<sarani-chan> The Nocturnal Fighting Cages were always so loud. The roar of the crowd mixed with the snarls of whatever unlucky beasts had been thrown into the ring together made for a nearly deafening mix. Put that together with the scent of mistreated animals and God knew what else made the place absolutely unbearable.
Keelin snapped at one of the handlers just as they managed to close the door to her cage. She slammed herself against the bars, her lips drawn back in a snarl as her bright green eyes glared furiously at the retreating backs of her so-called 'masters'. As soon as they had vanished from view she sat back heavily on her haunches, starting to attempt at cleaning the wounds from her most recent fight.
<InuMeister>Cheers could be heard away from the dark and damp place. Whatever beings had been placed into the ring, one had at last killed or at least severely maimed the other. The cages were placed directly under the ring, making it very easy to move dangerous beasts right to the fight. That also meant however that blood and other bodily fluids soaked down and dripped below. It did so now, red liquid seeping and falling to the ground. The smell only agitated the blood drinkers among the cages, hisses and growls issuing forth louder.
The contestant from above was led down to the cages via the stairs. Now that the fight was over, his hands were once again clasped in heavy chains that normal men could never lift. It was obvious right away what he was. With a rough and somewhat harsh appearance, lean and wild hair framed his wolfish eyes. His hands were curled and fitted with broken and blood stained claws. He walked, oddly enough, with his spine stiff and eyes level, as if he had nothing to hide. Wearing only scraps of cloth for britches, his strong physique was visible along with his many scars. He had been there a long time. His expression was utmost calm and perhaps even saddened as the handlers pushed him along.
Harshly he was pushed inside a small cage next to Keelin's own, not even large enough for him to stand in. Sitting with a sigh, he propped an arm atop a bent leg and tilted his head back, pondering something. He glanced towards the cage next to his own and smelled something strange... It wasn't a shadow shifter or a blood drinker. Something animal, though not normal. Ah. It dawned upon his face. He spoke up. His voice was very hoarse, as if he hadn't spoken in a long while. "You must be the feline terror that I've heard of..."
<sarani-chan> Keelin had stopped cleaning her wounds when the werewolf was brought down into the room. No sooner had the handlers left and she'd resumed cleaning then the stranger decided to speak to her. She lowered one paw and regarded him out of the corner of her vision. A low growl threatened to make its way up her throat, but the adrenaline from her last fight was already gone, leaving her throat raw and overused. Oh, to Hell with it...
The rust-colored fur abruptly started to vanish, and her entire form shrank and reshaped itself with a few unnerving popping noises. In the creature's place was a young girl who couldn't have been more than a few years into her teens. One side of her mouth curled humorlessly as she looked the man over. The end of a sharp canine tooth protruded past her lips. "That's 'Tigress' to you, buddy...At least that's what they call me here."
<InuMeister> He frowned somewhat as he attempted to see her. Sharp sight of not, it was very dark here and one of his eyes was a tad paler than the other, blind for the most part. "Tigress...? No... I don't wish for a title that this place has given you. I wish to know real and proper names." Shifting his weight somewhat, the chains rattled as he breathed out, "I am William Cole. I have been here for a long while so I do not know my age... " He would like to give her a full and proper introduction but there was just so much missing from it that it wasn't worth giving. His eyes softened somewhat. "You look young yourself... I have never seen a 'were-tiger' before. I did not know they existed. But I suppose it is good to learn and be surprised, even at my age."
<sarani-chan> Keelin snorted and shifted so she could more easily inspect a score of claw marks on her side. They were already healing nicely, and was likely to barely scar. "Nobody's asked me that in a while...It's Keelin..." She grimaced. "Don't hold your breath for any more surprises like me. Far as I know, there ain't any others." She scratched idly at her hair, which fell in a dirty, tangled mess to her shoulders.
<InuMeister>"Aah..." So she was a special case then. She obviously didn't want to talk of it so he didn't press further. Settling back against the bars, his gaze turned upwards towards the ceiling where small cracks of light could be seen. His thoughts wandered... He hadn't seen a tree in a long time. How funny that a simply tree would give him pleasure if he saw it. "I see... Keelin then..." His eyes closed somewhat as he attempted to picture something else. "...have you ever seen the ocean, Miss Keelin? Or been to London? Both are beautiful. I miss London... I wonder how much it has changed in my absence."
<sarani-chan> Keelin had been content to simply sit there while waiting for her injuries to continue healing, but William caught her attention once again. "...huh?" She shook her head. "Nope, never been to neither..." All she ever knew was the same dirty city, and after that...well, she didn't think about that sort of thing. It was a few moments of silence before Keelin spoke again. "Were you...born there? Or is it just a fun place to go hang out?"
<InuMeister>"Fun place to...?" He laughed. The barking sound surprised him though it died down quickly. He smiled now. "Yes I suppose it is a fun place. I moved there when I was studying to be a professor. That was in... 1881 I believe. It was a wonderful place... I was forced to leave shortly after changing. I've recently lived within New Orleans... Or 'La Nouvelle-Orléans' as they call it. It is a city filled with magic, good and bad. And the music..." Such music. Again he released a pent up breath. His small smile remained as he turned to look at her. "I promise I shall take you there someday... " His light tone turned a bit damper, more serious. It sounded more like an oath than a mere promise.
<sarani-chan> Keelin hadn't been paying full attention to what William was saying, but she sure as hell was now. "Wait. What?" She quickly sat up straight and gave him a critical look. "First you're sayin' you've been around since 1881....now I ain't that great at math, but even I know that's a really fuckin long time. Two, you're just gonna up an' promise to get me outta here? What's your damage to make you promise shit like that?"
