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  1. Prism
    An Original Story by Kaisaan and DotCom

    prism (n)
    1. A transparent body, often of glass and usually with triangular ends, which separates a singular beam of light into a multi-colored spectrum.
    2. A medium that misrepresents whatever is seen through it.

    “Life is like a prism. What you see depends on how you turn the glass.”
    ~Jonathan Kellerman


    On the first morning of the annual Auction, the air was warm and gentle as the caress of a trusted lover, lightly scented with a native fruit the Cerebrae had come to call starfruit. It had a tart, vaguely citrus flavor, and was generally too bitter to eat straight from the creeping vines that sprouted the small, garish red bulbs. But when baked, as for today's festivities, into tarts and sweetcakes, the starfruit abandoned its harsh acidic qualities in favor of a moist and succulent sweetness that stayed with the taster until fading into a pleasant aftertaste. In the generation since the Cerebrae had first discovered their new home, the once common starfruit had become something of a rare delicacy, typically enjoyed only by the wealthier families, and even then, only on special occasions. Those who knew how to cook and coerce the starfruit into releasing its pleasant flavor were even rarer. After hundreds of years, even most Prodigies were stumped on the strange dichotomous nature of the fruit, preferring to turn their considerable intellects toward more achievable culinary tasks, such as the purification and fermentation of various crops that could be made into liquor and other spirits (though it was universally agreed that the wine of a well-tilled starfruit was the greatest delicacy of them all).

    In short, starfruit was a simple staple loved by most, if not all of the planet's inhabitants, and on a day like today could only foretell wealth and happiness, at least of a sort.

    And Rora Skyfall was allergic.

    Or at least this is what she told herself. She'd been refusing starfruit cakes and tarts for as long as she could remember, even early on in her twenty-something years. If she was being honest, it was easier to say she was after the joy of rebellion.

    Especially today.

    While there was still a small handful of Cerebrae from her cycle yet to have graduated to the individual schools of study for their power class, it was fairly safe to say Rora was the only Empath in her cycle. Having fallen several generations after what her people called the War of Reclamation, her birth cycle was fairly large, mustering about 280 Cerebrae, nearly all of whom had survived into their early adulthood. Their cycle had also had the highest number of males in several generations, nearly forty born in all, and most of them well into Pater grooming.

    Not that Rora knew much about that. Her Empath class had shown early, very early. Early enough that the Matrons in charge of her birth cycle had seen fit to separate her from her cycle brothers and sisters. Days like these reminded her why.

    She only vaguely remembered the day they'd found she'd be different. She'd been young, even by Nuathal or Aavan standards. Maybe only four or five cycles old. She'd been playing with the other Cerebrae from her birth cycle, and a Matron chasing after one of them had fallen. It had not seemed serious at the time. No one had known of the internal damage that would eventually cost the elderly Matron her life.

    But young Rora had started screaming in pain, understanding even more than the injured Matron had. They'd at first thought she'd been upset, but when she began complaining of dizziness, nausea, and headaches, the Head Matron had demanded she'd be removed from the other children. In time, she had learned to temper and control her Gift, to the point, even, of negating her own powers, but it was far preferable to being a forced recluse.

    Even so, she'd had a long tradition of hiding herself away when the Auction rolled around each year. It gave her the appearance of despising the holiday -- and she did -- but not because she was a cold and bitter person...and she was.

    The Aavan bought and sold in the Matriarch's massive courtyard at the far edge of the city where young Cerebrae were born and trained were enormous, often even by Aavan standards. Many Cerebrae agreed: the bigger, the better. Keepers, Pushers, and Telekinetics especially preferred the large orange and red Aavan, fierce and strong, and all the better for training. And even Rora could not deny it was a sight to see, the white marble courtyards and expansive glades filled with cages and Cerebrae in their finery, and Aavan kept and polished to a high sheen.

    But even from a distance, Rora could feel the stunted hatred, fear, confusion, and most of all, the pain. It had woken her that morning, throbbing through her bones even before the first of the three suns had risen. She had been unable to eat breakfast, the scent of the rich Auction plate set before her altogether too much for the ache in her head and arms and shoulders and chest.

    All training Cerebrae were released early for the Auction, as close to a holiday as the Cerebrae would ever come, aside from celebrating their victory in the war generations ago. And even those Rora considered friends now flocked to the Matriarch's courtyard to see the Biddings commence.

    But Rora hung back, relentlessly angry and sad, watching with deep green eyes and a scowl on her already unusual face.

    "Are you coming?"

    Siya stood just to Rora's left, her own violet eyes catching the suns' light and throwing it back. Siya was a Prodigy from Rora's birth cycle, though her sheer size, nearly half a foot taller than Rora, had made the Matrons classify her as a Telekinetic...until she began composing sonatas in the beginning of her third cycle. Siya, too, had been separated from her sisters for a time, her own considerable Prodigy gift well beyond the others of her cycle. It was then Siya and Rora had met, and stayed friends, the former far too calculating to be offended by Rora's often barbarous words.

    "What do you think?" Rora's scowl deepened. The headache she'd had all day had deepened into making her vision uneven. She fought back the impulse to be sick.

    "I think you ought to see one of the Whisperers for something to make you feel better and come have fun with us."

    That was Rogan Skyfall, a Pater from the same birth cycle. He was the only Pater in four generations not to require beautification surgery before his induction, and he was the youngest Pater in six generations. He stood a full foot and a half taller than both Siya and Rora, had dark skin, beautiful blue-black hair, and eyes the color of a sunset. Even the older Matrons found him lovely, though he had not been used yet.

    Rora was never sure whether it was his preening, or just his personality that made Rogan look at the world through rose-colored lenses. Everything was beautiful with Rogan. His past, his future, his words. In his world, there were no problems. Not even from an Empath who could speak to stone.

    "Fun. Of course," said Rora drily, and Rogan laughed before shrugging.

    "Just an offer."

    "I'm sure I can witness the elders beat down the Aavan from here, thanks."

    "Rora, don't be absurd. They're enormous creatures. Even the zipsticks are like little pinches to them." Siya's words were not spoken out of malice. She was a Prodigy, in many ways Rora's exact opposite. For her, everything was thought and reason. There was no room for anger or sadness or cruelty or love.

    Rora turned her green-eyed gaze to her friend of twenty years. "That's not true."

    Siya shrugged without taking her eyes from the courtyard scene. The Biddings were to begin in a few short hours. "So you say."

    "Well, then, go see Matron Sumilah, if you're going to be a poor sport," Rogan interjected, seeing the argument that was about to crop up between his friends. Again. "Though I'd assume Risa will be at the Auction..."

    "All the more reason to stay away," grumbled Rora. Risa, her half sister by way of her adoptive Matron, Sumilah, had been named the next CloudDottir, and lived like near-royalty for it. For a Dreamer, Risa was notoriously proud, often flaunting both her skill and wealth in anyway she could. What Sumilah saw in her, Rora couldn't guess.

    "The quickest way to Matron Sumilah's is through the Auction. Just walk by with us," suggested Siya, once again unaffected by Rora's sore mood. "You can handle that, can't you?"

    'No,' thought Rora, as she felt, rather than heard, and Aavan give a short growl of rage and pain. But it was no use trying to explain to Siya, or Rogan, or even Sumilah. Such was the plight of the Empath.

