| Why They Wander into the Woods |

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  1. [Allowed] Tweedy


[center [size19 [font "Edwardian" Sure it's the end of the world, but don't blame yourself.]]]

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[center [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/7d/4f/cc/7d4fcc935b1455e54f7ec0184a551fc7.jpg]]
[size14 [font "Times" Nathan nodded as Christopher bent to pick the youngest Cannes child up, watching the man for any sign of being disingenuous about his health as he did so. The child was small, but a burden on a wounded body was just that. However he seemed fine for the time being.

It seemed with his ability to move as fast as he did, resupplying whatever barrier he had made, that Father Merlot was in good health for the time being. That was relieving. He looked to the man as he turned to him, and nodded once more, fighting a peculiar prickle of emotion at the look in Christopher's eyes. His eyes were torn from him when he heard the brush move again, seeing the figure that was on the other side of the barrier that looked as fragile as the air itself. He ushered Chris ahead of him, turning back to Mathilda and gathered her against him.

"[#00CCFF Time to go,]" he breathed, opening his hands for her. She leaned into him with a diseased moan, face wan, looping her arms around his shoulders. The doctor stood with her held against him. Internally he shuddered for the feeling of her frock, dampened with blood, pressed against his coat. He could smell it right next to him now, he was holding her warm little body to him now.

Nathan swallowed, "[#00CCFF Hold me tightly.]" And set off.

When they reached what seemed like the edge, finding Sister Patrice where they left her, or thereabouts, Nathan was only too keen to let Mathilda down on the ground, barely looking at her, and sat her against the tree stump. He gathered her legs out in front of her with hands that held a tremble in them, eyes on anything but her, save a quick glance to assess her condition as he did so.

He then backed up, almost stumbling on unseen underbrush, and brushed off with a shaky breath. Now he had to examine her further. His hands pressed against his coat, thoughts swimming for a moment as his eyes lingered on Mathilda. [i Gather yourself, Nathaniel,] he thought, swallowing thickly. It had taken too long, he had gone on too long without. He needed it soon, or he would deteriorate like this and everything would be over. All his carefulness, all his running, his hiding, his charms. Did he have a dose in his bag, perhaps?

Dr. Crane's eyes snapped to Sister Patricia when she spoke, brows twitching together in confusion.

"[#00CCFF Y-yes,]" he responded.

He watched the woman's attention turn to the younger brother immediately, nodding, and glanced to see Merlot looking over the perimeter. Good. Good. Things were under control.

He knelt in front of Mathilda again, hesitantly, before standing again, retreating, clenching his hands and keeping them close to himself.

"[#00CCFF Father,]" he rasped, catching Christopher's attention and nodding towards the girl. "[#00CCFF Would you please elevate her feet in your lap for me?]" Drawing her feet into his lap to elevate them would help with her circulation, whatever her blood loss, and promote it. It was all they had at the moment, but it would do as he tried to assess how in danger she was.

"[#00CCFF I- I need-]" [i a moment], he would have said. But he was taken with a sudden chill of heat rolling uncomfortably down his back. The blue of his eyes weakening against the ember-glow of the golden that was slowly leaking from its confines in his pupils to his iris. His eyes detached sharply from Christopher, taking a step back, hand closing on his coat over his chest.

Blood. Sickness. Mrs. Cannes. That was what was communicated to him. The man hissed and yanked the oil slick colored stone on a cord from in his collar like it burned him, lips pulled back from his teeth. He stared at it as if it suddenly materialized there on its own. His fingers slowly unclasped from the cord, letting it hang in the air rested on the curve of his palm.

"[#00CCFF Sister Nancy...]" His eyes shot back to Christopher.
  Tweedy / 46d 4h 57m 46s
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[center [size15 [font "Edwardian" The wall held. Merlot did not know for how long it would- but for now, in this second, despite the creeping feeling of dread across the priests spine- it held. The girl would make it, he was sure, though he dreaded it regardless. Just to the edge of the woods. Just make it to the edge of the woods. It kept repeating. She, the boy, [i Nathan] would be fine. Just make it to the edge of the woods. That was all. He nodded once, at the first question. [#483D8B [b "I can."]] Now, was he hurt? He did a brief glance at his arms, at Ms. Cannes nail marks, but for now? [#483D8B [b "I'm alright for now. I'm not hurt."]] His cassock, on the other hand- was another story entirely. It needed a wash- and mending.

His heart might also need mending, or at least cooling, as it warmed at Nathaniel's worry. Repentance- he thought, and then, [i no]. He wasn't acting on it. There was no need. Nathaniel was, perhaps, the only person truly worried about Merlot right now- and...and that was a comfort. An anxiety as well, given a worried doctor might actually [i check] for wounds but- still, a comfort, to actually be thought of- even in the heat of the moment.

Very rarely did members of the clergy think to worry about the man that was supposed to be leading them through this.

He turned and picked up the boy, her brother, bloody and dead weight, and placed the boy on his shoulder- the cassock would definitely need washing, now. But more than that, the barrier faltered for a moment and without thinking Merlot moved in front of the mortician as another, much more panicked, much louder, [#483D8B [b "Obice."]] exited his lips. He paused, waited to see if it would hold, and then turned. [#483D8B [b "Let's not waste anymore time- I...I don't want you-"]] He paused, his eyes on Nathaniel, [#483D8B [b "Or the girl to get hurt."]] Had he really almost forgot her, in Nathan's stead?

He didn't have time to think about it- to think about repentance or penance- he only had time to pick up the pace, and follow Nathan out of the woods, focusing hard to keep the barrier up- to keep them safe- as who- or what- was behind them, took a step out of the bushes.

Sister Patrice stood by the edge, arms behind her, dagger in hand, rocking on her heals until she saw Merlot and Nathaniel, two children in tow, approach the edge. She stopped, adjusted her footing, straightened her back, and turned to start approaching them. [#1e90ff [b "Living?"]] She asked. Merlot just nodded, and released the barrier behind them. [#483D8B [b "Perhaps just barely. The girl needs help, I'm not sure about the boy-"]] She eyed the young one on Merlot's shoulder, eyes searching, checking- something. The tilted her head in confusion. [#1e90ff [b "I can assist, doctor, in examining."]] She paused. [#1e90ff [b "I just ask you do not touch me, while I do."]]

