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Astrid

It was never far behind, following, watching, waiting for something. A malignant spiritual tumor that had sprouted from a dangerous mixture of indiscretion and ignorance, forever three steps behind her. It never spoke, never made contact wholesale for when it was asked to, but it could be felt; cold and uncomfortable. Something beyond death had hitched a ride, content to simply spectate.

Astrid did her best to ignore its dull gaze boring into the back of her skull as she crouched down to inspect the corpse unceremoniously slumped against the dumpster behind her favorite haunt. She drew in a sharp breath, wincing in response to the foul odor emanating from the deceased gentleman; he must have died recently, as the scent of excrement had yet to be overcome by rot. His eyes were pale and glassy, staring down into his soiled lap. "Pitiful," she thought, dipping a hand into his jacket to rummage for his wallet...

Stanley Ramos, some nobody with loyalty cards to five different pharmacies. If she would wager a guess, she'd assume he was a junky, bouncing from store to store to buy the legal limit of cough syrup. No major blow to humanity, that much she was sure of... A slender brow raised, as she found that his money was untouched. That fact alone ruled out that it had been a robbery. Gooseflesh spread up her spine as her silent passenger drew in nearer, as if it were just as interested by the cadaver as she was. She tucked her pale blonde locks behind her ears before nudging the stiff's jaw up. No bites, ruling out a leech attack.

She'd have to do it.

Astrid wrestled away the growing sensation of discord in her gut and firmly planted her fingers atop the dead man's cranium. She reached out to the ether through him, slate blue eyes giving way to an inky blackness that sprung from her pupils, swallowing her irises to leave only the whites as contrast. She felt her hand fall through him, grasping for the fragile thread that bound his vagrant spirit to the flesh. The corpse was fresh, so it didn't take too long for her to track it down.

All it took was a tug, and her pupils swallowed the inky murk back into a pair of pinprick points.

Stanley gasped aloud, lurching forward rasp and gag, violently convulsing until he managed to expel a mouthful of putrid bile, the remnants of whatever he had last eaten before expiring. His half-dead eyes searched frantically for her, moaning guttural sounds of pain and confusion. "What..."

"What did you do to me?"He tried to shout, but his stiff vocal cords could only manage a strained rasp. He writhed then, struggling against the unnatural state he had been forced into. "It hurts so fvcking bad..."

"Shh, Stanley, I need you to listen to me," She started, snapping her fingers infront of his vision to center him. The longer she forced a soul back into a vacated body, the higher the chance she could ruin him. Possible junky or no, no man deserved to linger betwixt existences, atleast not for an eternity. "I need you to tell me who did this to you, and how they did this to you. Do you understand?"

Stanley mumbled, the convulsions rattling his body harder.

"Speak up." Astrid commanded, snapping once more. "And I'll put you back where you came from."

"It was..." He strained to speak, brackish blood beginning to pool behind his lips. He tried to reach up to her, but his fingers only managed to twitch. "Bald white guy, average height... I, fvck, it hurts..." Squirming, he spat another wad of bloody bile down his chin. "He just touched me, and I felt cold, and... Oh god... Please let me go, please..."

Astrid nodded, pursing her lips tightly as the pieces came together for her. She drank in a deep breath of air, and let his string fall slack again. The putrid feeling in her gut remained, however, and she knew it would for a few hours longer, atleast. A mild punishment for a crime so perverse, she mused.

"Thanks, Stanley. Smooth sailing."

She pocketed the little bit of cash he had on him, and tossed the emptied wallet onto his lap. Another Necromancer was loose in this city, and a possibly dangerous one at that. A glance over her shoulder reminded her that she herself was a dirtied soul, and in many ways no better than the bald man that plied the trade to steal lives.

It was her hope that when her day of judgment was upon her, her diligence towards the preservation of life would save her the proverbial axe.

But that hope was slim.
September 17, 2018 04:19 pm

Astrid

Astrid drew her pistol, and counted to three.

Three men paced the room below her, finding the evidence of her arrival scattered about in the form of a shattered window. Her leg throbbed, a slender gash split her calf, leaking her life essence down her ankle. Breaking and entering had never been her forte, but the revenants that guarded whatever was in this defunct apartment building were too diligent for a forward approach.

She could hear the heavy bootsteps of her impending demise rounding the steps, following the fresh blood she'd left behind. She glanced frantically, looking for some avenue of escape... There would be no getting past them, atleast not three simultaneously, and especially not with a wounded leg. She backed against the wide windowframe of the grimy apartment, forcing it open as swiftly as she could.