    "Alright," she relented finally, hefting her bag over her slender shoulders. "Let's go. But I can guarantee you I won't like it."

    Rogan laughed again, sweeping Rora up in a hug that nearly knocked her off her feet. "A Dreamer now, are you?"

    "No," said Siya. "Dreamers smile more." And even Rora had to laugh at that.
    #1 DotCom, Jan 1, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
  2. The mood was light, festive, laughter in the air and talk that buzzed around the enormous courtyard in the shadow of the great castle that housed the Matriarch. It was like a rainbow had exploded on the area, Cerebrae of every color and hue milling about, walking the large pathways between the rows of towering cages. There were no bars, no mesh, nothing to subtract attention from the creatures inside, the clear force field keeping them contained, only shimmering and rippling in the right light or if struck by the towering dragon-like beings held inside. And few of them did that as it caused them pain every single time, an incentive for them to leave it alone.

    The Aavan, most of them in their larger forms, paced and roared, or they simply stared out at those that passed them by, lifelessness in the eyes of many. Their furious or painful cries were muffled from those on the outside by the shields, mostly soundproof and many of them knew what to expect here, told those closest to them, the newer ones what their purpose here was. They didn't need speech, mind connections what linked them, let them speak if one Aavan would allow it with another. Some were so far gone that they didn't accept any contact even from their own kind, but most were glad even for the comfort of another prisoner.

    They were encouraged to stay in their larger forms, all but the Aavan not caged and walking with their owners, nothing but control collars around their throats. It could be locked to keep them in their smaller forms or allowed to expand for their bigger ones and was capable of dropping them with both an electric current and a toxin that would paralyze them for at least twenty minutes. These were pets and guards that had already been trained and conditioned to the point where they didn't try to fight back anymore. Most guard-Aavan were blue, green or white of hair, the rarest and the most expensive. Pet-Aavan were of all colors, though and their colors were status symbols all their own. Their hair always matched their scales, but their skin ranged from anything between Earthling-hued to the same hued colors of their hair, faint red or blue, green, purple according to the colors of their scales.

    Such things meant little to the Aavan themselves who didn't see powers and the numbers of their individual kinds as anything greatly significant. The only one Aavan they would consider special by color alone was the Black Aavan and he happened to be here with them.

    If blue Aavan were rare and coveted by the wealthy, the black Aavan was something that went above and beyond that. He was the only one in the Cerebrae's recorded existence and he had a power unseen in any other Aavan. Lightning and electricity. And yes, while the latter was rather common, the former was not on this world and his power of it was off-scale, able to short out any device they tried to put on him. A control collar had soon been deemed useless as had the shields. So while he was undoubtly the biggest attraction at the auction, he was also the one kept the furthest away from the other Aavan and caged differently. Nefirien chains - a metal ten times stronger than steel and recently discovered on the planet Etraxirs two light years away - attached to a symbiotic metal collar from planet Zas45 that would grow and shrink with its owner, was impervious to lightning and fire, were bolted into great weights of black rock, a substance even too heavy for an Aavan to lift. He was tethered between the two square-cut stones, in the back of the courtyard, the last attraction to see as it were. A wide perimeter had been put around his area as more often than not lightning arced off the black creature, rippling across his scales like live things, warning people back.

    His roars were enough to do that, too.

    Moridryn'aKyno had been a slave - and there was no nicer term in his mind for what his people had become - for six years, by choice, but that didn't mean he was happy about it. He'd come to find his sister. What he'd found was something that made his heart burn with an anger that was hard to understand even as it was simple. He had a connection to his people, even as a child, that had surpassed even the elders in his hidden clan, but such was how it should have been considering what he was. And not even Mori knew entirely what that was. He just knew the suffering of his race screamed into his mind constantly and it was days like this when his rage and hatred soared to new heights.

    Violet eyes ignored the Cerebrae milled about, his great neck extended, trying to catch glimpses of his own people, watching as some were led from their cages, by a heavy chain attached to their collar and the threat of zipsticks behind them should they hesitate to follow. He had no doubt some of the red and gold ones were drugged, too. He wasn't roaring to scare the insects he could swipe away with a sweep of his tail, but rather to gain a reaction from his own kind. It was discouraging how few answered the call.
    #2 Kaisaan, Jan 1, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
  3. Like anything that happened with Siya and Rogan in charge, their 'walk' through the Auction grounds turned into a slow-paced tour. Two hours later, handlers, showers, and bidders alike were rushing about in preparation of the opening Bids, and the Skyfall trio were milling about, the center of it all. They weren't celebrities by any stretch of the imagination. But they were young and prodigious Cerebrae, and even their elders could recognize their power. They were given a wide berth as they weaved between cages, looking in at animals they might one day stand a chance at owning, Rogan captivated by creatures even more powerful and beautiful than he was, Siya obsessed with learning for the sake of learning.

    Rora in her usual bad mood, made worse by the tiny pings of pain that kept hitting her psyche.

    "How long do we have to stay here?"

    "We're almost done," Siya responded absently, pushing her pale violet hair out of her eyes as she squinted at a blue Aavan coiled in a heap to their right.

    "You've been saying that for an hour."

    Rogan was oblivious as usual. "I hear the black one is here again this year. Where d'you think they're keeping it?"

    "Him," Rora said automatically.

    "Probably away from the others. I heard they can't cage it. Something to do with electrocurrents...we've been looking into it in our classes. They're hoping our birth cycle comes up with something else to contain it."

    "It's supposed to have gone through six different owners. It's got to be in the Matriarch-only price range now. How much d'you think it'll go for?"

    "If they can't sell it, they kill it."

    "They wouldn't. It's the only one."

    "He's the only one," Rora interjected sourly. "And he's right there."

    She pointed. The pseudo-legendary black Aavan had indeed been kept well away from the others of his race. There were several Cerebrae around him, all of them younger Keepers, Pushers, and Telekinetics, each accompanied by a Nuathal and outsized zipsticks.

    The thing was growling its displeasure, and even though it was smaller than most of the red and orange Aavan, it stood far taller than its handlers, roaring at the sky. Rora wasn't sure what he was angry about (not that she couldn't guess), but she knew he was pissed. She stopped abruptly, holding out a hand to both her friends.

    Siya turned back in rare annoyance. "What?"

    "We shouldn't," Rora answered cautiously. "He's...angry. Really angry."

    "So? It's chained. We'll be fine."

    "That's not what I'm worried about."

    "What?" said Rogan, still inching closer to the Aavan. "You worried he'll mess with your mood?"

    Rora felt her jaw come together with an audible click. She took a breath to keep her rage -- the Aavan's rage -- in check. It wasn't working. And before she could say what she wanted to say, Sya had dragged them both along for a closer look.
  4. His chains rattled as Mori lunged against them, the slack going taunt, vibrating with the pressure his powerful body set against them. His jaw snapped close to an older Keeper who'd come to start preparing him for the Bidding along with several others. Normally only a Pusher was needed, but Mori had shown himself to be astoundingly resistant, nearly immune to them and so other methods were used to contain him in order to move him. They could have drugged him, but that would have taken away from the very exotic appeal that would get him to sell even with his history. No, instead the Keepers would attempt to restrain his wings - they'd nearly lost him once when he'd attempted to fly in the early days and they hadn't made that mistake again - and his mouth before multiple people would drag him by a few chains and zipsticks to where they wanted him. He'd be the last at the Bidding simply for the fact that it was guarded by a shield and he'd soon destroy it and it would take that long to get him there.

