Tiger Delivery Service (The Mo’ana and In’ama Families, WoW)
OOC Note: This is another story written by Mo’sul and I, reposted with permission.)
Near Zul’ Aman…
The elderly tiger padded up the steps of the hut, a parcel suspended on a cord around its neck.
‘Pembe snuffled the wooden decking. Stronghands had been here. Different smell, different. But Stronghands all the same. Saltfish was out. The aromatic package was for Saltfish. Must not touch.
He pflumped down, to wait. Wondered where the other tiger was. Someone had been around this place earlier. No territorial marks though.
The parcel was quite cool now, but the scent of smoked meat remained strong to his nose. A bead of drool swayed from ‘Pembe’s muzzle.
Not to touch.
Swiftarm-the-First had been very specific about that. Grizzled whiskers shivered in a melancholy whuff. The old tiger was struck by a thought. He hauled himself up off his haunches, and padded inside the hut. There it was. Yes! Memories of Saltfish offering food from this.
The wicker basket was tightly lidded. He snuffled around the edges, the aroma of dried fish tantalising within. He wrapped his paws around the basket, and tipped it on its side. The lid stayed on.
The tiger looked at it.
He gave the lid an experimental pawing, but long embedded memories of Swiftarm’s disappointment at the shredding-of-things forestalled any greater action.
The lid didn’t budge.
Padding morosely back to the deck, he found a warm patch of sun.
He licked his toes, one by one.
Zultepe sighted along the length of the shaft. Trimming a barely perceptible curve, he rolled it experimentally between his fingers and checked it again. Deeming it straight, he spliced feathers of blue-and-orange deftly to one end and set an adamantite tip to the other. The newly made arrow joined its fellows in the quiver.
The talbuk had been fortuitous, and more than one troll needed. He’d thought of the purple haired one as it cooked slowly in the little smokehouse. Land surrounded by plagued beasts. Scourged animals.
Expressionless, he picked up another shaft of wood.
“GRRAauAK!” Xocolotyl landed on a branch of the Tsingi-bush, a dead rodent in her beak.
Zultepe closed his eyes for a brief moment. She cocked her head sideways, still suspicious of the troll, prideful of her catch. “Good girl” he murmured. The vulture preened at the faint praise.
Apembe was getting too old to hunt. The thought pained him.
He’d bundled up one of the haunches of the Talbuk, in the early dawn light. Written a brief note in Zandali – wishing her enjoyment of the meat. The quill had paused as he wondered whether or not to caution her again. He decided against it – some females got offended when reminded of obvious things. His eyes shadowed briefly at a memory.
He’d added as an afterthought: “This, in thanks for feeding Apembe.” It was only a half-truth. If he had to send meat to everyone who had ever slipped a morsel to that tiger, he’d be hunting for a hundred years. The comment was written in case the Banana still lurked about. He figured Mo’sul would recognise the tiger. It had always irritated Zultepe that the two got along – Banana had a way with cats that nearly rivalled his own.
Apembe sniffed at the parcel, licking at his chops, and was admonished with a quiet “No.”
Zultepe held a small knot of wood to the tiger’s nose. It had come from a knothole in the side of her hut.
The wood was distinctive to the area, and he saw the tiger recognise it.
Binding the note and parcel securely to Apembe’s shaggy neck, he’d given the old cat a fond scruffle and sent him on his way.
Hopefully his .. cousin would see it for what it was. A simple offering of food.
That egotistical fucked-up matricidal bastard.
“GRRAauAK!” The raucous noise aroused him from his reverie. He’d bent the stick in his grasp. Calmly, he placed it on the discard pile. He looked at the mid-day sun, and wondered how Apembe was faring.
Erzulie paused upon entering her hut again. The sight of the tiger with the greying muzzle she had come to know as Apembe lay drooling, her basket of saltfish between its paws but still unopened. She was impressed. And could not help but to smile despite the pain of the day. Today, she had been with her father as he passed and prepared the body.
