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To Hunt and Trap A Beast

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Such ferocity, such... tenacity.

Zenos Yae Galvus was a man who wasn't shy about taking what he wanted. He never asked permission, never waited for consent. He took what he pleased, and what he pleased was the male standing before him. Weapon drawn, eyes furious and focused on nothing but him. Zenos felt a tug, as if drawing him to the marvelous beast before him. No one had defied him so vehemently, no one had been strong enough. But this creature was made to be hunted, to be trapped and trained. How glorious would it be to have him fighting with him, at his side, instead of flailing around with rabble who couldn't begin to utilize the full extent of his true power?

Like a mother bird watching the young fledgling take flight for the first time, Zenos had seen the warrior before him spread his wings, only to bare his talons and come right back for a killing blow. Ah, what a glorious sight, and such an invigorating battle that could come between the two of them. The beast before him had bathed in blood, in the death of his enemies in order to gain power, to finally be on even grounds with Zenos himself. Such dedication aught to be rewarded, and while he reveled in the idea of hunting the warrior before him down like the magnificent animal he was, Zenos found himself entertaining yet another idea that he found equally as invigorating.

What would it take to train such a fascinating creature? What kind of chains would be required to keep him by his side, rabid and furious and oh so alluring?

   "It fills you even now, doesn't it? The hunger. To bite down on my jugular, to feel the warmth fill your mouth and run over even as you drink deep. Good, good! This is the beast I have longed to face!" Zenos crowed, blue eyes elated to see the warrior before him tense, hands tightening on his weapon as realization dawned upon him that the hunt was nothing more than a manic game to the Garlean. A tense jaw, and those eyes... Like a prowling predator, watchful and just waiting for the chance to strike. And strike he shall, but would it be enough? Zenos was not without his tricks after all, and any hunter knows that a good trap is one of the best ways to capture his prey. Much like... A smile stretched across thin lips.

A step back, then another, and then Zenos was retreating into the shadows of the darkened hall behind him. He knew that the eikon-slayer would follow, as he was wont to do many times before without waiting for reinforcements. Sure enough he heard footsteps, fast and light as boots hit the stone floor. Light, agile, strong. The perfect prey. Zenos almost licked his lips in anticipation for what was to come.

As he stepped out of the dark hall and into the warm sunlight that graced the Royal Menagerie, the sound of electricity crackling seemed out of place in the serene garden. It had once been filled with animals from across the sea, rare in the lands of Eorzea. But Zenos... had found them tedious, boring even. Nothing like the two creatures that were within it now, those light footsteps coming to a standstill behind him. Weapon no doubt still drawn, ready to strike him down. But Zenos knew the creature he hunted more than anyone knew. He knew that the Resistance favored talking and negotiating over action. He knew without a doubt that the supposed hero at his back would give him the benefit of the doubt...

Sure enough, the tell tale sign of a weapon being sheathed met his ears, and ever so slowly he turned to face his newest acquisition. Bright eyes, so full of fire before, were now focused in disbelief to the sky above him. Disbelief, and a little fear. Interesting, was the legendary eikon-slayer truly afraid of his favored pet? The dragon was wrapped around itself, contained within the magitek force field until which time he deigned it to be released. The hero before him was looking between him and the dragon, as if trying to decide who was the truer threat. Ah, if only he knew. He would not have been so negligent to come alone then.

   "Welcome to the Royal Menagerie." Zenos greeted, a small smile on his lips as he watched those bright eyes snap back to him, all attention focused back to him. Ah, wonderful, those eyes should always be watching him. Wary, defiant. He wanted them, more than anything he's wanted in the world. Someone equal to his power, nay, more powerful if properly trained. Those fools in the Resistance had no idea of the weapon they held within their ranks. But Zenos did, he knew the potential for destruction, the sheer power contained within one small being. Glorious, ferocious... and it will be his. One way or another he will claim what was his, and so he began to talk, to distract the hero while he gathered the Resonant energy within his being. Explaining how the Echo would be utilized, to control. To manipulate the primals he so prided himself in defeating.

   "I know you understand this." Zenos all but cooed towards the warrior. "You and I are one and the same." He added, delighting in the look of distaste and denial directed his way. Oh, did the beast think that they were nothing alike? How adorable. "You live for these moments, when all hangs in the balance. When the difference between life and death is but a single stroke."

The warrior faltered slightly before him, alarm flickering through those defiant eyes. Ah, now he was beginning to notice it. Zenos lifted his weapon, pointing it at the warrior who took a defensive step back, his hand moving instinctively to his weapon. He did not draw it though, the hesitation clear in his gaze as he contemplated Zenos' words. "I live for them too. This is who we are my friend! This is all we are! Ala Mhigo and Doma and Garlemald be damned!" He yelled, a grin stretching across his lips, pale blue eyes wild with fevered elation at seeing the creature before him become conflicted.

Zenos lowered his weapon, and the warrior relaxed somewhat, eyes once again narrowing in distrust. "Together..." Zenos started, seeing those shoulders tense up. Shoulders so used to carrying the failures of others, the shortcomings of comrades and the weight of others problems. Ah, so strong, but so naive. "Together, we could while away the quiet hours...." He continued, his weapon lowered still as he took a small step closer. Again those hands went for a weapon, but did not draw. "As friends and confidant, if you will accept me." Zenos continued, and he knew the trap had been set. No matter the answer, this marvelous creature was his.

In but a flash, Zenos was on the warrior before he could react, his sword flashing in the warm light of a setting sun before the sound of steel hitting steel echoed across the otherwise empty menagerie. The warrior had barely managed to draw his weapon to block Zenos' attack, not that it would have killed him. Zenos knew that his newest pet wouldn't die so easily, and that's what he was counting on. Wrapping his other hand around the male's throat, Zenos lifted him with ease, his eyes flashing from their cold blue to the violent eyes of a Resonant. He watched, and felt, the fear crawl through the so called Warrior of Light, the slayer of Bahamut, the Liberator of Doma, and he had never felt so alive before that moment. He pushed, feeling the will of the Echo coming from the warrior fighting back, and he knew he didn't have the strength to shatter it. But he could overwhelm it, starve it, blight it until it staggered.

And stagger it did, the sheer force of Zenos' Resonance tearing at the warrior's own Echo until something gave. With his lack of training, it wasn't long before the warrior's weapon slipped from his fingers, and the once struggling body went still, limp in his grasp. Feeling a pleased smile stretch over his lips, Zenos laid the warrior down in the field of flowers and sheathed his sword before kneeling to lift the unconscious figure into his arms.

   "Sleep well beast, I expect a fight when you awaken." He purred, carrying his newest prize back into the darkened halls of the Palace, intending to leave this place to the dogs. Let them have their victory, he had what he wanted after all. Pausing at the door, he looked back to Shinryu, locked within its cage. He'll send for an air carrier to take the dragon somewhere where the Resistance mutts couldn't get their filthy hands on it, for he wasn't quite done with the massive creature just yet. But time was ticking, and he should like to get his warrior to a place that was a little more accommodating for what he had planned next.

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The heavy thrum of a churning engine rumbled the floor beneath his feet, the smell of oil and smoke clinging thickly in the air. Zenos didn't particularly care for travel by Garlean airship, having spent much too long aboard them, but it certainly was much swifter than traveling by land or sea. Though the skies did have their dangers, they were much lesser than those below. It did give him ample time to relax all the same however, to enjoy the view and revel in his victory. He wondered if those mangy curs realized what they had lost in their attempt to liberate Ala Mhigo. In their desperation to reclaim a piece of land, they lost a dear friend and a very important ally.

The Garlean prince felt a pleased smile tug his lips upwards as he headed for his quarters. He wondered if his newest pet was awake yet, the male was not one to stay down for long. Their skirmish in Rhalgr's Reach was a testament to that. Even brutally beaten with nary an effort, the warrior had still staggered to his feet to continue fighting. That was when Zenos had first taken interest in him, to see how he cultivated after bathing in the blood and death of his enemies. Zenos would need to think of a better way to keep the beast subdued though, he wouldn't be able to use the same tricks for long. His pet did seem to have the annoying habit of adapting to his surroundings to survive. But it should keep him entertained for some time to create different ways of making his warrior behave.

Brushing long strawberry blond strands back over his shoulders, he hummed the Garlean anthem under his breath as he returned to his quarters. He's had that song stuck in his head for days now, damn his men for singing it so incessantly. Zenos had stripped himself of his armor upon taking leave of Ala Mhigo, content with the idea that the rebel dogs would be too preoccupied with savoring their so called victory over the Empire that they would be well out of reach before any of them noticed the missing member of their ranks. That was to say though that he was not entirely defenseless. Even now he wore his blade holster, should the Eorzean's make the mistake of coming for their hero all the same.

He heard banging as he got closer and closer to his private quarters, an amused smile stretching his lips even wider. The beast was awake, how wonderful. Pressing his hand to the locking mechanism to open the door, it slid open with a heavy hiss, the banging immediately ceasing within. Keen blue eyes roamed around the rather lavishly decorated quarters, magitek lights swathing the room in a soft blue glow. The deep reds of the furniture seemed almost black in the light, making everything seem more sinister, more eerie. But then again he had left the lights low when he left, wanting to leave his creature as disoriented as possible. Stepping into the room and letting the door slide shut behind him, he moved his gaze past the massive bed along the right wall, the chaise and lounge couches to the left, and straight ahead was a dark box. A cage, containing one of the rarest creatures in existence. Usually they keep the dogs in these cages, but it had seemed appropriate to make use of one to contain his newest pet until he could devote the time to begin his training.

The figure in the cage seemed to glow in the dim blue light, naked skin sleek to the touch and bared to his gaze. Upon reaching the ship Zenos had taken it upon himself to rid the warrior of his armor and weaponry, not wishing for any unpleasant surprises in the near future. He had marveled for a time, while the form was still prone and still beneath him. But he preferred it when it fought back, defied him and gave him a challenge. Ah, he couldn't wait. Those eyes, so bright and full of fury. They watched him from the depths of the cage now, glaring with that rebellious flame that had captivated him back in Rhalgr's Reach. The other animals he had cut down so easily, they had barely gotten a passing glance. But this one had stood out so brightly among the others and he knew that he would either have it for himself, or destroy it in its entirety. Both outcomes he desired so desperately.

   "You're awake. Good, good. How did you sleep?" Zenos asked condescendingly, his smile stretching wider as he saw those bright eyes narrow in anger. Still humming the tune of the anthem under his breath, Zenos adjusted the light level in the room and watched with glee as the warrior struggled not to react to the sudden sensitivity to light. He took this time to marvel at his captive before him, locked behind metal bars in a cage decidedly too small. Ah but it was the best he could do in such short notice, he'll have a more flexible means of containment prepared soon enough. His gaze devoured the sight of naked flesh all the same, unmarred by the scars one would think the warrior would have after so many battles with the primals themselves. But it remained smooth, soft and tempting to touch. Zenos' marveling gaze turned hungry and step by step he approached the cage. The creature contained within shrunk back instinctively, keen eyes flicking from Zenos face to the weapon holster at his side. Ah, so there was still fight left within him, even so soon after being defeated in the Menagerie. He wanted to see what his beast would do, how he would choose to respond if he just...

Reaching over, Zenos sprung the lock on the cage door. The reaction was instantaneous. The warrior shoved the door open, the strength and agility hindered slightly after being curled up for so long. Those long legs shuddered with the first few steps, but the warrior continued on. Lunging, reaching for one of the weapons hanging at Zenos' side, but the prince had been waiting for it. A large hand reached out, curling into hair far softer than it looked, and he yanked it back. A pained yell ripped free from full lips, typically silent save for a few choice words in the time since they met. Usually so stoic, never saying more than was necessary. Zenos felt the spread of warmth pass through him at the sound, any sound, coming free of those lips from an action he brought.

Bringing the warrior to a halt by his hair, Zenos forced him to the ground and wrenched his head back, baring a long and beautifully unmarked throat. He would change that, in time. The creature would bear his mark, many of them. But for now, a little dominance needed to be asserted. The sharp ring of a steel blade being drawn had the struggling form before him going still, those eyes flicking from his blade upwards to meet his gaze. He pressed the edge to that delicate throat, applying barely enough pressure to split the skin and cause a few minuscule drops of blood to well up along the sides, the crimson of the blade itself seeming dull to the rich color of that blood.

   "Now now, lesser beasts snap and howl. They spit and claw in desperation for survival, barely capable of maintaining the struggle before something higher on the food chain comes along and snaps the very life from them." He all but purred, watching the reluctant surrender well up in those defiant eyes. But not completely, that fire remained. Oh, if only he knew what to describe this feeling as. Yes, hate him more. Despise him, wish him dead. Give him the fight he desired more than anything, and when that fight proved not to be enough, Zenos will take this creature's utter surrender in every way imaginable.

That lithe body went limp, arms dropping to hang at his sides, and the warrior went still. Understanding that now was not the time to fight back like a mindless beast. Zenos all but purred at the sight, knowing the warrior had come to the same conclusion. It was foolish to try to fight him now. Still weak, disoriented and unarmed. Not to mention, with the hum of the engine and the sound of pressurized steam, it wasn't hard to surmise that he was surrounded by Garlean forces. He would need to bide his time and wait for the right time to strike. Well, Zenos would just need to keep him busy to prevent such a time from coming to pass.