The first of them bullrushed the door, shattering it into splinters with no evident effort. She caught a glance of him, pale and gaunt in the face, hollowed white eyes honed onto her just as she dropped from the window. The revenant barreled towards it, lunging to look out after her.

Her lure had worked, as she pumped a shot into his jaw. Whatever fell thoughts the being may have had before, were now scattered across the ceiling above him. Astrid dropped her pistol below her, and raised up to drag the revenant down with her as she tumbled down to the balcony of the lower floor. Quickly, while the other two were still piecing together what had happened, she bored her fingers into the ruined flesh of her victim's skull and reached through him, searching for the unnatural coil that had bound a blackened soul to this vessel. When she found it, the pale features of the revenants face would rapidly dessicate, emptied of essence. The oozing wound on her calf began to knit itself closed.

The feeling of negative energy coursing her veins made her nauseous, but it was a small price to pay for a fighting chance. Enervated, her assailants drew into the room. She hadn't been fast enough. The pistol slipped from her bloodied fingers as she scrambled for it, tumbling from the balcony to the alleyway below.

"Fvck me."

She made it to her feet, sliding a razor from her pocket just in time to meet them. The nearest threw a wild punch to her ribs that would only glance her as she stepped forward into him. An arm dropped to anchor around his elbow and wrenched upwards savagely, shattering the undead's arm. It made no response as its compatriot came in from the side and buried a fist into her side. A gasp, and the first used its opportunity to close in for the kill, only to bite down on a desperately thrust knife. It slumped into her as the steel pierced its braincase, sending her into a spiral as the survivor tackled them onto the floor.

Insurmountable weight forced the air from her lungs, as the living wretch still clawed for her from across the corpse of its fallen comrade. Astrid tried her damnedest to shift, or roll, but couldn't manage to summon enough strength before her aggressor made his leap and desperately grasped at her face, his thumb searching for an eye to gouge. She could feel its cracked, moldered fingernail forcing apart her eyelid and pressing inward, and chanted a single incantation...

The revenant retracted and fell back, howling in an agony unbefit a mindless thrall. Her freedom was only a couple hundred pounds now, and she pulled herself from under the dead. Its compatriot still writhed on the floor, clawing desperately at its own face and chest, until finally it pierced through, spilling dozens of the tiny carrion beetles that devoured it from within. Her body throbbed from the encounter; she could already see the bruises forming on her extremeties.

"Okay," she thought aloud while silencing the writhing undead. Something had driven her to hunt this necromancer beyond a sense of duty, or even territory... She'd wracked her brain trying to determine why, but couldn't come to any terms beyond the Gods simply calling her. It was obvious to her that he was very adept at his craft, possibly even more gifted than her when it came to applied entropy... The risk to her was excessive by all accounts, but she knew he had something in his possession that she was meant to carry. A raven had delivered it to her in a dream, amongst a beakful of tattered flesh and gristle. Thunder had rang in the endless sky above her, and she was certain she could see a man walking in the distance with a hound, only to be overtaken by serpents...

Just before she would awaken, the item had dissolved from her fingers, only to reappear as a faint glimmer in the mouth of the largest serpent.

Something told her that whatever that object may be, it was housed in the basement of this building... She'd already caused a disturbance, so retrieving it would prove to be that much more taxing. She felt compelled, despite knowing her own thread could be snipped, to steel herself against indecision. She was already here. The fight was going to happen, just two floors down.
September 17, 2018 04:23 pm

Gyldi

The beast rested, paws crossed, chin planted atop the overlap.

Earthen eyes spoke of Gyldi's presence in the forefront of its mind, completely within control. A loaded statement, as her freewill has been stripped from her once again. To be honest, it wasn't as though she'd ever had freewill as this Grim, but with Eiji...

It was as good as.

"Don't look so sullen, pet..."

Gyldi didn't react, as much as his voice grated at her. It was a constant reminder of her failures, always procuring the images that haunted her the most lately. A desecrated form, still trying his damnedest to save her, all in vain...

From the beginning, the beast was an omen. It was her nature, the very reason for her being. The harbinger of Death, in the truest sense, it always followed closely behind her. She knew, from the night they met in that church that was home for centuries, he was destined for the inevitable. Yet, his mere affinity for the supernatural was enough to give her hope; perhaps he could see her simply because he was gifted.

She was wrong; she was an Omen, pure and simple, and Eiji proved no exception.

The Golden-Eyed Man huffed his annoyance, but the beast still wouldn't budge in her apathy. He would surely punish her, as he had on multiple occasions already. It was miraculous, the way he could hurt her despite her lack of physical form. If she wasn't so numb to heartache, her mind might've snapped already, giving over to the inhumane part of the Grim permanently. As it were, she could still recover, though for how long remained to be seen. The only thing that truly kept her going was feeling as though she owed something to the man who had given her everything.

