7 Deadly Sins – Sloth

Kestrel slid through the familiar, dark hallways, moving particularly stealthy for a man his size. It helped that he knew the turns and doors; none of it had changed since the days he’d walked them, back in another life. When his captain had brought this most recent plan to him he’d been surprised. Silkfoot had been delighted that the very building he wanted to rob was one where his first mate had once worked. That provided insider information on the layout that would be much harder to gain otherwise.

He passed down a long corridor, shining his light in through an office window. He knew it instantly.

“You come highly recommended Mr. Valladon, but I can’t help but notice you haven’t stayed in your past few jobs for long.”

The man across from him was fussy, in a suit that was a bit too tight for him.

“Yes. The truth was they were very nice places to work, but they didn’t challenge me. I’m the sort of man who enjoys the challenge of a job, and in solving the problems that come with it. I can guarantee you that I will give my very best, no matter how hard the work might be. I will not leave you disappointed.”

The man considered that but after a few moments he nodded, seeming pleased enough by his answer.

Thomas was careful not to let his thoughts show. That was always the most bothersome question of the interview process. He’d used the exact same line at least three or four times now, and knew he wouldn’t be able to get away with it for much longer. Resumes were useful, up until the point when they weren’t.

“Well, we certainly have more than enough challenge around here. It’s a big building with lots of needs. As you know we store many priceless pieces, and our clients expect top notch security. That’s why we only hire the best. With your qualifications and some drive I could see you making supervisor. Wouldn’t that be wonderful, Mr Valladon?  Think of all the opportunity.”

“It’s certainly a lot to keep in mind.”

“Wonderful, I look forward to working with you.”

“Likewise,” he offered out his hand to shake, along with a smile, even while knowing that he’d be gone from this job well before he had a chance to advance. Unless it had something different about it, something that really challenged him, his boredom with it all would eat away at him until he left to find another empty job to fill his time.

-ow’s the work coming, Kestrel?” The voice in his mind faded, morphing to a different one whispering in his ear.

His captain’s voice was familiar, and reassuring, and he let out a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding. The office where he’d had his interview faded into darkness, and he chided himself for getting distracted.

This job and this building, had never meant anything to him, but he’d never been back to one of his former places of work. He’d never had reason to, since he’d never bothered to make any connections. Moving through these hallways was like walking through the grey fog of his former life all over again. He’d labored for years in jobs where he’d only ever done enough to garner good references, but not enough to excel.

Why bother, when none of it had meant anything? What was the point of a life that lacked all challenge?

“Kestrel?”

“Sorry, Captain. It’s going well. I should reach the rendezvous in less than ten minutes.”

He shook the cobwebs from his mind and hurried on.

Most anyone with a mind at cracking this building would have tried to take a route that would have had them in the building for far too long, climbing through ducts, hiding under desks, anything to avoid running into security.

That was the problem with this building, unless you were somehow blessed by fate, or possibly suicidal, there was no way to take out every patrolling guard without alerting someone. The only option was to move as stealthily as possible. That had certainly piqued Silkfoot’s interest, and even he felt the familiar electricity running through his veins as he moved toward his target, just narrowly missing being seen.

This was living. Siding from shadow to shadow, living in the moments between the sweep of camera and guard. The way your heart beat in anticipation, knowing every moment an alarm could shatter the air. Whether it was this, or feeling the wind on his face, and the sea spray, he’d never felt alive until Silkfoot Lightvolt had found him.

He passed through the cafeteria. There was an employee evacuation stairwell though there that not even the clients were made aware of. The custodial staff could have made a killing selling the secrets to this place to the highest bidder.

He pressed himself up against the underside of a cash station as a flashlight swung by over his head. He counted the moments as each footstep echoed on the tile floor.

Three… Four… Five…

“Oh come on Thomas, there’ll only be five of us! I’ll even cover you. Not even you could say no to free beer.”

Lana had been leaning down across the table where he’d been eating his lunch, her shirt quite noticeably not quite fully buttoned up. He couldn’t deny that the view was nice, but he wasn’t swayed by displays like that.