    Mori never did anything to make it easier for the Cerebrae to contain him - even with Nuathal present and they didn't get involved, rather sad for the Aavan though they spoke not about them unless directly asked. And they would never give out such personal information as to what language the Aavan spoke or whether they were intelligent, sentient beings. They had odd rules about such things.

    The Keeper he'd taken a fang-filled snap at leaped back with a curse and amusement ran through the black Aavan, an emotion the Cerebrae didn't think his people capable of. It was something that Rora certainly would never have felt from an Aavan, not that Mori knew such a thing as his tail lashed like an indignant cat and his neck arched, looking down at those who were growing closer to him with a calculated expression in his violet eyes, the anger a cold fury inside him, but not so volatile now, more precise than anything in that moment as he used it to make his next move.

    He'd grown still, wings secure against his back by his own choice and his focus intent upon his handlers, waiting for their next move. The first cable that came shooting out of the narrow device in a Keeper's hand to wrap over his back had Mori immediately shrinking down to his humanoid form. Feral violet eyes shone out from a shaggy mane of black hair and the Aavan bared his fangs in this form, his frame nearly pulled down by the chains around his neck, but that didn't last long as his body shifted back up into the massive scaled creature the Cerebrae found such fascination in. The cable that had completely missed him was now on the ground and Mori seemed to smirk as his tail came around, curling around the thing and he gave a yank. The Keeper went flying forward, landing almost between his wickedly clawed feet.

    Everyone seemed to freeze then, expecting the complete worst, to see the Keeper savaged before their eyes, but the black Aavan moved his head down very slowly until his nose was right before the face of the Cerebri. His jaws opened then in a calculated, deliberate action as he showed fangs that were nearly as long as the Keeper's arm. A low growl rumbled from his chest then, mouth vibrating with it as his storm-filled violet eyes met the terrified Cerebri's. The male was frozen, knowing - everyone knew - that his life was subject to the whims of the creature who's jaws he was staring into, jaws that could snap his body in half easily.

    And then the great head pulled back far faster than it had descended and Mori tail came forward, sending the Keeper spinning away from him, skidding along the ground like a disk. He'd probably have some nasty bruises, but he also had his life and as his fellow Keepers came to help him up and check him over, Mori's eyes scanned over the crowd with a judging look none of them would understand, at least not in his experience with Cerebrae. They didn't expect to see emotions so they didn't.

    He wouldn't stoop to their level.
    #4 Kaisaan, Jan 1, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
  5. An applause was spreading through the wide area where the black Aavan was being kept, but Rora couldn't hear it over rush of blood in her ears. She felt a little light-headed, and realized abruptly she hadn't taken a breath in the short yet endless minute during which the whole incident had occurred. Beside her, Rogan was clapping and laughing and whooping. The Keepers were dusting off their fallen companion, somewhere between concern and awe. The spectators applauded with breathless wonder. Even Siya was smiling. A man had nearly lost his life, and all they saw was a show.

    It was a moment before Rogan realized Rora hadn't joined in the celebration, and half a second after when Siya, always calculating, figured out what was wrong.

    Rogan raised a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. "You're pale," he said matter-of-factly. "Paler than usual."

    Siya said, "She thought the Keeper was going to die."

    'He was,' she nearly said, and might have, if she could speak. Instead, she shook her head. "No. He only just had the wind knocked out of him." She put a hand to her side. "He's fine. Just sore. Can we go now?"

    Siya smirked and Rogan. Rogan laughed and shrugged and said, "Alright, fine. Spoilsport."

    Rora didn't bother to respond. Her chest ached with the intensity of her pounding heart -- the fear of the Keeper. The rage and sorrow of the black Aavan. Like the others, she'd long since heard tales of his existence, and in particular, his passage between wealthy, adventurous Cerebrae families. But she'd never seen him before, and certainly never been near enough for his thoughts to jump into hers like that. And yet for all the excitement, one thought stood out to her:

    He had been toying with the Keeper. Like an uncannily cruel cat with a mouse, there had been a moment's cold glee she could feel radiating from the senseless beast. What did that mean?


    The word came up so abruptly, she was certain someone else's thoughts had forced their way into her mind again. It took her a moment to realize the single word was her own.

    It was one she was familiar with. She could still recall the looks of amusement and even abstract horror she'd caused when, as a young child, she'd professed to everyone around her she could "hear the trees singing". That it had been true made her sound no less insane.

    And it had been true. Hadn't it?

    Sometimes, when she was very tired, it got difficult to tell what was errant thoughts from nearby Cerebrae, or her own thoughts, or the thoughts of a tree or flower or stone or wall. Even an Empath shouldn't be hearing voices like she did. They whispered such awful things to her, too, somehow made all the worse by the fact that they so often didn't make sense.

    She shivered suddenly despite the warmth of the day, and got the first hint of kindness from her companions.

    "You really do look unwell," said Siya, for once sounding not-quite-as fascinated as she usually did. Rora worried sometimes she and Siya were only friends so the gifted Prodigy could keep an eye on the Empath. Or at the very least to study her.

    "She's alright," said Rogan, throwing a sturdy arm over her shoulders. "Once we're away from the animals, she'll be back to her dreary old self."

    Rora offered a tiny smile. They were leaving the crowds behind in favor of some young and carefree Cerebrae playing in the Matriarch's courtyard. Their laughter was infectious.

    "What would I do without you two?" she mused. They ignored the mood swing. Such was expected of Empaths.

    "Miss out on all the fun," Rogan answered. Rora snorted and rolled her eyes as they crested the steps leading away from the courtyard and into the smaller sections of housing where her 'adoptive' Matron lived.

    She wasn't sure what made her look back over her shoulder to squint at the black Aavan over the heads of spectators, drawn by his most recent incursion of wrath.
    #5 DotCom, Jan 1, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
  6. Crazy.

    The thought - and he knew it was a thought as he'd spent his whole life mind-speaking to his own people and knew the difference between the two - caused his head to snap up and around, violet eyes searching for that one voice, a voice that had pulled something in him so unexpectedly that he didn't know what to feel about it. It had been a Cerebra. He knew that much, but in a race full of females it was a bit difficult to pinpoint which one it might have been and he continued to search, extending his mind slightly, in a way he'd not done in a long time. Such was the way his kin initiated a bond and that's not what Mori was trying to do, but if he could even touch the edge of this person's mind then he could identify them.

    They weren't in the crowd, though, and he heaved a sigh of frustration, giving a snarl to the next Keeper to approach him, far less lenient this time around with the depth and volume of it, true warning in the sound as his anger flooded him again. He knew he couldn't avoid the inevitable, but he could make it unpleasant for them to make happen. But where had that thought come from? The Aavan looked up and outward again and maybe it was pure chance that made him look out beyond the crowd, out upon the steps leading away from this hellish place, or maybe it was something else, something indescribable that drew him. Whatever the cause, his eyes met the green ones that were looking back at him.

