Vindico

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Acid burned her throat still though she'd vomited up the memory of breakfast now more than an hour ago. Overexertion and pain had rendered her guts a hard knot that neither accepted food nor comfort from disgorging, leaving Eve nauseous though there was nothing left to bring up. Part way through the flight, the altitude had stifled her. She'd been forced to land for a lack of wind, though climbed the rest of the way, unwilling to accept another failure. If death were to claim her from a misplaced step, she would welcome it, but it seemed the gods welcomed her even in her weakened state to stand among their island in the clouds, for hours after she'd set out, she trudged out of the bank of frigid white clouds, her coat a shimmering, frozen mess.


Almost immediately she vomited, standing in tense silence, her body trembling violently with rage. Fear. No water pooled here for her to drink from, no herbs grew to soothe her wounds. The altitude itself would do her no real good, and yet she'd spent her remaining energy coming to this place and for what? Long moments ticked by in silence, her legs locked beneath her to keep her upright. When she moved, finally, it was toward the slabs. She limped heavily, favoring her left leg as walked, though in general she swayed like a drunk, hardly able to muster the energy to even place one foot before the other. Perhaps she would die up here, the mage thought bitterly, leaning heavily into the slabs as she drew alongside them, her eyes scanning the sky.

The stars bled into one grayish glow as she finally went down, her legs folding beneath her as she made an effort to maintain as much dignity as possible in giving up. She pressed her forehead into the slab with a soft rumble of a growl taking root in her throat, unable to give voice to words, though her general feelings about this entire fiasco was quite clear. She was outraged, disgusted even, with <I>everyone</I>, of course, but Eve had not yet graduated to the point where her egotistical nature would not allow her to blame herself.

Undeniably gifted and strange, she'd been convinced of her value from a young age. Gryll had fostered and promoted this as she aged, and her adventures in the pack of warriors had only served to confirm her suspicions. So far, however, she'd amassed very little in the way of achievement. Her only son had been born stunted, dying just hours after birth. She'd lost <I>everyone</I> of relative value, including Sorciere - the assassin had not responded to her calls as of late and Eve suspected their meeting in the dead forest to have been a psychological break of some sort. Most importantly, however, she had been unable to save herself from being won like some petty favor or scrap of meat, failing miserably to defend her own value. Perhaps she had been born with the trappings of greatness, but Eve only saw a great many failures in her lifetime and could not shake the feeling that her very existence was some divine prank.

<I>Prank.</I> The word caused her to snarl, jerking around to glare blearily about the mountain peak, as if she'd find the spirit responsible for her terrible misfortune to be standing there, laughing. "What would it please you to take next, Phu'arne?" For though she hardly counted herself a worshiper, the dark god had become her patron of sorts since her skills in manipulating the dead arose. "What is it you want? Is it humility?" Even a god should have known better than to expect such from her, though Evike was plenty humiliated at this point.

She braced her paws beneath herself, pushing up into a sit as she again pressed her face into the slabs. She considered, briefly, praying.
Considered, then stopped, stubbornly refusing to fall into that seemingly obvious foot snare of faith. She would not be bullied by bad luck into piety, she would not be tricked into worship. The growling broke into an odd choking sound that eventually resolved itself into laughter. A prank. How cruel, how desperate for obedience and followers the fire god must be to visit upon her such perfectly tragic luck. "You can do better."
<center><table align="center" background="http://orig07.deviantart.net/21e3/f/2015/091/8/6/citlalimythsummershrunk3_by_fennecfyre-d8o0obm.png" style="width: 600px; background-position: top; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-color: #050a09;">







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<link href='http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Ruthie' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'>               
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                       <center><div style="border-bottom: 2px solid #fae58f ; border-top: 2px solid #fae58f ; padding-top: 8px;"><font style="font-family:Ruthie; font-size: 80px; font-style: none; text-transform: none; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #000000, 0px 0px 30px #ffffff; line-height: 100px; float: bottom; ">Citlali Deerheart</font></div>
                                           </center>          <div style="text-align: justify; font-variant: small-caps; font-family: georgia; font-size: 10px; line-height:8px; word-spacing:3px; letter-spacing:2px; color: #ffffff; text-shadow: 0px 0px 5px #000000; word-spacing: 5px;">                                                </center>         <font style="text-align: justify; font-variant: small-caps; font-family: georgia; font-size: 12px; line-height:12px; word-spacing:4px; letter-spacing:2px; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 5px #000000; word-spacing: 5px;"><DIV style="text-align: CENTER; font-family: georgia; font-size: 8px; text-transform: uppercase; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 20px #ffffff; letter-spacing: 7px; line-height: 13px;">Time to fly, time to touch the sky
One voice alone
A haunting cry</DIV>


