When non-fish friends ask me if a betta would right for them...
  • What I say: Oh, betta are very easy to keep!
  • What I mean: As fish go, betta are very easy to keep.
  • What I'm terrified people actually hear: Betta are basically pet rocks.
  • What I say: They don't need a ton of space,...
  • What I mean: 5 gallons isn't a huge tank,...
  • What I'm terrified people actually hear: A 1 gallon bowl is basically spoiling them,...
  • What I say: ...they're forgiving of water conditions,...
  • What I mean: ...they don't need RO water like discus, and if your ammonia ticks to one part per googleplex, they won't keel over,...
  • What I'm terrified people actually hear: *something something, water buffalo hoofprints*
  • What I say: ...and they don't have a fancy diet.
  • What I mean: ...and they don't require live food like pea puffers. In fact, a jar of high-quality pellets is all you need.
  • What I'm terrified people actually hear: ...and that 5 year old jar of goldfish flakes in your closet will be fine.
  • What I say: If you're interested, I'd love to help you shop around.
  • What I mean: Please bring me. My multiple tank syndrome is flaring up and I'm afraid this is the only cure.
  • What I'm terrified people actually hear: I'm only offering to be nice, please don't trouble me.
The Unblessed


Next part

Unseelie Bucky x Reader

Summary: Everybody knows to stay away from the forest, where the Seelie and Unseelie courts remain permanently at war. But when the people in your village begin to starve and you face a dangerous journey to the land of the fae, you never think of the consequences it may bring… Until, as an effort to placate the raging war between the Fae, the Prince of Winter himself comes to claim you as his.

Warnings: mentions of death (plus smut in future chapters)

Word count: 2286

A.N: Yes, i’m still alive, and yes, I’ve started a new series while I still have three unfinished ones. BUT This is a very, very different project because (drumroll)… It’s my first smut ever! EVER! and although this is kind of the introduction chapter, expect things to get intense after this. Please enjoy and tell me what you think!
Dedicated to the beautiful Ella @buckysinthesinbin​ for all the help and for putting up with me and my writing whims.

Originally posted by spaceeblack

You hear the bow snapping and watch the arrow fly as it sinks into the deer’s side, causing the small animal to cry out once before its legs give out and it topples to the side, falling on the ground with a soft thud.

Finally, after two days of scouting the forest and searching nonstop, the endless tracking of snapped twigs and barely-there hoofprints has amounted to something. The last strip of dried meat you had to split with Kate this morning, but nonetheless you lunge forward from behind the trees, muscles clenching with exhaustion while your empty stomach snarls in hunger.

Kate emerges from the trees at about the same time you do, with her bow and quill of arrows firmly secured behind her back. Sweat is dripping down her temples, her hair sticking to the damp skin in the summer heat. This hunt hasn’t been easy.

Keep reading

Fantasy Meihem

A silly story with Frost Mage Mei and Demon Junkrat on a quest to find a missing friend, investigate a cabal, and get on each other’s nerves nonstop.

Mei had arrived at the spot where the demon was last seen some hours ago. Like most demons, it preferred a hot, dusty environment, just like this awful canyon she’d been tromping around in, where a river might have flowed a millennium ago before drying up and never seeing water ever again. The rocky red walls rose up high on either side of her, but the sun was directly overhead and they provided her no shadow and no shelter. And worse was that she couldn’t risk removing her full frost mage regalia, no matter how stifling it all was. Her fluffy robes and pointed hat were much more suited to withstand howling winds and blowing snow, rather than this awful heat that made the very ground steam beneath her boots. Why did her robes have to have so many layers? And why had she tailored it with so many pom-poms and silly bows? Everything felt so heavy and hot. It was going to make her tired if she stayed here too long, and she would need all her strength if she was going to find and defeat it, this evil entity birthed of fire and flame…

The village nearby had been desperate for help, and she had answered. Sheep and goats had vanished from the peasants’ herds, plants had turned to charred ash wherever its hoofprints were found, and there were reports of high, cackling laughter in the night. They hadn’t been able to pay her much at all, but their plight had moved her and she’d volunteered to come and put this villain on ice.

There was a soft crunching noise by her foot and she looked down, seeing the charred skeleton of some animal- a lizard, maybe- with the marks of sharp teeth all over its bones. She wrinkled her nose in disgust, kicking the remains away before removing her hat and wiping at the sweat rolling down her forehead. Sitting down on a nearby boulder, she reached for her canteen, tapping her staff against it twice as ice crystallized against the metal, cooling the liquid inside as she tilted her head back and drank.


Keep reading

In the Mist - Chapter 1


Nowhere in Particular

Most people had horses or wagons to get them from one place to the next, but all Jamie had to rely on were his own two feet. He was an avid horseman, and he had ridden and trained more horses than he could count. But here, he had few things of value and none of them would give him enough for a horse.

He didn’t have any real destination, so he simply took a step, and then another. Eventually he stumbled onto what he assumed to be a main road. It was evident that many people came through there, based on the abundance of hoofprints and footsteps. He hoped that if he followed it long enough, he would come across some sort of community.

It was already dark when he left the station, and there was no telling what sort of danger lingered in the brush in daylight, let alone the dark. He walked until he found shelter in a hollow tree just off the main road. It wasn’t much, but it was dry and he was well hidden from prying eyes. He hoped that it would also be enough to protect him from anything lurking in the shadows.

He was no stranger to living outdoors, but that was a place he knew well. He knew nothing of this place apart from what he’d seen in the short time he’d been here. This was a world of all new fauna, people, customs, and traditions.

He pulled the tartan from his pack and wrapped himself in it. The highlander way of life had been wiped out long before he was born, but highlander he was. The wearing of kilts had been outlawed in Scotland, but this was a whole new place. The whole purpose of people coming here was to live freely and the way that they wanted.

Still, he didn’t want to draw attention to himself, already a stranger in strange place.

“One day.” He smiled as he ran his fingers across the fabric, remembering all those he left behind.

He took solace in the night sky, small specks of light littered among the empty void. Proving that no matter what, there was light. That there would always be hope.

Black gave way gray, and the birds came to life in song, signaling the start of a new day.

The forest floor was shrouded in a heavy fog, reducing visibility to a minimum. Jamie would have to wait until it cleared just a bit before he resumed his journey.

But there was something there, barely visible.

He thought it must’ve been a squirrel making it’s way from tree to tree, but the closer it came, the clearer it was.

It wasn’t a thing, but a person. A woman.

She was dressed in a white garment that was hardly modest. Dark curls surrounded her head, as wild as the world around them. Her pale skin seemed to glow, just a bit. He couldn’t make out her face, but he imagined it was just as perfect as the rest of her.

It looked as if she were dancing, blissfully unaware of her surroundings. Perhaps just happy to be alive.

And then just as quickly as she appeared, she vanished.

