engines thrumming to the tune of spooked beast calls, it did not land but hovered. Creeping slowly, as if sensing its way across the landscape, the ship finally came upon the rise of stone and clifface, marking the plateau upon which Quietus had made her home.

There, towards the southered edge, a single lone figure dropped from several hundred feet up. Had Aver not been wearing Ygdris at the time she might have noted the curious emergence in the Force - a monolith of power greater still than that of her mate now laying comatose in Treehome.

Ereza landed in a small alcove of trees, dropping to a stoop amidst wild ferns and ivy clinging to the surrounding wood. All manner of sound surrounding her had been swallowed up by the hum of the ship above and the gusting air given off by its presence. A cloak of dark evergreen remain wrapped around her shoulders, hood drawn to shadow her face. At her back a sword, at her side several weapons more. This was not a planet her late Matriarch had knowledge of, leaving her with little to go on but her gut and the flow of Lanu.

Desdemona was here, that much she could sense, and so she followed the pull of the woman's presence.
 

Aver Brand

Mercicle
Character
Her presence in the Force well and truly choked, Aver sank as a black smear into the patchwork quilt of the underbrush. She might’ve been blind to the currents of space magic, but her eyes – and technology – worked just fine.

Time spent with Des on Onderon and Thral had taught her many a secret of the hunt. Her new home was far more vicious still, and with a fancy ship like that, the merc doubted the intruder was truly prepared for what lurked in the depths of the jungle.

Aver bid her lightsaber into the hollow of her palm as she advanced towards the drop point of the new arrival. A shadow soon fell into step with her long stride, spines shifting along the rhythmical rise and fall of the withers.

Soon enough the twin stalkers melted into one, the both of them surprisingly quiet for their usual manner.

Her mate hunted in silence, after all.
 

Ereza

Velaeri Mortaine
Character
Though she moved not with the same quietude as the shadows that stalked her from all angles, the interloper did not seem to find much trouble in navigating this unruly territory. As she pressed onwards, following the trail of Desdemona's presence, her own permeated the jungle around her. Reaching out, an intangible network of senses crawling through every winding trail and path they could find.

It spread like a coiling snake, filtering through the reeds and hollows until it met with the one other sentient soul out here not presently hidden.

Shai stopped dead in her tracks, frozen mid-stride as the invisible essence infiltrated her mind.

...Show me where she is...
 

Aver Brand

Mercicle
Character
There came a jarring moment where Aver urged the beast forward, and the beast would not move.

She frowned. Glanced down. “Shai?”

Her words fell on deaf ears, so she peeled back the Vonduun glove and placed her open palm on her forehead. Decades of running together eased her entry into the mind of the hound, and Aver slipped inside steady as a stream of water.

Instead of the familiar hues of red, she was met with another foreign presence, at once ancient and vast. Moreso even than the mind of the woman who lay still and silent in the Nest.

Aver sneered at empty air, icy eyes closing as she prickled her mental spines at the intruder.

Who are you.
 

Ereza

Velaeri Mortaine
Character
There came an expression of calm curiosity within the shadow of the green hood, brow faintly raising at the sudden appearance of a third party to this private parley. A smile witheld, the woman paused in her own stride as the glaze of the ephemeral took her eyes. Distanced by the foreign minds, she steadied her corporeal form with a gloved hand upon a nearby treetrunk.

The jungle spoke her as much as the mind of the Sith inside the Tuk'ata; Mir'Raziya Al'Shaddai as she had quickly come to uncover. Curious, the nature of the Sith - Ereza offered it sympathy to the memories stolen away and found that she was not so sad for it. What memories now found in its mind were rich and fulfilling, telling her of the creature's relationship with the one she sought and ... this new entity...

A presence that was willfull, bold, and seething with pent up emotion. She brazenly reached across the new connection to learn more.

I am Ereza, I have come seeking... your mate.
 

Aver Brand

Mercicle
Character
For the brief lull in breath that followed, Ygdris Val might well have been a statue carved from phrik. Ice settled on her bones in the instant it took her to regain control of her limbs. Shackled rage coursed through her veins as she righted herself on the back of her beast.

