[Mariner's Highway|| Random Encounter || Player Target:Anwulf]
It's the normal night. Bright moonlight and glistening snow, a pristine landscape of breathtaking beauty that hides the horrors lurking beneath so well. But in this moment, it could almost be peaceful. Almost. But this is Haven, and it can't last. This time it starts with a mere whisper of wind, one that's unseasonably warm and carries a soft, genderless whisper. "Anwulf... stop here. I need to talk to you."
Approaching his motorcycle from a quick stop at his home in Westhaven, Anwulf seems to pause in his step as he hears a voice. His eyebrows raise slightly, silently debating with himself as he glances about. He could have sworn he didn't see anyone out here, but given that it is, in fact, Haven, he already knows that not all that is there can always be seen. The raised brows slowly dip into a furrow as he moves to stand out in the middle of the street, at the entrance of Westhaven. "Who is it?" is Anwulf' first response to the voice in the air, eyes scanning about warily.
"I mean you no harm." the voice says, a little louder and more distinct. It's dark and silky, with the smooth lilt almost like jazz sifting through the crisp night air. It's definitely a masculine voice. "You can call me... Malachi. It'll do well enough, for the purposes of this chat." It's getting closer with every word, coming from a point somewhere near the entrance of Westhaven. Perhaps Anwulf could notice a faint disturbance in the air, a warping that's unlike anything the shroud offers.
"I can only take you at your word," Anwulf rationalizes quickly from the situation, shoulders rolling slightly as he admits in his firm, Celtic accent. "I did not see you there when I came out, and you already know my name. I can only guess that if you were here to harm me, you could have." The disturbances do not go unnoticed, but the Wildling man tries to damper any reactions to them. Nevertheless, his eyes do twitch slightly as he tries to follow the curious phenomenon out of the corner of his eye briefly before falling his attention back on the man named Malachi. "How can I help you, Malachi?" With the question posed, Anwulf shifts about to relax his posture some, though the man's muscles stay naturally tense and coiled at the situation, his body deciding it's a bit more worried about the situation than his tone and words are.
Malachi laughs, a rich and warm sound laden with genuine amusement. "I come to make an offer. It's just a chat, friend." The ripple grows, for a moment shimmering in a not-quite-there gleam that suddenly snaps and reveals a dashing, tuxedoed gent of about forties. He's got olive skin, slicked-back hair, and a pointed beard. His grin is wicked and sure. "Are you willing to hear me out? I think you should. Some things... they're worth deals with the devil, aren't they?" He chuckles at his own joke and waves one hand lazily.
Anwulf narrows his eyes a bit at the prospect, and more so the man's sudden appearance and general appearance. "If you came this far to talk to me, then speak," he replies after a bit, having to take more than a simple moment to soak in what he's seeing, hearing, and saw. "Would be interesting to see if your deals hold any weight to them. Am a simple man, you know. But... I suppose you do already know that, do you not? Given you know my name, and know enough of me to try to offer some sort of deal. Must mean that you have some idea of me, at the least." Anwulf's arms slowly rise from his sides, folding over his chest as he eases his appraising stare on Malachi. "Speak, then," he requests."Let me hear your offer."
"It's an easy deal." Malachi says, taking sudden interest in his own perfect fingernails. "There's a woman in your life... what was her name? Hmmm. Jenny? Jade? Oh... wait... Jesse." His next grin is wolfish, and he winks over at Anwulf conspiratorially. "Now she was a hot piece, wasn't she? I can't imagine you wanting to live without -that-. Might make existence seem sort of empty, hmm?"
Anwulf tenses visibly at the mention of Jesse, lips curling up into a scowl. "Leave Jesse out of this," he suddenly demands aggressively, so much so he even takes a step forward. "She had left me a long time ago... I do not even know where she is at, or where she has gone. All I know is that when I returned to Haven, she found nothing but pain in me." He pauses for a moment, frowning at his own outburst as he retreats a step, voice calming down as he shakes his head. "Jesse thought she lost me. And when I approached her, she seemed happy for a bit, only to eventually turn her back to me. You are right in one thing, Malachi, I did not want to live without her. But I did. And my existence was empty, but I have filled it once more. With responsibility. And with the love of another. You have nothing I could want, I assure you. I am whole."