He rubbed his eyes and looked again, but there was nothing but the mist.

The fog had cleared, and once again Jamie was headed into an unknown future.

He couldn’t help but think about the woman he saw in the early hours of the morning. Or if he had even seen her at all. Perhaps she had never even been there, and his mind made her up out of painful solitude.

What did it mean? Was it a sign? A vision? Or was being alone simply driving him mad?

Either way, she wasn’t likely to leave his mind any time soon. He had no idea who she was or what she was, but by God she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. His heart fluttered as his mind wandered back to the moment when he’d seen her.

He shook his head, laughing at himself. “Yer a fool, Fraser.”

After what felt like days of walking, Jamie finally, finally, found paradise. A small tavern with a few outbuildings surrounding it. He received many sideways glances and looks of disgust, but he was so tired and hungry he didn’t care.

“What can I get you?” Came a soft voice from behind the bar.

“Anything that’s edible.” He laughed, while searching his pack for the little money he had left.

When she returned with his meal, he was so focused on the food, he hadn’t even looked up.

But after a few bites he finally glanced at the hand that fed him, and nearly choked as a result.

It was her.

That morning, he hadn’t even seen her face. But he was sure it was her.

“Are you alright?” She asked, trying her best not to laugh at his ridiculous face.

“Fine.” He choked out, along with wet eyes and a red face.

It hasn’t even been ten minutes and ye’ve already made a fool of yerself.

She crossed her arms and smiled as he took a swig of ale. “Good, It’d be a shame if you died without paying.”

He had finished his supper long ago, and they were the only two who remained. She was everything he imagined her to be, and more. She was no ordinary woman, and with each passing minute, she only became more interesting. More beautiful. More perfect.

“So where are you headed?” She asked with her head propped in her hand.

“Nowhere in particular.” He smiled as he gazed into deep amber eyes, losing himself in them. “To be honest, I haven’t any place to go.”

She frowned and paused, deciding whether or not to speak her mind.

“Well, I have an extra room upstairs. You’re welcome to stay there until you figure it out.” She hardly knew the man. He had come out of nowhere, resembling the lowliest of beggars. Yet there was something about him, something that drew her to him. He was handsome, and charming. There was no doubting that. But it was as if he didn’t even know it. He was so kind and genuine, nowhere near the same as the other men that came through.

“I haven’t anything to pay ye with!” He exclaimed, eyes wide. He never wanted to leave, but he wouldn’t take advantage her like this.

“Well I can’t let you just sleep in the dirt, can I?” She smiled and turned to clear away the mess of her departed patrons.

“Aye, ye could. I could be a killer for all you know.” He quipped.

“Are you?” Her voice was steady, confident.

“No…” He mumbled.

“Then there’s nothing to worry about.” She flashed him a smile and motioned for him to follow her once everything had been put away.

He clenched his jaw, bit his tongue, and did as he was bid.

She lead him to the back of the tavern, up some stairs and stopped outside a large door. The room was small, but it had a bed and a fireplace, which was more than Jamie could have asked for.

“You can stay here until you have a place.”

He stood there, completely dumbfounded.

“I have nothing to give ye.” He tried again, he didn’t want to impose. He had nothing to pay her with, and she was willingly giving him food and board. And to a stranger at that.

“You will.” She smirked, and turned to leave, but hesitated, glancing at him over her shoulder.

“What’s your name?”

“James, but ye can call me Jamie.”

“Goodnight, Jamie.” She smiled, and then disappeared into the confines of her own room.

“Goodnight, Sassenach.” He whispered into the empty darkness. He didn’t even know her name.


Dusk asleep before its time.

I heard the thunder of your blushed heart calling –

I had roamed with the clouds, waited
with a pair of perseverance wings,
“How to end this, when there was no beginning?” 
asked my disregarded shadow.

The sun had set, its half on its way to you,
I looked at its last crown and sighed
“My love, I want you, do you not want me?”

Cicadas in the distance sang Gloria,
I held my subtlety far too long,
I’ve mouthed many prayers,
but it was you, my only credo.

All the sirens and nymphs
who had come before you
never would they accomplished
the demand of their desires //
failed to inveigle the nucleus in me
but you were the taste of the first apple,
the uneager  Delilah and insouciant coquette
that seeped through these cervixes unknown to me,
who need not any spell yet I fell like 
a weakened leaf before Autumn arrived.

Alas! how I had trapped myself
inside my own delusional maze       {

this ridiculous incantation of the
heart, bruised with the imbroglio beads
that I had tried so hard to swallow

} –

Oh where, where should I cached
the opening of these petals now
that they bloomed too soon
before Winter left her hoofprints? 

D C de Oliveira

Commission for @yriafehtivan. Percabeth fluff ahoy (I haven’t written them in so long, this was such a treat). They’re about 24 in this. Under a cut for length. 

Annabeth had been tossing and turning in bed for hours, watching through blurry vision as the numbers on the digital clock next to the bed flipped slowly towards three am. Percy was sound asleep next to her, snoring and drooling as per the usual, and she wished she could have joined him.

It had been over seven years since the whole Tartarus fiasco, but sometimes, especially after a bad day, Annabeth found it hard to sleep without visions of demons and monsters crisscrossing her dreams.

Careful not to wake Percy, she slipped out of bed with a resigned sigh, tugging her robe on over her pajamas and shuffling into her slippers. She ducked out of the bedroom, absentmindedly pulling her now-ratty hair into a ponytail at the nape of her neck.

The floorboards creaked softly under her feet until she reached the kitchen, where the wood shifted to tile and became completely silent. Annabeth crossed to the cupboards, moving by feel alone, and pulled out a mug. The refrigerator gave her just enough light to make herself a single cup of coffee, which she promptly dumped a pound of sugar and creamer into and carried out onto the front porch, spoon clinking against the ceramic.

The sky was inky black, and the ocean waves battered against the sand with a comforting crashing sound, one that Annabeth had grown to adore over the years. She sank down onto their porch swing and tugged her knees up with her, adjusting the robe with one hand and holding the coffee out with the other so it wouldn’t spill.

This close to the ocean there was less light pollution, so they could see the stars, see the constellations that speckled the sky. Annabeth sipped at her coffee slowly, burning her tongue as always, and gazed over them, pausing on certain ones and giving a soft smile. The swing rocked under her gently, almost non-existent, and she leaned with it on instinct.

Her fingers curled around the mug as the sea breeze lifted and curled around her, whisking her loose curls across her face and sending a pleasant chill down her spine. She tucked into herself even more and lifted the mug to her lips, staring at the faint outline of the tide stretching across the sand.

The moment they had graduated from college, she and Percy had moved here, to Montauk, fixing up the cabin (or rather, she redesigned certain parts and he helped her with it) and making it a permanent home for them. Sally had bought the cabin after she married Paul and had kept taking care of the place, even after all the years away from it. She had been happy to sign the property over to them.