<font style=" font-size: 15px; font-style: italic; font-variant: none; text-transform: none; text-shadow: 0px 0px 9px #000000;">The dun she-wolf</font> knew about the legends surrounding this peak, that it was apparently a link between the mortals and the gods. Supposedly, daring to climb these cliffs without reason was a perfect way to get oneself smote clear off the mountainside.

The problem was that Citlali did not give one single flying fuck about the gods.

In her mind, the deities were distant and uncaring. If they were so mighty, why had they allowed her Ellyrian kin to be enslaved by the Avelorn? Why had they allowed her sire to be killed when she finally escaped? Why had they allowed her--wretched, pitiful, mix-blooded thing that she was--to come into existence? No, to her, this mountain was only good to flying practice, a few more cliffs to fling herself off of. She doubted the gods would care about one scrap of a wolf scrambling over their precious peaks.

To her credit, she was getting better at using her wings, under the teachings of Andraste. She could now sustain flight for a few seconds, though at this point her "flight" was more like assisted jumping, leaping into the air and beating her wings frantically to remain off the ground for a few moments longer. She had tried gliding as well, though without tail feathers to steady herself, she tended to wobble badly. But she tried and tried again, until her wings ached with weariness and she could no longer get off the ground. 

Today, she had come to the mountains in hopes of learning to navigate the winds swirling about the crags. Indian had been right that mountains were a rather painful place to practice, and she already had a few cuts on her pawpads where a rough landing had left her falling onto sharp rocks. But pain was something that, while unpleasant, could be worked through. She was navigating a steep, thin trail up the mountainside, looking for a good spot to jump from. Up ahead, the path had been wiped out by a rockslide, leaving a gouge in the mountain. Citlali studied it for a moment, then took a few steps back and crouched, opening her wings. She strained to hold them steady against the whipping winds, focusing on the gap before her. She took a deep breath, then suddenly broke into a run, gathering her legs beneath her and leaping into the void. She down-stroked as she did so, once, twice, three times, keeping herself aloft. The other ledge loomed in her vision, and she landed heavily, back paws scrabbling for purchase. She pulled herself up on to the path and looked over her shoulder, heart fluttering. As nerve-wracking as that had been, it also caused a small mote of happiness within her. Slowly but surely, she was making progress.

She folded her wings and continued up the trail, finding a spot where it broadened out. As she walked, she thought she heard someone's voice on the wind and paused, ears raising. There it was again, and whoever it was didn't sound happy. She considered turning and leaving, but she would have rather not made that jump again, and to be honest, she was curious. She continued moving, cautiously, turning a bend to see another wolf sitting before one of the strangely-carved boulders sprawled about the mountainside. She was an oily black color, with wings folded at her sides. The brown wolf approached with some trepidation, clearing her throat softly. <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"Is...is everything all right?"</font>


                                            <center><font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"May I speak?"</font></div>

<DIV style="text-align: CENTER; font-family: georgia; font-size: 8px; text-transform: uppercase; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 20px #ffffff; letter-spacing: 7px; line-height: 12px;">One song, one star burning bright
Let it carry me
Through darkest night</DIV>


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<center>CODE BY CHIP | ART BY FENNECFYRE
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Eve's wings fell down to the ground, the "knuckles" of the appendages striking stone with a hollow thunk, muffled by feathers black as oil, black as tar. The hollow laughter dies on her tongue as she drew in a deep breath and turned to look at the stranger, her chin settled against her shoulder, her neck bent so her body wouldn't have to. <I>My, the gods look paltry in mortal skins,</I> the mage thought bitterly, this observation coming without any real thought and without any reasonable concern, for a bad break had all but removed her filter and inhibitions.

