Movements in the Dark

A place for the stories that take place within Rhy'Din
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Black Knives
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Movements in the Dark

Post by Black Knives »

October 19th
Somewhere in Old Market


Two figures strolled through the streets, a man and a woman, hand in hand. Walking along the mail road, they came to a shuttered storefront set below a number of residences on the upper two floors. The pair turned down the side street and stopped at a door that opened upon a stairwell leading to the apartments above, looking for all the world like a married couple coming home after a day at the Marketplace. They were utterly unremarkable, with no particular distinguishing features to spark later recognition. They could have been anyone.

That was just how they wanted it.

Once inside, their pleasant demeanor shifted, subtly but definitely. Walking down a short hall, they entered a large sitting area where others were gathered, lounging in chairs and couches. One of the loungers looked up. "Any word, 'Lara?"

The woman who had just arrived smiled, her lips curving wickedly. "Our lord says that we are free to take the first steps. Our prey has grown comfortable, relaxed, and distracted by other concerns. The city is preparing for its annual celebration of all things frightful and terrible, and so they forget that sometimes, there are things that stalk the darkness."

Another of those gathered sneered, his mouth a cruel smirk. "We'll remind the mongrel kind of that, you can be sure." He looked at the woman. "What of your pretty boy?"

"Oh, I'll be reintroducing myself to him soon enough. We shall have such fun!"
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Black Knives
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Re: Movements in the Dark

Post by Black Knives »

((Warning: somewhat detailed description of crime scene below))


October 20th
Just west of the Marketplace


As the sun rose through the morning sky towards its midday peak, officers of the Watch stood guard outside an elven leatherworker's shop known for its soft, flexible hides and intricate detail work. The door stood open, and one of its hinges had come loose while the lock had been torn from the frame. It was clear that someone had forced entry into the shop during the night.

Inside the main shop, the scene was chaos.

Leatherwork was strewn across the floor, shredded and scrored into useless scrap, while display cases lay in pieces with shards of wood and glass everywhere. The storage rooms and workroom in back were similarly tossed, the tools of the shopkeep's trade ruined beyond repair. One of the Watch officers examining the scene shook his head sadly. "Someone was out to completely ruin this guy's livelihood."

"They did more than that," replied another Watchman, coming down the stairs from the second floor living quarters. "You don't want to see what they did to him and his family."

In the main bedroom, the elf and his human wife had been propped up on the settee. arms across each other's shoulders. They were gutted and their throats were slit; blood soaked their nightclothes and stained the wooden floor in front of them. Worse, though, were the two children in the next room. They had been skinned, and the wide-eyed agony in their bloodied faces implied that they were alive while it happened. The empty skins were nailed to the wall. Between them, written in what was probably the children's own blood, were the words "Mongrels Die!"
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Black Knives
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Re: Movements in the Dark

Post by Black Knives »

November 2nd
Old Temple, near the border of Dockside


The trio of orcish toughs stumbled homewards down an alley after a particularly rowdy evening. Their heads swam with strong drink and lusty wenches, and they sang in the loud and slurred manner of drunkards everywhere. At the moment, one of them was finishing off a verse. "They come runnin' at the pop of a cork..."

His two companions joined in then. "'Cause every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed orc!"

The song broke down into raucous laughter, heedless of the sleeping townsfolk all around them. The one in the middle, who had been singing the prior verse, clapped his comrades on the back and looked ahead, then pointed. "'Ey, d'you see somethin' movin' ahead?"

"Ayuh," replied one of the others. "Ya think it was one o' them beasties tha 'Unters Guild is payin' bounties on?"

"Mebbe we kin bag it!" The third orc rubbed his hands together in gleeful anticipation. His glee fell flat seconds later, however, when the figure stepped out into the dim moonlight, revealed as a far less challenging foe. "Ah, 's just a scrawny human! Go home, little human!" All three orcs advanced on the human, planning to have a little harmless fun.