Together with her twins, the body had been burned on the shores of Stranglethorn and she had scattered her fathers ashes along the coast of the Forgotten Sea as she rode her raptor, Kisro, home.
“‘Pembe.” She cooed in Zandali. Her language of choice. And strode across the hut to the tiger. As she scratched behind his ears she removed the note and the package from his neck. Her nose wrinkled at the scent of smoked meat. Mo’sul would enjoy. She had eaten nothing but fish, grains and fruit for too long to enjoy such a delicacy. As her violet eyes skimmed over the note, she smiled and opened the basket of saltfish, pulling a few filets from it and offering it to the aging tiger.
She rolled the note back up and slipped it in the strings of the package. She set both aside for Mo’sul when he returned.
“Stay here and rest up ‘Pembe. Mo’sul will be happy to see you.”
She put together a package to return to Zultepe with Apembe. Fresh kelp and sea salt soap, dried fruits and more saltfish for ‘Pembe. Inside the package she included a note. “Thank you for the meat. While I do not eat it myself, your cousin will appreciate the flavours of home. ” Erzulie failed to notice the presence of the other tiger, stalking beaneth her hut.
Waiting for a chance to speak with the Witch Doctor alone.
The old tiger snuffled around the floor, while Saltfish prepared a parcel that smelt of the sea.
Fresh scent of Othertiger was tantalisingly close. He made a querolous noise. “Mrrup?”
The troll called him over, distracting him. She tied the bundle around his neck in the same manner as before, and sent him on his way.
Apembe shambled leisurely out of the hut, drawn to the water’s edge for a drink. Many smells along its bank. Othertiger, Saltfish, Manymates, Stronghands, among others. Even the faint trace of Swifthand. The tiger drank his fill, then marked the old stone wall for good measure.
He ambled off at a padding pace, tail swinging low.
Erzulie set the package of smoked meat onto the table used for food preparation as the young troll woman entered the hut. Apembe had just left to return a package to Zultepe and the tiger stalking beneath the hut was now gone. This Trolless had been that tiger, something Erzulie knew already. The girl was just into adulthood and resembled her mother in almost every way.
“Would you like some tea, Adjassou?”
The youngest of Erzulie’s tusklings grunted as she came to sit much like a cat on a perch at the edge of the fire. The violet haired Witch Doctor grabbed a cast iron teapot, two earthenware cups and a bag of herbs before coming to sit beside her daughter.
“I hear that you’ve taken a dead Troll to your bed.” The girl stated, hints of disapproval lingered under her words.
“His body is dead. His soul, his spirit, his mind is anything but. I don’t consider him to be dead.” Erzulie responded and set the pot at the edge of the fire after adding in a bit of the herbs.
“This does not bother you?” She asked her mother, looking over to the purple-haired one.
“Why should it?” Erzulie looked over at her daughter, “More importantly, why should it bother you?”
“Grandpere said it was for you and the Baron to decide.” The girl looked into the fire. “So, that means you are not a mate of Abi’jah.”
Erzulie cackled, “Loas, no.”
“…Then I wish to be.”
Erzulie only managed to stare at her daughter.
By the light of a small fire, Zultepe read the note, running his thumb along his jawline.
Not an eater of red meats then… a pity. Even more so that Mo’sul would benefit of it. But that was how the Loas apparantly willed it.
He folded the remainder of the saltfish within the wax paper. Apembe had made short work of one a few minutes ago.
He held the soap to his nose and inhaled. Pleasant. Most thoughtful.
It went into the portion of his kit where such items lived – Zultepe Mo’ana carried a well-organised pack.
He sampled the dried fruits with pleasure, mango and papaya. Sweet dates. She must be frequenting the home country – he made a note to return there himself someday. Soon.
When the current tasks had been settled.
Didn’t eat red meat, hm?
“Imagine that, ‘Pembe.”
In the distance, a familiar “GRAauAK!” was heard.
Apembe rumbled, showing brief irritation at the sound before returning to the licking of his paws.
Zultepe unrolled his sleeping mat as embers popped and crackled with the fading flames.