Merlot set the boy down next to her, and she took no time turning to look him over for wounds. The young priest checked the woods over with his eyes. They seemed still, for now.

...Though there was an uncomfortable nostalgia with looking into a forest, like this. Looking for signs of life, for movement- for red, for...

He shuddered.

Meanwhile, Sister Nancy was falling asleep [i watching] Mrs. Cannes. She'd made a cup of tea, taken notes that only consisted of "Patient still asleep", and...now she was drifting off in her seat, the stone softly resting in her pocket. She only awoke to the sound of a soft cough- from Mrs. Cannes? No...the woman was still asleep. She only realized it was herself when she doubled over in a coughing fit, pulling back after it was over to see blood on her hand.]]]
  Merlot / indulgence- / 50d 10h 33m 13s
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[size14 [font "Times" Nathan nodded to Father Merlot as he left him for just a moment, feeling himself praying for once in a long time, a long time. It was like a habit, going through the motion of "please god don't let him get hurt" because in a rapidly escalating epidemic like this, it was often himself and the clergy who were left to butt heads over the details of what was going on. But he would much, much, much prefer keeping that company than not having it at all whatsoever. So with one last glance, he pushed over to the girl as he had.

"[#00CCFF It's alright,]" Nathan responded, "[#00CCFF just let me take a look.]" With that he unbuttoned her collar, the two little buttons at the shoulder of her frock and peeled it from her skin. Underneath it, he could see the scratch marks that had begun to bleed. His face tightened, looking at the blood on her skin, and swallowed delicately as he looked for more wounds on her. There were tears, wide, open, that made his stomach turn. They weren't gutting, but they were gruesome to look at, and familiar. But not of a mouth as far as he could tell.

Nathan's attention turned back to Christopher standing above him, blinking and buttoning the girl's collar again. The clothing would keep more dirt and mess at least kind of at bay until they could take her somewhere safer. He glanced back up at the priest.

"[#00CCFF I know,]" he responded, feeling breathless as he was still struggling to ignore the salt scent of panic and sweat and blood around him, especially as Christopher came closer. His breath shuddered, "[#00CCFF She will,]" he looked at her, nodding seriously to her as he did. "[#00CCFF I'll carry her. Remind me of your name again?]"

"[i Matilda,]" she said in a small voice.

With that he stood next to Christopher, a hand on the girl's shoulder. His eyes alighted upon a shimmering, spherical film around them. As if being set in a bubble blown from soap, looking as fragile and immaterial as it would at its regular size. He could smell magic, like static hanging in the air. It made his skin crawl, cold, clear, like an icy night was the magic; likely holy. He shivered beneath it, looking at Christopher with an amount of wonder.

The boy was deposited by his side, Nathan reaching down and placing a hand on his forehead. The boy's head turned softly into his hand, breathing calmly now, and Nathan felt a hot jolt of emotion, of [i pain] at seeing this spread like this. It never changed, it was always awful. And plagues like this always followed him, even as he strove to keep them at bay with his pestilent body. Everything he did was to try and keep these things from happening. But the rapidly being forgotten Old World was seeping into these little pious societies with a terrific swiftness as the Christian church refused their existence.

Nathan looked back at Christopher, "[#00CCFF Can you carry her brother?]" he breathed, watching the hand almost caress the membrane of magic. "[#00CCFF Are you hurt?]" he breathed, looking at Christopher, glancing over his stance and the condition of his cassock. "[#00CCFF Are you?]"
  Tweedy / 82d 15h 41m 43s
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[center [size15 [font "Edwardian" The blood thirst of a child was too familiar for comfort. But in the heat of the moment Christopher Merlot could think of nothing else but the safety of those around him- perhaps especially the doctor next to him, as guilty as he felt for it not being the child in his priority. Chris shifted his body weight forward to keep the child down, having to avert his eyes just slightly, looking at the ground next to Nathaniel, only looking over at the needle, and then up at [i "Just a moment."] He nodded once and looked down at the child. [#483D8B [b "I've got him. You should check on the girl. Don't worry about me-"]] Perhaps Nathan wasn't- perhaps it was only Merlot that felt this worried about the doctor. Perhaps Christopher was merely projecting-

With an exorcists reserve Merlot turned his eyes back down to the child and kept him down through the struggle. But staring into the eyes of another bloodthirsty child gave Merlot's mind space to wander. Not only to thoughts of [i "What could cause something like this?"] but to those such as; [i "Is it my fault? Is his fate my punishment? And what of the girl, almost ripped to death by her brother? Why not me instead? Then again, I have never cared for my own safety- perhaps HE knew this would be a worse punishment-"]

His eyes shifted away from the child when he heard the girl croak doctor, eyes lingering on the back of Nathan's head, mind curling into corners before he snapped his gaze back toward the child.

...yet, he found his eyes turning back. Nathan...Nathan was his only solace, in all of this. And why would God, as all knowing as he is, make Nathan the only one that could help, in this- if- if he would punish Christopher for glancing? For his mind wandering? As a challenge?

But Merlot had not [i acted] on anything! Had not tried to make something of this, and so he was being punished merely for thought! What kind of God would allow these children to be hurt over-

His train of thought stopped at a sound from the bushes. The boy was suddenly limp now, though the timing of his struggling wearing down didn't match with the sudden limpness. He eyed the source of the sound and catiously stood, picking up the boy and turning to walk back to Nathan. Instinct told him to get the girl out of the woods. Instinct or...something else. [#483D8B [b "Would she last to get to the edge of the forest, Nathaniel?"]] He asked, shifting his weight to get a better grip of the child. [#483D8B [b "There are still animals and other infected here, and we're not prepared to fight any that may come through here. If one comes through here and harms any of us, then all of this could be in vain. We don't know how this infection spreads."]]

He paused, looking back at a noise, then back at Nathan and the girl. He eyed the boy in his arms, and then the bushes again, eye to eye with hazy, unclear eyes. [#483D8B [b "Alternatively-"]] Being that it was this close- he set the boy down next to Nathan, and stepped closer to it and rose his hand. [#483D8B [b "Obice."]]

