2021-03-23: Evil Like Us

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=============================<* Cardon Forest *>==============================

The thick and lush Cardon Forest exists to the south of Kattelox City's walls. Unlike many other forests that dot FIlgaia's landscape, the Cardon Forest is peaceful and quiet, relatively free of any monsters or Fiends that often plague the world. Sometimes, you can see children playing here in the meadows, or a couple out for a picnic. 

But beware of the Digger's Guild warning -- for a structure exists far down south of the Forest, a mysterious Ruin whose entranceway remains sealed to this day.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hW_K2fSVQc
<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

Xander and Riley had quite an exciting time in the Kattelox ruins, as Xander's freshly bandaged arm and shoulder can attest.

Riley is attempting to bolster their spirits by composing a song about their experience, strumming accompaniment to himself on the guitar.

"But who knew that victory would come at such a cost, our poor hero Xander, his life nearly lost. But his struggles, they weren't in vain, he managed to wrest... away...~"

He pauses to consider the rhyme.

"What was that super valuable glowing thing you found called?" A pause, as a disturbing thought occurs to him. A guiltier pause as he reviews his memory reel from their experience inside the ruins.

"Um... I have a confession." He looks at Xander. "I think I may have left it inside."

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

After some rest, the wound had healed considerably with alchemy to help it along, but Xander knew he still needed to be careful. He lets his bandaged arm hang limp at his side, the other rubbing the bridge of his nose as he endures Riley's song with a heavy sigh.

'Hero', really, that's what he's going to go with? There's pretending and then there's taking pretending too far.

"It was a Refractor."

Riley gives his confession, and Xander's lips twitch into a wry... well, not exactly a smile. No one in their right mind would call the exasperated twist in his face that.

"Did you?"

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"Please don't leave too many things inside. Sometimes you'll miss them."

The voice is coming from a branch just above. It's quiet, female, throaty and lazy - but it's also sudden.

Worse yet, a look up reveals... nothing. There's no one up there.

"There are two of you. Interesting." This time the voice is coming from another branch, on the other side of the little campsite from the first one - with a subtle echo to it, but still in that profoundly casual tone. "I wasn't expecting that. But it does explain some things."

The words trail off to a low, husky giggle - and though there was not nearly enough time for someone to move between the comments and the laugh, the sound is still coming from yet a third branch. And it's there that things come into view. Or rather, one thing. Subtle traceries of blue-black light - or is it light - trace out the shape of a smile floating in the air, lips first, then a flash of teeth, before extending outward to delineate a distinctly feminine outline, one that fills out with colour.

Neriah Parringer wore her white linen sun dress to the occasion. She's draped across that heavy branch on her stomach, chin resting on the backs of interwoven fingers, one ankle casually hooked over the back of the opposite. Her curls spill around her shoulders and back like a cape as she smiles down at the pair with all the relaxed indolence of a sleepy kitten admiring a pair of yawn balls.

"Hello. It's me, your new best friend," she introduces herself with a bat of lashes. "I do hate to barge in on you, but we were fated to meet eventually."

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

"Listen, I was very focused on more important things! But just think -- now we can have that whole adventure all over again later... maybe with less of you getting hurt and me screaming-...""

He trails off, looking around...Something's... off.

A moment later, there's a voice. And no one to go along with it. That is, until Neriah appears, smile first, sitting above them in the tree. What is it about her? It's not just the sudden appearance and the teasing words, there's something... extra. A vibe about her? Or something missing?

It takes him a while to grasp it, because the bloodlust hasn't taken a strong hold yet since their last kill. But that feeling isn't there at all with her. She reads to him the same way Xander does.

Another of their kind. Servants of Valmar.

He tries to trade his wary expression for a smile, though he has no idea what they're getting into. He takes a step forward, trying to put himself a little bit between the two of them. "...I never really thought about the fact that there'd be others. Ah, so, I'm Riley, it's nice to fatefully meet you..."

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

Xander shakes his head. He frowns, looking to the ground. "Maybe less of me arguing..." But his voice is such a mumble it'd be impressive if Riley could make any of that out at all. Especially with the distraction of the voice.

The abruptness has Xander move past Riley. He sweeps his good arm out with some intent to be between him and whatever the source of this stranger is, but that quickly becomes an impossible plan as the voice moves.