Annabeth had been wary, to say the least, about moving in with Percy for good. It was one thing to live at the same camp, or to go to the same school. Living together was permanent, in a way. But they both agreed that they wanted to stay close to camp, help out with any half-bloods that might need them, and Percy had insisted they be close to the water. She didn’t blame him.

The breeze kicked up again, salt biting at her lips, and something in her twisted, wanted to move. Her feet clunked to the floor and she set her mug on the table next to the swing, stepping out of her slippers and wrapping her robe firmly around her body. For mid-September, it was chilly out, but the sand was still soothingly warm when she reached it. The young woman sighed and, for a moment, breathed, completely still, the wind buffering her body. She crossed the beach all the way down to the water until it licked at her ankles, the liquid freezing compared to the ground, and she tilted her gaze back up to stare at the stars.

Annabeth wasn’t sure how long she had been standing there when the water pulled back from her feet, just enough for her to realize that they were numb. She wasn’t too surprised when Percy’s arms enveloped her from behind, cautiously, like he didn’t want to scare her. She appreciated it, and leaned back against his chest with a sigh.

He tightened his grip on her and kissed her temple. “You okay?”

Keep reading

through woods squalid
with all that is lost

dissonant bellherds

& wreck

if, forsaken,
if, the field

where the wood-eye
names vigil,

alighting pitch,
amongst the lit conclave
of oaktrees

full with lull & murmur
of sap

insisting the rain
does not

become us

but a weep of heaven’s
tired hands

nowhere, you

tethered to her

her hoofprints
with light

and all that she has

   interrupted ;
the field forsakes / /


Another Uberization commission! @fabuleuxosity‘s Glacier has taken chill to the extreme. Determined to show the world the beauty of the Frozen North, Glacier has turned a cold shoulder to the conventional and certain windego-ish way of expressing their admiration for the North. With hoofprints that leave an icy trail with every step, let the storm rage on!

Hidden Horse Style

Hidden Horse Style is a combat style built around the idea that a horse your opponent does not expect is a horse that they cannot defend against. It emphasizes flexibility, surprise, and mounted combat techniques. This style originated with the spies of the southern tribes, frustrated at how easily their distinctive horses would give their identities away, but flourishes among the pirates of the west, whose sudden, unexpected being on a horse-ness is substantially more surprising.

Hidden Horse Weapons: Hidden Horse style uses whips (and direlashes), chains (and dire chains), one-handed spears (and longfangs), and an unarmed style learned from studying horse boxers in the wild known as “the horse fist.” One deviant tradition replaces the latter with the “tiger trampling” style—a fierce rearing/slashing unarmed art learned from observations of horses that had, themselves, practiced the tiger style.

Armor: Hidden Horse style is compatible with light armor and with shields.

Complementary Abilities: Hidden Horse stylists use Ride to avoid enemy attacks and tame and control their hidden horses. Survival is useful for Hidden Horse Stylists who wish to branch out into the more general field of martial hidden mount techniques and need to tame exceptional wild animals to ride, while Bureaucracy is helpful for those who are less ambitious and just want to go to the market and buy horses. Resistance is important for acquiring a tough, horse-like attitude towards life, and most Hidden Horse stylists have at least one dot of Linguistics so that they can actually read the secret manuals of their sect.

Sometimes Horses Approach
Cost: 6m; Mins: Martial Arts 3, Essence 1
Type: Simple
Keywords: Terrestrial, Mastery, Mute
Duration: Instant
Prerequisite Charms: None

Through intense contemplation of the Seven Thousand Horses Sutra, the martial artist understands that all things are in horses, and horses, in all things. Sometimes Horses Approach reveals that a horse last seen in the possession of the martial artist was in fact hidden on her person or nearby. The horse is fed, watered, fresh, in good health if they were before, and (although sufficiently complicated circumstances may necessitate a Ride roll) the martial artist may choose to reflexively mount it as it arrives.

Terrestrial: Dragon-Blooded are limited to horses appropriate to their element’s color: Fire Aspects may only reveal red horses, Earth Aspects white horses, Water Aspects black horses, Air Aspects blue horses, and Wood Aspects green horses. Note that blue dun, blue roan, depressed, frozen, and blue-blooded horses qualify as blue, while any horse that has just begun its training qualifies as green. Extremely jealous, very sick, and wood-elemental-blooded horses also qualify as green. Ambiguous cases are resolved with a difficulty 3 (Perception + Ride) roll; failure indicates a horse of another color.

Mastery: The martial artist is not limited to horses last seen in her possession, but may produce any horse that she could plausibly have obtained since it last showed up in play or, if it’s never shown up in play, that she could plausibly have picked up in any region where she recently spent off-camera time.

Galloping Horse Fist
Cost: 5m; Mins: Martial Arts 2, Essence 1
Type: Reflexive
Keywords: Dual, Mastery
Duration: One scene
Prerequisite Charms: None

The martial artist’s fists charge forth like galloping horses. Galloping Horse Fist grants the martial artist’s unarmed attacks Reaching and allows her unarmed decisive attacks to deal Lethal damage should she so choose.

Mastery: The martial artist’s Hidden Horse attacks may attack at Short Range while this Charm is in effect.

High Horse Meditation
Cost: 3m, 1wp; Mins: Martial Arts 3, Essence 1
Type: Simple
Keywords: Mastery
Duration: Indefinite
Prerequisite Charms: Galloping Horse Fist

The essence of being mounted is being hard to reach from the ground. Understand this essence and no one may approach you. Except a horse. High Horse Meditation grants +1 Evasion while mounted; further, while using this Charm, the martial artist treats any normal mount she is riding as an enormous mount for the purposes of defense. Enemies using short-range attacks without the Reaching tag must use a (Dexterity + Athletics) action at difficulty 3 to climb onto the martial artist’s mount before they can attack the martial artist. The martial artist in turn must use a Reaching or ranged attack should she wish to attack.

Mastery: While this Charm is in effect, the martial artist has the option to get so high on her high horse as to be effectively at Medium Range from those embattled with her mount on the ground. While this is principally a matter of posture and attitude, it requires a move or disengage action normally.

Hidden Horse Form
Cost: 8m; Mins: Martial Arts 4, Essence 2
Type: Simple
Keywords: Form
Duration: One scene
Prerequisite Charms: Sometimes Horses Approach, High Horse Meditation

The martial artist swirls her sleeves, steps, and Essence in deliberate and hypnotic movements that increasingly obscure the matter of whether she is riding a horse at all. The Hidden Horse stylist is on foot—or is she? The shapes of horses seem to surge behind the swirls of cloth. The Hidden Horse stylist is mounted—or is she? Her foot touches down upon the earth and her hip rotates and where exactly would that “horse” she’s riding be? The “truth” behind the style is that the pedestrian master has learned to make her weapon and clothes shadows into horses, while the mounted master typically “rides” by holding the horse one-handed, where she can carry or be carried as she wishes and can use the torque of her hips and her own brief footsteps to rapidly move her horse into locations that deceive the enemy eyes, rising up into a proper mounted position only when desirable.