Why was the resounding crack of a glacier.
 

Ereza

Velaeri Mortaine
Character
Shai began to move beneath Aver again, shifting to stalk a new direct route towards the source of the disembodied voice. Though the beast still moved rather quietly, it was not in the same silence as before.

Because the Shamalain Matriarch has died.

The tuk'ata hound cleared a thicket of ferns, pushing through hanging vines and low, tangled branches. When the foliage cleared the pair found a woman standing on their path, heterochromic eyes glowing balefully within the shade of her hood.

"Desdemona needs my help."
 

Aver Brand

Mercicle
Character
Even without the hindrance of her armor, Aver could never hope to vie for control of the beast with… whatever Ereza was. There were precious few fields of battle where she fell woefully short, but the intricacies of mental warfare had always eluded her.

She didn’t waste the energy on the effort.

Baleful glow or not, its effect was somewhat diminished when Aver peeled out of the shadow wreathed by Vonduun spikes. Dhaladii reared towards the intruder, tethered to her seething companion as she was.

The merc removed her hand from Shai’s skull; the claws of Ygdris folded back over silver skin.

Shamalain meant nothing; Desdemona meant…

“If you harm her, I will kill you.”
 

Ereza

Velaeri Mortaine
Character
The woman's head canted to the side as she took in the sight of Aver breeching the wilderness wall. As if looking upon yet another curious creature of this galaxy she'd never seen before, the crab armor had certainly caught her attention. Part of her recognized it for what it was - Vong technology, highly advanced and unique - the other part silently marveled at it.

Garhall had nothing quite so ... alive as this where armor was concerned.

Ereza lifted her hands in a gesture of no-harm-meant, "I would not dream of harming the new Matriarch."

Shai turned then without another word between the women and began heading back through the jungle, leading the way to Treehome.
 

Aver Brand

Mercicle
Character
“The Matriarch,” Aver echoed, hollow. Was that supposed to mean something? Sure sounded like it.

“Listen.” The merc wrenched out the words like they were poison; still, there were greater things at stake than pride (what little she maintained of it).

“If you’re actually gonna help, get up here.” Not like the schutta wasn’t driving already. “We’ll get there faster.”

Force knew Aver couldn’t wait for this witchcraft shetshow to be over. She’d bet ten thousand large it would require some kinda blood ritual, too. It always did.
 

Ereza

Velaeri Mortaine
Character
Gold and ice glanced over the retreating form of armored Mercenary sitting atop the swaying back of the hound, giving the spikes of voduun crab clear consideration. Ereza moved to follow at pace, maintaining a healthy distance back.

"I can keep up."

At this, Shai moved into a rolling lope, the woman picked up the pace to follow. She was not the least bit winded when they arrived at Treehome, though sweat saturated her clothing all the same despite the cooler weather. Cool was arbitrary - cool on Thral was still measurably hot everywhere else.

"She is lucky that you were here when it happened," Ereza spoke as she pulled the hood from her head and cloak from her shoulders, "I imagine this planet would have attempted to devour her were you not."

The woman's voice was heavy with an accent that Aver would likely not recognize and spoken with a level calm for someone standing on Thral for the first time in their life.
 

Aver Brand

Mercicle
Character
Her hand lingered on Puppy a beat longer than necessary as she dismounted – a silent apology for the intrusion.

She turned to the woman without a word, and led the way to the ladder. “Up.”

What use was there in acknowledging the alternative described by Ereza? It was a pointless exercise that would wrench her gut into knots, were it not taken to frost along with the rest of her being.

The walk to the Nest seemed longer than usual (the usual being a smirking Aver following a smirking Quietus). When they finally arrived, her mind was completely blank, and her hand wrapped firmly around her Vongsaber.

Ygdris Val did not hate; but she hated this.
 

Ereza

Velaeri Mortaine
Character
Quietus lay on her side, pillow stained by the flow of ochre. The nest stank of rotten occult powers, a sign that Ereza took for Silencia's curse being well and truly nullified much like she had found Merovign on Lorrd. His case had been slightly different - where physically the curse effected him less, his mother's powers had left behind far more residue on his mind.

