Amongst the Trees [ Jackalope & Peregrine ]

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Jackalope, Mar 4, 2014.

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  1. Calm and steady would be the best way to explain the day; calm and steady and split only with the drifting of an aimless, rare breeze brisking its way beneath the canopy’s strong tops. Reuben closed his eyes and leaned into the sensation, feeling the subtle shifting of his rusty brown hair as the wind played through his curls, echoing like a distant song as it rattled in the massive shells of his ears only to disappear as he twitched them, shaking himself out of the moment with a quiet hum. Peaceful was a unusual word for him to use, but he would have no choice but to label this day as just that—peaceful and serene—and if he weren’t wrapped up in the sensation of it he would be grateful.

    As it was he merely took advantage and basked in the ambience and the surprising impartial nature of the people around him. Their disinterest was a rarity in of itself, after all.

    Reuben was accustomed to the negativity of his peers. Well, perhaps negativity wasn’t the correct word. Amongst themselves they were generally happy people—downright pleasant even—with the charming smiles of a peaceful community and the bubbling cheer of a utopian lifestyle, but it had been years since he had been accepted as part of the community.

    Stifling a yawn as he closed an eye against the unusual spots of sunlight streaming from the tree tops, the young man stretched back against the deck of one of four impressively huge “town squares” that made up the sides of their tree-house community. The squares were essentially giant open platforms that spanned the distance between four gargantuan trees that made up their main community, and were free space for anyone to wander, walk, or nap on. On festival days they were filled to the brim with people, stuffed to the gills, but on a day like today there were only a splattering of people walking to and fro between the trees. Some carried goods from the markets—fruits gathered from groves or from gathering expeditions, vegetables from the gardens swaying from the West Tree’s limbs, unusual meats from the weekly hunt, fabrics or toys from one of the various little shops and stores—some were running back and forth on errands from the trade masters, some headed home or to lessons…and a few here and there were laid out just as he was, enjoying the weather and the sporadic sunlight with quiet chattering and slightly-less-quiet snores. They were all too happy to practically pile on each other for their napping, but while the distance between the majority of the lazers was close—if only so that the walkway for people actually doing something was wider—there was a huge distance between Reuben and anyone else which was….well it was completely normal and let’s face it, if there was anything he was going to complain about, it wasn’t that.

    Instead he just took it as more reason to spread out in another back-cracking stretch, giving a sigh of approval as he pushed himself back up, rubbing his hands together happily. The slick oil that usually permeated his skin only in small amounts thickened at the motion and he opened his eyes to glance at it, blinking the photosensitivity from his eyes before he licked his lips and glanced around for his companion. Practically summoned, Snuff dropped himself from the tree branch he had been napping on above Reuben, his long tail keeping him anchored to the tree before he touched the ground and he slid down completely. Reuben grinned unabashedly at the unusual serpent, making cheerful grabby fingers at him which, to his endless amusement, were mimicked by the first of the centipede-like “legs” that spread from the sides of the snake’s body. Reu chuckled and reached over, dragging the ridiculously heavy serpent closer before smearing the oil that had gathered onto his palms along the snake’s spine. The legs weren’t legs at all, he mused as he pulled a rag out of a pocket, his hands already dry to the touch, and began the laborious task of buffing the snake’s smooth hide. It was easiest to call them legs—and while most people were very reluctant to approach this particular breed of snake, it was a common word for the appendages—because they bent and moved like a centipede’s feet, but in reality they were like the fingers of a bat’s wing, allowing the flying snakes to glide with such a level of success that they could scale trees rather than just sail downwards. For Snuff, however, they would never serve a purpose beyond marking him as an incredibly toxic member of the serpent community.