While in Hidden Horse Form, the martial artist’s mounted state is ambiguous. It requires a difficulty 4 (Perception + Awareness) roll to determine if she is mounted—other characters can examine the martial artist’s horse, but cannot determine for certain if the horse is actually there without succeeding at the roll until the martial artist has spent at least a tick not riding it. The martial artist gains +1 Defense, inflicts a -1 Defense penalty against her attacks, and may always choose to receive the attacking/defending benefits of being mounted against anyone who has not successfully perceived since the last time the martial artist dismounted that she has done so. While in Hidden Horse Form, Sometimes Horses Approach becomes Reflexive.

Special Activation Rules: Whenever a decisive attack misses her mount, a mounted Hidden Horse stylist may reflexively activate Hidden Horse Form. Wait, was she mounted at all? Whenever all enemies on the scene lose sight of both the martial artist and a suitable mount, including suitable mounts ridden by others, an unmounted Hidden Horse stylist may reflexively activate Hidden Horse Form. Where there’s one mount, there could be two!

Hidden Horse Hands
Cost: 4m; Mins: Martial Arts 4, Essence 2
Type: Supplemental
Keywords: Withering-only, Terrestrial, Mastery
Duration: Instant
Prerequisite Charms: Hidden Horse Form

The martial artist fades backwards, shooting horses out of her sleeves in a withering attack on her unsuspecting enemy. This attack adds the martial artist’s Ride to its raw damage, adds +2 to its Overwhelming, and may hit enemies at Close or Short Range. A successful hit knocks opponents small enough for a horse to knock down prone, including essentially all human-sized opponents, and knocks enemies smaller than human size a range band away from the martial artist as well. An opponent Crashed by Hidden Horse Hands loses one Appearance for the remainder of the scene as a large hoofprint appears in the middle of their forehead.

Terrestrial: The attack must inflict at least 4 initiative damage to knock the opponent prone. The Dragon-Blooded may not reduce the Appearance of enemies whose initial Appearance was lower than her own.

Mastery: The attack receives Essence bonus dice to hit and the Overwhelming bonus increases to +3. If the martial artist spends an additional 1wp when making this attack, she may hurl a larger mount or hurl a hidden horse with greater force: a successful hit knocks prone any targeted creature without truly extraordinary size or sturdiness and steals a point of initiative from one with such a trait.

Hidden Horse Stance
Cost: 3m; Mins: Martial Arts 4, Essence 2
Type: Reflexive
Keywords: Psyche, Terrestrial, Mastery
Duration: One turn
Prerequisite Charms: Hidden Horse Form

A firm horse stance is the basis of all martial arts. The martial artist adds +2 to her mount’s Defense; if it is struck, she may use her Resistance Charms to defend it. If the attack misses or if all of its effects and damage are negated, the mount disappears for the rest of the turn—psyche! There’s no mount! The martial artist was just displaying a truly admirable horse stance instead! Characters with Resolve lower than the martial artist’s Ride are unable to discern any tangible evidence to the contrary until the effect ends.

Terrestrial: A Dragon-Blooded who uses hidden horse stance cannot recover a mount that disappeared by ending this Charm or by waiting out its duration: she must either move to a nearby location where it could have been concealed or invoke Sometimes Horses Approach to recover it.

Mastery: When using this Charm to defend her mount, the martial artist also steals one point of initiative from an enemy that fails to do damage.

Hopping Horse Stratagem
Cost: 3m, 2i; Mins: Martial Arts 5, Essence 3
Type: Reflexive
Keywords: Mastery
Duration: Instant
Prerequisite Charms: Hidden Horse Stance

The hoof-scattering sutra and the tendon-lightening mudra unleash acrobatic talents the martial artist’s mount didn’t even know it had. When the martial artist’s mount or the mounted martial artist is hit by an attack, the mount may borrow the energy of that attack to spring backwards, forwards, up, or down (if applicable) a single range band, incidentally reducing the final damage taken by one level.

Mastery: A mounted Solar martial artist may also invoke this Charm after successfully parrying an attack with a Hidden Horse style parry.

Mysterious Horse Art
Cost: 3m; Mins: Martial Arts 5, Essence 2
Type: Supplemental
Keywords: Decisive-only
Duration: Instant
Prerequisite Charms: Hidden Horse Form

The martial artist gives a sharp shout or distracting motion that smashes open the stable doors of the mounted target’s mind and exposes them to the all-awakening horselessness insight. This Charm supplements an unhorse gambit, doubling 10s on the “damage” roll, allowing the martial artist to unhorse her target at Short or Medium range, and forcing the horse to immediately and reflexively enter Stealth with the martial artist’s Essence in extra successes upon the target’s successful unhorsing.

Mastery: This Charm also lowers the difficulty to unhorse the target by one.

Eternal Equinox Transcension
Cost: —; Mins: Martial Arts 5, Essence 3
Type: Reflexive
Keywords: None
Duration: Instant
Prerequisite Charms: Mysterious Horse Art

It’s not wise to play with horses in front of a true master of the art. Upon a successful unhorse gambit or a decisive attack that kills an enemy’s mount, the martial artist may use a free hand to reflexively steal and ready their mount. If she unhorsed the target at Medium or greater range, or killed the target’s mount at Short or greater range, she must be able to stunt an explanation for how it reaches her; depending on the stunt, it may not arrive until the beginning of her next action. As long as she wields the enemy’s mount, a mount of typical size is treated as a dire chain. It requires a feat of strength (albeit with Essence bonus successes) to pick up an enormous mount; if the martial artist does so, it is still treated as a dire chain, but is heavy and not medium. If the mount holds severe enmity towards the martial artist or possesses great loyalty to its former rider the martial artist may only keep it in hand for a number of combat turns or out of combat scenes equal to her successes on a (Strength + Martial Arts) roll.

Evocations for “a stolen enemy mount” cost only 4xp, or 2xp if identical to the evocations the martial artist has mastered for another artifact weapon.

Mastery: Upon readying a stolen mount, the martial artist may roll (Charisma + Performance) with her Ride in bonus dice to showily twirl her new weapon around herself, inspiring her allies with hope, her enemies with sorrow or despair, or some other appropriate inspirational effect. The martial artist is not hindered by directing this at multiple targets. If any enemy is successfully inspired to break and run, the martial artist immediately gains one point of temporary Willpower.