<InuMeister>He seemed lost in thought. "Aaah wait, perhaps that is my birthday... yes the year I was born, I remember now. I arrived in what year, what year..." He paused and frowned over towards her at her next words. "Now, don't use such language. It's vulgar. If you must curse at me, say it in a language that rolls form the tongue better. Damnare andstupri. Yes, I have been around quite some time, haven't I?" He paused and blinked to himself as if he just remembered why. He smiled. "I forgot." He was far older than any werewolf should be. Whoops. He wouldn't explain however and continued, "Yes I am. I do not break my word. I am a gentleman." He smiled slightly. "I want to feel the grass under my feet again. And I will happily help someone like yourself leave here." He had been meaning to leave, but he wished to free another with him. So far he had met only brutes and beasts... This Keelin was neither.
<sarani-chan> Keelin had no idea what to say to any of this, except one thing. "You're weird." She leaned back against the bars of her cage. "Alright then. Suppose I did agree to go with you. How the hell are you plannin' on busting outta this place? They keep us locked down so tight we can't so much as fart without their say-so." She rubbed at the scar on her neck, encircling it completely like a collar.
<InuMeister>"Hmm... that is my own thoughts." He replied with a thinner smile. Weird? He would take that as a compliment. She may be innocent, but she was rather brash. He noticed the ring and how she rubbed at it. Ah... she must have been forced to wear a neck shackle. "Just be prepared to run when I say... Now, if you'll pardon me, Miss Keelin..." He settled back again and closed his eyes with a sigh. "I think I will rest a little while..."
<sarani-chan>Keelin just stared at him for a few moments, her expression a mixture of disbelief, confusion...and the tiniest bit of hope. "...Bah, whatever...Crazy old wolf..." She turned around and curled up into a tight ball. Even though the adrenaline from her fight was gone, it was still difficult to relax in a place like this. Nevertheless she tried to allow herself to get some rest as well.
<InuMeister>And so it went. They had no way to measure time, but for what felt for many days, William and Keelin by stroke of luck were placed close to each other in the cages after their matches. Each time William was sure to talk to Keelin. He had a vast collection of stories it seemed to tell her. He had been all over the world and met many interesting people. In detail he told her of the castles and kings he had met, of simple pleasures of gathering around a table with a family in New Orleans, and so on. Never did he stray to his darker stories. He didn't want to fill her head with any more grim thoughts. He was very knowledgeable also, and was able to answer any questions in depth. He enjoyed their conversations immensely.
One day he was interrupted though when he was attempting to explain the science behind why werewolves didn't react well to silver. The keepers arrived and harshly pulled him forth, shoving him towards the stairs. The roar of the crowds only grew louder as he cast Keelin a small smile. He would be back soon. His matches never lasted very long.
Another keeper arrived at Keelin's cage and opened it, eyeing her with a large knife in hand. "Move it, pussycat. We have an opponent for you." She would most likely be led to one of the smaller rings around the larger one for a fight, yet again. Perhaps she would finish her fight and come back before William did.
<sarani-chan> Keelin leveled the keeper with a glare, drawing her fangs back in a low, tea kettle hiss. Nevertheless, she carefully got to her feet and started to walk. She was certain to keep the knife in her view. The keeper might not know it, but it would be relatively simple to disarm him. It was getting through the rest of the compound that worried her.
Plus Keelin had no intention of leaving without William. It would be like pulling teeth to admit it, but she had become rather attached to the old wolf. He was one of the first to show her genuine kindness in so long...
<InuMeister>She wasn't moving fast enough for him it seemed, as the brute shoved her and muttered, "I got money riding on this so you better not screw this up..." She was led up the stairs and pushed along. The sudden lighting from the darkness was always harsh on the contestants' eyes. It took a moment for the light to adjust and fade as she was moved and thrown into a ring, the gate locking behind her. The fighting rings were always several feet lower than the rest of the ground, surrounded by silver grating. Terrible people crowded around and peered down, jeering and cheering with money in hand. Across the ring, her opponent would be waiting.
William stood there, his usually kind expression arranged into one of utmost fury. Upon spotting her though, it faltered. His stance which had been so hostile and threatening loosened. He couldn't believe his eyes. "Keelin...?" No it couldn't be. He couldn't be fighting her, out of all of the beings down below.
<sarani-chan> Keelin let out a rude string of curses to detail what exactly the keeper could do with his knife, just as the door slammed shut behind her. She turned and prepared to face her opponent....only to stop short. Her face paled several shades under the layer of blood and dirt. "...William..." Her voice came out as a hoarse croak. She pressed back against the wall of the ring instinctively. No...no no no! This wasn't how things were supposed to go! Why William of any creature here?!
<InuMeister>Aah but they should have known. They had both been doing far too well. Both of them were for the most part undefeated. What was better then pitting the Tigress against him? They wouldn't be getting out of this either. If the contestants didn't fight... They were both executed at once. William stood by, breathing slowly. They had no choice really... He smiled, though it didn't reach his eyes. He stepped forward. "Come, Keelin... we must give them a show." He wouldn't shift. He tried not to when fighting. Typically he fought with his fists alone. Bringing them up, he fell into a light stance as he advanced. He had an idea. He spoke lowly, eyes lidded somewhat. "You would be wise to shift right away against me..."
<sarani-chan> Keelin balked at the words, no matter how well-meaning they were intended. Sure, William was older and more experienced, but she had been doing plenty fine on her own without taking pointers from an opponent!
She had a half-formed retort on her tongue when she saw the expression on his face. Calculating. William was planning something. Without another word, Keelin was arching her spine forward. Rust colored fur that would have been brighter without the dirt sprouted. Bones snapped and reformed again in the blink of an eye. Her skull did a grotesque sort of reshaping to make it more cat-like. Her paws lightly kneaded the ground, and she gave her new form a brief shake before she prowled around William with a wary expression in her intelligent eyes.
<InuMeister>The sight was a familiar one, though he was used to seeing the complete transformation ending with more wolfish creatures. He refused to change his own form. It was much too... vicious and difficult to control. He moved slowly around her, eyes overcast and expression impossible to read. He moved swiftly. He was sure she must be a capable fighter. He however had been around a lot longer. Even in his human form, he possessed a terrifying combination of speed and strength.