"Are you, now?" Malachi laments, turning sad and soulful sapphire blues on the other man and shaking his head. "If it hadn't been for that portal... then it would have been so much easier. Wouldn't it? If Jesse hadn't turned her back. Do you at least want to know, Anwulf? Do you want to know what could have been?"
A deep grunt escapes Anwulf' lips. "I already know," he replies somewhat coldly. "I would still be a hunter. And I would have that family I want. I may have even been happier than here. But I have my responsibility. My duty. My woman here. And there? I would have still been feared for my eyes. Feared for a blessing that was not even my fault. I am happy now, though. And I am respected. I am a Deputy. I have a woman that may not be Jesse, but she is great on her own." He shakes his head slowly, unfolding his arms over his chest and motioning around him, slowly spinning around to soak in the surroundings as he speaks, "This is my home now, Malachi. I may not be from here, and I will always be the hunter Anwulf of the People, but here..." He turns back to Malachi, eyes burning with pride as he sets his arms back to his side. "I am now Ranger Anwulf. I keep people safe, uphold the law, and do my best. What is gone, is gone, Malachi.
"But it doesn't have to be." The Devil says, smirking. His looks are a 10.0, if one had to guess. "Things are lost to the weak, but you aren't weak, and there are boundless opportunities! For one low price." He snaps, and a scroll appears in his hand like it's always been there. With a flick of his wrist the two feet of it unravel, revealing neat (but teeny-tiny) script. "There's always a dotted line, of course. Here's where the proposition comes in; we just need to forget about the man's law for a little while. And start thinking on a bigger scale."
"A bigger scale?" Anwulf replies, taking a moment to soak in Malachi's words. He eyes the roll of paper grasped in the Devil's hand, and practically is taken back from it given its length and the size of the text. "No. No no,"he responds bluntly. "I am not making any deals with you. I am happy with my life now, can you not understand that? And the best thing about my life is that I took it into my own two hands and made it what it is today." His hands raise up in front of him, clenching into tight balls to accent his words. "I have worked so hard, helped so many, brought many smiles, and punched many faces. What you are asking of me is to risk going back to what it was, all for the chance... of having Jesse back. And to be part of my people again. For all I know, things could end up even worse." His eyes fall shut and his head hangs forward a little. "Even if I did want your deal. Even if I did not have concerns. Even if you were right and that things are lost to the weak..."
Anwulf begins again after a pause, voice soft as he slowly looks back up. "Only the weakest would take the easy way, and get it given to them. The strong would earn it back, like a man."
"Very well then." Malachi laments, but he's soon beaming again. "Anwulf, do you know about the concept of carrots... and sticks?" A stick appears in one of his hand, a dirty orange carrot in the other, like both had just been plucked from the earth.
"Carrots... and sticks...?" Anwulf asks curiously, seeming to be a bit confused at the Devil's dazzling smile and enthusiasm despite the rejection. Unbeknownst to Anwulf, however, the simple act of being ignorant to such a concept, and being curious, leads him to ask the natural question as he eyes the carrot in Malachi's hand. "What do you mean by carrots and sticks?"
"A mule, like a man, is a stubborn creature." The Devil says in that warm voice, utterly welcoming. "And there are really only two ways of motivating them. One is to offer a nice carrot..." Here he holds out the vegetable towards Anwulf, but it disappears seconds later in a cloud of orange smoke. "Or... you can beat it with a stick until it moves in the right direction."
"Going to need a really big stick for me," Anwulf replies gruffly, leveling his gaze on Malachi. "But... I have quite a feeling that you are not the kind of man that uses sticks. You probably just get others to use that stick for you, yes?" He raises up his lip in a bit of a snarl at the thought. "I am not here to play your games, Malachi. This is my life, and I am quite happy. The regrets I have are simply that, regrets. Nothing I plan to act on, especially not for a deal that has more words than any book I would read."
"Stubborn as a mule." Malachi chides, clucking his tongue and strolling towards Anwulf with his small stick still in hand. "Now, now. No need to get so -hostile-. You see, I offered a carrot. And you didn't bite it, shame, shame. You could've had the girl, and the nice home in scenic The Wilds, and status.And a pleasant mind-wiping of everyone involved to keep it guilt free. All for one low price of a favor. A simple favor. It's a passive one at that. Don't even have to raise a hand. All -I- need is..." He purposefully trails off and grins, another roguish wink aimed at Anwulf as he waits for the askance.