Worn and weary, she stared stoically at the earth-colored mutt for quite some time, the silence vast yet meaningless. In truth, Eve's mind had clicked off for a short moment, only to blink back at the realization that the girl must have been either blind or daffy - what was it about the god's playground that attracted the sight-challenged? The laugh returned, a short, terse sound of amusement as she lifted her left wing, revealing the matted and bloodied mess of her shoulder. She'd yet to groom herself or examine the damage all that closely, but even in the half-light of the moon she could see that the muscle had been torn fairly badly. Blood still leaked from the punctures and acted as a glue, caking dirt and debris to her leg and chest. She watched the curious hybrid with bright eyes the color of ice, a cruel smirk tugging at her lip, riding the silver scar of a split lip up some to reveal a bit more of her fang. "Relative to what?"

Tucking her wings close, the kaddain pressed her face against the stone again, ears coning toward the stranger though she'd abandoned the silent stare to instead rest her eyes a bit. Failing was exhausting work, as it turned out, and though there was no promise of safety with this girl lurking about, the desire to sleep hit her like a wave. "Things could be better." Evike admitted, her voice muffled by her posture and fur. She nestled down into herself, cupping her wings about her body to capture some heat. At these heights, such was a commodity if one wasn't properly furred or built for it. "Few visit this place when things are going well - piety is not a fairweather virtue." She turned and glanced at the stranger again, wondering what had drawn <I>her</I> here. "I had hoped maybe he would hear me." But more correctly, she'd hoped he would <I>answer</I>. Phu'arne may not have been a flesh and bone friend, or even her god, correctly, but failure was a lonely thing. Evike had hoped just maybe that there'd be comfort in this place.

So far she'd found only rocks and stupid questions.
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                       <center><div style="border-bottom: 2px solid #fae58f ; border-top: 2px solid #fae58f ; padding-top: 8px;"><font style="font-family:Ruthie; font-size: 80px; font-style: none; text-transform: none; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #000000, 0px 0px 30px #ffffff; line-height: 100px; float: bottom; ">Citlali Deerheart</font></div>
                                           </center>          <div style="text-align: justify; font-variant: small-caps; font-family: georgia; font-size: 10px; line-height:8px; word-spacing:3px; letter-spacing:2px; color: #ffffff; text-shadow: 0px 0px 5px #000000; word-spacing: 5px;">                                                </center>         <font style="text-align: justify; font-variant: small-caps; font-family: georgia; font-size: 12px; line-height:12px; word-spacing:4px; letter-spacing:2px; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 5px #000000; word-spacing: 5px;"><DIV style="text-align: CENTER; font-family: georgia; font-size: 8px; text-transform: uppercase; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 20px #ffffff; letter-spacing: 7px; line-height: 13px;">Time to fly, time to touch the sky
One voice alone
A haunting cry</DIV>


<font style=" font-size: 15px; font-style: italic; font-variant: none; text-transform: none; text-shadow: 0px 0px 9px #000000;">The other wolf</font> turned to look at her, ice-blue eyes focusing on her scornfully. She said nothing, and Citlali dropped her head, tail half-tucking itself in discomfort. The woman finally snorted again and half-extended one wing. Bright crimson stood out lividly against the black, and Citlali's breath was sucked in in a hiss of sympathy. <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"I-I'm sorry. What happened?"</font> She glanced away for a moment, scanning the bare rock face around them. She wished plants grew up here, perhaps she could have found an herb or two to dull the pain she was sure the black wolf was experiencing. However, something about this wolf told her that even if she could have found medicine, she probably would have refused it. Even injured, there was a prideful, almost arrogant air about her. She spoke derisively, confirming Citlali's suspicions, and the brown wolf rolled her shoulders in a sort of helpless shrug. She had no answer to that.

The black wolf retracted her wing and turned away, pressing her brow back up against the stone, though her ears remained tilted towards Citlali. The brown wolf cocked her head curiously, wondering what it was that she was doing. Trying to commune with the gods, perhaps, given the location. Citlali suppressed a snort at the thought. She gave it up eventually, and curled up on the ground, wrapping her oily wings about herself. Citlali, not sure what else to do, lowered herself to the ground, stretching her paws out before her and resting her chin between her forelegs. Her own wings followed suit, hugging themselves close to her to trap heat. On an instinctual level, the both of them lying down served to release some of the tension between them, at least in her mind. It was harder to attack someone when you were flopped on the ground.