He slid and slammed his leg down to attempt to sweep her legs right from under her to get her to stumble. If he could do that, he attempted to throw himself down atop her and pin her against the dirt. He had never fought a feline such as her though so he was unsure if this tactic would work.
<sarani-chan>Keelin hissed at the sudden motion and darted to the side by a few feet. Her paws skittered against the floor of the ring as she dodged the incoming attack. Even if she wasn't as strong as some werewolves, she was still fast. She hadn't even come to a full stop before she was coiling up to leap at William. Her claws weren't fully extended, but her weight alone could still pack a punch in this form.
<InuMeister>He gave no visible negative signs as his attack failed. Of course she was faster, he should have thought of that...
Here she came, directly at him. That was fine by him. He might have been able to keep on his feet, but he didn't wish to. Instead he allowed her to push him down and land atop him, using the motion and momentum to easily flip them a few times until he was the one pinning her to the ground. His arms and muscles bulged as he struggled to keep her down by the wrists, his expression still complete calm. He leaned closer to her and spoke quickly and lowly, "Miss Keelin... It has been a pleasure to meet you. But our time has come to an end. Only one of us is getting out of here alive.... It will be you." He smiled, though it didn't reach his eyes. "Switch our positions and finish this." This was a deathmatch. And he would rather she lived through it.
<sarani-chan> Keelin's body thrashed on instinct in an attempt to throw the werewolf off of herself. The growl rumbling deep in her chest was abruptly cut off as William spoke. She stared him in the face, the pupils of her eyes blowing wider with every word he said. No...no no no no! She drew her lips back and snarled in what pretty much said "your idea is shitty and I reject it on principal" in werecat.
<InuMeister>He wasn't fluent in the language but he could translate roughly. He was sorry... He wouldn't be able to take her to London and New Orleans like he had promised. On his own principle he wasn't one to lie. But in this case he would try to convince her. His arm flattened down onto her chest to continue to hold her down, his other hand moving to close around her throat. His expression changed, morphing into something wild and feral. "Damn it, feline, fight me or I will kill you!!" He wasn't playing around anymore it seemed. Perhaps his own temper had finally snapped. His form rippled somewhat as his hands began to grow, claws forming from them and fur beginning to travel up his arms. He was shifting to finish this if she would not.
<sarani-chan> By now Keelin's eyes were dilated as wide as they could possibly go. Blind instinct, fear, and the primal desire to preserve her own life was the only thing that made her use her legs to try and kick William up and over her. Instantly she had twisted her body so she landed neatly on her feet. Her claws were fully unsheathed now as she swiped at him with a feral roar.
<InuMeister>She was acting on instinct now he noticed. Good. She wouldn't feel too guilty for this later on then.
He had done his best to repress the transformation and restrict it to his arms. The rest of him remained very human, and just as vulnerable. So as she hacked and slashed at him, he merely lifted his head and gave her a small and pitiful smile. Her claws cut through his neck like a hot knife through butter.
There was blood of course. That was expected as he fell to his knees, arms limp at his sides. His eyes, which had always remained so kind through their conversations, now were dull and fading to appear more like marbles. Too soon, the light was gone. The great wolf of London was dead, slumping into the dirt without a shred of grace or dignity left in him.
There was at first a silence all around. Then an explosion of cheers and jeers as winners and losers began to exchange money. It was too bad, some said, to see the end to this fight. Too bad the wolf man had not been able to transform before dying. Too bad.
<sarani-chan> Keelin's breaths came out heavy and harsh as her vision came back into focus. Her arms felt coated with something sticky and warm...and that was when she saw him. William, his throat slashed and his eyes empty. She could have sworn that she felt her heart resound with a loud crack. This...this couldn't be happening. Her legs trembled and finally buckled. She wasn't even aware that she was slipping from her feral form. Her wide eyes could only linger on his face, and those empty eyes that had looked at her with nothing but kindness...
<InuMeister>As was the norm, the heaviest and cruelest of men fell into the ring behind her to take her back to her cell, weapons of silver at the ready should she resist. Harsh hands gripped her and began to haul her away. At the same instance, other men filtered around William's body. Some scoffed, shaking their heads in disgust as he was the cause for their loss of money. A few kicks were given to make sure he was dead, and out of resentment. They shouldn't have bothered. The man was long gone, and didn't so much as twitch. His form was dragged in the opposite direction to be disposed of, just like any other piece of trash.
Swiftly Keelin was brought back below the large ring and without so much as a pat on the back was harshly stuffed into her cage, door slamming shut behind her. Only this time there was no one in the cage next to her. No one to assure her that the blood on her hands could easily be rubbed away and cleaned, that she would one day see the sun again.
<sarani-chan> Keelin was nearly dead-weight in her shock, the painful sense of numbness that spread throughout her body. She had tried for so long to build up her defenses against the world. To make herself unbreakable, she hadn't realized how lonely she was. Then William, with his intelligence, and his kindness, had moved as if Keelin hadn't spent her whole life building up walls for protection. He had made her feel human, after so long of being treated as livestock. As a monster. As a freak of nature born of one being's urges to create something that shouldn't exist.
The slam of the cage was like a gunshot. It jolted Keelin out of her grief and into reality. A reality that she wanted so badly to be free from. Life returned to her limbs in a white hot anger and she screamed. She rammed the bars. Red splattered from her hands to the floor, and bruises formed on her skin. She screamed for William, for herself, and the family she would never see again.
Hours later, Keelin was completely spent. Back in human form and curled up on top of the few rags of cloth that were occasionally provided. She stared blankly at the gaps in the bars, ignoring the sting of bruises on her body, the feeling of her throat screamed silent, and her own aching heart.
<InuMeister>Perhaps the most painful thing of all was how the world continued to move onward without even so much as a sign that her friend had passed and she was suffering. The matches continued. The fighting continued. The other howls and screams of beasts continued. The cruel world that had become her own continued on and on, without an end in sight.