He lay back, and looked at the twisting lights that passed for sky in these parts. It disturbed him on a base level – these were not the stars of home.
He closed his eyes and imagined that he saw instead the Great Worg, forever chasing the Three Wise Frogs across the sky. The Crab and the Fish. The Hunter. Lukou-by-the-Fountain. The Basilisk with its glittering blue eye around which all things turned. The faint hazy patch that even now he never looked directly at – his mother had held the belief that to do so was to invite the curiousity of the spirit world.
He wondered what names other races had for these spiritual bodies. Such a notion had never occurred to him, until a debate about a week ago, with a very fervent and pious elf about the skies of home. He couldn’t remember quite what she’d called The Eye of Shirvallah – a curious red-hued star that never stayed in the same place – something about the jewelled pommel of a dagger, he thought.
Curious. Perhaps not so surprising. He remembered a debate from far back in his childhood that had lasted for months, usually brought up during drunken festivities, when it was discovered that half of the village thought The Gorilla faced east. Given that it was just a vague collection of stars, he’d thought the issue was a bit silly. He couldn’t even remember which way he thought it faced – West? – only that Mo’sul had decided the opposite. They’d scuffled over that.
Old star charts of woven fibre and cowrie were dragged out by the Elders, along with markings on some antiquated vellum where the animal had been symbolised facing west – and another equally ancient vellum was produced – where it faced east. In any case, the consensus eventually reached by the village at large, was that a gorilla faced any damn way it pleased, even the one in the sky, and if some folk thought one way, and some folk the other, what did it matter?
His snort of amusement prompted Apembe to open his eyes a fraction. The tiger made a small chirruping sound, tilting his head. When it was apparant that nothing was happening, the tiger chuffed and returned to his sleep.
His eyes still closed, Zultepe smiled at the thought of his favourite childhood constellation – the Lobster – a tiny cluster of delicate brightness, that frequented the rim of the horizon. Many stories with that. Yes, a visit to the shores of home. Good idea. Get her some fish.
Ayidá and Adjassou watched as their mother packed up a small satchel. They were like a pair of vultures eyeing the dying movements of a squirrel. Except Erzulie was hardly a squirrel and she would beat sense into both of her daughters should they begin to believe that they were vultures.
“She should’nt live with the Forest Trolls…” Adjassou spoke in Zandali.
Ayidá elbowed her younger sister pretty hard. “You can’t come back from living as a damn tiger most of your life and have a say. Nevermind that she’s your mother. Nevermind that your both batshit.” The arcanist quipped in Orcish. “Anyways, she’s closer to me.” Adjassou stared at her sister. She didn’t understand Orcish.
“Both of you. Stop.”
They listened. “Adjassou, go home. Pray to Shirvallah. If she wishes you to be mated to Abi’jah, then she will tell you.”
Adjassou’s ears flattened and she skulked out the door, shifting into her tiger form. A satchel flew over her head and clattered to the ground. Mothers supplies. She picked up the bag in her mouth and broke out into a run. Darkspear Isle.
Ayidá’s gaze shifted over to Erzulie and the red-haired Trolless looked over her mother with her fathers’ brilliant amber eyes, “You’ll seriously allow her to go to the harem hut if ‘Shirvallah’ says so?”
“It is her path not mine. Now, I don’t allow Zar’huda’s blasphemy, I won’t have yours either.” The girl shrugged and pulled another bit of saltfish from the basket to munch on. Erzulie made her daughter another cup of tea. “How are your lessons going?”
Ayida had been coming to the hut daily for the better part of a week now, first it was only to be near Adjassou, worried over her younger sister during the girls first heat. Ayida did not approve of her sister becoming a mate to Abi’jah but with Erzulie’s chiding concerns that it was Shirvallah’s will, the young mage had little else to say.
Just as the eldest of the Witch Doctors’ three children prepared to make her way home to Silvermoon City; where she taught at the Arcane Academy, her father, Zar’huda, attacked Erzulie in a dire rage. She watched with fear as the Death Knight, Mo’sul Mo’ana, brought her wounded mother home.
