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The Pain of Loss
#1
The bill for the Jeep had been horrendous thankfully the Atharim would pay for it. At least they would now. The perks of actually flying high on their radar of hunters. It meant they would know Nox was back in the States but he figured they wouldn't care, the Old World Atharim weren't exactly found of the New World hunters - all fly by the pants and all. But it was what it was and Nox paid the bill, the Jeep sounded rough.

There was a cache nearby so that was his first stop that and sleep. His body ached from the strain of the fear on the plane. Nox had survived it alone, but he was sure that the people sitting next to him thought he was some sort of freak or mentally handicapped or something. And Nox actually let them believe that; playing dumb was easy - people underestimated him that way.

The storage facility manager looked at Nox warily but nodded as he drove through the gates to the storage locker. To the manager it was just an empty bin, we kept only a few things in each place mostly weapons. Nox's father had been a gun collector, at least that's what he told anyone who'd ask. There was nothing special or black market about the gear, just was a lot of it. They were survivalist to most hoarding water and non-perishables. Waiting for the zombie apocalypse to come. No such things but hey it was a gimmick that people believed. Sure some people thought they were crazy to them but it was believable. It sounded better than they hunted monsters for a living. No one would believe that at all.

Nox packed the small footlocker in the back of the Jeep and headed towards a cheap motel he knew of. It was not the place he would have stayed with his family but at least it wasn't riddled with bedbugs, or the like. He had certain standards now and he knew the Atharim would pay him what he was worth as long as he kept bringing in the monsters.

Sadly the place was a lot worse off than when Nox and his family had traveled through last and Nox went to the next place on his list. He hadn't been there in a long while. Nox stared at the parking spot they had been in, there was no sign of trauma here, the blood stain had been washed away by years of weather. But Nox could still see the pool of blood lying underneath where his mother had lain brutally slashed and torn apart.

He'd forgotten this was the last place they'd been until he'd seen it.

Time passed and Nox wasn't sure what time it was he didn't even check his wallet just went in, got a room. It wasn't a surprise when he got the same room as they'd stayed in. The room smelled the same as he remembered and what little food survived in Nox stomach wound up in the garbage can next to the door only adding to the putrid aroma of stale smoke and cleaning supplies.

Nox left the door open as he carried the locker inside the room. He wanted to check how things had survived and knew that he'd end up in tears by the end of it but it was to be done. Nostalgia was a killer and Nox fought to keep his memories inside instead of letting the fire that boiled inside of him. The power hummed and sang at the edge of his vision and he knew better than to grab it to heed it's wondrous call.

Instead Nox laid down on the bed and tried to drift to sleep, but memories flood his mind and tears fell as he hugged the pillow tightly against him. Coming here had been a bad idea. But sleep finally came and Nox drifted in blackness.

****

The darkness was never a good thing. It meant only one thing - nightmares. There was nothing but stillness tonight. And then the memories flooded in. All the happy memories mingled with all the tragedy and death Nox and seen. Images that couldn't be real - hadn't been real. Fear lanced through the nightmare and the large black dogs with glowing eyes appeared over the ridge - a ridge Nox hadn't remembered being there before. One, then another and then a third. All stalking in the dead of the night. They split off from each other and Nox lost sight of two of them. It could be only one thing - dark-hounds. The image of his mother's mutilated body flashed in front of him and the hound howled leaving shivers down his spine. Nox was frozen in fear as the darkness stalked him.
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#2
The first time, Nimeda woke sobbing. Hard and breathless and afraid. When she lifted her head from her hands, her palms were slick with tears. The world around her shifted uncertainly, crisping around the edges like burnt paper. Her fingers faded, first the tips, then the joints, until she could see only darkness. Then she was gone.

The second time her body drifted, then caught in the current. She free-wheeled into the in-between place, and her body dispersed into a velvet black of night. Millions of stars twinkled, each a glittering doorway. Nimeda flowed, careless and inquisitive amongst the many dreams. Until she came upon darkness. Pain and blood. Mutilation. Glowing eyes, savage teeth. And so much fear.

She lingered, like a moth battering a shielded flame. The man who dreamed was not known to her; nothing pulled at her but her own curiosity, winding and curling protectively around this particular star. She had been able to ease such memories once, but those skills were old and rusted, so she only watched as the huge black dogs stalked and the landscape flashed macabre.

Why wasn't he running?