When the owner of the voice reveals herself, Xander tightens his jaw, the fangs of his nearly bared. Mysterious, giggling women claiming to have known them is more than enough on its own to get the hair on the back of Xander's neck raising without her also appearing out of thin air.

But there's something else.

He doesn't want to kill her.

Xander's glare becomes a gawk. His mind is blank of the usual intrusive, violent thoughts. It should be refreshing, but it's a cold unease that begins to travel up his spine. Then Riley steps forward and introduces himself, earning a shocked glance of indignation as Xander grabs hold of his arm as if it's not too late to stop him.

"Riley," he hisses in warning.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

There's something about Neriah, isn't there? To those without it, it's harder to see. To those with that thing....

Evidently seeing Riley realizing things - and definitely seeing the way Xander pulls him back - Neriah smiles a Cupid's-bow of a smile, giving her lashes a slow bat. "You're getting it, I see. Insightful, aren't you? I appreciate that."

She raises her chin with a little yawn, flipping her right hand up to curl her fingers in a slow, talonious sort of wave - indolent, yet somehow not.

"Don't worry, I'm not here to nibble on you two or anything," she assures, that smile lingering at her lips. "I wanted to meet you two, that's all. I remember how it was when I first realized what I had. I thought it might be nice if you made a friend who understands things a little bit."

The woman sits up with a slow stretch and a low murr before swinging her legs over the branch, smoothing her dress over the tops of her thighs with a pass of her hands. "My name's Neriah," she introduces herself. "I see a Riley. And Riley's very protective friend." Eyes darting to Xander, she half-hides a smile behind delicate fingertips.

"It's alright, Riley's friend. I promise I'll behave."

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

Neriah makes a less-than convincing promise not to nibble them. Riley is still trying to assess the threat level. If she's host to a Part as well, is it possible she'd want theirs? For the purposes of building a complete set? But he never wanted or tried to restore Valmar just because he got infected with a Part. Maybe she's in a similar situation to theirs, just sort of trying to exist within the parameters of an unwanted corruption? She sure is talking about it more like a gift than a curse, though...

"Xander is not big on strangers, but he's very sweet once you get to know him. Oh, ah, and he's my partner, not just my friend." He pauses.

"I'm sure we'd appreciate any guidance you have in the ways of... well, actually, I'd prefer you use the words first, we've been keeping a pretty tight lid on this situation for a while for what I assume are obvious reasons."

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

The fact that Neriah went out of her way to suspiciously specify nibbling as what she's not going to do is exactly the kind of thing that has Xander worried! That and she's clearly more experienced than they are. If anything should happen...

He hardens his gaze in distrust with Neriah's promise. But Riley is a traitor who continues the exchange. Xander's back to staring at Riley instead, mouth half open. About as sweet as a grapefruit, maybe! But at not just my friend, Riley successfully gets Xander to let go of his arm and not look at anyone in this conversation anymore.

Short of dragging Riley out of here, it's clear they aren't leaving, and Xander doesn't want to trigger Neriah's prey drive. Which he opts to assume she has.

Riley provided the introduction, technically, so Xander grunts as both his greeting and his acceptance of the terrible idea that is having this discussion.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

If nothing else, Neriah doesn't seem to have fangs, or even pointed teeth.

Slowly, she draws one fingernail along the bare skin of her thigh, drawing out little star shapes in an absent gesture. She gives Riley a quick look up and down, her eyes scanning him from tip to toe before traveling to Xander again - and then they brighten as Riley explains things. "Really? That's so sweet! I'm glad you two have each other. It's awfully hard to go through what you're going through, isn't it? If nothing else, you aren't truly alone. And now you're even more not alone."

Brushing back a curl from her cheek, she glances over to Xander again, then breathes a soft sigh before sliding herself down from the tree. She wore heels far too high for a casual engagement. They dig into the turf a little, but she balances expertly nevertheless and moves a hand to her hip.

"Do you mind if I ask," she ventures a bit more delicately, "how it happened? I mean, everyone has different circumstances, I think, but there's always a story.

"How you got to somehow split up one of the constituent parts of Valmar, I mean."

She can feel it just as clearly as they can.

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

She tells them it must have been hard, but at least they have eachother. Riley's smile tightens. Not because she's wrong, but because she's more right than she has any business knowing, and it's delicate territory. But he smooths his expression as she goes on.

Do you mind if I ask, how it happened? How you got to somehow split up one of the constituent parts of Valmar, I mean.

