Hi guys. Just to help give a little bit of context to what happened between Aren and Nath, here's the first part of the RP log that lead up to the events described in Natharai's and Arenvald's last journal entries. The flow isn't perfect because it's a slightly prettied up log, but if I wanted to completely fix it I'd have to rewrite. Everything. So, that being said, here it is.
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Another day, another hot early-summer afternoon. Aren has spent the better part of the day fussing over his tomatoes, but as the sun has gotten lower, he's lumbered back to the house to check on Natharai. Whether or not the warlock is aware of it, he's made a point of discreetly checking on him every couple hours or so as long as he's nearby. It gives him a much-needed break from his daily chores, and... well, since the 'book incident', he's felt compelled.
He rarely interferes, and in point of fact, may not even make his presence known if Natharai is busy doing something or another. He doesn't want him to necessarily be -aware- he's being observed and all, but as time goes on, his concern has deepened.
And so, he ambles back to the house onto the porch, peering in the window briefly to see if Nath is inside within easy view.
The warlock, for the most part, has been a bit of a homebody and continuing to take it easy ever since things quieted down on their new homestead. He has not done much today, save write a bit in that green book of his and see to the interior of the house being cleaned (floor swept, rugs beaten, surfaces dusted, and so on). As for where he keeps that journal of his... it is anyone's guess since Natharai takes precautions in trying to be discreet as possible regarding it. Ever since that day when he had that panic attack over it being 'lost', he knows Arenvald is curious about it...and he can't afford to have him know about it–Not yet, at least. However, it does not seem that he keeps it hidden in his study, the living room, or bedroom...but he is usually seen with it in the first two places previously mentioned.
Currently he sits upon the couch in the sitting area of the living room, head tilted up towards the ceiling as an opened book rests on his lap–a novel, from the looks of it. He does not look particularly distressed, far from it really, and just more...spaced out.
Aren frowns vaguely. Hn. That's...odd. Natharai hasn't demonstrated a particular propensity toward daydreaming. He moves silently away from the window, but makes no particular effort to hide his bootsteps up to the door, pushing it open as he pulls his now-habitual towel off his head and drapes it over his shoulder.
"Oi, Natharai," he rumbles, casually smiling at him on his way to the sink. "Thinkin' about 'avin' a nap?" If the warlock is paying any attention, he's likely to tip to the fact that Aren's watching -him- keenly to judge his reaction.
Though it is a good thing that Natharai is hardly paying -any- attention at all to this otherwise obvious fact that Aren's watching him a little too closely... With a startled blink and a mindless 'wuh?', he looks up at the highlander vacantly for a brief period of time while the wheels in his head start turning back to a functional speed (one could likely hear the whirring if you leaned in close enough). "...Ah. No, I just was elsewhere for a moment," he murmurs while rubbing at his eyes, lightly knocking his reader glasses up towards his forehead. "How are things coming in the garden?" A pause follows as his glasses fall back down, crookedly, onto the bridge of his nose. "Do you need help?"
Aren rumbles quietly, wordless for a moment, but shakes his head. ".... Nar, s'gettin' dark," he eventually adds. "Well, will be before too long. Not much else 'ta do out there. Damn squirrels're gettin' th' young tomatoes, but I can't see ye chasin' 'em aroun' lightin' em on fire, so... wouldn't worry 'bout it."
He heads for the sink to wash up. "Wot'che readin'?" It's a casual, offhand question, but... it's one more thing to watch. Is he going to have to look at it to remember what it was?
The comment about setting squirrels on fire earns a faint snort and a lopsided smirk from the warlock. "Chase them...? You must think me as terrible with my fire magic as I am with fist fighting." Which he is pretty terrible at, but he is getting better! "I will be sure to fricassee any wayward critter accosting your tomatoes then..."
However, the reply towards his reading content, thankfully, comes quickly. "Ah," he says with a somewhat pleased lilt to his otherwise casual tone. "It is just a collection of poetry I fancied a couple years ago... I am simply revisiting some of my favorites." He doesn't seem suspicious about the question, being he takes it as just harmless small talk. No shame in being curious in the other's activities and all.
And to some degree it was small talk – It just had an ulterior motive, and one that is satisfied by the smooth response. "A'right. Never was much one 'fer poetry," he rumbles with a lopsided smirk in response to the warlock's amused expression. Gee, THERE'S a big shock.