Today, she sat up on the balcony of the hut alongside her father and watched over Erzulie as she was bent down, doing the wash in the river. Her chants could be heard throughout the Hatchet Hills as she prayed, Ayida understood little of what was happening with her mother anymore. She tuned it out when Erzulie muttered about the Loas being unhappy, that things were changing.
Zar’huda ruffled Ayida’s hair, leaving it to be continuously ruffled and seemingly unkempt. “I feel sorry for her.”
Her father grunted, “Don’t.”
Ayida shrugged and continue to watch her mother, shifting back to the silence between them and the peaceful moment of enjoying the afternoon with her father.
Erzulie scrubbed the blood from her robes and pauldrons and tossed them onto the pile of wet clothing to hang on the balcony of the hut. She took a deep breath and dipped a cloth into the water to scrub the blood stains off the plate mail armor often worn by Mo’sul; her blood. Her chants rose and fell with the motions of her hands. Prayers to Legba to guide her on the path. Prayers to help her understand the murmurings of the Loas. Unhappy murmurs. Shango was laughing.
There was chaos on the horizon.
Two weeks had passed since she had really come home. Ayida and Damballah had kept the Hut clean though neither of them had thought to replenish to supplies within it. Erzulie sighed. Tusklings would never change. The Witch Doctor carefully and quickly braided her hair to keep it out of the way after she set down her baskets. Fresh fruit, fish and frogs from the Isles, things she would need for the upcoming meeting.
As she passed through Feralas, she sent a note to Zultepe. It was simple and she did not wait for a response.
Your cousin has agreed to meeting with you. I’ve gathered what I’ve needed to make you both a good meal while you speak. I will see you in the Hatchet Hills.
Loas guide you.
With a swift motion she brushed her braid over her shoulder and set a crafted grill over the edge of the firepit that burned in the middle of her hut. She would let it heat up till one of the Mo’ana’s appeared before cooking the fish on it. Through the day she’d work on fermenting the frog venom, marinating the whole fish in cactus liqour and papayas. The Witch Doctor took her time in making fresh chutneys, roasted mango pieces, a marinade of raw fish, liqour, citrus and mangos; with kiwis and berries. She sang as she cooked, her voice low and catching in her throat. A thing of beauty for the Darkspear.
Erzulie had little idea what good this meeting would accomplish, if any good at all. She smiled, at least the Mo’ana boys would eat well tonight.
Mo’sul loomed first, in the doorway of the hut.
“‘Elloa dere, ‘Zuleh – t’ought I make I presence an’ deliver dis by hand na.”
He moved to where she worked, and dipped his head to rub a tusk against her upraised cheek. A lumpy package was dwarfed by his hand. She cut the strings of its binding expertly with a sharp little knife. The contents turned out to be a Senjin vest, of indeterminate size. Small enough for a female – possibly!
“Dey not have much in de way of pretteh souvenir out dere. I also be guessing ju not dat interest in de droppings-an’-straw of de animuhs. E’en if dat goblin say it do help wit’ de garden t’ings splendid.”
The Deathknight looked around the hut, for evidence of his cousin, as he talked a little more than usual.
Satisfied that the other was still absent, let Erzulie resume her tasks, and settled a short distance away from the firepit. He unclipped some of the heavier pieces of his armour.
“Dat fish look good na. ” He licked his tusks at the scent of the cactus liquor, and watched Erzulie as she moved around the hut, a mysterious smile on her face.
He shifted slightly in his crouch, trying to appear relaxed. His ears flicked often though, at sounds from the outside.
“Ju want I put dat on de fire for ju?”
Ezulie looked back at Mo’sul and nodded once, “If you want. I do believe we have time if you’d like me to tend to your joints before he arrives.”
She pushed a stray lock of her purple hair behind her ear; one that had defiantly escaped her braid. Everything was prepared except for the whole fish which she would grill fresh when Zultepe arrived. “Are you nervous, Mo’sul?” Her voice was just above a melody, as she spoke and pulled the vest from her shoulder as she unlaced the back of the her orange chain mail top; allowing the garment to fall away from her body. Before slipping into the vest he brought her, a deep purple and gold garment, she set the mail top to the side with the other clothing that would need to be washed the following day. His gift fit her perfectly, accentuating her curves in all the right places without revealing too much.