    The black Aavan didn't know what to call the feeling that came over him. Hope? But he did know that THIS was the person he'd heard. Six years and thousands of Cerebrae and he'd heard this one. So he did something he'd never done to any Cerebrae. He spoke back, just a wisp of a voice in her mind, his voice deep, but enough to brush off as just another thought if she wished. But this thought was one she might think twice on.


    His name. Simply his name and then the contact was broken as he was forced to focus on what was happening around him. It was time to be sold.


    Of all the owners he'd had, Mori had tolerated some, hated others and then had outright been exasperated by at least two. Some didn't have any idea what they were doing, usually younger Cerebrae who merely wanted to have something no one else did. They soon gave him up. Others were experienced, but got fed up when they realized they could not tame him. And still others were absolutely cruel, pushing him to limits he'd never known he could reach. He'd been subject to experiments with his fifth owner and it had damaged Mori a lot more than he'd say. It was nothing less than outright torture masked as learning as far as he was concerned.

    He was one of the fortunate ones, though. He didn't die in those enormous laboratory cages. He was too valuable. So he'd been sold again and now here he was with a new owner, a Cerebra called Risa, who he had immediately categorized as someone he would come to hate. It was clear from day one she thought she could do what no one else could; break him. She started off in a way most had, trying to be nice, giving him space and good food, and activities a pet might like to keep him busy. But Mori didn't respond to it in the way she wanted. He wasn't compliant, nor affectionate, he didn't obey commands and he wouldn't perform.

    And that's when things got worse.

    Risa started withholding food and then turning off the heat panels at night, something an Aavan needed as their bodies dropped dangerously low in temperature with the weather. He became lethargic which in turn angered Risa even more because he wouldn't engage her in any way until she caused him pain and then it was with rage, not compliance. He'd been given toxins twice now, something that caused excruciating pain even as it paralyzed and by the end of the week Mori looked very little like he had the day of the Auction. His scales were dulled and stayed that way no matter how he was cleaned and he wouldn't eat now even when food was offered, knowing it was drugged.

    He took to sleeping when he wasn't being harassed and that was what Mori was doing now, his body curled into itself, nose tucked under his tail and his breathing shallow. It was clear he was becoming sick and was due for a bonding session with a Nuathal, another thing Risa had withheld.
  7. "Aurora! Come in, come in, we'd hoped to see you last week!"

    Rora offered a tired but sincere smile to the elderly Matron she'd known almost from birth. Like all Cerebrae, she'd been born in the extravagant glass-and-marble nursery at the southern edge of the Matriarch's village, under the care of Matron too old to birth children (most gave birth for ten to fifteen cycles), but too young to retire. Sumilah had stayed on at the nursery fifty years past her retirement age, choosing to spend time with children of birth cycles from younger still generations. Even now, she often visited the nursery, sometimes for days and weeks at a time. But in all her 274 years, she had only ever truly bonded with two Cerebrae.

    One now stood before her, a little haggard, perhaps, but grinning to be around the one person in the universe she truly loved. Sumilah had been the one to give Aurora (or Rora, as she was known by everyone else) her name, saying she'd learned the word from a Prodigy who specialized in extra-terrestrial study. Rora had been six cycles old when Sumilah explained there was a planet very far away called Earth, and their proximity to their sun (only one!), and their atmosphere made a rainbow light show called an aurora.

    "Rather like your own little light show, dearheart," she'd said.

    Those had been back in the days when Rora was still self-conscious about her coloring. Unlike Rogan's dark green skin, or Siya's gentle purple, or Sumilah's pale pink, or Risa's vibrant red, Rora's skin color was not uniform. Mostly, she was a pale, bland color, her eyes and unremarkable green, her hair so dark brown, it looked almost black.

    But splash across her face, nose, eyes, and lips was a mismatch of vibrant watercolor hues in blues, greens, purples, and pinks. Sumilah had called it beautiful, and in time, Rora had come to agree. But in those early years, already separated from her birthing cycle, she hated her coloring.

    The other of Sumilah's adopted daughters (she spent most of her time, even in retirement, at the nursery, and so had never taken a mate, or had children of her own) was Risa Blackcloud. At 89 years, she had just emerged from her training as a Dreamer, selected as the next CloudDottir even before her graduation.

    No one, not even Rora, could say she didn't deserve it. Risa was strong and ambitious, a born leader, even if not a particularly kind one. She was also incredibly proud, and her position as the coming Dottir did nothing to help her haughty disposition. She supposed some found Risa beautiful, but Rora had spent enough time around the Dreamer she knew how ugly the Cerebra's emotions could be.

    "Yes, I know," Rora said now as she stepped into the not-at-all modest mansion Sumilah now shared with Risa. The latter had been living here not five cycles, and already, the place was far too lavish. Rora bit back her disgust and smiled at her Matron.

    "I...I wasn't feeling well," she lied quickly, when she realized Sumilah was still watching her, now with a faint frown.

    "Yes, you look a little pale. Have you been sleeping well?"

    No, she thought, though she nodded sagely. Not sleeping, and not eating, either. The Auction had been over nearly a week now, and though Rora had been careful to avoid the closing festivities after the...excitement of the first day, she could not help but recall, over and over and over again her last moment at the Auction. She'd been about to leave with Rogan and Siya, finally able to shake the feeling of cold hatred plaguing her after visiting the black Aavan, when she'd turned, on a whim, to look back at him.

    And something had happened. She was sure of it. She just wasn't sure what. It must have been someone else's errant thought, or a dream, or another whisper of insanity. But she'd heard something. A name. As if the Aavan was communicating with her.

    It had only lasted a second, but it had been too much. That single moment of imagined contact, in combination with the pain of the other animals trapped and walking around, had overwhelmed her. The attack had come upon her suddenly, her first in many months, and yet all the fiercer for the waiting. She remembered very little of it. Voices -- her's, or Siya's, or others, maybe, and the glances of the other Cerebrae, varying from embarrassed to confused to outright disgusted. There had been a second of clarity -- or not -- and then she remembered nothing until waking up in a Whisperer's den several hours later.

    Since then, her sleep had been restless, and her appetite near nothing. She'd decided to visit Sumilah in hopes of clearing her head. The older Cerebrae was so dauntlessly hopeful and kind, even just a few hours with her made the young Empath feel better.

    Today, though, she couldn't quite shake the pall.

    Sumilah looked unconvinced, but let the matter drop.

    "Well...come in. Risa's here, and we were just about to eat. She's just disappeared again, probably off to find more toys or what have you for that poor beast out in the courtyard..."

    Rora stopped walking so suddenly, Sumilah nearly walked into her.

    "Oh, sorry, dear, I -- "

    "What beast?" Rora said, her voice a perfect monotone.


    "What. Beast?"

    "Oh, the thing she brought home from the Auction last week. Didn't you hear? Risa won the black Aavan."

    Sumilah kept talking, but Rora hardly heard her. She couldn't see the Aavan, but she could feel him. The sorrow and the rage she recognized, but even from here, she could tell he was not the same as he had been. Living under Risa for a week, she wasn't surprised. She'd have laughed if she hadn't felt so suddenly wretched. Weak, achy. Ill. And hungry. Oh, so hungry.