"S'good 'ta go back an' reread things sometimes, though." He dries his hands off, leaning against the counter. "So. Got anythin' planned for this evening? Could make a nice dinner..." He pauses, then eyes the hearth. "Better go out an' cut s'more wood though, 'fore it gets totally dark." He's been letting the piles get down to sticks lately since they haven't needed it for heating.
Natharai arches his back as he sits up, idly popping a few stiff joints before rubbing gently at the small of it. "Mm... Not exactly, however I was considering on taking a walk and get a bit of air. I have been indoors most of the day and I should go say goodnight to the sun." Another small smirk is offered as he sets the book down upon the coffee table, standing up. "I hope you do not mind, but I should be back in time to help with dinner."
Aren nods amiably. "S'a good evenin' fer it too," he opines, "Mosquitoes ain't bad yet." And he hasn't seen a bandit in a few weeks, so he doesn't worry about the warlock stumbling into an ambush or the like.
He moves over to steal a kiss lightly when the other man moves toward him and for the door. "An' I appreciate it. Th' help that is." That said, he waits for Natharai to pass by and out the door before following him, pulling the door closed behind them.
Aren pauses on the step, watching the warlock make his way down the steps and off across the grass. His eyes narrow slightly, though not in anger or suspicion, merely thoughtfulness. Hnn. Well, a walk should do him some good, if nothing else.
Once he's out of sight in the trees, Aren makes his own way down the steps and around the side of the house to the stump he uses for a chopping block, unlimbering the axe and letting 'nature' take its course. It's much easier to swing an axe in his now-'natural' state, after all.... and it means he can keep an ear out. Paranoid wolf... is paranoid, dagnabbit. But it's -justified-.
Though Aren was right... It is a good evening for a stroll, the cooling air that is ushered along with the gentle coastal breeze is just balmy enough to be pleasant without being sticky. The setting sun hangs heavily in the sky, tinting the clouds brilliant shades of gold, orange, and red while the dimming light illuminates the wings of gnats flitting above in ever-shifting plumes. At first, the warlock does not seem to have much of a destination in mind, but eventually settles on the barely worn footpath that leads down to the river.
Eventually he reaches the northern shore of the winding river that splits pastoral Elwynn Forest from its polar opposite, Duskwood, and begins searching for river rocks to skip across. He finds skipping rocks to be kind of silly, but it is satisfying in its simplicity to see just how many times you can make a stone jump (His personal best is thirteen times). Bit by bit, he plucks up suitable subjects and cradles them in his left palm, quietly humming a folk tune all the while. Now...while Natharai does not sing, hum, or whistle much (if at all) around others, he certainly enjoys doing so when he thinks he's alone.
Out flies a rock across the amber-lit water... Skip. Skip. Skip. Skip... And then another.
Up by the house, long, tufted ears flick at a distant sound carried on the breeze. For a moment, the swing of the axe halts, and a dark nose turns toward the river while he listens. The humming is all but inaudible, even to lupine ears, but for a moment, Aren listens to the distant 'splik splik splik' of the skipping stones before identifying it for what it is.
His ears flick idly, but he smiles faintly to himself before going back to chopping wood. The warlock can probably hear the sound in the distance, the faint, repetitive 'chunk' of the axe as it hits home. Aren is engaged in his own thinking. He has no idea what Campion's been up to.... but it's not going fast enough for his preferences. Letters haven't gotten any useful response so far... so maybe it's time he goes up there and does some cage-rattling in person. He can probably get a portal. Grrf.
After a good while of pitching eight or so aerodynamically-sound river rocks, the warlock soon finds himself out of ammo. Well...good thing that there is plenty around! That is the thing about skipping rocks...it's hard to just stop at one handful sometimes. So the spindly dark-skinned man sets off in this task and, once again, starts scuffing stones around with the toes of his shoes to find just the perfect ballistic candidate–which he finds multiples of...and a bonus prize.
Once enough river stones are scooted around, Natharai catches a glimpse of a damp arc of white nestled beneath the layer. What's this...? He stoops down to carefully pluck up the object between two fingers before standing once again, studying his new find. ...Hm. A bone...a rib, to be exact. Now, being he is what he is and knows what he knows...Natharai is no stranger to the physical anatomy of various humanoids that make up this planet. Judging from the size, curvature, and thickness...this is likely from an unfortunate human male. And judging from the troughs dug out by pointed teeth, he was more than just unfortunate.
While the former owner of this rib bone might have suffered a terrible fate... Natharai was quick to dismiss it as just that. There are bandits, wolves, bears, and the occasional stray worgen from across the river or orcish scout from Redridge and the Blasted Lands. Elwynn, in all its beauty and serenity, is not exactly safe and sound. With a haphazard toss into the shallows of the river, the bone sinks out of sight as he carries on down the path in search for more skipping rocks. Out of sight, out of mind, and all that...