After a sigh of relief at it [i working], Christopher peaked over his shoulder at Nathan, a relieved smile on his face at Nathan's safety. [b [#483D8B "I'm out of practice, I am unsure as to how long I'll be able to hold this. So while I don't mean to rush you, doctor..."]] He glanced back at the barrier, eyeing the eyes through the bushes as a hand reached through to slowly drag it's nails across the barrier Merlot was keeping up. [b [#483D8B "Please hurry."]]]
  Merlot / indulgence- / 104d 17h 53m 45s
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[size14 [font "Times" As Christopher opened his bag, Nathan even now couldn't fight the hot, prickling wash of shame that came over him at how it felt to have his bag entered into by a man of the cloth. By a priest. The things he would see in it, already horrified at the sigil on its side. Nathan could only hope that he would be gentle with him when this all was over with. He didn't have any ability or magical components to try and seal his memories anymore. That was all gone now.

But for the time being he had to focus on the task at hand. Not be distracted by the knowledge of the future. Of what he could grab quickly before he was run out.

Nathan's mouth clenched shut as he felt Christopher's hands close in on his, petulantly aware of his hurt one so very close to him.

He could feel his mouth watering, his stomach roiling in that confusing lurch of sickness that warned of bile. Breathing out of his mouth wasn't helping, but his nose would only make it worse. The physician swallowed thickly and nodded his head as Christopher took hold of the child and weighed him down by the arms.

When Nathan's hold moved off of the boy, the kid's truer strength was now thrown against Christopher alone. Maddened, enraged, and looking to Chris now with contempt, trying to bite, claw, shrieking at him bloody murder.

He didn't move off of the child, needing only to turn to his hip to start rifling through his own bag to find the metal casing he had the syringe needles in. Fumbling slightly in his rush, Nathan pushed the components together and drew a dose, small for the body, to then lean forwards; armed now; and seize the arm of the boy again.

"[#00CCFF Just a moment,]" he ground out, fighting to make sure he didn't hurt the boy and administer the draught wrong. "[#00CCFF We need to let it take.]"

He glanced up at the girl who was still plastered with terror against the tree, looking over her condition for another moment. She was his next responsibility. She was bleeding, too, and the smell of her so heavily bleeding wasn't helping. But he was the only one who knew how to do this medically. Properly.

Once the boy began to weaken, and he knew that Christopher's trembling, alcoholic hands could hold him down, Nathan leapt off of the boy, throwing the bag strap off of himself and went to the girl's side. She was trembling, and cold in his hands, despite her smell being so torrid, maddening, abyssal. He swallowing with a trembling throat.

"[#00CCFF Let me see,]" he tried to soothe, holding her gaze. She shied from him, staring at his eyes, not understanding their glow. She looked to Father Merlot. "[#00CCFF Please,]" Nathan asked, "[#00CCFF I can help. You remember me?]"

"[i Doctor...]" she croaked, lips pale with blood loss.

"[#00CCFF You need to sit down,]" he said as he settled her. "[#00CCFF Let me see what's happened to you...]"
  Tweedy / 156d 5h 5m 48s
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[center [size15 [font "Edwardian"
What Christopher saw in the bag was something he didn't know how to react to. The items were familiar, in a way. Not necessarily in a good way, but not necessarily in a bad way, either.

He had seen such items from both sides.

Should he have had time to think, his teachings would have screamed heretic. Would have demanded that Christopher turn Nathan in for witchcraft, would have blamed Nathan's...supplies...for Christopher's damnation- would have blamed the hands helping him for making his eyes linger, for tempting him.

But luckily, there was no time for such thoughts, when the only comfort he had was behind him, being threatened by a child with a sickness- who was not quite possessed, but not quite [i sick].

And at the prick of his finger, there were [i no thoughts] to be had, for a moment. He withdrew his hand, quickly running a finger across the bleeding one and then pressing it against his robe to stop it, before catching up to speed.

He couldn't let this blood get anywhere- who knows what would use it against him. Blood was a very risky thing for someone with his talents to give- someone who had drawn so much demonic attention towards himself. [b [#483D8B "You could tell me how to administer it-"]]

But no, no, it was better if Nathan did it. So at the request to hold the boy down, Christopher nodded once, quickly, and rushed back to the physicians side. [b [#483D8B "Do not let go until I grab him, if his arms are free for even a second he could dig his nails into one of us-"]] He carefully placed one hand slightly underneath Nathan's almost up against his wrist- although even in this situation, he would not allow his touch-

And paused. He couldn't grab the other wrist without...being so close. But if he used the Latin...if he tried...

[b [#483D8B "Move off of him, quickly. I can pin him before he's able to do any harm."]] It would work. It wasn't an exorcism, it would work.

At least his voice sounded sure, if he heart wasn't.]]]
  Merlot / indulgence- / 185d 13h 46m 9s
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[size14 [font "Times" He was shocked to find that Chris, instead of answering him, turned to instead to rifle through his bag. Nathan blinked himself out of a momentary stupor and turned his eyes down towards Chris's approach to his hip. The man shuddered, sucking in a breath through his teeth. There was so much going on- smell and sound and sensation- his mind was being torn towards two differing directions that it took him a moment to gather himself. [i Did he bring another tranquilizer?]

Inside of the bag, once the satchel flap was lifted, the sight that met Christopher's eyes was a myriad of cruel, occult items. Stakes, chemicals that looked cursed just based on the color of them and how they clung to the sides of their vials; herbs, certain woods in twigs and bark shavings; heretic icons, stones, some in the form of blades, various pouches, and peculiar metal implements intended for some dubious purpose, some familiar such as short bolts with a white metal tip on them.

"[#00CCFF No,]" Nathan finally responded, pulling his eyes open again, distant, glowing, unfocused. They dragged towards Christopher lazily, searching for him. He swallowed through a trembling throat. "[#00CCFF Not- you don't know how to administer it...]"

He [i almost] released the boy in his grasp to assist Father Merlot, but resisted the impulse. It was only partially a reflex to try and hide what he had inside. The pentacle [size10 ] on the surface was enough reveal for one night if he could keep it together.