For the moment anyhow. A loud crashing and crunching sound could be heard. Whatever it was, it was out of her line of sight. Yelling could be heard though, along with snarls and savage growling. This happened from time to time. A beast got loose or tried to bust out. They were always subdued swiftly though. Only this time... The sounds weren't diminishing quickly. In fact, they only grew louder as the beast came closer and closer.
It was a werewolf, there was no doubt about that as its bulky force pushed and shoved through the rows of cages, snarling and halfway howling as it went. Bright green eyes darted towards her cage. The beast seemed to debate if she was worth eating, twitching towards her cell and crouching low to peer at her with a growl rumbling in its chest, Only it wasn't a growl. It was a chuckle. And he wasn't bearing his teeth, he was smiling. And those eyes sure looked familiar as they twinkled with hidden wisdom...
<sarani-chan> Keelin blankly stared back for several moments. Then realization struck her as if she'd been poked with a cattle prod, a spasm running along her entire body before she slammed herself against the bars. Her eyes were wide in disbelief. Her mouth opened, but it took a few tries for words to come out. Finally she managed a single, hoarse word. "...William?" She had never seen William's more primal form, but she would be damned if it was anyone else.
<InuMeister>The growling grew a bit louder as his smile did too. There she was, she got it. His eyes seemed to convey the words for him. 'Did you miss me?' He was far bigger than other wolves. Bringing his hand up, the fingers curled into razors that easily made mincemeat out of the cage bars to the side of the ones she pressed against. Reaching inward, he gently plucked her from the ground and moved her to his back. He huffed, wishing for her to hold herself on as he released her and glanced back. They didn't have much time for reunions. The arena guards were behind them, and he could detect signs of guns. He lurched forward, placing himself onto four legs to move swifter. They never had a chance. Guard, cage, door, or wall, he easily pressed himself through in a shower of cement and earth, shielding Keelin from it before moving on. Gradually, they were moving upward through the tunnels. He was making good of his promise it seemed.
<sarani-chan> Keelin could only watch on in stunned silence as William made quick work of her cage. A few moments later and she found herself pressed against his back. She carefully wrapped her arms around him and wound her fingers in the fur for a better grip. "You better have a damn good story when we get outta here," Keelin finally rasped at him before pressing her face into the werewolf's fur. Everything else after that turned into a blur of destruction. The next time she glanced up, there was nothing but the two of them and the sloping tunnels around them. "...I thought you were dead, you asshole." There wasn't any of her usual bite in the words.
<InuMeister>A whine worked its way through his large throat, ears swiveling to press against his head. Yes, he knew she would think that... She had to think that. He would explain soon. He regretted playing with her emotions so, he really did. But it had to be done.
His paces grew longer as he saw the end of the tunnel, loosely guarded by two men. The difference here was, they already held guns. Just in time, he jerked himself to the side to avoid the whizzing of a bullet as it burst through the air. He grimaced, growling as he felt the sting of the air. That had been too close...
He thought fast. He couldn't afford to have Keelin be hurt. But he needed to get through the gate. Two guards with guns were their only obstacle to him filling his promise. He would show her the sun again. Grinding his sharpened teeth, the beast man lurched forward with a howl ripping forth from his chest. He was able to avoid most of the damage, which surprised many for a creature of his size. Not all though, as he felt the pain and burning of silver biting into his shoulder. It was necessary though as he used himself as a shield for Keelin. At last he arrived and with two easy swipes, the guards were down. And they were out the door in a shower of splinters.
The somewhat filled moon smiled down at them, as if she had been waiting for them all this time. All at once, William's senses were overwhelmed by the smells of the forest. Of the wind, of the soil, of a stream further away. He wished to stop and admire the freshness after being forced to smell sweating and bloody bodies crammed together in a small space. No time. The entrance to the tunnel was right behind them, and anyone could come after them. He hurried, ignoring wounds and the smell of blood as he did so.
The water he had picked up on was his best bet. Indeed, as the horrors of the underground ring faded behind them he picked up on the sound of a stream. Slowing, at last satisfied they were safe, the wolf man broke from the cover of trees to kneel beside the swiftly moving liquid. He shook Keelin slightly to dislodge her. With a large gust of wind from his lungs, his form quivered and melted away.
His wounds ached more so now. Bare, he reached for his ankle where he had been able to wrap a pair of britches. Undoing the knot he fumbled to slide them on but did so. No matter the situation, there was no need for indecency. Sitting down he finally smoothed away his wild mane of hair to turn and look towards Keelin, concern on his face. "Are you alright? Did any of the bullets graze you?"
<sarani-chan> Keelin allowed herself to be dislodged, her bare feet making hardly a sound as they touched the ground. She didn't answer William for several moments. She was too busy looking around with an expression of surprised awe. The ends of her tangled mane of hair caught in a breeze that caressed her skin for the first time in years. "I..." Keelin took several tries to get the words out. "I'm fine." She turned to look at William. "I can smell you bleeding though..."
<InuMeister>"It's nothing." He insisted at once. He would dig out the bullets later. The bullets would stay and the wounds wouldn't heal for a while. Silver was annoying like that. He smiled. She seemed happy... good. He had delivered on his promise. His expression softened somewhat as he remained where he sat. He could surely feel his years now... "I'm sorry that I had to scare you into thinking... I apologize for any pain... I had no choice. Otherwise you might have been killed. It presented a unique opportunity to me at least which allowed me to finally break away from that condemned place."
<sarani-chan> Keelin silently crouched down and dipped her hands into the water. Blood and filth started to wash away slowly in the current. "...You looked dead," she finally said. Her voice cracked. As dead as any other opponent she had ever gone against. For a while she had thought that she had simply grown used to the weight of death on her conscience. At least until William's blood had turned up on her hands. Just the memory of it caused her to scrub them together where they were still submerged in the water.
<InuMeister>Ah... there it was. The cracking of the voice. The slouching of the shoulders. She acted strong, but he had her warm up to him... to only pull a stunt like that.