She grudgingly admitted that she was having trouble of some sort, and Citlali tilted her ears forward, wondering what it was. She had a feeling it was connected to whoever or whatever had mauled her wing. She looked over at the stones. Who had she wanted to hear her? One of the gods? Citlali's brow furrowed for a moment as she tried to recall a mythology she cared little about. The only male god would be Phu'arne, the monstrous-looking death-and-fire god. <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"Why would you want Phu'arne to take notice?"</font> she asked, genuinely puzzled.<font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;"> "I'm not a very pious wolf myself, but he doesn't seem like someone you'd want to draw the attention of."</font> Not unless you wanted to curse somebody, perhaps. There was obviously a story behind this wolf and her injuries, but she wasn't sure she wanted to hear it. 


                                            <center><font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"May I speak?"</font></div>

<DIV style="text-align: CENTER; font-family: georgia; font-size: 8px; text-transform: uppercase; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 20px #ffffff; letter-spacing: 7px; line-height: 12px;">One song, one star burning bright
Let it carry me
Through darkest night</DIV>


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<center>CODE BY CHIP | ART BY FENNECFYRE
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So the girl could sympathize - Evike could accept that. She was not so outraged by the hiss of concern as she thought she might be, not even a mild bit outraged, for it occurred to her as a genuine reaction. Though she gave no immediate response, the mage felt she'd conveyed the situation quite appropriately and to the necessary extent. After all, she was not this girl's friend, nor even a passing acquaintance. She had no reason to divulge further information on such a sensitive subject.

From where she lay, she could hear the brown wolf settle down on the ground, the faint ripple of leather and the soft, solid sound that a body made when lowered to the ground a mere whisper, but one that helped to alleviate the aggravation caused by the intrusion. A soft snort passed through Eve's nose as she flicked her tail about her hip and cracked an eye open to squint at the stranger, noting that concern seemed to remain present in her countenance though Eve had given very little in the way of even simple kindness. Misfortune had a way of construing one's mood and words toward venom, though this woman certainly didn't deserve it.

She wondered quietly if this scrawny creature was, or had been, a mother for she imagined mothers were saints when it came to dealing with ingratitude, but in all honesty the hybrid looked a bit too young for such things. Perhaps she was instead a healer, or maintained a similar title that would keep her in close company with those that routinely would have cause to spit in the face of such basic inquiries or attentions. Not once had Citlali struck her as particularly submissive, though weariness may have construed her meekness as patience in this case.

Her wings rolled in a sort of shrug as the girl called into question her begging the death god to appear, and her eyes slid shut again as if she didn't really care to explain. Silence seemed the best policy, though it was admittedly aggravating. On principle of not riling a perfectly pleasant wolf into aggression, she broke her silence. "I want revenge." Her words were spoken in a reasonable tone, though revenge was often touted as a form of insanity practiced by those mired in their grudges and hatred. There was nothing <I>reasonable</I> about what Evike wanted to befall any and all that had wronged her - on some deeper level, that even included her patron, for she blamed him and the women he kept company with for her grievances, at least in part. "One does not have to be pious to call on powerful friends - I'm certainly not. I thought that perhaps my efforts and studies might attract his favor, but it appears my patron has more pressing matters to attend than a frustrated scholar."

Had Phu'arne turned his back on her? The thought occurred as she tilted her head and looked upon the brown wolf again, causing her hackles to raise some in response. It was an absurd notion, though somehow it helped to bind her stress-fractured mind and relieve some of the hopeless indirection that gripped her thoughts. Anger seized her as it had immediately after the fight, though somehow this was darker and more focused. "No matter. I don't need his assistance to win my freedom." Her words came soft and dangerous, carrying an edge that promised violence. Revenge was never clean, but the potential that lurked in her voice suggested whatever justice she was to met out on her own terms would be immensely messy.
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                       <center><div style="border-bottom: 2px solid #fae58f ; border-top: 2px solid #fae58f ; padding-top: 8px;"><font style="font-family:Ruthie; font-size: 80px; font-style: none; text-transform: none; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #000000, 0px 0px 30px #ffffff; line-height: 100px; float: bottom; ">Citlali Deerheart</font></div>
                                           </center>          <div style="text-align: justify; font-variant: small-caps; font-family: georgia; font-size: 10px; line-height:8px; word-spacing:3px; letter-spacing:2px; color: #ffffff; text-shadow: 0px 0px 5px #000000; word-spacing: 5px;">                                                </center>         <font style="text-align: justify; font-variant: small-caps; font-family: georgia; font-size: 12px; line-height:12px; word-spacing:4px; letter-spacing:2px; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 5px #000000; word-spacing: 5px;"><DIV style="text-align: CENTER; font-family: georgia; font-size: 8px; text-transform: uppercase; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 20px #ffffff; letter-spacing: 7px; line-height: 13px;">Time to fly, time to touch the sky
One voice alone
A haunting cry</DIV>