    Reuben took care as he worked the oil into the remnants of the membrane between the snake’s legs, making sure to use extra oil on the sensitive scar tissue on the edges. The injury had long since healed—nearly ten years had ensured that—but the already sensitive membranes would likely remain hypersensitive for the remnants of the snake’s life, which, if the lifespan of most reptiles around here was an indicator, would be a long time. If he was lucky they would toughen up as he got bigger, and considering how much less fragile they were after this many years, that seemed likely. The man smiled, bat-like ears twitching in pleasure, and gave Snuff a great big shove that only just rolled the heavy-ass snake’s first three feet of length onto his back, giving Reu access to his shiny white belly. Snuff wiggled his legs in amused retaliation as the man got back to work, and worked his mouth in the snake equivalent of a laugh, flashing the broken fangs in his mouth. Broken fangs, broken legs, broken membrane, broken snake. Reuben smiled fondly at the animal and his scars, marking the heavy burn marks along his face and sides, and became a bit more diligent in his buffing.

    Snuff was nearly thirty feet long now—a huge hunk of a snake who would never have gotten this big in the wild with working wings and working venom—but while it was a far cry from the sub-adult that Reuben had saved from being burnt alive, he couldn’t help but feel that old pang of terror and anger. The boys who had set Snuff alight were men now, healthy members of society who were even praised for their act of violence against what—admittedly—was considered a dangerous threat to society, and here he and Snuff were at the bottom of the food chain, hated and despised for being born a snake and for refusing to let a helpless animal without even teeth die respectively.

    Someone walked by then, a mother with child, and Reuben flashed them a cheerful smile, an expression that faltered into a frown when the woman cursed and yanked her child closer, going out of her way to skirt as far to the other side of the walkway as she could as though he had bared his teeth and cackled about feeding the brat to the snake. Snuff wouldn’t even eat something that small. That’s what he got though. He saved a fucking flaming snake and surprise surprise, his mutation had flared into being fireproof—which, hello, and kinda made sense— and boom bang the whole town hated him. Okay so they actually hated him for keeping an admittedly dangerous animal—that couldn’t feed itself now, he defended—and that the other side effect from the fireproof came his tendency of…well….making things flammable…but semantics. It wasn’t like he’d actually set anything purposely on fire once he discovered that little side effect.

    Unfortunately that was just how it worked in a town like this. Fire was pretty much the most hated thing aside from….nope, fire was pretty much the most dangerous thing there was when you lived in a tree, and being accidentally capable of making fire go a little haywire and crazy was a pretty good reason to be hated. He supposed he could understand their fear…he just wished they had spent the last ten years listening to the “uh, natural fireproofing and burn healing” part of his mutation rather than just the “fire burn” part.
  2. The farther down you went, the darker it got. Most of the people in her village stayed in the higher reaches of the forest, where occasional rays of light could still break through the overhanging branches, and the glow of the sun tinged everything a rich, emerald shade of green.

    Marzia was not so inclined to stay in those sunlight reaches. Deep down, where there were so many branches that only the faintest light struck the wide, waxy leaves of the plants, there was a whole new world waiting. Down among the roots, Marzia felt more at home.

    Her father had left her alone down here once, blindfolded her on the journey down so that she wouldn’t be able to find her way home, and told her not to leave this spot, or he wouldn’t be able to find her again to bring her home. Then he handed her a spear, a knife, and a blanket, and had walked away. He had come back three days later to find his teenage daughter, soaked in sticky blood from head to foot, lying next to the corpses of several partially devoured mammals and reptiles. He had cried as he had hugged her close, telling her how proud of her he was.

    Now she was as at home here in the dark as she was up there in the light. Her pupils dilated wide to catch the smallest traces of light, her fine, sharp ears swiveling independently of each other to pick up small sounds. She crouched on one of the giant roots, one leg swinging lazily in front of her. Down here, it was a matter of life or death. Down here, she was perfectly confident. It was up in the light, up in the village, that she was lost. Up there, she had to deal with the mistrustful, accusatory stares that followed her wherever she went. She had never done anything to any of them, yet they looked at her as though she was one of the venomous spiders that ran away with the cattle on occasion.

    She had considered staying down here forever before, just retreating from civilization altogether and becoming one of the wild things. The first time she had seriously considered it, her father had kept her in place. Now that he was dead... she didn’t know what kept her from staying down here forever. Perhaps it was the fear that she really was nothing more than a beast. Perhaps it was simply the fact that, despite everything, she still loved the light.