Tightening his grip in that silky soft hair, Zenos lifted and dragged the so called Warrior of Light across the room, reveling in the sharp yelp of pain the act tore from those otherwise silent lips. Zenos did plan to have those lips begging sooner or later, but he would accept what little he could drag from them for now. With little effort, he tossed the male onto the bed and immediately followed suit, his tall form practically dwarfing the one below him. Straddling his prey's hips, Zenos flipped the blade in his hand and plunged it down into the mattress beside the warrior's head, smirking when the wriggling form under him jolted and went incredibly still. The deep red satin duvet shredded easily under the sharpness of his sword, the black silk sheets as well. Those eyes twitched between the blade a mere inch from his head, then up to the Garlean prince above. Zenos licked his lips and hummed in satisfaction when realization dawned in those captivating eyes.

Leaning his weight down a little more with his hips to keep his prey pinned, Zenos lifted his free hand to the buttons holding his plain white linen shirt closed, feeling the cool air meet pale skin the more buttons he slipped free. "Good boy, you learn fast. You might be a magnificent creature, worthy of capture, but I am higher on the food chain." He sneered, feeling the body under him begin to struggle with renewed vigor, looking for leverage to try to toss him off no doubt. Zenos twisted his sword hilt in his hand, the sound of tearing fabric and mattress next to the warrior's ear being enough to cease those struggles once more. "Do not tempt me to snap the very life from your veins warrior, I was rather hoping you would prove to be much more interesting than a common lesser beast." Zenos growled hungrily.

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Wild and untamed, unwilling to yield...

Zenos watched the chest of the body pinned under him rise and lower, breathing deeply out of the sheer necessity to calm down. Zenos reached down and wiped at the drying blood that had run from one nostril, the warrior jerking his head away from the prince's touch. Zenos' gaze darkened in warning, gripping his jaw tightly and jerking his head back around to meet his gaze. He squeezed his fingers into that jaw until it brought a pained sound of protest out of the creature. Considering the mark that had been left behind, Zenos could tell that there would be some bruising but nothing was broken. It had served to put his point across though, the warrior should not have tried to escape. 

He wondered if it was the fight or flight instinct in animals that had caused the warrior to try to flee the moment Zenos lifted his weight and sheathed his weapon. Perhaps he should have waited until he had proper restraints before allowing the beast out of its cage, but when one of his men had brought the magitek shackles he had requested, the second he had given the warrior a mere ilm he had tried to take the full malm. The moment Zenos had lifted his weight, the warrior had lunged at him, slamming the heel of his hand up into the prince's jaw, making his teeth slam together on the tip of his tongue and filling his mouth with the copper taste of blood, before planting a strong kick into his bared stomach and driving Zenos arse over head off the edge of the bed. Then he bolted for the door, probably intending to just knock the soldier in the doorway aside and take off, but he probably hadn't been expecting the Garlean prince to make as swift a recovery as he did. In just a few strides, Zenos was on the warrior.

He remembered wrapping his hand around a forearm that seemed almost delicate to his touch, remembered twisting it with enough force to hear something pop, and took the beast to the floor with his own momentum, a knee driving into his back to keep the warrior pinned with his arm twisted behind his back at an angle that was no doubt agonizing. Baring bloodied teeth, Zenos threaded his fingers into that soft hair once again, ripping and twisting as he got a good hold on it before lifting the warrior's head up and then slamming it down against the floor. A yell of pain, and struggles despite the threat of having his arm dislocated prompted Zenos to repeat the action again, and then a third time until the warrior's antics ceased. There was blood, but not enough to cause concern for the beast's well being. Satisfied that he wouldn't be expecting much of a struggle for at least a bit, Zenos climbed off the dazed and injured male before lifting him off the floor and taking him back to the bed.

The soldier still stood in the doorway, taking in the state of undress between the two men, and realization dawned in his gaze. But the look his prince shot his way prompted the Garlean to step closer and deliver the shackles as he had been ordered to and quickly make his presence scarce. Once the door had slid shut with a hiss and thump of the locking mechanism latching into place, Zenos returned to the bed where the warrior laid out, dazed upon ruined sheets as the Garlean prince stretched his arms above his head and chained him to the headboard with the magitek shackles. Much like the lock on his door, the shackles had a biometric lock coded to Zenos' genetic makeup only. There was no way to get free of them otherwise.

Jerking back his hand when the warrior tried to snap at him and bite his fingers like some rabid dog, Zenos backhanded him casually in retaliation, watching defiant eyes lose focus for a moment. Ah, he would have to refrain from striking his head and face for the time being, it wouldn't do to cause ireparable damage to the brain. As much as he enjoyed the fighting grace of the beast in his bed, he also marveled at the strength of mind as well. One would have to be mentally strong in order to continue fighting and surviving through everything he's heard tale of. Stroking the backs of his fingers down over that clenched jaw line, he watched the minute tremor of tense muscles under unmarked skin. How curious it was though, through all the battles the warrior had been through, all the injuries no doubt sustained, not a single scar was left. Was it the power of the Echo? Could it have such properties? Oh, the research possibilities were endless with someone so deeply steeped in the Echo as this marvelous creature.

The chain of the shackles rattled as the warrior pulled at his restraints, recoiling from Zenos' touch. The prince smiled, his teeth still stained with blood from the warrior's previous attempt to flee. "I had almost believed you had given up." He purred thickly, his tongue throbbing from the pain of his teeth biting into it. The warrior had been almost docile up until the moment that door opened, and it thrilled him in a way that he couldn't describe. He brought his hand back up the warrior's face, his thumb pressing against a plush lower lip. Zenos leaned in, noting the way the male under him jerked back against the mattress to maintain the distance between them. "Since we met, I've been trying to place a name to this feeling. This sensation is wholly unfamiliar to me." He murmured almost gently, meeting that violent glare and feeling a shiver run down his spine in anticipation.

Digging his thumb into that soft lower lip, he forced the digit past clenched teeth and into the warm depths of the warrior's mouth. The male jerked again at the violation, trying to turn away but Zenos' grip didn't allow it. He pressed his thumb in, the pad of it flat against the warm and wet tongue trying desperately to push the intruding digit free and ever so slowly pried that jaw open. Leaning in with purpose, Zenos took the warrior's mouth with his own, driving his tongue past those parted teeth and tasted what was his. The warrior grunted in protest, pulling at his chains as his mouth was violated, Zenos' grip keeping his jaw open and vulnerable to the assault. The prince explored every inch of his prey's mouth with his tongue, drawing back only to free the warrior's tongue from the pressure of his thumb before he leaned back in to taste some more. He tangled their tongues together, ravaging the open mouth below his with a hunger he couldn't explain. It was several long minutes before Zenos eventually drew back, releasing the, no doubt sore, jaw from his grip and licked his lips in satisfaction.

Soft pink lips were swollen and stained red from blood and rough treatment, a flush of color spread across high cheekbones and Zenos could swear that the pupils in those brilliant eyes were blown out and wide. A pleased smile stretched his lips wide, and he felt that familiar shiver again. "Oh, do not tell me. Was that the first time you've ever been kissed?" He asked, more out of jest to see if he could get an interesting reaction, but the reaction he got was a thousand times better than what he could have ever hoped for. The warrior closed his mouth with a click and quickly averted his gaze, the first time that had happened since they met. Zenos knew very well that the warrior never averted his eyes, he would always stare straight ahead with that infuriatingly beautiful defiance. So for him to break eye contact in such a way...

Zenos felt the laugh rumble through his chest, spreading up until he was chuckling audibly. The laugh grew louder, and he could feel the figure under him tensing defensively. Warm elation spread through Zenos' chest, all the way down to the tips of his fingers and into his toes. It was too perfect, as if the warrior had been built just for him. His perfect match, both as an adversary and as something entirely different. What he name he would give it, he had no idea.

As his laughter filtered off into amused chuckles, Zenos slipped his linen shirt from his shoulders and let it slide off the edge of the bed and onto the floor. Long fingers slid down his torso and over his abdomen to the ties of his pants, tugging them loose with a deliberate slowness just to watch the panic and fear rise in those eyes. Zenos felt himself twitch in his pants, the fabric constricting enough to tease at the beginnings of his erection as those eyes flicked from his face to where he was pushing his pants down around his hips to free his member. Taking himself in hand, Zenos licked his lips and gave his cock a few idle strokes to accentuate the length and girth of his cock for the warrior's benefit. The panic was instantaneous, which told Zenos that the warrior was not quite so innocent to the concept of sex between two men as he had originally assumed. The male knew exactly what was going to happen to him.

   "They say the best way to train a wild animal is to show dominance, to show no mercy in putting a mere beast in its place." He said, mostly as a way to fill the silence that the warrior yet still refused to fill. In time though. In time Zenos planned to have those lips panting and begging him. For more, for mercy, or maybe for release. But they will beg. The very notion of that mouth begging him, in any form, was enough to bring him to full hardness. He stroked himself again, his hips rocking slightly into the enclosed space of his fist, dragging the soft skin over the hardened shaft. If the warrior was truly a virgin, he would need some preparation. While Zenos wanted to break the male, he didn't want to ruin him, and taking a cock so large without any forethought might do more damage than Zenos was willing to wait for to heal. Besides, wouldn't it be all the better to force the young warrior to enjoy what was being done to him? He would never be able to fully recover from the mere memory that he had felt pleasure at the hands of his enemy.

Stretching out across the bed, Zenos opened the drawer of the table beside the headboard and withdrew a bottle of lubricant. It was not the first time he had brought sexual partners to his private quarters, so he was always prepared. Shifting back, he moved to position himself between the warrior's legs only to have to block the kick aimed at his head. Grabbing the swinging leg, Zenos jerked it up over his shoulder before he turned his head and sunk his teeth into the lower section of the silky thigh near his face. The pained yelp brought a purr of pleasure from him, and slowly Zenos ran his tongue along the teeth imprint he had left behind. He hadn't broken skin, but it had been a warning nonetheless. Using his own legs to keep the other one pinned, Zenos moved in closer between the warrior's thighs and reached for the lubricant. Spread open and vulnerable, the warrior looked like the most tempting of prey. He could see every inch of the most private places, from the curls of hair surrounding a flaccid cock, down between two defined thighs and a taut backside. The small hole he planned to violate was pink and tight, clenched even tighter by the rising panic Zenos could see and feel coursing through the male. He planned to have that hole red and ruined by the end of the night, soft and fucked out and claimed as his.

The lubricant was cold when he first poured it onto his fingers, but it warmed quickly to his touch before he reached down and swiped the pad of his finger against that tiny furl. The yelp of surprise teased a snort from the prince, but when those maddening hips tried to tilt back and away, his touch followed and a mild flash of irritation had him pushing the tip of one finger in with very little warning. The warrior cried out in discomfort and fear, the reality of his situation settling in as Zenos all but cooed at him, pushing his finger into the tense hole with very little remorse to how much it hurt. "The more you fight it, the more it will hurt. If you would surrender to me, you might even enjoy being trained by my hand." He purred, leaning in and marvelling at the sheer flexibility of the warrior as Zenos all but bent him in half, one leg still braced over his shoulder.

Again those eyes moved from his, and a flash of annoyance had Zenos plunging his finger the rest of the way into that tight, unforgiving hole. Pain flickered across the warrior's face but this time he bit his lip to keep quiet, his eyes once again returning to the prince in an attempt to convey his hatred for the man through glares alone. The smile on Zenos' face only grew as he rocked his finger into that tight passage, feeling the muscles clench and try to prevent the intrusion. He didn't do much more than that for some few minutes though, just pumping his finger in and out at a constantly shifting pace, never letting the warrior fully adjust to a certain pace before a second finger was tapping at the rim and pushing in to join the first. Once again the repeated the dance, the warrior struggling to deny the sensation and Zenos refusing to allow him to look anywhere but directly at him. Eventually Zenos began to scissor his fingers, stretching the tight rim out a little at a time and causing the male under him to catch his breath in sheer surprise, instead of pain. Curling them every once in a while to different angles, he knew he found exactly what he wanted when the warrior's body went tense and his hips twitched in the most alluring way.

   "Oh... Did I perhaps find something you're not quite so adverse to?" Zenos taunted, crooking his fingers into that spot again and watching the reaction with eager interest. Bright eyes darkened with unwilling pleasure, those lips parted with near silent pants of want, and each time he brushed or pushed against that tantalizing spot the warrior's body would jerk and arch, almost pushing his hips back and down onto Zenos' fingers. He kept it up for some time, never quite teasing to the point where it would drive him to the edge, but using it to keep the sensation of pain at bay as he pushed a third finger inside. This would be the final stage of preparation the warrior would get, after all they weren't lovers. Zenos had to put him in his place like the wild beast he was.

Noting that the male on the bed was trying his best to ignore and detach himself from the sensations coursing through his body, Zenos moved his hand from holding on to the warrior's thigh to take that tentative erection into his hand. The reaction was instantaneous, a protest on the male's lips as Zenos wrapped his hand smugly around the evidence that the warrior wasn't quite as unaffected as he was so desperately trying to be. Stroking him firmly, with little technique aside from just keeping him stimulated, Zenos pulled his fingers free of that tightly clutching body and wasted no time in coating himself with the lubricant. Pushing his pants down around his thighs a little more for ease of movement, it wasn't until he had the head of his cock pressed against the now stretched and twitching hole that the warrior remembered what came next.

Ignoring the protests spilling from the male's lips, Zenos pushed in to the hilt in one sharp movement, the resulting scream from the warrior sending a pleased shiver down his spine. Yes, that's what he wanted. To hear him break, shatter under his touch only to come back fighting once more. To constantly defy him, deny him, and then come crumbling under his hands once again. How many times could a person be rebuilt before the very foundation cracked? He intended to find out. Taking hold of both the warrior's legs, Zenos lifted them over his shoulders and leaned in, his hips rolling and his cock pounding into the soft, wet hole below him.