Well, at least now it's definitely on the table. And what a strange feeling, amid the uncertainty and danger, to shed the secrecy with a third party for what must be the first time. And she wants their story? Again... delicate territory. And yet... surely he can give a version.

"It was," says Riley, turning solemn and a little theatrical, "A terrible love miracle. I couldn't stand the rift that was between us after I got the Part, so I closed it. I'm not sure quite how. There were a lot of big emotions flying around. Xander lost an eye." He pauses, and then adds, dreamily, "I think our souls melded a little."

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

Xander does find himself wondering what piece it is she may hold. There's a kinship here. He can feel it. It has him on edge purely for the amount of not-on-edge his instincts are when they otherwise should be.

Where Riley's smile tightens, Xander settles into a gloomier expression. Guilt and regret begins to blossom inside him, threatening to dull his harsh edges. Maybe it's cruel to leave Riley to try and put words to all of it. Or maybe he's just afraid of how Riley's going to frame it.

...

Afraid for the wrong reasons, evidently.

Xander snaps back around to Riley, tensed and glaring all over again. "Don't make it sound like I misplaced it! You stabbed me!"

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Folding her arms beneath her chest, Neriah tilts her head as she listens to Riley explain things. Her eyebrows come up in a shallow arch, but the expression gives way to a little blush and a smile. "That's really sweet. You're closer than most people will ever get. I'm really glad."

For all that she's just strolled in on them, she doesn't seem dishonest about *that* much.

At least until Xander starts snapping at Riley. Neriah blinks twice, then twice more, before laying a hand at her cheek and pursing her lips. "Well, um. At least it was a loving stabbing?" she ventures a bit awkwardly.

That's left hanging there for a couple of seconds before she clears her throat, making her way forward at a slow step. She doesn't make it into arm's reach - not yet. Keeping a little distance, she moves to rest her hip against a tree trunk, canting her head towards the pair. "So which one are you?" she ventures. "Which piece, I mean. There are a few floating around out there that I'm aware of. And...." She gestures at Riley curiously. "...I take it you came into it later on, didn't you? I always wonder how that happens. Supposedly the Parts were secured pretty well by Granas's little lackeys after it was all said and done, but...."

Neriah flicks her hand in the air. "...apparently you can't lock *anything* up anymore. Ah well."

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

Don't make it sound like I misplaced it! You stabbed me!

"All right, all right, I stabbed you." Riley holds up his hands in surrender.

"Like I said. Big emotions. Daggers. Thorns. But it was all very romantic in context," he assures Neriah.

He gives Xander a little nudge, echoing Neriah's words, then. "Do you hear that? We're closer than most people will ever get!"

So which one are you?

"We're the teeth!" Riley pushes up his upper lip to show her a fang. "What about you?" What a surreal exchange this is. Not that Riley is helping matters by throwing romantic stabbings into the mix.

"...I take it you came into it later on, didn't you?"

"Later on? It's been over a year since I got it. It was deep in a ruin. I guess it was sealed, but..." A bit of bitterness twists his smile. "Well, it seems like the seal had worn pretty thin, since it opened right up when I touched it..."

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

Loving stabbings! Romantic in context! No, no no no no, the one other person in all of existence to know their story cannot be on his wavelength. Xander refuses to accept this! He points at Neriah. "Don't encourage him!"

It's too late. Riley has been encouraged. Xander buries his face in his hand and groans with the nudge. "Yay," he says, deadpan. The worst part is, he's doing it to hide the blush that heats his face.

Once he's reasonably convinced he isn't blushing (he still kind of is), he looks back to Neriah. "He dealt with it a few months longer than I did," he explains, apparently having given up on refusing to be part of this. "Before the... soul melding happened."

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"I'm a little different," Neriah admits, scuffing the toe of one of her shoes against the turf. She flicks her right hand up and gives her fingers a wiggle.

"I acquired the Claw a little while ago. Probably around the same time you got the Fangs, if I understand your story," she admits. "But I've had another Part since birth. Valmar wasn't the only one who existed. I'm the Impetus - the inheritor of Arius, Valmar's old, ah...." She grasps for a word for the moment before settling on, "I guess he was kind of the Valmarpope? Yeah. Either way. It's my job to kind of push things along again. Eventually."