At least that was true until he happened upon a few sun-bleached sections of phalanges lying before him... Okay, finding a stray rib can be written off as chance, but finding one...two...three fingerbones soon afterward was suspicious. Was the whole skeleton of this poor soul around here somewhere?
With a solid clatter of falling rock, the skipping stones were soon forgotten as Natharai picks up the detached finger segments and begins jostling them around upon his palm like oddly shaped dice. While this poor soul could have died any number of ways and his bones were picked clean by wolves and carrion feeders, he does not find the harm in doing a bit of searching of his own. One primary teaching that is shared among all shadowcasters is that if a creature, be it beast or mortal, suffers a traumatic death a 'haze' of negative energy lingers about its remained–steeped in the misery and anguish of its departing (or in some cases, still remaining) soul...all of which have a specific signature. All souls are like fingerprints...every one of them are different.
And after a few moments of quiet concentration...the different pieces of this skeleton begin revealing themselves to him, one by one, and cause him to furrow his brow at the realization. They are, mostly, in the river...in one spot, save a few pieces that were likely knocked free by feeding fish and rough current. Okay, so this paints a different picture... Either this person drown and remnants were gnawed upon by creatures who happened upon them on the shore. Or it was a murder...the person's remains dumped into the water to hide the evidence. The latter is not a far stretch considering that Elwynn has its fair share of bandits...however, there is just something about this whole situation that makes him think that it's not the work of bandits at all.
...Especially when focusing on that specific signature, down in the watery depths, makes him notice another one nearby...and another...and another. WIth each new aura he stumbles upon, the wider his eyes become. How many are down there...?! It reaches a point where he just stops counting and silently concludes on it being 'too many'. This wasn't a river... it was a murder's dumping ground – One that is practically in his own back yard! This is serious...if there is a killer this close to Aren and him, he needs to take a closer look, gather some bones, and perhaps attempt a scrying in his basement lab.
He takes the time to place the fingerbones upon the ground before removing his shoes, socks, and overshirt before wading into the cool river water in only his pants and undershirt. Soon, the warlock descends into the depths and casts a simple breath spell to let him stay under as long as he needs. Sure, he can't see very well due to the light, but as long as he can sense where these bones are...he should be fine.
The bottom of the river is dark and quiet, full of thick reeds and fuzzy green muck, but it's cool and the current is not so strong as to pull the warlock downstream. This has probably had quite a bit to do with the bones he seeks not being washed down toward Westfall as one might have hoped. It does make the remains harder to find, as those fallen further out into the water have in most cases gained a thick coat of algae. Even with the help of spiritual senses guiding him in the proper direction, more than a few 'ribs' have proven to be waterlogged sticks, or 'skulls' proven to be water-worn stones.
But there's still an awful lot of faint echoes lingering in the dark waters, albeit 'incomplete' ones. Some of the bones found are splintered as if something had been seeking the marrow, and most bear the now-familiar gouges of fangs. None of them bear any flesh, though; the fish having long since gotten what scraps the original predator had missed. Nor does he find all the bones of any one skeleton, although of the ones he's found, they've all been human save for one thick gnoll skull that proved to be too heavy for the current to roll away. By the time he's canvassed the riverbottom for the better part of a quarter mile up and downstream, the tally is up to a dozen... bakers, if you count the gnoll.
Even with his panicked 'misses', doing a full canvas to where he feels that he located, and inspected, as many bones as he could find took a great deal of time... The sun was long gone, cloaking the forest in the ever-dimming rays of light until only the moon and stars remained. He was not back in time to help with dinner as he initially mentioned, which, no doubt, certainly worried a certain worgen back at home. It was one thing to find gnawed bones on the bank of the river, but to find them at the bottom of it was another. This wasn't the work of the creatures across the river, nor was it bandit or forest beast. Gnolls have been known to eat humans, but they wouldn't dump them in the river... Hell, they would make crude utensils, tools, and jewelry out of them if given the chance!
No... this was an act of guilt and/or fear. This beast that ended the lives of those who now lie at the bottom of the river had a conscience. So...either there is something out in Elwynn that he doesn't know about or... But as the saying goes, the answer usually lies in plain sight.
