1867-10-14: Beneath the Twin Moons
Beneath the Twin Moons
Summary: Two Ancient Changelings enter a Ruin….
Date: 10/14/1867 IA
Related: The Sentinel Speaks
Lon  Reese  

Lon waited in the ruins of Alain’s Rest, as the sun crept below the horizon. The moons would rise early tonight, so he had slipped away early to steal into this place. It had not been the easiest thing…Emilia had warned of him of the sharp-eyed Wraiths of this place, and while he was confident he had avoided them in coming here, he had been worried, briefly, that he was not going to make the ruins before night fell.

He was safe now, though, within the ruins. It was calm here, almost too much so. But the scents of the city barely reached it, including that odd pang of sickness he had noticed upon arriving here. More than just the usual from such places. That might be an ill portent, but while he could clean and stitch wounds well enough and knew his herbs and roots as well as any, the treatment of disease was not something he had ever learned.

When the Twin Moons came, so too did the change. Unbidden his form twisted, elongated, and grew to the taller, furred Man-Wolf shape. Those few humans that had seen the transformation in the past said it looked painful, but it was not. The asked questions as to which form was “his true form.” There was no answer, because they were all no more or less true in their moment. He felt equally comfortable as man, wolf, or hybrid. Long ago, he had been able to take other shapes as well, but that gift had long since waned. He didn’t remember the last time he had been able to use it.

He lit no fire. Nothing to draw attention to this place, at least not yet. The strange calm did not carry scents well, but he could tell it had been some time since anyone else had tread this ground. But there was indeed…something else. Something more foul to be found here. Or perhaps that HAD been found here but no longer. In any case, he resolved he would see whether such was true or not.

As he began to clamber deeper into the ruins…aware that he was entering subterranean sections of the castle, another scent reached him, stronger and very recent and oh-so-familiar. His wolf’s eye’s blinked as his mind raced to recognize it, but before realization came, the other wolf was upon him.

Silly. Let myself get distracted. Lon thought as the great brown wolf nipped and clawed and wrestled with him. He wasn’t sure if it was him or the other growling. Still, the bites and claws were not killing strikes, only the attempt at imitating them.. Another time, the struggle may not even have occurred, but the Beast blood was strong under the twin moons, and so the wolves fought on.

They rolled on dirty stone floors, and buffeted into walls. Despite their battle the sounds were not loud. Low growls and chuffs. Not yips and howls and barks. His foe was strong. Perhaps stronger than he, but Lon was quicker, if only by a hair’s breadth, and, it seemed, at least a half-shade more skilled, as he finally wrestled the other Changeling to the ground, getting a clear look at the snarling face for the first time.

«Ris.» Lon greeted, keeping the brown-haired wolf pinned as he spoke the ancient language of the Sidhe, «I did not know you still lived.» His dominance established, Lon released Ris, and he clambered back to his feet, shaking his head back and forth a bit and scratching at the ground in mild frustration.

«Even after Ages you still best me, Hunter.» Ris straightened, studying the white-haired Lon intently, «Nor I you. I heard tales of you, when I chose to make the Empire my pack. How you rode with Julian Castor as a knight. But you had long since moved on.» Ris paused a moment, «But your example made it…easier…for me. To be taken into the pack.»

«So that was your path when the Salted Earth Court was destroyed.» Lon replied, dropping into a crouch, outside of arm’s reach and still watching Ris with instinctive wariness. «A…remnant of the Blackened Wood still exists. I still hunt.»

«It is here?» Ris queried, glancing down the hallway towards deeper darkness, «I smelled something…odd. A new thing, but old at the same time.» He shook his shaggy head, «I do not know this thing.»

«That quarry I do seek this night.» Lon spoke, «But it is not that of which I speak. I speak of the shadow of El’Ka’Athren.» He shrugged, «But that does not matter now. There is other quarry to hunt. Will you join me? Or will we battle more over packs that are no more?»

«Yes. I will hunt.» Ris noted, «Have you seen any of our brothers and sisters in your travels?» The Imperial Changeling couldn’t help but ask, «Hul or Renla or…».

«Hul was alive the last I saw him, but that was in an age past. Of Renla…I do not know. I am sorry.» Renla had been Ris’ first mate, at least among the Changelings. Ris had challenged Hul himself, the eldest of the Changelings, for that right, and won. «Nor do I know of others until I found you this eve. The Sundering scattered us well and truly. Occasionally there are rumors, but I can never know if it is one of our brothers or sisters…or whether simply one of our wild-blooded descendants.»

«I found you.» Ris noted, his expression shifting to a mild grin, but it faded, «I last saw her just before the Sundering. It was a scant hope, but I suppose it still remains. The world is large, even for us.»

«Yes.» Lon replied, though to which comment was not entirely clear. Perhaps all of them. «Come…we hunt.» A chuff of laughter, «How long since two hunters of the ancient days sought the same quarry? If the knew to fear, fear they would.»