    "What?" She wasn't sure how many times Sumilah had said her name before she heard her.

    "I asked if you want to see it. Really is a beautiful creature, and Risa ought to be back any moment now."

    "N-no," Rora said. She didn't want to be any closer to the thing in the courtyard than she had to. Not even Sumilah's peace could offer comfort. "No. What interest do I have in those stupid things?" She managed to sound almost scathing and after a moment's silence, Sumilah shrugged and walked away. Rora followed quietly.

    But for some reason, the word, the name from the Auction kept echoing through her head.

    #7 DotCom, Jan 1, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
  8. For a moment, Mori was sure he heard his own name.

    He hadn't heard his own name spoken in so long that it was enough to wake him and his violet eyes, glazed over with sickness, looking around, actually searching rather desperately for that presence he'd perceived he'd sensed. It was no where to be seen, though, lost to him and a soft keening noise left the creature as he closed his eyes again. He had to open them a moment later, though, as the bars of his cage rattled. Risa had obviously taken great thought into the cage she'd had made for her Aavan - probably ambitious enough to know it would be the black Aavan - as the bars were made of Nefirien metal, dome-shaped at the top to allow for some flying, but not nearly enough and the cage was rather large, but it was still a cage. Still, it meant Mori didn't have to have the chains on; unless of course Risa wished it and more often than not, she did.

    At the moment, though, he was free of them and Mori looked up to see something that brought an intense relief to wash over. A Nuathal standing beside Risa, expression gentle and welcoming as she stretched her hands out through the bars. And for the first time since arriving here, Mori moved willingly toward the bars and the contact. He bent his head when he reached the bars, letting four different hands touch his muzzle without fear. A shudder went through his entire body then, and his wings sagged, retracting back to his body as he laid down slowly, his eyes closing as he felt the connection in his mind as the Nuathal stroked his head and crooned to him softly, mentally.

    "Easy, dark child. It's not as bad as all that."

    The black Aavan snorted quietly. "I'm a prisoner. I don't see how there is anything worse than that." He closed his eyes again, having opened them to look at the alien, as the Nuathal's hands started to glow, feeling the alien's mind connect further with his own as he opened up to her, consciousness' touching, light being shared between the two until a low, rumbling sound started to come from Moridryn's chest. It was a purr and the Nuathal, her name was Engel, laughed in her chirping way.

    That was as long as it lasted, though, as Risa suddenly reached forward and pulled the Nuathal back, breaking the connection abruptly. And Mori, who'd felt a great deal of pain in his life, had never been subjected to something so unimaginably agonizing. The bond cut off, only halfway completed and the Aavan gave a sound that was beyond anything earthly, his great body starting to writhe until he was in his smaller form, hands clutching his head as he screamed and convulsed. Blood started to leak from his nose, his body curling, shaking violently as he continued to cry out in pain unbearable.

    The Nuathal, a peaceful race and very compliant in all things, was actually trying to get away from Risa - without harming her of course - and back to Mori, looking frantic. "Mistress! Mistress you kill him! You kill him, Mistress Risa!" she warned desperately, but the Cerebra, while she did release the Nuathal, did not open the cage, looking angry as she watched her pet. "He'll be fine. Maybe it will teach him to obey."
    #8 Kaisaan, Jan 1, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
  9. Ultimately, it was the sound that drew them both to the courtyard, though Rora had been perched on the fence before, the Aavan's agony leaving her paralyzed somewhere between running for relief and running...for something else.

    But his cry of pain made Sumilah run and Rora follow, though she couldn't say why, and she certainly didn't want to be any closer to the screaming creature.

    The two reached the threshold to the courtyard not a moment later, Sumilah panting and expecting the worst.

    "Risa!" she cried, almost before she had even beheld the relatively peaceful scene. "Risa, are you alright?"

    Risa turned to her adoptive Matron and smiled. She was indeed beautiful, all smooth red skin the color of heated metal. Her hair was of a slightly darker shade, and her eyes burned like coals in the soft curves of her face.

    "Hello, Mother," she said sweetly. "Yes, I'm fine, the ruckus was the beast."

    Sumilah breathed a sigh of relief before looking into the cage where the Aavan had taken on its smaller form. She raised a brow. "Is it alright?"

    Risa merely repeated what she'd told the Nuathal. "He'll be fine. I'm only training him. I'll be the one to break him, Mother, I can tell. I can feel it. I've seen it."

    Sumilah did not look comfortable with the exchange. "But must you torture the poor creature so?"

    "He'll be all the more dangerous for his temper. It needs only last as long as he refuses to comply. He'll learn."

    There was a long pause before Sumilah sighed. "Please be careful. I hope you know what you're doing."

    Risa's red-gold eyes blazed. "Of course."

    It was then Sumilah noticed they were alone in the courtyard, at least excluding the two lesser aliens. She turned to see Rora had not left the steps, and was in fact clutching the doorframe, an odd look on her face. It took her only a moment to remember her youngest daughter was a gifted Empath.

    She smiled sympathetically. "Rora, dear? Are you alright? Is it too much?"

    Rora couldn't speak. She couldn't speak, she couldn't move, she could hardly breathe, and she was afraid if she so much as blinked, she would collapse. She held onto the door frame with a white-knuckled grip

    Finally, she ground out, "You're. Hurting. Him."

    Risa gave her a look of mingled irritation and glee. "Obviously, little sister. How else will these creatures learn?"

    Rora shook her head, trying to make herself focus. She could block out the pain -- but this close to the suffering thing, it was difficult. All she felt was rage and confusion and hurt. She didn't look at the Aavan in the cage. She couldn't. She realized rather abruptly that she hated him.

    "Don't be stupid," Rora snarled, and once again, the Aavan's anger fueled hers "He won't learn anything if you kill him."

    "I will not kill him."

    "He's sick."

    "He'll live."

    "But you're hurting him!" She knew she was arguing in a circle. She couldn't help it. She couldn't think straight. She could barely breathe -- everything, everything hurt.

    "Alright, dear. Let's go inside. How far do you have to be before you stop connecting with the poor thing?" She could only just barely hear Sumilah's gentle voice, feel her arms on her shoulders. Rora let herself be lead away, certain if she stayed any longer, she'd explode or go crazy or do something much, much worse. The Aavan was so angry.

    Risa shot her younger sister a victorious glance Rora never saw. Sumilah was asking the Empath whether she wanted a slice of leftover starfruit tart. Rora was thinking if she ate, she would be sick. And behind her, the beast in the cage continued to writhe, and she kept walking.
    #9 DotCom, Jan 1, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
  10. It burned.

    His entire mind burned with fire, the connection to the Nuathal being ripped away fiber by fiber, each tug and snap sending a streak of agony through his head. He couldn't breathe, couldn't think, he could only feel. And oh, how he felt. Every emotion was heightened, even more dormant ones and it wasn't long before the Aavan was sobbing with the pain, desperately trying to seek any kind of relief, but finding none.

    For a short, precious moment he'd almost felt like his salvation had been close, a presence, a feeling he could not explain, but it had gone faster than it had come and he was left alone once more. He couldn't hear anymore, couldn't see. He could only shake and cry out, and let the tears that provided no relief run. And finally, finally the last tether broke and the pain disappeared, leaving an absolute mess behind. He'd been subjected to torture before - testing they called it - but nothing had ever come close to this and Risa seemed to have discovered it on accident.