While Chris blindly tore through Nathan's bag, his fingers caught against some of the implements that he had within. The sight of it to Nathan was just adding to the difficulty of the situation as he felt his stomach tighten in response.

"[#00CCFF I'm fine,]" the physician responded, breath husky, short and unconvincing, but bodily upon scrutiny he was right. "[#00CCFF I'm fine- I need you to hold him down. Hold- can you do that?]"

He could feel his breath beginning to pant, trying to breathe out of his mouth to avoid the taint of blood on the air, and of panic and adrenaline. It was sending him in directions he shouldn't go- his thoughts, his body responding just as he had hoped somehow, futilely, it wouldn't. As if the sickening strength of the response wasn't on his empty stomach going to happen in his condition. The day had gotten away from them both.
  Tweedy / 191d 17h 31m 19s
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[center [size15 [font "Edwardian" It was that [i no], a roar of the word, that snapped Chrisopher Merlot back into the role he used to play, the role of the excorsist. It was the worry he felt, the idea of loss, the idea of losing the only steady thing he had, now, that pushed him back into place, into action. Mind you, Sister Patrice was a very steady woman, dependable, and through some divine power, she was still here. But she was not consistent, she was sparatic, and Nathan, at least, Merlot knew would always be at the funerals. The only stable thing left in Merlot's life, was Nathan.

And he was not willing to lose that steadyness. It may be the only thing that got him through this. Yes, perhaps he had lost many with his rites, but at least then he could say he tried.

It was a mixture of the terror, and determination, that pushed Merlot's eyes into a more vivid green as he stepped forward. The boy twisted and struggled and growled as he attempted to rip into Nathan's skin with his teeth, tried to make contact, but God, Nathan was able to hold him down, and Merlot thanked the higher power for this. His eyes caught Nathan's at the glance back, at the question, and as green met gold Christopher released a breath he didn't even know he was holding.

[b [#483D8B "Hold him still, and don't let him hurt you! Did you bring another tranqulizer?"]] He turned quickly to his bag, digging through it for holy water and a rosary, and then to Nathan's for whatever he could find that would help. [b [#483D8B "He hasn't broken any skin, has he?"]]

His worry was clear to anyone paying close enough attention, when he returned to Nathan's side and checked him first, rather than the child. He tested them with holy water, placing some on their forehead, but it didn't hiss, didn't burn...

And Merlot was forced to face the fact he didn't know what this was. And that made it more terryfying. [b [#483D8B "If we can get him under, we can bandage the girl and figure out what to do from there-"]] God, he just hoped Nathan could keep the boy from slipping out of is grasp, despite the blood slickening his hands.]]]
  Merlot / indulgence- / 200d 17h 40m 9s
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[size14 [font "Times" Nathan's eyes were on the scene as they both barely paused on the edge of the scene, taking it in, neither truly stopping. The man's eyes landed on the aggressor of the situation, feeling a hard, violent heat shoot through his veins. He shot past Chris, not listening to him. He leapt forwards, a rough, animal sound tearing from him in the shape of a [i 'no!'] as his hands grasped the back of the smaller child's clothing and threw him to the ground.

The little boy struggled underneath him, Nathan arched over behind him as he felt his knees land on either side of the little thing's body. He snarled up at Nathan, trying to lash out. The doctor's hands clamped down on the flailing limbs to try and cage them, pulling them down to save his hands from opportunistic bites. The child was barely what looked like nine or ten, and so it was hardly a feat for him.

But down this close, the smell of all of the blood around him hit Nathan hard, alongside the adrenaline throwing itself against the walls of his veins. He caught sight of the boy's livid, glimmering eyes turned back at him balefully before they switched back up to where Christopher had plastered himself against the elder sister's body against the tree.

The screams, the color, the scent, the panic all pounded against the inside of Nathan's head. It was familiar, it was bringing with it panic welling within him that he tried to fight, tried not to tighten his grip too hard as he twitched at the scream directed at him; of rage and hatred; as the boy threw his head towards Nathan again. His eyes unfocused for a moment, and yet everything felt so [i in] focus.

Nathan heard Christopher's voice somewhere ahead of him and his head snapped up, leaning enough of his weight on the child to keep him restrained. [size12 [i This isn't quite possession is it...]]

Nathan's eyes were dim golden, reflecting it seemed from the centers of his irises as he looked at the priest, seeking direction. He didn't want to inhale. But he had to speak. He was bigger than this animal fear, bigger than a simple scent. "[#00CCFF What do I do?]"

His attention went to the girl behind him, seeing her wounds. He swallowed at the stains on her frock and his face creased in uncertainty before he returned down to the child, hearing Christopher's words on the matter barely over the enraged shrieks of the child. They were so savage, even coming from such a young child. Similar had been uttered in tantrums, but hardly in this register, in this cadence such mature, wild malice. He had been screamed at by his brother similarly, when they were fighting as children, but it would be only the one scream of frustration and anger, hardly the clawing animosity to be released to continue tearing into his elder sister. It sent a shiver down Nathan's spine as he heard the scream resonate against him.

Nathan's face twisted in illness at the sound, distracted by the smell around them, and the slickness of the girl's blood underneath his hands, restraining the arms that had torn into her. He could smell the older brother's as well, all of it pushing together in a hot, confusing swirl that was tinged in that same acrid taint in it. Nathan couldn't move, not knowing if Christopher would draw closer, of putting the other in danger, and not risking getting bit or scratched himself. Christopher didn't need to see the color of Nathan's own blood.
  Tweedy / 213d 5h 55m 8s
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[center [size15 [font "Edwardian" Sister Patrice was perhaps overly careful in the way he took the bandages. The way she made sure to use only the hand that was no bloody, the way she avoided getting even a spec on Nathan, going as far as to rip her arm away with the bandages quickly when she saw some running up her arm, and then eyeing the doctor for any that could have touched him. Only when she noted no blood on him did she respond, [b [#1e90ff "Thank you. You will not be getting these back."]], behind nervous lips.