That didn't stop her from begging for Death whenever she felt it nearby.

Footsteps pulled her out of her reverie, carrying the angry necromancer closer to her stoic frame. He was only halted by the sound of rushed movement upstairs, followed by a couple resounding thuds that could only be bodies hitting the floor. Gyldi had yet to react, though his gaze went skyward.

A hmph of irritation escaped the man, and his golden hues fell to the incorporeal dog before him. A crooked smile curled his lips, and he jerked his chin in her direction. "Why don't you go take care of our troublemaker, dog... Hopefully that will take your mind off your troubles, hmm?"

He posed it as a request, but Gyldi didn't have a choice. It wasn't her own will that brought her to her feet, but something else entirely; the need to obey, or perish. She'd learned long ago that fighting it was fruitless, and merely exhausted her sense of being. At times, she was a spectator in her own life, and it was growing harder and harder to see the bigger picture in all of that.

Ascending the staircase, the hairs on her neck instinctively rose, pulling back her lips into a snarl. Kill or be killed was a strong mentality, and sometimes, the only thing that kept the evil aspect of all of the current situation at bay. She had no choice, she reminded herself, this was simply what must be done.

She came to the first floor and mounted the second stairwell with no hesitation. It was near the top of that one that she willed herself to pause, as hard as her nature fought against it. Gyldi poked her head around the corner, desiring a simple look at who her opposition was. It was hard to tell what called her to stop, but it was stronger than her need to obey, if only for a moment.

And in that moment, her eyes fell on a blonde woman, and a force inside her stirred. Something akin to gooseflesh, had she been alive, shivered over her form. Her humanity recoiled from that battle.

Yet, she had no choice.
September 17, 2018 05:36 pm

Astrid

Something shook Astrid to her core in the moment the black dog reared it's maw ahead of her. Gooseflesh sprung from her fingertips and traveled up her chest; this dog was so familiar to her, it was uncanny. In its eyes, behind the empty malice and broken will, reflected to her someone she had never met, but deeply knew. She swallowed the hard knot that had filled her throat, and took a hesitant step forward. Despite this odd sensation, she knew exactly what this being was, at it's core. A Grim, buried in some Northern church, based on her breed. The deathpriest compelled her; the only choice they had was to collide.

Astrid bit through the tip of her finger, and hastily used the prick of blood that swelled forth to draw a rune upon the rightmost wall before lurching forward, lowering her stance to match the hound's. The wood in the wall groaned, and the plaster began to slough off of the framework onto the floor, sizzling and dissolving into a thick mud that quickly rose up her feet... The grim's signature tactic involved all manner of electrical manipulation, so something to disperse all of that static would level the playing field some.

Or so she hoped.

Despite her instincts compelling her to avoid this clash, despite her conscience condemning her, she readied herself for the inevitable storm of fang and claw... Grims could not be destroyed so directly; but they could be disrupted if their corporeal form were damaged enough. This would have to be swift and brutal.

"I want this less than you do," she uttered, her slate eyes adjusting on her adversary. The necromancer - her captor - forced her into this situation, lowering her to the status of a mere guard dog, when her purpose was so much more noble than that, and so much more terrible. Astrid had wept the first time her mother had told her the stories, of how men would bury dogs alive so that their souls could become eternal vigilants.

She wouldn't leave here without her bones. She couldn't.

"Come on, then."
October 06, 2018 10:26 pm

Gyldi

In that unfamiliar gaze, Gyldi was met with a kindred knowing. A recognition of souls, though their inhabited bodies had no recollection. The beast mirrored the forward-motion step, as if compelled by some unknown force. A soft whimper sounded from her throat, an apology for what was to come, and acceptance for what must be done.

Her head lowered until it was inches from the ground, weary as she was of this woman’s bizarre antics. With her own teeth, she drew blood that she then used in some sort of magic enchantment. But as Gyldi watched her finger trace the tell-tale pattern into the wall, her head lifted in surprise as she was taken back in an invasive memory to a time before all else in her life.

”Do not be afraid, little one,” Freydis whispered, her long, blonde hair tickling Gyldi’s small face as she beamed up at her from her lap. She took the child’s hand and traced the interlacing lines of the rune, Inguz, into the earth. “This is the symbol of the Land, and whenever you feel your feet are leading you far from home, let it ground you. Here,” her hand flattened over the girl’s on the ground, before lifting to her chest, “and here. You will always find a home in my heart, sweet sister...”