“I’m afraid I’m busy that night. You should go out and enjoy yourself.”

“You’re always busy. Five months on the job and he never goes out. I’m starting to think you cease to exist when you go off the clock.”

Thomas took another bite, ignoring the annoyed noise she made before she straighted up. Her friend laid a hand on her arm, drawing her away.

“Just leave it Lana, he never goes out. Let him stew. We don’t need him to have fun.”

“He probably doesn’t even know how to.” The two women tittered as they made their way out.

Thomas hadn’t bothered to tell them that he’d already given his two weeks notice. It wasn’t really their business anyway.

He made his way up the hidden stairwell, Spencer’s words echoing in his mind with each step he took.

“I hate to see you go, but of course I’ll provide a reference, Thomas.” 

He paused on a landing, checking his watch to orient himself before continuing on.

“Just, a bit of advice. Take it as you will. I’ve met men like you before. You’re never going to find the perfect job. Someday you’re going to have to settle for something. If you keep on this way no one is going to be willing to hire you. Just remember that, in case you want to come back. We’d gladly take you again.”

Kestrel pressed his ear to the door leading out of the stairwell, imagining Spencer’s face in his mind. The man had looked so crestfallen, and he hadn’t understood why he cared so much about a place like this. He’d thanked him for his advice. They were probably good words to live by, though he had no intention of doing so. He’d asked Spencer not to tell anyone else, and went back to work

Guarding buildings had worn thin after that. That was when he’d gone into event security, and changed his fate.

Kestrel had arrived in the remote security room. By his estimation he had another seven minutes and thirteen seconds before the guard returned and he would have to vacate. This part had to be done perfectly, and he whispered into his earpiece, guiding Silkfoot along through the last of the barriers.

The man was almost there when the quiet hum from the monitors was broken by a metallic click. He turned, wide eyed, to see the door-handle starting to turn. Without even thinking he dove for the wall, out of sight of whoever was coming through the door. Unfortunately he’d left his watch on the dashboard.

A short, round man walked in, seeming oblivious to his hidden company. He must have noticed the watch across the room, as he headed right for it, though halfway there he tensed and started to turn.

Kestrel silently cursed. He hadn’t wanted to engage anyone, but if the man tripped the alarm now they’d be hard pressed to get out of here. He shot out of his hiding place just as the man was turning, his hand closing around the short man’s neck to cut off any sound he might make. His momentum carried them across the small space and up against the wall.

He squeezed, even as the face looked up at him with wide eyes. The moment he met those eyes he froze, his grip loosening just a hair.

“Thomas?” The short man managed to squeak out around his grip, hands clinging to his arm.

“Kestrel?” Silkfoot’s voice echoed in his ear, moments after.

He grunted, to let the man know he was still there, but that he couldn’t talk at the moment..

“Thomas Valladon it is you. I never forget a face.” Spencer Beltain had hardly changed, aside from a bit of balding at his temples.

It was likely only years of work in this field that kept Spencer from panicking, though he’d never had the strength that Kestrel did. The more you could learn, the more you had for the police later. The man was already taking in his black-clad form, and he’d been in the business long enough he’d have no doubt what they meant.

Kestrel chose not to answer, even as Silkfoot’s voice sounded in his ear again, more terse this time.

“Kestrel where are you? What happened?”

“Sit tight.” He murmured, not quietly enough.

Spencer’s eyes narrowed.

“Is this what you decided to do with yourself, Thomas?” The man nearly growled at him, and his sharp tone caught him off guard. “You were so talented, and now this?”

Kestrel stared at him, his eyes dark. Had he been any other thief he likely would have smashed the man’s head against the wall and been done with it. That wasn’t really his style.

“Talent? In that nothing job, and nothing life? I have nothing against you, but none of it meant anything to me.” He looked back and saw so much waste, whole years he could have cut out of his life without a loss.

He fixed Spencer with a look, as if daring him to contradict him.

Instead the smaller man just laughed, not particularly cruelly or mocking. In fact, he seemed more amused than anything.