    She'd nearly killed him and she didn't seem to even realize how very close she'd been. As it was, she'd caused a damage that was devastating. Not only had any benefits of the bonding been negated, but now Mori's mind might even reject another connection to a Nuathal. The bond was built on trust and that had been shattered. It wasn't Engel's fault, but the bond wouldn't know that. It would only see a Nuathal signature and not let it in.

    Risa, whether she knew it or not, had started the clock on Mori's life and he'd had trouble staying healthy with Nuathl connections anyway. At this rate he'd die in Risa's possession because his will would never bend to her own.

    He'd finally gone quiet, no sound, no movement, barely breathing really and the Aavan's mind was completely silent. No emotion, no thoughts, nothing. He'd retreated into his mind, partitioning it off completely and the Nuathal, outside the cage still, gave a sad sound, shaking her head. Such a very sad thing. She did not know why the Mistress would not listen when she claimed she did not want to kill the Dark Child.
  11. Sumilah was as kind and loving a Matron as she came, but Rora was convinced this maternal love blinded her. Risa may not have been evil, and was certainly not stupid. But she was hard and cold, and Rora was certain if Sumilah felt the cold victory Risa was now feeling as the Aavan fell silent, that love would not be so unconditional.

    But of course she didn't.

    Times like these, Rora hated being an Empath. She had made her peace with her lifepath long ago, but it did not make her days any easier. Pushers and Telekinetics had it easy. For them, everything was clean and crisp and straightforward. Throw things with your mind. Tell lesser creatures what to do. Even Dreamers could be simple. Images came in the clouds or pools of water or visions or Dreams. For an Empath -- especially one who heard music in the trees -- nothing was quite so black and white. How could she hope to describe what it was like to share the grief of another person's passing? The pain of a Matron's childbirth? How could she explain to anyone, let alone Sumilah, that Risa felt a sick satisfaction at having broken, if only momentarily, the Aavan?

    And how could she tell them the Aavan were so much more than what they thought? Maybe not sentient, but very aware. Creatures capable of a depth of emotion beyond obedience and servitude.

    Days like these made her want to push people away. It was easier to be on her own than to deal with a flood of inexplicable emotions, or risk the stomach-churning pain the Aavan's torture had caused.

    She knew it was over even before she heard Risa's foot steps on the floor behind her. She was sat slouched at the table, hunched over, white-faced and sweating, Sumilah in the next room preparing a cup of something hot to 'take her mind of it'. It wasn't her fault. They couldn't understand she didn't just sympathize with the creature outside -- she didn't. She loathed him for feeling at all. But she empathized with him, his rage and pain sang through her bones like it was her own.

    She ached with it.

    Even as the pain began to fade, dulled by distance and time, she felt shaky. It was everything she had left in her not to lunge at Risa when she sat down next to her.

    "Feeling better, little sister?"

    "You knew what that would do to me," Rora snarled, keeping her voice low so as not to worry Sumilah. The last thing she wanted was anxiety heaped on top of the Aavan's roiling emotions.

    "It's nothing to do with you, Aurora -- "


    "The beast must be broken, and whatever just happened out there with the Nuathal, I think that was the first step." There was a pause, then Risa rounded on her, genuinely interested. "Do you know?"

    Rora shook her head. Not that she'd have told Risa otherwise. "You hurt him."

    "I punished him. I trained him. But how?"

    "He's hungry," Rora said abruptly, partly to change the subject, and partly because it was true. Or had been true, before...whatever had happened. She'd felt his hunger like a gnawing emptiness in her own belly.

    "I'm sure," Risa said coolly. "I've spent a fortune on food the damn thing won't touch."

    Sumilah returned with a steaming mug and Risa put on a smile so cloying, Rora wanted to hit her. Instead, the Empath stood abruptly. "I'm going to feed him."

    Risa and Sumilah spoke at the same time.

    Sumilah said, with a concerned frown on her face, "Aurora, dear, are you sure you're up for that? You still look so pale..."

    Risa interjected. "You can try, if you like. Good luck."

    Sumilah seemed put out by the answer. "You don't think it's dangerous?"

    Risa shook her head. "Now? No, he's too weak to attack, Mother." A more genuine smile blossomed on her face. "I think I've done it, Mother. I think I've at least begun getting through to him. It's a sign. I'm sure of it."

    Disgusted, and still more than a little unsteady on her feet, Rora left without a backward glance. She had no idea what Aavan ate, but she figured she'd know if she grabbed the wrong thing. She settled on a large bowl full of starfruit from Risa's personal pantry, and started back out to the courtyard, determined.

    The Nuathal was still there, standing outside the cage, just staring at the black Aavan. Rora scowled, unsettled for some reason she couldn't say.

    "Leave," she said shortly. And then, after a moment, "Go."

    Then, with the bowl in her lap, she sat cross-legged as close to the cage as she dared, staring in at the pathetic creature before her. She waited half a breath, before saying in a cold voice, "I've brought food."

    It was neither kind, nor cruel. It was merely a challenge, as if Rora was looking for a fight.
  12. He was nearly unconscious, mind drifting in a dark place that held no pain, no thought, no emotion, nothing to hurt him, when he felt the presence again. He nearly pushed it away, ignored it completely, but something far stronger, something longing streaked its way through him and Mori found his cloudy violet eyes opening despite himself. They flickered around as his mind trickled back into the space and cracks it had left behind, coming back into himself so to speak. It hurt, but the pain was mild in comparison to what he'd gone through minutes before and the Aavan's gaze finally focused on the Cerebra outside his cage.

    Surprise registered across his face as he took in her own. Well. That was an unexpected turn of events.

    Sitting up slowly, growling to himself at the profound ache in his body, he glanced from the female he'd dubbed 'Crazy' to the food in her hands and his violet eyes hardened almost immediately. She'd brought food. So what? Did she think he was going to come and beg for it? Or even come and let her feed him like an animal? Of course that's what she expected. That's what they all expected. Irritation, not anger - he was too tired to be angry - flared through him and he rolled his eyes at her, making to stand.

    And then promptly falling again, his body protesting rather vehemently his attempts to use more energy than he had. So Mori sat again with a sigh, brushing his hand back through his hair, the black scales across his face dulled just like his hair, the clothing every Aavan could materialize on themselves having lost it's vibrant color with his lack of will. He was past the point of caring what he might look like right now.

    But he certainly wasn't going to submit to Risa or Crazy.
    #12 Kaisaan, Jan 2, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2014
  13. His eyes were nearly the same color as Siya's. What she'd been expecting, she wasn't sure, but for a moment, when the Aavan finally looked at her, Rora was so taken aback, she didn't know what to say.

    And then she was just annoyed.

    She hadn't interacted with very many Aavan in her life. At most, she'd seen them from afar, the to-be Keepers training with the bigger ones in the cities, the lavish blues and greens preening at the end of leashes. She'd never been this close to one, and certainly not in their smaller form. And she'd never quite gotten over seeing them look so like the Cerebrae themselves. This one appeared even to be near her age.