The sudden lack of sound had him lifting his gaze to find the male trying to bite down and silence himself, his teeth breaking skin as he once more averted his eyes and tried not to give Zenos what he wanted. Chuckling darkly, Zenos leaned down and flicked out his tongue, lapping up the blood that spilled from those split lips, adjusting his angle every few thrusts until he found exactly what he wanted. Just as it was with his fingers, the moment his cock hit the warrior's prostate, those lips opened in a sudden gasp of surprised pleasure. Once more Zenos pushed his thumb into that mouth, preventing the male from closing his jaw again and thus being unable to silence the sounds he was making as he plunged himself into that tightly gripping body again and again, wasting no time in teasing the male's prostate this time. The cries and whimpers that filtered unbidden from his prey's mouth made his body thrum and pulse with pleasure, heat throbbing low in his core as he felt it build. Once again with his free hand he reached down and took the warrior's cock in his hand, stroking it swiftly in time with his pounding thrusts. The shift in vocal cues was instantaneous, the warrior trying to thrash and escape the assault on his body as he no doubt felt the approaching climax.

Soon enough, Zenos' movements became halted, staggering slightly as he approached his peak. With an almost beastly snarl of his own, he came inside the warrior, as if marking his territory like a common beast. His hand moving along the warrior's twitching erection quickened its pace, and it wasn't long before the male was following suit with a pathetic howl of denial and pleasure, his mouth still held open wide by Zenos' firm grip. The resulting clamping sensation of the hot muscle inside the warrior around his cock had Zenos jerking forward again as another rush of euphoria rippled through him like a wave, spilling yet more inside the now lax body. It was that laxness that had Zenos looking down in surprise to find the male's eyes closed, his body limp as long legs slipped from the prince's shoulders onto the torn sheets. Had he passed out from pleasure, or from the sheer trauma of feeling pleasure at the hands of his enemy? A pleased hum left Zenos as he removed his hand from the warrior's jaw, his thumb running over the swollen and abused lips before he leaned in and took that soft, pliant mouth with his own. Without the threat of having his tongue bitten off, Zenos licked into the warmth of his prey's mouth and tangled their tongues together languidly before drawing back with a satisfied sigh.

Reluctantly drawing back from the loose body under him, Zenos pulled out of the still tight grip of the warrior's hole and all but groaned at the sight of the one pink and tight furl now red and swollen, a trickle of hot semen slowly spilling from the twitching rim, trying to desperately to tighten up again. It was a sight he quite enjoyed, and one he intended to experience again and again. But for now, he would let his pet rest while he made some further accommodations for their arrival in Garlemald. Grabbing the red velvet duvet that had fallen to the floor during their previous activities, Zenos tossed it over the nude form of his warrior before he himself went to clean up and continue on about his business before they reached their destination. As he showered, Zenos amused himself with the thought of what would happen when he warrior awoke. What would he do now that he knew what it was like to not only be embraced by his enemy, and a man no less, but also that he had been brought pleasure by the sheer act? Chuckling to himself as he mused over the conflict the male's mind would no doubt be in when he awoke, Zenos redressed himself and left his quarters with his little Beastie fast asleep in his bed.

Chapter Text

Zenos made his way to the ship's bridge, his body still humming from pleasure after having his way with his warrior. Sliding a hand through his still drying hair, Zenos brushed it over one shoulder and let it hang loose, water slowly dampening the cloth of his shirt along his shoulder from the strands. The door to the bridge opened with a hiss as the Prince approached, the men inside all turning to confirm the identity of the new person in the room. Upon recognizing their Prince, they all stood and gave a salute before returning to their posts. Nameless faces, covered by masks. Pawns, not worth the effort of recognition. Barely giving them a cursory glance, Zenos looked to the navigator standing at the helm. Approaching the man, he looked down at the masked figure with disinterest as he was saluted again.

   "How long until we reach Garlemald?" He asked simply, his tone level and teasing the line of sounding bored. Of course he would be bored, everything of interest was back in his room, asleep in his bed. He wanted to go back to his quarters and continue from where he left off, but he knew that his Beastie needed to rest. After all, he had been subjected to quite the level of Resonant influence, he should still be feeling the affects of something akin to aether sickness. Coupled with the physical toll Zenos had taken upon the warrior's body... The prince smiled to himself, sending an air of unease through the navigator before him. It was never pleasant if it drew a smile to their prince's lips.

   "We... Should be arriving at the palace in two days time, my lord." The navigator offered, straightening when the smile suddenly slipped from the prince's lips and those cold blue eyes turned to him.

   "We're not going to the palace, I don't wish to have my plans be interfered with by Father." Zenos snapped, looking irritated. Hadn't he instructed that they not set course for the palace for that very reason? "Change course. We're heading to Castrum Merrideaum." Zenos ordered coolly, turning on his heel and leaving no room for protest or argument as he left the bridge. Even if there was one, he was sure there was at least one other semi-competent navigator on this ship should the other suddenly find himself on the fast track towards the ground. Castrum Merrideaum was set out along the coast line, high on a hill with a direct drop into the ocean below. Easily defensible, and it was far enough out of the way should he choose to spend some time there he won't have some nosy officials poking around at the request of his father. Besides, it had all the required facilities to contain both his pets. One restrained in his bed, and the other held below in the cargo hold of the massive airship.

Zenos made his way down there now, his footsteps unhurried as he continued down the metal steps, through heavily reinforced doors and into the very bowels of the flying ship. Electric crackling soon greeted his ears, and the slow rumbling breaths of the massive dragon made the entire room seem to shudder with the depth of the sound. Walking out onto the platform overlooking the area and leaning onto the railing, he stared slightly upwards at Shinryu with a look not unlike that which he looked upon his warrior. A being created entirely out of violence and vengeance, and the hero who had all but delivered it to him. All within his grasp, under his control. Ah, what bliss.

   "Your Grace." A voice said from the shadows. Zenos straightened and turned his head to see the lavender-haired scientist in charge of their Resonant research. Upon boarding the ship, he had made a specific request, and while the Garlean scientist had been curious, he hadn't questioned the schematics detailed to him. The bespectacled male bowed slightly and approached the prince, the only one who has dared to do so and has gotten away with showing such insolence. He has been quite useful, it would be a shame to separate such a intuitive head from its shoulders.

   "Have you finished it?" The prince asked immediately. The scientist shook his head, shrugging a shoulder and looking unfazed by the glare narrowed his way.

   "My sincerest apologies, Your Grace. But given our sudden departure from Ala Mhigo I was unable to procure everything required to fulfill your request. It will be finished the moment we reach our destination, of course." The clever man said, watching the prince from over the rim of his glasses. While irritated, the prince didn't separate his head from his shoulders. Small blessings, he was quite fond of where his head was at this time. "Might I ask though, what need would you have of a magitek collar?" He asked, standing beside the prince and looking up at the dragon with his arms crossed over his chest. "The dimensions you requested are much too small for this creature, and the voltage charging through it would do no more than irritate it mildly." He said, his tone hinting that he was leading somewhere with this. An amused and curious glance out of the corner of his eye towards the prince told him everything he wanted to know when he got a look at the hungry, almost feral look in Zenos' gaze as he turned blue eyes upwards, towards the ceiling... Or perhaps towards the floors above. "Well then... I'll see that you have everything you require upon landing, my Lord. Pray, excuse me." The scientist mused, bowing respectfully as Zenos looked towards him again and backing up a few steps before blending back into the shadows. Zenos stared at the darkness for a time longer before returning his gaze back to his dragon. That man knew too much, and while his knowledge was impressive, it was also unnerving. Not that Zenos would ever admit that to anyone but himself, but he knew when not to make an enemy of his own subordinates.

After he debated that it had been long enough, Zenos decided to return to his room to retire. His warrior had been resting for long enough, and it was coming closer to sunset. Food and wine to celebrate a successful hunt... A smile curled his lips as he slowly ascended the stairs, allowing his imagination to wander. He had two days of uninterrupted time with his Beastie, he should hate to rush it in his eagerness to taste more. To have him beg him, make him weep as Zenos took everything he was and broke it down into dust, only to rebuild it again and watch it crumble once more. But the siren's call of the warm body lying in his bed, vulnerable to him, made his steps quicken as his legs carried him up the stairs out of the cargo hold.

He had just reached the upper landing when the ship suddenly shook with a weighty explosion, Zenos' hand slapping out to brace against the wall and keep his balance. The alarms immediately began to blare, emergency lights sliding out of concealed ports to light the way to the escape vessels. Blue eyes narrowed in vicious fury. Surely not, they wouldn't dare be so stupid as to come after them so soon. The Resistance had very little in the ways of fire power, not to mention their presence in the sky was rather paltry in comparison to the Empire. Another ship shaking explosion had the prince moving towards the bridge to find out just what in the Hells was going on. The alarm was shrill in his ears, his head already ringing and his mood growing worse. Damn dogs, like a pack of mangy curs fighting over a choice cut of prime steak. Well, just so. He'll take this opportunity to wipe the remainder of their pathetic Resistance from the very earth itself.

The bridge was a flurry of activity compared to before, weapons were being manned and orders were being shouted from one end to the other. The navigator from before scrambled to straighten as another explosion rocked the ship, not nearly as sure on his feet as the prince. "M-My Lord! We're under attack!" He blurted, barely remembering to salute Zenos. A bitter curl of his lip had the navigator backing away, realizing how redundant his statement had been. The alarms sounded like wails, grating on his ears and making the almost pleasant mood he had before seem like a distant memory. Ah, well. He'll be sure to revisit the events that put him in such a good mood once he had swatted this rather annoying insect that seemed determined to fly around and put holes in his ship.

Approaching the window that looked out at the darkening sky beyond the glass, Zenos narrowed his eyes at the nimble crafts weaving almost effortlessly around the Garlean ship, avoiding rockets and bullets almost comically. Sleek, not of Garlean design and with a tone of deep red that nearly made them invisible in the light of the setting sun. They flew around the Garlean airship like a nest of angry hornets. There had to be a larger craft somewhere, in their blind spot perhaps who had fired the first and second shots. Orders to find the main vessel were called out behind him as the same navigator from before approached him to hopefully receive orders so they had some form of retaliation. Zenos said nothing for a time, knowing their shields would hold from the assault for quite a while. He knew what they were after, but the only question he had was... who were they?

Recognition flickered through his eyes as he remembered several reports from various supply crews. While traveling by air ship was swifter and less dangerous than traveling by land and sea, the skies did have their own adversaries. Several ships had disappeared mid trade route, the crew showing up some few days later with wild tales of being hijacked in the night by a man with dark skin, dark hair, and accompanied by a cat walking on two legs.

Sky pirates... Zenos mused appreciatively. Finally, someone did something interesting enough to surprise him.

Chapter Text

   "Your orders, my Lord?" The navigator asked, following the prince's gaze out the window to the aircraft flitting about in the setting sun. Zenos seemed almost gleeful when he turned away from the view to address the masked man beside him.

   "Ready for combat and look for the main carrier. They're firing but they aren't making any attempt to break through to board, which means they're waiting for something." He said, turning to address one of the other masked simpletons in the room. "You." He pointed, picking one at random. "Take two others and stand guard at my quarters. No one but myself gets in or out." He ordered. As much as he wanted to be with his Beastie and guard him himself, there were other matters that Zenos had to take care of first. His blood was singing for a battle, to spill blood and quell the craving to spill red that he had felt since the palace in Ala Mhigo. It made him almost regretful that he hadn't gotten more of a fight out of his warrior before he had taken him for himself, but it was too late for such regrets now.

Another shot, this one a little more forcefully aimed with the intent of breaking through the shielding around the ship, rocked the whole craft ever so slightly. Zenos hummed to himself and went to retrieve his armor and weapons from his room, the three soldiers he had ordered to be stationed already there and moving aside to let him pass and enter his room.

He felt those eyes on him the moment he stepped into the room. It would have been quite the feat to have remained asleep throughout the commotion being caused after all, but the flicker of smug hope in those eyes made Zenos's body burn. Striding across the room casually, as if the ship were not under attack and he was free to take his time, he reached out for the bound warrior in his bed. Naked, still covered in the evidence of their mutual release. Zenos smiled and ran his fingers up along those taut abs, watching them tremble unwillingly under his touch. Oh, the things he will do with his Beastie once those pathetic insects were dealt with. The male had felt pleasure at his hand, he knew how good it could be. Next time he'll learn just how good a little pain could be as well.

Sliding his hand up over soft skin, between firm pectorals and up to a long, graceful neck that he had yet to place his mark on, Zenos marveled at the clear map of flesh that he wanted so badly to lay claim to. He did so now, leaning down and latching teeth into that soft, silky skin. Marking, owning. When he drew back the skin was bright red and bruised, with a fresh imprint of his teeth ringing the mark. He'll renew it before it has time to fade, but for now he had more pressing matters. Bringing his gaze up to that hot, defiant gaze, Zenos all but purred. Still so feisty, so hopeful. He couldn't wait to see that hope die when news came that this oh-so-valiant rescue attempt merely cost them the lives of what little mediocre combatants they had left at their disposal.

Zenos slid his hand up, over the fresh mark he had left in that warm skin, and up behind to tangle in still soft hair. He pulled just hard enough to force his warrior's head to tilt up to him before he took those, still bloodstained, lips with his. Powerful and domineering, Zenos ravaged the warrior's mouth for several seconds. It almost felt as though he wasn't meeting any resistance whatsoever, the soft mouth under his was pliant and prone. Warning bells went off in his head a split moment before sharp teeth sank down into his lower lip. Flesh tore, blood spilled, and Zenos jerked back with a grunt of pain. Touching his bitten lip with his free hand, he drew his fingers back to see the tips stained with red. Flicking his gaze from his bloodied fingers to the smug glare in those bright eyes, Zenos felt a pulse of heat that surged straight down to the more intimate parts of his body. Even now he still fought back so vehemently. Sliding his tongue along his bleeding lip, he chuckled darkly and released his pet.

