There were days when Aymeric hated his job.
He was an administrator within Public Relations – an innocuous name for a government branch that had a rather high death or grievous injury statistic. In this society of theirs, where magical creatures – both sentient and non-sentient – were fully integrated with ‘normals’, there was a lot of friction and misunderstandings that required, ah, some hands on methods to deal with. Public Relations dealt with the registration, observation, case handlings, legal affairs, medical insurance and apprehending of said sentient magical creatures; all to ensure a happy, inclusive society within Eorzea, of course.
Most of the time it… worked.
But the fact was there was so much work with so little staff. Aymeric himself juggled multiple roles and ended up sleeping under the desk of his office some nights of the week. The simple fact was, while Public Relations were vital for the safety, happiness and integration of sentient magical creatures, it wasn’t paid very well and it was considered a ‘dead end’ in your career. Once you were in Public Relations, you never left it.
Plus, the stigma of the ‘monster hunting’ side of it…
Aymeric heaved a quiet sigh as he pinched the bridge of his nose, squinting down at the paperwork before him. A new employee had been transferred from the Othard branch, a Miqo’te Werewolf, of all things, and honestly this should be such a simple and straightforward thing to process. Governmental employees were vetted to hell and back, normal or magical, but this ‘Azeyma’a Iriq Lynel’ had a few red flags on his file that seemed a little bizarre, honestly…
“Now that is an expression that cries out for coffee,” a familiar voice brought him out of his thoughts, and Aymeric looked up to see his old friend Estinien lounging in the doorway of his office with a coffee mug in each hand.
“I am gasping for a caffeine shot, yes,” Aymeric grumbled, shoving the papers aside and reaching out, “Give me.”
Estinien let out a rough chuckle, but obediently entered his office proper and handed over one of the coffees. It was in that ugly, bright yellow mug with the neon green dragon painted on it, but Aymeric didn’t care about it for once. He took a large mouthful of coffee, ignoring the slight burn on his tongue, and slumped back in his seat.
“That bad, huh?” Estinien asked him, leaning his hip against the edge of the desk and picking up the paperwork Aymeric had cast aside, “’Azeyma’a? What an awful name.”
“His preferred alias is Aza,” Aymeric muttered into the rim of his coffee cup, “You two might be working together, by the way. He’s in Animal Control.”
“A Miqo’te Werewolf… in Animal Control,” Estinien’s mouth curled into a mocking smirk, “Is that a joke?”
“Mm…” Aymeric set his mug down, pointing at the paperwork in Estinien’s hand, “He has an exemplary record. A very high success rate in apprehending and culling creatures ranging from berserk werewolves to slaying Behemoths single-handedly. A well-behaved team player and displays a high degree of self-control whilst in Wolf Form. So, he’s a very welcome contribution to the Eorzean Branch, since we’ve had an upsurge of monsters recently.”
“And yet,” Estinien said mildly, “His file is marked red.”
Estinien fingered the little sticky red tab on the paperwork and Aymeric made a face at it.
“He has some behavioural issues, allegedly,” Aymeric explained, “As well as some trauma from his childhood. He was taken from his birth family due to… issues and emplaced with a foster family, but by then the damage had been done, according to that report. However…”
Aymeric lifted his shoulders in a shrug, “None of those issues impacted his performance in Othard, and his previous superiors’ reports on him have been glowing, as well as the references from the team he worked with. In my opinion, there’s nothing to worry about with him. Whatever ‘issues’ he has, he’s dealing well enough with them that they don’t impact his professional and social life.”
Estinien eyed him for a moment, “So, no investigation?”
“I didn’t say that,” Aymeric picked up his mug again, “He’s coming in for an interview with myself in the next hour, and he’ll be working in your team for the next few months-”
“What? Aymeric…” Estinien groaned, dropping the papers in disgust on Aymeric’s desk, “I don’t have time to babysit a potentially crazy werewolf.”
“Weren’t you complaining before on how recent jobs have been dull and beneath your skills?” Aymeric said dryly, “I would have thought you’d embrace the challenge of handling an unknown werewolf into your team to spice things up a bit.”
Estinien made a face at him, “He’s Animal Control, Aymeric. I tackle more intelligent prey.”
“Hmm,” Aymeric hid his smile behind the rim of his mug, “Animal Control has been very short-staffed recently, so…”
“No,” Estinien said flatly, “Don’t say it.”
Aymeric took a sip of his coffee, his mood greatly buoyed at Estinien’s visible annoyance, “Upper Management have decided to reassign you to Animal Control until new members join-”
Estinien turned of his heel and stalked out of his office before he even finished talking.
“You need to report to Lucia at 1500hrs!” Aymeric called at his friend’s retreating back, chuckling when Estinien’s response was to slam his office door shut. Oh, he was going to fume for a few days, but Estinien was nothing but professional when it came to his jobs. He’ll bitch and moan in his downtime, but on whatever mission he was given, he’d follow it through without a peep.
That, and Aymeric trusted him to gauge this ‘Aza’ without letting his bias from this report clouding his judgement. Werewolves were still discriminated against due to the unpredictability of their beast form – some were in full control, others required medicine to sedate themselves during full moons, and others had to cage themselves lest they went on a murderous rampage. It meant their behaviour was constantly under scrutiny, and actions that would be overlooked in others were held against them, sometimes unfairly in Aymeric’s opinion.
Aymeric shook his head, then finished off his coffee. Whatever happened, he was sure this Aza would be a fine addition to Public Relations. Some may snigger at a werewolf being in Animal Control, but Aymeric was ready to receive him with an open mind and cautious friendliness. He had dealt with werewolves many times, but this would be the first time he’d deal with one as a co-worker.
It’ll be fine. Interesting. Curious.
With that thought, Aymeric set his empty mug aside and tidied up his desk in preparation for this interview, tucking Aza’s report with its red sticker out of sight.
The Rising Stones was the ugliest building Aza had ever seen.
Then again, that had been his opinion on most buildings in Revenant’s Toll. It was all blocky stone, utilitarian and cold in a way that the Azim Steppes wasn’t. The air was rank with urban pollutants, the noise was painfully loud and Aza had to actually obey traffic laws here. Well, you sort of had to obey traffic laws back in the Steppes too, but only within Reunion’s boundaries. After that you could go max speed on your bike over the undulating plains for malms and malms until the fuel ran empty.
Sighing, Aza turned off the engine of his bike, sitting back in his seat as he eased off his helmet.
He was sitting in the underground parking lot attached to the Rising Stones – crammed full of cars, but thankfully most of the bike parking spaces were free. There was only one other motorbike here, a sleek, handsome piece with NIDHOGG styled over its dark casing. Aza eyed it a bit enviously, knowing that his ancient yet reliable bike looked like a hunk of junk next to it.
Whatever. If this job paid as much as Rasho said it would, Aza might be riding something as nice as that in a few months.
Smiling at the idea of it, Aza secured his bike and made his way to the elevator leading into the Rising Stone’s lobby, his helmet tucked under his arm. Bluebird said he should have dressed up nice for this interview thing, but Aza didn’t see the point of getting into a suit he’d never wear again. There was no way he was riding his bike without leathers, and equally no way he was gonna take public transport in this urban labyrinth!
At least on his bike, the Rising Stones was a tall enough landmark for him to find his way there on the roads. On that underground train system? The buses? No chance. So, turning up to his interview in his biking leathers it was – but hey, they looked neat, right? All sleek dark leather looked nice on anyone.
It took no time at all for the elevator to take him to the lobby, where he hesitated for a moment. The Rising Stone’s lobby was more like an atrium, pale light filtering through the skylight looming above. It was massive, accommodating some gaudy, gold-plated fountain in its middle, fashioned into a mock-aetheryte. Odd choice for a fountain…
There were a lot of people here too – all in fancy suits or equally formal wear, bustling from the large row of elevators leading into the skyscraper proper, to the wide glass automatic doors at its front. The atrium was split by bulky black receptionist desk, with a guarded metal gate leading towards the elevator. Those that presumably worked there filtered through the gate with their cardkey, but everyone else was lining up at the receptionist desks, where they were let through by the security guard.
“Shit,” Aza muttered, eyeing the disgustingly long lines at the receptionist desks, “I didn’t think it’d be this busy…”
After all, the headquarters back in the Steppe was a ranger’s hut that employed about ten people to deal with everything, so he didn’t think the Animal Control Unit in Eorzea would be much bigger than that. He was almost kicking himself for his naivete, and with a sigh, he slouched over to the queue to wait for his turn, anxiously checking his watch as he did.
Twenty minutes… ah, well, hopefully he won’t be too late.
Aza was late.
Aymeric drummed his fingers on his desk as he eyed the clock, frowning as the minutes ticked by. Half an hour… he’d been willing to be lenient by ten minutes or so, as the front desk could be hell to navigate if you were new, but half an hour was taking the piss, wasn’t it? Unless he had gotten lost in the city? His previous posting had been in the Steppe, after all, where, from what Aymeric understood, everyone lived exactly as they did 1000 years ago except now they had Wi-Fi or something. Gods, he hoped Aza didn’t get a nasty shock when he arrived here.
Maybe he should give him a call. His report did have his contact details attached. With that, Aymeric pulled open his drawer, rummaging for the report – when his office door clicked open.
Aymeric looked up sharply. Standing in the doorway was an unfamiliar Miqo’te – short, no more than five fulms, with a powerfully built, stocky body and clad in tight biking leathers with a biking helmet stashed under his arm. His face looked familiar though – golden eyes, dark skin, long, dark blond hair tied into a haphazard braid-
“Azeyma’a Iriq Lynel, I presume?” Aymeric asked, smoothly sitting straight up again as he recognised the face.
“Ugh. Don’t call me Azeyma’a,” the Miqo’te grumbled, his voice thick with an accent Aymeric couldn’t quite identify, “It’s an awful name. Just Aza’ll do, Mister, uh… was it Barrel?”