The dog blinked, seeing the face of her older sister in the features of her would-be opponent, her eyes taking on the familiarity of the earthen tones before they faded back into the slate of Thor’s Thunder. So alike they were, though separated by a chasm of time that only Gyldi’s memory could cross.

Or so it seemed.

I want this less than you do, she would offer, and the beast would’ve laughed, had she been able. Undoubtedly, her words were true, but probably not for the same reasons.

Gyldi was faced with an emotional tumult that she wasn’t prepared for; sorrow for Eiji, and for her lost life; anger, toward the Gods and their cruel games; despair, in the shadow of her hopeless fate. And, of course, the persistent drive that wasn’t her own.

Come on, then.

Again, the beast’s head lowered, lips pulling back from dangerously sharp teeth, a feral growl preceding the attack. Kill me, her oddly saddened gaze begged, for I can’t stop until I’m dead.

Powerful hind legs projected her forward, and she barreled into the woman with enough force to knock her off balance. Collecting the current that was her staple, the air around them electrified, and with a Grim’s resolve, she sent it slithering through the floor toward her collapsed assailant...
October 25, 2018 03:27 pm

Astrid

Astrid took advantage of the bullrush and immersed herself in the dense clay on the floor... She had willed the enchantment to adjust the chemical make-up of the mud into something akin to a viscous earthen rubber; she'd feel what that poor beast had thrown to her, but it might not kill her with this much grounding. Instinct bid her to hitch a breath and hold it, clenching her teeth as a spasm wracked her body. A warm numbness overtook her muscles as she expelled her breath and gasped aloud. That much voltage would have fried her.

She closed their distance in the instant following the shock, desperately lunging above the canine and angling her grasping hands to clasp around the base of its skull. Following her momentum, she would plant her knees and focus all of her force into driving the Grim's head into the clay long enough to hone in on her thread...

Lament rolled around in her stomach and threatened to become vomit as she saw it... It was spread so thin at this point, but it held together as stubbornly as tempered steel. She couldn't help but think it was beautiful, like braided silver harpstrings, worn but unplucked. Astrid's digits slipped through her visage with little resistance, as if she were too familiar to fear outright. She reached out, set her nails against the thread, and sharply slid along it. Like nails on a blackboard the vibration would screech from within the Grim...

"Stay! Dvöl!" She growled out in her - their native tongue, her off-hand shifting to hold her muzzle shut against the floor. Manipulating her thread was as direct a route she could take to disable her... she hoped, as she raked her nails along it once more. The same had been done to her once before. The only way one could describe the sensation was that it was akin to being peeled from the inside out.

Don't struggle, her eyes pleaded.
December 02, 2018 03:46 pm

Gyldi

There was no time to react before the woman was on her. With the combined weight of her assailant and the inability to find traction in the clay, Gyldi was left to struggle futilely in her vice grip. The growl that it procured was low, as if it was just a front hiding the peace that the prospect of the inevitable offered her.

Nothing prepared her for what this meant.

The feeling was jarring, to say the least, as it ravaged her body. Against her own volition, she cried out an unearthly sound; a wail filled with discomfort and sorrow and indignation. The beast’s legs kicked involuntarily, the instinct to preserve herself taking hold of her consciousness. It was as if her existence was being scraped from the face of the world, and she was rendered powerless.

Stay! Dvöl!

Instantly, she stilled, save for her eyes snapping up to find her opponent’s stare. The call of her home tongue was powerful, and she hadn’t heard it spoken by the living in much too long. Again, the heinous feeling wracked her body, but the gaze from above begged her to remain calm. So she did. She took from this woman a comfort she certainly didn’t deserve, but needed desperately.

Gyldi realized, as she lay dying, that no one knew. Eiji was unaware, had thought her a restless spirit in need of peace, and while he wasn’t wrong, it was so much more than that. She had been alive, she’d breathed, she’d eaten, she’d touched. She had a family, one that she betrayed unforgivably. But she was more than just a spectral dog, doomed to an eternity of mindless servitude.

She had felt, and deeply.

Through their shared connection, Gyldi took them through a portal. Like her life flashing before eyes, but reversed, they watched the events that led the beast to this day.

Her time with the Golden-Eyed Man, and the horrific acts he’d used her for, was admittedly short. It was rendered even shorter due to the fact that she had spent little time in the forefront of her own existence.

Before long, they were back in the bog with the desecration that had once been Eiji. They watched as he fought fruitlessly, and she could only look on, helpless and wrought with despair. She had failed him, and she still mourned that failure. The Golden-Eyed Man had made good on his promise, but they weren’t there yet.

