"What have I done to you?"

SibattiSibatti Mamba dur NayaAmidst vibrant flora and trees
I feel like I've almost exclusively posted Shaman/Ritual logs on this forum, which are great and all, but how about something a little uglier?

(Context: @Qelres and Siba have a small history of antagonizing each other (jury's out on whether it's intentional or not), if you're wondering why Sib is so gosh dang mean to them.)

He is a typical Azudim of Mhun heritage and has a slight and narrow frame, with androgynous and pretty features that put him in a more feminine aesthetic. His build is lanky but not tall, slender without being muscular, and a way of bearing that speaks of disinterest. His ashen skin is colorless and darkly freckled, its umber shades captured in sharp angles cut by sleek contours of the face. A brooding look results from a persistently cool steely-eyed and glassy glare, unapologetically pouty with feminine lips that puff out slightly. A tousle of generously wild hair wreaths his angular face in a chaos of skysilver hues, shot through with lines of pale pink and purple and surrounding his face like a perpetual storm of blown strands. Cresting amidst it are two horns of charcoal, spiraling out to crown his head like some noble demon prince. Down his dark flesh are painted tattoos of various background and make: a set of Teshen scripture along the inside of either leg, parallel formations of pointillism inside either arm, and a formation of sweeping curlicues and jagged lines like inky liner around either eye. His fists and feet end in wicked dark claws, kept sharp, a black stain against his flesh creeping inward to ghost into ash. Like an afterthought, a slender and snakelike tail follows him at great length, ending in a riot of quetzal feathers of distractingly vibrant hues, far too colorful for his perpetually-disappointed bearing.

(resting on his bare chest) : a gruesome pendant
(tucked into the boots) : tailored, boot-tucked charcoal trousers
(vertically slit within the forehead) : a pale and otherworldly thirdeye
(through the lower lip) : an aventurine labret
(form-fitting to the legs) : stretchy knee-high boots of black suede
(casting a shadow over his eyes) : a female Yeleni skull with broken horns
(wispy and worn open) : a sheer black robe with occultic symbols in lace
(veiling the entire body) : the black-veiled crown of the Watcher

They are an undead hardy Azudim of Nazetu heritage. A sickly stench clings to them, wafting off the oily slime and weeping sores which mar their grey-green skin. It is the smell of old sweat and rotting, fly-blown meat. The flesh of their face has a malleable, flabby sense to it despite the gaunt strength of jaw, chin and cheekbones. Theirs is the visage of an austere marble statue covered in a thick, weeping layer of wax. The skin veritably pools in folds around narrow, heavily lidded eyes made all the smaller by smeary linings of kohl. Those eyes would disappear into fleshy sockets were it not for their coloring; they are an acidic, lustrous pink, burning like the ends of bizarre cigarettes. Crumbling ash follows their gaze. A deformity of their mouth drags their lip into an eternal sneer and reveals, always, a sliver of sharp teeth. Their hairline is thin and set far back on a high forehead. The black of their hair, dark as pitch, falls to their shoulders in ragged lengths. Flyaways stick in wispy loops to the planes of their face, clinging with a coating of the syrupy something that oozes from their scalp. Their height and barrel chest, paired with a fat-padded silhouette and embarrassingly poor posture, grant them the ponderous presence of some great, hulking beast. As is only natural, they have six fingers on each hand. Those fingers twitch with despairing, futile little tics of motion like the efforts of pinned insects. Translucent strands of spiderweb periodically weave around their form, empowering them with Iosyne's blessing. Shadows drape them with the boon of Severn, the Manipulator.

