Miryks's thoughts were forced back into the present by a bright flash of pain. His cramped hands cried out, but he could scarcely move them anymore. Time had lost all meaning in this place, and the only paths he could see before him led to a hole in the ground. His memories were the only place he could retreat to, and he found himself doing so constantly. What little life remained in him was fading. Miryks couldn't bear to face what he had become, so he surrendered himself to what he was.
The earliest memories were of the orphanage. From a young age, Miryks was a pariah among the children. His skin bore a subtle glint of bronze and his eyes seemed to reflect too much of the sunlight. It was... difficult to make friends so Miryks had to become a friend for himself. He grew to admire his skin and eyes, so different from the others. With this small feeling of self worth Miryks was no longer such an easy target for the other children, so they got the adults to target him too.
Food goes missing?
"I saw Miryks eat it, miss!"Toy broken?
"Miryks tried to keep it to himself and smashed it when I caught him, sir."
Miryks soon discovered the only way to avoid their ire was to avoid their sight. Anytime he could manage it, he spent his hours outside; only the worst of weather could keep him trapped indoors. His inner self, and only friend, now turned a cruel eye to the other children. They didn't understand how lucky he was to have his gifts, and how unlucky they were to have none. His bronze skin resisted scrapes and cuts. His luminescent eyes cut through the darkness with ease. This cruelty turned to apathy, as he convinced himself that the others must be lesser beings than he. Why else would he have these gifts while they had none?
Outside, still desperate to make a connection (any connection!), Miryks grew to understand the hierarchy of animals. They all followed the roles given to them, without fail. The rabbit did not curse the fox when it was eaten. It may fight being caught by the fox, it may even escape from time to time. But when it came down to it, the path was set. One day, the rabbit would be caught. Miryks began to wonder about his own path; was he a rabbit, or a fox?
A voice nearby brought him back, even without having to see the speaker. The Auspex was granting her choice to another lost soul. The answer must have been yes, because a voice answered back, strong and true. But- this was different. The second voice was familiar as well. Miryks forced his blistered eyes to open to what little light there was. Memories stirred and placed the voice. That man had been close to death; would have died had Miryks not been able to bring him back. An indignant thought crossed Miryk's mind before he fled to his memories once more. That wretch had the strength to survive this place?
The memories of the orphanage flew past his sight, slowing only when Miryks had left them for good. His disdain for them had only grown, and he had a tough time hiding it effectively. On the streets, though, most he met seemed to be itching for a fight. If Miryks so much as looked sideways at the wrong person, daggers would come flying into hands from hidden sheaths, and send him flying faster still away. Like it or not, he was a rabbit in this world, and had to accept the path this meant. He kept his thoughts closely guarded, ensured that they no longer reached his face so easily. He was able to meet every pair of eyes as an equal, careful to not show his contempt for them, and radiating a confidence that was unusual for a teen on his own.
Rabbits do not last long on their own in the wild, no matter how gifted. Miryks joined up with a pack of other street teens, strength in numbers being their only common bond, and through them learned how to survive. As the newest member, they saddled him with the "worst" of tasks: cooking. The others found sport in thieving and mugging, but Miryks didn't mind not participating in these tasks. It was all a part of this path, and it was his to accept. Miryks relished the chance to prepare an animal, on the rare occasion the others were able to acquire one. Despite their differences outside, the inside of these creatures remained remarkably similar. Organs, skeletons, muscle, tissue, it didn't seem to matter. Everything was in its place once he opened them up.
The Auspex's voice forced his mind back into his broken body, closer this time, but still not for him. It was unusual to have another called upon so soon, but not unheard of; there must be something specific to throw so many bodies at. Another creature saved from this perpetual hell, and that person was not him. Miryks would have given himself over to despair, but for one small voice inside him, almost forgotten, but never far. "If they can walk this path from end to end, so can you."