<font style=" font-size: 15px; font-style: italic; font-variant: none; text-transform: none; text-shadow: 0px 0px 9px #000000;">Revenge. But on</font> who, and why? Whoever it was, evidently she had hoped that the gods would be willing to help her. Citlali hoped she wasn't holding her breath. Even if this wolf had been dedicated to the gods, it was unlikely that they would appear. To be honest, there were days when Citlali questioned their very existence. Of course, she would never say something like that in front of Lucia. The lavender women had apparently been a priestess to some Goddess or another. Cit wasn't sure if her Goddess had been one of the two, but she wasn't going to take the chance of getting her tongue ripped out. However, her eyes widened at the other wolf's next words. She was seeking her freedom? <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"Are you a prisoner?"</font> she asked, leaning forward slightly. <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"Or a...a slave?" </font>

She sighed quietly, sympathizing to Evike's plight, and pitying her moreso for the suspicion that the black wolf had not been born into servitude. It was easier to accept if it was all you ever knew, all your parents and your grandparents and your great-grandparents had ever known. When she first escaped, Citlali hadn't known what to do with herself, now that there was nobody to give her orders. She wondered how she would have fared had she not been captured and pressed into service as a spy. As intimidating as they were, Cruxer and Lucia had kept her fed, and she hadn't been overly opposed to rejoining a pack, even if it was to gather information. But to be born free and self-determining, only to find yourself bound under another's whim? She could imagine how awful it would be; she had had a taste of it herself. <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"I was a slave the first two years of my life, and even now I still don't feel like a 'normal' wolf." </font>She hated herself when she cringed or froze or balked away from others, knowing she was only confusing or frustrating them, but she couldn't help it. She hadn't known a kind touch since her mother's death, and the idea of benevolent rulers like Indian or Adraste was a novel concept for her. She gave Evike a sad smile. <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"I hope your escape is under more noble circumstances than mine was."</font>


                                            <center><font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"May I speak?"</font></div>

<DIV style="text-align: CENTER; font-family: georgia; font-size: 8px; text-transform: uppercase; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 20px #ffffff; letter-spacing: 7px; line-height: 12px;">One song, one star burning bright
Let it carry me
Through darkest night</DIV>


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<center>CODE BY CHIP | ART BY FENNECFYRE
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<I>Slave</I>. Evike very nearly denied the words as they fell from the woman's lips, anticipating mocking or cruelty no matter how out of character such reactions would seem to be. The word was a black mark on her conscious, one that riled her by its very utterance. It was words of empathy, rather than callous unkindness, that came next, and it was those very same words that soothed the impulsive rage that curled in her gut, smoothing her hackles down. There was no consolation for the unhappiness she felt, however, the knife that wrenched in her gut to the brown wolf's words.

As a child, she'd been strangely quiet. Gryll would note, with the pride if an accomplished patent, that she had never been one to rely on tears. As she'd grown, Eve had experienced her share of heartbreak, of course, but crying was reserved only for the most dire and secret of occasions. Tears solved nothing, and made her feel ridiculous during and after... But that did not stop her from feeling an unbidden tremor of emotion, nor did it conceal the sob that shook her shoulders. Again, she moved, pushing herself up and turning to face away from Citlali, secretly furious with herself, despite the cathartic properties of embracing one's emotions rather than barring them away.

"This isn't the first time." Her voice came stuffy and strained, as if speaking through clenched teeth. The first time she'd earned her freedom at the unnecessary expense of Gryll's life - he had gained the upper hand, assuring her safety, but it was the discovery of companionship at a particularly vulnerable point in her youth that had made the call to catch his ear and help throw the titan to the ground, saving the life of her captor though he would still go on to make here's hell when the notion of love became hazy and difficult to pick out from his own temper.