“Aymeric de Borel. Just Aymeric will do,” Aymeric said, a little taken aback by the rough casualness. Aza seemed to take that as an invitation, as next thing he new the Miqo’te stepped into his office proper, kicking the door shut behind him and swaggering over to one of the seats with a very distracting sway to his hips.
Everything about him screamed absolute confidence in his right to be here. Aymeric leaned back in his seat, mentally filing this away as Aza flopped into his seat, shifting to rest his helmet on his lap. This was one of the ‘behavioural issues’ flagged up – he wasn’t very formal and was about as polite as a spiked bludgeon to the head. That was fine out in the Steppes, but here… well, Aymeric didn’t mind exactly, but he knew other people would take insult if he acted this casual about everything.
“So,” Aza said after a long moment where they just stared at each other, each taking their respective stock of the other, “You my new boss or what? Is that what this interview is for?”
“Hm,” Aymeric clasped his hands together over his lap, “No, that would be Estinien Wyrmblood. You’ll be meeting him later… no, this is a standard interview that all magical creatures new to Eorzea have with a member of Public Relations. This is a semi-informal chat to see if you are settling in well, have any issues you wish to flag up, and to answer any questions you may have regarding your rights within Eorzean law.”
The look Aza gave him was one of wry amusement, “My rights, huh?”
“Magical Creature laws in Eorzea differ to the ones in the Azim Steppes,” Aymeric said mildly. Then again, the Steppes didn’t have any laws whatsoever regarding magical creatures. The Azimis still used a tribal system of government, and whilst they tolerated Othard’s overall authority, how they handled their own magical creatures was strictly their business. The Animal Control Unit and Public Relations in the Azim Steppes always employed locally, and they tended to deal with situations by having the respective tribe’s Khatun deal with the issue… or if it was serious enough, the Khagan. Therefore, one could argue that magical creatures were freest in the Steppes, as they were treated like any other Azimi.
This, Aymeric felt, was going to be the biggest hurdle with Aza. He would no doubt be used to freedoms he wouldn’t have here, and how he responded to that…
“Yes,” Aza said, “You have mandatory registration and identification. Do I have to wear those tacky collars like the receptionist?”
“Some have different ways to identify themselves,” Aymeric said, “So long as it’s visible, you can have it however you wish. Some have badges, or, forgive the pun, dogtags. Others have wristbands or, ah, collars…”
“Hm,” was Aza’s very noncommittal response to that, “I see.”
“We can discuss that later,” Aymeric said, “You’re aware of your new posting?”
“Mmhm,” Aza’s mouth curved into a very handsome smile, “Animal Control Unit, same as before. I am very good at killing things that need to be killed. So, Othard HQ sent me here to help you all out. The Steppes are safe enough, but Eorzea has become dangerous recently, yes?”
Well, Aza was uncomfortably blunt, but not incorrect. With a grimace, Aymeric admitted, “Yes, there’s been an upsurge of Monster numbers here. Altercations between dangerous wildlife and populated areas have been increasing month by month.”
“That’ll stop now that I am here,” Aza said confidently – it sounded beyond arrogant, yet Aza said it in such a matter of fact tone… “Tell me which areas are worst off and next full moon I will go on a big hunt for the nests.”
What? “Ah, pardon?”
“Do you not do that here?” Aza looked surprised, “It’s common in the Steppes to gather up the werewolves on full moon and do a big hunt. It helps keeps the monster populations way down – and keeps us busy on those nights. Two birds, one stone, y’see?”
Oh, Gods. Aymeric could only imagine the media circus that would be. People would have kittens if they knew a pack of werewolves were roving around on full moons near suburbs and the like, hunting and killing monsters in droves. If someone ran across a werewolf in a civilian suburb covered in blood… urgh.
“That… type of thing is restricted,” Aymeric said very carefully, “Especially in urban areas.”
“Ah, of course,” Aza sighed, “I forget. Eorzeans are scared of werewolves.”
Again, blunt… but not incorrect.
“We’ll put a pin in it for now,” Aymeric said, “It’s an idea to consider – it will just require some proper preparation and permissions. Now, let us get back on track…”
The rest of the interview went… okay. Aza was too casual, too blunt and definitely too used to freedoms Eorzean werewolves didn’t enjoy. Yet, he was also adaptable. He did not argue or huff or complain whenever Aymeric told him something he clearly disagreed with. Aza just gave him a look, kept his face stoic, and nodded. He wasn’t exactly polite or friendly… but speaking to him was nice in a very straightforward way. He was, in a bizarre way, kind of professional.
Actually, it was like speaking to a more prickly, reserved Estinien. Aymeric foresaw them getting along like a house on fire in that case.
At least he was nice to look at, Aymeric mused. Those biking leathers hugged Aza’s frame obscenely well, and the Miqo’te’s face was unfairly attractive. Too often during the interview, Aymeric found his attention wandering as he focused a bit too long on those hypnotic golden eyes, or the way Aza’s mouth would curve into a smile, bottom lip temptingly full, or how his hair would catch the light whenever he tilted his head. Very handsome and good eye candy.
But Aymeric was professional, so he kept those thoughts firmly in the back of his mind where they belonged. It wasn’t as if anything would happen anyways, even in a casual sense. Aza was a werewolf, and they tended to pair up with fellow werewolves even for casual flings. Still, it was nice enough to look.
Aymeric could already hear Estinien mockingly calling him a furry. Whatever, his friend just didn’t appreciate the finer things in life.
“I think that’ll do for today,” he said, glancing down at the notes he’d been taking throughout the interview, “So you don’t fret needlessly, you do have the job. This was just…”
“To see if I’m controllable or willing to play nice?” Aza asked lightly, “It’s fine. You can say it how it is.”
“Yes…” Aymeric sighed, “You’re far too blunt for your own good, but otherwise I think you will be a fine addition to the Animal Control Unit.”
Aza just smiled at him, like there was a little in-joke between them, “Mmhm. How much bullshit should I expect from everyone else around here?”
“… moderate amount,” Aymeric said honestly, “Not to worry, though. Estinien, whilst a prickly bastard, is not one to judge a character on their birth or race. Impress him, and you will enjoy minimal bullshit whilst you’re here.”
“Great,” Aza pushed himself up from his seat, stashing his helmet under his arm again, “I think I’ll go find him now, get a feel for him. Thanks for the nice interview. You’re not a bad sort, despite what people say about Eorzean Elezens.”
Aymeric blinked, “What they say…?”
“That you’re all stuck up pricks who can’t tell their elbow from their asshole,” Aza said cheerily, “So, nice to see you proving that stereotype wrong! I’ll see you around, yeah?”
“Ah, yes-” Aymeric began, a little bemused when Aza just walked out of his office without a proper dismissal, leaving the door wide open. Well.
“This… will be interesting,” he mused to himself, “Estinien’s going to hate him.”
Or like him. Hate-like, probably. If anything, Aza will definitely alleviate the boredom his friend had been griping about while Aymeric got to enjoy the spectacle from the sidelines. He chuckled quietly to himself at the thought, leaning back in his seat as he rubbed his mouth.
Yes, definitely enjoy the spectacle… especially if Aza continued to wear those tight leather trousers that just so perfectly hugged his ass.
“So, new kid-”
“Call me ‘new kid’ again and I’m eating your kidneys next full moon.”
Estinien tried not to laugh at that casually delivered threat, staring down at the pint-sized problem Aymeric had thoughtlessly dropped in his lap. Aza just stared back with the blandest expression he’d ever seen on a Miqo’te’s face, those eerie, beastly eyes cutting right through him. Gods, Estinien could easily imagine him jumping on a table and biting the head off a chicken or something, he looked so… wolfish.
“I see why your file was marked with ‘behavioural issues’ now,” Estinien said dryly, “Have a habit of threatening to eat other people’s organs do you?”
“Only towards bad people,” Aza said with mocking sweetness, shooting him a grin that was all teeth, “Is that not allowed here?”
“It’s frowned upon, yes,” Estinien said, letting his gaze trail down the pint-sized werewolf’s body contemplatively. It was Aza’s first ‘official day’ and in his welcome package the admin instructions detailed what constituted as appropriate dress for office hours; which was smart shirt and trousers, or the issued police uniform. Aza had, obviously, picked neither of those options and rocked up in biking leathers with steel toe-capped combat boots, his motorcycle helmet tucked under his arm.
He also opted for the collar as his werewolf identification which, Estinien had to admit, went nicely with the leathers – but Aza now looked like he belonged in some biker gang porno or something. Gods, he won’t be able to shake that mental image out of his brain now.
“…aren’t you gonna show me to my desk or something?” Aza asked pointedly when the silence stretched a bit too long between them, “Introduce me to the team or whatever? I wanna get to work.”
“I have a question before we do all that,” Estinien said, letting his gaze drift back up to lock onto Aza’s impatient stare, “On full moons, are you-”
“In full control of my mental faculties, yes,” Aza said flatly, everything about his posture tensing up, like he was braced for an argument of some sort.
“No, not that,” Estinien dismissed with a wave of his hand, “No, I want to know, on full moons, are you a midget as a wolfman too?”
“A midget,” Estinien couldn’t hold back his mocking smirk any longer, “You’re quite short, you see, so I was wondering if you’d be similar to Lalafellian Werewolves. Tiny, not very intimidating… yet also an adorable ball of fur that yips like a chihuahua-”
“Fuck off,” Aza growled without much heat, because he was struggling to fight back a grin. He looked oddly pleased about something, despite being insulted, “No, I’m eight fulms of solid muscle that could snap you over my knee. You’re just a lanky sapling, y’know, so it'll be easy.”
“Lanky,” Estinien supposed he deserved that, so he let it wash off his back without further comment, “Where does the three fulms come from?”
“It’s my bottled-up rage given physical form or something.”
“Hmmm,” Estinien said, then tipped his head and pivoted on his heel, “This way. You have a pick of the desks, since we’re short-staffed at the moment. Not that it matters, as they’re all equally shoddily made and terrible.”
