Of Mortals: Chapter Twenty-three

“… and then I toppled the tower that had been my home for all those years. The people, the community that sheltered me when I was young, protected me from the violent paws of those who sought to remove me, were long gone. It no longer concerned me that it should stand any longer. It was a blight, and within it lived nothing but nightmares. Last I was in that old wood my clan called home, the tower still sat, almost entirely untouched. Sure, inside, some moss had begun to grow, bringing mushrooms and all sorts of shade-loving plants. Yet, aside from bugs, there was no living creature within, almost as though they were as afraid of what lurked inside as any coyote had been back in those times,” Mishonrayel finished, abruptly as the door into the sitting room closed with a bang. Kovarlin stared back, a somewhat haunted look clear in his shimmering molten orange eyes. Amirot regarded him with an almost non-existent glance before gesturing for him to sit with them for breakfast.

Unfazed by either man’s gaze, Kovarlin stared, fixedly, at the table, not so much studying the food put before him but looking passed it. There was a maintained silence for a time until Amirot almost whispered, “Burn my tail, Kovarlin, but if you don’t look as though you have seen a ghost. Was that avian knight truly such a disturbing sight to behold just before slumber?”
“What kind of knight? You have armed soldiers about that I’ve not seen,” Mishon asked, utterly out of the loop.
Kovarlin’s gaze softened a bit, but still, he did not speak, instead allowing Amirot to answer, “No, Mishonrayel, what I refer to is simply another holdover from a time prior to our emergence in these lands. Something akin to a suit of armor filled full with the vigor of a half-dozen clocks and levers, I’m sure you’ll encounter one of them sooner or later.”
“I don’t give a lick for that bird ya left in me bed,” Kovarlin announced, quiet yet ominous with his remark. The other two exchanged a glance before both falling hushed to await the cougar’s next statement if he were going to give one. Resting his head on open paws, lightly foundling his antlers as he spoke, Amirot floated the question he dreaded asking, “You sense their coming as well then?”

A sustained silence passed the three by as each looked to the other as though they would find an answer there. Immediately after the initial shock wore off, Kovarlin erupted, “What ya mean ‘sense thems comin’?! The foul fox is in the city, and ya ain’t got the thought nuff to tell us two?!”
“That’s not possible Kovarlin, we had at least a few days ahead on them. Amirot, please tell us you’re joking about this,” Mishonrayel attempted to calm the mood, despite not being anywhere near level-headed himself.
The caribou straightened up in his seat, “Well, you knew they were pursuing you. Did you assume they would never reach their destination?”
“Why ya keep sayin’ ‘they’ for?! Though we had only that fox on ‘er tails?” Kovarlin was suddenly seized by another tangent of thought to cause his anxiety to grow.
Seeing that both men looked to him, Amirot answered, “You, both of you, needn’t act so dreadfully panicked. There are but two who come in opposition to us, and only one is embued with the abilities Erkinan can provide. The other will be nothing but fodder for us if they manage to venture through the city and reach the cathedral. As of now, they are still at least a day’s distance out from the city, and even with a myter bird, the couple will not attain their mission’s end by dawn of the next day. Moreover, if they ascertain where we are held up, they will still need to penetrate the depths of the city’s defense and enter in this structure. I will keep a good eye on them from the shadows so that if they do somehow come before us, we are prepared and meet them with the full vigor of our combined might. Sound reasonable to you two?”
“Well, who’s our other guest?” Mishon asked the obvious question, confident he had missed the answer but not really concerned if he looked stupid at this point.

Amirot relayed the details for the two, but it only gave Mishon the vaguest idea of who they were dealing with, Kovarlin hadn’t the slightest clue. The cougar had seen some of the traveling lynx and other northerners as he passed through their lands, but one in particular was no different than any other for him. Yet, Mishon seemed to have a vague impression of the one who haunted them with Sirian and was less than amenable about having to come head to head with her. In truth, the coyote wasn’t quite sure if he wanted to go against Sirian either, but the corrupted blood in his veins would see to that. If there was the choice before Mishonrayel, it was likely one he didn’t have a rightful ability to make and would instead find his paws in motion before anything could be done about it. That was the ‘miracle’ of sorts that the Goredrinker could perform on his victims. Mishonrayel had the feeling of control, but when it came down to it, he was little more than a puppet. Should he decide to go a different way, to stay his hand when he could strike down opposition, or even choose to be merciful, the Goredrinker would seize him and make his will known. Thinking on the grim fate that awaited Sirian, and likely himself once he had outlived his usefulness, Mishonrayel could only reflect on his previous experience with the Goredrinker.