His hand moved up to graze over his neck. Not a scratch from the wound that had seemingly ended his life remained. "I know..." He murmured lowly. With a groan he pushed himself up and moved towards the water. Water sounded good. Being clean sounded good. Wading into it, he gave a small shiver. Cold. Moving to sit down and allow it to wash away his own filth, he explained as carefully as he could. "I... will not explain fully. It is not fair, I know, but I cannot. To make it simple, I am under orders to remain alive. Thus, my body heals faster and even when death has me for the most part... I am pulled back. It's very difficult to kill me and have me remain dead." He didn't want to speak of such things anymore. Instead he lifted an arm and with a small smile, splashed her from where he sat in the water. "And I believe you need a bath as badly as I. Not just your hands."
<sarani-chan> Keelin watched him wade into the water, her eyes intent on him as she listened. She had heard that werewolves had to follow the orders of any individual who could be considered their master, but she didn't know that it could be taken so extremely far. It was times like this that made her glad for being a freak of nature that tromped on normal standards. So far most vampires had a hard time getting their nasty hooks into her brain. "...that sounds like it sucks," she finally admitted when William finished his story, only to squeal and stumble backwards as he splashed her. Her expression made her look every bit like a disgruntled cat.
<InuMeister>This only caused him to smile again and chuckle. It was nice to be so lighthearted and carefree after that time down there...
He reached over his shoulder and submerged himself as he began to cleanly cut the bullets, grimacing as he did so. Still, he was able to speak clearly as he looked towards her. "You'll be needing a bath soon anyway if we are to go into a town. I suppose we could hang around this country for a while... We'll need food and clothes. Stealing is appalling, but if we must, we shall."
<sarani-chan> Keelin made a face at that, eyeing the water in front of her with limited enthusiasm. "...I guess..." She couldn't remember the last time she had an actual bath. Back in the rings the handlers would just spray all over the place with the hose when it got too smelly. She hated that hose with a burning passion. With cautious movements, Keelin inched closer to the edge of the water and stuck in one of her hands.
<InuMeister>William lifted a brow somewhat. Was this because she was a cat? He had already gotten most of his bullets. He would worry for wounds later. Wading forward, he reached out and carefully took her. With a gentle smile he began to pull her into the water. "Come now. I promise, I won't let anything bad happen." Never again to the poor young one if he could help it. And maybe, just maybe, he could help her enjoy life and lower her guard to others too.
<sarani-chan> Keelin stiffened ever so slightly in surprise, but reluctantly allowed herself to be eased into the water. The water wasn't super cold, though it could definitely be said that it wasn't a hot spring either. "...It's cold." Keelin made a displeased noise and hunched over slightly. The tips of her hair fell into the water and instantly started to shed accumulated grime. "I hope other baths are warmer."
<InuMeister>"We'll have warm water soon..." William promised her as he let her go and had to hide a smile. Yes, she was indeed a true feline. Cupping the water in his hands, he assisted with rinsing her off and coaxing her to clean herself as best she could. Moving back to the bank after he was sure they had gotten rid of a majority of the filth, he was able to gather soft leaves for bedding for the night. They would move in the morning, he told Keelin, and get as far away from the ring as they could. He told her to sleep and would keep watch, taking no argument.
Shamefully, he was unable to do so for too long. His wounds had taken a toll on him. He was tired, and he had stepped halfway into death. His head began to bob down from where he sat with his back against the trunk of a tree.
<sarani-chan> Keelin had grudgingly done her best to clean with what they had. By the time they were done, her rust colored hair had turned a brilliant orange, and whatever skin wasn't covered with scars and bruises allowed a smattering of freckles to peer through from underneath the dirt. She assisted William with collecting bedding, insisting that she was perfectly capable of helping. It wasn't long after curling up that she found herself drifting off. The silence punctuated by nature's sounds was a far cry from the near constant screams of the hell the pair of them came from....
It was several hours later that William would find himself being gently prodded. "Hello? Are you alive in there?" Another poke came along.
"Sir..." A new voice gave a long-suffering sigh. "I don't think that's a good way to wake him up..."
<InuMeister>Indeed it wasn't.
William alternated between being a heavy sleeper and a light sleeper. Heavy, as he could sleep through storms and screams from cages. Light because if anything directly touched him, he would react quickly and at times violently. This was no exception. His dreamless sleep was broken by something jabbing into him. On instinct, fur and claws sprouted along his arm as he reached out to grasp whatever it was, a mouth full of sharp teeth snarling. His eyes shot open, the world taking a moment before jumping into focus. He at once thought the worse. Had the fighting ring come after them? They would have one hell of a fight on their hands if they thought they would be able to take him alive or touch Keelin.
<sarani-chan>William found his sight met by two young men who looked a far cry from the handlers of the fighting ring. They were dressed in light coats meant for evening walks, and carried no weaponry to speak of. One held the stick that the werewolf was now grasping. He turned back to his companion, the moonlight glinting off of his oval-shaped glasses. "And that's why you wake a werewolf carefully, Tristan. I prefer to keep all my limbs intact." He turned back towards William with a smile on his face. "Hello there! I apologize for the rude awakening, Sir."
Somewhere off to the side, the commotion finally caused Keelin to wake with a start. She slurred half-formed curses as she quickly rose into a sitting position. "Who'da fuck are you guys?”
<sarani-chan-chan> William found his sight met by two strangers who appeared to be a far cry from the cruel fight ring handlers. A plump young woman and a thin-looking man, both dressed in light coats meant for evening walks.
The woman held the stick that William was currently grasping. She turned back towards her male companion , the moonlight glinting off her oval-shaped glasses. “And that's why you wake a werewolf carefully, Iseul. I prefer to keep all of my limbs intact.” She turned back towards the two werecreatures with a smile that caused her round cheeks to dimple slightly. “Hello there! I apologize for the rude awakening, Sir.”