Neriah moues her lips in thought. "There are a few others out there, to tell the truth. The Wings, I've run into before, but I haven't seen her in awhile. I have a pretty good idea of where another couple are. And I know the Horn's out there, but the dumb bastard keeps running around before I can catch up with him."

Neriah cants her head towards Xander with a wry smile, seeming content not to call him out on the blushing. "Ah, so you're getting into it a little more freshly. How've you two found it so far?"

She crinkles her nose slightly, smile fading to something a little more sympathetic. "He can be pushy, can't he? 'Kill 'em all' this. 'Day of Darkness' that. It scared me a lot, especially when I was little and started having the dreams."

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

The... the Valmarpope. They're talking to the host, or reincarnation, or... something of the Valmarpope.

Riley boggles at her for a moment.

Sure. That might as well happen. It at least answers the question of whether she's actively seeking Valmar's restoration. They're going to have to be very careful.

He can be pushy, can't he?

Riley mouths the words 'he can be pushy' in an echo of disbelief. And turns a bit gray as she asks Xander how he's liking being a host of the Fangs.

"Does yours not... physically punish you if you don't follow the commands to 'kill 'em all'?" he asks her, a bit helplessly. Or...when I was little and started having the dreams... If this started when she was a child, could she have been going along with the commands so long she lost any sense that they were wrong?

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

The talk of Valmarpopes and resurrections gets overshadowed by Neriah mentioning she's been dealing with this all since birth. Xander averts his gaze again, his sharp features softening. He doesn't know if her symptoms are all the same, but she does mention dreams and kill commands and the Day of Darkness. And all of that is too much alone for a person, let alone a child.

His voice is a little quieter. Even Neriah's pointed question isn't enough to bring the bitterness back over that sobering thought. "We give blood and lives or we give our own," he says, adding to Riley's implications. "So it's not my favorite."

Then he shrugs. "Doesn't sound like we'll last to the Day of Darkness either way."

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah, at least, is not wearing a large conical hat. The sun dress is far more flattering than your typical papal pallium or draperies.

Tapping a finger against her cheek, she tilts her head towards Riley with a moue of her lips. "It did originally," she admits. "My situation is a little unique. The Impetus's powers were sealed generationally under what was basically a death curse - use the power and it'd kill you instantly. By the time it got to me, the seal had frayed enough that I was able to eventually just punch through it. After that I found I could control it more with time."

She holds her right hand out and splays her fingers, then curls them again, forming the shape of a talon. That pensive look passes to something a little more grave, voice softening a touch. "...I was afraid at first that when I took the Claw, I would lose control of myself. That I wouldn't be anything more than a puppet of Valmar's will. But it didn't work out like that. I think it's because when Arius died, he was never a divided being. He passed a will down to me. What's left of Valmar is more primeval and instinctual. It's a drive."

When she looks up again, it's with a flick of curls back from her face, a little toss of her head. "The first while was horrible," she admits. "I wanted to destroy so much. It was a nightmare and I wanted to die. But it occurred to me that dying is permanent, and I'd rather make the most of what life gave me than go into the dark.

"And once I decided that," she explains, "things got easier. Once I accepted the situation, I could work with it."

At Xander's words, though, Neriah pauses. There's a moment of pregnant silence as she curls a finger at her chin, nail pressed delicately against her lower lip.

"That... might not be entirely true," she ventures slowly. "And it's why I wanted to meet you.

"I can tell you with pretty great certainty that the Day of Darkness is coming, and probably within the next, oh, one to five years."

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

...It doesn't sound quite so different after all, when she describes her experience with Valmar.

Riley's expression darkens as she talks about how she wanted to die. What was it like for her, going through that all alone? And to be so lighthearted about it now... ... did she crack?

He glances downward, troubled. Is that so different from how he acts? Maybe he sounds just as off-putting. And her resolve to refuse to give up... that reminds him of Xander. Maybe they've got more common ground than he thought.

I can tell you with pretty great certainty that the Day of Darkness is coming, and probably within the next, oh, one to five years.

Riley gives a small shrug. "It might be coming soon, but the Fangs are about sacrifice. Our part in bringing it is to give an offering of blood. And then our souls. So we're not invited to the party afterward, I think."

A wave of shame rises, heating his face. For all the talk about 'romance' earlier, he's just indirectly admitted that he drastically shortened Xander's life by bringing him into this.