There was still some pain in those memories, all the parts of his story he had left out when talking to Amirot. His time in that strange home of sorts, a spire in ebony hidden among the pines and oaks in the forest just outside of the primary coyote province of Eren’s Field. Being the sight he was at his birth, he could only have survived in a place so dislodged from rational thinking, among those who would not insist him to be some form of demon. Yet as time went on, that accusation began to hold all the more true as Mishonrayel turned. Once the cursed blood entered his system, it was too late for any around Mishonrayel. Still, the memory of those broken forms stood in his mind, the images of neighbors and friends crushed and left in ruin. The Goredrinker had lapped up the ocean of blood made in a hazy rampage and then let him loose on the world. All the while, as Mishon traveled onward to the village of Seras, his internal self wept. Knowing what he was becoming, had become, was too much to bear, and then there was Sirian.

Sirian was the only reason the coyote had been able to slip out from beneath the control the Goredrinker had put on his mind. Had she not been in Seras when he came, the village would have been in ruin, and not a soul would have been allowed to go free. Yet, that divine light seemed to burn away the shackles that kept Mishon in service to the ancient demon; he only hoped she could do it again. If Sirian came and found him first, Mishonrayel could be cleansed of the burden that the Goredrinker put on him. Free of it all, the coyote could aid the fox and lynx takedown Kovarlin and Amirot. He only hoped he wasn’t so far gone that Sirian’s gift wouldn’t help him; that possibility still loomed on his mind. Suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted as Kovarlin snapped a finger in front of his face, seemingly after a wealth of time had passed.

“Did ya get any’a that? Cause I ain’t wantin’ to repeat e’rything that Am just said,” the cougar insisted, his manner finally devote of the worry that had plagued it earlier.
Slowly, Mishonrayel began to nod his head, “Yes, I think I caught everything, no need to worry. Just when the time comes, make sure I haven’t forgotten.”
“Yeah… no problem. I need ya to know somethin’ as we goin’ forward with this, as ‘er ‘friends’ come’n join us,” Kovarlin began quietly, keeping an eye out for Amirot or any of his listening ears that may be lurking.
Mishonrayel regarded the cougar with surprise but maintained an open demeanor, “You’ve got my ears for a moment, what’s the problem?”
“Don’t go tellin’ Am ’bout this, but I might be worried bout all this goin’ on. Somethin’ maybe I’m just crazy, but somethin’ has been tellin’ me t’ings I don’t care to know, ne’er would. When it comes time, I’ll take the lynx; you gotta handle that fox,” his tail hung limp and ears folded against his skull; Kovarlin never looked like this.
Mishon was a touch alarmed but shook his head, seeing this might be an opening in the situation, “I can do my best. You know, she and I go back a ways? It’s going to be hard to have to do that, but Amirot will be there. The Goredrinker can steer my paws if need be, so you should be fine.”
“Good… I should be off, gettin’ what we need set up. You get to work to, if Am is right, all this can come crashin’ down if’n we do nothin’ to stop ’em witches,” Kovarlin offered a weak grin though it did not touch his eyes which seemed less a glow than usual and were more dulled with tiredness if anything.

For a while, Mishonrayel sat by himself in that shared space, mulling over things as he stared endlessly in the shadows of the room. What was coming was not going to be easy by any means, and if it came down to him fighting Sirian himself, it might break him, but that may just be the cost for these men at that point. He could remember all the other tolls exacted for others using his flesh, using his might, and it was enough to make him sick. There were oceans of dead sloshing to and fro in crimson just in the wake of his existence. The proper thing, he knew, would have been to simply die when Sirian first encountered him, if not further back to even when he was a glimmer in his father’s eye. Yet, here he was now, awaiting the arrival of another who had tried their best to help them only to find themselves crushed beneath his weakness, his madness, his inability to hold tight to self. Still trapped within his own head, Mishon had to consider the massive wave that his actions or inactions had caused and all those back east who were struggling and suffering now because he could not overcome his own weakness.

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