The Witch Doctor did not wait for Mo’sul to answer on any account and merely came up behind him, her forearms coming to life, entwined by the ghostly vines of her healing touch; her three nimble fingers beginning to work the visible muscles of the large Trolls’ form.
Mo’sul closed his eyes, submitting to the healing touch with a slackening of shoulder.
And so it appeared, to the second shadow of the evening that filled the doorway of the hut.
Zultepe placed a restraining hand to Apembe’s collar as the grizzle-whiskered tiger padded up the steps, through the door’s arch.
The hunter had been silent in his approach, but the disappointed whuff of the old cat drew an opening of the eyes of Mo’sul.
“Cousin…” the Deathknight acknowledged, in the characteristic echo of voice.
“Zultepe. Apembe. Please… come in.”
The white-braided hunter loosed his grip on Apembe’s collar, and the tiger shuffled immediately over, to knock his head against her arm. She left off her healing for a moment, to scruffle the bristly orange fur. The kitten, sleepy in the upturned cradle of one of the Deathknight’s discarded pauldrons, raised her head with faint feline curiousity. She blinked at the troll in the doorway, yawned wide, and returned to her doze.
Zultepe stepped forward at the invitation, and settled in a crouch nearby. Peeling off his leather grips, he extended his hands to the fire’s warmth.
“It be a cooling evening tonight.”
This elicited a grunt from Mo’sul, who still had not turned his head in Zultepe’s direction.
Erzulie nudged him gently. “Mo’sul. Please.”
A heavy exhalation, a shift of weight, and the Deathknight turned at last. He gave Zultepe the slightest of nods.
The fire’s light danced upon the features of all three.
Apembe had not taken his gaze from Erzulie, fixed in the unmistakeable and time-honoured expression of a hopeful cat.
“Mo’sul, would you mind putting that grill on the edge of the fire now?” The Witch Doctor asked simply as she leaned down to brush a tusk against his cheek. As she stood straight again she looked for Zultepe and grinned, bowing her head in greeting. Mo’sul acquiesed to the task he had offered to do earlier and set the grill over part of the fire with ease. While it was a large grill, it was dwarfed by his size.
With a purpose-filled stride she crossed the hut and picked up the large wooden bowl that held the whole fresh albacore that had been marinating in citrus and fruit juices. Erzulie also leaned forward for a rather large fillet of saltfish, which she tossed to Apembe. The aging tiger quite happily ingesting said fish almost as soon as it landed.
The task for her was simple. She laid the five large fish over the grill and set about serving both of the Mo’ana’s a cup of the fresh frog venom brew, cut perfecty with an edge of cactus bitter. The both looked to her with gratitude, a look she did not notice as she continued on, setting the two jugs of brews between them as well as the myriad of dishes she had cooked for their meeting. Once done, she took the time to flip the fish over tending to it with great care until she ws satisfied that they were cooked to her idea of perfection. Seared on the outside. Raw in the center.
With a fluid motion Erzulie pulled the grill from the edge of the fire by the cool edge of it and went to sit beside Mo’sul after handing both of the Mo’ana’s wooden plates. She folded her hands neatly on her lap and sat quietly. Properly.
Mo’sul smiled as he accepted the wooden plate from Erzulie, patting his hand along the side of her leg before she stepped over to hand Zultepe his plate.
While her back was turned in doing this, his expression went flat as he watched the hunter accept his serving with an easy smile.
She turned back toward him, and he turned his face away quickly pretending attention to the tiger.
His smile for the old cat was genuine though. Apembe mock-pawed his hand like an overgrown kitten, as Mo’sul’s long reach tickled the tiger’s ribs.
Zultepe’s smile faded briefly, returning only when he caught her eye again. He took up his mug of brew.
He lifted the mug to her, a toast and took a slow sip.