Aza obediently followed and Estinien kept him in his peripheral. Animal Control and Public Relations all shared the same floorspace, as their jobs tended to overlap more often than not, with those of higher rank enjoying their own private office space (i.e Aymeric, the lucky bastard). Estinien was doomed to sit out on the open floorplate with the rest of the peons, and it was his desk he led Aza to – there were several sitting empty next to his own which was… depressing. Their numbers had been slashed considerably in the past few months, with injuries and even deaths increasing along with the monster population.
“I knew you were short-staffed,” Aza murmured as he took in the mostly empty floorplate, “But not like this.”
Estinien grunted. Yes, aside from himself and Aza, the only other person in today was Aymeric, sequestered in his office, Lucia, who was soon to depart for Ishgard to beg for manpower in that corner, and a smattering of low-levelled grunts who would soon be whisked away to the distant corners of Eorzea to do monster next exterminations, bolstered by the local security forces. Hopefully there won’t be any injuries today from that…
“Here,” he said once they stopped at his desk – utilitarian and sparsely decorated, because Estinien never did paperwork and only used his desk to browse the Aethernet on his terminal and maybe take a nap or two, “Take your pick. Don’t feel obligated to pick one next to me, I’m not planning on babysitting you every minute of the working day.”
Aza shot him an unreadable look but meandered towards the closest empty desk next to Estinien – directly in front with only a few fulms of space between them. The Miqo’te set his helmet atop of it, then seemed unsure on what to do next, glancing at the inert terminal on the desk then at the phone almost quizzically.
“…did you even have technology out on the Steppes?” Estinien asked, just to make sure. The Azim Steppes were well known for being unchanged as progress marched on, and despite having one of the lowest GDPs in the world, there was a noticeable lack of poverty amongst the local population, as the tribes just lived as their ancestors did, except they had internet and linkpearls, maybe.
“It’s rural, not backwards,” Aza said witheringly, turning around and parking his ass on the edge of the desk, “Though, I’m not used to all this… stuff, yeah. We didn’t do much ‘office work’ in Animal Control back in the Steppes. No computers or landlines or anything. Didn’t really do paperwork either.”
“Oh? So, did you have to chisel your reports on stone tablets then?”
“Ha ha,” Aza rolled his eyes, “No. Reports weren’t a… thing, I guess? We verbally reported to the boss, and he wrote shit up for Othard’s main HQ or something. I don’t know. I was pointed in a direction and told to kill or chase something, that’s all I can tell you.”
That might be a minor issue, then. Written reports were a necessity in their line of work, if only for accountability. People became somewhat terse and irritable when your attempted culling of a local Behemoth nest culminated in a stampede through someone’s back garden, so covering your tracks with verified reporting was a necessity. Doubly so for Aza, whose unfortunate condition would put him under increased scrutiny. It only needed one person to claim that Aza bit them or something…
Estinien resigned himself to being partnered up with the pint-sized werewolf until further notice, then. Aymeric would get tetchy if he allowed Aza to place himself in such an awkward position without back up.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “You will have to write reports. On a terminal or on paper, it doesn’t matter. This is about accountability, so there is no wriggling out of it. I know, I have tried.”
Aza looked as if he had taken a massive bite out of a lemon, but to his credit he didn’t gripe, “…understood.”
“Now, familiarise yourself with your terminal,” Estinien said dismissively, taking a seat at his own desk and powering up his terminal, “Or explore. You have free reign for the next hour, so do whatever you want.”
“Why? What’re we doing in an hour?”
“We have a clean-up mission near Saint Coinach’s Find,” Estinien sighed, “Ogres are encroaching on the archaeologists again.”
Aza looked naively hopeful about that – Estinien was anticipating that look to become one of bored frustration after killing his hundredth ogre by lunch time – and ambled off deeper into the floorplate with some parting mutter of going to find the coffee machine. Estinien watched him go for a moment, then decided the pint-sized werewolf was a big boy that could handle himself and focused back on his terminal.
It could’ve been worse, he admitted. Aza didn’t seem all that bad – he wasn’t a shrinking violet like most werewolves Estinien had met, but neither was he too aggressive and rude. If he proved to be as capable as he boasted in a fight, then maybe Estinien would actually tolerate him enough to happily babysit him.
thus begins the buddy cop part
i'll stop doing world building now and just focus on the furry porn bc that's what we're here for right
Aymeric stifled a yawn as the ancient communal coffee machine grumbled and gurgled away in the office kitchen. It was close to midnight and Aymeric, in retrospect rather foolishly, decided to volunteer for today’s nightshift, as Artoirel came down with an unfortunate case of food poisoning at the last minute. True, it meant Aymeric was going to stay awake for almost thirty-six hours, but there wasn’t anyone else to take up the shift on such short notice…
It was full moon tonight as well, so there had to be someone on call in case something happened. Werewolves getting stuck in snares if they were the sort to run about in the woods during their transformation, or alternatively killing livestock – plus the vampires would be bustling about in a fuss, and there was always some kind of squabble between a werewolf and a vampire on full moons, and that wasn’t getting into the other magical creatures that got antsy either. There was just something about Dalamud that got everyone in a tizzy when it was at its brightest.
Speaking of, he wondered how Aza was dealing with his first full moon here…
Aymeric had only met him a few times since their interview a week ago; Aza tended to shadow Estinien’s every step and stick his nose into his business all the time, which meant they got to talking a lot. From what Aymeric deduced, Aza hung around him because he actually liked Estinien… and also enjoyed winding him up into a right huff. Aymeric found the entire thing utterly delightful to observe, so just left them both to it.
He jolted when the coffee machine beeped angrily at him, and he tiredly yanked the coffee pot out to pour himself a cup. He wouldn’t have any of that entertainment tonight, unfortunately. Estinien had left hours ago and Aza obviously wouldn’t be here on full moons, so it was just Aymeric, his coffee and a mountain of paperwork waiting for him on his desk.
Grumbling under his breath and cursing the dodgy fish that had laid Artoirel low, he turned from the counter and shuffled out of the kitchen. He muffled another yawn behind his hand, squeezing his eyes shut-
Only to almost spill his coffee everywhere when he walked into something very solid and furry.
“Oh, shit-” he winced when hot coffee spilled over his fingers, stumbling back a step as he just caught his balance – mostly in thanks to the large hand that grasped his bicep to steady him. A hand that looked very much like a werewolf’s paw, covered in deep gold fur with wickedly sharp and dark claws. Aymeric stared it at stupidly for a moment.
“Sorry about that. My mind was a million miles away,” A very deep, rasping voice rumbled at him, one that sounded oddly familiar. Aymeric shifted his gaze upwards when the werewolf released him, bewildered to find himself looking up at a wolfman that had to be about eight fulms tall. The mysterious lycanthrope towered over him, broad shouldered and solidly built, with a thick golden pelt and… no clothes on…?
“Where are your pants?” Aymeric blurted, his gaze dropping down to see – yep. No pants. Werewolves could sort of get away with it, but the fur didn’t cover up everything and it was considered common courtesy for them to toss on some underwear at least. This werewolf was very very naked and, yes, Aymeric was seeing quite a lot down there. The sheath and the, oh dear…
“Do I have to wear pants?” Mysterious Werewolf asked curiously, looking down too, “You can’t really see much.”
“I can-” Aymeric paused, abruptly recognising why that voice was so familiar, “Aza? Is that you?”
“Who else would it be? Yeah, it’s me,” Aza huffed, his dark lips pulling back into a rather wolfish grin. He looked so different to the tiny Miqo’te Aymeric was so used to seeing. He did wonder how his cat-like characteristics would translate over into his wolf form and the answer was: not at all. Everything about him, from his snout to his ears to his tail was all pure wolfman. The only thing vaguely recognisable as Aza were his eyes, which were utterly unchanged.
“You weren’t joking about the eight fulms thing…” Aymeric mumbled, feeling a little dazed at coming face to face- or snout or, well, chest really, with Aza’s werewolf form, “What are you even doing here?”
“I’m on nightshift,” Aza answered, sounding honestly confused, “S’why I wasn’t in earlier today.”
“Oh. But I thought…” Aymeric trailed off, puzzled. Aza hadn’t been in today, but he had thought it was because of the full moon business. He knew some werewolves felt absolutely rotten in the lead up to the transformation, and he knew Estinien would be happy enough to sign off on three days of sick leave for Aza to recuperate.
“I asked for it,” Aza said, “I don’t sleep during full moons ‘cuz of obvious reasons, so I thought, hey, might as well work then, right? S’what I did on the Steppes, so it don’t bother me none.”
“Huh,” Aymeric mulled on that for a moment. It seemed that he wasn’t alone for tonight then. That was… nice? “…do you want coffee?”
“I’m always a slut for coffee.”
“Good, so am I. Well, come in here then. I’ll pour you some.”
After spending a good five minutes hunting for a mug large enough to be safely held between Aza’s paws (and where Aymeric realised that Aza had adorable pink paw pads that he had a strong urge to squish), they relocated to his office. There was no point having Aza sit out on his own on the floorplate, and Aymeric wasn’t in the mood to be lonely either, so obviously they spent their working hours gossiping in the office instead.
“No one really said anything about the no pants thing when I walked through the reception area,” Aza said, sinking his claws into his thick ruff in a leisurely scratch. He somehow managed to squeeze himself into the chair opposite Aymeric’s desk, though it creaked ominously every time Aza shifted his prodigious weight, “I thought they were staring ‘cuz I was in wolf form.”
“They probably were. Most werewolves take the full moon as sick leave,” Aymeric said, unable to stop himself from looking Aza over. This was the closest he’d ever been to a non-violent werewolf, so he was drinking up the chance to just take in details to satisfy his curiosity. Aza’s fur was so thick and fluffy, he had the strongest urge to pet it, and his tail was bushy and long. His claws looked very sharp, yet he didn’t leave the slightest scratch on anything he handled. Aymeric’s arm wasn’t even bruised where Aza had caught him earlier. His control was phenomenal…
In short, Aza made a very handsome looking wolf. The ones Aymeric dealt with all tended to be half-starved or mangey or diseased in some way, but Aza was clearly healthy and happy, and it showed. Honestly, his coat was so nice looking and plush, Aymeric was just dying to curl his fingers into it. He kept his hands firmly gripping his mug to combat that urge. It might be rude just to reach out and pet his fur.
