The anti-spam plugins have stopped being effective. Registration is back to requiring approval. After registering, you must ALSO email me with your username, so that I can manually approve your account.

Main Menu

Journey's End

Started by Larathin, August 20, 2010, 09:33:43 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


Hi, I've finally managed to gather my courage enough to apply for a site here on I've been waffling back and forth on the idea for a long time, but I've finally scraped the nerve together, so, here I go.

My desired username would be Larathin, and I can be reached at But now, on to the meat of my application.

While I'd like to explain every inch of my idea, that would take up way to much space. So instead here's a basic premise, along with some brief background and an introduction to one of the main characters.

Journey's End takes place on the continent of Elore, upon which exist three powers. The first, is the Gabian Empire; A human empire that once covered nearly all of Elore. Now it covers barely a third of the continent. Ruled by the nigh immortal Raylen Osir, the only being ever to have achieved immortality through magic, the empire is striving to regain its lost glory, and restore itself to the continent spanning power it once was. No matter what it takes, something that greatly concerns the leaders of Kelra, a small human power that recently broke free of Gabian and declared its independence. The people of Kelra are tough, not to mention skilled, warriors and the whole nation is on edge as they wait for Gabian's inevitable reclamation attempts. So they have turned to the last power of Elore for help: the Clans. The Clans are, arguably, the most dangerous power on Elore. A group of semi-independent territories ruled by the Great House of each species, there are eight Clans in all, ranging from the anthropomorphic Nekora, to the arrogant and demonic Damos, to the few, and noble Draco.

Journey's End is to be a story that revolves around the owners and patrons of the titular inn (The Journey's End) which is located on the Nekora and Kelra border, not far from Gabian. The main cast will be around five strong, along with several secondary characters and a whole slew of villains.

One of the main characters of the story will be Theran Syor, a powerful Nekora mage and adventurer. What's that you say? A mage? And an adventurer? Ah, I see you're confused, well let me explain.

Inside of Clan Lands if someone breaks the law they are subject to that Clans legal system. However, if they are found guilty, they are sentenced by a representative of their own Clan. Since not all Clans view each other as equal, this has led to some, shall we say, questionable sentences. Since those guilty of things like murder, are often let off with no more then a fine, the citizenship has found its own brand of justice: adventurers. Often hired for revenge, adventurers basically do it all. They retrieve stolen/lost property, get revenge, act as guards or put down any monsters that are harassing a small town. While not entirely legal, the Clans put up with Adventurers only for the fact that it would cause more trouble to stop them then they actually cause. As for being a mage, magic is extremely common on Elore, with nearly twenty-five percent of the population being able to use it. But I digress.

Despite being a mage himself, Theran doesn't trust magic or magic users. Especially himself. Theran walks with a distinctive limp, and always wears long sleeved shirts and a black leather glove on his left hand. A semi-competent swordsman, he will always use either diplomacy or steel to get out of a situation. When that doesn't work he falls back on the tried and true method of adventurers everywhere: running like hell. Or limping in his case. Magic is a last resort, do-or-die for him.
There's more, but that's all I'm gonna give you. If I do get the green light, I don't want to have already given away everything about him.

That, is the basic, abridged version of my idea: content wise, I plan to have everything split up into stories that are then split into Pages that will be a page and a half, maybe two, in length. My plan is to upload a page every Monday/Wednesday/Friday until I'm used to it, and then maybe start uploading every Sunday as well, if I can handle it. Along with Pages, I also plan to answer questions from readers, and provide commentary on the stories and plot arcs as they end.

While I'm no genius with computers, or anything else for that matter, I have taken a few HTML classes in school and with the resources on teh interwebs I don't imagine having much problem getting the website online. (Though now that I've typed that I'm pretty sure the entire process will be hell.)  I do hope to have a forum, a cast page, archives, and a little place where I can put in detailed explanations of things that, while important to the story, I don't have a good place to cover in-depth.

