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Coiled in the Darkness

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Tendrils of mist pooled around the coiled and slinking form of Lord Shikari, first predator among all who were prey before Him. His form was wound tightly, ever muscle readied and still, prepared for the fight at a moment's notice.

Which is why He is utterly frustrated with His travelling companion's utter silence and stillness before Him.

Poised. Collected. As silent as the moment right after prey is dead, but before the scavengers moved in. Dread, the sound of nothingness.

And Shikari hated it. He wanted to hear the blood pumping through veins. The rush of the hunt. At the very least, the sound of footsteps that They were still going in the right direction.

“What, pray tell, is the hold-up?” Shikari said, voice radiating with heat and warmth, mingling with the air that hung humid and thick with the moisture of plants of animals alike. “Nocht?” Shikari said before stilling as He turned towards Him. The look on Nocht's face was one of annoyance, and likely not with the pun Shikari had managed to let slip out.

Sweat pooled across Nocht's torso, visible beneath the sheer cloak the flowed from His back, barely covering His form. Shikari's lips twitched briefly, admiring that Nocht had thought to dress lightly. He was dressed in typical hunting garb, wickedly tipped spear in hand. And sweating because of it. Leather mingled with sweat and hair, sticking to inked skin, the faint aroma of tanned hide tickling Shikari's nose.

“Are we lost, Nocht? Oh great diviner of paths?” Shikari said, voice rumbling in dissatisfaction, gripping His spear hard, divinely imbued wood creaking from the strain.

Nocht finally drew Himself up taller, cloak failing to billow ominously, instead sticking to slick sweat-drenched skin, outlining the curvature of muscles along His arms and abdomen. “We are an impasse. We must take a moment.” Nocht's voice was cool and quiet, the sound of cold water against the heat and scent of decaying and rotting trees. Shikari closed His eyes briefly, drinking in the sound. The closest to a respite from the misery. The moment was broken in the time it took a single bead of sweat to curve down Shikari's spine, jolting Him back to the present with a frustrated bark.

“An impasse? How exactly?” The rumbling intensified, sending nearby vermin scattering away from the trees nearby, terrified of that which they had no way of understanding.

Nocht turned away briefly. “Something has started to obfuscate that We are after.”

How delightfully detailed. “How exciting. So You cut through it, and hear it despite that, do You not? Or have Your times away from the hunt dulled Your senses like all of Your circle?” Shikari said, voice filled with venom.

He did not falter when Nocht spun around, darkness looming above Him, sky creaking in barely restrained fury.

“Do not speak to Me of the hunt, Brother. You who hunted into the void and back. You who left Us for Your own satisfaction,” Nocht said, voice that had once been a cool pond now colder than the void itself, shivering shards of icicles sending daggers down Shikari's back, muscles twitching once in response to the venom offered back at Him.

“I do not think You remember who You speak to, Nocht,” Shikari said, silent refusal to speak of siblings deep on His tongue, causing something to shiver across Nocht's features reminiscent of a stone across a smooth pond, disappearing in ripples. “You spoke of promises. Of finding what was taken of Me and Mine while I hunted. And when I brought back what I promised. And You will find where it is hidden, or-”

“Or what?” Nocht said, voice nearly as quiet as the jungle was loud.

Shikari narrowed His eyes. A single step to the left, as He realized He was pointing His spear directly at Nocht's heart. “Or-”

“You would not win that fight,” Nocht said, eyes half-lidded, unmoving. His cloak rustled once, hands doing something unseen.

“We have fought. And I prevailed. Unless You've learned some new trick?” Shikari said before leaping to the side as something extremely large and heavy crashed into the tree next to Him, splintering it down the middle.

All instinct turned towards dodging whatever it was that kept darting out from the darkness surrounding Nocht, darkness and sound mingling with the shrill cries of beasts fleeing the sudden carnage, all senses focused, but unable to hear them approaching, supernaturally silenced. Spear lancing out, Shikari managed to pierce one of the coils of darkness just as it hit a tree but before it disappeared, earning a hiss from the now invisible crechemate of His.

Black ichor coated the spear tip, reminiscent of a forbidden elixir, yet far sweeter scented. “Dabbling in the profane, while I was gone, have You?” Shikari said, sliding under yet another tendril of ink void blackness.

Even the best predator could be moved into an unwinnable situation as He realized His back had been turned to Nocht at some point in the fight, heat and coldness suddenly mingling. “The very fact You think I would touch the stuff is morally repugnant to Me, and shows that You remember Me not at All,” Nocht hissed into Shikari's ears, icy-cold breath sending shivers down Shikari's spine.

The inky darkness that had speared at Him from the darkness was now wrapped around His arms and legs, pressing Him against His crechemate tightly, unable to move.

“What is that's been said? Keep fighting and you will just die tired?” Nocht said, voice almost humorous, but still colder than a grave.

“We both know I can not stop fighting. That would be like asking Eventru to shut up,” Shikari said, breath ragged and strained as a tendril coiled around His neck, all His muscles straining against the bindings, heat and cold raging across His skin.

“Then We will fight until You're tired, and I have the silence to find Your precious temple,” Nocht said, vines tightening around Shikari, causing stars to appear in the predator's vision. It had been so long since He had felt genuine pain, even out in the void. Darkness seeped into His vision even as He struggled, tearing at the vines, sweet scent mingling with it, the only thing visible at the end was the darkness of night, or perhaps of Lord Nocht.

Chapter Text

Mist pooled around Lord Nocht, void cold tentacles causing the moisture present everywhere within the jungle to spread out and become heavy, the thickening mist causing Him to sweat slightly. “He's out now.” Lord Nocht said, skittering across the air like a thousand spiders.

Lord Shikari was unceremoniously on the ground, body limp, muscles relaxed against the will of the one who owned them, spear laying askew a few steps from His form where it fell when He passed out.

