...of the Distasteful Kind.

-

Kiya settled herself down under a make-shift cave made from two fallen trees. It wasn't far from the sanctuary, maybe a good twenty feet
from it's entrance, so she should be alright for now. If a Demon were to come at her again, seeking to once more spill her crimson life on
the ground, she would at least have a good chance of being heard. She'd scream for help, and hope that someone would hear her.

She knew that if they did the group wouldn't hesitate in coming to her aid. They were like family to one another. When one of them was in
danger, they all ran to the other's side and tackled the enemy together. Two hours ago that truth had come in to play once more, when the
hunting party found themselves under siege from Demons. They didn't scatter, or try to save just themselves.

And that was probably why they had held out as long as they did. If they had attempted solo escapes, no one would have made it back
here. Outside help or not, they would've been bloody piles of organs and bone on the ground.

Part of her wondered if they had all died whether Morgalis would of cared. She wanted to believe the Raveen capable of such emotion, but
something told her that he'd probably just shrug it all off. He did only see the group of warriors under his tutelage as pawns.

It was a mystery why any of them even remained with him. After all of this time he hadn't changed. He left all the dangerous jobs up to the
others, and took a back seat in all of it. The Raveen simply dictated what they were to do, how they were to do it, and reaped the benefits
of their success. He didn't cry for their loses, but he sure as hell did get angry when they failed.

He was a jerk. Worse than Xauutyn could ever be. And Kiya was sorry that she even cared anymore.

"Are you alright Kiya?" Sen's soft voice startled her out of her private reverie. She whirled around to look at the ebony Raveen, his glowing
mane acting like a beacon in the dark.

Grinning through her tears the Raveeness takes in the worried look on the Guardian's features. "I guess it was only a matter of time before
it was your turn to ask that."

Sen forced a faint grin as he took a seat beside the bleached Raveeness. His eyes briefly trailed over the blade and shield still strapped to
her back, absently noting the lack of blood on the blade. "Indeed, but tell me Kiya, are you alright?"

"I.. I will be." Kiya said with a nod, as she tried to wipe the tears from her cheeks with the back of a paw. "Just.. Please.. Stay with me for a
bit?"

The Guardian nodded a silent acceptance of the request. He made himself more comfortable by lying down on the ground, his wings still
held firmly at his sides. "I won't go anywhere."

Both of them fell in to a companionable silence, broken only by the occasional sniffle from Kiya. The Raveeness moved a little closer to
Sen, finding comfort in his presence. And for a long time the two stayed like that, until at long last Kiya's tears had dried completely and
she was willing to speak again.

"Morgalis.. Is my Brother." Kiya began, looking down at the dirt in front of her tear-stained paws. She had no idea why she was telling Sen
this. "He's always been the way he is now. A leader, not a follower. He likes to make up his own rules, but he doesn't take risks. Never
takes risks."

Sen quietly turned to look upon Kiya, whose eyes were beginning to glaze over in remembrance. He said nothing, only listened silently. He
hadn't known Kiya and Morgalis were related.

"Before he was born my Mother heard a prophecy that spoke of two connected souls that would be separated by the tainted Moon. One
would grow up to weave a world of evil. The other would stand against him.

She gave birth to twins shortly after hearing that Seer's warning, and.. They were separated, Sen. Two souls which should be closely
connected, with an unbreakable bond that can overcome anything, were separated. Nokoruu was born before the Eclipse was complete,
but Morgalis.. He was brought in to life after the Eclipse had implemented itself. He was born a Child of the Orcle. Our Mother died giving
birth to him, killed by the very mutation the Eclipse had given my Brother.

I would call it a curse, as would Nokoruu and my Father. But Morgalis.. He views his mutation as a gift." Kiya fell silent briefly, biting her lip
to stop the threat of more tears before they could make their way to her eyes.

"His power.. his gift.. It was the ability to kill by touch. When he was taken from us by that violet light before the end of the Eclipse.. We
were thankful. My Father especially, for he had no idea how to raise a cursed cub. Nokoruu was completely unaffected by the Eclipse,
completely normal. But when Morgalis was taken.. we knew that even though the Eclipse separated them, the two shared a twin connection.

It was after that when I heard of the prophecy from my Father. My Mother had told him of it before the twins were born, hoping to make
sense of the words. She had thought it a metaphorical saying of some kind. I'm sure wherever she is now, she's realized that it probably
meant just what it said.

A few months passed and I helped my Father deal with Nokoruu. He was restless, and often asked us why he felt as if he was missing
something important. He always looked so lost, so weak.. One day he just vanished.. And my Father grew hysterical as we tried to find him.

We never did. Not together, anyway. My Father was killed in the Demon attacks here in the South, along with many others. It was a number
of months before I came across a Raveen with a startling likeness to the Brother I still blamed for my Mother's death.

Having already lost Nokoruu, I didn't want to chance losing my last remaining Brother. He seemed to know me, and we accepted each
other's company. Not once did he ask about our parents. Not once did he question Nokoruu's whereabouts.

All he ever wanted to know was what was happening in this world. Who was in power. When I told him about the Demons, something
seemed to change in him. I didn't know him well enough to pinpoint exactly what that change was, but he began to gather Raveens
together.