Now, the biggest problem is that I have no web page to call my own, no portfolio to show you what I can do. That is why I'm applying, I want to be able to get my work out there, for people to enjoy or not. It's their choice. So, with lack of a background and reference material I have only once choice:
Wait, er... that's not right. One second. * Checks information post * Ah, I see now. I'm going to go with the Challenge. I look forward to your reply, and I hope to be able to answer your questions as entertainingly and as truthfully as I can.

Thank you so very much for your time and sorry the post is so long.

P.S: I know this a bad time to be posting an application as your announcement says you'll be leaving tomorrow for a road trip, but I had to get my application up before I got nervous enough to back out. Hopefully I'll be able to answer questions from other members of the forums while you're gone, and be in decent shape for the Challenge when you get back
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
   -Albert Einstein


I'm actually leaving for my trip early monday morning, so not quite gone yet. However, looking at this, it falls into the same problem as many other applications past... you gotta show me SOMETHING. I know not everyone has a prior website, or personal gallery, or such things, but... at least drop some art into image bucket or something. For that matter, you never even said WHAT it was you're doing? I just assume a "comic" of some sort, since that's the usual, but for all I know, it could be a written story, a lego play, or an audio drama.

Look, I don't mean to be harsh, but I've had to say it many, many times: "Plans" count for jack. Everyone has a plan, or an idea, or a basic plot. I have 87 of them in my head right now for my own stories. Nothing wrong with that, but I also need to see some art (if it is in fact a comic) as well as evidence that you'll keep up a project for more than three weeks. Start with that, and then we can talk about the challenge. Which is, of course, going to be slower than usual, since I am leaving in 48 hours.


Oops. Sorry, I thought I was clearer on what it was. My apologies.

It's going to be a written story and, as for showing you something, I have an idea. Starting on the twenty third I will start posting pages in this thread on what I plan to be my update days(Monday/Wednesday/Friday). I'll keep it going for a couple weeks and you can review what I put up. Hopefully I can show you that I can keep a schedule, stick with a project, and give you an idea of what I can do ability-wise.

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
   -Albert Einstein


Alright, sounds good... I'll be gone for a couple of weeks anyway. I'll check on things when I get back.


Ok, and thank you for giving me a chance.
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
   -Albert Einstein


   A jet of crackling flame lanced across the cave, briefly boiling away the darkness to reveal cool, dank stone. The flames crashed into a patch of shadows, tongues of fire briefly licking over the rocks before vanishing. Darkness settled over the cave. Complete, and total darkness.
   There was the soft, metallic whisper of a sword being drawn. Reath peered vainly into the inky darkness, as his paws twisted nervously around the hilt of his sword. "Hey, Vash, we need some light. Quickly please!"
   "Calm down, I'm working on it," A deep male voice called back. Vash began chanting, the syllables odd, and rolling. The chant was reaching a crescendo when it was cut of by a heavy, meaty thump. Silence fell back over the cave.
   "...Vash? Vash?"
   An echoing laugh, sourceless in the black gloom of the cave, was the only reply.
   Reath gulped in fear." Shit. Esslyn, I think Vash is down."
   "Really? I never would've guessed," the young Lycan replied, her voice tight. "Where are you?"
   Reath reached out and groped around blindly in the darkness until his paws brushed against the fabric of Esslyn's tunic. He grabbed her shoulder and pulled gently until the two stood back to back.
   "Fools," a voice hissed out of the darkness, echoing until it was impossible to find the original source. "How dare you set foot into my home. I will make you suffer for your arrogance."
   "Can you see her?" Esslyn whispered.
   Reath shook his head, though she wouldn't be able to see the gesture. "I may have damn good night vision, but I need at least a little light to see."
   The sound of nearby footsteps, soft against the damp stone, caused Reath to spin, shoving Esslyn to the ground. His sword scythed through the air with a dry hiss.
   The laughter again. Reath shook his head, trying to focus, had it been closer this time?
   "Are you afraid of the dark? Or are you afraid of what hides in it?"
   "Did you hit her?" Esslyn asked, as she climbed back to her feet.
   "Doubt it."
   "It's time for you to die little adventurers."
   Two points of red light erupted in the darkness, blinking once or twice. Eyes. In their sullen, bloody light Reath could make out the face of a beautiful women twisted by anger, her mouth gaping open to reveal rows of razor teeth.
   "Gaze upon your death, and despair!"   
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
   -Albert Einstein