"It... would be nice to have an idea of what we're helping to make, though." He's not entirely sure Neriah is a reliable narrator, but he's morbidly curious to know how she rationalizes being involved in achieving what he assumes is the apocalypse.

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

Another reason Xander didn't want to have this conversation: he's got enough scars that talking about any of this was bound to rip one of them open. He wavers, but grabs hold of Riley's arm reflexively. His grip is shaking while he tries to hold his own head up, swallowing thickly. A drive. An instinct. Not puppetry. It wasn't Valmar that had -- no. He can't think about it. But Xander knew that. He tries, desperately, to pretend this isn't a reaction he's having. With a deep breath, it starts to leave him.

It feels like forever. It's only a few seconds.

"Mm." A soft sound of agreement at first, to buy Xander time to fully collect himself. He remembers, too, how desperate Riley was for death. Maybe Xander should have been. Even in his darkest moments, he doesn't remember that. "... It's all we can do, isn't it? Accept and work with it."

...But on that front, they aren't so different.

Xander manages the first smile he's had, sick as it is. He gestures to Riley as his partner provides the explanation. "Like I said."

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

"There are some technicalities to that," Neriah muses, tapping her nail against the moue of her lower lip once more. "About having a piece of Valmar in you, too. I don't think anyone's quite sure what it means to restore Valmar. One thing I do know is that the Parts can move from person to person."

When Xander wavers, Neriah's expression softens noticeably. She raises a hand as if to try and comfort him, but stops herself, letting it fall back to her side.

A soft sigh escapes her. "...It kind of sucks, when you get down to it," she concedes. "There's a part of me that wishes I could've had a normal life. And the honest truth is, I tried. I even tried using my powers to heal and help. But it has its own nature. It wants to burst out of you and change things, usually without bothering to ask about the feelings of others. Fighting it is a battle that never ends."

The smile Neriah shares with Xander and Riley is sympathetic as she moves to settle to a seat on the nearest piece of scenery, crossing a leg over the opposite. "...If it means anything, you should be skeptical of the term 'Evil.' Valmar was as much an agent of change as anything else. Filgaia needs that right now. I mean, look at the state of the world, right? Things are just getting worse."

She shrugs slowly. "Think of the Day of Darkness as liquid-white for the typist's errors someone made on, um. The world."

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

Riley glances at Xander with worry as he grasps onto his arm. He places the other hand over Xander's, trying to offer a reassuring pressure. This conversation is definitely treading into some memories and facts that are difficult to face.

And the honest truth is, I tried. I even tried using my powers to heal and help. But it has its own nature.

"A normal life would have been great," he says, laughing darkly at the understatement. "I wasn't able to fight it forever, either." It's more complicated than that, but most of it isn't his to tell. And he's not sure Xander ever wants to tell that, much less now. But it came out the same as if Riley was the first to give in, didn't it? Xander was put in that situation because Riley couldn't keep fighting.

Neriah speaks of Valmar as an agent of change rather than just evil. Riley's never heard that angle before; he was raised in the faith of Granas, at least culturally. No one in his family was particularly devout.

"So the Day of Darkness will be about starting over to fix what's wrong?" he says, not sure if he believes it. But if he and Xander were to see this through as far as they're permitted to go, it might be better to think of causing that than of simply ending the world.

"How many of the people who are around now are supposed to be there for the new beginning?"

He's not sure if she'll have an answer. She already clarified she's not sure exactly what happens when Valmar is restored.

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

The touch is grounding this time, and not something Xander tries to shove off. It's always been 50/50 on that.

Xander breathes a spiteful hiss at how Parts can move. "The Church told us that much. Their solution was to make it so they couldn't, then kill him anyway." Anger makes it easier. And Neriah's touching up on one of Xander's favorite things: complaining.

"It absolutely sucks! You shouldn't have ever had to deal with this! Especially as a child! And who the hell is Valmar to say you're not allowed to heal people!" He growls -- it's an inhuman sound, coming form him -- and folds his arms. "You shouldn't have to be out in the woods trying to make friends with murderers! You should be, I don't know, out shopping with nonmurderous friends or prancing in meadows or whatever it is normal people get to do."

It's been a year. Why don't you think you know what normal people do! (It's been a long year.)

He spins to Riley. "And we should be --" He stops himself there, the rush of his energy leaving him like water draining from a popped balloon. Xander sighs it off.