    She stood on long legs, gracefully swaying on top of the relatively narrow root, short strands of dark hair plastered to her damp face. She could feel the eyes watching her from the forest, contemplating whether or not it was worth while to try and get the tasty morsel that had wandered into their mists. Marzia ignored them, walking confidently on bare feet along the root, before leaping wildly across a large gap, turning around, and racing back up the new root. Her balance never betrayed her as she hurtled her way up, finally coming to rest right at the base of the trunk of the giant tree. Peering way up, she was almost able to catch a glimpse of the latticework of pathways that made up the village of her birth; a place she had never been able to call home.

    She freehanded her way up the trunk confidently, long fingers easily working their way in among the large, strong folds of the tree bark. Soon enough she would be at the lower branches of the tree, and then she would be able to run her way the rest of the way up through the interlocking branches, but the tree dropped the old branches that grew too close to the ground, and were so shaded by the leaves above that they would never have gotten any light. Everything in this jungle had to be efficient, or it would not be able to survive. Even the people had been forced to find methods of adaptation, so that every child developed unique mutations to enhance their chances of survival as they continued to physically mature.

    Her father would have wanted her to come straight home, to skirt around the edges of the village and the people there who might wish a wild one like her harm. But her father was no longer alive, no longer there to bind her and control her and force her to do those things that had caused her to evolve into a nearly indestructible creature. She was free of his rules.

    And perhaps it was the very fact that she knew that there would be no one to punish her that made her stop on the outskirts of the village, pull a few twigs out of her hair, straighten the folds of her clothes, and wander into one of the town squares. She had no real desire to visit the village, it had nothing that interested her. The people would watch her warily, skirt around her to the best of their ability and acting as though she was going to go suddenly wild and slaughter them all. Not that she probably couldn’t, but that didn’t mean she had even the faintest desire to do something like that.

    She settled in a corner of the courtyard, lying back against one of the branches and staring upwards. She tucked her hands behind her head, running her fingers through her straight hair in an attempt to get out some of the tangles. There wasn’t any hurry for her to leave. She may live in some of the uppermost branches of the village, but she was still a part of this town. They couldn’t throw her out at random. She had as much of a right to be here as anyone.

    Hardly comforted by her own justifications, Marzia allowed the eyes on her face and the back of her neck to flutter closed, took a deep breath, and tried to relax. Tried to pretend she was comfortable.
    #2 Peregrine, Mar 5, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2014
  3. (( Gonna warn ya; its a bit hastily put together but it should serve to move us along quickly enough. :] ))

    It was always easy to pick out the freaks--the strains of this exceptional race that had just gone wrong. Generally they were simple mistakes, fools and damaged goods who would--in their own time--make that fatal move and fade out of societal memory, but every now and again they succeeded. Never thrived, of course, something broken could never thrive, but their very existence into adulthood was enough of a success to warrant his attention and disdain.

    One of them he had been watching for a long time, a freak of nature in progress who had grown according to the warped views of a mentally unstable parent. Perhaps he should have been rid of the father and could have salvaged the daughter, but her personality seemed unfit and now he is certain he was correct in letting it grow into full adulthood if only to prove to the rest of their lovely town that she was nothing but an immature weed that would show its colors soon enough. As he looked upon her today, stretched out in the walkway as though she belonged there, his lip curled in distaste and he gave a quiet scoff. Show her colors she had.

    The other issue at hand he was more familiar with than he cared to think. The boy had shown promise in youth--had all the markers of a prime example of their perfect society; the charm, the manners, the eager for learning and the willingness to conform without fading into the group. In fact, he had believed the child would excel under his tutelage and had even taken him under his wing. Imagine! Took the little russet-haired creature into his care and look how he had been repaid! The monster had found kinship in a toxic serpent of all things, and perhaps even more disgustingly, had grown his mutation out of it--perhaps the most horrifying mutation any of them could have living so lovingly alongside the trees: fire.