<InuMeister>William's head caught up with his body. He didn't move for a moment, eyes narrowed at the two. He was no rash man though. They seemed innocent enough... Only, he also wasn't naive. It was usually the innocent that proved to be tricksters of the dangerous kind. He took in their smell. Yes, there were typical smells here.. No blood clung to them or other scents that would give off warning bells. Carefully he released the stick, allowing his form to completely slip back into his human form. He looked towards Keelin and called, "It's alright, Keelin... They are not enemies." And it seemed they had knowledge of the supernatural, seeing as one mentioned William being a werewolf so calmly and the other didn't seem too worried after he had shifted somewhat. William pushed himself to his feet, silently scolding himself for falling asleep as he asked, "Who are you...?"
<sarani-chan>The man gently tossed the stick aside and held up his hand as he walked forward. "My name is Ruya, and I would like to help you get a jump-start on your new lives!" As he grinned, sharp teeth gave off a dull shine in the low lighting.
Keelin got to her feet and was instantly on alert. This guy wasn't a ring handler, but it could be just as bad. "...You're a vamp, ain't ya?"
Ruya gave a happy nod. "You're sharp! I'm glad I decided to help. It would have been a terrible waste of potential..."
<InuMeister> Ah how had William missed that scent? Perhaps his time underground had dulled his senses. At once however he felt a surge of distaste. He counted himself as a gentleman. He treated many people as equals. Not vampires though. They only caused trouble. His lip twitched as he felt a low growl building in his chest, drawing himself to his full height. He decided right away he didn't like the way the man said 'a terrible waste of potential'. Oh yes... potential for a vampire to use? No thank you. "Help? And what do you know of us...?" William's tone was a bit sharper than normal, wariness and cautious in his eyes. Had this vamp been following them? How else would he know they were trying to start 'new lives'?
<sarani-chan> Ruya blinked and adjusted his glasses with one hand. "Weeell--"
Tristan, his companion, abruptly cut him off as he stepped between William and Ruya. "Sir, you're just going to make them hate you more." He turned towards the werewolf with an apologetic expression. "I'm sorry....He's a little..." One hand reached up to comb through his light brown hair as he searched for a word. "He's meddlesome, but he has good intentions. So, before he botches this to kingdom come and back I'll just go ahead and explain."
"Awww, you're no fun at all, Tristan!" The face Ruya wore was nothing short of a pout.
"Anyway," continued Tristan, pointedly ignoring the other vampire. "Long story short, his Dark Gift is prophecy, and he saw a vision of you two escaping tonight from the rings. He decided to come here and help you before they had a chance to find you and take you back."
<InuMeister>Aah... Yes, William knew all about their meddlesome Dark Gifts. This Tristan fellow seemed to be the level headed one out of the two. Still, William didn't trust him. They hadn't pried their way directly into William's mind though. Normally their kind tried to dig their way in and control one of his kind the minute they set eyes on them. William considered. They could be weaker vampires, and wanted to wait until his guard was down. This deal seemed too good to be true. And normally that meant it was a trap. Carefully he spoke. "I do not mean to sound ungrateful... but you must understand that we must be careful. What guarantee do I have that we can trust you?"
<sarani-chan> Tristan gave an understanding nod. "Of course." He scratched his head. "Although...I'm not really sure how we can guarantee you would be safe aside from our promised word. While I would be the first to say that you can trust it...I wouldn't blame you if you didn't." He smiled encouragingly. "Just believe me when I say vampires aren't all manipulative weasels, just the same as how werewolves aren't all unintelligent beasts."
"Either way, we won't be able to stay out here much longer if we want to get back before daybreak," piped up Ruya from behind Tristan. He peered at Keelin and William from over the taller vampire's shoulder. "You know, the whole 'catching fire in the sun' thing can be troublesome when it comes to traveling..."
Keelin made a face. She didn't know much about vampires, but she would have been leery about nearly anyone that just showed up out of the night and offered to help them.
<InuMeister>Though this Tristan made a good point... William's distrust for them ran deep. Right. Their weakness to sunlight. He supposed if worse came to worse he might be able to fight them... He glanced towards Keelin. They seemed to be their best bet. He wouldn't decide for her though. "Keelin?" His eyes gave the message he wouldn't say. Would she like to go with them? He would support her if she did, or didn't. He wouldn't abandon her.
<sarani-chan> Keelin nibbled on her lip. On the one hand, this could be a really bad idea. It could lead off into a bunch of really bad scenarios. On the other, this was a one-in-a-million chance. They wouldn't have to completely start from scratch.
It seemed that even if her mind wasn't made up, her stomach wanted to make the decision for her. A loud and extremely obnoxious gurgling noise permeated the night. The rations from back in the ring felt like years ago. "...You got food that ain't blood?"
Tristan chuckled. "Yes we do. Ruya has two human familiars, so we keep our pantry stocked."
"If we get dinner then I don't see why not." Keelin wouldn't have second thoughts about tearing their throats out if her gamble turned out to be the wrong one though.
<InuMeister> Ah... of course. Food. William, had out of practice, had forgotten about his own hunger.
He hoped she hadn't chosen this strictly out of hunger. Well... Even if she had, he couldn't blame her. He turned his head towards them and nodded. "Let's go then." He paused and glanced towards Keelin, remembering her bareness. He hoped if they were going somewhere public they had a blanket, or at least take a backway to get there. Werebeasts or not, it was simply not proper for a young lady to be seen in such a way.
<sarani-chan> Ruya clapped his hands together. "Alright, then let us be off!" He turned and led them back the way the two had come.
Tristan seemed to catch onto William's concern as they started walking down an animal trail. He dug around in the pocket of his jacket, pulling out a wallet, a phone and a small key-chain before shedding the article of clothing and holding it out to the pair of them. "Here you go. We're going to a more populated area, so this will at least keep people from staring..." He gestured to Keelin with a small smile.
<InuMeister>William paused before nodding. "Thank you." He spoke, truly appreciating the gesture as he took the clothing and draped it around Keelin's shoulders. William at least had something on, and might get a few stares, but wouldn't be locked away for public indecency. As they moved, William attempted to be civil and strike up conversation. "Where are we going...? One of your homes? Also... what year is it?" He wanted to know how long he had been in there.