(the brooch hung from the lowest strap) : a slim-strapped, black harness
(seen in glimpses through the hair) : a black-inked tattoo of a pair of crossed fists
(painted in the center of the brow) : dath depicting a thirteen-spoked chariot wheel
(the chains sprawling over the back) : a necklace of fettered opals and coffin nails
(dangling heavy from the ears) : opal earrings like cracked locusts
(shadowing the legs) : a skirt of cicada-patterned black lace
(piercing the ears, dividing the face) : tarnished silver beads
(anchoring daggers, keys and a grimoire) : a filigree brooch with many chains and hooks
(adorning the left hand) : chain-strung rings of black opal
(glinting around the hips) : a tangled belt of thin wire
(worn open, hems fraying) : an opulent coat embroidered with ripened growth
(protecting the ankles and feet) : short boots studded with nails
(dimmed beneath the lace of the skirt) : yellow leather leggings
(tight around the throat) : a narrow pahpanvel choker
(forming a crowning retinue) : a living headdress of crawling insects
(tied around ankles and knees) : lace ribbons heavy with coins of bone

At the centre of the Esterport markets.
Rain pours down from the sky, the dawn's light filtering dimly through the cloud cover. These narrow passages are a veritable labyrinth of stalls, mats, and vendor's carts, in their totality comprising the hub of all the activity in Esterport. A small clearing appears amidst them, but the crowd which filters through the market at all hours is a thick, rumbling press whose voices and footsteps echo far into the air above. On every side is an assault upon the senses; riotous colors and every variety of Sapient creature, smells ranging from savory to exotic to foul, and the never-ceasing noise of haggling, bickering, and merchant's cries. A guard of the Esterport watch stands here, attentive and wary. There are 4 iron rubbish bins here. A gaunt Mhun merchant stands here, minding a stall. You see a sign here instructing you that WARES is the command to see what is for sale.
You see exits leading north, northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west, northwest, and in.

A dark aura surrounds Qelres, bringing the smell of decay in from the northwest.

Swaying with Qelres' every movement, the insect horde rearranges itself into the proper configuration of their headdress.

Qelres nears, shoulders hunched against the rain within the confines of their resplendent, if threadbare, jacket. Their boots kick through puddles, no doubt soaking the train of their skirt in all matter of the city's mire. They move through the market's labyrinth almost without looking, as if they have been here a thousand times and know every turn of every stall - that is, until they confront you, a figure that must be different to them than the rest of the expected crowd because that presence pulls them up short and lifts their eyes.

You have emoted: Sibatti is currently inspecting some freshly-bought oysters, preserved on large chunks of ice in a small, open crate. He seems immune to the rain, droplets catching on the veil that covers him head to toe, only the extraordinarily long, serpentine tail of his experiencing any of the cold storm. He moves his head as if he spies Qelres, but his expression is decidedly non-reactive.

There is a recognition beneath recognition within Qelres's face, confusion mixed equally with certainty, and it finds them smiling with a furrowed brow. Then, their gaze catches veil, horned skull, terrible third eye, and they know how they know you.
"The witness from the Blood Tree," they name you, "Mmm. I've never seen you anywhere but beneath a canopy."

You have emoted: From what Qelres would remember of Sibatti, they would easily note how much smaller the Azudim was before - this figure of his manages to cut a more foreboding shape if only because he carries himself with far less wiliness and grace. It's as if his whole presence is to stick out like a rude thumb, tall and slender and never once moves out of the way of anyone else, even though he's standing in the thoroughfare of a busy marketplace. "My wife keeps me busy," he answers Qelres. "But I felt the urge to make something out of oysters, so...." He finally eyes Qelres, giving them a look that's obscured by his own headdress, less skittering and animated than Qelres' own.

"Sugarface?" Qelres guesses. They are conversational, so much so that they draw near you, shoulder to shoulder like the two are having an outing together. Those shoulders, however, are stiffened against more than just the rain. The oysters are given the critical, wise glance of a Nazetu regarding seafood as salty as the blood in its own veins.

You have emoted: The nickname draws a snort from Sibatti's direction. For whatever reason, he doesn't show the same plain-faced repulsion of Qelres' presence but neither is he friendly. "Sugarface," he explains patiently, "Is only a friend who wanted to be something more. My spouse is named Lin. I don't know if you've met."