Without thinking, she slipped through the cracks, and entered.
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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#3
Between moments as Nox stared at the dark hound it flickered and was ten paces closer. The images flickered from the ridge to a parking lot. Memories changing his dreams. His mother packing the Jeep. And then she was gone again in the next moment. The dog that was not a dog was closer and turned it's attention from Nox to something else. Something behind him.

Instinct kicked in and Nox's dream self wielded the power and a flaming sword appeared in his hand. He could feel the heat from the flames but they did not burn. Without turning to the someone behind him Nox spoke, "You shouldn't be here."


With the appearance of the sword the hound's attention was upon him. Nox grinned. "That's right little doggie I'm the bigger threat."


It howled and sent shivers up Nox's spine again. He took a step backwards and caught a glimpse of a dark shadow creeping up on his left. Another was behind or to the right but he hadn't seen it yet. It was out there somewhere.

Nox kept backing up until he was just in front of the woman who came out of no where. The figure of his mother flickered in front of him again. She was looking around sniffing the air. He had been standing next to her, could do nothing, this time was far different!
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#4
Darkness swallowed her. Reality rippled and coalesced into something new. The landscape shifted erratically, and people - a woman - drifted in and out of focus. The large dog-creature adjusted its focus, and sent a caress of fear down her spine, even though she knew - thought she knew, that it could not harm her here.

At the same time the dreamer noticed his intruder. Flame ignited into the shape of a sword. He finally defended himself!

"I go where I want,"
she told him matter of factly. She ghosted behind him, curious as to her surroundings. Not that she was immune to the fear. And the sounds they made. He protected her instinctively, even though he didn't know who - or what - she was. There were times, long distant times, when that might have been a mistake. But she was not here tonight at another's behest, and those vague memories swirled away the moment they touched her mind.

There were more creatures in the darkness all around them; the graceful slink of shadows, like tricks of the eye. Nimeda stood right behind his shoulder now. She wasn't sure if she'd be able to protect herself in another's dream. Unlike knowledge that came to her unbidden, a question raised consciously was answered with the silent vacuum of her memory. Her gaze caught on the licking flames of the sword. She didn't want to experience death here.

The woman flickered again, and Nimeda's muscles stiffened with the tension, anticipating the first pounce.
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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#5
The image of his mother flickered again. She had returned to packing. He remembered standing near her. The memory of that day haunted his every night - tonight was no different. But yet it was. Nox's recollection in the dream world was not what it was but he felt different - something was different.

The woman didn't sound afraid when she spoke. Nox couldn't help but frown, she didn't know what she was doing. "Suit yourself, but stay behind me."


He wasn't sure what he could do against them. A stray thought passed his mind, he'd never been able to move before. Again that nagging feeling that this isn't how it was supposed to be.

The hounds flickered closer again. The first howl sent shivers down his spine, the now powerful memory of the smell of sulfur permeated the dream air. He A second then a third howl echoed in the space between reality and his dreams.

The image of his mother turned around again at the last howl and looked afraid. Nox hadn't noticed when the dark dog with glowing red eyes stepped between him and his mother - where had it come from?

Fear paralyzed his mother he could see it in her eyes when he look at her ashen face. The dog started to pounce but Nox hurled the flaming sword at the dream dark hound and it ripped through the air and the dark hound a like. The dark hound spurt into nothingness once the tip of the flaming blade touch it. The sword continued it trajectory and impaled his mother.

The image clutched her chest and blood poured through it. Nox was frozen in fear in the horror of what he'd done. The world flickered again and there was not one but three dead bodies bleeding on the stones of what had once been a nice cabin up in the woods somewhere. It was a mix of the place Aurora's body had been found and the old place they had used when they had first learned they were reborn gods. Why here?

Nox fell to his knees in despair...
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#6
The sword flew. The black dog drifted into dust. The blade thrust into the woman's chest. Nimeda blinked, and blood stained the world. Another flicker brought a new landscape. And more bodies. So much darkness in this dream. So much pain.

She glanced at the cabin; wondered where they were now. A place instead of formless shadows. A memory? Not a happy one of course. She watched the man fall to his knees, and contemplated the guilt and losses that created such a dreamscape. When nothing else happened she joined him, sitting cross-legged on the ground a small distance away. Her chin sank into her fists. She had no control here.

"Who are they?"
she asked, indicating the dead.
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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#7
The woman sat down not far away but Nox's eyes were transfixed on the bodies before him. There was no sound save hers, "Who are they?"


