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The travels of one wandering moth-lycan, their daemon stryx, and all the weird and random things they find while exploring the Desolation Zone.
Chapter 1, Intro
It was daytime, though you would hardly know it. The clouds were dark and heavy with rain, the threat of a storm lingering on the horizon. The sun was hidden. It’s been hidden for a while.
Still, Moff preferred the rain-washed air to the choking poison that had polluted the forest a few days earlier. Finally, they’d escaped the fires. They’d escaped, and the rain was coming. Maybe things could go back to normal after all.
Tag snorted and tossed her head. She was equally relieved to be rid of the red burning sky, but that didn’t mean she found the damp pleasant.
“Easy, girl,” Moff muttered. They leaned down from where they sat on her back and patted the thick feathers of her neck. Their reassurance might as well have fallen upon deaf ears, but it made them feel better at least.
At their shoulder, Probity ground their beak and shifted from foot to foot, long talons threatening to pierce through Moff’s shirt. His tail wagged back and forth, thumping lightly against Moff’s wings.
The trees around them were charred black, their branches bare and reaching toward a charcoal gray sky. Still, the ground was cool and damp, green things clustered amid a lattice of burned roots. It was too early in the season for the leaves to have dropped already (there weren’t any on the ground either), and Moff wondered about what happened to the place.
Then again, the Core’s collapse had affected a lot of the World. They supposed the trees’ conundrum wasn’t the strangest manifestation of the ordeal.
Ahead, a clearing stood out against the ashen forest. What little daylight managed to glow through the cloud cover cast an eerie fog-like veil over the space. Structures rose about half as tall as the surrounding trees.
Tag perked up at the sight and trotted forward, long legs crossing the distance with ease while Moff gripped the loops of her harness a bit tighter.
The sudden motion nearly threw Probity from Moff’s shoulder, and the little dragon took to the air with a hiss of complaint.
“Scout ahead, Pro” Moff told him. “I want to know what’s here.”
Probity circled overhead once and then flew on ahead.
Tag came to such an abrupt stop at the edge of the trees that Moff was nearly thrown over her head. She hissed and pranced in place for a moment, tossing her head as she looked around the clearing.
Moff very much agreed with the sentiment.
The place looked very much to be a village, though everything about it felt wrong. The buildings were made of rock and wood, but in many places, both seemed to be burned away. Something like tattered cloth or a giant spiderweb stretched across some of the rooftops, the fraying ends swaying in a nonexistent wind. There was no sound and nothing moved.
Moff took a deep breath and then let it out slowly. They readjusted their grip on Tag’s harness and gently urged her forward. “It’s alright,” they told her, though their words were nearly as empty as the village appeared to be.
This was what they were supposed to do, right? This was the purpose the Masters gave to them.
Probity called from overhead, the sound a strange mix of scream and chirp. He flew in a wide circle, about level with the barren treetops. His dark mottled feathers made him look right at home against the gray forest.
“I guess it’s safe,” Moff said, watching the little dragon fly.
Tag didn’t seem to agree. She turned her head just enough for Moff to see the doubtful look in her eye.
Unable to think of anything more reassuring, Moff hopped down off her back.
The ground was hard and cold underfoot. It looked nearly as dark and gray as the structures around it, but clumps of green dotted the land a few yards away. Despite looking very much like a ghost town, there was still life. The Desolation Zone had definitely overtaken this place, but maybe it wasn’t too long ago. Maybe there was still something here.
“I guess we should look around some more,” Moff said. They headed for the nearest building, led by Probity’s circling overhead.
Tag growled under her breath, but she followed close behind.
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