Then something unseen yanked the middle orc's feet out from under him, sending him sprawling. His compatriots turned to help him stand, and at that moment the cobblestones beneath them simply... detonated. There was no burst of flame or smoke, simply a loud crack followed by an eruption of stones upwards, like a geyser. All three orcs collapsed to the ground, reeling from the shockwave, as other figures emerged from the shadows, cloaked in black, a half-dozen in all surrounding them. The first of the orcs, largest among the trio, climbed to his feet and drew a particularly nasty long knife. "I'm gonna gut all o'y-"

Without warning, the blade flew from his grasp, hung in the air for a moment, then flashed back in front of him. The orc blinked, then blinked again, oddly wondering why his chest suddenly felt warm and wet. He raised a hand to his throat and pulled it away, staring at the dark red blood, almost black in the moonlight, that trickled down his fingers. Then his legs gave out and he sank to the street. His companion who had so recently mocked the 'scrawny human' didn't even make it to his feet before a pair of heavy stones flew at his head from either side. His death was accompanied by the crunch of bone and the squelching sound of crushed flesh.

His friends dead, and half of his face bloodied and swollen from the explosion, the last orc stared at his attackers, jaw agape. "W-why?" he croaked.

One of the black-cloaked assailants stepped forward, drawing a slim black knife. "Because you exist." He casually tossed the blade into the air, and it froze, then flew towards the last surviving orc. His final sight was that blade coming straight towards his eye, and then his scream was suddenly cut very short.

__________

The next morning

Early risers on a Sunday morning found the scene, and called the Watch. There was no trace of who or what had attacked the three orcs, but it was clearly not an unthinking beast. On the wall, written in blood, was a brutal, three-word warning. "Gutter Races Bleed!"
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Black Knives
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Re: Movements in the Dark

Post by Black Knives »

Some evil is unbridled, flaring again and again only to burn out and rise anew. Some is patient, biding its time for the right moment. Yet even such must find release now and again.


October 12, 2021

Along a quiet side street at the outer edge of Old Market, there lived an elven crafter of fine leathers, along with her husband, who ran the register, and their two children, the older of which was learning the family trade.

They no longer live there.

Oh, their bodies remain, but life? No. That seeped into the floorboards and dripped in red streaks down the walls. The family had been arranged at the dinner table, heads lolling back while unseeing eyes stared wide at the ceiling.

No one was about as the front door opened and first one, then two more black-cloaked figured slipped furtively into the night. The last of them turned to look at the scene behind him, spat on the floor, then flashed a vile grin and was gone.
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Re: Movements in the Dark

Post by Black Knives »

December 10, 2021

Somewhere in Dockside

A cloaked figure moved quietly, stealthily through the dark street, turning into an alley to pause a moment. Furtive glances from beneath the shadows of his hood discerned nobody close by, and so the figure moved to a nondescript door and gently rapped upon it. "It's me. Open." The door creaked open, and dim light fell upon the cobblestones of the alley for a moment. Then the figure slipped inside, the door closed, and all was dark once more. There were several men and women gathered within as the new arrival lowered her hood. "The challenge is done. Burke lost."

"Well, now we don't have to concern ourselves with House Adia getting too involved with our operations here." The swarthy fellow who spoke toyed idly with a dagger as heads bobbed around the room, nodding in response to his words. "At least the Baron is more focused on them and on the two-bit gangs around here. Hell, we should thank him for clearing out the small fry."

"That's as may be," replied the woman with a tilt of her auburn-tressed head, "but the Underlord doesn't want you lot getting careless. Dockside's in the spotlight right now."

Another brigand spoke up. "Aye, and the scarred bitch was looking to challenge as well."

