Good afternoon, evening, morning or night to you all. I'd like to take the time to thank you for clicking on my story, and encourage you to read it. I should hope you'll enjoy it, though I can't attest to anything. I shan't say much of the story other than the requirements:
Characters: Noah, mainly. Basch of course is in it, and 'OC's made to fill the gaps where their parents should be.
Warnings: Not too many. Large amounts of introspection and upset, I suppose, melancholy. Oh and a 14 year old getting ripped into by a wolf, but that's nothing, really.
"Above all things let us never forget that mankind constitutes one great brotherhood; all born to encounter suffering and sorrow, and therefore bound to sympathise with each other." - Albert Pike
Noah had never considered himself to be a son of war. It wasn't because it would make him innocent, or because he was too just for such a title. Nor was it because he hadn't, in some way, been born with the steady roar of a warrior's blood in his vein's – a fighter's spirit not unlike a dog, loyalty. It wasn't because he didn't want to be.
It was because that would mean Basch was too.
Basch was an idiot. He was an idiot, but he was a good idiot – and yet he had left, and given Noah only the image of his back, a whispered apology that hadn't been a promise to return. Not quite. So he hadn't waited for him, and he hadn't waited by the door some mornings to hear footsteps, a faint laugh in the dust, anything.
Father had gone, taken, and Noah had thought himself bereaved.
Basch had gone, voluntarily, and there was a nothingness in his brother's place that knew no grief.
It had been an oppressively hot afternoon when Noah had first pointed an arrow at another Hume. Practice on the beasts of the sands had more than taught him where to point; a skull was a skull. Beasts and Humes shared the same meat, after all.
It was a simple matter, then, of finding some gap in the Imperial's armour and drive an arrow through. It would be almost merciful – compared to what some instruments of death could do, by any means. A bow was the only weapon a youth was permitted to wield. A weapon for staying out of the way, and for relatively clean kills (as far as a splatter of blood and whatever accompanied a soldier's last moments could be called clean).
Nobody cared to protest a youth's right to wield a weapon at all, these days.
So he raised the bow and pulled back the string with muscles losing their boyish softness, and, with arrow knocked, had fixed his steely gaze on the faceless suit of armour questing about under him. With his cloak he was as one with the dying leaves; he dared not take it off despite the heat. The branch held his weight. He held the bow.
Then he looked up. Noah saw himself, flint eyed, pleading silently to stop. Noah saw the soldier buckling, and blood, and he saw a wild-hearted beast of the forest crashing to the floor with confusion in its dark eyes.
A strange choking noise came from his throat and he lowered the bow. The arrow returned to its quiver almost of its own volition as the Imperial crept away, unaware. When he looked up to the other tree again, Basch had looked away, but he seemed almost grateful. He touched his fingers to his breast and held them out to his brother without looking and, shaking, Noah did the same in return.
He'd sworn never to wield a bow again. A ridiculous vow. With Basch there the forest seemed to think better of challenging two of them, and so the imprudence went unpunished – but one morning he had ventured into the woods alone and only narrowly ventured out again.
Wolf-kin were easy enough to take down, or at least deter. Their masks were nigh impenetrable, their fangs tough enough to rip the hide of a saurian and snap the bones from a wandering Hume in two. But their own skin was delicate, their fur a thin, streamlined layer. Patterns that made them invisible on the plain made them a beacon in the ruddy-dark hues of the forest – perfect for evasion or even prey. And these were the omega, the wolves forced from the pack for this or that, shunned from the lupine bounty of the plains and sands. They were vicious because they were starving and lonely, and because they were starving and lonely they were a quick catch that made for a handsome profit, or an easy foe.
If, of course, one had a weapon. Without one, the beasts were all claw, fang and rippling muscle, with a cry to daze an unwary Hume and a bite to ensure they would never recover. Landisi wolves were known as jackals. Jackals and Humes were not friends.
Noah ran – the forest that was so frequently a kind of shelter from such assaults suddenly reclaimed its debt and grabbed at him with thorns and unexpected branches at every opportunity. One jackal was a nuisance to a boy like him, but even the starving, lonely jackals hunted in disorganised packs. There would be more.
Soon enough the jackal fighting through the brush behind him let out a keening yowl – and was answered. Perhaps Noah would have ran faster, but running faster than the superlative defied all logic. His organs belonged on the inside; and his insides, not those of a jackal. Their eerie barks, almost like cajoling shouts, echoed here and there, closing in. Maybe he was lost.
The claw slashed his side open before he realised, and he reeled, wheeled around to face the beast. There was nothing he could do, and stupidly he found himself growling back at its canine rictus with the soulless white mask. Another howl sounded from the forest beside as his assailant pawed back out of sight, to become a pair of red eyes mocking him. And he would die, he thought, he would die alone and slowly, knowing no idea where he was. Animal instinct had him respond to one's charge with a shoulder to its chest. Panic and a surge of pain had him dodge another. Climbing a tree would only have them wait until he came to them and, ridiculous as it was, he was too proud to give them that – as if they understood.
Suddenly he was dizzy, dazed – fear? The jackal, expecting some form of retaliation, nearly collided with the tree behind him when he only swayed to the side. The hunt was on, the hunt was off. Dimly he was aware of the curious laughing sound they made and then another noise, not a jackal at all. Something collided with one. Blood was in its claws. His blood, probably, the concept couldn't register.
That voice, of course it would be him. The jackals scattered, Noah smelt blood, too much blood. Was the jackal dead?
That's my name. What of it? He heard words 'bleeding' or 'damned fool' or 'get up, get up damn it'. Strong arms had him upright, and he hadn't even been aware of going down at all. Briefly some dull flicker of recognition told him that something was wrong, very wrong, but it was a glittering fish in the jaws of a surfacing shark, and blackness came.