Mo’sul missed the slight exchange shifted his attention from Apembe, reaching for his own mug as she settled beside him.
He raised it to his cousin, lip curled around his tusk in a faint smile before drinking a deep draught.
Licking his tusks, he turned to Erzulie. “You surpass yourself, my Sea-troll”. Bass rumble, satisfaction.
“Yes, a fine meal. Fit for the Loas.” Zultepe winked over the rim of his mug.
Erzulie smiled, the gracious hostess – both Mo’anas apparantly at ease.. for the moment…
“I do not usually speak so openly, but seeing as neither of you are my mate; something that should be remedied.” She nudges Mo’sul with her elbow gently. “I do not see the issue with my speaking out of turn. I’ve asked you both here not to stare at each other as petulent boyos, but to speak as Trolls.” She speaks with the power one would expect from a Witch Doctor in their native Zandalari.
With an upturned hand she motions over the food, “The Loas have blessed us and this meal by allowing us to gether, please eat and speak. Should your cups or plates need refilling, do not hesitate ask me.”
“You both have gone too long with a rift between you and for some reason, Legba sees fit to put me onto the path of the Mo’ana’s. As my Papa would’ve told me, it is my fate as the Loas dictate. I don’t not doubt that this -is- my path. And thus, I would like for this chasm between you to be bridged as it seems to grow with constant misunderstandings and games of machismo.” She looks first to Zultepe and then to Mo’sul, offering them both a pleased smile.
Mo’sul blinked at Erzulie. “Games of wot?”
“Machismo, Cousin.” The hunter drank slowly from the cup, not making eye-contact. “She means we’re not two pikne in a tree-pssing compet-”
“- I KNOW what she means. Cousin.” The last word draw between grated teeth. “And don’t you give her that look.”
Indeed, Zultepe had raised a brow, tilting his head to Erzulie as if he were not surprised at such immediate hostility.
But Mo’sul paused this time. He closed his eyes, cricked his neck, and took a deep breath. Unneccessary, but taken all the same.
He exhaled slowly through his teeth, a pale frost hovering for a moment.
“You know what look I mean.” The voice was quiet. Calm.
Zultepe took stock, also. “Hmm.” He looked at his empty cup.
Both Mo’anas rubbed their jaws simultaneously. Erzulie noted the small action, and smiled as she rose to get the pitcher of brew.
Mo’sul got up to join her at the bench. She poured a refill for him there, and patted his arm. He grunted tersely, then awkwardly placed his hand over her own. She nodded, touching his cheek, then turned to refill the mug of the hunter.
They all resumed their place.
Zultepe took another sip. “So. Your father speaks of fate? But why does Old Man Legba take such an interest in the squabblings of two kinsmen?”
“He spoke of fate.” She gently corrects Zultepe. “As a Priest of Agwe, fate was one of his favoured topics.”
She smiles softly and looked to Zultepe, resting a reassuring hand on the back of Mo’sul’s ankle. “The tales he told of Legba’s paths and involvements in our collective lives are highly amusing. But, I’m afraid, it is me who is trying to set a path right by encouraging peace between you. I need you two to be at peace. I have given forty one years to the Loas, I’ve given life to three tusklings, two of which born to the wrong father due to a cruel trick of fate. I have never taken a mate. And the time has come for me to do so. To right the path and for that, I need the two of you.”
Erzulie looks up at Mo’sul, “I’ve not spoken with you about this in private and for that I hope you can forgive me. But, I’d like to offer myself to you as your mate and give you what you’ve always deserved, what you’ve longed for.”
Her gaze shifts slowly to Zultepe. “This is where I need the peace with the Mo’ana’s. With you, Zultepe.”
Zultepe inclined his head at the subtle change of words. “Ahh. May the Loas ward his spirit.”
Mo’sul frowned. He tilted his head. “I – you – I know I cannot offer you … all. Not as a true mate could.” His eyes flickered briefly to his cousin, as if loathe to admit it. “But I would be happy to remain in your company, and consider I’self a fortunate mon..?”