The look that followed him as he stood up had the smile on his face growing wider. "I do hope you never change, it would be very unfortunate if you were to stop fighting me merely because I slaughtered everyone you've ever deemed to call a friend." He said almost cheerfully as he began to equip his armor and weaponry. Once more he turned his gaze back to the naked male in his bed, arms still chained to the headboard above him, body bruised in various places, bloodstained in others, and for a brief moment that gaze went feral and hungry. Settling his helmet in place, he approached the figure in his bed one more time, reaching out and taking hold of his chin in a gauntlet-clad hand. He pushed the metal covering his thumb against those soft, bloody lips and spread that crimson outward, smearing it over visibly paling skin, marveling the way it stained the cheek turned towards him. One day he wished to have his warrior on the battlefield, not against him. But beside him. Covered in the blood of their enemies, his pet will seek him out. He'll finally understand the drive of the Hunt, and Zenos will take him on that battlefield. To live, eat and breed. Lesser beasts snap and howl at one another for that. But only man has the wisdom and clarity to embrace violence for its own sake, to revel in the blood spilled and the meager existence of one's life being snuffed out with the passing of a blade. He'll show his Beastie how to appreciate such things, in time.

Releasing his pet, Zenos wiped the smear of wet blood from his glove on the sheets and gave the warrior one more lingering look to remind him just what it was he would be coming back to. Victorious, bloodstained and high on adrenaline. He'll take him then, make him beg and whimper and cry for mercy as he detailed every moment of the last few seconds of his friend's rather limited existence in his ear. Ravage his mind as well as his body and just see how much breaking the warrior could take before everything finally snapped and crumbled away. Turning on his heel, Zenos exited his room without another look back, hearing the door close and lock with a hiss and a shrill beep. The men standing guard at the door all turned towards him expectantly, awaiting orders.

   "You are to stand here and keep watch until this is over. If they are not myself, they die. Even if they are dressed as one of you." He instructed simply. If his men were too stupid to stay clear of what was his, then they deserved to have their life snuffed out like lowly creatures. Adjusting his sword holster on his hip, Zenos made his way back to the bridge to deal with their current bug problem.


The clouds were thick and condensation hung so heavily in the air that it created a thin sheen of moisture on any exposed skin. The plan was to stay hidden in the cover of the clouds until Leofard gave the signal for them to infiltrate. Thancred pulled the hood over his head down lower, peering out from under the cloth through the cloud cover to the massive behemoth of the Garlean airship. Cid was at the helm, wearing a similar cloak in a cloud grey, the entirety of the Enterprise painted the same shade in order to remain hidden. The sun barely penetrated the thick clouds, keeping them concealed until it was time to strike. There had been much arguing about who would be going after Zenos and the Warrior of Light, but ultimately they knew that it had to be a stealth operation. They didn't have the resources to scale a full out aerial strike... and that's when the strangest creature appeared before them. A thin cat-like creature who walked on two legs and had no small amount of words to say. He was accompanied by a man with dark hair and dark skin, who introduced himself as Leofard, a sky pirate.

   "Our friend does find allies in the most unlikely of places." Thancred mused to himself solemnly as he watched the pirate's crew fly around the Garlean airship, drawing their fire and making a general nuisance of themselves. Leofard had informed them of a massive Garlean airship reportedly making transport towards Garlemald, and from a mole on the crew of said ship, the cargo being held within that ship would be of great interest to the Warrior of Light. A massive dragon that was rumored to be a missing primal. But when they told him that their mutual friend had been taken captive by the Garlean prince, the offer of aid was almost instantaneous. Apparently Leofard and Cait Sith had quite a bit to owe to the eikon slayer.

Once they had confirmation of aid from the Redbills, planning to pursue the Garleans and rescue their friend commenced. Lyse had been adamant that she be part of the rescue party, but as she was the leader of the Resistance now, she had responsibilities to Ala Mhigo upon its liberation. Lord Hien and Yugiri had immediately extended their help as well, displaying their determination not to lose yet another comrade to the Garleans.

So they set out with their small rescue party and an entire horde of cheeky, daredevil sky pirates. Cid had refused to allow them to make him stay behind, threats of bodily harm coming forth when the mere idea was suggested. Thancred knew how deeply the older man cared for the warrior, a sentiment he shared. Cid, along with Biggs and Wedge, would fly them in once they had the cover of night at their disposal, and Thancred, along with Yugiri, would infiltrate the airship, find the Warrior of Light, sabotage the ceruleum tanks fueling the ship and make their escape with their friend in tow. Once the ship was downed from the sky, the Flame General and the rest of the Alliance could move in and subdue any survivors.

The sun sank behind the horizon and a flash of red from Leofard's ship sparked up from a lit flare.

   "That's the signal." Cid said in a low tone, preparing to move the ship in. The Garlean craft had gone quiet in the last several minutes, possibly conserving ammo. But there was also the chance that the Imperials were waiting for them to make their move. Biggs and Wedge bustled about the desk, and slowly Cid took the airship in, under the bell of the beast so to speak where the Garlean's blind spot was. Thancred and Yugiri got ready to move, the Redbills still making nuisances of themselves but they were beginning to need to be reserved with their ammunition from now on too. Drawing out the strange device pushed into his hands by Urianger upon their departure, Thancred turned it on when they got close to the ship. For a moment, nothing happened and the Hyur felt his stomach drop. But then the loading dock for the cargo bay began to open, just enough to allow two nimble infiltrators to scramble in before it closed behind them. It was nearly pitch black within the cargo hold, save for the electrified magitek barrier that once held Omega restrained, now caging something potentially more dangerous.

   "By the Twelve." Thancred whispered in disbelief, looking up at Shinryu. So Leofard's information was correct, the primal was indeed in the hands of the Garlean Empire. Another problem to face among the many they currently did. Yugiri nudged him slightly to get his attention and together they made their way through the cargo hold, incapacitating any wayward patrol units they came across. Less variables to be concerned with should either of them be discovered.

   "We need to divide and conquer. I will head to the engine block and begin sabotaging the ceruleum cells keeping this craft in the air with the help of Master Garlond's instructions. You find our friend, and get him to the extraction point." Yugiri said, waiting until Thancred nodded in consent to the plan before the Hyur lifted a hand to his ear.

   "Do you hear us Cid?" He asked, checking the linkshell connection they had established aboard the Enterprise. Cid was their escape route, once they were clear and the ship was down, the Flame General would take over command with the aid of Alphinaud on the ground.

   "Loud and clear here, but you might want to pick up the pace. I think the ship's crew figured out that they have company." Cid's voice echoed in both Thancred's and Yugiri's heads. Meeting the Au Ra's kind eyes, hardened with resolve and discipline now, they nodded as a signal and both took off, one into the belly of the ship and the other to reclaim a lost friend from the jaws of a monster.

Chapter Text

As much as Thancred wanted to run faster, to rescue their friend sooner, he was forced to keep to the shadows and stay out of sight. He couldn't rescue anyone if he was caught himself, and that monster of a Garlean prince was still on board. Would he be personally guarding the adventurer's place of imprisonment? Or would he be wandering the ship like the hunting predator that he was, looking for the intruders? At least with the alarms sounding shrilly overhead, Thancred didn't have to be as quiet while running down the corridors in search of something, anything, that would indicate where their comrade was being held.

Searching blindly would get him nowhere, he had to be smart about this. The Garleans would know that their ship had been boarded, if any of them had bothered paying attention to their systems at all they would have seen the cargo bay door open for a brief moment. Unless Leofard and his crew succeeded in distracting them entirely, but that was highly unlikely. If he ran blindly head on into a patrolling squad, he might not be able to take them all down or escape pursuit. So each corner was turned with an extra measure of caution, his ears straining to pick up anything that sounded out of place among the screams of the siren. He wished that they would silence the alarm, but if they did then his hurried footsteps would echo against the metal that boxed him in from all sides. He honestly hated air ships, the always felt like a massive cage in the sky to him. Well, to his friend that was exactly what it was. So he needed to find him and free him as soon as possible.

The pirates had pulled back a bit in their distraction tactics. The ship was no longer rocking with the force of gunfire hitting the shielding nearly as much. More evenly spaced out, biding their time for their allies to get in and get out with minimal struggle. The sound of heavy footsteps met Thancred's trained ears. The steps were measured, confident. Instinct had the rogue ducking into the nearest alcove, pressing himself into the shadows to wait out whoever it was coming his way. The clank of heavy armor soon joined the footsteps over the sound of the alarm and Thancred felt his stomach lurch. Holding his breath despite the knowledge that the alarm would be too loud for anyone to hear something as quiet as that, Thancred watched from his hiding place as Zenos Yae Galvus himself slowly walked past, down the corridor. The tall Garlean slowly came to a stop, and Thancred felt his blood chill in his veins as the armored man slowly turned towards where Thancred was hiding, almost as if he could sense when he was being watched.

Like a damn animal. Thancred thought to himself viciously, still holding his breath unconsciously as the empty eyes of the helmet the man wore seemed to scan the area slowly. It felt like an eternity before the Garlean finally turned away again and continued on his previous path down the hall towards the cargo bay. Thancred waited for another minute or so to make sure it wasn't a trap before he finally released his breath and dragged some new oxygen into his starved lungs. At least he had one question answered, Zenos was not guarding the Warrior of Light. Which meant that his friend was being contained somewhere that he could not escape on his own, thus giving Zenos the freedom to patrol and hunt for the intruders without worrying about his captive getting away. But where would he be keeping him? The lower levels of the ship consisted of the engines, the cargo bay, maintenance sectors and what looked like a lab when he had looked inside. Empty, but a laboratory nonetheless. The level Thancred was on consisted of a cafeteria that he had already checked, the armory, and the crew's quarters. Next one up should have captain's quarters, the prince's private rooms, the main control deck and...

Thancred stopped himself as he was mapping out the ship in his mind. The prince's quarters... Surely not. He wouldn't dare keep his enemy imprisoned in a place where one's guard was typically lowered. If his friend had the chance to strike, then that man would not have been walking around so casually just now. But now that the thought had nested in his mind, Thancred couldn't help but contemplate the possibility that the prince was mad enough to indeed lock the Warrior away in his own private chambers. A sick roiling sensation in his stomach soon started as his thoughts branched to the implications of what Zenos might have done in the mean time if this was true, but he quickly shoved the idea away. If what he feared had indeed been something to happen, then he would need to make sure that it was never repeated. But it did make the most sense to keep the Warrior in a place where typically only specific personnel would be able to access, which would mean that the next place he needed to go was upwards.


Eyes had been on him, watching him from the shadow. Zenos paused mid-stride, looking down the corridor to his left. Blue eyes narrowed curiously from the dark depths of his helmet, and for a brief moment he toyed with the idea of just putting whoever it was out of his misery. But that wouldn't be nearly as much fun. He wanted to wait until whoever it was hiding from him thought they had gotten away. No doubt they were there for his Beastie, probably a pathetic attempt to rescue him. How much more thrilling would it not be to murder his Beastie's supposed rescuer before those bright eyes. To watch hope drain away as he realized that escape was impossible and would only lead to the violent deaths of everyone he's ever cared to know. Not that they'd be safe from the Empire's wrath in the first place, there was that dredge they called the Resistance that needed to be dealt with. But in time, everything would come together in time.

Smiling to himself behind the skeletal mask of his helm, Zenos turned away and continued on towards the cargo bay, the source of entry for the intruders. Once he was satisfied with the state of his dragon's restraints and had one of his men disable the door's locking mechanism to cut off one possible escape route, there was only one other way off this ship. While he was loathe to admit it, he was at a distinct combat disadvantage in the corridors of the airship, but if he could corner the intruders on the observation deck he had all the range he could wish for. The weaponry aboard this ship will keep the pirates at bay and prevent them from providing aid to their comrades, thus leveling the playing field as much as possible. Zenos couldn't wait to watch as that hope for freedom died with his Beastie's little friends, knowing they were so close just as the jaws of the trap clamped down around them.


The patrols were more plentiful on the upper levels, which told Thancred that he was in the right place. Yugiri had checked in already, reporting that the charges were set and inquiring about the whereabouts of their comrade. Thancred had informed her of his idea of the adventurer's location, getting a grim confirmation that he may be correct in that Zenos would be keeping their friend in such a place. The grim tone of her voice told him that she feared the same thing that he did, and it further fueled the concern for what he might find when he did eventually locate their missing ally. Thancred was not just seeing things then, there had been something unnerving in the Garlean prince's fascination with the Warrior of Light. Something feral and famished, like a starving wolf locking onto a defenseless buck. But the adventurer was anything but defenseless, which concerned Thancred greatly. What manner of strange abilities and monstrous strength did Zenos have that would enable him to best the Warrior not only once, but twice? It called into focus that the adventurer was indeed as mortal as so many others, that he wasn't quite as invincible as so many seemed to believe he was.

With that rather sobering thought in mind, Thancred pulled his hood up over his head a little more. While he would have shed the cloak some time ago for more ease of movement, he didn't want to risk leaving evidence of his or Yugiri's presence aboard the ship for someone to find. Let them chase ghosts, by the time they realize that they had actually been invaded, it would be too late to do anything about it. Letting another group of soldier's pass by unaware, Thancred continued down yet another bleak hall, the lights dim and red from the emergency lights. The siren had finally been cut, probably due to someone losing their patience with the grating sound. While it was a blessing on his ears, it was also a curse because that meant that Thancred had to be extra careful when moving around the ship to avoid his footsteps echoing off the metal around him and alerting someone to his presence. While his step was far lighter than someone else aboard the ship, like Zenos himself, it was still audible enough to broadcast his location to anyone listening for anything ever so slightly out of the ordinary.