Thinking back on that now.. It was odd how Morgalis gathered them all. He just sort of knew who to go to. It was as if he knew exactly who
was going to be in his faction before he even thought of the idea. Everyone was selected before Morgalis even knew their names.. " Kiya
trailed off, shaking her head.

"I should have known something was off about the way he did all that. It just wasn't right for someone new to our world to be so.. lucky when
it came to seeking help. If I were to go out and request help from complete strangers, I would've been denied by at least one. Morgalis was
never denied."

"Did he threaten them?" Sen spoke, his tone cautious.

"No." She shook her head. "He never did resort to that sort of thing. All he ever did was ask them."

Sen didn't quite know what to say to all of this. By the sounds of it Morgalis had already chosen his warriors before even setting eyes on
them. "Is he.."

"A Seer?" Kiya frowned. "I don't know."

Once more the two fell silent, but only for a short pause. Kiya began to speak again.

"Promise me you won't tell anyone what I'm about to tell you." She turned to meet Sen's gaze, her features suddenly serious. There was no
fear, no sadness, just a numb determination in her eyes.

"You can trust me Kiya. If you don't want me to share any of this, I won't." Sen replied honestly.

"Thank-you." Kiya offered a ghost of a smile at that. "Tonight, when those Demons attacked us.. We had help to get away. Without that
intervention, we would have all died. You see, Sen, we were saved by the..."

Sen found himself suddenly very interested in her next words. He listened carefully, frowning at the information she was telling him.

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


From his perch in the oddly strong upper branches of a dead tree, he was allowed a full view of the activities below. Just along the edge of
the coast, where a clearing was naturally formed between the tree line and cliffs, Neophytes were painting the cleared rock with blood.
They weren't decorating the place for show, anyone could guarantee that.

Their strokes weren't random. In just under an hour the summoners of The Great Evil had painted three perfect circles upon the clearing.
Each was surrounded with five different symbols, that Zouu could only recognize as 'Demon Scratch'. Even if he had been up close, there
was very little chance he would've been able to read it.

Whatever their purpose behind these circles, they were important. Demons were setting up guard along the tree line, and the Neophytes
were whispering chants. The aroma of blood was growing steadily stronger, and Zouu was feeling overwhelmed by the coppery odor.

Teleporting off to another sturdy-looking branch higher up, the Raveen returns to his observation of the Demons. It was too soon to leave.
He hadn't learned anything of their plans yet.

As more summoners filed in to the clearing, the red-marked ebony Raveen leaned forward expectantly. What he saw, however, nearly
made him stumble out of the tree. Neiarishta was now in the gathering, and she was looking right at him. Even from this far away, Zouu
could feel the sickening smirk upon the Great Evil's face.

Deciding that he's tempted fate for long enough, the Raveen makes a hasty retreat from the area.

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

The next morning came with Sen feeling even more exhausted than he should. It was true he had spent several hours speaking with Kiya
after her outburst, but he had managed to re-enter the cavern and succumb to sleep. He shouldn't feel as if he had been hit by a Zethn's
tail.

Stretching out his aching muscles the Guardian cracked open an eye, and took in the morning sight of the cavern. He couldn't even
remember how long he had been here now. It seemed like forever since he left on his journey to find replacement Guardians and instead
found himself trapped here.

The other Raveens were just beginning to awaken. Their yawns seemed to echo across the too-quiet cavern as everyone slowly came
back in to the conscious world. Many were looking just as sore and tired as Sen was feeling. Perhaps no one had gotten a truly restful
sleep during the night.

As he continued his lazy scan of the cavern's occupants, he noticed that Kiya wasn't in her normal sleeping spot. In response to this
realization, he suddenly notices the extra weight from his left wing. With his ears flicked back in uncertainty the Guardian shifts around to
find out why.

Kiya was resting against his partially outstretched wing, the ebony feathers making a mock pillow over the smooth rocks. She was looking
entirely too comfortable, and Sen didn't have the heart to wake her. Pulling the wing away was also out of the question.

Resigned to his current predicament the Guardian makes himself as comfortable as possible. Kiya was bound to wake up soon, anyway.

During his second sweep of the cavern Sen takes a closer look at everyone. The Ash from last night was gingerly soaking his paws in the
blue pool, probably trying to relieve the pain from all the running that took place yesterday. Xauutyn was walking aimlessly around the
cavern, his steps wobbly and uneven as tried to cope with the loss of his left eye. It would probably be several days before the Purgatory
would be walking close to normal again.

Hatuu, the Smoke, was conversing quietly with two Raveens Sen hadn't had the chance to speak with. They were both from Kiya's group,
and nursing various wounds. All three looked depressed by whatever topic they were sharing. Across and to the back of them, right next to
the cavern entrance, was Tarvuulf. His wound had stopped bleeding, but it looked like the bleached Raveen hadn't cared enough to
remove the dried blood from his fur yet.