«Only if they don’t know how easy you are to approach without being found.» Ris chided, ever-challenging, if more playfully now. «Is it the girl? The one you’re dancing with? Has some human woman clouded your senses? I thought you didn’t like humans, Hunter.» A pause, «But she is…different. I caught her scent at Ostvor.»

«You talk too much.» Lon grumbled, «And you bite with a broken tooth.» He could not imagine Ris had spent an Age living among the Imperials and not taken any mates from among them.

«More true than you know. Both true.» There was more amusement than chastisement in Ris’ tone, but he did indeed fall silent as they moved deeper into the ruins, following the tainted scent that they both had detected. At times they had to squeeze through small doorways as the path led downward into darkness, though not so dark to their senses.

Eventually they came to a wall that had but a small hole at its’ base, but the bricks were newer than those that surrounded them. Not by a great deal…but still newer. WIth their combined strength the thing wall fell easily, revealing that the passage continued descending even further beneath the ground. The scent was stronger now, mingling with that of charred stone and old decay. They found themselves on the edge of a circular pit…rimmed in hewn stone. Pausing at it’s edge…they listened.

The sound that came was somehow a surprise to Lon even if he had been told to expect it. The quiet sobbing should have echoed in the pit, and yet instead it felt as though the pit funneled that sound directly towards his ears. He felt the push of Chaotic influence upon him, and unbidden he thought of Alon, his last son, whom he had killed when the Beast Blood grew too strong in him. Like Ris, he had chosen humans over his own kind, but then Lon had been among those that always felt that protecting the humans was part of their purpose, if indirectly.

Despite the unbidden thoughts, the sorrow that accompanied them was muted. Regretting that which had to be done was pointless. That, and he and his brothers and sisters had been made to resist much of what the Bane Sidhe and their creations might seek to wield against them. If your warriors were not armored against the weapons of the enemy, what good are they? These creatures were new things, but they were rotten fruit from the same tree that produced the enemies of old.

Still, muted sorrow or not…the thoughts were a distraction, such that Lon did not notice the shadow figures clambering up the side of the pits like four-legged spiders. Such that even when the creature stood before him with its’ misshapen visage, he only blinked at it uncomprehendingly. IT wasn’t until the claws raked across his midsection that the Beast’s Blood grew heated once more, and he lunged…

Lon could feel his wounds sealing almost as soon as they were made. These creatures were made to prey upon men…not Changelings. Some of the creatures of old could have killed him…but in only a few moments, Lon knew these could not. Still, the creatures were swift, and though his claws and fangs bit deeply at times the wounds did not seem to trouble them even when they did not heal quickly. As he struggled he saw Ris, one of the creatures clawing at his back, his brother having clearly fallen into the same lull he had, but even as Ris turned to strike back Lon’s attention returned to his foe.

The battle was ultimately fierce…but it was short. These new things were not ready for his kind. Foul ichor was spilled and the creatures hissed and cried and clawed and bit, but to not avail. Both soon lay unmoving at the feet of the two elder Changelings, and they howled in triumph, uncaring of being heard with the Beast’s blood roaring in their ears..

It took some minutes before that Beast’s blood had again cooled, and the makings of fire could be gathered. Lon chided Ris for no longer remembering how to build and light a pyre without tools, and Ris claimed that Lon would have ended the battle far sooner if he hadn’t gotten old and fat in the Age past. But once the pyre was alight, Lon placed each of the bodies in turn upon it, affecting at least a glimmer of reverence in the human manner, as Emilia would have wished.

«I do not know what God or Gods you prayed to before Chaos took you, but find peace with them now.» Lon spoke, and Ris canted his head quizzically, the heat and smoke bothering neither overmuch as the creatures burned to ash.

«Burning I remember. Not so much speaking words for them.» Ris commented, «These were once humans?» He didn’t seem alarmed at the notion, purely curious.

«Once. Perhaps not in living memory of humans, but once. Emilia asked of me that I…remember that if my hunt was successful.» Lon gestured, «Now it is done. These ruins will be safer for it.»

«Emilia. So that is her name.» Ris chuffed with laughter once more, «The one that helped you get soft and slow.»

«And still enough to best you.» Lon “grinned” back. «Do you need a reminder?»

Ris’ hackles rose for a moment, but then he exhaled, shaking his wolf’s head, «No. The hunt was good, however brief. A good way to spend a night beneath the Twin Moons. Not fighting my brother. Again. Even if he is slow and fat and soft…and lucky.»

«Ha. You were always stubborn. Even if you’re toothless.» Lon replied, moving to crouch upon a patch of cold stone as he watched the pyre burn. «Emilia may come here soon. She spoke of doing so and I did not wish otherwise.»

«I will leave you then. Plenty of ruins here to share until morning.» Ris spoke, glancing down one of the shattered hallways.

«Stay. At least long enough to meet her.» Lon glanced towards Ris. «She would be disappointed otherwise, I think. And it would amuse me to see her surprised by another of my kind.»

«Oh, well if it keeps your mate happy….» Ris spoke with no small amount of sardonic tone in his tone, but leaned against a standing bit of stone wall, folding his arms over his chest…

And then they waited in silence….

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