Friendship is Magic
Cost: 4m, 1wp; Mins: Martial Arts 5, Essence 3
Type: Reflexive
Keywords: Terrestrial, Mastery
Duration: Instant
Prerequisite Charms: Hidden Horse Hands, Hopping Horse Stratagem, Eternal Equinox Transcension

The real treasure of this martial art is the horses you’ve met along the way. Once per scene, the martial artist may invoke this Charm when she or her mount is struck by an attack to declare that a passing horse leapt into its path, saving her. This cannot protect against attacks dealing more than 30 levels of damage, which casually knock the horse aside if withering or go straight through it if decisive, in either case without even slowing down. Otherwise, the attack is defeated without a contest. This Charm is reset by rescuing a horse or horse-like creature from a danger that the martial artist didn’t bring upon it herself.

When defending against an opponent of lower Initiative than the martial artist’s, this Charm does not cost Willpower.

Terrestrial: The passing horse retroactively reduces successes on the attack by the martial artist’s Essence, but does not automatically negate the attack.

Mastery: A passing horse that leaps between a Lawgiver and danger will not die. (At least, not as an immediate result of doing so.)

Hidden Horse Heart
Cost: 6m, 1wp; Mins: Martial Arts 5, Essence 4
Type: Supplemental
Keywords: Mastery
Duration: Indefinite
Prerequisite Charms: Friendship is Magic

The true horse is the horse within. Once per combat, this Charm supplements an unhorse gambit, lowering its difficulty by 1 and waiving its initiative cost. Like Mysterious Horse Art, it doubles 10s, extends the valid range of the unhorsing attempt—this time to Long Range—and forces the target’s mount to immediately and reflexively enter Stealth with the martial artist’s Essence in extra successes upon the target’s successful unhorsing. However, more importantly, upon successfully unhorsing the target, the martial artist reveals retroactively that “her” last few actions in combat had actually been taken entirely by her mount—the martial artist herself has for some unknown length of time been impersonating the enemy’s mount. She immediately appears in Close Range of the now unhorsed target and may follow up her unhorsing gambit with an immediate decisive Hidden Horse surprise attack.

This Charm may be reset by inflicting at least three levels of damage on a mounted enemy.

Mastery: In order to deceive the target with this Charm, the martial artist must first make their two hearts as one. If the Solar is willing to create a minor positive Tie to the enemy she successfully unhorses with this Charm, she may also make a reflexive (Charisma + Presence) roll with bonus successes equal to their opponent’s Ride to instill a similar Tie in her erstwhile foe.

hat tip: the Charm name “Sometimes Horses Approach” was suggested by Robert Vance

Friendship is Magic: The Martial Art ?

Soulmate AU Part 2

Companion piece to this, but with Derek’s backstory now.

As was typical for a werewolf pack, the Hales had a diverse collection of bite marks, animal tracks, and feathers for soulmarks. Supernatural creatures were more likely to bond with other supernatural creatures, which, while useful for supporting the idea that such unusual soulmarks were a genetic anomaly, was not very helpful for hiding one’s supernatural identity from hunters. It was an old hunter’s trick to look for groups of people with unusual soulmarks when on the hunt for anything “mythical.”

Derek was five years old, and he didn’t have a soulmark at all.

Keep reading

Ares’ Secret

The change is subtle; it’s not as though Ares was ever a particularly open or approachable sort of god. Quite the contrary, in fact: if you’d asked any of the regular inhabitants or visitors of Olympus whether it was unusual for Ares to be surly or to answer any greetings or polite conversation with a rude shut-down, you’d get immediate affirmation from everyone that things were proceeding as usual for the belligerent god.  Even the god’s (very) short list of friends –Hermes, Artemis and Aphrodite – would probably agree.

But there’s something different about this.

It finally comes together for Hermes after a few days of this.  He’s out fooling around in the lesser courtyard behind the palatial halls of Olympus, and observes Ares as he’s returning with the corpse of a huge, ancient boar across his shoulders, tusks as long as the god’s arms – doubtless the result of a battle fought somewhere in the foothills, Ares’ usual hobby. Ares is mighty even by the standards of a god, and he’s still staggering under the weight of this thing that he’s dragging around with him, trailing blood as he heaves up the last few yards to the back door to his stables (made of stone to accommodate Ares’ fiery steeds where they stay when not burning the back pastures).

The facts:

1)      If this was any other god you might think this boar could be a respectful sacrifice to Zeus. But it’s Ares, so no.

2)      If he was going to eat it, he’d make servants drag it up the mountain.

3)      If it’s the corpse of a former rival, transformed into a beast and then killed (there’s precedent for that), Ares would have left it where it lay.

4)      Ares isn’t usually interested in loot or treasure – once the battle is over, he checks out.  Unlikely he’d keep a souvenir of this battle if he never did for the giants Echidnades or Mimon.  Maybe he thinks a lover would be impressed by this one?  Must be a new one; Aphrodite has delicately let him know that she prefers jewelry over carcasses.  If so, it’s definitely worth teasing him about.

Hermes makes his conclusions and pops up next to Ares with a grin on his face.

“Heeeeeeey, Ares! Buddy!  What’re you up to?”  Hermes floats alongside Ares, head tilted over to better peer at the staggering god.

Ares stumbles, startled, and curses before turning to level a truly impressive scowl at Hermes.

“What the hell do you care, Shortass?  Fuck off!”

“That’s a whole lotta pig you got there!”  Hermes makes a big show of examining it from all angles, hovering annoyingly close to Ares, who’s steaming already and trying to keep his eye on Hermes.  “Got anything fun in mind?  Are we having a barbecue at Ares’ place tonight?”

“No!  It’s not for you!”  Ares snarls, maneuvering himself and the boar with difficulty to aim a kick in Hermes’ direction.

Hermes dodges easily, drifting in closer and beaming.  “So, is it for someone else?  A gift, maybe?  For someone special?”  

Ares’ scowl deepens even as his face reddens – which could equally be a sign of embarrassment or rage or both, but Hermes isn’t worried either way.  His own grin broadens and he claps his hands to his face in a theatrical expression of delight.

“It is!  Why, Ares! What a thoughtful guy you are – and who’s the lucky one who’s getting such a lovely gift?” Hermes teases, poking Ares’ cheeks playfully and laughing at the face he makes.

“None of your business, brat!  Eat shit and fuck off!”

Hermes clucks his tongue. “Aww, but Ares, anyone that special to you is someone I want to meet – unless I’ve already met them before?”  He puts his chin in his hands, reclining backwards in the air and pretending to consider it.

But, interestingly, Ares doesn’t give the expected reaction.  

Hermes is expecting intensified scowls, barking insults, the usual signs of Ares’ version of squirming in embarrassment.  But instead, the god grits his teeth, looking determined.  

Hermes’ eyebrows lift quizzically at Ares, and he taps a finger to his chin thoughtfully.  “So, it isn’t someone I’ve met.  Someone new?”

“I told you to mind your own business, you nosy little shit!” Ares growls, kicking the door to his stables and immediately shoving the pig through.