When asked how many there were, the sister tilted her head, then hummed. [b [#1e90ff "Well...there were three, weren't there?"]] Merlot didn't know what to make of the responce, but they [i didn't have time] to question her. The children were in danger, possibly threatened by multiple people-

As the reality of the sitaution set in, Merlot's thoughts went to penance. They sent him here because they thought it would be safe- that nothing could go wrong- that those around him would be [i safe]. And yet, people were dying. And not just dying, people were [i killing]! These poor kids were [i in danger]. But really, what would penance do? So far, it had done nothing but covered him in scars. Yes, perhaps rectifying it would only by trying to save as many as he could.

Surely, he could save at least one. And if that was all he could do, at least he could face the lord saying he tried. He'd die trying, if he must.

Chrisopher nodded in response to Nathan, and the nun took the knife just as carefully as she had taken the bandages, but rose and held it with no hesitation when it was in her hand. [b [#1e90ff "I will head out and wait closer to edge."]] She nodded once, then turned, heels somehow not sinking into the dirt as she trotted out of the forest, leaving the priest and the doctor to their own devices.

The priest followed after Nathaniel like a life line, feeling tense, feeling his heart pick up in pace as they went. His eyes drifted up from the ground at the sound of a scream, and he sped up, pushing past Nathan, following the sound. Nor fear or violence, but a mixture of the two, it sounded like- Merlot had heard that kind of scream on many occasions, and it always made him feel sick.

It...confirmed something for him.

He paused when he got to the sight, putting an arm in front of Nathan to stop him from getting any closer until they could asses the exact way to go about it.

Now, Christopher knew what she meant by "one" and "three". As the eldest, a yound man nearing their teenage years, lie pushing up daises, the middle child, a young girl with blood on her chest and side, pressed herself up a tree trying to escape the youngest, who already had blood on their hands.

[b [#483D8B "Oh dear..."]] He put a hand to his mouth, closed his eyes, took a deep inhale through his nose, and descended down towards them. Surely, he could save the one. [b [#483D8B "Nathan, have bandages at the ready, please."]] He tossed his bag to the side, and just as he did, the child rushed for his sister.

Merlot was in front of her before he could get her. He eyed the gash in his robes, but he did not check it for blood. The child was in danger now- nothing else mattered. He could, at least, save one. It tried to attack again, and Merlot lifted the girl and raised her into a tree, telling her quickly to climb before realeasing her and dodging another claw attempt. [b [#483D8B "You're still there, I know you are."]] The child yelled. [b [#483D8B "You can keep fighting it-"]]

Another swing, but Merlot was quick on his feet. It came with the job, at least, the one he used to have. [b [#483D8B "This isn't quite possesion, is it?"]] He thought outloud, noticing the change in eyes, the cloudiness- and now, it seemed, a ring of golden red.

He shared eye contact, felt the familair burn in his own, and it turned, going to attack the tree, trying to climb. And Christopher knew there was little else he could do. There was no talking him down, no restraining him without risking it spreading- they still didn't know how it spread. All he knew, was that currently, the child was trying to kill his sister, and the dying tree would not hold. He glanced over at Nathan, then over at the girl, and calmly walked behind the boy and put a hand on the back of his neck to whisper [b [#483D8B "Somnum."]]

He stepped over the boy as he fell, reaching up to held the girl back down and into his arms, before placing her on the floor and walking her over to the doctor. [b [#483D8B "He won't be out for long, and this ones bleding. There's a chance I can restrain the other one as you take care of her, but you and the child should get away from here-"]] He could feel warmth under the fabric of his shirt. It might stain, but...

His own health wasn't his concern.

He wanted to save more than just the one.]]
  Merlot / indulgence- / 214d 17h 23m 59s
[center [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/7d/4f/cc/7d4fcc935b1455e54f7ec0184a551fc7.jpg]]

[size14 [font "Times" The symbol on Nathan's bag wasn't the whole front, staying gently in the corner where it was impressioned upon the leather. Inside, he knew what lay and his stature relaxed as a result of it. It was strange, however, to have it all on again, and it gve him pause for just a moment as he smoothed a hand over the front of his coat again. Back with these materials, rushing headlong into danger. He hated it. But it was familiar.

He could practically taste the anxiety next to him, however, that was bound up in Father Merlot. He tried to ignore it and focus on categorizing what he knew about the situation. Christopher looked functional, so he needn't concern himself just yet.

But the apology caught his attention, drawing his eyes over to the priest, surprised by the apology.

Nathan licked his lips, glancing away briefly. He didn't know how to respond just yet, and nodded to him, "[#00CCFF Wonderful chance to rectify that trying to rescue them.]"

As they were nearing the edge of the forest, he took a breath. Ready now, time to get to work. They didn't know what to

He was about to continue when Christopher stopped suddenly. His eyes followed the man's to land on the nun, his hand going out to stop Chris before he went forwards. He inhaled softly, following, and noticed that the blood he could taste in the air held no disease in it. His hands were already opening his bag and reaching into it as Chris got to her.

Nathan didn't want to approach, really, seeing how she eyed him. But from his bag, he retrieved a roll of bandages, crossing to the sister and handing it over. She looked shocked and a little disconcerted with him so he moved slowly. "[#00CCFF Here,]" he offered.

"[#00CCFF How many are there?]" Nathan asked, trying to think of how many people they would need to fend off. [i Wait,] he thought, [i only one of them has it? That implied multiple were just threatening the children. That was strange. For what reason?]

With that he looked in the direction she pointed them in, inhaling slowly, eyes alight. He felt his lungs stretch a little, turning back to Christopher, "[#00CCFF We need to go now,]" he said, pulling a knife from the inside of the coat and turning it, offering the handle to Sister Patrice. "[#00CCFF Please be safe.]" he nodded to her.

"[#00CCFF Father, this way,]" and with that he led the way, hearing a scream from up ahead. At this distance it was hard to tell if it was of fear or of violence.
  Tweedy / 217d 6h 48m 50s
[center [pic https://imgur.com/fNfD7lE.png]]

[center [size15 [font "Edwardian" The distaste in Nathaniel’s tone might have killed him, in other circumstances. The tension, the bitter anger, coming from a man Christopher had regarded as a comfort- it felt like rotting matter his in stomach. But he said nothing to change it. He pursed his lips, brought back the nun, and stood at her side patiently waiting for the doctor.