The hunter surveyed his cousin’s response, a perplexed creasing to his brow. “I still do not understand. If – If he is your choice,” – Mo’sul glanced sharply at Zultepe’s faint emphasis – “then what bearing does this have on whether or not I see eye to eye with my kin?”
Mo’sul rumbled in faint warning. Zultepe raised his hand in a passive manner. “Just a question. Nothing more.” They locked eyes for a long moment, broken only by the feminine clearing of a throat.
They both turned to regard Erzulie, as she appeared to marshall her thoughts.
Silenced hovered in the air, as the fire popped and crackled.
The dozing tiger shifted.
After a moment:
“…What is that awfuh smell?”
There was a little more silence, and waiting in stillness, as the old tiger’s flatulence dissipated.
Erzulie leaned forward to pick up one of the whole fish and whistled sharply for Apembe who padded over to her, gratefully taking the offered fish. She scratched behind his ears and looks up to Mo’sul before her gaze shifted slowly to Zultepe, “There is food that must be eaten, please.” She encouraged.
“Mo’sul.” She purrs his name as she always did, looking back up to him. “You can give me everything I need as a true mate, everything that I want at my age except for one thing and that is something I would hope that Zultepe would gift to us.” Her violet eyes shifted back to Zultepe; the hand on Mo’sul’s ankle now softly carressing the back of his calf. “Because of this request, and for the sake of a Troll who loves his family, I would hope that maybe this can repair what rift there lies between Mo’sul and the Mo’ana’s. Or at least between you and he; two Trolls who should’ve been born as brothers and not cousins. I am not blind, nor am I naive, but I wish to make you a father.” Leaves the statement open, but it’s obvious by the shift in her eyes that she says the latter quietly and with true sincerity to Mo’sul.
“My blood has belonged to the Mo’ana’s, unbeknownst to me, it the path that Legba chose for me when he put Mo’sul in my path the day I kicked him.” She cackles softly. “And I kicked him. We see how well that has served.”
She leans forward and picks up the bottle of fresh brew, refilling each of their glasses. “With my intentions known, what is this rift between you two?”
Erzulie set the bottle down and sat straight again.
You could have knocked Mo’sul over with a feather in the few moments of his disbelief. His gaze swung from Erzulie, to Zultepe.
“I – YOU – snake-tongued…” Lips twitched around tusk, growling low, showing teeth…
Apembe, who had flopped back down after the morsel, turned his head from face to face. Behind him, the kitten was trapped in the pauldron, wedged up against the tiger’s furry hide.
An errant piece of fishskin sizzled in the fireplace, becoming a tiny blackened twist. An ember popped.
The deathknight sprang, mouth wide open in a guttural roar. Zultepe, still contemplating Erzulie’s words, wasn’t quite fast enough.
Teeth sheared through skin, a gout of blood sprayed wide. The tiger sat up – uncertain if this was just another tussle of old.
Ratbag mewed incessantly, still stuck.
Erzulie channeled a swift blast of air, deflecting the angry troll away from his target. “Mo’sul Mo’ana!!”
Zultepe, hand clamped to his bloody shoulder, spoke low as the Deathknight wheeled around with icy eyes aflame. “It be wise to leave – now.” It was uncertain as to the comment’s direction.
The Hunter dropped into a ready crouch. He caught Mo’sul by the tusk on the second lunge, twisting the snarling head aside. The deathknight had weight behind him, and the two rolled in an ungainly tangle, fetching up by the wall. The hut shuddered.
Zultepe locked his limbs around Mo’sul’s own, trying to restrain him in the move that had always worked in the past. But the scale was different.
Strain showed on the hunter’s forehead. His cousin was always the stronger, but this – unnatural.. Mo’sul worked one arm slowly free, eyes glowing hot in a sneering rictus of a face. The hold unravelled, and Zultepe was flungclear across the room, hard. He tried twisting, but his head clipped the beam of the hut and the world span as he dropped hard. Dishes went flying.
Everyone else moved at once.