Another shuddering wracked her shoulders as her head dropped down, wings pulling up to hide her face. "Nobility is the crutch of those who live very short lives, or only in tall tales." The words came bitter and cracked, rather than scalding and venomous. She did not hate this woman, only the situation. "Life is messy and defined by the sacrifices we make. I only hope this time the price isn't so..." Trailing off, she pondered what word might best convey the tragedy of her experience with breaking chains. It wasn't so much that Gryll had died, in this case, but rather the fact that she could look back and recognize that, in hindsight, it would have been better to let the prince die at his jaws. First loves were rarely true, if one believed the cynics, and much of the strife she'd endured would have been easily put off had she allowed him to lose.

Her wings rose and fell in a shrug, the tears giving way to sober realism. Unable to identify anyone <I>to</I> sacrifice must have meant that the next incident would strike much closer to home, if you would. "I only hope it's not so steep."
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                       <center><div style="border-bottom: 2px solid #fae58f ; border-top: 2px solid #fae58f ; padding-top: 8px;"><font style="font-family:Ruthie; font-size: 80px; font-style: none; text-transform: none; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #000000, 0px 0px 30px #ffffff; line-height: 100px; float: bottom; ">Citlali Deerheart</font></div>
                                           </center>          <div style="text-align: justify; font-variant: small-caps; font-family: georgia; font-size: 10px; line-height:8px; word-spacing:3px; letter-spacing:2px; color: #ffffff; text-shadow: 0px 0px 5px #000000; word-spacing: 5px;">                                                </center>         <font style="text-align: justify; font-variant: small-caps; font-family: georgia; font-size: 12px; line-height:12px; word-spacing:4px; letter-spacing:2px; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 5px #000000; word-spacing: 5px;"><DIV style="text-align: CENTER; font-family: georgia; font-size: 8px; text-transform: uppercase; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 20px #ffffff; letter-spacing: 7px; line-height: 13px;">Time to fly, time to touch the sky
One voice alone
A haunting cry</DIV>


<font style=" font-size: 15px; font-style: italic; font-variant: none; text-transform: none; text-shadow: 0px 0px 9px #000000;">The black wolf</font> said nothing at first, but Citlali saw the pain flash across her face, as if she had physically slapped her. Then came the crying. Evike produced only a single sob, but it was enough to pierce Citlali's heart. She reacted as if she had been slapped, immediately flattening herself to her ground, head and tail both pressed against the stone. <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"I-I didn't mean to upset you!" </font>she pleaded, her groveling posture a silent beg for forgiveness. <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"I'm so sorry!" </font>She had never meant to strike such a nerve, and mentally kicked herself for even mentioning the word. Her ears lifted slightly as Evike confessed that this wasn't her first time as a captive. Did she tell her the truth, that she had escaped herself only to be captured by a pair of magic-hating maniacs? That she was being forced to spy on a pack that had taken her in and given her a rank? On the surface, she was higher up the ladder than she had ever been. As a healer, she had respect, she had a purpose. But the truth of the matter was that she had nothing. She wasn't a medic, she was a spy betraying the trust of a friend to save her own worthless hide.

And yet, as much as she hated Cruxer and Lucia for what they were making her do, she also feared them for what they could do. If she told even one person, then there was the potential for the information to make it's way back to Caelum, and to Indian. She wasn't sure what would be worse: Indian's reaction, or theirs. She had started to feel a genuine loyalty towards him, and she loathed having to go behind his back like this. If he found out, it would be a hundred times worse. But if Cruxer and Lucia realized that their spy was compromised, they would likely have no further use for her. And she highly doubted they would just let her go.

Evike managed to speak again, though her voice was still choked. She thought little of the concept of a winning one's freedom in a noble fashion, but still expressed hope that her victory would come at a bearable price. <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"You'll likely have an easier time of it than me,"</font> she murmured. This wolf was a fighter, she could see it despite the metaphorical chains binding her. She still had spirit. 

Citlali's spirit had been broken a long time ago.

