OZ TASTES A LIE*
Written for a D&D campaign I play in.
“I often forget how ghastly the human race appears,” Oz says, watching the way Cyrus pauses, slowly blinking up at her with a curl to his lip. It’s a common expression between them, a near childish hatred that has Oz yearning to reach a hand out and cup his throat.
“You’re no painting yourself,” Cyrus sneers, narrowing his eyes. “Your horns get in the way from anything forming up there?” He taps his forehead, almost taunting something that was never in Oz’s reach, a reminder she gets when he flips through books or quotes scholars. His distrust of alchemists ruined the image of intellectual superiority long ago. All Oz sees is a scared boy.
“You put up a lot of walls for a boy who has no home.” Oz likes the way his skin darkens, a human trait of humiliation she drinks like diluted wine, smooth as it is watery.
“You wax poetry plenty for someone who thinks with their fists,” Cyrus whips back but they both know he’s lost, placed between the awkward standstill of aggression and something. Oz wants to break his nose in like a new home. Cyrus looks as if he could rip her neck out with his teeth, bare and sharp and white. Well, sharp for a human.
She likes the look on him, it’s the most honest he seems to be.
Cyrus doesn’t seem to agree and stands up. “I’m going to do a round,” he says offhandedly, gingerly stepping around their sleeping comrades and vanishing into the woods. Oz watches his back fade and thinks that he is nothing more than a child wearing the skin of a man, a wealthy dog taught to walk on its hind legs and drink from a glass.
As if Rock hears her thoughts, he nudges her arm, gentle and worrisome, feeling out the storm brewing inside her. “He’s a vessel of a beast, no more capable than any man. How un-profound.” Maybe that’s what Oz struggles with, his importance. Because he isn’t, there’s no desire in him for the work they do, there’s no respect for other life. It’s not greed, they’re barely scraping by.
Oz thinks Cyrus stumbled into this drunk and found it too awkward to leave.
He returns in a timely manner, a secret professional despite his flaunting skin ship. “Changed your mind on my looks?” he teases when Oz catches herself staring. She wants to say no, that his eyes startle her sometimes when the flame reflects off them. That she’s uncomfortable by the lack of sound he makes, as if a flirt was the only way not to scare her of his sudden presence.
She’s sure Cyrus is the type to go quietly, out of all of them.
Willingly, her mind helpfully provides as he sits down across from her, close to the flame as he is the weakest of the lot.
“What are you looking for?” She asks, when there’s nothing left to ask. Cyrus looks upon her as if she is an insect, that the only reason he hasn’t crushed her is that the crunch her body makes would make him shiver. Which is laughable.
“Why don’t you answer that yourself? You’ve already gotten your damn dog back.” Disrespect, so insolent that it makes her blood boil. Oz wants to break the bones of his fingers, because without his hands, what much does he have for work.
“Don’t you have guardians for guidance as you age? Did yours leave you in the gutter so your manners are as ill as your mind?”
“Fuck you,” Cyrus hisses. “I didn’t know animals knew how to talk.”
“Ah, my mistake. Am I making you uncomfortable?”
“You’re making me sick.”
“Maybe you’ll vomit some of the shit that seems to be stewing in that throat of yours.”
They glare at each other, long enough for Oz to account for the way Cyrus’s hair curls into his face around the edges, shorter than when they first met but just as dark as the night surrounding them. “Do you wear all that gold to hide yourself?”
Cyrus remains silent before standing up, his face a mask of no expression. He walks briskly toward her but he’s so small in comparison, Oz doesn’t even have the heart to tense. He stops in front of her, between her bent legs, looking down at where she sits on the log.
He waits patiently, until Oz humors him and finally looks up, meeting his eyes. When she does, Cyrus changes, right before her eyes. A smile slowly blossoms on his face, his lip gentle and his gaze incredibly warm. Oz is thrown off, feelings like a jilted lover, confusion slowly pouring into her expression. Cyrus hums something sweet and holds her contact, looking down at her with something Oz almost chokes on, something a lot like love, and it’s humiliating, how easily she chases the feeling, despite the wearer.
Cyrus reaches up and Oz is enthralled, unable to flinch away as cold fingers cup her face, holding her cheeks with practiced ease. Blood pools there, warming her as her eyes attempt to dart away, anywhere. He leans down and for a moment, Oz is so sure he’s—
“I don’t need gold to wear a mask,” Cyrus whispers, the reality of the moment slapping her in the face and settling like a stone at the pit of her gut. It echoes as it falls. “Ox woman.”
He stands up straight once more, expression a childish twist of annoyance and anger. He’s practically sneering and Oz snaps, bending low and tackling to the ground. She aims the blows to his chest as he struggles, ignoring the yells from Aislinn at the noise.
It takes Dithari a couple minutes to finally pull them apart.