There’s a noise within – his horses?  Perhaps, but Hermes has heard many horses before, and this sounds… raspier…

Ares quickly spins around, shutting the door nearly all the way to prevent Hermes from peeking inside.

“And you better not come back here!  Stay OUT!”  

The door slams shut the rest of the way.

Hermes stays where he is for a moment, floating gently and tapping his chin, before allowing the breeze to catch him and drift him up, back towards the palace proper.

What’s different? Ares always tells Hermes, and everyone else, to fuck off.  He’s belligerent and loves a fight.  But he doesn’t hide, doesn’t fend people off, he engages.  

Once Hermes realizes that this is the difference, it seems incredibly obvious.  

Ordinarily, if asked what he’s been up to, Ares might reply with a gruff “out fighting,” or occasionally, “out fucking.”  When he has a disagreement with someone, it’s out in the open.  He absolutely never bothers to hide or justify his actions.  Ares charges ahead with his life, aggressive and confident in everything he does.  

But this time, he’s being secretive.

And now Hermes’ curiosity is piqued.

Especially when he sees that Ares’ horses are currently leaving burning hoofprints behind them as they wander the paddock that winds behind the palace grounds.  So, confirmed, whatever made the noise inside the stables, it wasn’t them.

There are other curious things: strange new scars start turning up on Ares, and his clothes and hair are frequently singed.  Artemis mentions in passing that when she was sparring with him recently, she noticed that a new tattoo had appeared on his skin.  She had assumed the new sinuous flames related to “the flames of war” and teased him about how they brought out his eyes.  Hermes snickers but thinks, Ares has been the god of war for a while. Most of the gods rarely get new markings after they’ve been settled in their roles.  Why would the tattoo only show up now?

For several weeks, Ares can be seen sneaking away from Hestia’s Hearth carrying armloads of the snacks away – meat, mostly, Hermes observes, but also eggs and honey and really it’s the quantity that’s odd.  He mentions it off-handedly to Athena, there goes Ares with some snacks I guess, wonder why?  Her only response is to sniff and say they should all be grateful to be spared his appalling table manners.

At a routine and boring council, Demeter mentions that she received Ares’ request for more increased grain to be delivered to his stables.  

Hermes’ curiosity is starting to drive him mad, especially since Ares is normally so bad at keeping secrets.  Discretion is not his specialty.  And teasing him – which, when used as a form of interrogation, is normally a foregone conclusion – is only getting tight-lipped scowls in response.

Hermes asks Aphrodite. Often, if Ares is out of sorts, it’s because Aphrodite has taken another new lover.  But Aphrodite only shakes her head.

“I’m taking some time off from looking afield for new lovers.  Actually, Ares and I were together just the other day…” she trails off, looking reflectively into the distance.  “…He may not be much for pretty speech, but he has a silver tongue nonetheless, let me tell you.”

Hermes laughs and groans at the same time.  “Well, great! Good to know he’s not a one-trick pony.”

She smirks at him; they routinely swap dirty and embarrassing stories about Ares, both to give each other ammunition to tease him and more things to endear him to them. “More of a stallion than a pony, but yes, the other night was at least three or four tricks in the first hour alone.”

“That stud.  Such passion.  Does he start crying in the heat of the moment?”

“No, no tears, but he curses… oh, but you know, ‘heat of the moment’ makes me think… you’ve seen his new flame markings, right?  First of all, if you haven’t had a new marking in a while, it’s apparently pretty sensitive skin there, and as it happens, the flame markings go all the way down to –”

Aphrodite goes on, explaining, while they both crack up laughing, and yeah, Hermes is absolutely gonna make a note of this information.

Later, he’s back on the case.  He asks Helios, the “eye in the sky” who sees everything his sun touches.

Helios’ response is perhaps not unexpected: “Fuck you, you little pot-stirring shit, I’m not getting involved in that guy’s crap ever again.”

“Aww, come on, Helios, everyone got over it eventually…”

“Nope.  You can fuck right off.  Never again.  You fuckers can’t handle the truth.”  Helios leans back in his chariot thoughtfully, before his scowl turns into a grin abruptly.  “You can ask Selene, maybe.  She sees everything her moon touches.”

Helios sometimes enjoys referring the younger gods to his sister – although she has been faithful to her beloved Endymion, she does like to work up her appetite by winding up her visitors.  The three Titans find it very entertaining to set off the younger gods, to say nothing of the mortals.

Hermes does visit Selene, but only because he knows that the insatiable goddess has recently been to visit Endymion, so Hermes’ balls should be safe this time.  

“Ahh, yes, Ares and his nighttime excursions.  Many evenings of entertainment to be seen there.”  Hermes amuses himself by imagining Ares’ reaction to the small, knowing smile on Selene’s pretty face, if he could see it.  

Hermes bows respectfully. “I’m certain of that.  Ares’ daylight excursions are quite entertaining as well.  I’ll never understand why most of Olympus doesn’t see it.”  

“Well, I do have the advantage of watching the show from far above… miles away from his notorious rages. And you have the advantage of never being troubled by anything, ever.”

That’s not true by a long shot, but Hermes doesn’t show his cards as swiftly as the other gods.  “I just think he’s funny.”

Selene nods thoughtfully. “To answer your question, little herald, your amusing friend has spent more time than usual at his stronghold on Thrace.  Not outdoors, where I can see him, but he rushes from one closed building to the next.”

Thrace’s war palace is one of only two temples dedicated to Ares in all of Greece.  Its people are warlike and considered savage and unpleasant by the majority of the gods, so they do not often visit if they don’t absolutely have to.

Hermes visits there the next day and scouts around.  He spots Demeter’s grain… piled around messily by a barred stone building behind the main temple where Ares resides when he’s there.  Some of it has spilled out onto the ground; the mice must be loving that.  The roar of Ares’ flaming steeds, approaching from the sky in the distance, interrupts Hermes from picking the lock to get in, but not before he could hear some very mysterious animal sounds from within.

He fully plans to go back, but he needs a way to keep Ares occupied.  Artemis, perhaps, she can keep him busy with sparring.  So Hermes goes to Apollo, currently the only one who knows the location of Artemis’ secret grove.  Well, actually, Hermes does know – it’s part of his job to know, in case Zeus needs to deliver a message to her, or summon her directly.  But for as long as that hasn’t happened yet, Hermes would rather let her have her secret grove and go through Apollo when he wishes to speak to her.  

Apollo is seated on a bench in his courtyard.  Apollo’s halls are, as one might expect, incredibly tasteful and elegant.  He generally keeps musicians and beautiful objects (or people) around more or less perpetually for the ambiance.  Today the ambiance staff has been dismissed, to allow Apollo to play at the lyre himself in solitude as he watches birds flit around a fountain splashing water nearby.