The woman pointed towards him. "Exactly. With luck, this Baron will stay in place a while longer, spending his energies on the wrong targets. Even so, play it cool, or next time he sends someone to visit, it won't be me. It'll be the Fist. Or the Hand." That pronouncement silenced the gathering, evoking a wicked smile from her as she took a seat like a queen holding court. "Now then, on to other business."
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Re: Movements in the Dark

Post by Black Knives »

January 29, 2022 - late evening

Dockside

"Watch facilities across the city have been struck, my lord." Several men and women in black gathered around a table, looking to a black-cloaked figure sitting at its head. "Was this your doing?"

The cloaked figure leaned back in his chair, regarding the others coldly from the shadows of his hood. "No, but that doesn't mean we can't take advantage of it."

All of those gathered around smiled. Wicked, cruel smiles. "The word?" asked one.

"Is given. Sow chaos this night."

# # # # #

Across the city, from hidden dens and safehouses, parties of men and women dressed in black emerged, moving down alleys and across rooftops. Their aim? Chaos and terror. Their methods? Violence and bloody murder. Unlike times past, they left no calling cards, no messages in blood or symbols drawn upon walls. No, on this night they rode the wave of feat set off by another, striking fast and deadly, then moving on to the next target.

As the night went on, many were spied by Watch teams or other patrols. On such occasions, battle commenced, the ones in black expecting no mercy and showing none in return. Sometimes they escaped, sometimes they were slain, yet always at a bloody cost.

None allowed themselves to be captured alive.

Throughout the night they tore through sleeping homes and shuttered businesses, leaving broken lives and death in their wake. When dawn came, those who remained vanished back into their hiding places, waiting for the next moment to rise again.
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Anya de la Rose
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Re: Movements in the Dark

Post by Anya de la Rose »

((TW: Should mention there is violence. There is a lot of violence.))

The attacks on the Watch had emboldened the criminal elements in those districts where the offices were temporarily out of commission. Dockside in particular was working to reclaim its reputation as a center for active organizations. Hideouts that had been dark for months were throwing open shutters to conduct business openly.

A tenement building no one had paid to live in for some time had invited the roving crowds in on the night of the bombings. Since then, at least one table on the first floor, in a room that had once been a formal parlor, had hosted members of the Black Knives. When the sun set, more arrived. By nightfall fourteen of the crew had gathered, with more expected before midnight.

A straggler, cloaked head to toe in black as much to remain hidden as to protect himself from the cold, arrived alone. Those already drinking shouted greetings to their companion. He did not pause, moving instead to the kitchen where nothing was ever made. He unlatched the door back there. The noise of the heavy bar used to block it hitting the ground drew attention but no concern from those already gathered.

"Getting ready for a delivery," the man explained to the others gathered. When he sat to join them in the dim light of the lanterns set in the center of each table, he turned vacant eyes to the front door.

A man sitting back in the chair with his feet on a ragged and mildewed table sucked his teeth as he watched the straggler enter, then looked back to his cards as he chewed on the toothpick in the corner of his mouth. His mask and his hat were pulled off long ago, and the coat he wore was draped over the creaking chair he bravely had on two legs.

"Whatever, man..." he started, tossing down a few cards onto the table. "Someone go watch that fuckin' door!"

A few of the dark-clad figures looked at each other. None of them really wanted to stop what they were doing, and finally a younger member was shoved off, moping as he went.

"Have some fun, they said. Make a little chaos. Do whatever the fuck. Fuckin' bullshit, is what it is." He mumbled all the way to the door. He leaned against it to peek outside, but saw nothing yet. And he even looked on both sides, just to make sure. He gave a groaning sigh and let the door shut with a bang, then crossed his arms and thumped his back against the wall next to the door to pout like a real man, glowering as he watched the game from afar.

At the table, there was laughter again as the card game went on, and Mr. Toothpick was eyeballing another player suspiciously. That guy had to be cheating. Had to be. Had to keep an eye on him. There was three hundred bucks and a diamond necklace snatched off some broad that he could pawn on the line.