“You know, that’s the most impassioned I’ve ever seen you.” His laughter slowly subsided, and his look became stony.

“Shame you only came alive as a thief. So, what are you going to do to me? Slit my throat?”

“If I had wanted to kill you, you’d already be dead.”

“Then do whatever you’re going to and be done with it. At least I know who to report to the police.”

It was almost a dare, trying to see if he was a murderer. He wouldn’t take that bait.

“Sorry Spencer.”

He pressed the man further back against the wall, and depressed the syringe he’d slipped out of a pouch. This stuff was expensive, but he always insisted on carrying at least one, just in case. He didn’t like needless deaths.

Spencer began to slump, but the fought as the drug drew him under. Once more his eyes narrowed accusingly.

“I don’t think you are.”

The other man slumped to the floor, his breathing slow and even.

Kestrel watched him impassively for a few moments. He hadn’t been wrong: he wasn’t sorry. One last lie. One last nail in the coffin of his old life.

That done he turned back to the panel.

“Sorry about that Captain.”

“Everything all right?”

“Just a small issue. I took care of it. Let’s reset and get this done.”

On the other end Silkfoot gave an affirmative, not delving into the rest now. There would be time after the work was finished. Once Silkfoot had what they’d come for, he slipped away, without looking back.

“Kestrel?”

Someone was touching his arm.

He blinked and shifted, having to look down to see Silkfoot standing there, looking up at him with one eyebrow arched. Instantly his heart filled with warmth, and his world with color. Blue sky stretched away in front of him, and blue-green ocean rolled along far below.

“Apologies, Captain, I didn’t see you there.”

“I thought you’d been turned to stone there for a few minutes, my friend.” Silkfoot patted his arm, a playful grin curling his lips.

“Well, I wouldn’t be much use to you then, except maybe as an anchor.”

Silkfoot laughed, and he relaxed, though the other man didn’t go anywhere. Instead he moved to lean his arms against the railing, the gentle breeze playing through his hair.

“You’ve been spacier than usual since the last job.”

“My apologies, Captain. I will redouble my efforts.”

“Oh, don’t give me any of that, Kestrel. I heard what happened. You didn’t silence your radio.” The man lightly poked him in the arm to punctuate his point.

For a moment Kestrel froze, trapped in the other man’s emerald gaze.

“Captain, I’m sorry. I willfully put the job in jeopardy. I would understand if you-”

“Kestrel, I understand.” Silkfoot looked over at him, and the man’s smile was far gentler than he was used to seeing. “Do I look mad?”

“No,” he returned, feeling for all intents like a schoolboy being disciplined. “But I could have botched the job. Gotten us captured.”

Silkfoot shrugged. “Yeah, you could have, but you didn’t. If I hadn’t trusted you to handle the situation I would have aborted. Sometimes the wind shifts unexpectedly, and we have to deal with it. The past can be a dangerous thing, but you’re here now. That isn’t going to change.”

“I walked through a fog to be here. I might as well not have a past, for all any of those years mattered.”

“Careful my friend,” Silkfoot said, flashing him a grin, “some of the more uptight priests would say you’re a sloth, not appreciating the life you had.”

Kestrel had never considered that. He’d never cared to.

“Do you think I’m a sloth, captain?”

“Me? No. People like you and I wither when we’re tied down. We chase the sun, the wind, and glory. Why bother with a life where there’s no fun or challenge?”

Kestrel smiled. Silkfoot understood. He’d always understood, and that was part of why he’d follow the other man to the ends of the earth. He couldn’t go back to the shadow and the fog. Not anymore.

“If it helps, Captain, I appreciate where we are, and being here with you.”

Silkfoot’s lips curled into a broad grin. “As it should be, Kestrel. Just be careful, I might think you’re trying to flatter me.”

The man broke out into a laugh, and Kestrel joined him, feeling the last of the tension ease away.

“Never. And that I can promise you.”


Check out what my writing partner did with this prompt: Minimum Safety Threshold; A Tale of Sloth.