Thankfully, they didn’t spend too long on that damned scene, and they were taken further back in a picture reel of time to watch the bond that the two had formed. They watched Eiji mourn his lifelong friend, clutching him against his chest in a small bathroom as he wept. From her perspective, they saw the two basking in a reflective rain by a beautiful waterfall, resting after a fitful time in which he tried to rid himself of an attached spirit, and she’d invoked the gods that had abandoned her to guide him through it. Flung back even further, the beast rested her head on his chest as he attempted to find some semblance of sleep. In his restlessness, he’d tangled his fingers in her fur, and she discovered the power of touch after centuries without it. He had promised her a place to rest, not realizing that, in his company, she’d found a peace she had never known.

Now, they were back in the churchyard, in the service of one Father Davies. Eiji had come to his distressed call, his cathedral and grounds having been ravaged meticulously for some time, with no aid coming from the Vatican. The exorcist had determined that Gyldi’s bones needed to be recovered and put elsewhere, and though the Father was loathe to part with his companion of fifteen years, it was best for all involved.

Davies’ struggle with the bottle played next, as he succumbed further and further, his face plagued and aged. He’d heard of his mentor’s indiscretions, his evil crimes, and he felt his entire world, existence, and faith rocked to the core. He talked to Gyldi, and she stood sentinel, acting as the confessional that he was never afforded. As much as she’d wanted to leave that churchyard, she found suddenly that she missed that man, like a dull ache in her chest. Theirs was an unlikely bond, but he was a good man, despite his own say on the matter.

Her time with him passed quickly, until she was back with his predecessor. Gyldi, as a rule, refused to even think his name, for names hold power, and she wanted him to rot in the void of the unknown. Tearful parents, three different times, came to him with the death of their sons, all having taken their own lives. They suffered because they didn’t know why, but she did. Because of the Priest’s unspeakable acts and the inability to speak ill of church heads, they were left to fester with their own mortality until they deemed themselves unworthy and ended it. It was the Grim’s duty to know what souls to fight for and those that would be left to Hell, but she fought tooth and nail against the demons that rose to drag the spirits under. The Father watched her from the doors of the Cathedral, gaze sinister, before closing the church off from the invisible battle. For days, under each different circumstance, she engaged the demons in war, fighting to send the souls to an Afterlife that refused to take them in and give them the solace they deserved. Life given, no matter how terrible and undeserved, was sacred. When they were inevitably dragged under, she had grieved and cursed the cruelty of their god as well.

So many priests, some good, some evil, and some unremarkable. They traveled backwards through time until they were face to face with the Golden-Eyed Man once more, in the midst of her burned village, just before she was buried alive. He’d sworn of her usefulness, and that they would meet again. They watched as Odin himself abandoned her, as she laid eyes on her dead sister atop a pile of bodies, as she ran through the forest to escape the inescapable. The fight between her and Arvid and the ensuing fight with her mother afterward. May Odin see fit to smite you as well; it still hit the deepest parts of her pain.

Then, they stared into a misty lake at the reflection of a young woman with the beast’s eyes, as her mother chastised her and demanded that she never tell anyone of her abilities. “I am chosen by the gods,” Gyldi had insisted, but to no avail.

They watched as the girl aged in reverse, dealing with the antics of her younger siblings, the distaste of her village, and the downright cruelty of her brother. Her father hardly paid her any mind except to set a saddened gaze on her every now and then. She coughed often, much of the time she was bedridden. Her assailant was spared no truth.

Suddenly, they were back in her homeland, encased in the arms of Freydis, who was showing the young girl about the rune Inguz and how it would always lead her home. “Will I ever see you again,” Gyldi had asked, and the older woman smiled. “Of course, sweet sister. We will meet in the halls of Valhalla one day, if nothing else.”

They returned to the present with a forlorn exhale from the beast. Still, she maintained their connection, conveying her gratefulness to her for ending this, and for acting as a means to clear her conscience. She had wronged many people, she had failed others, but she had tried. Whatever awaited her on the other side, she would meet it with a peaceful heart. Earthen hues began to fade, still trained on her savior...

The Golden-Eyed man had ascended the staircase, perturbed by the sudden silence from above. As he reached the top, his lips pulled back in a sneer, and he broke the settling calm with a grating voice. “I told you to kill her, beast...”

Underneath the blonde, a blood red gaze shown out of the Grim’s skull, a newfound resolve driving it to find purchase in the clay and buck her off with a feral growl.
December 13, 2018 01:30 pm
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