Among the drinkers and the card players who were mostly the same, there were also the nervous and vigilant, who did not always overlap. In the shadow of their hoods kept drawn, like helmets, they chewed lips or nails. Heads turned and eyes darted from window to door as the latest arrival passed by and slipped inside. Recognized as one of their own if not by face then by collective greeting, relative ease rippled in the wake of tension.

One pair of eyes followed the unlocking of the back door and Mr. Toothpick’s orders to cover it. Curious that Dead Eyes hadn’t manned it himself. The woman the eyes belonged to straightened from her lean by the window and sauntered along the perimeter of the room to give her feet something to do.

“It was too bold.”
“Shh. It was just right.”
“They never found her head! Someone is hunt–”
“You gotta shut the fuck up, seriously.”

Concern was muttered and hushed under the laughter of the card players, but she heard. The shock of anxiety among their ranks after an Old Market satellite and all the members within were gutted had not yet faded. More pressing in their current location was the lurking terror picking off strangers to the area.

Upstairs, a clumsy series of thunks and thuds signaled something’s tumbling fall. What sounded like many feet scrambled from one side of the room to the other.

All eyes turned to the ceiling.

“With me,” the woman told the more level-headed of the closest two as she made her way toward the rickety stairs. “You,” is how she addressed the nervous Nellie, and pointed gloved fingers at her eyes, then the window.

A viciously curved blade was pulled from a scabbard strapped to her thigh with a cold hiss before she took the first step. By the third, the raucous crash of an unfurling fire escape shattered the silence.

The lookout at the window gained himself a companion. The man with the dead eyes stood next to him.

"See anything?" The nervous watcher muttered to the man next to him. No answer came, and he looked away to study the face of the still hooded figure next to him. "You all right? Not worried at all?"

Still, no answer. The man stared, intent on a spot out in the darkness, beyond the light cast by the few lanterns, we'll beyond what the human eyes inside could see when gazing out. Silent and slow, almost dreamlike, he turned away from the window to look at the nearest table, still scattered with cards that had been abandoned in favor of weapons. As the fire escape rattled down the outside of the building, he seized the handle of the nearest lantern and hurled it against the door.

Glass shattered and oil sprayed over the door and its frame, catching with a low whumph. Droplets of burning fuel bounced back, searing into the face and arms of the man who had thrown it from far too short a distance. As the spell over him broke, he lifted his hands to his face and screamed through his fingers. His eyes focused on the man who he'd stood next to a moment before, now desperately trying to put out the fire that crawled up his pant leg.

Those at the table jumped up in surprise at the sound of shattered glass and the screams, Mr. Toothpick's chair skittering across the floor in a clatter on its back. "What the fuck?" But of course it wasn't the only thing concerning the gamblers. Some looked up, one pale as a ghost.

"It's the Dockside Creeper...."

"The fucking what?" Toothpick didn't look amused, and sneered at the young man next to him nearly shaking in fear. "Bullshit. You're a fuckin' idiot. Come on. Someone get that idiot a fire blanket! Morons! All of you! Hey--" He looked to the door, now unmanned, and growled in a very displeased way. "Where did that idiot go? Someone watch the damn door! Someone that isn't a superstitious twat!" He smacked upside the back of Shivers' head, and pushed away from the table, pulling his balaclava back over his face and grabbing his helmet. "The three of you, to the front. You..." He pointed to a rather grizzled woman and ticked his head toward the ones already heading upstairs. "Round out that group."

There was the distinct sound of a gun being cocked, and he sucked at his teeth, slamming the helmet onto his head. "Creeper my ass. It's probably a fucking stray dog. I ain't got no problem putting it down." One could hear the cruel smile beneath black fabric.

Funny... How chaos sundered the tentative order of chaos makers so quickly. You'd think there wouldn't be as many people staring around dumbly, trying to figure out what to do. At least Hot Toddy was getting a blanket thrown on him. Poor crispy bastard.