Sister Nancy looked over with her name, eyes gentle and curious and [i worried] as the doctor explained to take notes. It was a very good thing she had recently been taught to write, it seemed, for up until Father Merlot had shown her, she had been useless in this regard. This, however, she didn’t question.


She did question the stone she soon found in her hand, however. But not verbally, rather she rolled it around in her fingers, looking at it curiously, then back at the doctor with...mild suspicion. What would a stone do? Should she just throw it at the woman should the woman try and attack her? What good would this do? She brushed it off and pocketed the stone, grabbing a notebook and quill as she went to sit next to the widow on the bed, making a note of how she seemed now, so she could update any changes.


Merlot was able to keep Nathan’s gaze when he looked over, but it softened as the man looked away and grabbed his bag. Even angry at him, he was a comfort. A familiar face, something steady. There wasn’t much stability, here. Those that continued to show up to his sermon’s were an unsteady few, different people drifted in and out in the fear of the plague. Nathaniel was really the only stable face Christopher saw. And even angry at him, his presence was a sign that not everything was lost, yet.


Though sometimes, it felt close.


He nodded, following Nathaniel out of the church and into the streets, locking the church quickly behind him to keep any wandering folk from trying to enter when he was not there. There used to at least be someone there who could be of service at all times- but-


The deaths had changed things a lot.


Including how dead it was in town. Rather than talking to his partner in this, he found his eyes drifting to the few people out as they walked. How many of them had it? How soon would they die? Would anyone die by their hands, should they find someone else in the forest?


How many of them could he save?


He turned his eyes back to Nathan as they arrived, saying nothing as Nathan dropped his bag by the priest and went to retrieve his coat. He just stood there patiently, eyes eventually wandering, and glance eventually falling to the bag.


His breath ran cold and got stuck in his throat. No, surely Nathan wasn’t- but...that [i was] a pentagram he was looking at, was it not? Five points, circle, sigils. No, surely he-


His eyes trailed up the stairs. Was it truly that unbelievable?


Yet, he couldn’t just jump to conclusions. Maybe the man just didn’t know- maybe it was a hand-me-down, a gift- maybe he didn’t know the symbol! But then again, who didn’t, now? And wasn’t he afraid of being accused a witch? They’d accused people over smaller things-


He thought back to young Ms. Picket, the girl was only 7, she had only stumbled across the pin while on a picnic, it wasn’t even hers- He shuddered. Didn’t Nathan know what he was risking carrying that symbol around? Whether it meant anything to him or not, still, he should know the risks!


Fire and brimstone didn’t sound pleasant, whether eternal or not.


His eyes drifted up to the doctor when he heard him coming down, eyes leaving the pentagram in exchange of eyeing the man before him. He didn’t recognize the coat. He acknowledged, briefly, that the fact he could recognize the others, the black and the blue, was disconcerting, for he knew there was only one reason he would know of such things, only one reason his eyes would linger long enough to. He hated that they lingered now, hated that his breath stilled for a moment before turning.


[b [#483D8B “Alright.”]] He didn’t mention the bag. He adjusted his own, and headed for the forest. [b [#483D8B “I am sorry.”]] He managed to say as they got closer, keeping his voice low, but loud enough for the man to hear him. [b [#483D8B “I will admit I was in the wrong, I misunderstood. And you [i are] right-”]] He glanced over at the doctor, then back at the forest as they approached. [b [#483D8B “I should never have given up so easily on them.”]]


The moment his foot made contact with the bottom of the forest floor, he felt a familiar uneasiness. But he did not stall, did not hesitate. He pushed forward, motioning for Nathan to follow as he led the way. [b [#483D8B “We shouldn't separate while in here, there is no telling what we could-”]] He paused, stopping in his tracks. [b [#483D8B ...find. Sister Patrice?”]]


The nun looked up from a stump she was sitting on, arms crossed, eyes wide. [b [#1e90ff “They’re deeper in- the kids. The widows. I tried to stop them but-”]] She uncrossed her arms, or rather, lifted the hand that had been holding her arm, the hurt one, that Merlot only noticed now. [b [#1e90ff “One of them has it.”]]


Merlot quickened his pace and walked over, kneeling beside her to look at the injury briefly. It broke skin. She was bleeding. It didn’t look like teeth, though. [b [#483D8B “Nathaniel, do you have bandages?”]] The sister eyed the doctor, then placed her hand back on her arm. [b [#1e90ff “I will be fine, you two don’t have time to waste. They went off east, but I’m sure they didn’t go far.”]]


Chris shot a glance at Nathan, eyes questioning. Do they bandage the nun at the expense of the children, or do they run off? Merlot stood. [b [#483D8B “I know her well enough, she will be fine-”]] [b [#1e90ff “Go help the children.”]]]]]
  Merlot / indulgence- / 218d 19h 40m 15s
[center [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/7d/4f/cc/7d4fcc935b1455e54f7ec0184a551fc7.jpg]]

[size14 [font "Times" Nathan wasn't one for interrupting, but his eyes blew wide at Christopher's accusation. It was a moment before they narrowed, "[#00CCFF I said no such thing,]" he retorted. "[#00CCFF You would remember, I said it would be if you went [i alone].]" His face was cold. So, Father Merlot wasn't listening to him at all. He was so wound up in his own head that he was only being reactionary to Nathaniel calling him out.

However, the rest struck him speechless. Nathaniel's face was for the majority relatively smooth, as usual, but a crease was forming in between his brows as he listened to Christopher explain his helplessness.

Well.

That certainly put a damper on his reliance on holy support if things turned out the way he feared they may regarding this plague...

Nathan's lips pursed, trying to draw on what knowledge he still had in him to remember what to do. It had been years since he had hunted or done an investigation. And this town hardly had the library that the Hackett estate had... and neither did the church here.

"[#00CCFF Hm. I see...]" the man trailed off, eyes following as he thought, crossing towards the door. But Christopher's arm coming out to stop him made his eyes snap towards the man, features twitching with threat. Don't touch him.