As a matter of a fact, Sen actually remembered the Raveen having been in that same place and position when he had returned last night
with Kiya. The flickering of yellow eyes carefully studying the occupants of the cavern was the only sign that the Raveen was still among
the living. But if what Kiya had told him last night was true, then it was likely Tarvuulf hadn't even slept the previous night. He knew if he
had been told those things about someone he trusted, he wouldn't have been able to let his guard down either.

Reaper was sitting with Uunagari, with the latter looking bored of whatever subject Reaper was babbling about. Morgalis was no where to
be seen, but that wasn't new. The Raveen usually wasn't around the early hours of the morning.

"Mm.. Morning Sen." Kiya greeted with a stretch and gentle yawn. "Hope you didn't mind me using your wing like this."

"Good Morning Kiya." The Guardian returned, thankful for the chance to finally stretch out his now aching wing.

The Raveeness rose to her paws and stretched out her legs and back. Once that was done she re-seated herself, and looked around the
cavern. "No one knows where he goes," she said, answering Sen's unvoiced question from a few minutes ago. "Just that he always comes
back."

And with the last waking Raveen in the cavern, Morgalis did arrive back. Kiya mumbled something about 'Right on time', before she
retreated to the back of the cave to retrieve her blade and shield.

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

Somehow Reaper had convinced Morgalis to allow him another try at the Doomcry. Through a private conversation with him, where it
sounded a lot like Reaper was whining with the younger Raveen, they came to an agreement. Reaper would be able to take three Raveens
out on the hunt again.

Through some form of punishment, Sen had ended up being asked to go in that group. Too tired to fight with the decision he had simply
followed along with it. He was now wandering through the familiar forest once again, only Uunagari and Tarvuulf privy to his pain. Neither
one of them had wanted to come along either.

Tarvuulf had tried to weasel his way out of the hunt, not wanting to have anything to do with it. Reaper and the others had thought it
because Tarvuulf wanted another chance at the Demons, but Sen knew better. The bleached Raveen had a pretty damn good reason for
not wanting to hunt the Doomcry.

A reason which he, of course, didn't want to share with the entire group in the cavern. So he had accepted defeat and also gone along with
the small group. Uunagari simply had not wanted to spend anymore time with Reaper. (No one could really blame him for that.)

And now the four Raveens were scaling the forest once again, with Reaper and Tarvuulf following the scent of the Doomcry. Sen and
Uunagari followed quietly behind, keeping their eyes open for trouble.

Little did they know that trouble would seek them out in the form of a certain Corrupted Mage.

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

Shura emerged from the shadows of mutated tree, cutting both Hunters off from further following the Doomcry's trail. Her red on white eyes
roamed over the small group of four, who seemed to freeze upon the sight of her. She smirked behind her concealing mask, knowing that
she was going to enjoy this.

"Shura?!" The Guardian, whom Shura had known was in the South, was looking shell-shocked. Apparently the Magic hadn't expected to
run in to her again so soon. Who could blame him, though. The last time they parted ways it had looked as if she was being taken to an
execution by Erabuus.

That is my name, yes. She replied cheekily.

Reaper and Tarvuulf were both examining the Mage, probably trying to size her up. They were fools if they thought they'd be able to take
her in a fight.

"I thought you were-"

I assure you, I am very much alive. She responded, having already anticipated the question.

"Can we help you with something?" Reaper spoke up, his emerald eyes narrowing.

Oh, I hope so.

The Hunter was surprised by that response, but the lag in his reply was only a split-second. "And what would you be seeking help for?"

I have information for you. Information that I think you will find very, she paused for dramatics, Disturbing.

Sen's eyes were already glaring out their distrust of the Corrupted Mage. He had been betrayed by her far too often to accept that she
didn't have ulterior motives now. "Just what are you up to Shura?"

The usual, Guardian. But I don't have time to fill you in on my everyday life. She'll notice my absence if I don't return soon. The Corrupted
Mage was still smirking, although no one would be able to tell. Her eyes only glimmered with carefully crafted hope.

"What have you to share?" It was Tarvuulf's turn to sound suspicious now.

The Great Evil is seeking to remove everyone from this world that doesn't have a direct blood link to the land. She plans to kill the Shades
in a single night's time with an old ritual. The Shades have been gone for so many generations, that She is hoping that a large chunk of
their forces will be killed by this magic.

"And why are you telling us this?" Sen asked.

Because this ritual hasn't been done before. She could in fact kill us all along with the Shades. There is far too much room for error for my
liking. I am not capable of stopping Her, but I've every faith that you will be able to overcome what I have not and find a way to stop Her
before it's too late.

Sen was silent for a moment, trying to digest this information. Shura asking for help? It wasn't like her. "Where is this ritual to take place?"

On the coast. She has all Her summoners there now. After tonight the Moons will be aligned for the ritual, and She will go through with it.
She doesn't care about the risks.

The group was silent. No one knew whether to believe the Corrupted Mage or not.

You can heed my warning, and try to take action against Her, or not. My conscious will be clear knowing that I at least came to you for help.
Shura left no further chance for comment, deciding to end the conversation there. She teleported back to the coast, where her demonic
gaze fell upon the glowing crimson circles.

"Perfect." She purred in to her mask.
.The Downward Spiral.