   Reath flinched as something raked across his shoulder, ripping through the thick fabric of his cloak before bouncing off the chain mail he wore beneath it. Behind him Esslyn let out a shout and charged forward. She caught the attacking woman mid-leap, her spear ripping through the woman's abdomen.
   Time seemed to come to a halt. The woman hung in the air, leathery wings spread wide behind her, and hands clasping the bloody spear while her mouth gaped in shock. Below her, Esslyn stood with her legs apart, the butt of the spear braced against the rough stone of the cave floor, her muzzle twisted into a snarl
   Then, time caught up. The woman dropped onto Esslyn and the two went sprawling to the ground. Her eyes flared, briefly illuminating the whole cave with their hellish light before going dark, plunging the cave back into inky darkness.
   "Esslyn, are you okay?"
   Silence greeted his question, and Reath's heart began to beat frantically against his ribs as if trying to escape. He was alone, in the dark.
With a monster.
        "'Lyn...?" He tried again, his voice panicked.
        "I'm here Reath," came the wheezed response, and he sighed audibly in relief.
        "Are you alright?"
        "Just winded," she assured him. "You?"
        "Fine," Reath said as he slowly began to pick his way through the darkness toward Esslyn's voice. "Just try to stay where you are. I'm gonna try to find yo- ugh!"
         He crashed to the ground clutching his throat, his sword clattering to the ground nearby. He struggled to sit upright, fighting for breath. It felt like someone had hit him in the throat with an iron bar.
         As he struggled to take a breath something cold and hard wrapped around his biceps, nearly pulling his arms out of their sockets as he was lifted up into the air. He struggled, but more of whatever held his arms wrapped around his legs and chest, making it difficult to struggle.
         After a while, it became clear that he wouldn't be able to break free, he stopped trying and felt himself pulled through the air. When he stopped moving there was soft footfalls and then something sharp caressed his cheek, leaving a line of fire across his face.
         "Hello there," a smoky voice purred.
          His heart lurched in his chest and he started struggling again, swearing profusely. Dimly he could hear Esslyn calling his name, but all he could focus on was the clawed hands that had wrapped almost lovingly around the back of his neck, as his heart thudded sickeningly.
          "Ignore her," the woman whispered. "You're tired. You need to sleep."
          As she spoke, he felt his eyelids growing heavy and his limbs suddenly felt leaden and sluggish.
          "Sleep," she insisted, watching as Reath's struggles grew slower. "Sleep, and dream..."
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
   -Albert Einstein