He has seen how he acts during the hunt, how territorial he was of their plot of land when the house was still being built... It does not take a far leap in imagination to figure that these bones, gnoll excluded, belonged to some of the local forest bandits that wandered a little too close to the den of the wolf. A realization that chilled Natharai to the core, which would be bemusing to him, on any other day, since he is not exactly a stranger to taking lives himself. ...But never like this.
Aren was a man-eater. This idea, now fact, in Nath's mind kept repeating over and over in his mind until it got to the point where he simply ended up sitting upon the river floor, clutching a well-gnawed femur tightly in his hands.
The wolf in question is indeed worried, as the sun fades and the wood has been brought in, and there's still no sign of Natharai. At first he occupied himself with puttering around the living room and tidying. He looked at Natharai's poetry book briefly, then went back to puttering. In time, puttering turns to pacing... what if something happened? No. The warlock could certainly handle himself against the minor threats of the forest. Couldn't he? But what if something happened. What if... but he knows Natharai hates being shepherded. But. But.
Pace, pace, pace, first on two legs, then eventually on four, long claws scraping the polished wood of the house as he makes the transit from the back stairs to the kitchen and back again like a caged animal. Eventually, however, he can't stand it anymore. Screw Natharai's propriety, he's going to go look and that's the end of it. Shoving the door open roughly, he lopes down the steps and sets off into the woods in the direction of the river.
The trail is several hours old, but the scent is intimately familiar and he at least knows where to look. It's also not that far to the water's edge. He finds the spot where the warlock was skipping stones, and spends a moment nosing around the churned mud. The scent gets muddled the more the bank is stirred up, but he manages to follow it further down... where he encounters a heap of discarded clothing...which is worrying... and a pile of old and unpleasantly familiar bones. He looks out over the silently rippling surface of the river, black in the darkness... but at least for the moment, just hunkers down on the muddy bank near Natharai's clothing.
He sits there in a shaggy lump on the bank, scarlet eyes gleaming dimly in the shadows, and stews. He should have thrown them farther away, he could've dropped them down the well outside the Lamb, for all that. Or in the harbor. He curses himself for his stupidity, but... it wasn't a decision he spent much time thinking of at the time, of course. Just 'get rid of them'. But that doesn't mean that now, in retrospect, he isn't hating himself.
There is no sign of Natharai whatsoever aside from the remnants that Aren just now happened upon...and it would continue to be that way for a while longer–nearly twenty minutes, to be semi-precise. Eventually there is some distant shimmering of movement and a flash of white, the fabric of Nath's undershirt, that catches the moonlight as he resurfaces. Completely soaked to the bone, the warlock wordlessly trudges out into the shallows with an ominous, seething, weight in his demeanor...
Arenvald doesn't stir when Natharai finally comes trudging up out of the soggy depths, aside from lowering his head subtly and splaying his ears a little to the sides. There's no attempt to make excuses for any of it, or run, though there's a part of him that wants to flee into the woods and not come back. He just crouches there, also without saying a word, gazing somewhat fixedly at the warlock's knees. It's not like there's anything he -could- say that would probably help, anyway.
At this point, Natharai isn't sure if he finds his silence a wise decision or to be absolutely infuriating. There is so much he wants to say to him right now...so many things he wants to ask. Though no matter how much he knows he wants to hear Arenvald's explanation, it would be highly unlikely he would actually listen to him since he is in such a terrible state. The fury and hurt he feels over this continues to well up inside him, eating at his insides like acid. His throat becomes dry, jaw clenching, heart racing... All of which happen as he has that same fang-shattered femur clenched in one hand with a vice's grip.
What made this sting even worse was that he defended Aren when Campion was giving him the third degree about him hiding a man-eating monster. He knew Aren would never devour another human... While he is not exactly one anymore, he was for almost forty years. He couldn't do it... Right? But he did... And now the warlock feels like his heart is in his feet as he unblinkingly stares down at Aren from the corners of his eyes, wet strands of black hair clinging gracelessly to his face.
Aren of course has no idea of this, since Natharai never mentioned it to him. If he had, it's -possible- (although not likely) that he might have admitted it prior. But be that as it may, that's not how things have gone, and now he doesn't know what to do. He could tell him that it's been well over a month since the last body was thrown in the river. He could try to explain... but the damage is done, and, he reflects, the warlock may well never trust him again. ...Understandably.
He does manage a quiet sigh, though it turns unbidden into a faint whine, still staring fixedly downward. It's not like he can exactly -explain- the red hunting-rage to the warlock, it's just something he's had to learn to deal with on his own.... for better or worse.