Thancred was beginning to second guess his conclusion of the Warrior's whereabouts when he nearly stumbled upon a small group of soldier's guarding a single door. Odd, considering that until now all the others had been patrolling. So why were they stationary? What were they guarding? Well, given that there were only two things of importance to the current raiders of the airship, Thancred wasted no time in theorizing what else could be behind that door aside from who they had come here for.

The soldier's were talking among themselves, probably about the current attack on the airship, or the possibility of what they could be guarding within the chambers beyond. Whatever their topic was, it kept them distracted from their imminent departure from this world. While Thancred hated killing, it was sometimes a necessary evil. Their lives, or his and his comrade's should they be left alive to alert someone else of his presence. Dashing forward from his hiding place, the grey cloak swirled around him like a veil of mist, hiding the flash of his daggers until it was too late. The first never stood a chance, and never even saw it coming as Thancred came up from behind and drove his dagger up under his ribs through his back, aiming for vital organs that would ensure he bled out swiftly. Twisting his body with his second dagger flicking out, he opened up the second man's throat, slashing at the fabric where the helmet he wore joined to the thick leather of his uniform. A vital point, not needing nearly as much force to puncture as the first. Blood sprayed from the wound, barely missing Thancred as the body collapsed. Thancred clicked his tongue at his own sloppiness, for he had no doubt hit the artery that resulted in the violent shower of red that now coated the walls opposite the door.

Just as he turned to deal with the final soldier, Thancred turned to see the man running down the hall as fast as he could move. The rogue flipped the blood stained knife in his hand and took careful aim before he let the blade fly. With a heavy thud, the sharp tip embedded itself within the back of the retreating man, burying deep to the hilt. He watched grimly as the body collapsed onto the metal catwalk like a puppet who's strings had been cut. Approaching the downed man swiftly, Thancred grip the hilt of the knife and gave it a vicious twist, ensuring internalized bleeding before he wrenched the blade out and cleaned it off against the fabric of the dead man's uniform. Sheathing his dagger, he returned to the other two bodies to retrieve the second before he cleaned and sheathed that one as well.

As much as he wanted to hide the bodies and conceal the evidence of his presence, he knew he had very little time, and there was too much blood to clean up in such a short window. It was too much of a risk now, he needed to keep moving before another patrol came along and discovered the dead bodies. Without giving his own thoughts or actions time to really sink in, he turned his attention to the door that had been previously guarded. Although he did wonder what the others would think if they could see him now. A lot has happened in the time since their escape from Ul'dah, and the time he had spent alone in the wild. He had become colder, harder. While he still retained the playful charm the others had come to expect of him, sometimes he felt as though it were merely a mask he wore to protect them from the reality that he was no longer the same man.

The door itself was made of heavy metal, without any kind of latch or handle. Not that he was expecting one, this was a Garlean ship after all. The pad on the side of the door caught his attention, a flat blue square large enough to fit his entire hand. But it was unlike the other locks on the ship. No matter, he had Urianger's contraption that allowed them to open the cargo bay doors from the outside. Surely it would work on this door as well. At least he had been hoping so, but when the device gave him what he could have sworn was an angry beep, and the door remained stubbornly shut, he found himself lacking the patience to fiddle with the accursed thing. Drawing his knife, he pried the cover of the locking mechanism off with no small effort and took one look at the wiring inside. While he had some knowledge of the workings of Garlean tech given the latent memories of his time being possessed by that damned Ascian, Thancred could honestly say he had no idea what he was looking at.

"Well, I know what a power source looks like at least." He mused to himself softly, flipping his knife in his hand and driving the blade into the connector between the power source and the main circuit. Turning away as the panel spat out sparks and plumes of smoke welled up, Thancred heard the emergency override to the door kick in and slide open. A precaution during an emergency system failure to ensure crew members and people of stature were not trapped within a room with no escape should the airship be at risk. Yanking his knife out of the sputtering, sparking panel, he tucked it away before taking a moment to compose himself for whatever it was that he might find on the other side of the door.

Stepping in, Thancred's eyes quickly scanned the room. Discarded clothing strewn about the room made the room feel lived in, but it only served to make the rogue feel sick. A dog cage was shoved into the far corner of the room, empty, which made him question whether or not there were dogs on board that they would need to be concerned about. He hadn't heard any, but the presence of the cage was worrying. It wasn't until his gaze reached the bed that Thancred felt his stomach wrench and twist. As he had feared, his friend and comrade was shackled to the headboard. Skin bared, barely covered by shredded silken sheets, and stained with things that the rogue knew better than to ever contemplate longer than necessary.

Thancred pushed the hood from his head as he watched the figure on the bed turn his head slowly towards the now open door. A hard glare turned to widened surprise when the adventurer realized just who it was coming into the room, only for that surprised stare to cast downward in shame when realization of the situation he had been discovered in dawned. Thancred wasted no time crossing the room, slowing his stride when he saw the minute flinch from the adventurer. Damn that man, that monster. Thancred never would have thought he would live to see the day that the Warrior of Light himself would flinch away from someone, let alone a friend and ally. Holding up both hands in a placating motion, Thancred approached the bed and turned his gaze to the shackles holding the adventurer captive.

"You have nothing to be ashamed of my friend." He said solemnly. He would not allow his dear comrade to feel alienated because of an event he had no control over. Just like when he had been under the control of Lahabrea, the Warrior had helped him reclaim his place among the Scions, to feel at home again. The least he could do was not treat him any differently, no matter what. But he couldn't shake the look of shame that now haunted his memory. While everyone treated the adventurer as if he were invincible, it wasn't until recently that they realized that he was as mortal as the rest of them. Even more so now. While Thancred wouldn't treat the Warrior any differently, could the same be said about the others?

Thoughts to concern himself with later. For now he needed to get his friend free and off this accursed ship. But like the door's locking mechanism, the shackles had no key hole for him to pick at, and no exposed hinge to pry free. If he resorted to the same method of opening the shackles as he did the door, he would harm the adventurer. He needed to think, what could the key possibly be? Given that it was the Garlean prince who probably had these shackles commissioned, and it was his quarters that the Warrior was imprisoned, would it be too far of a reach to guess that the key was meant to be the prince himself? A fingerprint, or something wholly unique to him. It was possible, probable even. But Thancred couldn't run the risk of trying to get such things from the man. He inspected the shackles, turning them this way and that and muttering apologies under his breath when the Warrior made sounds of protest. If he could wedge his blade underneath, he could try to pry the shackles open. But that ran the very real risk of potentially cutting flesh if the restraints were as tight as he looked. Cursing under his breath, he pulled back and lifted a hand to his ear, activating the linkshell.

"Cid, I found him." He said, grimacing at the alarmed look the Warrior suddenly shot his way. Panic and shame set into those eyes, as if afraid to be discovered in this way by more of their allies. Thancred shook his head, trying to placate the fear. No one would need to know what had happened aboard this ship, his secret would be safe with the rogue.

"Oh thank the gods. Is he alright? Give the signal and we'll move in to extract you three." Cid's voice came through, relief and joy in the old man's voice. Thancred pressed his lips into a thin line, understanding the adventurer's reluctance now for any of the others to know what happened. They would treat him differently, as if he were breakable, or volatile. Thancred remembered that well enough from his own ordeal with the Ascians. The only one who had never treated him with suspicion after the fact had been the very person they were here to rescue.

"He's not injured from what I can tell," Thancred said, getting a slow shake of a head as confirmation. There was something there though, a hidden lie in the depths of those eyes. Thancred put the thought aside for now and inspected the shackles again. "But they've got him restrained with something I've never seen before." He explained, proceeding to describe the craftsmanship of the shackles. He also added that the door had a similar locking mechanism that he had bypassed via blade work. There was a long pause, almost too long. Thancred's instincts were telling him that they had stayed for far too long already, and that they needed to make their escape as soon as possible. Finally Cid's voice came back over the shell, a curse preceding his explanation.

"Sounds like it's a genetic lock. You're going to need a specific set of biological markers to get the lock open." The elder said grimly. Thancred looked at the Warrior, who looked back at him in turn. Licking his lips nervously, Thancred averted his gaze instinctively.

"Are you telling me that I need someone's blood?" He asked quickly, wishing he didn't see the resignation in the adventurer's eyes that they might not be able to get him out of the shackles. Not without potentially causing him harm. Thancred shook his head at his ally, silently telling him that it would only be as a last resort.

"Not blood, any bodily fluid should do the trick. Saliva could work, hell slap a chunk of meat on the lock and it'll pop open. Will serve the bastard right to lose a little flesh. Just so long as it has a strong enough genetic signature for the scanners to recognize." Cid explained, the line going quiet again moments later. Thancred knew that the engineer was waiting for and update, or a plan. But Thancred was at a loss. Getting off the bed, he tore through the room swiftly, rifling through clothes, even going into the bathroom to look for anything that could potentially open the lock.

"Anything with a genetic signature... What the hell has a strong enough signature for the lock to read?" He asked aloud, a noise from the bed drawing his attention back to the bound Warrior. Thancred inspected the downcast look, the ashamed flush of the Warrior's cheeks, and then down over a bared body and the evidence left behind from an act that should only be shared between lovers, not enemies. "Surely not..." He started, his voice strangled as the Warrior nodded and confirmed what he feared. Not only had the bastard raped the Warrior of Light, but he had released within his body as well. Leaving a vile stain. Thancred wanted to remove the man's head from his shoulders, but he knew that it was not his revenge to take. A mildly distressed sound shook him from his own thoughts, and once again Thancred was back by the bed, keeping his gaze carefully averted. "Right, bear with me for a moment." He pleaded, ripping a strip of the sheets free and using it to reach down between the warrior's parted thighs. Thancred grit his teeth when the adventurer flinched ever so slightly, and quickly used the strip of fabric to swipe the sticky fluid against the shackle lock.

For a moment nothing happened as the lock read the genetic signature, and Thancred worried that he had just indiscreetly sexually assaulted one of his closest friends for nothing. But then the shackles beeped and the locking mechanism light went from blue to green before opening with a loud click. The adventurer wasted no time in getting off that accursed bed, stumbling the moment he got his feet under himself. Thancred reached out to stable him, but thought better of it. He didn't know how the Warrior would react to being touched so casually. So instead he untied the cloak around his shoulders, silently thanking his own paranoia for not discarding it earlier, and held it out to the naked male. It was taken from his grasp with a silent nod of thanks, and wrapped around bare limbs like a protective shield. Seeing the Warrior of Light so defensive and uncharacteristically withdrawn made something in Thancred crack and burn hotly with rage. He wanted to destroy Zenos Yae Galvus.

A hand on his shoulder caught his attention, drawing his gaze back to the adventurer. Right, they needed to go. Lifting a hand to his ear, Thancred activated the linkshell.

"Cid, we're heading to the extraction point now. Be ready." Thancred reported, leading the way out of room and into the hall. He could feel the male next to him grow tense when they stepped over the dead men in the hall, both making sure not to step in the blood and leave behind a trail for anyone to follow. Thancred didn't comment on what he had done, and he knew his friend wouldn't ask. It was slower with the both of them, since they had to be twice as careful not to run into any patrols, but also the Warrior seemed to be less than steady on his feet. Thancred felt his blood boil with rage when he thought about what that was, but he forced himself to channel that rage into moving forward. Once their friend was safe and sound, they could bring this accursed ship out of the sky.

"Thancred.” Yugiri’s voice came over the linkshell, the concerned tone slowing the rogue’s steps until he stopped. He saw the Warrior turn to look at him with confusion, but he didn’t know what was wrong yet so he couldn’t assure the concern in those desperate eyes. Freedom was so close, and he hated himself for delaying it longer than necessary. “Yugiri, what’s wrong?” He asked, meeting the Warrior’s gaze. He could see the question swimming in those eyes. How many of their comrades had come to rescue him? How many would know of his shameful imprisonment? Things to concern themselves with later, for now they needed to know why Yugiri sounded the way she did. Usually the shinobi’s calm voice was a source of reason and compassion, for her to sound so panicked meant something had to be very wrong.

Thancred, they’ve disabled the cargo door. The Garleans must have done something to the locking mechanism, it will not open. Our escape route is cut off." She said, her words chilling him to the bone. So that was why Zenos had been heading in that direction earlier, he hadn't been patrolling, he had been heading for the cargo hold specifically to cut them off that way. Which left them with one one direction to go. Up, to the observation deck atop the ship. Which was probably the prince's plan. If he cut them off up there, then they had nowhere to run. They would have failed their rescue mission and not only delivered the Warrior of Light back into the hands of that monster, but also two allies of the Resistance. Not to mention the Redbill's have now made themselves openly hostile to the Empire, which was equivalent to painting a target on their backs for a pirate. If Zenos got his hands on the Warrior again, who knew what manner of vile, depraved things that monster would do.

A hand on his shoulder once again yanked him out of his thoughts. Once again, without a word, the adventurer at his side was able to get him to focus. A talent that Thancred envied. Even with everything he had been through, the man was able to pull people back together. "You never cease to amaze me, my friend." He mused, getting a grim smile in return before he opened the linkshell again. "Yugiri, get to the observation deck. Eliminate anyone in your way if necessary, the time for stealth is over. They know we're here and time is of the essence. If anything prevents us from joining you, I want Cid to get you out no matter what." Thancred instructed, ignoring the engineer's protests about potentially leaving allies behind if the situation turned for the worst. He knew that Cid would do what he was asked, even if it caused him heartache. Looking to the adventurer at his side, he chuckled slightly at the firm nod the male gave him. "Always with the nodding, will you ever change?" He mused grimly before they started moving again, turning in the opposite direction to head upwards to the observation deck instead. They both knew what would be lying in wait for them up there. Like the jaws of a bear trap lying open to snap down on the leg of some unsuspecting animal, the jaws of a monster were waiting to close around them and swallow them whole.