"Stop struggling," the woman chided gently, her voice soft and intoxicating. Reath had no choice but to obey her, sagging against whatever held him, his eyes fluttering. He felt drained. He wanted to sleep; he was so tired...
He could hear Esslyn shouting at him, but her voice sounded distant. Unimportant.
"Ignore her," the woman whispered, her breath tickling the fur of his ear. "Slide into sleeps sweet depths and dream. I'll be waiting for you."
Dull, insistent terror surged through him, but Reath couldn't figure out why. Something about the woman. And dreams... Desperately he dug though his sleep addled brain until he latched onto a single word: 'Cubi.
He fought against the leaden sensation that was spreading though his body as his brain struggled to think. 'Cubi... the woman... dreams... The women felt him slipping free and redouble the pressure. A fresh wave of fatigue crashed down on Reath like a wave, shattering his fragile train of though and sweeping him toward sleeps waiting embrace.
"Yes," the woman murmured triumphantly. "Sleep and dream."
Reath's eyes fluttered open again as he fought, but then they slowly slid closed. The woman smile wolfishly before closing her own eyes and reaching out with her power toward-
Her eyes flew open as she heard the building chant for the first time. She spun toward the source of the chanting, already beginning to move...
Light exploded through the cavern, illuminating everything with harsh white light. The woman flinched back from the sudden burst of light, the gray tentacles that held Reath reflexively releasing their grip, sending him crashing to the ground. The woman's concentration wavered and the sleeping spell shattered, allowing Reath to slid out form between the jaws of sleep. He staggered to his feet, scooping his sword up from the cave floor, and took a few stumbling steps to try and put some distance between himself and the woman before turning to face her.
She was a human, probably form the Gabian Empire judging by how light her skin was, not surprising considering how close the border was. She had long dark hair that fell to her shoulders in a lank, greasy curtain. What had once been a beautiful dress hung off her thin, almost emaciated, figure in dirty tatters. The tentacles that had held Reath pulled back toward her, shifting and twisting until they were once again a pair of leathery, granite gray wings.
Reath brought his sword up into a guard as he stared at her, trying to avoid the feral eyes that flashed with an animalistic hunger. She was a 'Cubi all right, and one long past saving at that. Not that Reath particularly cared; they hadn't come here to save her.
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
   -Albert Einstein


   Reath let out a shout and lunged forward, his sword flashing. The 'Cubi slid away form the blows with feline grace, her wings twisting and stretching toward the blade. Wrapping around it and wrenching it form his grip, sending it sailing to the floor with a metallic ring. He dove after it, and was batted out of the air by an almost casual blow from the 'Cubi's wing.
   His vision blurred for a moment as he crashed to the ground, his head bouncing off a rock. He struggled to all fours, blood leaking down the side of his head. The 'Cubi loomed over him, clawed hand poised to rip into his back-
   Esslyn's spear exploded out of her chest in cloud of blood. With a scream, she wrapped her hands slowly around the spear and spun, tearing the spear haft from Esslyn's hands and bringing her arm up in backhand that rattled the Lycan's teeth and sent her sprawling to the floor.
   Still screaming, more in anger then pain now, the 'Cubi ripped the spear out of her chest in another spray of blood and snapped it over her knee, hurling the pieces to the ground. Reath managed to get to his knees, he had to get up, he had to-
   "Stay down!"
   Reath obeyed instantly, dropping to the rough stone. A few inches above him fire bloomed, close enough for the wash of heat to singe his tunic and the hair on the back of his head. The flames splashed against the 'Cubi, licking hungrily at the tatters of her dress and biting hungrily into her flesh. Her wings beat frantically at the air, wrapping around her like a cocoon as more bursts of fire crashed into her.
   With a shouted curse she threw herself sideways, barely avoiding another lance of crackling flame, her wings shifting, changing into razor tipped tendrils that sped toward Vash. He spat a word, and with a gesture the ground cracked apart, the dirt tumbling up and over itself to form a wall between the two.
   The tendrils thudded into the dirt wall and with another word Vash sent the sent the wall back down into the earth – dragging the 'Cubi forward into a blast of force that leapt from his outstretched hand. There was sickening crunch as head found a new direction to point in and she crumpled to the ground in a bloody, ragged heap. Silence fell over the cave.
   Esslyn helped Reath to his feet; the Nekora letting out a quiet groan as the world blurred for a moment before settling. He recovered his sword, sliding it back into its sheathe with a low metallic ring, before making his way over to Vash who was kneeling near the 'Cubi.
   "She dead?" he asked.
   "Looks like," he replied as he stood up, dusting off his knees.
   "I though 'Cubi were supposed to be almost impossible to kill," Esslyn frowned.
   "Nah," the mage replied with a dismissive wave of his hand. "That's the Velor, they can survive damn near anything. But a houseless, feral 'Cubi? I'm surprised she even had the energy to slap Reath with that sleep spell, much less regenerate a broken neck."
   "What was that about anyway? She kept telling me to sleep and dream..."
   "Probably trying to heal herself. It's a lot easier for 'Cubi to take energy when their prey is asleep."
   Esslyn stared at the body, and shuddered. "Can we leave now? Even dead she gives me the creeps."
   "Yeah," Reath agreed. "Let's go collect the reward."
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
   -Albert Einstein