    The man frowned, his displeased expression forcing wrinkles onto his otherwise smooth features--too smooth for his age, some would whisper jokingly in the comfort of their own homes--and warping an attractive face into something ugly and deformed. He sneered, baring the top of his teeth, and flicked his blue eyes from the lean form of Marzia to Reuben and his serpent-shaped blanket. The time had come for action--too many years had come and gone and it had become far too clear that neither of those monsters would simply rid the town of themselves. They were content to bask in the glow of the city and that was unacceptable. No, today was the day he would be rid of at least one of the monsters. If he were lucky, it would be two.

    "Are we quite ready, Ko-oman?" the town councilor rumbled after a moment, arching a sharp black brow as he snatched his gaze from the monsters to stare at the shifting hulk of his underling, "We cannot afford the slightest mistake with this--neither of these creatures are worth any more damage than we have already prepared for."
    "Certainly, Sente. We've got everything set up and the village is prepared. Supplies have been moved safely away and the supports have been made flame retardant just in case; at your orders."
    Ko-oman gave a crooked break of a smile, his usually pleasant green eyes gleaming with the predatory intent of a man who enjoyed the darker side of their government far too much. Not that it was much of a those who were deemed "acceptable", anyways.
    "Excellent. Well then--let us be rid of a freak." Sente flashed all of his teeth in a grin and strode purposely forward, wiping his expression into something just and welcoming as he walked across the main-way--smiling genuinely to those around him and exchanging short greetings--and into the council building built gracefully into the embrace of the East tree. It was several minutes before things changed, Reuben and Snuff blissfully unaware as they napped, but with the suddenness expected of a disaster, the crackling of fire echoed and screams started.

    Reuben shot up at the all-too familiar sound, his green eyes wide and afraid against the black of his scleroses, and got to his feet in a scramble of limbs, his bare toes gripping the wood while his arms gripped Snuff's heavy middle, the rest of the snake moved from a lazy drape to a tight coil around Reuben's torso. The snake's feathered headdress was spiked with fear, his mouth open in a base threat and his dozen little "legs" gripped the material of Reu's sleeveless jacket with determination. Reuben didn't blame the serpent a bit and tightened his own grip as his eyes darted around, finally landing on a growing blaze on the walkway close to the West Tree. The flames blocked the entire bridge that branched from the tree, their hungry tendrils reaching towards the branches, and the screams were coming from beyond.

    The man's eyes widened even further and he cursed under his breath, his palms already dripping with the thick flame resistant oil as he pushed at Snuff's head, trying to untangle him. "Snuff, get off. We can't just let it spread!" The snake didn't respond, his glassy eyes set frozen on the fire, and Reuben cursed again and smacked the reptile on the face, "You know you can't be burnt! GET OFF." Hissing out his distaste, but seeming to come to himself, Snuff's coils instantly loosened and he dropped to the ground, giving himself a cursory rub against Reuben's palms before following as the man darted towards the fire. Old memories were harsh and cruel, batting against him like mosquitoes in the humid evening, but Reuben ignored them as he bolted straight through, the fire nothing more than a quiet warm against his skin as he bolted through in search of those trapped, and found no one.

    Confused, he desperately searched the Western tree, but even as the fire grew and he watched the tree burn, he couldn't find the source of the screaming. Not in the homes, not in the gardens...his eyes widened again as he stepped away from the gardens and closed his eyes. The screaming was around his ears...but not in the environment. Slowly realization began to creep in and his breathing sharpened as he moved to the closest fire, pressing his palm against the bark. He could feel the warmth but...the bark was not burnt and the fire was unaffected by the oil dribbling between his fingers. "What..." Brows knit together as Reuben turned back towards the walkway and he worried his lip as he bolted towards it, stepping out of the flames to find a crowd gathered.
    "THERE! That's him!" Reuben startled at the voice and turned towards it, brows up as he looked at the woman--a woman who had smiled warily at him and sold him fruit only that morning. "He's the one who started the fire! I saw him!"
    "..what?" Reuben frowned, face scrunching up, "What are you talking about; this isn't eve--"
    "I might have known."
    The councilor rumbled, parting the crowds as he frowned, almost mournful, "The punishment for arson is clear in our laws!" He turned to the crowd and Reuben took a step back, bristling at the accusations and mumbles that grew louder and louder around him.
    "I didn't do it!" He snarled, unheard against the growing rabble, "Its not fire! Its not even there!"
    "We cannot allow any weakness or hesitation on our part! Good people--we have tolerated enough from this monstrosity. As much as it pains me..."