“Oh, that makes sense,” Aza mumbled, oblivious to Aymeric’s blatant staring, “I always feel really bad during the day on full moons. My bones ache and I feel nauseous...”
“Do you feel bad now?” Aymeric asked curiously, “Ill or anything?”
“Nah. I feel good like this,” Aza’s snout wrinkled into what Aymeric guessed was a wolf-style grin, “Like stretching off a cramped muscle or something. Only way I can describe it.”
“And the no pants thing?”
“I have fur. Why should I wear clothes?” Aza asked, clearly baffled, “I mean, you don’t make dogs wear pants.”
Aymeric… had so many things to say in response to that, but he honestly didn’t have the energy to get drawn into an argument or whether or not werewolves could run afoul of public indecency laws. Technically speaking, Aza was covered up… kind of. The fur was quite thick down there, and the sheath covered up his penis entirely, so it wasn’t as if you saw anything too indecent. It was just… very there.
“It’s just a common courtesy thing,” he said uncertainly, “I think.”
“Hrm,” Aza sniffed at that, “Or is it to make everyone else more comfortable? Clothes just make me all itchy ‘cuz of my fur, so I think I’ll stay naked, thanks.”
People were going to complain… but, as Estinien was Aza’s direct supervisor, it would be his responsibility to deal with it. Knowing full well what Estinien’s response would be to those (“I don’t care”), Aymeric decided to drop the subject entirely and wash his hands of the matter. Not his problem.
“So, what’re you even doing here this late?” Aza asked, “Shouldn’t you have gone home hours ago?”
“Artoirel came down with food poisoning this afternoon, so I have to stand in for him,” Aymeric said, “It’s fine. I’ll be able to snatch four hours of sleep before I begin my next shift at least.”
“Esty was right, you’re such a workaholic,” Aza muttered, lifting his mug and dipping his head to lap up his coffee. Surprisingly, he did it without causing any spillage, and Aymeric found himself staring at the pink tongue darting out, plunging into the coffee and lapping it up. Huh.
“Only… out of necessity…” he said slowly, tearing his gaze away with some difficulty. He must be more tired than he thought, he realised uncomfortably, if he was having weird thoughts like that.
“Hmm,” Aza sounded doubtful, but he didn’t press the issue. He lifted his snout from his coffee, licking his chops and giving him a wolfish grin – or, he hoped it was a grin, “Say, why don’t I help you out?”
“Help you out,” Aza repeated, “I’m pretty good at forging signatures, so if you gimme some stuff you want signing off, you can take a nap on the sofa for a few hours.”
Aymeric paused, unsure if he was touched at the offer or alarmed at Aza’s casual admittance of forging signatures, “Don’t you have your own work to do?”
“I’m on call,” Aza said dismissively, “Until someone calls about a Behemoth eating their pet cat, or some Zu roosting on their roof, I’m just idling.”
Ugh. Gods, it was so tempting. Even with the coffee hit, Aymeric was drained to the point where his eyelids felt like lead weights. He glanced down at his desk, where it was smothered beneath paperwork and the like, then up at Aza’s earnest, wolfish face. No, he shouldn’t. All it took was for someone to glance into the office to see Aza messing about with his papers and drawing unfortunate conclusions.
“Thank you, but it’s fine,” he said, “If you’re idling, chat with me while I work. It’ll keep me focused.”
“Alright…” Aza scratched at his ruff again, “How about I tell you some stories from the Steppes? We got up to some wild shit there.”
“Yes, please,” Aymeric downed the rest of his coffee and picked up his pen, determined to get into the flow of working, even with the distraction of big, gold and wolfish sitting opposite from him. He had to say though, conflicting urges and feelings aside, it was nice to have company instead of glumly working alone in here, “Talk away.”
It was the beginning of a pleasant routine, and the path to something more.
you know that feeling you get when you see a really fluffy dog and you are overcome with a NEED to PET IT. thats the feel aymeric's getting right now with aza in wolfman form lol
Estinien jolted awake when something thumped solidly on his desk right next to his ear, followed by Aza’s very unwelcome voice chirping, “Hey, Esty. Stop slacking for a second and look at this!”
“Ergh,” was his intelligent reply. He was tempted to ignore him – he was wiped after chasing a ‘Behemoth sighting’ all over Saint Coinach’s Find all morning only to find out it was some overly large dog with horns strapped to its head, so he really wasn’t in the mood to deal with Aza’s tomfoolery. However… Aza would just pester him until he indulged him, so plastering on his best resting bitch face, he lifted his head and squinted at the large object Aza rudely dumped on his desk.
“…that’s an egg,” he said rather dumbly. Indeed, right next to his elbow was a large, off-white egg with faint blue speckles. It was about as big as his damn head, and he belatedly recognised it as, “A Chocobo egg. Where in the hell did you get that?”
“Well, I went for my usual early morning run, right,” Aza began, and Estinien could’ve kicked himself for falling into that trap. Shit, now he was stuck sitting through one of his fucking stories, “And I normally go out near the river, where all the horsebird farms are-”
“Chocobos,” Estinien corrected, not for the first time, “Will you stop calling them horsebirds?”
“Never,” Aza sniggered, his eyes twinkling with mischief, “Anyways, stop interrupting. So, I was running by this farm, and I noticed there was a bit of a crowd by one of them. They were selling off some horsebird eggs, and they were kinda expensive, yeah, but I was thinking, you know, better support our local farmers-”
“Aza,” Estinien said flatly.
“So, I bought one,” Aza finished, patting the top of the egg affectionately, “The guy said that you can cook these into a monster omelette or something, and they’re pretty tasty!”
Estinien knew this, because Ishgard were fucking obsessed with Chocobo omelettes, as well as being obsessed with the animal in general. Chocobos were very much like chickens, where there were certain breeds that laid unfertilised eggs fit for consumption. They were very expensive to manage, and it was only Ishgard and Mor Dhona that regularly farmed and sold them. Some rich Ul’dahn would pay for them from time to time, but that was about it.
“And you brought your future omelette into work because…?”
“Well, it’s still pretty big and we have a kitchen here, so I was thinking maybe I could be nice and cook us an omelette. But if you’re going to be a grump about it-”
“I want omelette,” Estinien demanded, “As recompense for the trauma you put me through.”
“You’re such a diva, Esty,” Aza sighed, “A little whiny baby.”
“Who’s calling who a diva?” Estinien grumbled, “Just last week you spent a good hour whimpering on the floor because you got a bramble stick stuck in your tail’s fur. You acted like you were on your death bed.”
“That’s because it was super painful, you asshole,” Aza huffed, “It took me hours to get all the thorns out.”
Estinien rolled his eyes but didn’t push the argument further. He slouched back down on his desk, propping his cheek on an upturned palm as he studied the egg next to him. It was fairly large for an unfertilised egg – they tended to be a bit smaller, but this was huge. Probably some enterprising farmer figured out how to make them bigger.
He didn’t have long to study the egg, though, because Lucia chose that moment to wander over with a new job – a pack of wild wolves invading one of the ‘horsebird farms’. It was a job any low-levelled grunt with a rifle could deal with, but they were that shortstaffed that the likes of Estinien and Aza were forced to go over and deal with it.
So, Aza was forced to stash his egg under his desk, bundling it up in the spare clothes he kept at work in case he turned back to Miqo’te form after a full moon nightshift, and it was promptly forgotten about for the rest of the day.
The next morning, Aza dumped the egg on his desk once more.
“Hey, Esty, you’re an expert on horsebird eggs, right?” the Miqo’te said before Estinien could complain about him taking over his personal space, “Doesn’t this feel a bit too heavy for an unfertilised one?”
“It’s probably because it’s half your size that it feels heavy,” Estinien grumbled, but he indulged him and picked up the egg – and paused because, that was very heavy, “Huh.”
“Right?” Aza took the egg back, weighing it gingerly in his hands before setting it down a mite gentler than he had before, “What if it’s… y’know…?”
“Fertilised eggs are strictly regulated,” Estinien told him, “You have to jump through multiple hoops to own a Chocobo, let alone hatch one. They require specialised care and whatnot. I doubt a farmer would just sell one.”
“Maybe the farmer made a mistake?” Aza asked, “I mean, I don’t want to make an omelette and have a half-grown baby horsebird tumble out. That’d be kind of sad.”
“Well, yeah! It’s killing a baby, isn’t it?” Aza frowned at the egg, curiously poking at it. It gently rocked on Estinien’s desk, “Back home, there’s a tribe that actually does that. They steal Yol eggs and crack them open to eat the babies in there.”
What the hell was a ‘Yol’? Whatever, Estinien wasn’t getting involved in this. If it turned out to be an actual Chocobo egg, then Aza could deal with the legal consequences of it. At worse he might have to hand it to the local Chocobo Sanctuary, at best he might be able to claim ownership of it, if he was quick enough with his admin. Then again, Aza lived in a shitty apartment near the House of Splendours, which was the worst possible place to raise a baby Chocobo…
“Do whatever you want with it,” Estinien muttered, turning to his computer terminal, “Sit on it, brood, whatever. I’m not getting involved.”
Aza rolled his eyes at him, but he reclaimed his egg and went back to his own desk. He bundled the thing back up, and after a pause rested it on his lap instead of having it sit at his feet. Estinien rolled his eyes at the sight.
Guess this meant he wasn’t getting his omelette. Damn it.
It took three days.
Three days and at the tail end of their shift. It was ten o’clock at night and Estinien was ready to go home, Halone damn it, but Aza put that stupid egg on his desk and yelled, “It’s hatching!”
“Then why are you putting it on my desk?” Estinien snarled, immediately trying to remove it so he didn’t get freshly born egg gunk all over the wood – it’d take ages to clean that shit up! “Put it on yours!”