Flu Season

Character A takes care of Character B when they are sick

Light filtered in dimly through the thin curtains hanging over the windows of the bedroom. A soft gurgling came from the humidifier that had been set up on the table next to the bed, in the hopes of providing some much needed relief. Outside, a steady but gentle rain fell, the sound softening the edges of the world beyond the window.

The relative peace was broken by other, less pleasant noises. Sheets rustled loudly, as the person wrapped within them squirmed around testily on the bed. There were coughs, of course, but also the occasional over-dramatic moan of a man trying to garner attention, or sympathy.

After a few moments the door opened and a stream of light lanced across Silkfoot Lightvolt as he laid there, trapped in his soft mattresed prison.

“Captain?” Kestrel made his way into the room, moving with care as he crossed the space, stepping over anything that had found its way accidentally onto the floor. He sat down on the edge of the bed. “Is everything all right?” There was nothing insincere or impatient in his tone, despite the fact that he’d come in twice already in the past hour.

Silkfoot looked at him, eyes wide, face pinched up in pain. He struggled his arms up out from under the covers and threw them up toward the ceiling for added effect. The drama was somewhat diminished by the sweat clinging to the man’s forehead, his paler than usual completion, and the notable redness around his nose and eyes. “No, it’s not, dammit, and you know it!” Silkfoot’s rueful tone was marred by how nasal he sounded and the current hoarseness of his voice. It was a far cry from the suave picture he usually projected

Kestrel couldn’t help his lips quirking up slightly, but buried it when the other man shot him an acid look.

“I sound like a monster.”

“You do not.” Kestrel said patiently, reaching out his hand and laying it gently atop Silkfoot’s forehead. The man was burning up, but his temperature had thankfully gone down from what it had been. “You sound like someone with the flu. That’s totally normal.”

“Not for me. I shouldn’t get sick. I can’t lay here anymore.”

“Captain,” he said with a little sigh, “you can and you will. You need to stay in bed and rest.”

“I’m going out of my mind, Kestrel!” The other man looked wretched. “It’s bad enough you’re keeping me locked away in here. The auction at the Delancy’s is going on tonight and I’m going to miss it.”

Kestrel frowned. He knew Silkfoot wanted to be there, but there was no way in the state he was in right now. “Glower at me all you want, your health is more important. There will be other auctions.”

“Not one where they’re auctioning off that Amerlaine vase. I really wanted that.”

“There’s nothing that can be done about it now. Try to get some rest, I’ll bring you some soup in a little while.”

Silkfoot grimaced, but seemed to settle, and Kestrel made his way back out, closing the door behind him.

Kestrel was working in the kitchen when he heard the sound. He’d been in security before he’d joined up with Silkfoot, and his skills at noticing the movement of someone not wanting to be heard had only grown. There was a stir in the air, and the sound of the rain outside got louder for a moment before quieting again. There was no one else in the house, and he cursed softly. Silkfoot was good at sneaking, and if he hadn’t been so sick he doubted he would have heard him if he wanted to slip away.

He paused only long enough to pull a raincoat off a hook by the door before hurrying out into the storm. Unfortunately it was Silkfoot-sized, and would do little to protect him from the rain. It wasn’t heavy, but he was soon soaked to the skin. Silkfoot must have been worse than he thought as he saw footprints in the lawn, heading around the back of the house. No doubt the other man hadn’t wanted him hearing the car starting.

He gave chase, and soon enough saw the other man struggling over the fence into the neighbors yards. The other man was surprisingly sprightly for someone running a fever and he quickly scaled the fence to follow. He was hot on his heels when Silkfoot suddenly stopped and whipped around. A too-large raincoat whirled around him, tossing water everywhere. The man was even whiter than before.

“You can’t stop me Kestel! I need to do something, anything!” Silkfoot looked feverish and even as he watched the other man slowly began to slump down, legs giving out under him. He looked something like a ragdoll that had been sat down on a shelf, crumpled up there in the soggy grass.