<sarani-chan> "You're welcome," replied Tristan sincerely. His smile widened for a moment before he answered. "We live in the city a few hours out from here, above a shop we run." The inquiry about a year seemed to faze him just a little, as he blinked a moment before relying. "The year is 2014."
Keelin pulled the jacket a little more closely around herself as she listened. It wasn't long before a deserted country road came into view, with a vehicle that was parked off on the shoulder. Tristan pointed his key chain at the vehicle and pressed a button. There was a click and a short beeping noise that made Keelin jump ever so slightly. Ruya was already sliding into the passenger seat, but Tristan stopped to open one of the back doors for the other two before heading for the driver's side.
<InuMeister>How long had it been since he had been inside a car? Gesturing for Keelin to move in first, William closed the door behind them. The sounds of the car were unsettling to his sensitive ears. He looked towards Keelin. With a small smile he leaned a bit closer. "How are you holding up...?" He was... he supposed excited to see civilization again. "Soon we will have hot water, opportunities... books." Glorious books. He had a lot of reading time to make up for.
<sarani-chan> Tristan put the car out of park, and soon enough they were trundling along down the road. Trees and the occasional house flashed past, and the quiet sounds of an orchestra could be heard from the radio. Ruya tapped away at a phone that he pulled out of his coat, content to let their two passengers in the back do their own thing.
Keelin turned away from the passing scenery and looked to William with a shrug. "Alright I guess...." She remembered falling asleep in the car when she was really small, listening to the sounds of the radio and the quiet conversations of her family. "Been in cars before, so I ain't nervous or nothin'..." Though her sensitive hearing brought a whole new volley of sounds that she hadn't been expecting. "What sorta stuff do you read?"
<InuMeister> He settled back into the seat with a faint smile, thinking back. "Well... I am from a different time. I studied many subjects and the books were written differently. But..." His smile turned sheepish and he placed a hand onto his chest. He dropped his voice, but it wouldn't really do any good in a car full of supernaturals. "I am a romantic at heart. Love stories are my favorite. Tales of danger, but in the end, love triumphs." He seemed embarrassed and changed subjects. "Yourself?"
<sarani-chan> Keelin blinked, surprised at the conversation being abruptly directed at her. "...I dunno. Never really had many chances to do a lot of reading..." She directed her gaze back to the window with a small shrug. "I don't remember much before being turned into this, but I know I wasn't in school at the time, so...." And the handlers didn't need their livestock to be literate in order to make money. William could probably guess what she was getting at. He was a smart man.
<InuMeister> Indeed he was and easily picked up on what she was saying.
He frowned somewhat as he sat back against the seat, quiet. She had never learned to read then. That was... almost tragic. Books were amazing things. Great tools for the mind, in both imagination and information. How would she ever educate herself? Ah... but of course. With a secretive smile, William glanced towards her. Off-handedly he commented, "Well then, our first lessons will be teaching you to read and write then. We'll begin with the alphabet in English, then Latin..." And maybe a few other languages if they had time.
<sarani-chan> Keelin's head turned around so fast she nearly got whiplash. "Wha...?" Her eyes were wide as she processed exactly what William had said. "What're you...you...you want to teach me how to read and write...?" Even saying it aloud didn't make it anymore believable to her ears, and she continued to gape at him like a fish out of water.
<InuMeister> He calmly met her gaze with his professional expression in place. "Well of course. Why? Is something the matter?" It was difficult to not crack a grin at her expression. With some self control he added, "Do you think I'm not wise enough to teach you? I did study for many years to become a professor. But if you have so little faith in my abilities, I could possibly arrange for someone else."
He was baiting her this time, and gave a small smile at last, eyes shining with that bit of knowing light they always seemed to possess.
<sarani-chan> "No!" Keelin surprised herself with her own outburst. Instantly her face started to turn a healthy shade of red. "I-I mean...it's whatever...You don't have to find someone else to...to teach me..." She caught his grin and huffed at him, crossing her arms and trying to put on her usual tough front. It only worked so well when her face nearly matched her hair. "It...it's not like I'll have anything better to do with my time for a while, anyways..."
<InuMeister>Ah perfect, just as he'd wanted. His smile grew a bit bigger. He would teach her many things. Not only reading and writing, but fighting. And he wasn't sure if her shifting was like his own... but he could teach her a few tricks there too perhaps. Calmly he commented, "Best cool your face, Keelin, or you'll grow ill." With that he leaned forward and asked, "How far is it until we arrive?"
<sarani-chan> "Let's see...actually we should be there within a half hour or so," Tristan estimated after a few moments. "Thank goodness for light evening traffic..."
Ruya yawned and stretched from his spot in the passenger seat. "No kidding...I'll definitely be ready for a nap come daytime!"
Sure enough, time passed, and by now city lights were flashing outside the window. Things quieted down again as they drove down a street full of shops that would most likely be busting first thing in the morning. At this late hour, only a few lights were on. Among them was a store with a sign that read Clarence's Curios above the shop's wide windows. Tristan turned them off into a small side street, where small parking lots could be used for visitors and anyone who preferred to live above their place of business. "Here we are." The vampire put them into park and turned off the vehicle. "Home sweet home."
Ruya led them to the door, knocking before letting himself in. "We're home!" The door opened to reveal a short hallway. Straight ahead seemed to lead towards the store itself, while steps could be seen heading upstairs. Another closed door that led presumably to the basement was directly across from it.
"We'll get you settled in our guest room," said Tristan as they headed up the stairs. "The bed might be a little small though...sorry about that."
<InuMeister> Everything was pleasant to William's eyes. It was as if a great weight had fallen off his shoulders and been replaced with something else. Contentment, and happiness... Freedom. And it was all the sweeter as the freedom was shared with another that deserved it.