"...no." Anwulf is the simple response, narrowing his eyes once more fiercely at the Devil. "All I need, is for you to go. As much as I care for Jesse, I would never force that upon her. As much as I miss my home, and the hunts I had there, I have my duties here. And the memories I have, bad and good, are what make me at this moment. They are part of what makes me the man that does not even need to hear what you want. It does not matter the price. You could offer the deal for free. The answer would always end the same..."
Anwulf says, firmly, with a heavy Celtic accent, 'No. '
The grin abruptly disappears, replaced by a fearsome snarl that's as terrifying as it is magnificent. The stick twitches in his hand, a blur of motion beyond what a mortal could manage- and the stick freezes a hair's breadth from Anwulf's face. "It could be nice. It -could- be, or it could always be worse." he growls, not even bothering to mask the threat. A stench begins to fill the air, thick and hot and sulfuric despite the clean coolness the night had possessed. "You -will- lay down your gun, exactly thirty days from now. You will not touch upon any weapon or assert any justice for twenty-four hours. Or you will suffer the stick."
Despite the suddenness and quickness of the stick, Anwulf stares right through it, eyes fastened on the man behind the stick. "Do not even pretend to test me, Malachi. I stood up to Wrath once, and ended up with a broken leg, a broken rib, and a long stay in a hospital. I can only hope you have far more planned for me than him," he replies to Malachi in a level tone. "I may get hurt. I may break. I may even die. But that is the risk I took with my job. The risk I accept, even with you." His hand slowly reaches up, attempting to brush the stick away from his face.
The stick doesn't budge, and neither does the Devil who keeps staring down Anwulf. "Wrath. Wrath, the thing that is beyond you mortals, but beneath me. Trapped by magics. A slave to the rhythms of this world." He snorts and turns his back on Anwulf, moving to collect his script. "So what stick would hurt more? Me taking your girl while she screams and begs me to stop? Or if she was all willing and compliant, purring like a little kitty cat? I could turn into a dragon or something, too, if I'm feeling dramatic."
"You leave your hands off of her!" Anwulf suddenly bellows out at the Devil Malachi, baring his teeth, hands balling up into fists as he lumbers forward a step. "Your problems are with me, Malachi. My law, my gun. Do not dare bring her into this. Above, below, or aside Wrath, I will find a way to break you if you lay your hand on her, do you hear me?" He snarls out like an animal, staring daggers through the back of the man gathering his paperwork.
"Oh? I found a stick." Malachi cackles, clapping his hands together in dark delight. He actually performs a few tapping steps that are quite well done, ending with a flamboyant pose and jazz hands. "My problem -is- with you, but your pesky honor makes you a hard nut to crack. Sweet little girls are more fragile. All you gotta do is shove a penis in them, and..." He snaps once, and the harsh crunch of shattered glass fills the air.
Anwulf growls out and reaches to his gun belt, whipping out his Glock handgun in his own display of speed before pointing it at Malachi, finger on the trigger and safety already released. His speed may not be a blur, but his reflexes and dexterity are hardly anything anyone would call slow, unless you were a true Devil, perhaps. "And it makes me imagine how many bullets it takes to make a man like you break all the same," he replies gruffly, staring down the sights of his weapon.
Malachi freezes, the smile still plastered on his face, but it's frozen there by muscles iced with fear. He raises his hands up in a gesture of surrender. "Okay, okay... point taken. Don't shoot. It's just raping your girlfriend, if we can't have a laugh over it, then it just loses all the fun."
"Just raping my girlfriend," Anwulf hisses out, taking a slow, deep breath. "This gun is far too good for you." He then sets his gun back into his holster, flicking back the safety as he starts to approach Malachi with a slow step forward, teeth bared as he growls. "I hope you are as strong as you are fast, friend. Because if you do not leave right now, then one of us is going to have a dead body here... because I am not stopping until one of us falls. That choice is yours."
"It'd set me back a few minutes if you died." The man huffs irritably, tossing his stick aside, where it clatters like any other. "I'm strong. I'm fast. I'm more than any man could hope to face alone, Anwulf; you won't best me, and then I'd do things to the girl, on your grave... there's a chance at getting through all of this intact. But you gotta think more like the mule." Devil taps his temple and the tension melts, the feigned fear dissolving from his face. "Carrot or stick? You'll have time to decide. Neither of us will die tonight."