“Fuck!” Suspicions confirmed! Nervous Nellie’s eyes went lidless as he lurched away and pressed his back against the window. He froze in the searing face of Dead Eyes, all splattered with hot oil and snapping out of what reverie he’d been in. Someone else had to get that blanket while he gasped uselessly like a fish out of water. “Someone’s–they’re ..they’re–” And his gaze, too, found the ceiling and the horrible movement there.

Meanwhile, the next poor soul sent to watch the door slowed his approach and drew a blade when he found it slightly ajar. Had the youngest among them decided to bail at the first sign of trouble? Perhaps, but he had nerves of steel next to the shivering mess in the other room. He blew out a breath and muttered to himself, “Everyone’s down with the cause ‘til–” perhaps until they lay eyes on their young comrade’s corpse, stuck like a pin cushion and well past bleeding out in the muck just outside the door. “F–!”

After a silence long enough to coax the investigating party to the first landing, the scrabbling feet touched down again. They multiplied, tumbled, chased and leapt. Closer and closer did the pitter patter and scratching get, until the party's eyes could peek over the topmost stair and down the long, dark hallway.

They found nothing out of the ordinary. Still, and silent.

“Fuck this, we go back down and catch it at the base–”
“And risk it getting down there ?” Came the voice of the grizzled woman as she snatched his jacket and shoved him back into place. “No. Downstairs, their part. This is ours. Eyes front,” she hissed through gritted teeth.


Scrabbling legs and scratching claws tearing across drywall preceded the man’s cry from the stairwell, promptly snuffed by wet gurgling and the desperate sounds of a person drowning on land. Roaches littered the lower steps from above and a centipede fell with a plap to writhe among the insects. All went quiet...

..But for the head haphazardly rolling in from the kitchen with a face not quite settled into its final resting place, and the chortle that echoed against tile and forgotten steel sinks.

With the door blocked by the burning oil, the window was the only way out. Nellie looked at the sudden rolling head, he heard the gurgling upstairs, and he decided on escape. He picked up the nearest chair and swung it at the window. Most of the glass and frame exploded outwards. What didn't was helped along when his companions caught on to the plan and aided him with table legs and chairs of their own. The fire in front of the door flared bright with the breath of fresh air, making them sink away towards the window. No one wanted to be the first out, least of all the nervous fellow who had started the charge.

A large, dark-haired man who had done nothing of note to this point other than gape at the various noises decided running was better than waiting. He leaned far out the window, bracing his hands on the sill to balance above the sharp edges of glass still lodged in the bottom of the frame. He looked right first, then left towards the exterior side of the door. "Hey-" he started before the toe of a scythe circled up from under him. It lodged itself in the soft spot under his chin and passed through to pin his mouth shut. Hooked and silenced, he was pulled forward, falling belly first on to the broken glass and dragging along it. The scythe was dislodged and brought around again. Another lost their head.

The people gathered by the window pulled back as one. Some turned to the stairs, considering upper level windows as alternatives if they could get by whatever guarded the landing. Others looked to the kitchen and their chances rushing past the terror waiting on the ceiling. Still more stared at the window and the door. If they all went at once...

The skittering on the ceiling came from more than one source. As above, so below. Floor and ceiling were one in the clattering of feet, the scrabbling of claws and the shuffling of small bodies... but beneath the floor, on the ceiling, there was only one. Dark, nearly invisible against the moldy ceiling that was slick and slippery, but not enough that clawed and bleeding fingertips could not find purchase.

A group of four decided perhaps the flames and the door past to be their best bet, and in the chaos started that way. They moved as one, stepping over overturned chairs, and froze when they turned back to look and realized that, with a grunt, one of their ranks had gone missing.

"Fuck! J-" words were cut off, and then there were two. The pair that was left started toward the door in a blind panic, one toppling over when he was hit from behind by something heavy, smashing into the ground. He looked up and watched his comrade make it to the flames, only to stop in his tracks. Was the door blocked? He tried to turn and push whatever had landed on him off, looking and discovering with horror the mangled body of the first to have gone missing, his throat torn out and tongue dangling from his mouth as eyes bulged and rolled back.