Chapter Text

As much as Thancred wanted to move faster, he knew that they were going as fast as they could. Not only did they not have a map of where they were going, but one of them was unarmed and wrapped only in a cotton cloak, leaving the other to deal with any forces they came across. Thancred wiped the back of his hand against his cheek to clean off the splatter of blood from the last soldier he had eliminated, inadvertently making it worse as the red stained smudged across his face. The Warrior was stood off to the side, looking mildly irritated, and Thancred could almost feel the vibration of energy, the wish to fight. He hated letting others fight his battles for him as well, so he understood the sentiment. Picking up one of the fallen swords from the Garlean soldiers, he flipped it and held the handle out towards the adventurer. "You seem to have an uncanny ability to adapt to all manners of fighting." He offered as way of explanation as the blade was taken and their progress to the observation deck was continued.

Their footsteps seemed to be unbearably loud as they raced up the steps. The door was at the top, wide open to the starry sky. The air was substantially colder as they all but burst through the door onto the open deck atop the ship. Grey cotton was drawn closer around an otherwise bare body as keen eyes searched for any sign of Yugiri. Hurried footsteps had both men whipping around in preparation for a fight when the shinobi in question practically dove through the door herself, a hand wrapped firmly around her bicep where blood stained the fabric. "Run!" The woman yelled, having no time for explanation when the imposing figure of the Garlean prince himself emerged from the doorway, blade drawn and slightly stained with red.

No emotion could be seen, but from the tilt of his head it was clear that he was looking directly at the Warrior of Light. Lifting his blade, he pointed it in the male's direction. "Give him to me." He said simply, the voice almost eerily calm as he stepped forward towards his prey. Thancred instinctively stepped in front of the Garlean's intended target, a mistake clearly, drawing a disgusted and vicious snarl from the depths of the helmet. The blade in his hand seemed to glow red, crimson mist curling about the blade like a serpent before he flicked his wrist. It was a measured strike, intending to cleave the worm before him in half without harming his Warrior, but he hadn't been expecting his Beastie to suddenly tackle the insect out of the way. All it took was the sight of what was his, naked save for some cheap grey cloth covering that soft skin, sprawled protectively over some unworthy mongrel, and Zenos felt something in him snap.

"Mine!" He snarled, the sword in his hand beginning to pulse. The red mist grew thicker, clawing around the blade as it fed on his rage and blood lust. From the depths of his helm, a flicker of red glowed in the empty eyes. Red that his Warrior had only seen once before, a few mere days ago. Had it only been days? Ah, no matter. There would be many more days to come, once he put an end to this pathetic escape once and for all.

Zenos lifted his sword, the mist creeping up from his blade to wrap around his imposing form. Like a lover's embrace, he felt it seep under his armor and penetrate his flesh, feeding his lust for blood all the more. Rip. Tear. Claim. The Garlean prince shook his head minutely, the echo of a voice in his mind making his ears ring. Unbridled power to take what's rightfully yourssss. It whispered darkly, the tone seductive and mesmerizing. What's rightfully his... His Beastie. They will not take his Warrior from him. The memory of warm skin against his own, the smothered whimpers as he pleasured that body. Those defiant eyes that thrilled him in ways he couldn't describe. Yessss.... The voice hissed again, drawing Zenos' gaze to the blade in his hand. He knew there had been something unique about this blade. It had seemed to bond to him very well, and with it in his hand he had felt invincible. A part of him had always known that there was more to the sword that cow Yotsuyu had given him. As loathe as he was to commend her for anything, she had done well in delivering such a vessel to him.

He tightened his grip on the hilt, tilting his head when the sound of running feet met his ears. Bringing the blade up instinctively, he blocked the incoming attack from the female shinobi from Hingashi. Once again she attempted the same strategy, to attack from his supposed blind spot and hope to catch him off guard. A dark chuckle rippled through him as her eyes widened, and in a flash he had his hand wrapped around her throat, squeezing around the slim bit of flesh and bone so vital to her survival. "I see you pathetic animals never learn." He hummed, the red mist swirling up around his entire body now, coaxing him to rend her in two, to make his Beastie watch the light fade from her eyes. But those eyes gave away her true intentions, flicking to the right instinctively and drawing the Garlean's attention to where she had been trying to distract him from.

Zenos turned his head to see his Warrior and that pathetic worm running to the other end of the deck where a vessel was waiting, steered by a man with grey hair and manned by two comically different deckhands. The short fellow was flailing his arms and yelling something that was lost in the roaring that suddenly assaulted Zenos' ears. Rage, violent like a summer storm and hot like liquid fire in his veins, flooded through him. With nary a care to the fate of the woman in his grasp, Zenos gathered his strength and tossed her over the railing at the edge of the deck, not bothering to watch as she disappeared over the side and out of view.

"Yugiri!" The worm yelled, bringing the Warrior to a stop to look back in horror only to be ushered forward. Zenos snarled as his Beastie was pushed along towards the aircraft. He will deal with whoever was sleeping on the job and allowed this vessel to approach later. Though the crew no doubt had their hands full with the sky pirates who had begun their assault and distraction anew to allow such an opening, Zenos would make an example of them all. But first, he needed to reclaim what was his. Once again he lifted his sword, pointing it at the fleeing figures and the craft they planned to board. Like a heartbeat in his ears, the mist pulsed and grew until it swallowed him up. The power of the Resonant filled him, consumed him. It fed the spirit of the blade he wielded, and with barely a flick of his wrist, that power surged out.

It shrieked through the air like a violent scream, a curtain of red light splintering the wood of the deck as it flew towards his intended target. Only to miss. Vibrant red eyes blinked behind his helmet as he realized that it had splintered the railing surrounding the deck clean through, but there was no carnage, no blood. His pet had once again interfered, grabbing the back of the white-haired worm's clothing and yanking him back out of the trajectory of his attack. Zenos sighed out heavily through his nose, plumes of red mist billowing out and giving him an eerie resemblance to a dragon. It seemed he had quite a bit of training to do with his Beastie once this was over. He will know better, given enough time. Maim... Feed.... The voice hissed, wanting to taste the coppery crimson of his enemies blood.

The worm was pulling at his Beastie again, yelling for him to move. To run. But his Warrior remained frozen, staring at him. Watching him. Ah, those eyes. So bright and defiant. Beautiful and focused on him and only him. Zenos tilted his head and stared straight back at those eyes, a gnawing hunger demanding that he take the male then and there. Stake his claim and bind them together for as long as they both shall live. His enemy, his friend, his... His. Just his. Zenos watched as his Warrior shook off the hand holding on to him, pushing the worm away. Good, he was still going to slaughter the little insect but he might even make it quick once he learned not to touch what wasn't his...

Red eyes followed the Warrior as he moved away from his so-called friends. Watching, waiting. Marveling at the way his skin looked under the light of the moon, as if he were glowing with ethereal light itself. Once his Warrior was a satisfactory distance away from the lesser beasts aboard his ship, Zenos paid them no mind. They were weak, useless. Pathetic. But his Warrior, his Beastie... All of his attention was on the strength of that form, soft skin and lean muscle that shifted as he walked. The swirl of red mist about him seemed to recede the more isolated his pet got, separate from his friends, from anyone who would take him away from Zenos. For a brief moment, Zenos thought he could see understanding in those bright eyes, a sentiment that confused him as much as it thrilled him. Yes, his Warrior understood now why Zenos was all he would need, why Zenos was doing so much to keep him. He wouldn't lose him, even if he had to tear apart an entire country to keep him.

Kill....? The voice hissed, though now it sounded confused when it couldn't feed on Zenos' wrath as much as before. The mist swirled and faded, withdrawing from his body as those red eyes watched his Warrior move closer with such lithe grace. In order to protect the people he cared about, he was willing to sacrifice himself and remain with Zenos. So like him, so naive. But one day, Zenos will teach his Beastie that it still would not be enough to keep his friends safe. Not that he would need friends, not while he still had Zenos. His Warrior was within reach now, and a gauntlet-clad hand reached out to cup that stubborn jaw, a thumb brushing along those plush lips that had his own aching to take. His Warrior had made his choice, and now he would have to live with the consequences of attempt to defy him in the first place. Zenos sneered under his helmet and twisted his head to look towards the fleeing vessel, lifting his blade to cleave it from the sky itself when a violent heat lanced through his body. A sound of pain and disbelief slipped unbidden from his lips as he felt that red heat twist and spread, his legs weakening momentarily and forcing him to stumble back from his Warrior.

A confused look down revealed a blade handle sticking out from in front of him, explaining the heat and pain that currently throbbed through his body with each steady beat of his heart. His Warrior had used the prince's fixation on him in order to get close, to achieve the angle that would allow him to drive the sword up between the overlapping plates in the Garlean's armor and into the yielding flesh beyond. A rough chuckle slipped out of Zenos wetly, followed by a cough that stained his lips and the insides of his helmet with red. He should have known better than to think his Beastie would choose to surrender, not when there was so much fight left in him. Reaching for his Warrior, Zenos' touch fell short when the male stepped back, leaving the blade embedded in his body.

Zenos stepped forward after his Beastie, determined not to let him shy away from his touch, but his legs felt numb, his feet heavy. Zenos snarled, silently demanding that his own body obey and reclaim what was his. His Beastie would be punished for this, but first he needed to... The heavy weight of his armored body hit the deck, his limbs feeling so heavy and numb that he couldn't even move to relieve his weight from pressing that blade even deeper into his body. He could feel blood seeping from the wound, the heat of his body going with it as it spilled into his armor and pooled between the various plates and panels and soak into the wood below him. Ever so slowly, the red light faded from the sunken hollows of his helmet, and then everything went cold and dark as a shuddering, wet breath rattled out, followed by nothing.

The silence seemed to hang in the night air, interrupted sporadically by gunfire and the churning of engines. Finally only one figure moved aboard the deck, wrapped in a thin cotton cloak that did nothing to cut the chill of the air so high in the sky. Without a look back, the Warrior of Light ran to the edge of the railing and looked out over the edge. Hovering just out of view was the Enterprise, and several shouts of relief and joy had a grim smile stretching across lips that throbbed and tingled with the memory of a touch almost too gentle to have come from such a monster.

The moment the adventurer stepped foot onto the familiar aircraft, a warm woolen blanket was draped about his shoulders by a relieved Thancred, providing a welcome layer of decency and warmth with the whispered promise of some proper clothing as soon as they were physically able. Unfortunately the heroic celebrations were short lived as Yugiri's fate hung fresh in their memories. Grim looks and a heavy silence followed as they thought about the shinobi's sacrifice. It had been her idea to distract Zenos and give Thancred and the Warrior of Light and opening to escape, giving them instructions through the linkshell before setting her plan in motion before they could think to argue her choice. Taking a deep breath, Cid was the first to speak.

"There will be time to mourn later! First we need to figure out a new way to detonate the charges Yugiri planted on board and take that damned bloated whale out of the sky. The Flame General's waiting on our signal to move in and secure that primal before some fool thinks to release it." The engineer said, his voice slightly rough until he cleared his throat and shook himself. Yugiri had the detonator for the charges on her, without it they would have to think of a new way to trigger the explosion without risking sending someone in again.

"Someone will have to inform Lord Hien..." Thancred said thickly, his gaze downcast as the weight of another lost comrade weighed on them all. They went to rescue one, only to lose another. It was a bitter pill that no one wanted to swallow, given by the heavy silence that followed. Amid the echoing gunfire in the distance now and the churning of the Enterprise's own engine, no one acknowledged the soft beat of wings that fell along side them.

"Someone will have to inform Lord Hien about what?" A familiar voice called out, bringing several heads snapping to attention and a few scrambling limbs to reach the side of the aircraft and look out. Seated upon the back of a familiar Yol sat the prince of Doma himself, looking mildly amused at the shocked gazes he was receiving. A figure shifted behind him, a familiar face looking up at them with a gentle smile.

"Yugiri!" Wedge exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air happily and nearly falling overboard if Biggs hadn't grabbed the lalafell by the back of his shirt and pulled him back up. The Au Ra laughed softly at the small inventor's antics before turning her gaze to the Warrior of Light and returning the silent nod of relief.

"I apologize if I alarmed anyone, but in my defense I hadn't been expecting to be thrown off of an airship. Nor was I expecting my Lord to ignore my request that he stay out of danger and fly in to catch me." She said, shooting a scolding look towards Hien who only offered a slightly lopsided smile as a response. He had been keeping an eye on them from a distance, keeping out of danger as promised, but he wasn't about to let his most talented shinobi fall into an early grave. He's had enough of losing friends to the Empire.

Guiding the Yol towards the ship, he got close enough for Yugiri to jump from the bird onto the airship itself, withdrawing a slim device from a hidden pocket in her clothing and offering it to the blanketed Warrior. The detonator to the explosive charges that littered the belly of the Garlean ship, placed specifically to target the engines and bring the massive craft out of the sky. As the device was carefully lifted from her grip, Cid gave the signal for the Redbill's to finally break off and put some distance between them and the Garlean ship. Once the last craft took off and disappeared into the dark night sky, the Garlean ship went silent. No gunfire, nothing. As if they were waiting to see what happened next. For a while there was nothing, and then slowly a thumb moved over that slim device and pressed down on the button, and the belly of the ship lit up. They were far enough away that the explosions barely felt like they made an impact, but ever so gradually, the ship began to sink out of the sky, a trail of black smoke billowing up from the destroyed hull and momentarily smothering the light of the stars before dispersing into nothing.

