a A R
XXXI. Ripe
Posted By Scott at 3/02/2020 4:24 PM

It was nighttime now. The stars were out in a full array of twinkling brilliance. Not a cloud could be seen in the sky.

Old Crow coughed and shuddered. Bits of skin had begun peeling from his face.

Ghost had grown tired of looking at Old Crow. His weak, pale body disgusted him.

“What is your true face, Old Crow?” Ghost heard himself ask, in disbelief. What had he done?

Old Crow bristled. He straightened himself up high upon his favourite branch.

“Why Ghost, I thought you’d never ask.”

Old Crow’s body began to twitch and twist, as if his bones were fighting each other to get out.

Dark black tears began to stream down Old Crow’s face.

He grew then, larger and larger until Ghost paled in comparison.

A deafening hum overtook the forest. The droning sound of a swarm of wasps filled Ghost’s ears. It made it impossible to concentrate, but he dare not look away.

It wasn’t wasps at all.

It was Old Crow, laughing. A deafening cackle from deep within his chest. Whatever he was, whatever he had been had changed.

The burning in Ghost’s chest was gone, replaced by an unimaginable chill. He was weak and helpless.

As he looked upon Old Crow, his true face laid bare, Ghost thought he might just go mad.

And then the stars went out.

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XXX. Catch
Posted By Scott at 3/01/2020 4:18 PM

When Ghost woke that morning Old Crow was gone, his nest empty.

Ghost follow the ragged trail of feather and blood Old Crow had left down to the riverbank.

There was Old Crow, gnawing on a fish three times his size. The fish was fresh, pulled from the river moments before.

The burning in Ghost’s chest was gone once more.

Old Crow paused. He was grinning at Ghost wide now.

“Ask me about my true face” Old Crow teased.

Ghost had been taught better. Whatever Old Crow was, and Ghost had seen bits and pieces of it over the years, it was nothing to be trifled with. No matter what face Old Crow was wearing, and he’d worn plenty, his true face was that of horror. Of that Ghost was sure.

But what had that burning in his chest been if not strength and courage? Even if it had subsided for now, what could this weak, sickly thing do to him now?

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XXIX. Injured
Posted By Scott at 2/29/2020 4:16 PM

Old Crow tried to stand; his legs betrayed him. He crashed down into his nest, now filled with his own withering feathers.

The burning in Ghost’s chest grew. He felt stronger than he ever had since first meeting Old Crow.

Perhaps he’d fly free, for the first time in as long as he could remember.

Or perhaps he’d stay by Old Crow’s side; watch the energy slowly drain from him as Ghost grew stronger.

Perhaps he’d crush Old Crow like a bug.

Had Old Crow smiled just then?

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Posted By Scott at 2/28/2020 4:14 PM

As Old Crow grew weaker, Ghost found his memories returning, though foggy and fleeting.

He’d been asked to accompany a caravan through the fresh trade routes.

Ghost had missed his young wife badly. He kept one of her hair ribbons with him on all his journeys.

He’d sat for a moment on an oddly shaped rock. It looked as if it had been carved to resemble a twisted spirit, but the elements had taken the edges from it long ago.

An old man approached Ghost. He spoke with him for a bit, though the conversation escaped Ghost.

At the end, the old man asked, “May I join you?”

“I need you to give me permission” the old man added.

Ghost saw no reason to refuse. The caravan was making its way back to the city, and the Emperor had made a point of welcoming all.

Everything went dark after that.

“Ask me about my true face…” Ghost heard Old Crow say as the memory faded.

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Posted By Scott at 2/27/2020 4:11 PM

Old Crow looked around him. He was surrounded by caricatures of himself; a parade of mockeries.

He was a meek spirit, bound to no more than a rock in the woods, waiting for a passerby to feed him.

He was a trickster poet, seducing the maidens that left bundles of sticks at his feet.

He was alone, cold and shivering, no matter which way he shifted or pulled his blankets over him.

He was emboldened by the fresh trade routes winding their way through his forest.

He saw a young soldier, sad and pitiful, clutching a dull red ribbon in his hand.

The soldier sat upon his rock, and Old Crow had known then what he must do.

That was the first change Old Crow had known.

Fevered and weak, he knew another was soon to follow.

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XXVI. Dark
Posted By Scott at 2/26/2020 4:09 PM

Ghost had awoken in the pitch black of night.

Old Crow was asleep, or at least he appeared to be. His feathers were matted and missing in places. His breathing ragged and uneven.

Ghost had never felt better. Whatever sickness was overtaking Old Crow was steadily weakening the bond and he and Ghost had.

A single star shot across the night sky.

Ghost smiled at this.

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XXV. Tasty
Posted By Scott at 2/25/2020 4:07 PM

Ghost awoke to a dull, wet crunching sound.

Old Crow had woken early and been hunting. His beak covered in gore.

“Why so nice of you to join us!” Old Crow preened.

Whatever the fever had done to knock Old Crow down, it seemed the fresh kill had restored.

Ghost felt that same lingering hopelessness snake its way back into his mind.

“I am bound here, forever chained to this creature” Ghost thought.

“Now Ghost, there’s no need for so much melancholy” Old Crow replied, though Ghost had not spoken a word.

Ghost shuddered.

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