"[#00CCFF No,]" Nathan responded in a flat, inarguable tone, moving to push Merlot's attempt at obstructing him out of his way, face frustrated. He was in [i no] mood for this self-sacrifice and was about to say so when the priest continued, mercifully, and Nathan just tightened his jaw and stood still, holding eye contact with the mousy little man as he scurried away.

Hissing, the man paced across the room, flexing his hands. Christopher reminded him of Zachary in all the worst ways at times. It took cajoling and pressure and mess in order to get him to act, too; more willing to try and avoid something. Reactionary. Unless he was dashing after Anna at the expense of everything they were working for, whoring himself out for her more willingly than himself. As if it mattered anymore. Perhaps that was what had frustrated Nathan the most, realizing this was a familiar situation.

He turned when he heard footsteps down the hallway and noted the two of the cloth returning. His eyes followed the nun curiously before turning towards her, "[#00CCFF Sister Nancy?]" he drew her attention, explaining to make note of any change in Mrs. Cannes' condition for him and went to his bag, pressing a little item into her hand. "[#00CCFF Keep this. I have a theory about what's going on, and this may help keep her from you.]"

When she opened her hand, it was a small, crystalline geometric piece of stone that looked like a piece of petrified, slightly oil-slick luminescent stone.

He then pulled away with a nod, switching his gaze to Merlot who seemed now to be holding his gaze. Nathan sighed through his nose- so now it was a contest, was it? And gathered his bag, taking it along with him.

"[#00CCFF I will take my coat from my rooms before we go,]" he said as they passed out of the room, taking the lead.

Walking was relatively silent, and short, as the distance on foot from the church to the mortuary only down the road and a few over. Once there, Nathan pushed the door open and swept inside. In his quarters now, he passed the body he was preparing in the back and quickly covered it, locking the door behind himself. If Nathan wasn't looking at Christopher before, he wasn't now as he dropped what looked to be a satchel by the man. It had a five pointed star on it seated within a ring that was marked with sigils on it perimeter.

Disappearing again, Nathan had to mount the stairs to the second floor, his private apartment, and went to the wardrobe.

When he appeared downstairs, Nathaniel had donned a coat. It was hardly the black or the dark blue one that the man was often seen wearing. This one was a heavy, long what looked to be either oiled canvas or potentially leather and closed up his throat , and black. His eyes were removed from the priest, knowing those eyes were on him for the change in attire, or perhaps they weren't. Perhaps he was still staring at him in that competitive, stalwart way, or he was looking for some form of response, assurance, something.

"[#00CCFF I'm ready now,]" he said colorlessly, looking to Christopher.
  Tweedy / 219d 8h 2m 2s
[center [pic https://imgur.com/fNfD7lE.png]]
[center [size15 [font "Edwardian" Saying he was caught off guard was an understatement. Nathan had already said it would be suicide to find them, and now he was yelling at Christopher for not doing it...

He flinched, forgetting about avoiding Nathan's gaze as he looked back in shock, feeling pain rise in his chest. [b [#483D8B "I didn't [i leave] her! You were the one that said it would be a suicide mission!"]]

It only took the next lines of Nathan's scolding him to get Father Merlot to clench his fists and feel panicked anger rise in his chest. [b [#483D8B "I'm not- I didn't-"]] He could barely get any words out before Nathan was continuing, calling him on his faith, questioning it, making Christopher question himself, for he knew he was no longer the pure man of god he used to be. [b [#483D8B "I am not [i hiding]!"]] His voice rose, but he was trying to hold back. He was trying to calm down.

But there was only so much he could hold back. [b [#483D8B "I'm not a [i pillar] of anything!"]] He was trembling now, nails digging into his clenched fists. [b [#483D8B "I'm only a [i man], Nathan! And look at how far my preaching has gotten me, they're not rallying together! They're hiding! Cowering in their homes, trying to escape town!"]]

The next words made him shut up for a moment- cutting him deeper than the rest. He used to be who was called for when people needed an exorcism. He was the best for it. And now look at him. His hands trembled in panic and anger and his eyes clenched closed. And he ignored [i everything else Nathan said]. [b [#483D8B "I [i can't]! At most I could [i bless] her but what good does that truly do?! I know, okay?! I don't need [i you] to tell me I'm sitting idly by! I have the scriptures memorized! I've done it countless times before, [i BUT ALL IT WOULD ACCOMPLISH WOULD BE PUTTING THE NAIL IN HER COFFIN!"]]] He looked up, trembling, tears streaming down his face as he glared at Nathan. [b [#483D8B "I don't need [i you] to remind me what I can't do! They sent me here so I'd never have to do another one! I can't [i do] them anymore, Nathan!"]] His voice broke, and he clenched his eyes again. [b [#483D8B "I can't do them anymore...not when they keep dying... They sent me here because I was useless. They sent me here because every exorcism I've done has ended in tragedy. This was supposed to be safe- I know I'm useless...I don't need you to remind me."]]

He put a hand in front of Nathan, stopping him from leaving. [b [#483D8B "You know it would be suicide, Nathan. I'll gather one of the sisters and go. I know Sister Nancy was cleaning the attic today, but someone must stay with Mrs. Cannes, and you have the most medical knowledge."]]

Screw his damned self, screw penance, Nathan was right. There was an illness they didn't understand. He could not sit idly by. He had to at least do what he could. [b [#483D8B "I'll be fine. I'll bring them back. Just...stay with the widow."]] he allowed himself a single glance at Nathan, wiped his tears away, and then paused. [b [#483D8B "Or...Sister Nancy can watch Mrs. Cannes. So far, both of us have the most experience with this, even if it's not much. We might stand a better chance together."]]

Screw hell. He needed Nathan in order to solve this, and he couldn't be idle anymore. If he could not exorcise her, he could at least find her children. [b [#483D8B "I will retrieve her, give me a moment."]] He pushed past Nathan to go up to the attic, lightly clearing his throat to get the nuns attention. [b [#87CEFA "Yes, Father Merlot?"]] She asked as she turned around and set a box down. [b [#87CEFA "I heard you calling for the doctor earlier, is everything alright?"]]