The tableaux is allowed to go undisturbed for what seems like forever, with only the night sounds of the forest to break the silence, but in time, it's the worgen that breaks it at last, his voice a barely audible, gravelly growl.
"M' not going to 'pologize," he rasps softly, "'cause it won't change anythin'. I know ye think I'm a monster, an' I was a fool t'try an' hide it from ye." The red embers of his eyes dim slightly as he half closes them, long claws digging into the wet soil he crouches on. Eventually, though, he does move... if only to settle further to the ground and roll over slightly. It is, should the warlock be able to see in the dimness, enough to bare his throat in a submission posture, a silent statement to do what he feels necessary.
If Natharai was actually capable of thinking rationally right now, then he would likely not be one to judge. While the thought of Aren eating humans disturbs him -immensely- on a visceral level, he is no saint...and he knows it. He also knows that Arenvald, too, finds a great many thing that Natharai does to be creepy or distasteful – Monstrous to others. In a perfect world, all of this reasonable knowledge would be available to him and he would, in turn, rationalize what took place and what to do. Alas, it is no such thing...
With a tightening of his hand, the algae-covered femur suddenly breaks into 'black dust' with a very audible series of cracks, much like splintering ice on a pond, and disappears into the air as the tainted particulate floats downward. His head finally tilts to look down at him fully, though no words are offered... Not yet, at least. By every right, he should agree to Arenvald's silent suggestion and strike him down like the beast he is...
Yet no hand strikes out at the submissive wolfman, nor any hateful spell... Only a piercing silence and fixated stare, accompanied by an iron-clad mask of emotional impassiveness, was given as a reply.
Eventually his silence is broken with one of the most cold-hearted, heartless, drones he has likely ever used at Arenvald directly. "...Go home."
And honestly, judging from the warlock's stare, Arenvald would've expected death – Or at the very least to be driven away. Surely, he isn't wanted anymore after this...
The command to return home is actually sort of confusing, in that light, and those dim scarlet eyes flick open to look up at his lover for a moment. But only for a moment, quickly returning to the ground as he rolls over and drags himself back up into a crouch to slink back up the hill toward the house. He doesn't even bother trying to paste any human expression on the process either; it's entirely 'beaten dog', hunched shoulders, lowered head, flattened ears. Once he's partway up the hill, he breaks into a lope, vanishing into the brush.
Though Natharai does not return home for a very long time, to the point where it might have seemed that he wouldn't come home at all. Instead he remained at the river, rooted in his spot as he wordlessly watches Arenvald retreat, before once again returning to the watery depths... He is cold and waterlogged, though he intends to fix Aren's mistakes right here and now, as best as he could, anyway. Normally he would not care at all if the bones lie down in a watery grave...if it wasn't for the fact that there are boats that come by once in a blue moon with a dragnet. While the Footmen do such a thing if there is reason to, most of them are 'treasure hunters' that seek any lost valuables that might have been on a dead body or, perhaps, jettisoned cargo from local bandits... And it might seem really peculiar to have so many skeletons in a relatively small area of water, doubly bad for Aren and him since their residence is closest to that area.
When Natharai reaches the house, though, the door is slightly ajar, but the brown-furred warrior isn't there. At least....inside. If he does a lot of searching, though, (or perhaps just has a hunch given how Aren is acting), he will find a couple of dull red coals burning under the porch. House is for people.
Though he does not look for Arenvald... While he knows he is around, somewhere, the warlock instead skulks into the house with wet footsteps, up the stairs, and remains in their bedroom for several minutes. He then reemerges downstairs with a small satchel slung over his shoulder, clothing changed, and wet hair pulled back in a ponytail. The soles of his boots clip-clop down the wooden steps, over the unseen wolfman, as Natharai heads down the winding way that leads out to the main road. No words, or backwards glances, are offered as he disappears into the night.
He needs time away to think, to reassess, and he cannot do it here... And so, Arenvald is left by his lonesome as he watches him go from his hiding place, but without saying a word, or even alerting him to his presence. Nor does he as he watches him cross the field and head back to the road. As he makes his way down the main road, however, there's at least something to accompany him as he departs.
A worgen's howl is a terrible thing by nature, but the one that carries past the shadowy trees is worse. To the discerning ear, it's not laced with the usual hunger or rage, but is more a wail of heart-wrenching pain loud enough to still the forest night-birds and probably wake the closest neighbors. It lasts for some time before dying away, but is not repeated, at least, as the spindly warlock continues in his flight from their once safe and warm home.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -((Cross-posted from http://wyrmrestaccord.net/content/night-r