One of the other teens had eventually stolen something that belonged to someone with both the will and the capability to come and claim it back. Loud shouts, much deeper than usual, erupted in the alleyway they called their home. Angry voices demanded that which was taken, trembling voices answered back that they didn't have it. Miryks recognized the truth and stood up among the frightened rabbits, addressing the foxes that had caught them in their warren. With a gesture, he identified the transgressor. Skeptical, the men took them both to their hideout to find the truth of the matter. The other teen tried to protest his innocence, but his words faltered once he saw the look on Miryk's face. A new path had been laid before Miryk's feet, and he wanted to believe he was ready to accept its burden. Turning to the men, his words came forth strong and true: "I can make him tell you the truth."
Pain was the Great Motivator. It was the body telling the mind that something was wrong, and needed to be corrected. Miryks's time with the animals was proof of that. The prey that lived longest were the ones that bore the scars of earlier lessons. Pain had visited them and they learned from the experience. For people, guile, ego, malaise and dishonesty vanished. They were all dashed upon the rocks of pain until only the truth was left, whatever that may mean. The future lost its meaning, and their selves were abandoned to the all consuming thought of relieving this torment.
At the sight of the knife, the teen's truth sang forth without need for further convincing, but the men wouldn't hear of it. Whether they didn't believe the teen, or were simply out for blood, they demanded proof. Miryks felt sick inside, but steeled his nerves. This wasn't a person in front of him, but an animal, and all animals were built the same way. Miryks took a deep breath, and took his first step down this path.
Pain dragged him back to awareness, and the Auspex's voice carried through the air. More recruitment, and each time a decaying shell rose with renewed vigor and purpose. Despair dogged him, but the voice inside Miryks grew louder, reminding him of his accomplishments. Success colored his life, which was something this place could not take away from him. This time, it was the pain that guided his thoughts to the past, and to his purpose.
No matter his confidence or ability, people were built differently than animals. Miryks fought down the bile that rose in his throat and drew forth the truth that was demanded. Afterward, the teen was thrown outside; the men believed his injuries would claim him soon, but Miryks knew better. Through the blood, through the pain, no lasting damage was done. If the rabbit could scurry back to its warren fast enough, he may yet survive. As for Miryks, his path remained here, in the fox's den.
The men there gave him a wide birth from the start. Those that hadn't been there were told in hushed tones of the youth who dared to match his words with deeds and blood. Miryks was only approached when a new opportunity arose to seek the truth. His technique grew rapidly, as did the tools he had at his disposal. Each new triumph sharpened his skills further, and broadened his apathy for those around him. Years later, Miryks craft was becoming his masterpiece. The men who had once appeared to him as foxes were now reveled to be rabbits with slightly sharper teeth.
The years had spread word of Miryk's prowess, and canvasses were always being offered from one group or another. Finally, he accepted one. Though the men he lived with might have wanted to protest him leaving, none of them had the will to stand up to him. They had all heard the screams, and none of them wanted to add their own voice to the composition.
Decades soon blurred together in Miryk's mind once more. This was the prime of his life, the pinnacle of his craft. Faces melted into one another, only linked by the crimson red of his expert strokes. He was a force to be reckoned with, a tempest among raindrops. How had this gone so wrong? Who was to blame?
The faint clink of a key in a lock brought Miryks out of his reverie. Pain threatened to sever his concentration on the past, and he almost lost himself to that abyss. His dulled vision almost didn't register the Auspex standing before him, his ruined senses barely able to divine what this meant. His cracked eyes shot open wide as he understood what this meant. He nodded slowly, feeling his ruined skin crack and tear, before an influx of life shot through his limbs. It didn't matter what the task was, only that the path had changed. So many others had made it through, and it was only right that Miryks did as well.
As he was allowed to collect his belongings, a small miracle they were still his to claim, Miryks considered the path that now lay behind him and the steps that led to where he now stood. He had joined the Cotton Club out of hubris, he could see that now. Miryks thought he could use the organization to develop his Potential, and strike out on a new path at a time of his choosing; he naivete was almost laughable. He had allowed himself to soar too close to the sun, and his melting wings could only be blamed on himself. The drive to improve his ability and skills were still there, but it was not alone. Whether he chose to admit it or not, seeing the others freed of this place helped him find the strength to survive as well. Whatever tasks were laid before him, if others survived, then he would as well. Anything the others could take, he could take, even if it meant him stepping in to make sure they survived.
Because, really, what was a fox with no rabbits?