Aza’s response was to smack his hands and chase him off with very intimidating growls and snarls. It was when their little scuffle was graduating up to a proper wrestling match – Estinien boldly wrenching Aza into a headlock and almost tripping over his chair in the process – when they were interrupted by a very quiet ‘crack’.
“The egg!” Aza gasped, flailing free from Estinien’s grip by elbowing him hard in the side and kicking the back of his knee. Estinien went down with an ungraceful yelp, wincing when Aza stepped on him in his haste to lean over his desk, “Esty, you can see its beak!”
“Fuck sake,” Estinien muttered, seriously contemplating just lying on the floor until it was all over. After a moment curiosity compelled him to get up, what with Aza ‘ooh’ing and ‘aah’ing as the cracking noise continued. He slouched over to his desk, dismayed to see the egg was mostly broken open, sticky eggshell clinging to the damp-feathered chick sitting amidst the mess. It blinked its giant, dark eyes, peering up at Aza curiously.
“It’s so cute…” Aza breathed, “Look, Esty. Look how cute it is.”
It was very cute, but Estinien would never admit it even under the pain of death. He grunted instead, looking the chick over critically. It was a deep gold and quite heavy-set – a destrier breed, which meant it was going to grow up huge, and it was already cheeping and flapping its stubby wings at Aza, its beak open wide for food. Oh fuck, that’s right-
“It’s hungry,” Estinien said, “You need to feed it. You did get food in advance, right?”
Instantly, Aza’s besotted look became one of blank panic, “Uh.”
Seriously, Aza could be an absolute dumbass sometimes, “All the shops are closed, so you can’t buy any until morning. It can keep until then… it’ll just be really hungry.”
“I’m not gonna let it starve!” Aza protested hotly, “It’s a bird, right? It probably eats the same thing Yols do.”
“The hell is a Yol-”
“Stay here, Esty!” Aza commanded, picking up his leather jacket from the back of his chair and slinging it on frantically, “Look after lil’ Rations until I get back. I’m gonna grab them some food.”
“Rations?” Estinien repeated, “You are not calling a Chocobo Rations-”
But Aza wasn’t listening. Like the force of relentless nature that he was, Aza bolted across the floorplate and into the hallway like he had a pack of angry Behemoths on his heels. The Chocobo chick – Rations, apparently – cheeped frantically, struggling onto its feet and waddling to the edge of the desk.
“Ah, no,” Estinien said, quickly snatching it up before it could leap off and hurt itself. He grimaced at the sticky, tacky feeling that clung to his fingers, and then sighed when Rations immediately decided it very much disliked this and started squawking and cheeping up a storm, flapping its stubby wings and pecking at his fingers.
“I should toss you into the oven and bake you into a pie,” he grumbled, ignoring the sharp pain of a blunt beak nipping at his fingers, “Gods, will you shut up?”
Rations’ response was to shit in his hands.
The situation concluded thus:
Aza ended up coming back with a Tupperware box full of worms and insects and the like, muddy all over, along with a warm, thick blanket to bundle the chick up in. Estinien felt that he should be given a medal for his patience and tolerance, as Rations shat on him a total of five times pecked his fingers to absolute ruin.
It was at this point Aymeric ventured out of his office to see what the commotion was all about. Aymerictook in the scene of Estinien with his dead-eyed, thousand-yard stare and Aza fussing over a baby Chocobo chick, trying to feed it a cricket, and decided to intervene before blood was shed. The end result was Aza declaring that Rations was the cutest, most precious thing in the world, and even though he only had her (somehow he could tell it was a girl) for less than twenty minutes, he will kill anyone who touched her.
Werewolves were, unfortunately, very quick to bond, and they bonded intensely. Aza was not exaggerating his threat there.
Estinien left that sticky situation in Aymeric’s hands, though. Let the big furry try to convince the overprotective werewolf to let go of his new feathery daughter. Estinien was going to go home, have a bath and then try to smother all urges to strangle Aza in the morning. Gods, that pint-sized werewolf was the bane of his bloody existence sometimes!
Next time Aza decided to bring a damn egg into work, he was going to break the damn thing over his head!
yes rations is in this story!
aymeric eventually caved to aza's stubbornness and helped him apply for ownership over Rations... with the stipulation that he handed her over to the local livery since keeping her cooped up in an apartment wouldn't be viable, plus she wasn't housebroken so she couldn't come to work either bc she'll just shit everywhere and rip everything up. You bet aza visited her every day though!
Estinien being visibly excited was the creepiest thing Aza had ever witnessed.
It didn’t help that they were both crammed in a police car, bouncing and bumping along a narrow, neglected country road towards one of the farms lay on the outskirts of the Gridanian border. Aza actually had to wear his uniform, rather than his biking leathers, and it made him feel deeply uncomfortable and exposed. It was nothing but cheap synthetic cotton, not thick, sturdy leather. A massive oversight on the uniform of a unit that regularly apprehended or fought dangerous monsters and magical creatures.
“I hate that you’re smiling,” Aza said when their vehicle squeaked through a near ninety-degree bend, the scratching of low hanging branches scraping across the roof making him cringe, “It’s freaking me out.”
“We’re finally doing something fun,” Estinien said, checking his sat nav to make sure they were still on the right route, “An actual investigation with promise of an arrest at the end.”
“You arrested someone two days ago,” Aza grumbled, “A shoplifter.”
“Yes, because that was incredibly exciting,” Estinien scoffed, “A bewildered Sylph that didn’t understand the concept of money. Technically, they traded vegetables for their items anyway, so it wasn’t even thieving.”
Right. The ‘Beast Tribes’, as they were derogatorily known as, still lived separate from Eorzean society. Occasionally you had a handful that lived in places like Limsa Lominsa, or Mor Dhona, but in the rest of the city states they were very unwelcome. Aza thought it a shame. They were interesting and knew very obscure and odd magics that most modern mages and witches had forgotten.
“What happened with that anyways?” Aza asked curiously. It was one of the rare times their role as Animal Control/Public Relations overlapped with the Constabulary, and the law tended to get very fuzzy and complicated when misunderstandings with Beast Tribes happened.
“The Adders stuck their noses into it, and I let them have it,” Estinien said, “What do I care about some Sylph? They didn’t harm anyone, so the Adders bailed them.”
Aza leaned back in his seat with a wry huff. He could always count of Estinien being equally dismissive of everyone, no matter their race, species or magical creature status. He didn’t know if that was a good or a bad thing, considering Estinien’s job, but it was pleasantly refreshing at times.
“This might not have an arrest,” Aza warned, grunting when their car drove into a ford – there was a concrete bridge, but the waters had swelled enough to come rushing over the surface by a few ilms. White, foamy water splashed everywhere, “It might just be a waste of time.”
“Missing Persons are never a waste of time.”
Aza sighed, but slouched further in his seat. Truth be told, he wasn’t looking forward to this assignment for multiple reasons.
It was a simple one on the surface: it was two days after the last full moon of this month – something Aza was still feeling in his aching joints and stiff muscles – and the owner of Fogfens Farm, Blysslona Doesraelwyn, had filed a Missing Persons report for her son, Alyrloef, who was also a werewolf. Her son was reasonably mild-mannered during full moon, albeit not in full grasp of his mental faculties, but he was registered as a low threat to livestock and people if stumbled across in wolf-form, meaning he wasn’t required to be sedated or restrained. Blysslona, therefore, allowed Alyrloef to roam about her private lands, helping keep lookout for any feral werewolves that might try to steal livestock. He was normally gone for the full three days but came crawling back after the last full moon… except this time.
Aza, personally, had a bad feeling about it. Werewolves were unfailingly loyal, especially with those they deemed family, so it wasn’t as if Alyrloef would just fuck off for no good reason. The monster populations out in the sticks like this were dangerously high too, so it was highly likely that Alyrloef was dead. Killed by a monster, or a feral werewolf, a hunter or even another farmer by accident. It made his stomach knot up painfully at thinking of finding a corpse and having to present it to the poor boy’s mother.
“You’ve been in a right snit since Aymeric gave us this job,” Estinien finally asked when the silence turned a bit awkward between them, “What’s wrong?”
“Do you actually care?”
“I care if you’re going to be sulky for the whole bloody day.”
Aza groaned, but muttered, “He’s probably gonna be dead.”
“Rather pessimistic,” Estinien drawled, but he didn’t disagree, “Then we’ll offer closure to her. Either way, some sort of foul play has happened, and someone is at fault for it. It’s more exciting than chasing off ogres from Saint Coinach’s Find for the thirtieth fucking time.”
“Exciting’s not the word I’d use…” Aza sighed, but he said no more on the matter. This was why he preferred simple animal control than dealing with people. In fact, this wasn’t even his gig, but Aymeric thought Aza’s werewolf nature would make finding another werewolf easier – which was true, but still.
The bad feeling persisted.
Blysslona was a tall, stocky Roegadyn woman in her late forties. Her skin was a pale blue, dusted with navy freckles, and her hair was a thick, dark brown that she had scraped into a tight, no-nonsense bun. She looked rather weathered for her age, probably from working under the sun for hours on end, but her face was warm and welcoming enough when they turned up on her doorstep just before noon.
“You found the place alright, then,” Blysslona said, letting them inside her modest homestead. It was an old building, probably listed, with stone walls and a still thatched roof, held with a very thin metal mesh. It was warm inside though, a wood burner installed in the open fireplace of the living room practically spewing heat throughout the small cottage. Aza and Estinien were bustled onto the squashy sofa, and Blysslona excused herself to grab some tea for them, despite their protests. She was like a tornado of aggressive politeness, and all they could do was be helplessly swept up in it.
“Alyrloef is in a lot of these photos,” Estinien commented as they heard Blysslona bustle loudly in presumably the kitchen. He tilted his head to one large photograph, framed and fitted above the fireplace – a large, strapping Roegadyn lad with a strong resemblance to Blysslona in a Maelstrom uniform, with his name and date of service etched at the bottom. Five years in the Limsan Lominsan navy, left sometime last year.