    Reuben bristled further as sound came from behind him and he wheeled, watching with nostrils flared as water was dumped on the "fire" and it sizzled away, the men and women who made up the village's guard having snuck around behind him. They were heavily armed as they began to encircle him, some geared with twisted blades on their spears and others with claws or other less noticeable mutations out; all of which would be entirely unacceptable in the fair court. Reuben's temper flared and he snarled as he backed away from them, stopped from going too far by the rustle of motion of the other half of the guard moving in from the other side. His fingers twitched.

    "...we must be rid of this threat." He shifted and made a dramatic show of his regret--to the quiet snickering of the village who just couldn't hide their involvement, and Reuben froze, his entire body stiffening as the show dawned on him. "Do you have anything to sa--"
    Eyes darted to the young man who pushed through, looking panicked, "He wasn't alone! He had an accomplice!" All eyes turned to where the man pointed, his sneer clear even to Reuben as he trembled in place, "The freak helped him!"
    Reuben didn't know Marzia personally, but at this point the set up was so god-awfully obvious that he wouldn't have been too surprised if they'd paired him up with a rabid bear and say he was working for it, so he simply tightened his fists, face scrunched with fury and betrayal as the oil his fingers began to change its makeup, becoming slicker and changing from a clean clear to a sickly yellow as it tingled hotly against his skin. " bastards."

  4. Marzia smelled the fire before she heard it, and heard it before she saw it. For a moment she thought she was dreaming, lost in memories of the past. Fire had never been her enemy, at least not in the way it was the enemy of everyone else in the world. Most things knew an instinctive fear of fire, and it had been one of the tools she had been forced to learn to use. So long as it was kept humble, it could be a tool. It could even be a dear friend.

    There was nothing humble about the fire that was soaring to the heavens now. It roared and spat with fury, and, even at a distance, the heat washed over Marzia's deeply tanned skin. She opened her eyes widely, feeling her heart leap inside of her chest. She sat up, curling her legs up towards her chest, long, bare toes curling into the platform.

    It took her less than a moment to locate the fire. It wasn't as though it was trying to hide, after all. The brilliant orange flames wrapped around the West tree, curling among the gardens and homes of the people who lived there. Briefly she thought she saw the silhouette of someone diving into the flames, but Maria dismissed it easily as a trick of her eyes. As far as she knew, she was the only person in this village who did not see fire as the ultimate enemy. There wouldn't be anyone foolish enough to risk his own neck confronting such a wild blaze.

    The people around her were beginning to stir, but the panic she had expected to quickly grip the inhabitants of this platform, especially those that had houses among the flame, was absent. Marzia blinked in confusion, her brow wrinkling as she turned her gaze back to the flame. She had never had experience with large blazes. There had been times where she had been tempted to let the small flames she created grow until it was entirely free, but the trees that always surrounded her looked down on her in shame, quietly reminding her that they needed their trunks and roots to remain firm. Of course, the fall of one tree would simply mean the rise of another, and it was just as likely that the fire would be halted before it could penetrate more than the outermost bark. The forest floor was eternally damp, and there was little upon which the fire could feed.

    No, she had never let her small, friendly fires grow out of control. But that did not mean she was unfamiliar with fire, and large blazes surely did not differ so much from their smaller brethren. There was something strange about the fire on the trees. She looked through the blaze, her pupils contracting harshly against the bright light. Despite the bright fire, the flames were calm and regular. There was none of the crackling, spitting anger with which Marzia was familiar. It truly seemed as though the fire was just floating on top of the wood, finding none of the wet pockets of sap of which the tree would certainly be full.

    She also didn't hear any chaos coming from within the fire. There were no screams, no desperate yelps of trapped animals. She had no clue what was going on. She might feel some appreciation for the burning mass, but even though the people around her were not in panic, nor were they comfortable with the flames. This was not some sort of demonstration or celebration. It had some other, less agreeable purpose.