Apembe sprang to the defense of his master, furry body deflecting the third charge. Erzulie scrambled over, casting vines at the Deathknight – something – anything to slow him. Mo’sul turned his head once in her direction, one long arm swinging in a backhand.
His eyes glowed hot, blue-white fire. No troll at home.
The kitten sprang from the other side, caught the return of the arm and was knocked clean out of the hut.
The large white troll stalked on all fours around the firepit, to the prone body. Apembe stood over it.
The old tiger and the maddened deathknight locked gaze.
Erzulie’s vision doubled and tripled, as she made her way around the edge of the hut, ribs aching. Her lightning talents had saved her from worse, but the blow had been hard. “Mo’sul Mo’ana” she whispered.
The tiger shimmered and wove in her vison, a small noise of surprise in the old cat’s throat cut off as a glowing figure appeared around its form. Larger – much larger. The room doubled and tripled again, the fire interfering with her visions.
Head ringing, she thought she heard words. Ancient words tied in with the growls of the tiger. Hollow growling in reply – the same language, distorted through the clenching of jaw. Two animals on edge, both the same. “Fus’obeah…” She whispered, recognising one of the words.
A soundless blast issued from the mouth of the possessed tiger. Flames from the cooking fire spiralled out, bright orange shifting to tips of bright blue, and in the middle of it, Mo’sul arched. Smoke whispered from the legplate nearest the fire, the acrid scent of burning fur. The shimmer, the light, the distortion faded.
On all fours, the deathkinght turned. His sight took in Erzulie. Eyes flickered different brightnesses. His head tilted – recognition? Yes? No?
A rumble in his throat. He leaped and Erzulie tensed, flashing up wards of spinning light. But it was only to clear the firepit. He stood up on two legs, mouth working, but no words. Looking at her, around, away.
Lurching from the hut, one large foot lifted in his passing to reveal the kitten, sitting in the doorway.
The kitten tilted her head, once, at Mo’sul. She made no attempt to follow.
Erzulie narrowed her eyes, unsure what to make of that.
On the floor the Hunter lay, still bleeding. His head rolled, as he tried to move.
The tiger weighted him down, its body still warm, unmoving.
There would be no more saltfish.
“Ratbag.” Erzulie whispered to the kitten, encouraging it to come inside and be safe. She had seen the emptiness inside of Mo’sul before but this was different. “Come ickle one, you know I’ll let no harm come to you.”
She held an arm to her chest tightly as she halfway stumbled towards Zultepe; her mind and body fighting the urge to heal itself in order for her to safe her energy for the other Mo’ana’s wounds.
She reached out to Apembe with a healing hand, trying to restore some life to the old tiger, “Let me see to him, ‘Pembe.” The Witch Doctors words were warm and distraught as she came to sit beside Zultepe once she had moved Apembe from him. The ghostly vines of her healing touch entwined around her arms as she trailed her hands slowly over the other Darkspear’s body; the vines passing over to encompass him as well.
“I’m so very sorry, Zultepe. I did not mean…” Her chest heaved with the threat of tears but she stilled herself. “I don’t know what I meant.”
Yes, you do. You were testing, unsure despite the comfort of your heart. An aging voice in the back of her mind explained. Her fathers’ voice. I did not tell you which Mo’ana to stay away from, Zulfi
The Witch Doctor winced and leaned down, caressing the Hunters’ cheek comfortingly before she ripped away part of the vest that Mo’sul had brought her. She reached across to grab a bottle she knew to contain distilled grain liquor that she saved for her son, Damballah. It had serendipitously rolled across the right area of the hut. Once uncorked, she soaked the cloth in it and wiped away the blood from Zultepe’s body. “I did not know…”
“…You were right.”
The wirey frame of a Troll crackling with lightening stood on the balcony of the In’ama family hut and cackled widly as he watched the large, brooding frame of Mo’sul Mo’ana stalk off.
“Have your peace now, Erzulie.”
He disappeared with a crash of thunder.
Rain began to fall in the Hatchett Hills.
An Old Troll leaned against his staff, watching the happenings inside the hut. He smiled, content with the outcome and turned away.