He turned to scream to his comrade but when he looked, saw only a white and toothy grin. Way too big. The mouth opened, and it let out a horrifying cackling, a laughter that seared itself into the man's brain.

Toothpick roared and took aim, and a gunshot echoed through the chaos, followed by an inhuman screech cutting through feral laughter, and the creature retreated.

For now.

The panic-driven seeking escape upstairs were barely out of sight when the crunching, sloshing, and thumping began. Screams were cut short. A pair of boots shook violently, inches above the last stair in view and the sound of bulky dead weight being dragged along at a running pace moved across the floor. More roaches and beetles spilled with their arthropod brethren and all their horrendous legs. There was no time to regret not piling out of the window where the odds seemed just as bleak.

Impulsive reactions were answered with opportunism.

Toothpick made for an easy target with his back to the kitchen and his barrel pointed away, cursing, spitting, shouting for the scampering, toothy shadow to show itself and declaring that a whole magazine of lead was waiting for it. No one was coming back down. Something was closing them in. Something from all angles.

Toothpick’s clue to his impeding fate was the growling breath and quiet laughter that came with the first tumbling head. In all the confusion, he’d forgotten the fucking kitchen. While he was certain that eyes were on his gun, he drew a blade from his side scabbard. He wouldn’t have time to be triumphant after burying the knife into the shoulder of a beast that rose to dwarf him.

The man’s sputtering death was not fast, but his incapacitation was. The wet maw of the creature snapped shut around his throat. Skin popped with the puncture of severe fangs that raked back to thwart escape, and ripped just enough to leave his windpipe intact, exposed. Hands that sought purchase on a weapon - any weapon - abandoned their efforts to cover the spewing red mess. The useless reaction of a body in shock, trying to live.

As they tumbled to the ground, claws sank and curled beneath flesh. Feet kicked at his soft abdomen, effectively gutting him as black eyes stared wide and shiny in the flames, drinking in the panic that stray dog he couldn’t quite put down instilled. A deeply forked tongue lapped at the air between his face and Toothpick’s, relishing for an extra second before shoving him onto the one still struggling to get out from under another.

Poor Nervous Nellie was starting to think himself lucky, and hopefully invisible to that thing shredding the biggest guy in the room with more glee than effort.

The woman standing next to Nellie finally remembered her training. Her panicked eyes settled on the door and the oil still merrily burning in front of it. Her lips moved silently, murmuring commands to the fire which guttered and extinguished. When it was out, focus shifted up to the door. A few more words and the wood of it exploded outwards. In the sudden quiet outside, there was the gentle sound of layers of leather rubbing against eachother and an annoyed hiss of a sigh.

A hooded figure, dressed in black leather armor and further concealed by a dark grey scarf that wrapped around their mouth and nose, stepped into the open space. When the psion saw the blade of a scythe rising over the arrival's right shoulder, she choked on a sob. Then she just choked. The person in the doorway was walking forward, into the room, both hands outstretched and slowly tightening into fists.

Nellie and his almost savior were wrung out on the floor of the room. Their papery, dry skin pulled tightly over their bones, mummified in an instant. Under his companions, the survivor stopped his struggle when boots stepped up next to his head. He could see black eyes looking down at him from a pale face. Black blood seeped sluggishly from a cut high on a cheekbone, staining the grey scarf under it. The woman looking at him hauled the mangled body of his friend off, and turned her back on him to watch the monster tearing into his prey.

He didn't stop to fight or to check if anyone else was alive. He scrambled to his feet and bolted out the door, leaving behind the wet tearing noises coming from both floors of the abandoned building. He could hear a voice as he ran through the room, muffled at first from behind the scarf. "Think that's enough of them?"