"Murder is going to stay on my evil list, thanks." Xander pauses, folding his arms. "... But I won't deny Filgaia's situation is on the decline. So you think Valmar -- the Day of Darkness -- can... undo some of that?"

If only it could undo the errors of their lives along with it.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Furrowing her brows, Neriah goes quiet when Riley presents that question. It hangs there, unanswered for several ominous seconds.

"I'm not sure," she finally concedes, frowning. "I don't have access to the Mind of Valmar, if his Mind even survived in any respect. But I'd hope that people who want to get outside this miserable system of things would be there to set the new stage."

When Xander blurts out that longer spiel of complaint, however, Neriah blinks rapidly. A soft blush rises to her cheeks; she lays a palm there and dips her eyes, momentarily taken aback.

For the first time in awhile, all she can think about is Riesenlied and Jay Barber. It's a painful topic. Hands extended in friendship.

"Whatever you are, you're still people, Riley and Xander," Neriah finally says, her voice quieter as she looks up to the pair. "I've done horrible things, too. Hurt more people than I ever thought I would. And I'll probably hurt more when it's all said and done. We're both on courses that most people will never travel. But it doesn't mean you don't deserve to be cared about."

She smiles wanly and holds her hand out for a moment. "I've been bringing together people who want to help me. Things are starting to move. If ever you decide you want to help, you can always reach out to me. And if you don't... then that's fine, too. I'll always listen."

She leaves unsaid if her choice not to nibble will stand.

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

Xander lets out his outburst of complaints. There's some genuine warmth and caring in there too, a thing that sometimes manages to sneak out of Xander when he is venting anger.

"He's right," says Riley. "I'm sorry you went through all of that, especially alone."

A pause. "But I for one am glad you're here befriending murderers."

He wonders how Xander was going to finish that sentence about what he and Riley should be, in that better world where none of them had to deal with Valmar... apparently he'll never know.

I've been bringing together people who want to help me.

"We're 'helping' after a fashion just by doing what we do," he admits. The Fangs have their own particular role to play in facilitating the Day of Darkness, after all.

"As for more strategic forms of helping, I..." he lifts his shoulders in a shrug. "I assume we'll have to think about it. But if you really do want to be friends, it would be nice to all be horrible people together."

<Pose Tracker> Xander Lovell has posed.

Somehow I doubt you've done the horrible I have.

Xander catches his tongue before he says it. Because, on the one hand, perhaps Neriah has, carrying the same thorn in her heart. And on the other... perhaps she hasn't. Wouldn't that make Xander more deserving of suspicion and the scorn than Neriah?

He recoils a little into himself, looking neither her nor Riley in the eye. "I don't plan to stop," Xander says. "The Fangs will get their blood, for however much time that borrows for us. And if that leads to your Day of Darkness, then..."

He shrugs, noncommittal.

"...But we are all roped into this together at the end of the day. So I guess if you're making offers to listen, or you need a hand with something --" Xander closes his eye and tries to suppress a wince, "--Especially if it involves killing anyone -- then sure, whatever."

<Pose Tracker> Riley Arwell has posed.

"Apparently we already thought about it!" Riley adds brightly, after Xander offers to help.

There's no sarcasm in that; 'we'll think about it' was just a euphemism for asking Xander after she was out of earshot.

<Pose Tracker> Neriah Parringer has posed.

Neriah bites delicately down to her lower lip and glances away for a moment. "I appreciate that," she says, her voice a little more subdued.

Dragging a nail across a bit of exposed thigh near the hem of her dress, she clears her throat softly. "The truth is, I don't think we should have to be monsters to each other. There are things we do have to do, of course. But that doesn't mean we can't care. Like you two." Lifting amaranth eyes to Riley and Xander, Neriah smiles gently.

"I can tell how much you two love each other. I'm glad. You deserve to have people in your life who care about you. No matter how things go, no matter what happens, that doesn't mean you can't love."

Easing to her feet, she pushes her curls back with a sweep of both hands. "The Fangs are steering you in the only direction they can. Ultimately we're going the same way. I'm sure I can find ways to make things feel a little more... directed, and a little less like they're driving you to just do bad stuff for random reasons. And if nothing else," she adds with a little blush, "I wasn't kidding when I said we could be friends."

She dips her chin and takes a step back. "I should let you two rest for now. But if it helps, you're not alone anymore."