“His scent is everywhere,” Aza agreed. The lingering smell of a foreign werewolf itched his senses, but he easily ignored it. Clearly, on the surface at least, Alyrloef lived here comfortably with his mother, though he was curious why he had left the Maelstrom to move in with his mother on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Vylbrand was far from here too, so odd…
“Here we are,” Blysslona said, marching in with a tray of teacups and a plate of biscuits. She set them on the coffee table before them and eased into an armchair opposite them. She was smiling, but Aza could see a tightness about her mouth, dark smudges under her eyes that spoke of restless sleep. She smelled stressed too, even though she put up a brave face about it.
“Thank you,” Aza said, because Estinien couldn’t be trusted to be polite. There a brief pause where they took their respective tea cups and tried to figure out a tactful way to begin the not-interrogation. Blysslona was the last person to see Alyrloef, so…
“So,” Blysslona broke the silence, “I guess you’ll be wanting to ask questions?”
Aza felt deeply relieved at her breaking the ice, and Estinien took lead in the conversation from here.
“We’ve read the details in the missing person report you submitted,” Estinien said, “But it’s best we go over the information with you, to ensure everything is correct, or if you have remembered something since then…”
Aza leaned back in his seat, observing as Estinien mildly grilled Blysslona. When did you last see your son? How was he during that time? Has he ever expressed interest in travelling? Was he happy here? Did he have any known enemies? Any disputes or disagreements with anyone? Anyone threaten him recently? Neighbouring farmers knew to recognise him in wolf form? Etcetera, etcetera.
Nothing new was shed. Blysslona said she last saw him before the first full moon and knew she wouldn’t see him until the end of the last one so hadn’t been worried about his disappearance initially. She didn’t know where he went during the days, but over the past year he always came back, so she never thought much about it. Alyrloef was friendly, well known to her fellow farmers and appreciated, as he guarded the livestock here from monsters and feral werewolves during the full moon. He was happy here, ever since quitting the Limsan navy, and had expressed interest in inheriting the farm when Blysslona got too old to mange it herself.
Aza mulled over this.
“Did he ever say why he quit the navy?” he asked curiously, something about that nagging him.
Blysslona looked surprised at the question, “Oh, well, he said it weren’t for him. They’re very accepting of werewolves in Vylbrand, but even then, they don’t have many career options because of the full moon, you see. So, he quit and came back here.”
Interesting. The Limsan Navy was very progressive and open to working around the lunar cycle for werewolves, provided they were controllable and mild like Alyrloef were. He might not have had a clear shot at, say, an admiralty like a normal person would have, but he still had a good chance of at least commanding a ship if he excelled in his job – with some limitations to ensure safety, of course.
“One more thing,” he continued, “The three days he’s gone for the full moon, you genuinely don’t know where he goes?”
“No clue,” Blysslona insisted, “I thought he just went and slept in the woods somewhere, like wolves do.”
Unlikely. Any werewolf during the days of their full moon wouldn’t pass up a chance to crawl into a warm, comfortable bed and be fussed over by family. You felt ill, achy and rotten when you shifted back during the day, the body strained and burnt out from the effort of shifting forms in such an unnatural way. Alyrloef had to go somewhere to wait out the days, because lying out in the woods in a weakened state would just make him monster food.
But that begged the question: why did he go elsewhere, and why didn’t he tell his mother? It was a mystery that piqued his interest.
“We’ll look at his room – if you don’t mind,” Estinien added belatedly, “See if we can turn up any clues there. We will then examine the immediate surroundings. Depending on what we find, we might have to bring up a full search team up here.”
“Knock yourself out,” Blysslona said, “So long as you find my boy, I don’t care if you rip up the floorboards and turn everything out of my house for clues.”
So, with that strong approval, Estinien and Aza took their tea and wandered over to Alyrloef’s room. It was small, large enough for a bed, wardrobe and two dressers. The curtains were open, letting them see the small garden brimming with all kinds of herbs and flowers. There were Limsan Navy paraphernalia hanging on walls, odd, foreign knickknacks on his shelves and dresser tops… it smelled very lived in, even if the man hadn’t visited it in almost a week. Nothing stood out as suspicious, and if anything, looked as if Alyrloef had fully intended to come back.
“What’re you thinking?” Estinien asked him where they stared at his room for a good, long moment, as if expecting Alyrloef to leap out from under the bed.
Aza didn’t immediately reply, because he could smell… something sharp. It almost stung his nose, and he turned, slowly, towards the bedside dresser with a frown. Setting his tea aside on the dresser, and ignoring Estinien’s inquiring noise, he pulled the drawer open – sitting at the bottom of it, wrapped up in thing clingfilm, were the purple flowers of aconitum.
Or, better known as wolfsbane.
“Oh, hello…” Aza mumbled, studying the plant for a long moment before gingerly picking it up by the clingfilm, taking care not to touch it. He’d rather not be rushed to hospital today, “Why does he have this?”
“Wolfsbane?” Estinien loomed over his shoulder to get a good look, “Self-medicating, perhaps?”
“Hmm…” Aza set the plant down on the dresser and dug into the drawer again. He found two more clingfilmed bunches of wolfsbane, as well as a large pot of activated charcoal. Aza wasn’t confused as to how he got these – farmers used activated charcoal as pesticides and disinfectant, and wolfsbane grew thick and fast around the Fogfens due to its proximity to the Tangle, a wet marshland where most of the moisture drained into. It would be easy enough for Alyrloef to gather these, but why?
Wolfsbane was poisonous to everyone, full stop. Normal people would die without medical intervention if they ingested it, but the effect was a little different with werewolves. If applied correctly, wolfsbane could actually delay the transformation, or ensure the wolf was so sluggish and weak that they weren’t a threat to anyone. The sedatives the government issued contained wolfsbane, for example. It was like, a medically approved poisoning that left you with a thumping headache and weeklong diarrhoea but was reasonably safe.
However, you had to fit a specific criterion to be freely given those sedatives and purchasing them outright was obscenely expensive – more expensive than a farmer can afford anyways. So, you ended up with some who wanted the safety of a sedative, but too poor to pay for pills, self-medicating instead. Sometimes it worked, sometimes the werewolf died, but also…
“He doesn’t need to self-medicate,” Aza said slowly, “His file says his wolf form is calm enough without needing sedatives.”
“But maybe he thinks he needs them.”
Aza bit his thumbnail, thinking. Yeah, probably. Something could have happened that made him doubt his control, but surely Blysslona would have mentioned it? Or… maybe not. Eorzea was very strict on werewolves that ‘acted out’, which was… understandable, considering they were superhumanly strong and could easily kill or infect a man with a single bite. Any sign of a violent temperament in wolf form would have their freedoms restricted in a heartbeat to ensure public safety.
It was chafing, but Aza understood such caution. It didn’t mean he liked it.
“Let’s take a look outside,” Estinien said, nudging his shoulder, “Come on, K-9.”
“Go fuck yourself,” Aza huffed, but he obediently followed him out of the bedroom, leaving the wolfsbane behind.
Outside was thick with the stink of farm, and it took Aza a good hour before he found Alyrloef’s scent on the very outskirt of a pasture, on an animal trail leading into one of the thick woods that surrounded Fogfens Farm.
“We can follow it for a bit now,” Aza said as they dithered on the edge of the woods, “The scent is a few days old, so I don’t want to leave it any longer before it vanishes completely. It’s meant to rain tonight, after all.”
Estinien said nothing for a moment, clearly thinking it over. The Fogfens had a high density of dangerous monsters – wildlife kept at bay only by the electric fences and ‘anti-monster crystals’ that marked out the inhabited boundaries of the farms. Aza was confident he could deal with anything out here, even in Miqo’te form, but Estinien was a little squishier and lightly armed.
“We’ll follow it for a bit,” Estinien decided, patting his hip to ensure his firearm was there, “I’m not geared up for a proper fight, though, so we’ll… ugh, be cautious.”
Aza coughed over a laugh at Estinien’s open disdain, and they trudged into the wood along the animal path. Alyrloef’s scent was faint, masked by rotting vegetation and blooming flowers, but Aza kept on it, noting that the woods got quieter and quieter the deeper they went, until it became ominously still and silent.
So, Aza stopped.
“Something wrong?” Estinien immediately asked, looking a bit tense himself. He must have picked up on the unnatural silence too.
“Yes,” Aza said slowly, staring at a fallen long lying next to the narrow path. The trees crowded in thick, its dark green canopy sheltering them from the afternoon sun, as stinging nettles and stubborn ferns overgrew the animal trail at their feet. The overhead leaves cast everything into a dark shadow, making it difficult to see more than ten fulms into the woods – which was fine, Aza wasn’t afraid of dark woods, but the silence…
The hairs on the back of his neck prickled, and a primal instinct reared its head and growled.
“It’s very quiet,” Aza murmured, turning his head this way and that, his nostrils flaring as he took in the surrounding smells. Wet, earthy, rotting… a very faint undercurrent of decay. He assumed it was vegetation, but- no, there was something wrong with it. The silence was downright oppressive now – blanketing everything until his ears almost rang with it. No birdsong, no chattering animal calls, no distant howls of monsters. Nothing.
Alyrloef’s scent was still here, though. Faint.
Aza turned away.
“Let’s go back,” he said in a no-nonsense tone, “Now.”
For once, Estinien decided not to be contrary. He took one look at whatever expression Aza was making and nodded sharply, one hand lingering on his firearm as they quickly backtracked. As they walked, life returned to the woods the further away they went from that dead spot, tentative at first, then more natural. It was warmer too, and Aza belatedly realised that it had been freezing in that too quiet place, biting cold and intensely pressured.
Neither of them spoke until they were on the outskirts of the wood, able to see Blysslona’s cottage with smoke coming out of its chimney, and then lingered on the boundary, warily eyeing the woods behind them with open caution now.