    Many people were starting to huddle around the flames, and now the volume was beginning to rise. People were shouting, complaining, questioning, each voice lost in the sound of its neighbor. She settled back against her own small branch, watching with mild interest. She was more than a little curious what purpose the pseudo-flames served.

    Due to the crowd that was huddling about, she did not see Reuben emerge from the flames. But she did hear the shriek of the woman, shouting that some "he" had started the fire. Marzia blinked in mild surprise. She would have thought it was obvious to anyone looking that the flame was not the hungry predator they were indoctrinated to view. It was simply an illusion of color and heat.

    But the flame was quickly vanishing under the buckets of water the city guard dumped over it, and the small voice of protest was lost under the proclamations of the Councilor. There was someone moving up on Marzia, but she dismissed the figure, certain it was only heading to see what all the commotion was about. Whoever was taking the blame for the fire wasn't going to get out of it easily. The town might not have much influence, but staying when everyone believed in your guilt would be near impossible. The only reason they had let Marzia return every time she left was because she had never done anything to harm anyone. Whoever was being accused would not be so lucky. There was no mercy for arsonists.

    Suddenly, however there was a shout of an accomplice, and the person who had been walking up behind Marzia lunged at her, his arms outstretched. She reacted by instinct, her body twisting violently to the side, the man's grasping hands flashing out over her shoulder. She rolled backwards, flipping onto her feet, her eyes glinting angrily.

    "Arsonist," the man spat bitterly, lunging at Marzia again.

    Marzia shrieked in indignation as the man's hands closed around her forearm, and she spun wildly, breaking his hold on her arm. "I.." she began, punctuating each word with a blow. She punched violently, catching the man just below the solar plexus. "Was..." as the man doubled forward in surprise, her knee flashed up, catching him in the gut. "Just..." she flicked her leg out, catching him behind the knees. His legs folded, and he dropped to his knees. "Sitting!" Her hand flashed out, catching the man on the temple with the hard bone at the base of her thumb. Unconsciousness was immediate, and her complaints were ignored.

    But now she had broken the sacred, unspoken contract between herself and the village, and any restraint that had held the people around her was gone. Another man, clearly a friend of the man now lying unconscious at her feet, battered but still breathing, let out a bellow and hurled himself at her. Marzia side-stepped his wild tackle, but ran into another man who had been rushing up to her left. He grabbed her shoulders hard, and Marsia's foot flashed backwards, smacking into his left knee with a sickening pop, and then stamping on the bridge of his right foot. He let her go and dropped to the ground, shrieking in pain.

    But now people were beginning to swarm around her. For a while they couldn't get close to her, and more people dropped to the ground, unconscious or incapacitated by pain. But as more people pressed in from behind, forcing those who were in front closer to her, whether they wanted to be there or not. Someone grabbed onto her wrist, and she twisted, dropping the outside of her other wrist down on her attackers hand with the full force of her body. But someone leaped onto her back as she turned, and someone else grabbed her wrists again. Marzia was hauled to the ground by a massive pressure of people, grabbed on all sides and hauled towards the west tree. She spat and clawed, enraged beyond all reason, but for every person she managed to get away from her, it seemed there were two more to fill the empty space.

    She was forced to her knees before the Councilor, everyone's attention momentarily drawn away from Reuben. Marzia spat like a wild cat, writhing wildly, her short cropped hair flying all over the place. One of her guards let out a groan as she headbutted his groin, but someone reached out from behind and wound his fingers in her hair, wrenching her head backwards. Furious at herself for becoming complacent enough to let her hair grow long enough to be grabbed, and far beyond all pain, Marzia rocked her head forward sharply, leaving the clump of hair that the man had been holding behind, along with a piece of her scalp. Shouting in disgust, the man dropped the lock of hair and retreated from Marzia. Already the bald, bleeding spot on the back of her head had new skin growing over it, although the hair would take a normal amount of time to regrow.