   Afternoon light filtered in through the cave's entrance in soft orange and black shadows. Darkness lurked in the deeper reaches of the cave, returning in the wake of Vash's light spell. In the oppressive darkness there was a soft whisper of shifting earth, and then silence once more.
   Esslyn stood at the cave's mouth, her tail wagging, and a smile on her muzzle as the wind ruffled her ash gray fur.
   "Glad to be out of there?"
   She turned to see Reath picking his way over the large rocks that cluttered the entrance to the cave.
   "Yeah, you know I dislike enclosed spaces," she paused for a moment. "Where's Vash?"
   "No clue," Reath replied with a shrug, dropping down on a rock next to her. We were both almost out when he said he wanted to check on something and headed back into the cave."
   He shrugged again and continued to stare at the valley that spread out below them. Next to the winding blue line of the river, he could see the town that had hired them to dispose of the 'Cubi. It was a little while before he spoke again.
   "You know... I think this is gonna be it for me."
   "I think I'm gonna quit once we've collected the reward for this. I'm tired of adventuring, of the constant fighting and killing. I want to go home and see my family again, like I promised, maybe settle down and help run the inn."
   "What brought this on?" Esslyn asked, surprised. For as long as she had known him Reath had delighted in being an adventurer. In pitting himself against the worst monsters Elore had to offer, for the good of those who couldn't help themselves.
   "Well... I miss my family. And... I don't want to end up like him."
   Esslyn just nodded, she had known Reath for a few years now, and she'd been there when it had happened. She knew exactly who he was referring to.
   "I only met him the once," she said slowly, choosing her words with deliberate caution. Reath was rather touchy about the subject. "But for what it's worth. I don't think you're like him at all."
   He turned toward her and smiled. "Thanks Lyn. That means a lot to-"
His eyes widened and he leapt to his feet, grabbing Esslyn and throwing her to the ground behind him. She let out a grunt as she hit and rolled to her feet, mouth open to yell at Reath, but the reprimand died on her lips.
   Reath stood transfixed, several bloody tendrils piercing his body, blood staining the dirty rocks all around him and links of broken chain mail tinkling to the ground. He stood like that for what felt like an eternity to Esslyn before the tentacles jerked back, ripping back out of his body in clouds of blood, cloth and broken mail. He crumpled to a bloody heap on the ground
   "Two down," a voice hissed.
   Esslyn watched in horror as the 'Cubi limped out of the cave. She was still bleeding from the wounds in her stomach and shoulder, and her neck was bent at an impossible angle. In one hand she held a fistful of Vash's robes. He was bleeding heavily from a nasty cut on the side of his head, and one of his arms was bent in a way that it was never meant to. Burns all over his robes and the 'Cubi's body stood testament that he had tried to fight. He was still breathing though, she hadn't killed him-
   "One to go," she continued as she threw Vash to the ground.
   Esslyn gulped as she drew her knife. It was a pitiful weapon, only a few inches long and better suited to hunting then to combat, but with her spear broken it was all she had.
   "I can feel your terror," the 'Cubi purred as she staggered slowly toward Esslyn. "And it feels good. You and your friends really hurt me, but that's alright. I can recover from it, I just need more energy."
   A chill went up her spine as Esslyn watched the deranged, predatory smile slide across the 'Cubi's face.
   "I think I'll start with you. You seem the most helpless."
   Esslyn's eyes hardened and with a snarl she darted forward, her terror forgotten. The 'Cubi lashed out with its wings, but she slid underneath them, her arm scything up and around. The 'Cubi dropped to the ground and lay still. Her head landing a couple inches away.
   "I. Am not. Helpless."
   Reath blinked once or twice to no avail. His vision had gone dark, and his heartbeat thudded in his ears like muted thunder. Dimly he could her voices, Lyn and Vbash, arguing.
   -an't just leave him here. He's dying!"
   "Well I'm not exactly in the best shape myself! Look at him Lyn, there's no chance of saving him, if he's still alive then it's only a matter of time 'til he bleeds out. The only way I'm going to survive is if I get medical attention as soon as possible. And not the half-baked stuff you can barely pull off."
   Silence, there was the sound of moving feet and then Esslyn whispered:
   "I'm sorry."
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
   -Albert Einstein