“That was fucked up,” Estinien said mildly, his mouth pinched as he stared back into the trees with his shoulders tensed, “What the hell was that?”
“No idea, but I didn’t like it,” Aza muttered, rubbing his cold hands together, “Alyrloef’s scent led there, though, to… whatever that dead spot was.”
“Okay,” Estinien pinched the bridge of his nose, took in a breath, and let it out, “Shit. This is going to involve Voidsent, isn’t it?”
Aza didn’t say anything. The hairs on the back of his neck were still prickling, like they brought back whatever had been in the dead spot with them. He looked about them, keenly feeling the aether about him, but it was brimming with life and was untouched and pristine. They must’ve caught the attention of what was whatever in those woods though.
“Are there any stories about the Fogfens?” Aza finally asked, “Horror stories or anything?”
“Just the usual rubbish,” Estinien replied, “There are one or two horror films based on the Fogfens, about some crazed slasher running around terrorising university students camping in there, or something.”
Aza gave Estinien an odd look, wondering why the hell students would go camping in a monster-infested wood. Eorzeans were so weird.
“Are they based on true stories?”
“They’re based on some idiot getting eaten by a roaming Behemoth or feral werewolves because they thought it’d be a brilliant idea to hike through the woods without even a firearm,” Estinien said shortly, “Happens every year.”
“I see,” Aza frowned, wondering if it really was death by wildlife, or death by Voidsent that made it look like wildlife, “I’m gonna call Aym, see what he has to say about this.”
“Oh, it’s Aym now, is it?” Estinien mocked lightly, but he trudged after Aza as they made their way back to Blysslona’s cottage.
As they walked, Aza mulled over everything. First was Alyrloef and his suspicious circumstances. A werewolf that was low-threat, self-medicating himself with wolfsbane in a dangerous manner, and who also vanished for the entirety of the full moon without telling anyone where he’d be. Then there was the dead spot in the woods, that just made his skin crawl remembering it, and Alyrloef’s scent leading straight to it. If he was in werewolf form, he couldn’t have just bumbled into it. Instincts were sharp then, overwhelming, and everything about that dead spot screamed wrong. No self-respecting werewolf would willingly walk into it.
Unless that wolf was very sick, poisoned in fact, and their senses dulled and sluggish…
It was as if Aza had the pieces in his hands, but they wouldn’t fully connect as he tried to understand this whole situation. There were too many questions – why was Alyrloef self-medicating? Where the fuck did he go on full moons? What the hell was that dead spot? Had it always been there? And if it was a Voidsent…
Fuck. He really hoped it wasn’t a Voidsent.
They both piled into their car parked outside Blysslona’s cottage when they reached it, and Estinien turned the heater on full blast when they got in. It helped banish the unnatural chill that lingered over them from their, in retrospect, ill-advised romp through the clearly haunted woods.
“I bet the farm woman knows about it,” Estinien said abruptly as Aza activated his linkpearl.
“What, the haunted woods?” Aza muttered, half-listening as he connected a call to Aymeric.
“If this was a horror film,” Estinien said, “She would be involved in some way. The killer, or the Voidsent herself, or something.”
Aza rolled his eyes and didn’t bother dignifying that with a response.
“… Aymeric de Borel speaking.”
“Hey, Aym, it’s me,” Aza greeted, “You got a free moment?”
“Not really, but I’ll take any excuse to procrastinate from my castle of paperwork,” Aymeric said dryly, “Do you need something?”
“Kinda. Some spooky shit is happening up here, and…”
Aza relayed everything he and Estinien had learned and experienced, with Estinien occasionally interjecting a comment here and there. By then the car had became sweltering, so Aza flicked off the heater and cranked the window, the noise of livestock filtering through the gap. Overhead, dark, greyish clouds started to gather.
“I see…” Aymeric sounded troubled, “Voidsent require a specialist to deal with. They don’t fall under Public Relations or Animal Control for a lot of reasons.”
“We’ll have to call in the Thaumaturges,” Estinien grumbled, sounding beyond sour about this, “To examine the dead spot, at least. We can’t fully investigate Alyrloef’s disappearance until we’re sure that a Voidsent won’t try to crawl up our asses during it.”
“Thaumaturges?” Aza parroted, “Who’re they?”
“The creepy Lalafels on floor five that take Goth way too far.”
“I’ll lodge a request for Cocobuki to go up to Fogfens at the earliest opportunity,” Aymeric said, “Though, that might take a few days to process…”
Which didn’t bode well for Alyrloef’s already dangerously slim chances of being found alive or sound of mind, “Isn’t there an emergency Voidsent response team or something?”
“The Thaumaturges are already stretched thin themselves,” Aymeric sighed, “Considering this Voidsent is dwelling deep in the woods that has no civilian foot traffic, they would deem it low priority.”
“And the missing person?” Estinien asked mildly.
“Has been missing for several days already,” Aymeric sounded almost apologetic now, “You know how they would view it.”
Aza frowned but said nothing, an almost tense silence falling between them. Yeah, no doubt the Thaumaturges would go in under the assumption that they would be searching for a corpse, rather than a living person, and bodies could keep for a bit. It was a very bitter pill to swallow, and despite Aza understanding the reasoning of it all… he wasn’t happy with it.
“Guess it’s back to base,” Estinien said, sounding very put-out that the day had ended on an anti-climactic note, “Can’t do anything until Cocobuki gets his ass out here to take a look.”
“Right,” Aza mumbled.
“I’ll try to inject some urgency into the request,” Aymeric said quietly, “Cocobuki owes me a favour, so we’ll see how it goes.”
“Thanks, Aym,” Aza said, and after a round of goodbyes disconnected the call. He slumped in his seat, pinching the bridge of his nose. That bad feeling was still lingering but, there was nothing he could do now, was there? If this was back home, on the Steppe, a whole bunch of him and his mates would already be charging into the woods to beat the shit out of the Voidsent, but Eorzea was so tangled up in procedure and red tape that it throttled any attempt to do good.
If Aza hadn’t been a werewolf, he might’ve tried to be a loose cannon, do his own thing like Estinien did from time to time. But he was a werewolf, and that meant try as he might, he had to stick with procedure no matter how stifling. Aymeric and Estinien could only protect him so much, and that was when he stayed in his lane.
“I’ll tell the farm woman we have to bring in a specialised team,” Estinien cut into the silence. His voice was gruff, but the offer was oddly kind, “You can drive back.”
“Oh, yay,” Aza said dully, but was internally relieved. He didn’t want to go to Blysslona and break the news that her son might potentially most definitely be dead or in the thrall of a Voidsent. He was a bit of a coward like that, “Fine. Hurry back.”
Estinien grunted but shoved his way out of the vehicle. Aza clambered over the gearbox to sit in the driver’s side, and muttered as he had to adjust the seat so his feet could even reach the pedals. He technically knew how to drive a vehicle, but last time he did was for his driving test last year, in preparation for this job in Eorzea, but, eh, it’ll be fine, he’s sure.
He glanced out of the window, his ear twitching when a few fat drops of water started hitting the windscreen. Here came the rain, and with it, the disappearance of Alyrloef’s scent.
Aza could still vaguely see the treeline of the woods from the car – nothing more than a dark, looming shape beyond the farm’s fence. It looked innocuous, but now that his instincts were attuned to it, there was a pulse of threat emanating from it, something that made him tighten his fingers on the steering wheel and his inner wolf bare its fangs.
Yet, for a moment – his gaze sharpened when he saw sudden movement at the treeline, too big to be a deer. It looked like, was that a werewol-
He almost leapt right out of his seat when the passenger door was wrenched open, and Estinien tumbled back in cussing and blinding. Aza looked away, to see his co-worker get hilariously stuck when he tried to wedge his legs under the dashboard but couldn’t because Aza had the seat draw up close to it.
“What the- you damn midget,” Estinien hissed, contorting into a weird posture as he tried to grab the seat adjuster.
“Heh,” Aza shamelessly sniggered at him, not moving to help in the slightest, “Looking a bit uncomfortable there, Esty.”
Leaving Estinien be as the man finally managed to wrench his seat back enough to properly sit in it, and finally close the door against the wind, Aza glanced back over towards the treeline. The thing he thought he saw was no longer there, and it was just a simple, dark woods once more.
Aza shook it off and turned the engine on.
“Back to base?” he asked lightly.
“Back home, more like,” Estinien grumbled, buckling his seatbelt and leaning back, “Wake me up when we get there.”
“Aye, aye,” Aza muttered, but he put the car in reverse and started the slow, shaky journey back home.
And from the dark treeline, nestling in the cold shadows of its low hanging leaves, a large wolf watched them go.
you can't have a cop fic without at least ONE MYSTERY to solve so ta da
this is like, semi-plot? it's gonna be the focus of a few chapters so ya, use it to develop aza's, esty's and aym's relationship some. but hey, i'll be happy to hear people's predictions or theories on what's even fucking happening ; )
Chapter 6: Wolfsbane Case Part 2
The petition for the Thaumaturge’s intervention in the Fogfens Farms’ missing person case was seemingly cast into the void, considering the overwhelming silence from the Thaumaturges despite Aymeric's near hourly emails for a response.
A week. Aza had been sitting on his heels for a week, googling everything he could find on the Fogfens, and any strange tales about the location, any forums on people being injured or killed or missing in the woods… anything and everything, while he waited and heard nothing from the Voidsent specialists.
He did get a lot of research done at least. The Fogfens had a lot of shady stories attached to it – it had been a battle ground, long ago, between the ancient Garlean Empire and the Eorzean Alliance, and to this day archaeologists were still digging up old magitek, skeletons of old airships, and bones that told of gruesome battle. Not as devastating as the Cartenau Flats, which even a thousand years later was still an inhabitable wasteland, but still pretty bad. They had even found evidence that some desperate Eorzean mages had summoned Voidsent and egis, though the archaeologists had assured everyone that they would have been dispelled upon the death of their summoner.