The tendrils flowed from His back, forming into a pool that surged around the unconscious form of the basin's first and foremost predator. Always a larger predator somewhere, Nocht thought.

Tendrils started to wrap around Shikari, lifting Him up to a seated position. “Okay, He's seated, what are You doing now?” Nocht said, voice tinged with just the faintest hint of amusement. “I've already cleansed His mind of the memories of the fight.”

One of the tendrils turned towards Nocht, wavering for a moment before turning into a wicked grin, ivory white teeth appearing within the maw. Rows and rows of needle sharp spikes stared at Him for a moment before breaking open. “It's been oh so long. Would You begrudge Me this, brother? After all I've done for You?” the voice of the Crooked Gentleman oozed out of the mouth, sending a shiver down Nocht's spine that He managed to suppress in time.

Not quickly enough, as the fanged pool coalesced into the physical form of the Crooked Gentleman, resplendent in His white tuxedo against His ebony skin. Skin that still rippled as though not quite flesh, instead acting more like the inky blackness that it has recently been.

“Oh Brother of mine. Did You wish to take His place for Him? Or perhaps it is because You wanted Him first?” the resplendent Gentleman said, one claw tipped hand tracing a line down Nocht's jawline. “I couldn't begrudge His own crechemate first go, of course.”

Nocht frowned, head tilting to the left as He pondered the scene before Him. Shikari resting against the tree, looking peaceful if not serene, coated in dirt and mud and ichor. The Crooked Gentleman standing before Himself, tendrils slowly oozing off His back to gently caress Shikari. The faintest of frowns crossed His face, causing the Crooked Gentleman's teeth to sparkle with amusement as He withdraw the tentacles ever so slightly.

“Do as You will with Him. I will keep the silence in His mind though, so He doesn't...” Nocht trailed off, fingers twitching as He cast a net of invisible strands over Shikari's head, the unconscious god moaning inadvertently as the magic seeped into his mind.

“So He doesn't kill You. Or Me when He realizes what happened.”

“He should never realize what happened, ideally.” Nocht said grimly. It wasn't His fault the trail had suddenly faltered or that Lord Shikari had gone immediately to the fight.

The Crooked Gentleman bowed deeply, tendrils appearing in force, form slowly dissolving down into nothingness, dapper apparel sublimating into mist in cracks of energy and light.

Tendrils stripped sweat-laden leather from limbs, dropping them with little care onto Shikari's spear, burying it deeper into the mud and dirt that made up the floor of the jungle. Pale skin marked with ebony tribal tattoos gleamed in the little available moonlight, tendrils tracing the markings, a soft murmuring echoing from deep within the shifting form of the Crooked Gentleman.

Lord Nocht's gaze faltered every so slightly as He watched the tendrils climb up His crechemate's legs and arms, the rest of the pool oozing underneath, enveloping the predator's form in inky blackness, darker than even the darkest of His tattoos.

He looked away as the first tendrils oozed into Shikari's mouth, uncomfortable for the first time in a very long time. He wasn't quite sure what the Crooked Gentleman meant to do, but He realized He no longer wished to watch, as He turned away just enough to no longer see, instead looking out into inky darkness.

The sounds of something happening behind Him caused the faintest thought that perhaps Mysrai, oh Them of a thousand forms, had concocted this entire scenario. They had been so insistent to come along, even though Nocht knew Shikari did not wish for it to be any others but Himself and Nocht. His aspect of the Crooked Gentleman was nearly without parallel for being persuasive though. His train of thought was broken as the tendrils of magic connecting Him to Shikari snapped without warning, lashing back into Him and sending Him reeling against a nearby tree, head spinning.

In the moment before He could clear His head, Mysrai was on Him, pressing half incorporeal form against Him, tendrils pinning His arms to the tree.

Never should have trusted Him, especially in That form, Nocht thought before wincing, head tilted back against the tree as one of the many tentacles wrapped around His throat.

“It's long,” the Gentleman said, voice crackling as He giggled suddenly.

“You have full reign of Shikari, do You not?” Nocht said, fingers digging into the wood of the tree before they were suddenly splayed out flat against it, inky darkness enveloping them completely, ice cold against His sweating skin.

“But He won't remember. He won't know what happened. Unlike You. Who will remember. Who knows how much He wants it, despite denying it. Magic to influence a mind influences Your own...and leaves open doors wide enough for the thinnest of tendrils to come through to read.” Mysrai's face appeared before Him in the tendriled void, wide eyes and far, far too many teeth.

Nocht opened His mouth to protest, instead long sinuous tongue snaking into His mouth, heady aroma of poppies and saccharine sweet sugar sneaking down His throat. His eyes fluttered briefly before He forced Himself to remain calm, adrenaline flooding His body and clearing out the worst of the inherently magical influences.

Bringing a knee up, He attempted to hit the mass in front of Him, hands crackling with energy from within the darkness that bound them to the tree, forcing the darkness to pull back ever so slightly, energy crackling as Nocht bit down on the tentacle in His mouth.

“A mistake,” the Gentleman said with a laugh, as the sickly sweet ichor flowed easily down Nocht's throat, pooling in His stomach. He tried to force it back out, but instead He felt warmth spreading, hotter than anything He had felt so far, but not burning. Even the jungle air felt cold, sending shivers across Him where it touched, as less and less of His skin was even available for air to caress, instead Mysrai pressing against Him, inky darkness coating His skin in a warm embrace. “Relax, Nocht. No one will know but Us.”

His voice was honey and wine and sweet tenderness, achingly kind against the situation Nocht found Himself in, found Himself falling apart in. Giving in, He let the energy in His hands dissipate, instead curling them around the tendrils, pressing back into Mysrai's embrace.