His heart went out to his captain. The other man had such a strong will, and a wanderlust to match. He thought he would need to step up his entertainment game. He moved to the man’s side, laying the second raincoat over him, and picking him up easily in his arms.

Silkfoot mumbled all the way back inside, and Kestrel hoped he hadn’t given himself pneumonia pulling a stunt like that. It was hardly the other man’s fault, though. Once in the bedroom he carefully stripped the man out of his wet clothes, drying him with a towel. Once he’d gotten him in some warm pajamas he tucked him gently back into bed.

“Don’t want to stay,” Silkfoot muttered, defiant to the last. The man reached out and caught his hand with a grip that felt like dry paper.

Kestrel sighed softly and figured, at this point, there was no other choice. He reached down, carefully undoing his shoes, setting them at the foot of the bed. He laid a towel down to catch his own dampness, before he shifted and laid down next to Silkfoot.

That got the other man’s attention and he came back to himself enough for his eyes to go wide. “What’re you doing? You’ll get sick too.”

Kestrel shook his head. “I don’t care, Captain. I’ll stay to watch over you, make sure your fever breaks.”

Silkfoot frowned, and went silent for awhile. Kestrel thought he’d fallen asleep until the other man spoke, his voice very soft.

“That Amerlaine vase will be gone by now.”

“I’ll find out who it bought it. When you’re better we can take a trip to see them. How about that?”

Silkfoot had retreated a bit under the covers, but a wistful smile touched his lips for a moment, and Kestrel hoped that would be enough to convince the man to rest properly now. “We had better. Don’ get sick.”

Kestrel promised, and soon enough the other man finally fell asleep. He made his way down to change into something dry, and make a few inquires into the location of a certian vase.

Kestrel – Forgotten Shore

Forgotten shore

He woke to the sound of waves. It was a steady, familiar sound, a gentle rolling onto shore. He smelled salt, and sand, and further away, something sweet on the wind. He opened his eyes. The sky was a muted blue-grey, the sun hidden behind clouds. Even stranger was the lack of sound outside of the waves and wind. He found it odd to hear no gulls crying out.

Kestrel sat up quickly, orienting himself, and looked around. The beach stretched endlessly in both directions, and before him the sea had no end. He turned his head and behind him there was thick jungle. Why was he here? And how did he get here?

Suddenly, the memory came to him. They’d sailed here, on one of his captain’s adventures. The Forgotten Shore, they called it. Where all the detritus of the world washed up. Silkfoot had heard whispers of this place and wanted to explore it for himself, eager to see what strange things awaited them there. It looked rather barren to him, at first glance, even boring. Was this even it?

He scanned the horizon, but he saw no sign of the Twin Moons, or of Silkfoot. He couldn’t remember weighing anchor, or taking one of the small boats to land. The last thing he remembered was the crewman in the nest calling that they’d spotted land. It was all blank after that, and the lack of memory sat quite ill with him.

He stood, seeming to have been on the shore long enough that his clothes had dried. He called out for his captain at first then he called out for anyone. No answer came, and after a time he made his way up the beach toward the jungle. The place felt wrong to him somehow, though the sand moved properly under his feet, and the palms swayed in the breeze. There didn’t seem to be any animals, though, or any sign of people.

As he approached the treeline, he felt a thirst growing inside him. His throat felt parched, as if he hadn’t drank anything for days. Part of him knew it wasn’t natural, but he couldn’t deny it, as if some sort of lead had been placed around his throat. Eventually he was forced to step into the trees, in search of fresh water. Perhaps Silkfoot had done the same.

He wandered for a time. His thirst did not slake, but at least it was cooler under the canopy. Eventually he heard the sound of a stream and he followed it at a quick clip. Minutes passed, but the sound never got any closer. He ran faster. Before he knew what had happened, his boot caught on a root, and he pitched forward into darkness.

He woke again, this time in gloom. He couldn’t tell if it was night, or he was in a cave of some sort. Despite the low light he could just see the outline of a shape hovering in front of his vision. Instinct told him to lash out, fearing attack, but before he could a very familiar voice spoke.