In any case, the only other interesting facts he found was that the Fogfens was very loud at full moons – lots of howling and strange lights and noises, with the highest population of feral werewolves in all of Eorzea. Strangely, there weren’t many altercations between these ferals and the farmers who lived out on the fringes of the woods, but maybe they knew better than to encroach too much on their livestock?
Whatever the reason, it left Aza burning even more with curiosity, and after the eighth day when he heard nothing from the Thaumaturges, he decided to take things into his own hands. Aymeric himself had expressed intense irritation with the lack of communication, so with his (unofficial) blessing, Aza huffed and puffed his way down to floor two to harass the Thaumaturges into action.
This resulted in some… unpleasant truths coming to light.
“Our schedule is too booked to go prancing through the woods,” said a Coco-brother, his nose buried in some ominous looking tome that hummed out demonic Allagan chanting, “We already have an exorcism lined up for that new apartment complex built on an Ixal gravesite-”
“-as well as a presentation at the Voidsent convention,” said another Coco-brother, who was invisible behind large stacks of paperwork, and thus gave the impression that the paper pile on the Thaumaturge’s ‘in’ tray was a sentient, speaking creature, “We can’t let the Red Mage Guild show us up again this year-”
“-and we need to get rid of that Imp stuck in the vending machine on floor three,” added yet another Coco-brother, this one sat on his linkpearl scrolling through what looked like a blogging feed. There were a lot of pictures of dogs in costumes, “It keeps making the machine spit out raisin flapjacks. Raisins!”
“But,” Aza spluttered, too bewildered by the lackadaisical attitude of the Lalafells to be eloquent, “The- the missing person-”
“Is probably dead,” Sentient paper pile Coco-brother sighed, “Over a fortnight missing in a haunted wood? He’s very dead.”
“Also, the Voidsent isn’t immediately hurting anyone,” Ominous chanting tome Coco-brother muttered, “Excepting werewolves, of course. But it’s expected to have one or two vanish every month, so no big los-”
Linkpearl scrolling Coco-brother abruptly looked up and made a harsh, coughing noise, jerking his head at Aza.
“What?” Ominous chanting tome Coco-brother finally looked up from his book, realising the person he was rebuffing was in fact a very stony-faced werewolf glaring down at him, “Oh. Oh, uh, I mean-”
“It’s expected,” Aza growled, deciding to ignore the ‘it’s no big loss’ before he decided to eat the little twerp from sheer rage alone, “You mean this isn’t the first werewolf to vanish in the Fogfens?”
Immediately, the three Coco-brothers squirmed uncomfortably – well, Aza assumed sentient paper pile Coco-brother was squirming, judging by how the papers were rustling awkwardly – and none of them seemed to be able to look him in the eye.
“Well,” Linkpearl Coco-brother mumbled, “There’s been… a few reports.”
“There have been forty reports of werewolf disappearances in the Fogfens over the last two years.”
Aza turned at the new voice to yet another Coco-brother. He was dressed like his fellow brothers, in all black, forbidding robes, hood up – except he had a thick swathe of dark bandages over one eye, and his face was set in a stern frown, his visible eye almost flinty when he steadily met Aza’s irritated glare.
“Forty,” Aza repeated flatly, “And you haven’t told us upstairs?”
“No,” the stern-faced Coco-brother said, “We didn’t think it would concern you.”
This was why Aza hated there were so many departments focused on the same thing. No communication, no thought to exchanging information because ‘we didn’t think it would concern you’, and then everyone acts shocked when someone turns up dead because of that lack of communication! Aza took in a breath, counted to five, and said tightly; “You thought… missing werewolves didn’t concern the department that deals with werewolves?”
“Public Relations deal with socialised werewolves,” Stern Coco-brother said, “These were feral.”
“Cocobuki,” Linkpearl Coco-brother mumbled worriedly, giving Aza a wary side-look, “This guy is a-”
“But from the sounds of it, this werewolf was different,” ‘Cocobuki’ mused, ignoring his brother’s attempt at a warning, “That’s concerning. Voidsent don’t simply change their patterns on a whim.”
Even if the detached way of speaking pissed Aza off to no end, he perked up at that. That sounded like someone was going to happen – that the Thaumaturges were gonna do their fucking jobs! “So, you’re gonna do something about it?”
“Cocobygo was right when he said our schedule was booked,” Cocobuki said, promptly crushing Aza’s hopes, “But perhaps…”
Cocobuki’s eye swept over his three brothers thoughtfully, all of whom avoided his gaze with pained grimaces, “Cocobezi, you can go.”
“Me!?” Linkpearl Coco-brother, Cocobezi, yelped, “B-But, the, uh, the Imp in the vending machine will require my utmost attention! I, er, am currently researching how to, uh, exorcise it…”
“Really?” Ominous chanting tome Coco-brother, Cocobygo, said disgustedly, “You’re going with that excuse?”
“I guess Cocobezi has been slipping in his studies, if he needs help to get rid of an Imp,” Sentient paper pile Coco-brother muttered sotto voce.
Cocobezi flushed, “Quiet, Cocoboha! It’s a very stubborn Imp, I’ll have you know! That little bastard ate my change yesterday, and I-”
Aza growled, the noise low, deep and beastly enough to instantly make the Coco-brothers tense up in alarm.
“I think that answers that,” Cocobuki muttered uneasily, noticeably scooting away from the bristling werewolf, “Cocobezi, before we get eaten…”
“Alright, fine!” Cocobezi huffed, though he looked nervous as he stowed his linkpearl and slipped off his chair, “But let it be known that my backstabbing brothers condemned me to a fate worse than death… a four-hour drive to the Fogfens!”
The other brothers shuddered like a chill went through them. Aza fought the urge to strangle them all – for one, he didn’t have enough hands.
“Great,” he said flatly, “Now, can we go and finally investigate these missing werewolves?”
Cocobezi sighed, like he was so put upon, and nodded glumly, “Oh, very well.”
Now Aza understood why Aymeric and Estinien had been so hesitant to deal with these psychos. But, he was made of stern stuff, so he simply picked up his Voidsent specialist by the scruff of his neck, and marched out of their gothic, and quite frankly, dungeon-looking office without a backwards glance, ignoring Cocobezi’s indignant squawking.
“It was nice knowing you!” Cocoboha called after them, “Try not to get eaten!”
Estinien looked up from his bacon sandwich when Aza stormed onto the floorplate with one of the Coco-brothers swinging like an extremely disgruntled cat in his grip, taking a moment to thoughtfully chew as the werewolf stomped right up to him and glared at him.
“… I’m on my break,” he said after a very awkward pause where they all just stared at each other in silence.
“Forty werewolves,” Aza said tightly, ignoring him as expected, “There have been forty werewolves who have vanished in the Fogfens.”
Well, that was more interesting than his bacon sandwich. Estinien reluctantly put it down, slanting his gaze to the now very anxious looking Coco-brother. This was… shit, they all looked the same to him, “Really.”
“All feral ones,” the Coco-brother explained, “So, uh, they wouldn’t be on your databases…”
“Cocobezi here,” Aza continued icily, “Told me that it’s expected for ‘a werewolf or two’ to vanish in the Fogfens. Since they were feral, it never flagged up for us, and they thought it wouldn’t concern us, so never told us.”
“So, how do you know about it?” Estinien asked Cocobezi suspiciously, “Unless…”
“We… already know about the Voidsent there…” the Thaumaturge confirmed gloomily, drooping somehow even more when he was already dangling limply, “It’s bound to that location, and only has an appetite for feral werewolves, so we ranked it as… harmless. I mean, compared to our other cases, it isn’t causing much trouble and is in such a remote location, that it’s more trouble than it’s worth to deal with it.”
Ah. Estinien kept his face blank, painfully aware of how Aza looked a heartbeat away from breathing literal fire in his anger. The awful truth was… even if the Thaumaturges had told Public Relations about this before, their stance would’ve been the same as theirs: it’s only feral werewolves, which sat outside of society’s laws and who were treated as intelligent monsters at best. If some Voidsent was dealing with them, how was it their problem? In fact, it was doing them a favour, really.
However blunt Estinien may be, he knew better than to express that sentiment with Aza standing right there. Unlike most werewolves, Aza was terribly sympathetic towards the ferals and became incredibly upset when reminded of their lack of citizen status in Eorzea. Probably best to avoid that minefield for now…
“But it isn’t harmless,” Estinien said neutrally, “It’s now attacked a socialised werewolf.”
“It… could be a one off,” Cocobezi said awkwardly, squeaking when Aza gave him a hard shake.
“It doesn’t matter,” Aza hissed, “Whether he was ‘socialised’ or what. There is a Voidsent that has been eating people for years, and no one did anything out of laziness and prejudice-”
“Aza,” Estinien cut in before Aza got properly geared up, “Enough. We’ll be back to square one if you strangle our Voidsent specialist before he even did his damn job.”
Cocobezi was alarmingly pale, and actually looked a tad guilty now, staring very hard at Estinien’s desk as Aza just growled with unintelligible rage. Estinien had no sympathy.
“And, you will be doing your job, won’t you?” Estinien purred, amused when Cocobezi paled impossibly whiter, “No half-assing or trying to slack off?”
“A-Ah, no. No… slacking off…” Cocobezi mumbled into his collar, like he was trying to melt into his black robes and into another dimension out of this situation.
“Good. Because otherwise Aza might have to motivate you,” Estinien stood up, picking up his bacon sandwich again, “Alright. Let’s go then. It’s been itching at me leaving this half-done.”
Aza didn’t say anything. Just pivoted on his heel with a terrified Cocobezi in hand and stomped off. Estinien followed at a more sedate pace, taking a bite out of his sandwich and wondering… two years, this Voidsent has been doing something with feral werewolves. What had it been doing? Eating them? Putting them under a thrall?
Estinien shivered at the thought of a literal army of feral werewolves under the command of a malicious Voidsent. Ugh, that was a nightmare scenario right there. With any luck, the Voidsent ate them. It didn’t mean much for their missing person’s chances, but better dead than some Voidsent’s puppet, right?