Each body flickered once again except his mothers, she remained bleeding from her chest leaning against a tree, the wounds were the same they always had been. Huge tears in her chest and her throat was ripped out. She looked like any monster attack victim he'd ever seen.

His father lay sprawled out on the grassy green undergrowth with liquor bottles surrounding him and a puddle of his own vomit foaming from his mouth. He'd found his father lying that way. He hadn't let Aurora see him like that. It was before they had found out they were godlings. They burned his body fitting an Atharim death, but he didn't deserve it - not really. He gave up and Nox was still bitter about being left alone.

The third and final body was Aurora's. She was lying in a shallow grave that had recently been dug up. Her body was ashen and skeletal by the time he'd found her. A ring around her neck and bruises left by the hands of the vile beast that Aria had killed for him...

Aria...A small girl dressed in all black flickered and flashed lying on the ground as well. But the image was only there for a moment.

Nox finally answered. "My family."
It was a simple answer but he felt the pain of their loss in his whole being. He was alone. What the fuck was he doing traveling the world alone when he could be with the last bit of family he had - the one he'd chosen.

"Why are you here?"
He didn't really care, but he knew something was wrong with everything. Maybe she was the reason.


Edited by Nox, Apr 7 2016, 09:09 AM.
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#8
She watched the bodies, not him. None of the deaths looked peaceful, but despite that, the view was preferable to what expression might be on his face. Someone else flashed among the dead, then disappeared before she could blink.

"Because you were troubled."
She shrugged. The words sounded like an echo, and maybe she had said them before to other lost souls. Nimeda shifted her gaze to look at him, but, worse than observing grief, he appeared listless. She tilted her head, wondering if this dream was born of memory, or desire. People dreamed stranger things than a family ruined, and guilt could manifest in fathomless ways. However, she didn't get the feeling that this was the case of an over active imagination.

"You can't bring them back. And you can't change the things that have already happened in this cycle. Some things always happen, and that's just the way of it. But."
As she spoke she dug a finger into the dirt, sketching a circle, round and round, deeper and deeper. "Everyone deserves a new start."

"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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#9
Nox didn't turn his head to look at the woman as she spoke. He was troubled. He'd been troubled for the past 5 years, where was she then. The bitterness overwhelmed him, he could almost taste it like bile in his mouth. He turned and faced her sitting on the cold, damp ground. The surroundings flickered to something drier, but it didn't stay.

This wasn't how it was supposed to happen. It never happened like this.

But she was right. Nox couldn't fix anything that had happened. His mother had been killed by a hell hound when he was 15. His father died when he was 16 of self inflicted alcoholism. But it had been his fault Aurora had gone with the man who Aria killed - who he couldn't have killed. That hurt most.

How was he supposed to protect anyone if he couldn't do what was needed. Killing a monster was one thing, but someone - a human - who had hurt his family he couldn't do that. Did that make Aria a monster because she could. But Nox remembered that Aria was a monster - self proclaimed and well deserved. The thought of what she was capable of made his body shutter.

The woman said everyone deserved to start over...How do you start over? There isn't a reset button like on some game. He asked, "How do you do that?"
He hadn't meant it to sound like he was snapping at her but it came out sharp anyway. He muttered under his breath, "Sorry."

Edited by Nox, Apr 13 2016, 03:42 PM.
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#10
She etched the muddy circle deeper, content and distracted as a child with an idle task. The snap did not appear to cause offence. "Sorry for what? It's your dream."
Her lips twitched into a smile.

Her gaze flickered to the bodies. That was one way of course; to await the rebirth. Nimeda had an odd moral centre, but she had no inclination toward encouraging suicide. Today, at least. He might wait aeons for that new start.

"Start with the obvious. You could accept yourself. Flaws and strengths. Walk the hard road to self-improvement. See a shrink?"
She had the oddest moment of amusement, in knowing he had no idea who he was speaking to - who she was. The hubris rose and fell without full clarity of exactly why it made her smile. Strange memories drifted just out of reach.

"There are other ways too. Ancient ways. Maybe lost. Maybe not."
She tapped the side of her head with a muddy finger. "You could wake up, and it would all be gone. If we remembered every life, it would drive us all insane, yes? It's just speeding the process, I suppose. A blank slate."
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimedathalialethebanner.jpg]
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