No one aboard the Enterprise said anything as Cid turned the ship around to take them away from the sight of the hulking black mass falling towards the earth. The echo of the impact shook the air around them, but none turned to look at the carnage left behind. They were all too exhausted to do much else than sit in their own company, dwelling on dark and somber thoughts of the last several days since Ala Mhigo. Hien flew next to the Enterprise, chatting idly with Cid as the night stretched on to give the old engineer some company during the long journey home.

Chapter Text

As the smoke billowed up from the wreckage of the crashed Garlean air ship, a single figure clambered around piles of twisted metal and avoided the licking flames finding the bodies of dead crew members to fuel itself. The man's clothes were covered in soot and ash from his search, but his purple hair was still pristine and styled, his glasses free of smudges. The scientist had discovered the charges set by one of the intruders long before they had detonated. As loathe as he was to leave what research he couldn't carry behind, he had made his way to the escape shuttles without a word and had disengaged from the main body during the commotion. He wasn't a fighter, he was a scientist. His skills were best suited in a long battle of wits and stratagem. While his actions would label him a traitor to the Empire, that would only withstand should anyone believe he had survived the crash. Not that many knew he had been aboard, the prince had kept his existence quite the dirty little secret. The lavender-haired Garlean quirked his lips into a half smile as he lifted another sheet of metal out of the way, clicking his tongue when he didn't find what he was looking for under the mangled mess.

Shinryu was still dormant in its bindings, the hull of the cargo ship holding up surprisingly well. His lab was a disaster, with very little that he could recover, but that wasn't what he was there for. He had watched from a distance as Prince Zenos had faced off against that warrior he seemed so fond of, taking notes on the Garlean's responses to the experiments done. He was the strongest Resonant subject they had ever had before, taking to the treatments like a fish in water almost. But it wasn't hard to create more of a monster out of a monster, the darkness of the Resonant energy seemed to thrive within the prince's body. Feeding his strength and twisting his mind. It was quite impressive, which was why he was struck with such confusion and irritation that the prince would allow the warrior so close to him without first divulging him of that weapon. As if he hadn't seen it. The prince had been oddly captivated by the adventurer since he had returned from the raid on Rhalgr's Reach. He had been oddly jovial, humming and making comments about the most interesting beast he had come across in some time. Like a hunter speaking of some mythical creature.

The scientist's lips twisted in annoyance. That warrior was a hindrance to his research, not only had he lost access to the laboratories at Ala Mhigo and the majority of his test subjects, but even now his most successful subject had been bested. But why, why had it appeared as if Prince Zenos had put up no fight, and had seemed to even welcome the warrior's presence near him. It was curious, but aggravating, for now the warrior was once again at large, and he was being forced to start over from scratch. Well, not entirely from scratch, if he could just find...

A flash of strawberry-blond hair off in the distance caught his attention, and slowly the scientist slid down the angled side of the ruined airship all the way down to the ground. The impact had thrown the prince's body from the observation deck itself, tossing him several yalms away from the site. Hefting the weight of a mangled railing off the prone figure, the scientist grabbed the armored shoulder and slowly rolled the prince's body over with a grunt. The sword that had impaled him was twisted within his armor, acting like a cork stopper in a bottle of wine. With the pressure of his armor bearing down on the wound itself, he would bet that it had caused some clotting over time and had prevented him from completely bleeding out.

Kneeling down in the dirt, the bespectacled man twisted the helmet and carefully eased it off to take a look at the face beneath. Blood smeared the lower half of his face, and red tears had long since fallen and dried from his eyes. Those eyes fluttered once, just barely, and with a hand held over slightly parted lips he could feel the faint whisper of breath. A smile broke out over the scientist's face, pleased with the results of his find. "The gods are not quite finished with you yet, Your Highness." He said almost pleasantly, grunting as he lifted the tall Garlean by the under arms and began to drag him back towards his awaiting shuttle. "And neither am I." He added between breaths. There was a battalion in the distance, closing fast. He would need to make his presence scarce before anyone realized that there had been survivors. A shame that he would have to leave the dragon behind, but he didn't have the resources to take it with him. Besides, of the two monsters aboard that ship, he would like to say he took the one that had the most scientific worth to him. A smile twisted thin lips as the doors slid shut behind him and he swiped the dirt from the prince's armor off his hands before adjusting his glasses and taking his seat at the controls. Within moments the shuttle was taking off and making its presence scarce within the pitch black of the sky, long before the Alliance arrived to deal with the destruction left behind, and a dragon housing a power that whispered dark things to the darkest parts of ones twisted heart. Should one actually have a heart, that is.

One month later, in Ala Mhigo...

Lyse paced back and forth silently, a frown fixed on her face and her arms crossed over her chest. She had been at it for several long minutes before Alisae finally spoke up.

   "Oh would you stop pacing, you're making me dizzy!" She scolded, putting her hands on her hips and staring at Lyse with a look she normally reserved for her twin brother. The once Scion, now leader of a Revolution, came to a stop at the glare her friend was giving her. The blonde huffed and crossed her arms more tightly over her chest in a stubborn manner as she looked around the once empty hall of the Palace throne room in Ala Mhigo. For now they were using it as a medical ward for any injured in the battle over a month ago, but many of the soldiers had long since vacated the bed, and now they were at a loss for what to do with the massive Palace. She was sure that Raubahn had some plans, but the Flame General had been kept quite busy since the defeat of the Garlean Empire in Ala Mhigo and the events that had followed. For now, the primal Shinryu was imprisoned in the same cage that once housed Omega, until a time came that the Warrior of Light returned to slay the eikon.

It had come as a surprise to them all that the adventurer had left for Othard nearly immediately after their return, barely announcing his departure before he joined Yugiri and Lord Hien on their journey back to their homeland. It was a further surprise that Thancred had gone with them, especially since he hadn't thought to inform anyone else of the decision. Lyse would have traveled with them, if only to ensure their friends were alright, but Alphinaud made the pressing argument that her presence was required at Rhalgr's Reach and Ala Mhigo for the forseeable future. But she couldn't shake the memory of how distance and quiet the adventurer had been. While he wasn't the most talkative of people, he still exuded an aura of confidence and compassion that automatically drew people to him. But when he stepped off that airship and into the awaiting group of concerned friends, they could all tell that there was something different in the way he carried himself.

It was Thancred who had stepped in, preventing them from prying too deeply. Explaining that there were some things that needed time to process, and that what the Warrior needed was food, drink and rest. Two days after that, they had announced their plans to travel to Hingashi with Lord Hien and Yugiri, much to the delight of the Doman's, but the quiet concern of everyone else.

   "We haven't heard anything from them in weeks! The last time Thancred checked in was to say that they've parted ways with Hien and Yugiri in Yanxia and were making their way to the Azim Steppe!" Lyse said, resuming her pacing much to the annoyance of the slim Elezen sitting on the crate of medical supplies next to her. There were a couple tired mumbles coming from the patients in the cots scattered about the room, and Lyse instinctively dropped her voice to avoid disturbing them further. Alisae rolled her eyes quietly, understanding her friend's concern. But there wasn't much they could do about it aside from badger Thancred with questions and concern. But the rogue seemed determined to be damnably discreet about anything pertaining to the Warrior since their departure. To be fair though, she could understand the adventurer's reluctance to return to Rhalgr's Reach or Ala Mhigo, given the events that transpired. There was less to fear from the lands of Othard, and it made sense that he would want to travel to the Azim Steppe. From what she had heard, there was much to learn from the warriors there. Perhaps he was trying to reclaim something that he had lost while in the captivity of such a madman. Or perhaps he was looking for some form of guidance that he didn't feel could be offered by those around him. Either way, she didn't blame him for leaving but that didn't mean she wasn't concerned.

   "I'm sure they're just fine. Thancred would have checked in if anything was amiss." Alisae reasoned, offering a small smile to the blonde who finally huffed out a breath and came to a blessed stop from her constant pacing. Walking over to the stack of crates, she motioned for Alisae to scoot over and hopped up beside her, leaning into the Elezen a little and resting her head on a thin shoulder.

   "What do you think happened to him on that airship?" Lyse asked quietly, getting a slightly resigned sigh from her right where Alisae just accepted that she wouldn't be able to dissuade the blonde woman from leaning on her so casually and attempting to dislodge her head from her shoulder was getting nowhere.

   "Something that he's not ready to have shared with others. If even Thancred's keeping that mouth of his shut about it, whatever happened is not something to inquire about lightly. All we can do is wait and hope that the day comes when he feels it is safe enough to tell us the whole story." Alisae said, looking up at the warm sunlight shining through the stained glass windows above them. Still intact despite the destruction and calamity waged around them, they still held together to shine colored hues of warm sunlight onto the ornate stone floor and bathe the room in an iredescent glow. Lyse hummed quietly, accepting the answer but not that happy about it, Lyse slumped into Alisae a little more just to get a rise out of the young Elezen by slightly knocking her off balance, smiling at the rather disapproving sound Alisae made before attempting to right them both again into a more comfortable position. Coaxed by the warmth of the sunlight coming down around them, Lyse slowly felt her eyes begin to droop and close. Alisae looked down at the blonde currently using her shoulder as a pillow and silently shook her head in disbelief at how easily Lyse could go from a pacing figure of concern to soundly napping the day away like it was nothing. But then again, for the first time in a long while there was no pressing matters that needed to be addressed. There was no imminent threat to the world, no catastrophe that required the Scions of the Seventh Dawn to act. For now, the world was at peace, and far be it for them not to enjoy it while it lasted.

Meanwhile, in the Azim Steppe...

Thancred tossed another few logs onto the crackling fire when it began to burn down to nothing but embers. His stomach was full of warm stew prepared by Cirina, a Xaela that belonged to the Mol tribe. He never knew just how many different tribes lived in the Azim Steppe, but the adventurer serving as his guide had been quite eager for the distraction to tell him all about the Naadam, and the test within Bardam's Mettle. It didn't escape the rogue's notice that the warrior had seemed a little more withdrawn with the others, as if remaining close to them would taint them in some way. Thancred could understand the sentiment well enough, for he had felt the same way after the Ascians. But their situations were not alike, only the way they chose to respond. While neither of them had mentioned what happened at the hands of Zenos, Yugiri had managed to figure some of it out, and it had been her casually mentioning that she and Lord Hien would be departing for Hingashi within the next few days that spurred the adventurer into requesting that he be allowed to join them on their journey. With his curiosity piqued about the culture that the others have raved about to no end upon their return, Thancred had requested that the invitation extend to him as well, not missing the look of conflict in his friend's eyes at him speaking up. Caught between wanting to escape the one person who knew exactly what had happened to him aboard that ship, and wanting the support of someone who knew exactly what had happened to him aboard that ship.

Once they had reached Yanxia, they had stayed for some time to keep busy aiding Hien and Yugiri with their future plans for Doma before eventually taking leave of their allies company. It was Lord Hien who had suggested they head to the Steppe next, a suggestion the warrior seemed to take to with delight. It wasn't until they actually arrived that Thancred understood why. The first few steps into the open land had the breath rushing from his lungs, leaving him momentarily breathless. As they entered into a placed called Reunion, which felt more like a marketplace than a simple settlement, several of the Xaela had greeted the warrior in such a way that had Thancred inquiring about it, leading to the tale of the Naadam and how he had come to be crowned the khagan. It was then that a small Xaela woman with pink hair had come running up to them, panting out a greeting and attempting to explain between exhausted breaths that she had just gotten word that the khagan would be visiting and had been striving to make preparations before she realized how late it had gotten already before realizing that the warrior was not traveling alone. As much as it tempted him, Thancred did not playfully flirt with the small Xaela, not wanting to cause discourse or tension in a place that his friend clearly sought refuge, a decision that got him a look of query that he sheepishly shrugged off.

Thancred had kept to himself for the most part during their stay with the Mol, mainly out of the sensation of feeling like an outsider. At least until the warrior had made it obvious that he didn't appreciate his companion keeping his distance by choosing to sit with Thancred each time he attempted to dislodge himself from a social situation. Which was why he was now sitting around the fire with the adventurer on one side of him and the Xaela who had greeted them earlier that day, who had introduced herself as Cirina. She was soft-spoken and moved with a quiet grace that was quite calming to be around. She didn't yell or move that quickly unless flustered, which Thancred had learned happens very quickly when he made too risque of a joke. Something he was refraining from doing out of consideration for the adventurer currently dozing off beside him. The sun had set a long time ago, and their stomach's were full of hot and hearty stew. It wasn't the first time that they've had to hunt for their supper, but each time the adventurer seemed to jump at the chance to distract himself. Probably hoping to completely exhaust himself by taking on as many chores and requests as possible. From helping people hunt, to milking sheep, to mending patches in the tents worn through by the elements. Thancred knew it was all an attempt to completely exhaust himself as much as possible in hopes that he could sleep tonight, it didn't escape the rogue's notice that the shadows under those keen eyes were growing deeper and darker with each passing day. But he knew that any offer of aid would be brushed off as politely as possible, followed by an assurance that nothing was wrong. It bothered him, but he knew how stubborn his friend could be. He will wait, until his friend finally admitted that he needed his help, and when that time comes he'll do whatever it took.