    It was...strange.

    But when he shifted, she felt pain go through him like a bolt. Years of practice meant she was able to keep her face still, though she felt her cheeks flush with the effort beneath the spastics smudges of blue, green, pink, and yellow.

    The pain obliterated the wonder and confusion, replacing it with exhaustion and frustration. Was he stupid? Or simply stubborn.

    She scoffed aloud, his pain and weariness making her angry. "This is why people think your kind is dumb," she said aloud, assuming -- no, knowing -- he couldn't understand her. He was an animal, after all, even if he did look like...whatever.

    Still, she reached into her bowl and held out the fruit.

    "I know you know what 'food' is. Take it or don't. I don't think you'll get another chance." Impatiently, she thrust it forward. "Food," she said sardonically. "Food good. Eat food."
  14. Her words made his eyes narrow, the irritation growing, but not overwhelming yet, not full blown anger just yet, though it lurked, a seething thing not yet given life. He was dumb when she was the one assuming that just because he didn't speak to her that he couldn't understand her? Right. That made perfect sense. Of course, if you didn't understand something, than simply write it off as too stupid or dumb or not worth your time. Brilliance at its best, that was for sure.

    And yet....this one intrigued him. He'd had no need for the Cerebrae in the past, no desire to understand them further or trust one - and he still didn't want to trust one - but this one...was different. It wasn't just the beautiful coloring on her face, the way she looked more like one of his own people than hers. It wasn't her anger or her attempt at awkward kindness. He'd been at the receiving end of all possible ways to make him tame and they'd all failed. No, it was something deeper than that, something that called to him in a strange way he'd never felt. And the more he wanted to fight it, the more he found he couldn't.

    He didn't know what to DO with it, though.

    Mori watched the female, listening to her words and whether it was this strange connection or just pure irritation on top of his exhaustion, hunger and pain - or maybe a combination of all five - the black Aavan did something he never, in a million years, thought he'd do. His violet eyes met her green again directly and Mori spoke. "And this is why my people think your kind are dumb."
  15. One moment, Rora was sitting quietly annoyed, tired, hungry, sore, in front of the Aavan's cage, and the next she was on her feet, several steps back, the starfruit scattered and rolling in a dozen different directions.

    For one strangely blissful moment, she was...happy. Happier than she had been in a long time. Confused, sure. Afraid, kinda. Concerned, angry, amused, and everything in between. But above all that, happy. The Aavan were sentient. She wasn't insane. This thing, this...creature was talking to her.

    Maybe she wasn't alone. Maybe she wasn't crazy.

    Half a heartbeat later, it all came crashing down so abruptly, her legs nearly went out from under her.

    Trees and stones were one thing, but hearing the Aavan speak? It was a whole new level of wrong.

    And suddenly she was angry all over again, at the Aavan, and Risa, and even Sumilah, but mostly just herself. Angry, depressed, hopeless.

    With a grunt of irritation, she began gathering the bowl and the fallen fruit, going about as if she hadn't heard the Aavan speak. Because she hadn't. Surely she hadn't. Right?

    She looked up at him abruptly, almost daring to hope, and tried something stupid. Another challenge.

    "If...if you understand me, Aavan, s-say so. Do it now, or I'll...I can hurt you." It was a lie. Even if she could have hurt him, she wouldn't. Besides, she was in no mood for death, and she wasn't sure he'd survive another torture session.

    She wasn't sure she would, either.
  16. Well, that reaction had been rather amusing.

    Not why he'd done it - why HAD he done it?! - but entertaining nonetheless and Mori watched with nothing but a raised brow as the Cerebra cleaned up the fruit, resisting the urge to move forward and take the one closest to the bars. No. He wasn't an animal and he wasn't going to behave like one. That's how Aavan lost themselves in this place, how they forgot and submitted. He wouldn't be one of them. Couldn't.

    And he shouldn't have spoken to her. If she told...he'd be in a greater hell than he was now. They'd never let him leave the laboratories and he'd die in there. But then again, he was dying out here, too. And he was in pain here, too. Not like there were many great options. And he'd still not found his sister. He was starting to give up hope that he ever would. The more likely case was that he'd subjected himself to this for nothing at all. Fate would be that cruel, he was sure.

    And still he watched Crazy, noting the emotions that crossed her face, that hope that had sprung into his eyes the moment they'd met across the courtyard so very familiar on her own features. Oddly so. Her threats made him snort and he gave her a scathing look, violet eyes narrowed and fangs bared before he did what she wanted. No...what he wanted. He'd never spoken to a Cerebrae before - with good reason - and if this one went and told everyone, so what? It wasn't like they could make him talk anymore than they could make him do anything else. They'd probably just think Crazy was exactly that; crazy.

    "Is that all your kind can do? Hurt others if they're different from you or can't speak to you? And Cerebrae think we're the animals?" he snapped in disgust.
    #16 Kaisaan, Jan 2, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2014
  17. "Apparently not." Her answer was terse and bitterly spoken, but inside her mind was running a hundred miles a minute.

    She was sure -- pretty sure -- she wasn't imagining this. The Aavan was speaking to her. Speaking at all! In all the generations spent with them, she was certain this was the first time this had ever happened. It was history in the making, and changed...well, everything. Science for one. Siya would be beside herself if she knew. The Prodigies, the Pushers, even the Whisperers would want in on her discovery.

    But what did it mean for everyone else? That that had subverted, beaten, and animalized an entire civilation of sentient creatures? Could they all speak the Cerebrae language? The implications, for war especially, were massive and terrifying and...

    ...and Rora had no energy or patience to think them out. She should tell someone. Probably would. Maybe. And maybe they might believe her. But unless she could make the Aavan seak again, it wouldn't matter.

    And he wouldn't, she knew. Even without the proud defiance she could feel inside of him. They'd have to torture him again, and he wouldn't survive that.

    So, no. There would be no telling. Another insurmountable secret to keep to herself.

    She looked at the Aavan and hated him all the more for it.

    She had finished picking up the fruit. Being around the beaten Aavan was exhausting. It made her moody, angry. She ached down to her bones. Her head hurt and she was hungry. She could sweat she heard her stomach growl. It was time to go home. The questions the Aavan asked...what good would it do to answer?

    And what would she say.

    She stooped and shoved the bowl to the edge of the cage.

    "I know you're hungry," she said coldly. "And Risa -- the other one me -- she won't give you another chance."

    She turned and started to head back, placing a hand on her stomach as she did.
  18. Her first two words did nothing to appease him, even as he could recognize that she was actually speaking TO him and not AT him. It didn't matter. It hardly mattered at all anymore, did it? His people were broken, beaten, and the chances of them ever being released were slim to none. They couldn't speak up to stop their oppressors. Had they been able to do that, they would have done it years ago. No, the other Aavan could not speak the Cerebrae tongue. They couldn't even think ahead to the future, they were incapable of doing it, all but a few, the Elders. They lived in the here and now, and part of who Mori was made him able to do what they could not.

    He hadn't had to learn the Cerebrae tongue. It had just been in his mind, much like many other things were, and he'd been able to speak it all along. He hadn't, though, not when he knew what would happen if he did. Better to be treated like a pet then to be treated like a lab rat.