“It’s about time you woke up. I thought you’d sleep forever.”

A sense of relief filled his chest as he heard that voice. “Captain. Are you all right? What happened?”

“Oh, I’m just fine. At least I didn’t pitch down here head first. I didn’t even seen how I fell.” There was a familiar teasing to the man’s voice, though there was concern there too. “How’s your head? Nothing broken?”

“I don’t think so.” He wigged his toes, moved his fingers. Everything worked and, despite an aching body and a bit of a headache, he felt all right. “Everything seems to be in one piece.”

“Good, good. That’s the Kestrel I know. We should probably get moving.” Something seemed a bit off about Silkfoot’s tone, but before he had a chance to inquire further he was forced to shield his eyes as a light suddenly blossomed to life. It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust but when they did he saw Silkfoot kneeling in front of him, holding an improvised torch in hand. He was glad now he hadn’t lashed out.

The other man looked a bit roughed up, but whole and unharmed other than that. It was a relief. He looked up, but could see no hole in the cave ceiling where they could have fallen in. He was just glad Silkfoot had found him. “Let’s see if we can’t find our way out of this hole.” The smaller mad said. They’d been in plenty of worse scrapes than this, but perhaps this place had gotten to the other man, as his trademark grin never appeared.

Kestrel managed to get on his feet. Silkfoot set off immediately and he followed the man, a little unsteadily. He felt on edge as they made their way into the tunnels, though he wasn’t fully sure how they were going to find their way out. He was glad to have the other man with him, though, even if Silkfoot was oddly subdued. Perhaps he was just as weirded out by all this as he was. “Captain, do you know how we got here? I woke up on the shore but everything is blank until back when we were on the Twin Moons.”

Silkfoot glanced over him, seeming to be thinking. He shook his head. “I have a blank space too. I woke up on shore as well, but didn’t see anyone, and when I approached the jungle I suddenly felt really thirsty. I went looking for water, and then everything went black.”

“So did I.” Kestrel admitted. So it seemed his captain had come here in the same way he had. He couldn’t imagine Silkfoot was overly keen on having had something pulled on him, as delighted as he should have been at the prospect of excitement. He couldn’t help but wonder what had drawn them here. The thirst he’d felt had not been natural, and he didn’t feel it now. There had been precious little information about this place. There could be magic or creatures they knew nothing of. “We need to find our way out of here. Find the ship.”

“We will. Nothing will keep us down here forever.”

Silkfoot quieted after that, which was unusual. It felt as if they’d been walking for a long time, and eventually they reached a small cavern. He could hear water flowing, deceptively close, and it felt far cooler than the tunnels had. Silkfoot suddenly stopped.”Ah, here we are. Finally.” There was a note in the man’s voice he did not like.

“Finally?” Kestrel stopped, arching a brow. “What do you mean, Captain?

“This is where you’re going to stay.” The smaller man turned to him, a light in his eyes that Kestrel never seen before. It chilled him to the bone. It was almost malevolent, and sweetly piercing. “I don’t need you anymore, Kestrel. Don’t you know how useless you are?”

The man’s words struck him hard in the chest, like a blow. “What?” Silkfoot had never considered him useless. The other man didn’t keep useless people around him, much less make them his first mate. “What are you talking about? Are you sure you didn’t hit your head?”

“Oh no. In fact, my head feels clearer than it has in a very long time. I don’t know why I ever took you on, or made you my mate. You’re not fun, Kestrel. All you ever do is put shackles on me. You’re like a weight wrapped around my neck, always dragging me down. I need to fly, and never stop. I can’t do that with you around. This is the perfect place for you to stay, and be forgotten. I certainly know I won’t ever think of you again.”

Each word cut deeply into him. Silkfoot Lightvolt was a huge part of his life. He’d thrown away everything he’d used to be to follow the man, and was happy doing it. How could he live if the man severed their connection? He was usually so calm, collected, but he could hardly find the words. “I… don’t understand. If you’ve felt this way, why tell me here?” Silkfoot wasn’t the type to just abandon someone they didn’t like gods knew where. There was anger in him too. “After everything we’ve been through together, how can you turn like this?” It didn’t make any sense. Something about it felt wrong. Despite the pain and fear of loss, something nagged at the back of his mind.