   It was the middle of the night, the sky was still black, without even a hint of light to herald the oncoming morning. Everything was dark and still.
   The little boy was curled on his bed crying. The door swung open and a man, the boy's father hit the light switch next to the door. The boy continued to cry, the light unable to banish the lingering remnants of the nightmare.
   "Hey, kiddo, what's wrong?" The man asked as he sat down on the edge of the bed. The boy immediately moved closer, huddling against the reassuring presence of his father.
   The boy didn't reply, he just continued to cry.
   "It was the nightmare again, wasn't it?"
   "Uh-huh," the boy choked out, his voice thick. "The monsters came and took mommy away. And, and... and I tried to stop 'em, but I couldn't."
   His father sighed and wrapped his arm around the boy. "There was nothing you could have done kiddo, the healers said it was just her time. There was nothing any of us could have done."
   "I miss her."
   "We all do," his father replied, giving him a hug. "We all do..."
   After a while the boy slid back into an uneasy sleep troubled by loss and nightmares. In the morning he awoke and went downstairs-
   -to find his sisters crying. Aria, who was even younger then he was, clinging to his older sister Katelyn who held a sheet of paper in her shaking paws.
   "What's going on?" the boy, now a teenager, asked uncertainly.
   "Daddy's gone," Aria bawled, throwing herself at his legs and hugging them tightly. She had been just a baby when their mom had died: she hadn't had to deal with the pain before. But the teen had been through it before. For him there was nothing, just a numb hollowness that settled in his chest.
   "Take a look," his older sister managed, her voice shaking, though he couldn't tell if it was with anger or sorrow, as she handed him the note. "Take a look at what the bastard left."
   He stared at the note and the numbness spread throughout his entire body. "I can't believe he would leave... he didn't even give us a reason..."
   "But, you'll never leave. Right?" Aria asked, staring up at her brother.
   "Of course not," he reassured her.
   The scene faded and he saw himself, a few years older now, walking away from the inn, a pack on his back and a sword sheathed at his side. His sisters didn't need help running the inn, in fact it was doing better then it ever had under his father...
   And that was why he was leaving. His father had promised to come back in the note, but it had been a few years now with no word from him. Aria was young enough that her memories were faded, the pain dulled. Katelyn didn't seem to care one way or another. But he had to know. He had to find him.
   So he had packed some supplies and an old sword he'd found in the inn's cellar, promised his sisters that he'd come back, and left.
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
   -Albert Einstein


