Encounters..

-

The Raveen was dead, and had been since the early hours of the morning. The threads of its life had been cut, and the frost of death had
already settled. Blood had long since stilled, and the three round wounds in the Raveen's forehead were no longer flooding with blood.

He hadn't died here. The drag marks on the dirt around the area could attest to that. He had been brought here, probably after his body
had been found. Being in the South, the corpse wouldn't be honored with burial. It would be left out in the open for the Demons or wildlife
to feast upon should they so desire.

Yet all the hours it had been out here, resting in the midday sun, not one creature had attempted to make a meal of the deceased. That
was odd, and left the living observer insanely confused. He was curious as to why the body hadn't been shredded in the jaws of a Demon
yet. Orcle knew there were enough hungry beasts in the area, and a lacking in food supply.

Demons should be leaping at the chance to sink their teeth in to this easy meal. So why weren't they?

The Raveen's silver eyes narrowed in thought as he stepped closer to the dead Raveen. Perhaps he could find answers if he examined
the body. His claws lengthened, and he reached out to touch the cold corpse. Just as his claws began to tear in to fur he pulled back, eyes
wide with shock.

Black fur was beginning to melt away from the body, revealing tiny black scales. Body mass was decreasing, and the skeleton of the
deceased shifting in to something smaller. Something not at all feline.

When at last the changes have stopped, and the black goop upon the ground has stopped spreading, the Raveen takes a cautionary step
forward. What was laying dead on the ground before him was no longer a Raveen, but very clearly a Demon. It had a compact build, with
clawed feet in the front and hooves in the back. A fin ran the length of its spine, ragged and shredded in many parts. Yet contrary to its
appearance, the Demon didn't look like a fighter. It only had two arachnid-like appendages jutting out from its shoulders, and they didn't
look that sharp.

Its reptilian head, with it's dual set of jaws, was still marred by the three holes. But that was the only similarity between the Raveen that had
once been before him. The Raveen had been a shell, a protective casing around the Demon inside.

Perhaps it was a mind-meddler. A Demon who sought to destroy the mind over the body. Probably a minion of Yenma, or Kajshi Muun.
Those were the primary members of The Seven who preferred to kill their enemies from the inside out.

But what would it be doing disguising itself as a Raveen in these parts?

The Raveen frowned, deep in thought. Silver eyes peered skyward, searching the clouds for answers. "What are you up to now,
Neiarishta?"

A red-marked black ear flicks back, focusing on the sounds of the area. Someone was approaching, and they weren't taking care to
conceal themselves. Zouu gazed off in to the trees expectantly, staying only long enough to catch sight of the Summoner as it emerged
through the break in the forest.

Without a word the Raveen vanishes, as silent as the calm wind.

...*...*...*...

Reaper's group was decidedly smaller than it had been when he first started out. Over half of his chosen group had been sent back to
their sanctuary by the Hunter, who was less than pleased by their lack of stealth abilities. Some were too loud, too obvious, or just annoyed
him for some reason or other.

He took his hunting seriously, perhaps a little too seriously, but wouldn't have someone messing it up. If he'd had his way it would have just
been him and Tarvuulf tracking the Doomcry together. The bleached Raveen had skill, and from their brief confrontation that skill had
apparently spilled over in to his speed. He almost reminded Reaper of the Doomcry in the way he so easily dodged his attacks, but the
difference was Reaper didn't completely loathe the Raveen. He could respect the other's skill, instead of out-right hating it.

Plus if he had been out with another hunter, he wouldn't have to deal with the amateur styles the others had to offer. Some were so
clueless when it came to tracking that they often strayed from Reaper's path, thinking they had found the Doomcry's trail. After one
incident where a Smoke and Hell had vehemently stood by their skills, and swore that they were following the right scent, Reaper had
indulged them only to show them that they had in fact not.

When they came across those two Demons feasting upon a crawler, the Smoke and Hell immediately hushed and apologized. Reaper
calmly asked them to leave.

The remaining amateurs were weeding out after that. For their lack of stealth, inability to stay quiet, and annoying way of exposing the
group to their enemies, they were sent home. Morgalis didn't object to the removal of the Raveens, because he was beginning to become
annoyed with them too. He should have known there was a reason for some of the warriors failing to bring back kills during their hunts.

After dealing with some of the Demons who had engaged them in battle, Reaper finally took a stand against the remaining Raveens.
Taking a deep breath he surveyed those that remained - Hatuu, Sen, Uunagari, Morgalis, and three others.

"Look." He drawled, letting the word hang in the air for as long as he could. "If one more Demon attacks us, that's it. I'll be going solo from
there on out, got it?"

There was a murmur of understanding.

"Good. I'm not used to hunting with a party anymore, especially one that is so.. varied.. in skill. So try to just stay invisible as you follow my
lead, alright? You don't want the Doomcry to know there's more than one of us coming for him."