Qelres turns a wondering eye on you. "The heretic?" they question. The twist of their mouth is an odd thing, like a gasp and a laugh are both bitten back. Eyebrows lofted, they state, "Oh, I know them." With two fingers, they gesture for something within the fishmonger's stall. Coins are exchanged and they are presented with a sardine, and no small specimen at that; still, the dead thing fits neatly in one of their many-fingered hands. "It is strange, isn't it? How things are connected."

You have emoted: Sibatti has a way of almost never moving unless absolutely necessary; his neck will remain craned at the same angle, his frame still. Even his tail, which takes up far too much space for its own good, remains as some obstacle to be tripped over by a distracted passersby. His eyes follow the single sardine with marked interest, even if his head doesn't move an inch. "I don't follow."

Qelres's bends the fish between their hands and takes a bite, teeth tearing through scale, flesh and organs. A rounded hip finds rest on the counter of the stall and they lean there, chewing, as casual as anyone enjoying a treat on a festival day. Mouth half-full, they explain, "I think that your beloved and I share a bewitching." They swallow and smile. Silver flakes cling to the crevices of their teeth. "We are resisting an enamoring by the same beast."

You have emoted: The stare Sibatti gives Qelres is a heavy, downturned thing. Disappointment hangs over his visage in spades, a demeanor that budges even less than he budges physically. If anything voices a shift in mood, it is his voice itself, carrying a bit of an edge. "If you're referring to Chakrasul, I broke her of that years ago. There is no enamoring there."

Qelres scoops two fingers into some choice bit of the sardine's innards, shoveling the salty goo into their mouth and licking their fingernails clean. Lips smacking, they explain, "No. I mean Valdas." When they speak the name they make a low sound in their throat, something that is part purr and part whine. "A pale beast, cursed and magnificent. Night-crowned and moon-fanged, with eyes..." Here they lift a slick finger, touching it just above the dath on their forehead, marking the spot where your third eye lays. "Eyes that see more than your own do, I imagine."

You have emoted: "Then that would be a truly impressive feat--" Sibatti informs Qelres, sounding every bit as bored as he looks. "-- had I ever heard its name before this day."

Someone else would be taunting you. Qelres speaks with far too much earnestness for that. "Now you have," they enthuse, "You have its name, and you will know it if you see it. And you -should- see it." The corners of their eyes crease with real affection. "They are a splendid thing. The make of them is unlike any other."

You have emoted: "Then I'm -thrilled- you've finally found someone who will nibble the bugs right off your oily scalp," Sibatti says through a sigh, a mediocre congratulations spoken with reluctance. He slips a half-smoked cigarette between his lips and lights it, the weak venom-green paper wrapped around it protected from the damp by his veil. "If you've come seeking seduction tips, I'm afraid I wouldn't know where to start."

Qelres's scale studded smile does not so much as waver at the insults, those implied and those readily spoken. The bugs upon the Nazetu's oily scalp go about their business, oblivious to their addition to the conversation. "You don't know the first thing about it," they murmur, the lost tone in their phrase undermining the dogged indifference of that smile. What was worthwhile of the sardine has been devoured. The remainder slips from Qelres's hand, to lie upon the street as a meal for some lucky stray dog.

You have emoted: The perpetual exhale of minty smoke will eventually cause Sibatti to raise his chin and push the wall of his veil aside, leaving it to drape elegantly over either pointed end of his long horns. In the fading light of the deep afternoon on this street in Esterport, his features become more visible, but his expression no more clear. His stare lingers on Qelres, the thin smoke tucked into the corner of his perpetually-pouty lips. It lingers for a long time, longer than it has any right to be, given his clear opinion on their appearance.

Qelres is nothing so grand: their ugly face is slick with oil, nectar, and rain. Everything they wear is in the act of fading away, frayed and tarnished in turns, and insect eaten everywhere else. They meet that gaze with eyes that narrow into creased slits bound by waxy flesh. Behind folds of skin, the carnation hue flares like colored glass catching the light in just the right way - it is the only thing right about them. When they speak, it is in a voice too high-pitched for a creature so large, a rasping voice that already knows all the answers to the question it asks but must ask nevertheless. "What have I done to you?" The hail falls, drumming against awning and frantic crowd. It strikes their crown amid the stilled bodies of the swarm, who turn all thousand of their gazes upon Sibatti, resolute.