Hermes sets down lightly before him, offering a cheeky bow to his senior.  “My Lord Apollo.  The radiance of the sun dazzles the eyes as always.  The sweet tumble of music from your elegant throat fills the ears with joy. The scent of your perfume tickles the nose.  An hour spent in your presence is like a thousand years in paradise.”

“Enough with the flattery, Hermes Dolios.”  Apollo uses the title that refers to Hermes’ domain of wiles and craftiness, but he sounds amused, and Hermes notes that he waited until Hermes was done paying him compliments.  “What are you after today?  I’m not sure I’m interested in losing another bet you’ll cheat to win.”  Apollo idly plucks a few chords on the lyre.  Hermes allows his eyes to linger on the long fingers for a moment before turning back to Apollo’s face with a wink.

“I’m not always out to cheat people, Apollo!”  Hermes shifts to informality easily, sauntering closer.  “Maybe I just want to hang out with my respected senior for a while.  Listen to you sing a song.”  He positions himself suggestively close to Apollo’s lap.  “Get a quickie from a pro?”

Apollo laughs, and poetic embellishment aside, it really is like watching the sun come out from behind the clouds.  “You phrased that like a question.  Are you the pro offering, or is that supposed to be me?”

Hermes grins wickedly. “Could be either, or both at the same time – oof!”

Apollo has delivered a solid kick to Hermes’ midsection, sending him tumbling backwards through the air. Hermes rights himself and floats back with a pout in place.

“I’ll consider it – if you tell me what you’re really here for,” Apollo smiles at him mildly.

Hermes gives an exaggerated sigh and flops down on the bench next to him.  “I actually came here to ask if you could get Artemis for me.  I need her to keep Ares occupied – and it’s been a while since she kicked the crap out of him, I’m sure she’d be eager.”

Apollo snorts.  “I’m sure she would too.  I’m sure beating Ares is quite therapeutic.”  Apollo speaks dismissively of the war god, but Hermes has noticed that he hasn’t been as cruel anymore as he used to be.  The Aloadai had come to claim Artemis, after all, and Ares was captured and imprisoned trying to defeat them.  As much as Apollo may find Ares unlikable, it’s impossible for him to be the enemy of a god who suffered so much in the defense of Apollo’s sister.

Hermes taps his fingers lightly against Apollo’s leg.  “You could even skip that step if you were willing to tell me what he’s up to?  You know, using your twisty turny prophetic ability?”  He wiggles his fingers in the direction of Apollo’s temple.  

Apollo catches his wrist before his hair can be mussed.  “My ‘twisty turny’ prophecies are not the same as omniscience.  If I wanted to know what Ares is up to – which I don’t, particularly – I would have to go to a great deal of effort to see it.”

Hermes catches sight of some movement, just over Apollo’s shoulder, and hides a smile.  “You aren’t curious?  I just get the feeling that he might be up to something.  Like he’s being sneaky.”

“Normally I get a sense that something warrants my attention and effort, if it’s sufficiently large-scale or directly relates to me.  Ares apparently isn’t doing anything huge at present or, luckily, anything to indicate his path will cross with mine anytime soon.  So, no.  Whatever you’re up to, you’re on your own.  Though I will visit Artemis later, if you like.”  

Apollo shifts, turning slightly on the bench, and Hermes quickly zips in front of him to catch his attention again.  “I sure appreciate it, Lord Apollo.  But now that business is concluded…. How about a kiss goodbye?” He gives an exaggerated suggestive wink, a winning smile and a lewd gesture with his hands.

Apollo strums the strings of the lyre thoughtfully before setting it down.  “I suppose I can give you the privilege.  And perhaps you can use this as an opportunity to impress me.”

Afterwards, when they’ve had their fun and Apollo has finally sent him on his way, Hermes takes a moment to drink in the irony of Apollo’s previous statement, about how his path doesn’t intersect with Ares, before he speeds off through the air in the direction of Ares, who is currently still making his way down the side of the mountain with one of Apollo’s cows tied to his back.  Neither Ares nor the cow looks happy about their situation.  

“I guess this counts as you not crossing paths with Apollo, right?  What he don’t know, won’t hurt him?”  He taps his chin thoughtfully, watching the struggle down the mountainside. “That’s good sense, only stealing one cow.  I overreached, stealing the whole herd.  That’s how I got caught.  You’ll probably be fine, though.”

Ares’ scowl is practically weaponized.  Hermes wonders if the red on the god’s face is a warning sign of rage or a cute little blush – hard to tell, with Ares.  “You were really gonna do that, right in fucking front of me.  While I was standing right there, you were gonna deep-throat him.”

“We did a swap, actually,” Hermes says brightly.  “And all as a favor to you!  Here you are, almost escaped, and no one the wiser that Apollo’s got one less cow than he had a half hour ago.”

“You better not tell anyone-!” Ares starts to growl, but Hermes cuts him off by placing his hands on Ares’ cheeks, squishing them together to make a funny fish face.

“Obviously I’m not gonna tell anyone, dumbass.  But seriously.  Whatever you’re doing, you’re gonna get caught soon if you’re not careful.  Why don’t you let me help out?  I’m much better at sneaky shit than you are.”

It’s testament to how the past few months have been straining at Ares that he doesn’t immediately bat Hermes’ hands away.  He stares at Hermes for what must be a full ten seconds in silence, fish-faced, before pulling back and looking away.  “I don’t – this isn’t your concern – ” he forces out, and Hermes puts out his tongue to make a rude noise at him.

“C’mon, dipshit! We’re buddies!  When have I let you down before?”

Ares drags his eyes back to Hermes, briefly pausing to thump the cow on the flank as it moos in annoyance. “I could get in trouble for this. I’m not sure but it’s a possibility. Like, real trouble, maybe.  And you’d get in trouble too, and it won’t be as cute as the other times because you’d be associated with me.”  

Hermes hates that this is true.  Ares speaks plainly and flatly, no matter how bad the situation.  His inability to sugarcoat when he talks has bolstered his reputation for cruelty, but there’s nothing worse than when he turns that truth on himself and bears it without flinching.

But Hermes is confident in his own abilities.  Ares might fear that associating with the war god will make a situation worse; but Hermes believes that this whole situation being associated with the charming messenger god will make it easier on Ares.  If they even get caught.  Hermes Dolios knows what he’s doing.

So he kisses the tips of his first and second fingers, presses them to Ares’ nose, and beams at him. “I don’t give a shit.  Let’s do this!”  And he flips up through the air, over Ares’ head, to land on the back of the cow on his shoulders.  “Alala!” he cheers, using Ares’ preferred battle-cry.

Below him, Ares is still a moment longer, before the god finally begins to plod forward again. “Wasn’t even sure you were sitting up there.  Skinny-ass, you barely weigh anything,” he mutters.  