Not sure what else to say, she fell silent, looking over at the carved stones. <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"Has he ever responded to you before?"</font> she asked, referring to the deity. <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"Have any of them?"</font> Supposedly, some wolves had spoken to the gods before, including the Avelorn shaman of her birth pack. She personally had seen neither hide nor hair of them. In a world where magic was as common as rain, it seemed strange to deny the existence of a higher power. But it was also easy to deny something one had never encountered.


                                            <center><font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"May I speak?"</font></div>

<DIV style="text-align: CENTER; font-family: georgia; font-size: 8px; text-transform: uppercase; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 20px #ffffff; letter-spacing: 7px; line-height: 12px;">One song, one star burning bright
Let it carry me
Through darkest night</DIV>


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<center>CODE BY CHIP | ART BY FENNECFYRE
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Unable to muster a response, Evike merely shrugged away Citlali's attempt at comfort. It wasn't that Evike was angry at her - she sincerely hadn't meant her any harm - but rather there was nothing to say. No response that would suit the exchange. If Evike were to say it was alright, she would be lying and to fly in the face of such an attempt at kindness with anger seemed unnecessarily cruel.

Silence grew between them, as if the other had gotten lost in her thoughts. Eve did not bother to look over her shoulder for the girl, and instead pressed her cheek against the chiseled stone, staring vacantly out at the clouds that pooled around the mountain top. When she spoke again, Citlali offered encouragement in a tiny voice, the words nearly ripped away by the winds here. Evike's ears flicked back toward the fawn-colored female, and slowly her head turned to follow suit, studying her from over her shoulder. "I know." The mage lied, though voicing false confidence helped to dissipate the uncertainty she felt.

Flattened out against the rocks, Citlali's attention wandered about the standing stones, as if looking for some reprieve from the unexpected turn of emotions. Evike tracked her gaze a moment before lifting her eyes to the gleaming silver coin of the moon, ears pulling back as her wings rose and fell in a sort of shrug. "I don't know." The words felt thick and foreign on her tongue. "The shaman in my first... <i>they weren't my pack</i>...." But for lack of a better word, she would call them that, unable to explain the situation accurately enough for her tastes. She did not want to insinuate familial bonds with her captors, but it was such a complex relationship. Not all of them had been responsible for her captivity, and yet all of them were guilty, as far as she cared. "She claimed the gods spoke in ways that mortals often ignored. That their voice came in the wind and the rain and the turn of waves... but I've never been able to hear them. The wind is just that, a mindless current of air, the rain is simply the turn of the weather, and the waves are but the ocean breaking on the shores. I never heard them, but I helped <i>others</i> to hear them. If you told the religious that a break in the clouds was a favorable omen for their plans to challenge for rank or propose to their mate, they would feel the grace of the gods. If they failed, they would spend long hours, even weeks, combing through the events of the day finding something to confess or apologize for." Tactics of manipulation had made her life easier and kept her relatively comfortable. These were the things she had been good at, though she hadn't practiced them for so long and had doubts of their usefulness in her current predicament - the black male did not seem the sort to pray or trust in a priest's keen eye to identify omens. 

A contemplative pause hung between them. Looking back at Citlali again, she cracked a grin, humming with a tragic sort of mirth. "I've never seen Phu'arne, but it didn't hurt to try, now did it?" Her head dipped down, nose touching the tender wounds, gently worrying the blood and dirt away. "Perhaps <i>you</i> are supposed to be the voice the gods answer me with, if they only allow the worthy to grace their peak." Certainly her appearance had helped to soothe the black mage's mind, though she'd picked at old wounds in the process. If the shaman was right, had the trio meant to supply her a conversational acquaintance? She smothered a laugh by continuing with her wound care, ears trained on the dun wolf. "Would their messenger happen to know what herbs stave off infection from a bite?"
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                       <center><div style="border-bottom: 2px solid #fae58f ; border-top: 2px solid #fae58f ; padding-top: 8px;"><font style="font-family:Ruthie; font-size: 80px; font-style: none; text-transform: none; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #000000, 0px 0px 30px #ffffff; line-height: 100px; float: bottom; ">Citlali Deerheart</font></div>
                                           </center>          <div style="text-align: justify; font-variant: small-caps; font-family: georgia; font-size: 10px; line-height:8px; word-spacing:3px; letter-spacing:2px; color: #ffffff; text-shadow: 0px 0px 5px #000000; word-spacing: 5px;">                                                </center>         <font style="text-align: justify; font-variant: small-caps; font-family: georgia; font-size: 12px; line-height:12px; word-spacing:4px; letter-spacing:2px; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 5px #000000; word-spacing: 5px;"><DIV style="text-align: CENTER; font-family: georgia; font-size: 8px; text-transform: uppercase; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 20px #ffffff; letter-spacing: 7px; line-height: 13px;">Time to fly, time to touch the sky
One voice alone
A haunting cry</DIV>