    Mori watched her, studied the debate going on in her eyes and he knew the moment she knew she wouldn't tell. He didn't care the reason behind it, only that she'd made the choice and the Aavan watched her set the food down, noting that she seemed very...'off'. Like she was unhealthy, sick. She seemed angrier than she should be considering he'd done nothing to her, hadn't even met her before now, but Mori didn't question her mood, knowing he wouldn't get an answer anyway. And he was hardly here to be concerned about her state of mind.

    She was right, though, he was hungry, literally starving by this point as a healthy Aavan could eat half a ton of meat in a day and he'd not been eating for at least five. That, complicated with lack of sleep due to nearly freezing at night and now what Risa had done with the shattering of the temporary bond, it would be surprising if he lasted three months. And that was without aggravating torture. Her words made him sigh, eyes closing and he didn't watch her walk away, but his words followed her, quiet.

    "I know. But would you become a slave just to save your life?"

    What kind of life would that be?

    Mori didn't expect an answer at all as he moved to the bars and took the bowl.
    #18 Kaisaan, Jan 2, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2014
  19. It was just as well that he expected no answer, because Rora did not want to share the one that sprang almost immediately to her lips:

    What's the difference?

    She returned to find Risa and Sumilah chatting as congenially as if the former hadn't just tortured a living thing to within an inch of his life. Even removed from the presence of the Aavan, the mere sight made her feel physically ill, and she decided she didn't want to be around people, Cerebrae, Aavan, or otherwise anymore.

    "Goodnight," she announced dully, and both the older females paused in their conversation to look up at her.

    "Leaving?" said Sumilah. "So soon?"

    "Tired," she answered honestly. The event with the Aavan -- and the following conversation -- had left her ill-suited for pleasantries. Or full sentences.

    "Well, would you like for me to call for a Keeper escort? It's rather late..."

    Rora shook her head. Crime, at least this close to the nursery, training centers, the Keeper's Hold, and the Matriach's castle, was nearly non-existent. The Cerebrae were too rigidily well-behaved, the Nuathal too peaceful, and the wild Aavan, if there were any left, too far from the cities. In the smaller villages and hovels where disgraced Cerebrae and Nuathal lived, there was more crime. But this was not that, and anyway, Rora could feel bad intentions coming long before she was in any real danger. She could still feel the Aavan outside.

    The solitary walk back to the tiny Empath training center would be good for her. She needed time to clear her head and think her own thoughts, instead of sifting through the mess of those around her.

    Stoic, she turned to Risa, and for a manic moment, considered telling her that he spoke. She opened her mouth, intending to make an off-hand comment about feeding him -- he was, after all, 'tamed' for the moment.

    Instead, she said, "Risa. I want to help train the Aavan."

    The reactions were very different.

    As to be expected, Sumilah was caught between delight and concern. She had long since known her daughters did not get along, and it grieved her. She was coming to the end of her years. To think the two people she loved most in the world would not go on looking after each other after her passing ate at her with each passing day. A project like this, one into which Risa was so invested, and one which was sure to be public, if it were successful, could ensure her family would continue even when she did not.

    And yet...Rora was not weak by any stretch of the imagination. Stubborn, perhaps, but not weak. But her Empath skills made her vulnerable at times, with tonight's early debacle being a perfect example. If the Aavan continued to rebel, and had to be subdued...

    "Oh, Aurora..." started Sumilah, before Risa cut in.

    "Why?" she said, instantly suspicious. "Do you want to coddle the thing?"

    "I want to make sure you don't kill It's in both our best interests."


    "No other Empath has been able to read the Aavan like I have," Rora went on coolly. That much was true, more than any of them knew, Rora included. "It will count toward my training, and get me away from the others of my birth cycle. And you will have..." A witness to your greatness. "Insurance that you do not...go too far. An assistant at the very least, more capable than the Nuathal."

    "But with what happened tonight, Rora, I just think you ought to be careful..." began Sumilah.

    Rora shook her head. "What happened tonight won't happen again."

    Risa laughed. "And how do you know?"

    "Because if you do that again, you'll kill him. And if you kill him, sister dear, you lose."

    There was silence for a minute, and watching Risa's face, Rora could feel anger, suspicion, and outright pride battling inside her sister. It was only begrudgingly that she said, "We shall see."

    Rora smiled mirthlessly. "Indeed we shall."

    She was halfway back to her training center when she finally accessed the single, nagging thought that had been bugging her all night. The word from the Auction. The black Aavan. Two and two came together with a nearly audible click.

    He had a name.

  20. --------------

    "Dark child, you must try." Engel insisted softly, running two hands over his scaled nose as the other two held the bars tightly, concern evident in her eyes. Technically the Nuathal knew she should not be here, even offering a bond to the Aavan, but she could not stand to see him suffer, not when it had been her bond with him that had caused so much pain. She had to try to help again even if they both knew it would prove fruitless. If nothing else she could offer the comfort of touch, of conversation - though, it still astounded the Nuathal that Mori could speak out loud when the rest of his race were telepathic communicators and only in their own tongue.

    The black creature blinked slowly at her, his eyes growing more cloudy by the day and his scales duller. It had been nearly a month since his encounter with Crazy - he still didn't know her name - and as luck would have it, Risa had been called away on some important task or something. He didn't know what it was, all he knew was that she was gone and his world had turned a bit more peaceful. She'd given directions to have him on half-rations, but the food wasn't drugged and he was no longer starving. Hungry yes, but not to the point of distraction. and the heat panels had been turned up partway, enough to keep him sluggish in the mornings, but also enough to keep the threat of freezing properly at bay. It just weakened him, but the Cerebra being the prideful moron that she was, wouldn't listen to the Nuathal who tried to tell her that her Aavan was sick. She was convinced Mori was faking it.

    "I can't. I'm sorry, Engel, I can't." he murmured back to her, eyes closing and the female chirped sadly, continuing to pet his nose until she heard footsteps and had to leave quickly. Mori hardly noticed as he'd truly started to drift off, but the smell of something new growing closer to his nose made him wake abruptly, jerking back with a hiss. He knew that smell. Risa. Apparently she was back.

    And he'd instantly irritated her.

    "I see you're not ready to behave."

    Lightning sparked over his body in answer, a growl rumbling in his throat as he made himself stand, just as strong-willed as she was. The red Cerebra looked furious then, her eyes gleaming with her angry pride and Mori wasn't surprised in the least when she coldly ordered Keepers into his cage to subdue him. It was far easier now - not to say Mori didn't put up a fight - with how weak he actually was and they had him chained, wings strapped down and muzzled in half the time it would have taken them if he'd been at full strength.

    Risa smirked in satisfaction then, coming into his cage with a thoughtful expression, watching the lightning dance over his scales, keeping her from touching him. And yet he never lashed out with it. Why was that? Perhaps he couldn't or was too stupid to realize it could hurt them. That seemed likely. The thing was inordinately stubborn, but she'd soon break him.

    "Now, now, what shall I do with you, my lovely pet? Dear Aurora seems to thinks I shouldn't punish you, but I'm not sure I agree."

    A snarl answered her, but Mori, deep down, could not deny that he was afraid. So very scared and so very tired.
    #20 Kaisaan, Jan 2, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2014
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