   "- A feeling that he's hiding somewhere in town," the man said to his companion as he came into the tavern. He was a Nerkora, with dusty brown fur and dark hair that hung down over hazel eyes. His companion was a Lycan woman with piercing blue eyes and ash gray fur. The two made their way across the smoke filled room, talking in low voices, until they reached the bar. The Lycan leaned against the dirty, stained wood of the bar and waved to get the bartender's attention.
   "Me and my companion need a room for the night. Preferably one with two beds. We also need something to eat, can you recommend a good restaurant?"
   "Yeah, there's a decent one jus' down the street," the bartender supplied as he took a few coins from the woman and handed back a slightly tarnished key. "Room 14, upstairs on your left."
   She thanked the bartender and turned to leave but stopped, slapping herself on the forehead. "Oh, completely forgot. I'm looking for a Daymos by the name of Tural. Any chance you've seen him?"
   "Daymos ain't welcome here," the bartender said. "I wouldn't let one set foot into my bar, and neither would any of the other respectable inns 'round town. I don't know why you're looking for one, but-"
   "We're adventurers," the man cut in smoothly. "He killed a few Minos and was sentenced to only pay a weregild. The families of the people he killed decided that wasn't good enough, and who can blame them? So, they're paying us to give him the sentence he deserved."
   The bartender nodded slowly. "Well, if that's the case, then ya might wanna check out the Refuge on the edge of town. Owner will do business with anyone. If this Tural is in town, that's where he'd be."
   The man thanked him and the pair turned and made their way through the tavern and stepped back out into the crisp autumn night. The sun had just sunk behind the horizon, and stars were beginning to dot the darkening sky.
   The restaurant was mediocre at best, but after several weeks of hard travel and cold meals eaten on the move, it tasted like heaven.
   "So," the woman asked around a mouthful of food. "What's the plan?"
   The man took a long drink from his glass before responding. "We wait 'til dawn comes, and then we'll go and have a chat with the owner of the Refuge."
   The woman frowned, her laden fork halfway to her mouth. "Shouldn't we check right away and make sure he's actually there?"
   "Normally that's what I'd say," the man paused to take a huge bite of food before continuing. "But you have to keep in mind that Tural is a Daymos, and they're at their strongest at night. At dawn he should be at his weakest. And that's when we'll hit him."
   She nodded and the pair lapsed into silence as they ate their meal. When the waiter passed by with the check she picked it up and winced, before a slow smile slid across her face.
   "Here you go, oh fearless leader. I may be paying for the room, but you're covering dinner."
   He took the check and stared at it for a long moment before sighing and reaching for his coin pouch.
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
   -Albert Einstein


   The pair returned to the tavern, the man's coin pouch noticeably lighter, and were making their way across smoky common room when the man stopped dead, his gaze locked on to a Nekora who sat at the bar.
   "What's wrong?" the woman asked.
   The man didn't replied, but took off toward the bar, threading quickly between the tables and shoving roughly past anyone in his way.
   "Hey, where are you-" the woman began, but let out an exasperated sigh and headed off after him.
   "Excuse me," she heard him ask the Nekora when he reached the bar. "Is your name Eric "Ti'Feon?"
   "Yeah," the Nekora replied, without looking up. "Why do you want to know?"
   "Dad, it's me. It's Reath!"
   Ti'Feon stared up at his son for a moment before shrugging and turning back to his drink. "Oh... joy."
   "I'm glad I finally found you," Reath continued, oblivious to the tone of his father's voice. "You can come back to the inn like you prom-"
   Reath blinked in surprise, his train of thought completely derailed. "Wha-what?"
   "I said no," Eric stated. "I'm not going back. I left for reasons you wouldn't understand. I thought that maybe, getting away would help, give me the perspective I needed. It didn't," his voice softened as he stared down into his mug. "I'm not the same man who raised you anymore... I can't go back there."
   He turned away and emptied his mug before motioning for the bartender to bring him another one.
   "I spent the past two years searching for you," Reath began, his voice a whisper. But Eric cut him off with a sigh.
   "And I'm sorry that you had too. But please, just, just go."
   Esslyn placed a paw on Reath's sagging shoulder. "C'mon," she told him. "Lets go, I'll buy you something to drink. You look like you need it."
   Reath started to follow but paused, his features hardening. He turned, shrugging her paw off and dropped his own down heavily on his dad's shoulder. "Dad..."
   The his father turned, his mouth opening to speak as Reath's fist hit him in the jaw, throwing him off the stool and into the bar. Eric tried to get to his feet, but Reath grabbed the front of his shirt and hauled him up into the air, the older Nekora's feet dangling a few inches above the floor.
   "Don't come back," he growled. Even a few feet back Esslyn could feel the anger radiating off him, like heat from an oven. "Ever. As far as I'm concerned, you're dead. And if I ever see you again: you will be."
   He threw Eric down, causing him to crash into the overturned barstool. Wood splintered. Reath stalked away, paws clenched. Esslyn glanced nervously around the suddenly quiet room before hurrying after him.
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
   -Albert Einstein