   "I think it's time for some sleep, my friend." Thancred said to the warrior who blinked at him with bleary eyes. The warrior shook his head, determined to stay up as long as possible until he absolutely collapsed out of exhaustion. The rogue huffed a breath and shook his head, getting to his feet and extending his hand downward to his friend who hesitated for a long moment before slowly reaching up and taking the offered limb. Pulling the male to his feet, Thancred shot a grateful smile to Cirina and thanked her for the meal before he escorted the warrior to the tent provided by the Mol. Neither of them spoke about it, but over the last several weeks they had found themselves both sharing common sleeping space. It had started one night when Thancred had roused the adventurer from a nightmare, getting a punch to the face for his troubles and a knee to the gut before being flipped and pinned under a near panicked warrior. Thancred had gone still under the male, relinquishing control of the situation and merely talking until the adventurer managed to come back to his senses and realize what had happened. They had talked at length that night about the nightmares, about how the memories became worse when he was alone with his thoughts. Thancred had wanted to kick himself for suggesting that he be there for the nights that the warrior didn't want to be alone with his thoughts, only to be surprised when he was taken up on the offer. It wasn't sexual in nature, but from that point on they did sleep in the same bed. Sometimes facing each other after falling asleep mid conversation, sometimes with one curled around the other with the sole intention to feel warmth and the heart beat of someone they both trust. But despite this, or perhaps it was because of this ritual, Thancred knew the warrior wasn't actually sleeping beside him. Resting perhaps, just closing his eyes and letting his body relax, but he didn't sleep.

Thancred toed off his boots and removed his gloves before approaching the bed. They had pushed the two separate cots together to create a larger bed with enough space for both of them, but that was as far as they went. The blankets still covered each respective cot, tucked down between the two and creating a barrier of sorts. Once he had removed his bandana and weapons, both of which he tucked under his pillow out of habit, Thancred climbed into his side and stretched out until he was comfortable. It took the adventurer longer to join him, but Thancred understood why that was. He was honestly surprised the male could even sleep in a bed, let alone with another person. It did make him curious about what it was about him that made the warrior trust him so much, but he didn't want to question it for fear of being pushed away. Eventually he felt the cot rock slightly as the warrior finally shed his own outerwear and climbed into bed, his weapon easily within reach just like Thancred's own. He waited to see if the warrior would move, but when the dark figure next to him remained quiet with his back turned, Thancred accepted that it was going to be one of those nights where the other just wanted his presence but didn't want to be touched. Rolling onto his side so he was facing the other, Thancred closed his eyes and tried to settle down, listening intently to the slow breathing of the person beside him until he too found his breath evening out into sleep.




The warrior's eyes snapped open, the darkness of the tent seemingly endless as suddenly alert eyes peered around the interior of the tent. It was just a dream, yet another dream.


My Beastie....


Sitting upright that time, the warrior shook his head to clear it before looking down to find Thancred sound asleep beside him, one arm tucked under his head and soft snores slipping free. The temptation to lie back down and curl close to Thancred was almost too hard to resist, but he had been relying so much on his friend the last month instead of trying to handle the memories and nightmares himself. He didn't want to become dependent on the other, but it would be a lie to say he didn't appreciate everything the Scion had done for him until now. Keeping his secret about what really happened, traveling with him to Hingashi, and even offering to stay with him on the nights that got particularly bad. The nightmares were worse than the memories sometimes, the constant taunting of his own mind reminding him of what had really happened. Thancred didn't know and that's what made it worse. His subconscious reminding him of how good it had felt, how he had enjoyed it. He had felt pleasure despite it being an act of rape. Shuddering at the memory, the warrior slipped out of the bed and went to pull on his boots. He needed some fresh air, perhaps a drink. He wondered if any of the Mol were still up and about, but when he stepped out of the tent with weapon in hand, he found the settlement empty. Everyone was asleep.

Here Beastie, Beastie, Beastie....

The warrior stiffened, the memory of that taunting voice crawling up his spine. It was just his mind playing tricks on him, his own subconscious acting up. But it sounded so close, like it was being whispered against his ear. Looking out at the dark  of the Azim Steppe, the shadow of the Dawn Throne in the distance, the warrior took a deep breath and released it with a slow sigh. He should just go back to bed, he was too tired and his mind was playing tricks on him.

   "Hello Beastie." A familiar voice purred from behind him. The warrior whipped around to face the threat with his weapon drawn, only for there to be nothing there. A chuckle, deep and rich with amusement had him spinning the other way, once again finding nothing but empty grassland as far as the eye could see. Tightening his grip on his weapon, the warrior slowly moved away from the lit torches scattered around the Mol tents, his eyes peering at the darkness and trying to find anything out of the ordinary staring back at him.

   "Over here pet." Zenos' voice whispered coyly, teasing him. There was a flicker of something off to his left, down the hill past the sentry post. Past the light of the torches... But he was sure he wasn't hearing things now. He knew that Zenos was out there, taunting him. But Zenos was dead, he had stabbed him with his own two hands. So what was he hearing?

Another flicker, and slowly the warrior made his way away from the camp, down a grassy slope slightly slippery with dew. There was a clear view of nothing all the way down to the river, save for a slight drop down onto a relatively flat clearing of grass right before the cliff down into the water. Coming to a stop at the top of that drop, the warrior looked down and released a shocked gasp at the view before him. The small clearing below him was completely covered in white and pink flowers, barely showing the green grass they grew out of. The warrior shook his head, rubbing at tired eyes and hoping that the vision cleared when he opened them again, only to feel his stomach lurch at the sight of them still there when he did so. He knew those flowers, for the garden in the Royal Menagerie had nearly been drowning in them. Much like this field was now.

Slowly, the sensation of slim fingers wrapped around the warrior's hips, pulling him back against a cool presence. Shock and panic had the warrior whirling around, lashing out at the air behind him with his weapon, but once again he was swiping at nothing. Or was he? When was the last time he had properly slept? Not for several days now if he was counting correctly. That was why he was seeing things, feeling things that weren't there. It was his subconscious playing tricks on him, trying to torment him for feeling good at the touch of his enemy, for finding pleasure in such a monstrous act. It was just him punishing himself for being so weak.

   "Oh poor little Beastie...." Zenos' voice purred against his ear, the ghostly cool sensation making the warrior shiver in response. The sensation of being stroked, firm fingers running up along his stomach, down around his waist, drawing him back into a body that felt too solid to be a dream, but too cold to be real. The memory of lips too soft to be owned by such a monster slowly trailing along the column over his neck, over skin that had once held marks that he hid shamefully from those around him until they eventually vanished. "Even in death you cannot forget my touch, can you?" Zenos sneered, his voice low with threat, with promise.

The warrior wrenched himself away from his own memories, physically forcing himself to move and distance himself from that ghostly sensation, stumbling down the hill a bit more towards the field of flowers. Memories, that's all they were. But those hands followed him, sliding under his clothes without removing them, touching him in places that ached for reasons he was too ashamed to admit. The warrior writhed as his body pulsed with the memory of a firm hand wrapping around him, stroking him with purpose and drawing a wrecked sound out of the warrior's mouth. Why did this feel so different than the times before? Why did it feel so much more vivid now?

Zenos' voice shushed him, chuckling as a sharp gasp left the warrior at the mere idea of him nipping at his neck, lapping a wet tongue over the warm flesh and fondling him between the legs until those said legs quivered weakly and collapsed. "You wouldn't want your little friends to come out here and find you like this, would you?" Zenos purred, giving the warrior a rough stroke that made him tremble and his weapon slip from weakened fingers. It felt too real, but he knew it couldn't be. Nothing but his mind playing tricks on him. But when he tried to force himself onto his feet, he felt like a weight was bearing down on him, pressing until he buckled and fell forward onto his hands, gasping at the sensation of being suffocated by a weight he couldn't see. Slowly the weight eased back again and the adventurer was able to suck in some much needed air before those hands were on him again, stroking places that ached, pressing areas that made him shiver. Clenching his hands into the field of flowers under him, the warrior was surprised at how real they felt under his touch. Cool with a slight damp dew on their petals, he tore them from the ground itself and let out a defeated sob. Why, why couldn't he forget the way it felt when Zenos had touched him? Why, even after his death, did his touch continue to haunt his memory?

The hand that wasn't on his lower body moved upwards, a thumb passing over a nipple and making the warrior jerk in surprise. If he didn't know any better, he could almost swear he wasn't imagining it. If he closed his eyes, he could actually feel Zenos' body against his. Ghostly cold to the touch, like death.

   "That's it Beastie... Give yourself to me." Zenos purred, the sensation of a hand on his cock speeding up, but his clothing didn't shift, it wasn't disturbed in any way. But his body was tingling all over, pulsing in a way he was ashamed to admit. He tried to close his legs against the sensation, but it did nothing to stop the stimulation. Again his nipple felt like it was being teased, squeezed and pinched until a whimper was pulled free. It felt good, like it had back then. Hatred and rage made his throat feel tight, loathing the memory of the man who still affected his body to this day. Again the feeling of cool lips against his throat was soon followed by a chuckle, as if Zenos himself were reading his thoughts. Like he knew just what to do to make the adventurer's body quake and quiver. That's because this Zenos was a figment of his imagination, that was the only explanation.

   "Is it though?" Zenos' voice taunted him, a pressure on the warrior's cock making him gasp and buck uselessly, feeling like he was being squeezed and prevented from climax. "If I'm only in your head... Why not give in a little? Close your eyes, feel me." Zenos purred, his voice intoxicating and sultry. Almost gentle, sweet as if speaking to a lover. That's how he knew it was a dream, his own mind trying to romanticize what had happened to him. He wouldn't give in, not even to his own thoughts. There was nothing good that came out of what happened to him, it had been a disgusting act forced upon him by a mad man.

A strange, rattling hiss rippled the air for a moment, and that pressure returned to suddenly make it feel like he couldn't breathe again. The second that happened, the sensation of being stroked between his legs increased, touching and toying with him in a way that left him shaking. With a breathless cry of protest, the warrior came hard. The pleasure of an orgasm crashed through him past the haze of his mind left from the lack of oxygen. His body bucked against the invisible weight, his limbs trembled with the force of his climax, and just as it was becoming too much too soon, he watched the edges of his vision start to go dark. But not before he saw a wisp of red mist curling about the stems of the flowers he collapsed in face first, the weight vanishing from his body and allowing him to drag in desperate gasps of air a moment later.

The red mist lifted from the flowers, shifting and twisting together into one figure. The wraith lifted his hand and licked the evidence of the warrior's release from fully formed fingers with a satisfied hum. It was taking time to gain enough power to make himself corporeal, but he was pleased with the progress he had made so far. When he had first awoken, he had been so hungry. He had been fed sub par meals, scared men and women that he consumed with barely a second thought, tossing aside their empty husks once he had consumed their life force. But in order to take back what was his, he had to feed. To kill and devour in order to regain his strength. Even now he was still too weak, still fragile. But to take more from his Beastie would leave him comatose, which was not what he wanted. No, he wanted that fire, that defiance. Those eyes that watched him as his own life force slipped away, as darkness claimed his physical form from a blade piercing his body. The wraith stared in irritation as his hand crumbled away into red mist once more. Still not enough, he would have to feed more... As tempting as the nearby camps were, a slew of corpses in the morning would no doubt send his Beastie running, and he would not run from him again. Not when he had him within reach once more.

Resigning himself to yet more unsatisfactory meals, the wraith's lips twisted into a smile at the warrior lying on the ground, surrounded by a field of flowers. His cheeks flushed red, his eyes dark with pleasure and his body trembling with the aftereffects of his climax. It was a rather lovely sight. "Do dream of me, won't you pet?" Zenos sneered at the dazed warrior, his form dissolving when the wind picked up, carrying the red mist away. For those listening carefully, one could almost swear the wind was humming.


The warrior bolted up in bed with a gasp, his skin drenched in sweat and his body feeling electrified. Thancred woke and sat up with him, his hand immediately on his weapon as he tried to find the source of the warrior's distress. When no immediate threat jumped out at them, he relaxed and turned his focus to the hyperventilating adventurer beside him. Taking the others hands in his, he ducked his head until he caught the warrior's gaze, taking a deep breath and motioning for the other to do the same. Deep breath in, deep breath out. Repeat, again and again until he was sure his friend wasn't going to pass out from lack of oxygen before he broke the silence that followed. "Another nightmare?" He inquired, watching the warrior hesitate for a moment before looking ashamed of himself and nodding slowly.

The rogue's lips tilted in a understanding smile, knowing full well the nightmares that could plague someone so entirely. Releasing the adventurer's hands from his, he slowly made his way off the bed and to his feet, stretching his arms over his head and groaning when his back cracked like it did every morning. Running a hand through his hair to gather it back into a ponytail, Thancred tied his bandanna in place before pulling on his boots. "Sun's almost up, shall we see which damsel's in distress need our assistance this fine morning?" He said over his shoulder, getting a relieved smile from his friend and a nod of agreement, eager for the distraction. Answering back with a playful nod of his own, Thancred ducked out of the tent to lend a hand in the morning chores, leaving the warrior to get up and ready to join them in his own time.

Once the Scion was out of the tent, the warrior dropped the act. Looking under the blankets covering his lap, he revealed to his own horror that he wasn't imagining the sticky sensation in his pants. He had climaxed in his sleep, right next to someone he considered a dear friend. Burying his face in his hands with a groan of self-loathing and regret, the warrior shook himself and tried to pull himself together. Once he had cleaned himself up and gotten into a clean change of clothes he could join Thancred and the others for breakfast and chores and hopefully put that dream behind him. With a plan to put to action, the adventurer dragged his hands through his hair in an attempt at fixing any wild bed head that may have occurred during the night, only to freeze when his fingers caught on something. Pulling the soft, cool object out of his hair and looking at it in confusion, everything went ice cold at the sight of the slightly wilted white and pink flower clasped in his fingers as a soft chuckle rippled in the back of his mind. A chuckle that sounded dangerously familiar...