Gone was the lone survivor, spared by mere circumstance, and left were the three in a room. One tearing, one surveying, and one pressed into a corner, arms covering his face and rocking, his voice faltering somewhere between a scream and high pitched uncontrollable laughter. Slowly, the little terror looked up, two eyes that weren't quite matched, golden and of different pupils, wide and staring. He wore a mask, white and mangled and soaking up thick dark blood as fast as it could from the blast that had nearly taken his head with it. The mask was trying to knit itself together, but in that moment there was a true horror staring back at the others, the bodies scattered around.

An open mouth with more teeth than it ever seemed it should be able to contain; jagged and sharp and horrible. The rapidly changing pupil of that strange eye. Slitted, squared, saddled, rounded, dilated beyond what was natural... bloodied hands trembled as the terror stood up, and the seam of his mouth opened wide, nearly splitting his head horizontally as he stumbled forward, long sharp tongue dropping out to hit his chest. There was a tremor in his bones he could not stop, a need for something... more. He never answered verbally... he simply grabbed the throat of one of the more intact fallen...

And skittered up the wall, over the ceiling, and disappeared out the door, the way he came in, body dangling in tow.

When the last heartbeat escaped, the hunched beast crept between the bodies left behind, sniffing their skin, smelling the air around them. When twisting ears picked up on a clear station between static, he went still. Only his jaws chattered half whispers as that tongue plunged from the hole in the back of his mouth, and inky black ropes of drool dripped into blood.

Another ragdoll of a body thumped across the upper floor, then another that followed the shuffling sounds of what moved across the ceiling below. Not only bugs, but something sludgy and dark pooled at the bottom of the stairs, fed by the trickling stream from above. Viscous. Inky.

The beast’s eyes followed the little Terror and his prize, then fell to the dessicated corpses. At the sound of the voice muffled by fabric and almost drowned out by the buzzing in his ears, he drew his muzzle to his chest. Ears swiveled to follow the tilt of his head. Filtering. Nostrils flared to force calm, but only served to fill his head with more of the same. The muscle of his jaw worked to shut it. Keep it in place.

Out back, something like a hundred and fifty pound sack of potatoes fell from the window above the kitchen with a heavy thunk, and the sounds ceased completely.

On the exhale, he snorted a laugh that threatened to continue, “No.” What was enough? He didn’t know the word. Black eyes turned on black eyes. “Bu’ for now…” he trailed off. For now, it would suffice. Let the carnage ripple outward. In a moment of gritted teeth, he finally yanked that knife out of his shoulder. Deep red blood flowed easily from the wound as he rolled it, testing.

“I'll sor' ou' their.. payment.. n' load 'em up inna back.”

"I'm sure there will be more." Which might have been reassurance. "Always seems to be."

The toe of a boot nudged at a shriveled up hand. She looked at the path the third of their little party had taken and up where soft noises were still settling. "If either of you need it tomorrow, I can patch you up. No magic." They should know by tomorrow how well they were pulling together, and be able to sit still. Not now.

The woman adjusted the scarf so it covered the bottom of her face again. She pressed the heel of her gloved hand against it, over the cut on her cheek where wood from the door had exploded into her. At least it had missed her eye. Not worth healing. "Thanks," she told him from behind the folds of fabric.

Two steps back before she pivoted and walked out the door. Her boots ground wood chips and shattered glass into the gravel, and then her footsteps went nearly silent. She wasn't interested in being followed.

Thanks. The glint of light on black betrayed his watchful gaze as she left.

Half sentences rattled out in a hushed, mad stream of consciousness to the leftovers he heaved into the cabbage cart out back. The cart reached capacity before the room was cleared. Two severed heads with faintly glowing mouths were perched atop the tangle of fabric and limbs, blending in poorly with leafier heads that didn’t provide much camouflage. He threw a curtain over the whole of his quarry and shoved off.

The rest were left behind soulless and in pieces, for that ravenous ferryman was not so selfless.

((Thanks to Buddy and Stitch's writers for the mischief!))
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