    The regular civilians who had aided in her capture were backing away from her, quickly being replaced by the city guard. Now that no one was grabbing onto her, and the faces that had already been branded into her vision were out of sight, Marzia calmed enough to stand still. "They were the ones who grabbed me!" she shouted to the uncaring faces around her.
    #4 Peregrine, May 7, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2014
  5. "Did I not warn you, good people?" The Councillor's voice boomed over the crowd, dripping with insincerity to match the curled twist to his grin, "Our beloved home has been under siege for years now--been at a constant risk to these two freaks--and here; HERE we have the result of our kindliness and our tolerance!" His face scrunched into a sneer, an expression matched by many of the crowd, and turned his eyes from the villagers to Marzia and Reuben, flicking his gaze between them. "We who stick our necks out for the unfortunate freaks always pay in the end."

    His eyes snapped to the crowd, arms outstretched in a wide expression as he swung one in a wide arc towards the two; Marzia with the stern gaze of the city guard on her back and Reuben with fists trembling in tight vibrations against his sides. The Councillor chuckled, no longer hiding the venom to his intentions, and some in the gathered joined him in their rumbling, only a few wide-eyed citizens seeming to be out of the loop as to what was going on. "I suggest we be rid of our...parasites."

    He turned once again to face his scapegoats, eyes gleaming at the possibilities, and Reuben bared his teeth in a snapping gnash, the massive ears that framed his face swiveling backwards in his distaste. At his feet Snuff finally moved as well, baring his carved fangs with a loud hiss as he reared backwards and spread his gliding legs wide, stretching the thin membrane attached between them as his feathered headdress hackled with the sound of a second, louder hiss. A soldier standing too close was victim to a false strike and leaped back with a stumbling curse, his eyes wide and Reuben's grin twisted into something ugly and hate filled.

    "Parasites." He rasped, drawing the Councillor's eyes, "The only parasite I see is that rotting husk of a man!" His hand slashed through the air as he swung it in an arc at his side, and the Councillor abruptly recoiled, yelling in disgust at the yellowed oil that Reuben had slung, but Reuben wasn't done and he stalked forwards, pushing against the guards that blocked his way and snarling at the crowd. "What have I ever done to any of you bastards?! Nothing, that's what! You just can't handle anything even remotely different! You wanna kick us out for this 'fire'?" He curled his lip, an expression mimicked by the serpent hot on his heels, and thoughtlessly clenched and opened his fists, the oils that clung to his fingers dribbling to the ground and leaving a lazy trail, "You don't even know what fire is."

    He backed away as the guards came to crowd him, a particularly well armed woman's curled horns giving him a bit more of a hasty retreat, but paused rather suddenly, nostrils flaring and eyes narrowing sharply. His fingers twitched in his palm, and with a slow frown he brushed his thumb against his coiled knuckles, feeling the oil slide sickeningly smooth against his skin, and a nasty plan bloomed. The oil began to thicken, moving from a light dribble to a slow, anxious flow and he brought his hands up to look at the nearly syrupy consistency of it trail down his arms. Reuben's frown began to coil, his anger rising up in a flare, and freed of his hesitation, he wheeled on his heel and stalked towards the smoldering flames, spreading the oil further along his forearm in quick, practiced touches. Snuff was quick on him this time, the serpent recognizing the motions, and a confused rumble began among the crowd, the guards closest to him taking a wary lean backwards as Reuben moved straight to the fire and, after a cursory glance for the most violent flame, thrust one arm into the flickering tongue.

    The fire took to his arm in an eager WOOSH of a booming sound, exploding onto the oiled surface with wide flash of deep red color that lightened and brightened as the flames grew hotter and thicker against his skin. It thrived on the continuous supply of oil, burning at an excited blue for several moments before it began to take a whiter shade. Even as it the fire grew, controlled and yet wild, however Reuben was moving his other arm, brushing the oil in heavy layers against Snuff's headdress of feathers. The serpent swayed his body, twitching his little legs, and his eyes remained on the crowd, taking in their slow realization and growing panic with the cool, rapt attention of a reptile, reflecting the flames almost eerily before--as Reuben gently introduced the flames on his left arm to Snuff's protected feathers--taking on the violent glow of the fires spitting and hissing by his head.

    "Lucky for you," Reuben snarled, his grin sick and twisted as it curled into place, full of malicious intent and bare of amusement, "I'm willing to share that knowledge."
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