An entire lifetime of memory locked away from him, only to be released upon his awakening.

Judging by the stain along the sides of Desdemona's head from where the ochre had leaked from her ears ... there had been some tampering on her mind as well. Ereza breathed deeply as she strode past the hulking form of Aver Brand, coming to stand at the circular bedding just behind where Quietus' head lay. She lowered herself to her knees, hands moving to rest lightly on her thighs.

For several minutes she simply sat there, eyes closed, quietly breathing.

The foul smell grew stronger as a new bout of ochre began to seep. Quietus stirred.

Ereza began to murmur words in an unknown language under her breath.
 

Quietus

Hunting Again
Writer
She woke with a start, eyes flaring open to give no relief of sight. A black glaze cast over the green, obscuring her vision and burning painfully. But her eyes were not the only thing in pain - her entire head felt as thought it were in a vice and someone was turning the lever, squeezing it slowly.

For the first time in her waking life, Quietus let out an audible sound of pain.

It was rasp, hoarse, and sputtering over a well of what tasted like foul blood, but it was the sound of a voice that had never been used in well over five hundred years.

Quietus pushed her hands beneath her, coughing as she sat up, blackened eyes passing blindly around the nest.

Aver....

Ereza's words grew stronger, louder. Qui lifted a hand to her head and winced in pain, immediately feeling the surge of dark matter ooze from ears and nostrils, flooding her mouth, seeping into her eyes.

Ygdris?
 

Aver Brand

Mercicle
Character
Qui made a sound.

They weren’t in the Dreamsphere.

(Unless the past four days had been a seriously fucked up trip.)

Aver knew what would happen the second she bid her armor peel back. She heard the faint echo of her name reverberate through her chest, along her ribs; knew that the sorcery thrashing through her mate would seep into her just the same.

And this stranger would bear witness to all of it. A bond so deeply intimate to Aver that but one other being in the whole wide galaxy knew of it.

Sharp features twisted into a sneer as she fought with herself between measured breaths. Ever since she was old enough to hold a knife, to wield a gun, Ygdris had always taken what she wanted. No-one denied her anything; not her pride, not her fears, and certainly not herself.

A Vong curse fell from her lips as the Vonduun unfolded, and the distance between them evaporated. The merc ignored the slight tremble in her hand as she steadied her stumbling mate. Jaw set, icy eyes screwed shut—


Aver offered no words of comfort; simply the cool refuge of an ancient forest, rooted so deep that it rivaled an immovable rock.
 

Quietus

Hunting Again
Writer
Neither of them had ever been much for affection in view of others - each for their own reasons. It worked well, all things considered, though it wasn't as if they had been around others while together very often. The gala had been an absurd exception to normal in their relationship and neither of them had expressed desire in repeating it.

So the hand that pressed against her cold skin was both welcome and surprising. Quietus had only sought to find her mate, hear a spoken word to know she was there. The vong armor had hidden Aver away and with her other senses currently dulled by arcane power, Quietus had awoken in an extreme state of disorientation.

Black eyes lifted to where Aver's face would have been, her own hand grasping firmly back. It was enough to know she was there.

In the background Ereza's words shifted, resulting in an overwhelming sensation of pressure in her head. Eyes screwing shut, fangs grit in pain, Quietus thought she felt her brain melting within her very skull. The yell that escaped through clenched teeth was very real. The blood in her veins suddenly surged hot again, pumped at speed by her pounding heart, rushing through her chest and into her skull, seemingly flushing the built up pressure from her mind.

When Ereza stopped speaking the pain began to ebb and Quietus was left feeling as though she'd just done battle with the Pattern on Onderon - an experience that had left her in a state of exhaustion for nearly a week.

"It is done," Ereza said calmly, rising to stand, "rest now, we must speak later, Masenre Dionea."

Without another word or even a backwards glance, the woman left through one of the Nest doorways, her steps fading as she left to the next level down.
 
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