"Are you following his trail?" Sen asked, curious as to whether Reaper had found the trail yet or not.

"Yeah." Reaper responded with a nod. "I caught on to him a few miles back. He's around here somewhere, it won't be long now. Just keep
quiet, watch your step, and prepare yourselves. No more questions."

Sen nodded lightly, before looking over to Uunagari who was raising a brow at the Hunter. It seemed that the bleached Raveen felt the
same way he did about the Hunter. Neither one of them was sure what to make of him, and whether or not he was really good at this
tracking thing. It had seemed the majority of their hunt so far had been spent targeting the weaker skilled in their own group.

Reaper motioned for the group to follow as he slunk off in to the tall grass. He weaved a path for the others to follow, hoping against hope
that they wouldn't make a racket as they passed through this area. It was the place where he had come across Tarvuulf last night, the
same place where he had lost the Doomcry's scent. But today the scent was fresh, and Reaper knew that the Doomcry had returned here.

...*...*...*...

Tarvuulf had chosen to follow his instincts, and not return to the place where Reaper was heading. Although the Doomcry's mountain scent
was coming from that direction, the bleached Raveen could also pick it up on the wind originating from the coast. In a single moment he
had decided to follow the less dominant trail, and was now leading his own group deeper in to Demon territory.

Where Reaper had sent most of his hunting party back, Tarvuulf had kept his together. Unlike the Hunter he had the advantage of knowing
the strengths of his followers, and the advantage of knowing no one would question his orders. They would obediently follow him in the
void of the Dark Abyss if he asked it of them, solely because none of them wanted to be on the receiving end of his anger.

He may look calm, even bored with the world, but the group knew better. Tarvuulf was a raging tsunami underneath that mask, and anyone
unlucky enough to break the hardened bonds of the disguise would be a dead Kat. It had happened once before, as the entirety of the
group could readily recall, when a young Raveen had attempted to change Tarvuulf's carefully laid plans. The moron had chosen to go on
ahead and strike the heart of the Demon's force on his own - a suicidal mission.

The Raveen reached the Demons just as Tarvuulf's plan was coming together, and spelt disaster for the rest of them. Those that managed
to escape the area were infuriated with the Raveen, who had been pulled out of the massacre by Tarvuulf himself. After suffering an
onslaught of verbal abuse from the bleached Raveen, he was found dead in the morning. No one really knew for sure if Tarvuulf had done
him in, but none were willing to take the chance.

So now as the bleached Raveen led the group closer to the coast, all they could do was trust his judgment and follow his instructions. Not
even Xauutyn was stupid enough to make scathing remarks to Kiya in the presence of the second in-command. The two were already on
fragile ground after having their spout in the cavern witnessed by Tarvuulf.

In perfect silence the group moved through the dead forest, keeping to the shadows and low to the ground. They could see Demons in this
area, but they were acting strangely. Instead of the crazed beasts that the group had grown accustomed to over the past several weeks,
they were acting calm and collected. They were acting normal.

Tarvuulf observed them silently as he came to a stop at the base of a hunched-over tree. The Demons were milling about the area, each
with a red crystal wrapped around their neck. The crystals were glowing and flickering like cooling embers fresh from the fire. He had never
seen crystals like that before, especially not upon a Demon.

It left an odd feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. Something wasn't right about these Demons, and those crystals made him fearful of
them. Not one to ignore his instincts, the bleached Raveen began to backtrack. He didn't want to risk an encounter with that group.

Kiya followed silently, not sure why Tarvuulf had suddenly decided to go back the way they just came. Sure she had seen movement
ahead of the group, but they were a large enough number that they would've been able to fight and overcome that obstacle. So why was
Tarvuulf fleeing from them?

Little did she know that soon, she would have her answer.

...*...*...*...

It was a number of hours later when Reaper returned to the cavern with his group. The hunt had been unsuccessful. They hadn't found the
Doomcry, but they had come across a Demon's body that was surrounded by the mountain scent. The trail had ended there, and Reaper
knew it would be pointless to try and pick it up again so close to nightfall.

The Demon body was examined briefly, and Reaper informed that the forehead wound was the same as it was for the two others. Three
holes, each an inch apart, were cleanly cut through the skull. Death had likely been instantaneous for the creature.

Reaper had frowned at the forehead marks, but when asked about his sudden shift in attitude he had just said it was because he didn't like
seeing dead bodies. No one thought to question him further, all knowing that the sight of a dead creature - Demon or Raveen alike - wasn't
something to be happy over. Uunagari did, however, make the comment that he was glad the Doomcry wasn't just killing Raveens.

Now they were back in the cavern, resting their sore paws as they ate the small amount of food they had managed to catch on their way
back. The group was quiet and somber from the long day, all feeling varying levels of disappointment at their failed hunt. Since they had
been unsuccessful on their first try, they would have to go out again tomorrow.