Silkfoot waved a hand. “I wanted to just toss you overboard, but this is a far more fitting place, don’t you think? No mess, no fuss. You’ll just be gone. No one will ever know.” The other man smiled at him, and there was something sharp and cold in it. He felt a sensation, almost a tingling buzzing around himself. As the moments passed he felt heavy, somewhat tired. It felt as if the earth itself were trying to drag him down to his knees.

“Just give in to your fate, Kestrel. You belong here. Useless, forgotten.” Silkfoot approached, looming over him. Kestrel looked up into his face, but it was the man’s words that broke through the despair that had been growing within him. He knew Silkfoot better than anyone. The other man would never toss him aside. His faith in his captain was unshakable. How had this… whatever it was, caused him to doubt, even for a moment?

He let out a cry of frustration and, against all odds, fought against the fatigue and the weight. He struggled to his feet slowly,  as if a mountain  had uprooted itself. Now it was he who loomed, and his face held all the storm clouds of the sky within it. “No! I am Silkfoot’s first mate! I ride the wind with him. I help keep him safe! I would give my very life to see him free and happy. You… whatever you are, are not him!”

He took a struggling step forward, fighting the urge to fall back down. Silkfoot’s face had contorted to surprise, then anger, but he stepped back, as if afraid. Something rippled under the surface of his skin, and Kestrel knew for sure this wasn’t his captain. He plunged forward and his hands went around the thing’s neck. It let out a scream, still in Silkfoot’s voice, but he held on, and squeezed. Under his hands the figure began to writhe and change shape.

Silkfoot’s shape morphed until he gripped the shaggy neck of a wolf, jaws snapping in his face. It morphed again, his hands burning under the steaming flesh of a demon. It became a snake, his son, a fragile bird, and at one point, even himself. No matter what form it took, trying to get him to let go, he refused. Eventually it let out a last scream, and stopped moving. Moments later it lost form, and dissolved away into nothing.

His heart was like a drumbeat in his ears. The great pull was gone, but he felt more tired than he had in a long time. The torch the thing had been holding began to gutter on the ground and he quickly took it up. He wanted, more than anything, to just fall to the ground and sleep, but he was afraid if he did that he’d never get up again. He needed to get out.

Kestrel groped his way through the dark, gripping the quickly fading torch in hand. Even so, the sensation of being lost had left him and it didn’t take him long to finally make it to the mouth of the cave. He couldn’t help but wonder if whatever that thing was had been leading him in circles.

The open air was inviting, and he finally felt safe. He was tired, drained, and wanted nothing more than to lie down and not move ever again. Before he sat he noticed he wasn’t alone. There was a figure, half splayed across a rock. In the waning daylight he saw cream colored hair, and familiar green eyes. Silkfoot looked rough, and pale, and a bit haunted. He imagined he looked very similar at the moment, though he was hesitant to trust again after what had happened in the cave.

But the figure on the rock looked at him in much the same way. There was hesitation, suspicion, but also a glimmer of hope. It was that, more than anything, that assured him that this was the true Silkfoot. His Silkfoot.

The other man must have come to the same conclusion and he offered a tired smiled. After a moment it morphed into a familiar sort of grin, incorrigible despite the fatigue he was clearly in. “What took you so long?” Silkfoot teasing was like a balm, though his voice sounded raw and rough, as if he’d been screaming.

Kestrel was sure the other man had been through something similar, but he couldn’t help but laugh softly. He crossed the space and dropped down onto the ground, leaning heavily against the rock. He wondered what Silkfoot had seen, if he’d met the same creature he had, but he didn’t have the heart to ask. Perhaps eventually they would discus it over a keg. Instead he just smiled softly. “You know me, Captain. I’m a little slower, but I always catch you up.”