He couldn't lie to her, but he couldn't tell the truth either. [b [#483D8B "With luck, it will be. Mrs. Cannes is downstairs, I need you to watch after her while me and Nathaniel retrieve her children."]]

[b [#87CEFA "Oh...oh, dear. She didn't catch [i it], did she?"]] Christopher looked away, and Nancy Smith knew the answer. [b [#87CEFA "Alright, Father Merlot. I will head down now."]]

She entered the room with Nathan in it, nodding but keeping her head down until she passed him and sat next to the woman.

Father Merlot took a moment to follow behind her, stopping into his room to grab a...safety measure. Just in case. And grabbed some holy water, and salt, in hopes that it would help protect them. Only then did he come back to Nathan, not avoiding eye contact but forcing himself to keep it...un-soft. He didn't want to make it worse, but penance wasn't going to cure this. He had tried. Perhaps if he could stop this, however, God would go easy on him when he was judged.]]]
  Merlot / indulgence- / 234d 9h 47m 37s
[center [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/7d/4f/cc/7d4fcc935b1455e54f7ec0184a551fc7.jpg]]
[size14 [font "Times" Nathan stared at Christopher's sudden change in tone. He didn't want to go look for the children? He was stunned at the man's ease at abandoning them, at condemning them even if the odds weren't in their favor at even finding them. Without even trying. He was the one who had suggested it. It wouldn't have occurred to Nathan to look, but now he felt a tightness in his chest seize him and take his senses hostage. Nathan's eyes were hard on him, confused, taken aback by the sudden refusal, and it took him a moment to gather his thoughts.

"[#00CCFF Are you just going to leave them?]" he finally managed to say, incredulity lacing his tone and bridging dangerously close to accusation. He saw the shaken look in the man's eye as he turned to Nathan. "[#00CCFF Did you leave Sister Patrice as well?]"

"[#00CCFF They're [i children],]" Nathan breathed, shaking his head. "[#00CCFF Don't you care? They need you, you are a pillar of the community.]" he gestured at Christopher. "[#00CCFF They would pray to [i you] before they would god with how young they are. Too little to be indoctrinated like the rest; they see your face in His place. Will you abandon them?]"

His eyes distanced for a moment, twisting into disbelief as he looked at Christopher. Abandoned to the forest, to the monstrous world. Left because they were believed already gone. Nathan's lip curled, remembering what that felt like. In his eyes lit an energy that suddenly flared up from behind the shock.

"[#00CCFF You of all people, a man of god, aren't you? Aren't you supposed to be full of scripture, leading them, giving the people hope, direction in this time of crisis?]" Be it true or not. Be they dead words to Nathan. "[#00CCFF And yet you [i hide] and let them discover their dead alone. You stand there whimpering and shying from them, like they're the monsters.]"

Nathan's eyes traveled over him, recalling Father Crimmage's face. His steely brow, his condemnation. Nathan remembered believing him, believing lies, but [i being] led. And in Father Merlot's now all he saw was weakness. "[#00CCFF You're supposed to be a moral pillar of the community, aren't you? Telling them to work together, to love, to- to believe in something?]"

It was bringing him back to his village, images of portly men from the city, looming behind pulpits and pointing fingers at townspeople below them. Upon him. Condemning him after all he had done for them, all the blood on his hands. Anger and pain flashed in Nathan's eyes, trying to focus on the now, not then. But it was all squishing together, it was all coming out and he couldn't stop it. He had bottled it away so long it was all coming out now.

"[#00CCFF I have seen you preach action, activity and faith in the square,]" Nathan said, shaking his head, flexing his hands. He didn't understand.

It was insulting that [i he] was the one that kept being handed these fatalistic half-solutions from the priest, not the other way around. After all the church did to him and his family he was the one working; he had for years, actually solving the problems that the church ignored. And once he had moved, thinking perhaps those years were over, leaving Zachary and the remnants of Morvale he was back in it.

He knew they didn't understand, the church, and he still had much to learn about the situation, but it would at least be able to rally people to do [i something]. And yet, after all this time, after all they took from him it was still the faithless Nathan being the one who was about to go and save these stupid, god-fearing people. it would be he who would rally them behind him again, if there were any left by the time he managed to investigate properly.

Nathan now paced, pushing a hand over his face. He had to calm down. He had to be reasonable. His fingers pushed through his hair, letting out a sigh. He had to stay under control. But this- his thughts were already racing.

Nathan turned back to Christopher. "[#00CCFF Aren't you supposed to be the one with the power to cleanse this? Were you not taught your script, your Latin, your [i magic]?]" Nathan was almost begging now, confused. He had no conviction in him, this priest. There were almost no bones in Christopher. "[#00CCFF You keep [i saying] so. I've yet to see you give one thing more than a suggestion to me of your action. You [i could] bless, you [i could] exorcise, you [i could] do anything to help these people and yet all I see if you [i cower] like an apprentice boy.]"

He actually missed Zachary now. He at least would have been working alongside him in this. Looking at Merlot, was he wrong to expect his support? Nathan barely knew him. Perhaps he was arrogant to assume.

His tone harshened, as did his expression. The raven haired man's eyes flashed, literal and real; flickering for a moment in their depths an amber gold as he bared his teeth in anger. Nathan shook his head, "[#00CCFF 'Men of god',]" he sneered. "[#00CCFF are men of inaction and negligence, hypocrisy and superstition, all of you.]"

He turned, moving over to his open doctor's kit as his hands passed behind himself to untie his apron. "[#00CCFF I'll be cleaning up the church's mess just like I have been for [i ten years].]" he hissed, more to himself this time, frustration painting his pale face flushed. It was a good thing he still had his kit at the mortuary.

"[#00CCFF You watch Mrs. Cannes,]" he spat, balling the item up and tossing it into the leather bag. "[#00CCFF At least do that for me.]"

He then let his sleeves down from where he had shoved them up, buttoning the cuffs. "[#00CCFF I will go into the forest and see if I can find them myself, and bring them back. And then I will write my company and send for them.]"
  Tweedy / 240d 7h 10m 32s
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