You have emoted: Sibatti's breath stops for a moment, the smoke trailing from his mouth thinning to a wire. Something tight at the corners of his eyes releases, and they manage to sink further still into unhappiness. The question puts an actual pause in him, in every way: eyes glassy, motionless, silent. A sudden twitch at the long thing behind him, soaking-wet feathers shaking off the wet, that stirs him back to life. His blink is slow, the thirdeye remaining open the entire time, and he keeps his eyelids low when he answers Qelres, eyes barely visible beneath thick lashes, "What have you done to me? What have -I- done to -you-?"

The answer gives them nothing and Qelres behaves accordingly: like someone who has been denied. Their chin lifts as they back step, boot heel crunching down on the exposed spine of the abandoned sardine. Their face turns away, but before it hides itself behind hair and coat collar, the way it scrunches up is readily visible. "Nothing," they answer, spoken as thick and heavy as someone retching up a slug, "Nothing. Of course not. I was mistaken. I thought we were a kind of-." They have enough good sense not to speak that word. They do not have the good sense to not turn the full of their wretched, confused, -desperate- visage back towards you.

You have emoted: Sibatti's hand reaches up to pluck the forgotten cigarette away, straightening out like a steel rod afterwards, a movement that jerks minutely throughout his entire frame. "What do you want?" The question would sound antagonistic in a different voice - with his, it's stripped away of any other interpretation beyond the tired, pure ask that it is. His primary eyes never move away from Qelres, his thirdeye shifting a few inches up over Qelres' forehead.

You think:
[He catches the taste of the air, feels the way the wind slithers around every shape, hears the lullaby of a sea of surrounding voices].

You think:
Aren't we kind of a.....?

Qelres's hideous mouth presses flat. "Strange connections," they say, an odd echo of the thing they spoke of earlier. Their head bows and they push sticky strands of thinning hair back behind both ears. Their hands rest when through, curled uselessly at either side of their throat. Eyebrows drawn low, they bite back that small vulnerability behind the baring of their teeth and declare, "I was wrong." The swarm, bid by some invisible signal, comes alive; those that can fly rush up in furious bounces of motion, arcing from one side of the Nazetu's crown to the other like a bustle of living static.

You think:
Don't you believe in fate?

You have emoted: "Hang on....." Sibatti extends an arm at Qelres' retreating form, though the entire animation is untrackably slow. His claws are out as an extension of his hand, curved and wicked and daring you to trust them. A weird twitch in the corner of his lips, and he bares his teeth in a smile that highlights his fangs. "Strange connections...." he says with the hint of dreamy fondness in his voice.

You think:
Something... something in here smells good.

"That's what I said," Qelres replies, bereft of trust. The swarm boils, giving the stillness of their unbreathing frame an energy it would not otherwise have. They linger, for now.

You have emoted: "For someone so forgotten, you want desperately for someone to hurt you." The remark is delivered deadpan by Sibatti.

"For someone so desired," Qelres responds, "You want desperately to hurt someone." They smile (at themself? at Sibatti?) and retreat, shoulders dipping in a gesture that is acknowledgement without being a true bow. The hail rattles away over those parting words. The darkness of the sodden market devours their figure.

The air seems to smell more fresh and light filters into the area as Qelres escapes to the west.


  • edited March 2021
    Look I just mind my own business and chomp whomever and whatever I like without regard to consequence :(

    Anyway, what a delightful read. Your guys' styles mesh very well. It reads like a true collaborative story rather than two writers trying to meet in the middle, which is usually how I feel about my own. Definitely something to be proud of! And eternal love for Qelres, who's always game--dare I say, delighted?--to butt heads and stir the pot and pick at scabs in interesting ways. My stinky trophy wife.
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