No one was looking forward to spending another day with Reaper. He had grown increasingly more obnoxious as the day wore on, gaining
a holier-than-thou attitude with the group he was leading. Morgalis wasn't at all impressed with it, and had on many occasions done
something just to remind Reaper who was in command here.

But it did little to knock Reaper from his throne. He clung to it savagely, and went out of his way to make everyone else feel like dirt
beneath his paws. He wouldn't be outdone by Morgalis or anyone else.

They were all despising the idea of having to go through that again.

As they ate silently, some secretly wished the flesh they were tearing in to belonged to the Hunter.

Not long after finishing their meals, Tarvuulf's group returned. When one of the Raveens in the cavern gasped and said something about
blood, all conversation ceased. Sen turned his attention to the entranceway, where the group of Raveens were filing in. Streaks of crimson
were still running fresh down many of the group's fur, originating from deep cuts and grazes.

Tarvuulf had a streak of crimson on his body, running the entire length of his right side. Against his bleached fur the red looked all the
more threatening. Kiya had a number of small cuts on her chest, which were still leaking small trails of crimson down her body. Xauutyn was
the most startling of all.

He was missing an eye.

"What happened?!" Morgalis was up on his paws in a heartbeat.

"We had a run-in with some Demons." Tarvuulf replied, with his usual air of calm.

"For a Demon attack, you're all looking a bit worse for wear." Uunagari commented, one of his brows raising.

"It wasn't ya average attack. They set a trap on us." Xauutyn said, sneering beneath the crimson that was still flooding from the empty eye
socket. "Bloody set us up for that one, they did."

"Do explain." Morgalis was looking over the wounds of each Raveen, but his attention stayed longer upon Kiya.

"I was tracking the scent of the Doomcry near the coast. We came upon an area where Demons were lurking. They were acting normal. Not
crazed like they should be. I knew something wasn't right when I saw they all had crystals around their necks. We turned back, only to be
forced to change directions once more." Tarvuulf said.

"Then we.. we.. Found them. Cubs.. The bastards. They killed a group of cubs right before our eyes." Kiya's voice was trembling as tears
threatened to spill. "Just tore them apart.. Like they were nothing. They wanted us to see... To watch them do that."

Sen was now on his paws as well, and frowning at the group of battered warriors. It would seem his role had been switched with Kiya's
previous one, for now he was the one worried about her. He slowly began to make his way through the crowd of Raveens.

"After they killed them they turned on us. We were surrounded before we even realized it. Then-" The violet-eyed Ash fell silent
immediately, knowing that Tarvuulf wouldn't want him to say anymore. He could feel the piercing gaze of the bleached Raveen on him, a
warning digging in to his flesh. "We got the hell out of there." He finished.

"The Demons are working together again, Morgalis. If we needed anymore proof that something was about to happen - we have it now."
Tarvuulf looked to Morgalis, his yellow eyes narrowed. "What will you have us do?"

Morgalis was silent as he contemplated his answer to that. He had been so focused on finding the Doomcry that he had forgotten about
the Demons. With this attack, it seemed he would have to shift his focus back to them. "The Demons wish to start war on us once more..
We will find out why."

It was barely visible, but Tarvuulf and a few members of his hunting party were frowning at that answer. They had hoped for something
more from the Raveen. Not just a declaration that they would be seeking answers again.

Kiya sniffled before raising her green eyes to glare at Morgalis. "Is that all you can say? They nearly killed us.. Made us watch that horrible
scene.. And you just want us to go back out there and find out answers?! They'll kill us for sure!"

"Kiya."

"Don't Kiya me. You know something is up. You know the Demons aren't just playing around anymore. How can you just calmly stand there
and tell us that we need to just go back out there! We know we need answers. For Nilerna's Sake, Morgalis, we know that! But what I don't
understand is how can you be so calm about all of this?"

"We can't do much of anything without answers first, Kiya."

"Just shut up about answers already!" She could feel the tears finally escaping from her eyes, but she didn't care. All she cared about was
making Morgalis understand that they - she - just couldn't go back out there as if this horrible day hadn't happened.

"Please understand me, Kiya. I don't want to plot an attack against them until I know what it is they're after. I need answers before I can
proceed with anything. You know that."

"Then why don't you go out there yourself and find them?! We both know you can!"

"That's enough Kiya. I have said my piece. We will seek answers to this tomorrow." Morgalis' tone was deadly in it's finality.

"Yeah, WE'LL find answers to this. You never do this dangerous stuff yourself - YOU COWARD. Stop sending us out there like we're your
little pawns to be played! We're just as much living as you are!" Kiya turned sharply and made a quick retreat up the entranceway,
oblivious to the concerned looks of the other Raveens in the cavern.

Uunagari watched the Raveeness dash up the exit, not sure what to make of the outburst. He could tell Kiya had been hurt by the day's
events, but this wasn't like her. Something else must have happened.

Sen was the only one to follow Kiya outside.
.The Downward Spiral.