William took in their temporary home and actually found himself giving a smile. "Keelin may have the bed. I am more comfortable on the ground..." Old habits he supposed. He wondered about their two hosts. There were others they said? Familiars and perhaps other Nocturnals... William pondered how long to remain. He would stay for now, yes, to teach Keelin what he could but in time he needed to go and finish his own quest.
<sarani-chan> The door at the top of the stairs opened to reveal a modestly but nicely furnished living room, separated from a small kitchenette by a counter containing several stools. An olive-skinned teenage girl in a knitted sweater and brown hair in two braids looked up from where she was reading a book on one of the armchairs. Her calm, dark eyes surveyed the new arrivals for a moment. "Welcome back."
Ruya grinned. "Good to be home! Soledad, this is William and Keelin, the two we went out to pick up." He paused and looked around. "I'm guessing Celio is in the bedroom?" Soledad nodded. "That boy and his electronics..." He pointed across the room to a hallway. "Anyway, that hall leads to the bedrooms and the bathroom. Tristan and I prefer to room in the basement to avoid any daylight issues. Plus there's more space."
<InuMeister> William nodded. That made sense. He turned his head towards the new person and placed his hand to his waist, giving an old fashioned bow. "Hello." He took note of all the vampire said, making a mental map in the back of his mind in case he would need to get out quickly. Was this one of the familiar's? This entire ordeal had stirred within him mixed feelings. He was a master at hiding inner conflict however and kept his expression smooth. They seemed to mean no harm so he would behave. He glanced towards Keelin, attempting to read her and see how she was reacting to the situation.
<sarani-chan> Keelin's nostrils were flared as she took in the scents of the place. It was a strange mixture of new and old things. Her eyes glanced around, wary of her new surroundings. It wasn't that she felt threatened...but the atmosphere was so different from the sort of places she was used to, she just felt so out of place.
"You two are welcome to use the bathroom to clean yourselves up," said Tristan. "It won't be hard to find you some other clothes as well..." He took a moment to look over William, who was clearly more built then either of the vampires. "...Though I'm not sure how well either of our shirts would fit you..." The man let out a small chuckle.
<InuMeister> William smiled a bit to himself and reached over, giving Keelin's shoulder a light and reassuring squeeze. He knew how she felt. At the mention of getting him clothes, William glanced down at the scraps he wore. Ah yes... that would be difficult to fit into anything they had. He squinted his eyes somewhat. He disliked it, but he supposed he could 'borrow 'clothing from a store. He would return the money next time he could... But he wasn't going to ask for money. "I will acquire them in my own fashion." He gestured towards the direction they had indicated the bathing rooms and gave Keelin a small smile. "I imagine we are not pleasant to the nose. Please, go and clean. I will return with new clothes and do so after you."
<sarani-chan> Keelin blinked in surprise at the contact and looked to William, though she did manage to visibly relax. She grimaced at the mention of getting clean again but nodded. At least it would be warm this time. "Okay..." And without batting an eyelash she promptly shed the coat and returned it to a surprised and slightly embarrassed Tristan. "Thanks for the loaner," she muttered as she made her way down the hall. Never let it be said that she never knew any manners. It took two tries to find the bathroom, and several more before she could figure out how the knobs for the water worked. Keelin had to admit, it was much more pleasant to get clean this time around now that the water was warm...
Meanwhile, Tristan had gone about getting everyone else in the home to be good hosts. He requested that Soledad find Keelin some pajamas that would fit her until some other clothes could be procured, and then had Ruya go and ensure the guest room was aired out and ready for guests. Tristan himself went about and started setting out cookware and taking out ingredients from the cupboards. "It won't be much, but I do remember Miss Keelin asking for food," said Tristan as he placed a pot of water on the stove and turned the burner on. "Soledad, tell Celio to come out here and help me cook! We have more people to feed then usual!"
<InuMeister> William thanked the people for their hospitality and excused himself, slipping from the home without anyone making too much of a fuss.
He had again been making maps in the back of his head and thought he had spotted a store not too far away from here, but far enough...
He was able to acquire decent enough clothing. He wouldn't take anything too fancy. Though it was more to his taste to wear gentleman's clothing, he would steal clothing that's value was far less. The clothing was average and still a bit snug, but it worked as he tucked away a few spare clothes under his arm and moved back. Before anyone could miss him for too long he had returned and offered to be of assistance in the kitchen. He had been all around the world and learned many ways to cook, so perhaps he could assist.
<sarani-chan> "Ah, yes thank you," replied Tristan with a smile. He went about asking William to chop some vegetables and retrieve another pot from the cupboard.
A squeal followed by a slamming door could abruptly be heard down the hallway. A young boy with a face so similar to Soledad's that the two had to be related popped into view shortly after, his eyes wide and his face red. "I think I met one of the guests," he mumbled as he moved around the counter. He started taking out plates and silverware.
"That's why I always tell you to knock before entering the bathroom, Celio," chided Tristan gently, shooting Ruya a look when he started snickering.
Keelin appeared shortly after, her hair damp and a mildly disgruntled look on her face. Nevertheless, she looked clean and was now clad in a long nightshirt and loose pants.
<InuMeister> William's spine stiffened at the shriek, jumping at the sound. Had they been tricked? Was someone hurt? Wha- Oh... he saw. He frowned lightly but otherwise kept his mouth shut. No need to scold the boy, he seemed to know what he had done was wrong.
He went back to working the kitchen and doing what he could.
When Keelin appeared he turned to greet her. She looked... like a wet cat. She would have gotten a lot of her filth off in the river, as he did too, but a warm and hot bath would wash away every last trace of that terrible place. He would bathe himself later. So were these two... Soledad and Celio, siblings? Perhaps At one point William had to step out for a moment, apologizing that the many smells of the kitchen were too much for his nose. In truth, it was that and the fact that there were far too many people. Sitting himself down in a chair in a separate room, he ran a hand through his hair. He supposed... He would have to grow accustomed again to people. As it seemed he and Keelin were only just beginning their adventure here.