<font style=" font-size: 15px; font-style: italic; font-variant: none; text-transform: none; text-shadow: 0px 0px 9px #000000;">She didn't know</font> if she had spoken to them? Citlali gave her a confused look, though the more she thought aout it, the more she supposed it made a kind of sense. It seemed that her homeland's priests had had links with the deities as well, though of a different sort. Those of Citlali's tribe had claimed to communicate directly with the gods in dreams and induced trances. Evike's clan had sought out signs, instead, in phenomenon that could easily be interpreted with a bit of imagination. She found herself agreeing with the black wolf, that these "omens" were little more than wishful thinking. She cocked her head slightly at Evike's brief mention of her history. She had helped others see those signs? Perhaps she had been a shaman herself. That would explain her quest up here. In the hour of need, even a cynic could be a believer. Her gods certainly hadn't helped her evade capture, however, nor had they stopped her captor from inflicting such grievous wounds on her.

It may have been that some of Citlali's animosity towards the gods came from her former pack's belief that their practice of subjugating Ellyrians was mandated by the gods. If they didn't agree with it, argued the Avelorns, then wouldn't they have intervened? Citlali, personally, doubted they had even noticed. She shrugged as Evike spoke again.<font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;"> "I suppose it didn't."</font> But when the black wolf suggested that perhaps she was the omen that gods had sent to her in her troubles, Citlali could only give her the kind of incredulous look normally reserved for someone who just said the sky was purple and fish could gallop majestically over the land. "Me? I hope you're joking." She peered closer at Evike, examining her head for injuries. Maybe her brain had been rattled.<font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;"> "I promise you, I'm no sign or omen or whatever. I'm...I'm just..."</font> Her wings unfurled slightly, encompassing her deerlike form. <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"I'm nobody."</font> She was a face in the background, a rank-and-file wolf, a refugee and a traitor.

Thankfully, her attention was drawn away from a looming existential crisis by the wolf's question. Herbs? <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"Um..."</font> She stood up and looked about, nose working as she attempted to discern if there were any medicinal plants growing nearby.<font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;"> "There are a few that can, but...there's nothing much growing up here."</font> She looked out over the landscape, illuminated by the moon's light.<font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;"> "There may be plants in the woods, but I'll be a while." </font>This was something she knew at least, something she could do to help the other wolf. She slipped down the mountainside as fast as possible, soon disappearing into the shadows.

The moon, previously at it's zenith, had begun to make it's downward arc by the time she returned from Silvis a bundle of plants with tiny white flowers growing from it's stalks clutched in her mouth. She stopped before Evike and began to champ them, working it into a poultice in her mouth and grimacing at the taste. Finally, she spat the mass onto the ground for a moment to speak.<font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;"> "This is valerian. It might make you a bit drowsy, so be careful when you're going back down the mountain, but it's good for cleaning wounds."</font> She sat and picked up the poultice again, waiting for Evike to open her wing so she could get to the wound. When she did so, Citlali spread the material over the injury, using her paw and the thumb-claw of her own wing to cover it.<font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;"> "There. That should help keep you from getting sick, at least."</font> She stepped back and looked at the other wolf. <font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"I don't believe I've even introduced myself yet. My name is Citlali, of the Caelum Clutch."</font>

                                            <center><font style=" color: #a1cbde; text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #ffffff;">"May I speak?"</font></div>

<DIV style="text-align: CENTER; font-family: georgia; font-size: 8px; text-transform: uppercase; color: #fae58f; text-shadow: 0px 0px 20px #ffffff; letter-spacing: 7px; line-height: 12px;">One song, one star burning bright
Let it carry me
Through darkest night</DIV>


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<center>CODE BY CHIP | ART BY FENNECFYRE
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