Their conversation for the rest of the journey to Thrace is much more of a return to how it used to be: Hermes tells jokes and stories and sings songs with ridiculous or lewd lyrics, and laughs at the grouchy curses he receives in return.  He’s delighted when Ares actually stumbles, laughing in spite of himself, at a particularly well-timed punchline about Athena’s musical talents.  

Behind the temple in Thrace, Ares ties the cow to stake.  Hermes nimbly seats himself atop Ares’ shoulders directly now, and notes how tense they are.  The guy needs a good massage immediately.  They go to the stable door and Ares unlocks it, but hesitates before opening it.  The mysterious noises are louder now, and the grain is still strewn about randomly.  Hermes is dying to see what’s inside, but it seems like Ares has one final admonition for him.

“You have got to keep your mouth shut about this. Especially to your stupid boyfriend Apollo.  That pretty asshole is gonna-”

“You’ve totally got a crush on him, don’t you?” Hermes inquires innocently, just to see Ares blink, mouth opening and then snapping shut, too bewildered to even get angry or embarrassed.  

Hermes takes advantage of his indecisiveness to jump off Ares’ shoulders and shove his way past him, through the door, ignoring Ares’ attempted grab.  “Speaking of Apollo, enough with the lectures!  I’m on the team already!  What chthonic mystery are you keeping – oh!”

Whatever he was expecting, Hermes somehow both is, and is not surprised at all, to see the secret revealed:  Two dragons, about four feet long, are currently climbing about on the support posts and ceiling beams of the stable’s interior, and both make excited squawking noises when they see Ares.  Moving quickly, they make their way down as Ares rushes inside and shuts the door swiftly behind him.

The dragons are objectively beautiful creatures, in spite of the clear promise of what terrible beings they will be in the future.  Their bodies are long and sinuous, with tiny useless-looking limbs (six of them) that resemble a bird’s talons.  Their scales shimmer and color seems to ripple through them, though always in shades of green.  One appears to have golden highlights; the other has silver.  Upon their backs are tiny little glowing spikes that run down the length of their spines.  The buds of their wings are forming, three sets placed at each set of shoulders, and their heads resemble nothing so much as a wolf.  Their teeth and claws, tiny though they are, definitely appear sharp – this is confirmed when they start climbing up Ares, leaving scratches and nicks as they nip at him affectionately.  

“Found ‘em near Mount Parnassus.  Dunno if they’re the offspring of Python or not – they seem too young,” Ares says, watching Hermes uneasily, ignoring the way the dragons are leaving claw marks on his skin.

Hermes is actually rendered speechless, hands covering his mouth, eyes shining as he watches the dragons start chewing on Ares’ tunic, making excited, rapid tuck-tuck-tuck noises, interspersed with mild hissing at each other. They adore him, just like loyal hounds, and the ease and familiarity they display as they clamber over Ares tells Hermes that this has been going on for a while.

“Oh, by Hyperion’s glorious balls,” he manages, delight coursing through his voice.  “Oh, this is – this is the cutest fucking thing I’ve ever seen in my life - !”

Ares’ face twists back into a scowl with something like relief.  “Look, don’t be an asshole, this is serious!”

“Will you shut up?! Quit being such a sulk!  This is fantastic!  You have little tiny baby dragons and they luuuuuurve yoooouuuu!!!”

“You’re such a –“

“Can I pet them?  Will they burn me?”

“Eh?  Uh, yeah, probably…” Ares’ face flickers between annoyance and confusion, and some other emotion that doesn’t look at home on his face.

“I’ll wait till they’re used to me,”  Hermes watches in fascination as one of the dragons stretches its neck and snaps up a mouse that had been feeding on the loose grain scattered about the place. Aha, that’s why all the grain!

“Used to you…?”

“Yeah!  I’ll come by a couple times a week, and I’ll bring little treats to get on their good side – I bet it’s just the same as Arty’s hunting dogs! And maybe we can sneak them out somewhere – hmm.  Where was Dionysus born again?  That’s a pretty isolated place.”

Hermes keeps talking without pause, and without acknowledging the awkward noises Ares is making and the way his fists clench and unclench as the dragons wrap themselves around him happily and gnaw his ears, thrumming softly.  They have an advantage over their master, then – Ares still has no idea what to do with happiness, or gratitude, or any other positive emotion.

Before the night is over, Hermes has stolen about two months’ worth of supplies, and gets caught with none of them – not even by Selene, who raises his eyebrows at him as he sneaks a sack into the stables in Thrace.  He winks at her and flashes a pair of Apollo’s sandals which he stole solely to allay suspicion.

And yeah, a distant part of his mind can see this being a problem down the road, but right at this moment… watching the confused, scowly happiness in Ares’ face… the unspeakably adorable way the he loves those dragons, and they adore him…

Hermes generally thinks any mischief is worth the trouble he might get in, but he thinks he’d happily risk Zeus and Hera’s wrath both for this.

After two years with Dongchu, I went into solitary retreat in the mountains. When I left I told him that I vowed to practice hard and not fail the Dharma. He answered, ‘Wrong! What is Buddhism? What is Dharma? The most important thing is not to fail yourself!’
—  Chan Master Sheng Yen
Hoofprints of the Ox

Well, that was heartbreaking. Even Ruby is crying as she turns to leave.

And also the end of the episode. Bring on Episode 3! Can we please see Blake and her sister and father now?

Okay, I don’t need to ask, she’s in the flippin’ thumbnail. Onward!

Nothing really came of that weird Grimm hoofprint yet, huh? I guess we’ll see what’s up with that later this season. Unless that scene was for nothing for some reason???

There was a field of deep snow. Here and there a hollow suggested that the snow had been thrust aside with great force by a falling body, but the edges had been softened by the wind drift.
The seven horsewomen landed gently, and the thing about the snow was this: there were hoofprints in it, but they did not appear exactly where the horses trod or exactly when they did. They seemed superimposed on the world, as if they had been drawn first and the artist did not have much time to pain the reality behind them.
They waited for a while.
“Well, this is jolly unsatisfactory,” said Hilda (soprano). “They ought to be here. They do know they’re dead, don’t they?”
“We haven’t come to the wrong place, have we?’ said Gertrude (mezzo-soprano).
“Ladies? If you would be so kind as to dismount?”
“They turned. The seventh Valkyrie had drawn her sword and was smiling at them.
“What cheek. Here, you’re not Grimhilda!”
“No, but I think I could probably beat all six of you,” said Vena, tossing aside the helmet. “I shoved her in th eprivy with one hand. It would be… better if you simply dismounted.”
“Better? Better than what?” said Hilda.
Mrs McGarry sighed. “This,” she said.
The snow erupted old men.

– the triumphant return of the Silver Horde | Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero

hollowed out by hoofprints,
I beg of you :

leave me here,
all is torn & the heavy
ship is carrying her
out of sight.

does not wish to be seen.

I am full of sky, soot-handed
like sparrows,
to look away // to be