Exalted: Tales of the Dreaming Sea

Man or Monster?

(Downtime Fiction)

Man or Monster

The grass was soft beneath his back as he lay there looking up at the stars above. The warmth at his side stirred briefly rolling over and draping a soft brown arm across his chest, the muscles tensing briefly as whatever dream she was having played out in her mind. In the sky above Luna hung brilliant and pale her light almost as brilliant as the noon day sun to his Champoori eyes.

He had come out here, out beyond the bounds of the city into the forests to the South shortly after they had returned to Champoor. The actions he had taken, when compared with the world around him plagued his mind. Upon returning to Champoor the old habits and old ways had settled on him like a comfortable old coat. It was so easy to slip back into the patterns of life in Champoor. So much so that he had murdered a man in cold blood with no thought qualm about it, simply cut the man down like wheat before a scythe. Did that make him a monster, was he no better than the iron mouthed savage that currently ruled in the BLANK district. Instead of turning to his circle mates he had come here, to seek solace in the arms of someone who was more a stranger than a trusted friend.
What was it about this woman that pulled at him so much, why did he value her opinion over Jin La’s or Tadara’s or Ebai’s why was she the one he had turned to. He had tried to talk to Silver Shade about it but the old ghost had reacted poorly to the story. He had said that he would be unable to assist in matters concerning her and that it would be best that Feather not mention Silver Shade to her either. Feather did not like keeping secrets from his new companion, in fact he felt doing so was a betrayal of the deepest sort, but Silver Shade had been a wise and honest mentor for most of Feather’s life so he accepted the ghosts word and did not mention him to Emerald.

He had talked around the point of why he had come to her, alluding to what had been done without saying it outright. He did not want to violate his oath sworn to Thali Kama and the words of Emerald had offered him some comfort. She was an absolutely pragmatic woman, she had told him that death was part of the cycle that the strong must survive and the weak could be protected only for so long. Weakness could not be coddled nor could it be allowed to thrive. Only through trial, tribulation, danger and death would the spirit of man be tempered enough to survive in the world. Her words echoed Silver Shade’s and they mirrored his life on the streets of Champoor. The man he killed, was not a good man, not even a decent man, he was a peddler of drugs, someone who capitalized on the weakness of children. He was a predator, and the fact that he fell at the hands of a stronger predator only illustrated the point his Mentor and his lover had made. The strong survive, the weak get stronger or die, that is the way of Creation and it will always be the way of creation.
His companion stirred again, her luminous eyes opening, the deep green nearly pulling him in as he looked at her. She smiled, and it was the smile of a hunter, of a predator, her nails became claws as she slowly raked them across his chest, drawing a bit of blood. “I like you Sun Warrior, you are strong, you are good in bed, and for some reason I feel drawn to you, as if you are a part of me.”

She rose above him straddling him her body outlined against the bright of the moon, she was a shadow above him and only her eyes and her predatory smile revealed that she was anything more than that, a shadow. She lifted her hand from his chest looking at the droplets of blood glistening there in the moonlight before licking them clean; her eyes never leaving his. “I am going to mark you Sun Warrior, you will be mine, and no others. I know you will dally with the painted women of your shadowed city and I do not mind that, but your heart belongs to me now, if you give it to another I will come for you and claim what is rightfully mine. If you have need of me, whisper my name to the shadows and I will come to you. But know that if you call me into the streets of your benighted city that you will deal with what comes from that, and it will not be cheap. But you are mine, so I will defend what belongs to me when needed.” With that she drove her clawed hand into the flesh of his chest, and began to draw. There was pain, but there was also pleasure thanks to other things she was doing.

He made it back to the city just as dawn was cresting somewhere outside the bounds of Champoor. He knew because of the telltale glitter of his caste mark. He was sore and a bit bloodied but nothing too extreme. The Guild guardsmen at the gate looked him up and down as he walked through the gateway into the city, he didn’t look his best, but a quick hand sign in Guild Cant stopped them from asking any questions, they waved him past and he made his way back to the Maiden, but not before stopping to wash up and grab a bite to eat.

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