Anwulf pauses and narrows his eyes at the man. "Yeah? You know what. Maybe you are right," he replies thoughtfully, reaching up to scratch at his cheek. "You seem to be a man all about show. How about this, then. Do you think a man like you can outsmart a man like me? I have a question for you. One that is called a riddle. If you answer it correctly, I will play by your game. If you do not? Well, you leave me, and her, alone? You want your deal, Malachi? This is your chance. Do you accept my challenge?"
"Fine. But I'm omnipotent." Malachi answers smugly. "I can best you at anything. But are those the terms? I answer correctly and you have to choose between my carrot and the stick. If I cannot..." He snaps again and another scroll appears, much shorter than the last, with the word-for-word terms that Anwulf suggested. A pen hovers in the air in silent expectation next to it. There are two dotted lines.
"You leave both of us alone," Anwulf completes the terms for him before once again clarifying. "You win, you get your day of me being ignorant to the law that day. And no, I do not want to go back to the Wilds. I am quite happy here." Slowly, he approaches Malachi and reaches for the pen before grasping it. "That is my terms."
The words on the contract glitter and shift to conform to the terms. "If you win, you will not raise your hand against me in any form for twenty-four hours, and you will not assist anyone attempting to do so. If you win, I won't bother you or your pretty little girl." Malachi clarifies. The contract reads their combination, what each has demanded and what they could lose. Another pen appears and the Devil deftly signs his name on the dotted line; not in English, but in some jagged, spiky language.
Anwulf nods and quietly leans in to sign at the contract, furrowing his brow as he focuses on signing his name, in English. It's sloppy, but the letters are distinctly his name. "There. Are you ready for your riddle, then?" he asks quietly, handing the pen back to Malachi.
He smirks, and at the second sign the contract rolls back up and disappears. "Shoot. But not literally; that won't work. What is your riddle, Anwulf? It better be worth a day of being a pacifist?" His brows raise and he starts a sly little dance around Anwulf, tip-tapping away in an easy, fluid movement. Jazz music starts to waft through the air that still hasn't entirely lost the scent of sulfur.
"There was once a man, a king, who was very powerful and very wise," Anwulf begins, leveling his gaze at Malachi. "He had two sons. Unfortunately, the man knew he would die some day, and he wanted to pass on his wealth to only one of his children. To decide who, he declared a race. Both of his children would race on their horses to a far away land. But, the catch is, the LAST one's horse to make it to the end would be the one to get his riches. So off the children went to their race, wandering for weeks as neither wanted to finish. Eventually they met up, and discussed the situation. Eventually, though, one of the children gave a suggestion, and with that suggestion, he won the wealth and all of the land that came with it. What did he suggest?"
"He suggests..." The demon's brow knits and he scowls, tossing his head back and freezing in a Michael-Jackson esque pose, hand half in his pants and the other one pointing towards the sky. "Riddles are for the fae. Tricky things. I am better than the fae, and do not need to worry for their riddles." Just then,the contract appears and snaps open, letters glinting ominously.
Anwulf raises an eyebrow. "So, you give up, then. It is okay. I am sure that you simply must not be as smart as you say," he assures Malachi with a shrug, eyes flicking towards to contract when it snaps open. "Do not tell me you cheated me," he sighs out, reaching up to tap on his chin as he eyes the text. "Sounds like the childish thing to do when you can not even outsmart a man of the Wilds."
His jaw works and the air starts to ripple around him again; the stench of sulfur grows to cloud the air once more. "I said omnipotent. Not omniscient. But this is a minor setback. Minor. You'll all pay for this in time... I never forget." The words shimmer again, sealing fate, and when the contract disappears from being so does the Devil. Eventually the air clears of heat and stench to leave the crisp night untouched by what has occurred... and Anwulf along with it.
Anwulf flashes a bright smile when the Devil vanishes, shaking his head a bit. He lets out a heavy sigh and starts to slowly limp his way back to his motorcycle muttering to himself, "Is an old riddle... but I am not an old man," he begins to monologue to himself as his eyes set on the bike in front of him as he approaches. "The normal answer to the riddle is to switch the horses... but I changed the riddle. Put my own spin, just like I did to his carrot and stick. In my riddle, it states the man who came up with the suggestion won. And he won, because he switched his horse before switching it again with his brother, ensuring that his horse would never cross first. And that... is why he became king."
- Scene Run By Glory*