   The door to the room was closed but not locked. Esslyn knocked before easing it open and peering inside, "Reath?"
   It was dark inside, but she could barely make out Reath sitting on the edge of one of the two beds, his back toward her, his head in his hands.
   "Three years," he whispered. "Three god-damned years I've been looking for him. I thought... I dunno, I thought maybe something had happened to him. That'd he was killed, or being held prisoner. That's why he never came back, because he couldn't."
   Esslyn sat down on the bed next to him, placing a hand gently on his shoulder.
   "I'm sorry Reath, I really am."
   He didn't reply, just shrugged her paw off and got up, making his way to the window so he could stare out at the city.
   "It just feels... wrong. I've been searching for him for so long that I never expected to find him. I thought I'd just end up wandering the continent for most of my life. And you know what? I was fine with that. But to find out that..." he broke off, shaking his head. "I don't know."
   "I understand," she began, but he rounded on her, eyes ablaze.
   "How can you understand? You never had your parents leave you!"
   "No... I haven't," she admitted, trying to push back the memories that threatened to rise within her. This wasn't the time to get angry, not at Reath, not at her parents. "I guess I'll leave you alone then," she said as she left the room, the door clicking closed after her and plunging the room back into darkness.
   The darkness...
   Reath felt himself falling, the darkness tugging at his mind, fracturing his thoughts. It was quiet now; the thundering of his heart had stopped. He couldn't hear anything except the silence of the abyss.
   He gave up and let the darkness claim him.
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
   -Albert Einstein


   The darkness slowly gave way to dim, dancing orange light. Reath let out a groan and tried to roll onto his side, but pain shot up him and he fell back with a quiet whimper. He cracked open his eyes before squeezing them shut again. He was in a cave, the same damn cave, he was sure of it. Shifting light from a fire bathed the walls and ceiling in its warm, orange glow. It was dim, but even that little amount of light hurt his eyes.
   His mouth was dry and a deep, throbbing ache had spread out across his body from several points of burning agony. A dry cough escaped his lips as he lay on a thin mat of some kind, yet one thought remained glued in his mind.
   He was alive.
   He slowly pushed himself up into a sitting position, wincing as his torso screamed in agony. He almost fell back, but managed to keep himself propped up on one arm, the other clutching his side.
   "Hello?" He rasped, his voice rough.
   Something stirred in the shadows against a wall and Reath tensed as it moved toward him.
   "Thank god you're awake."
   Firelight fell across Esslyn's face, revealing the relieved smile that graced her muzzle. "I was beginning to think you were never gonna wake up from that nap. You did like to sleep on a job."
   Despite her light, joking tone Reath could hear the fear and anxiety that she was trying, and failing, to mask.
   "That was only one time," he shot back, trying to keep the tone light. "And I still caught-" he broke off into a dry, hacking cough, his body doubled over.
   Esslyn rushed to his side, kneeling down next to him slipping a paw underneath the bandages that wound around his chest, blood dotting the white cloth here and there.
   "Damn," she swore. "That bitch punctured one of your lungs when she stabbed you. I thought I had it fixed, but apparently not."
   She gently pushed Reath back down and shifted positions, kneeling over him, her paws pressed together.
   "What are you-?"
   "Just go to sleep," she told him firmly. "I have more work to do."
   He nodded and closed his eyes, letting sleep take him. He could still feel the darkness, at the very edges of sleep, waiting to claim him, to drag him back down. But Esslyn was there, her warm presence pushing it away. He trusted her to keep him safe.
   He trusted her with his life.
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
   -Albert Einstein